The Law of Superheroes

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The Law Library has all kinds of books. There are useful books, topical books, necessary books, highly technical books, but it’s true that there aren’t many books that are entertaining to just sit and read for a few hours. “The Law of Superheroes” by James Daily and Ryan Davidson is a pleasant exception. The authors take solid, real world legal concepts and apply them theoretically to the world of comic book superheroes. This makes for a very entertaining and more memorable approach to legal theory than usual.

In the book, we get to investigate and think about such questions as can Spiderman testify in court without revealing his identity, are the Avengers acting as a legal corporation, what is Hulk’s liability for the property damage he causes, do mutants have rights, is Batman acting as an agent of the state, and does Superman have to pay taxes on all those diamonds he creates by cruching up coal in his hands?

The number of areas covered in the book is pretty broad, including constitutional law, criminal law, evidence, criminal procedure, tort law, contracts, business law, administrative law, intellectual property, immigration, and international law. Obviously, there is not going to be a lot of analytical depth in any one particular area, but there is a good foundation laid down for each and interesting situations to chew on to get you really thinking about the implications.

Though the target audience for this book is most likely the general public, I think this would be most enjoyable for someone with some legal background looking for a different approach to educational material or some reinforcement of concepts already learned.

I think this book is a welcome addition to the world of legal information and education and would highly recommend it.

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The New Librarian of Congress.

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There have only been thirteen Librarians of Congress since the position was established in 1802. Every one of them was appointed by a President but only one of them was a professional librarian (Herbert Putnam, serving from 1899 to 1939).

In January 2016 President Obama will appoint a new Librarian of Congress to replace the retiring James H. Billington who has held the position since 1987. Billington  has served for 28 years yet he retires amid a controversy about, of all things, librarianship. Or rather, some critical aspects of librarianship.

The next 28 years are very likely to be just as technologically intensive for librarians as the last 28 years have been. Our country will need the Library of Congress to take on a leadership role and be directed by someone with clear concepts about the importance of libraries, and information technologies. We will need someone who understands the past, can merge it with the present, and create a vision for the future. They must avoid becoming mired in the present and at the same time be able to communicate their vision of the future. A professional librarian is uniquely qualified to do this. Many are calling for the President to appoint a professional librarian to lead the library of Congress into the future. The American Library Association and as many as 21 other state library organizations have already sent letters encouraging the President to select a professional librarian for the position.

I will not take sides on the criticisms aimed at Dr. Billington’s performance as the Librarian of Congress over the past 28 years. The rapid development of library technologies and their implementations over the last 20 years will leave few library directors immune to some criticism or another. Instead I will urge you all to ask the president to select a professional librarian as our next Director of the Library of Congress. You may write to the White House at this address:

The President
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,
N.W.Washington, DC 2050

Or you can email the white House at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact

Call me old fashioned but I want my surgeon general to be a doctor, my secretary of state to be a politician, and my librarian of Congress to be a librarian.

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October 1

As of October 1, “[t]he soil series known as Scobey, of the taxonomic class fine, smectitic, frigid Aridic Argiustolls, is the official Montana state soil.” Also as of yesterday, Montana’s new hard-won bullying statute finally took effect. However, if you don’t have your own print copy of the Montana Code Annotated or have access to a library with a print copy, you may not know that because even though most laws passed by the 2015 Montana Legislature went into effect yesterday, yesterday there were no available electronic versions of the 2015 Montana Code Annotated (MCA). Today, Lexis and Bloomberg Law have the updated code. Westlaw and Fastcase still have the previous code, but they at least link to the updates– a good interim step between the end of the legislative session in April and the publication of the new code in October, though it’s not ideal and hopefully won’t be the status quo for long. Inexplicably, Montana Legislative Services, the publisher of the MCA, still has the 2014 MCA without even an indication that statutes may be out of date. The print versions of the 2015 MCA have been sitting on shelves for a couple weeks. The online version is usually published simultaneous to, if not before, the print version so it is a surprise that is has not yet been posted– a disappointing surprise.

Given that there is free print access to the MCA and at least some electronic access, this post may seem unnecessarily grouchy. But Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law and Fastcase all require that researchers have a subscription. They are excellent research services, but most Montanans cannot access them. Although the Montana Legislative Services online version is not an official version of the MCA, it is a reliable version and is virtually the only access many Montana citizens have to the laws that govern them. There is no requirement that the Code Commissioner publish the online version, but there is a  policy argument to be made that without the online version, Montanans constitutional right to participate and right to now are not given full effect.

The legislature doesn’t just pass laws for the sake of passing them, nor does Legislative Services publish them just because the legislature passed them. Laws affect people’s lives. The MCA is published because people really do need access to the laws. Publication of the MCA should not be the goal; providing access to the MCA to the citizens of Montana should be the goal.

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There’s a New Blog in Town

In the 1930s S.R. Ranganathan formulated his five laws of library science:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his / her book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

In 2004 librarian Alireza Noruzi applied these laws to the internet:

  1. Web resources are for use.
  2. Every reader his / her web resource.
  3. Every web resource its user.
  4. Save the time of the user.
  5. The web is a growing organism.

And now I will apply the laws of library science to weblogs or blogs.

  1. Blogs are for use.
  2. Every reader his / her Blog.
  3. Every Blog its user.
  4. Save the time of the Blogger.
  5. Blogs are a growing organism.

Save the time of the blogger? What does that mean? I realize that its not a perfect application of the laws of library science but it helps to illustrate a point: There is very likely a blog about almost anything you can think up. Try it. Just add the word “blog” to your google search. It is surprising how much knowledge, information, insight and advice people have to share.

Recently, Professor Bari Burke created a blog about the first women admitted to the Montana bar called “Montana’s Early Women Lawyers: Trail-blazing, Big Sky Sisters-in Law“.

Professor Burke focuses on women attorneys in Montana between 1899 and 1950 by providing biographical and anecdotal information on each woman admitted to the Montana Bar. Professor Burke also provides some historical statistics and lists significant events for women lawyers in Montana. Her blog is kept up to date with entries that consist of historical newspaper clippings that address some aspect of the status of women practicing law in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Visit Montana’s Early Women Lawyers for a fascinating study of how women participated in the legal profession in Montana’s early years.

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The Law Library and Beyond

The Jameson Law Library contains shelves and shelves of great books; some will help with your research, some will further your knowledge, some are just interesting reads. You will find a few of our new acquisitions on our New Books website. The library is small enough that you can wander up and down the aisles, scan the titles, pull the volumes that interest you off the shelf. But when you’re looking for something specific wandering around the library isn’t a particularly efficient way of conducting research. First, some subjects may be categorized in ways you don’t expect you may overlook them. Second, the library extends beyond our shelves. We have access to electronic books and books sitting on the shelves in other libraries. To access all the books the law library has to offer, use the library catalog.

The law library is part of a consortium that also includes Mansfield Library, all UM libraries, Salish Kootenai College Library, and St. Patrick Hospital Library.  The shared library catalog will tell you not only what books the law library has and where they are, but also what all these other libraries own. And with a few clicks you can place a hold on books in consortium libraries and have them sent to the law library.

The video below shows you how to use the catalog and its features.

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Know Before You Travel!

I admit I’m excited that I’m going on vacation next week and spending three weeks in the Philippines. Of course, I’ll be thinking about you guys while I’m sitting under a coconut tree and watching the waves roll in.

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Having an impending vacation makes it very difficult to think of suitable legal blog topics, but since I’ve got traveling on the brain, let’s look at some legal things about travel.

Americans have a lot of rights guaranteed by the Constitution and enforced by the legal system. We’re very lucky in that respect in comparison with many parts of the world. While it is true that you have a variety of rights because you are an American, it’s also important to remember that your rights don’t travel with you.

Approximately 2,000 U.S. citizens wind up in foreign jails every year for periods ranging from a few days to decades. We’re not counting political prisoners here, but simply people who have broken the law of the country they are visiting. It’s wonderful to travel to other countries, see new places, and experience other cultures and I highly recommend it as a learning experience. However, too many Americans run afoul of the law in other countries because they assume they have the same rights when they travel as they do at home and that they are immune from arrest simply because they are Americans. The fact is (can’t stress it enough) when you are in another country you are subject to the laws of that country. Just as is true here, ignorance of the law is no excuse and being an American does not provide immunity from arrest. The last thing you want as part of your vacation experience is a visit to the local prison.

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The two big things that get people into trouble are drugs and firearms, and common sense should tell you to avoid these at all costs. For example, I read a news story last week from Sindangan, Philippines (the town my wife and I are headed to on vacation) about an American guy who was there on vacation. Apparently, he felt he needed a gun for “protection” while he was there, so he found a local who was happy to sell him one. Later, he was in a bar and started bragging to his newfound drinking buddies about his gun and lifted up the back of his shirt to show it off. Another bar patron saw this and called the police to let them know there was a foreigner in the bar with a gun. He was arrested, his .45 caliber pistol with the serial number filed off was confiscated, and he will likely spend the next six years in Bilibid Prison in Manila (pictured above) for illegal possesion of a firearm.

It’s important to do some research on the laws of the country you are going to visit. It’s also important to remember that even if you see the local people getting away with doing things that are technically illegal, you as a foreigner are much more visible.

Besides the two big ones, there are also a lot of other things that could get you into trouble if you’re not aware of the law. Americans highly prize freedom of speech and take it for granted that “I can say anything I want.” In many places, you can be jailed for being critical of the government, public figures, the country itself, or rude behavior in public. You can even be jailed for what you say on social media. A Filipino working in Singapore was recently jailed for two years for making negative comments about Singaporeans on his Facebook page. An American contractor in Saudi Arabia was jailed for negative comments about his employer on his Facebook page he posted while back in the U.S. on vacation. When he returned to Saudi Arabia to go back to work, he was arrested at the airport. A British woman who is Buddhist traveled to Thailand on a pilgrimage to visit the holy sites there. She was detained at the airport on arrival and not allowed into the country because she had a large tattoo of Buddha on her arm, which is a violation of the religious defamation law of Thailand. So please do your research first and practice good behavior along the way.

If you do run into trouble overseas, it’s also important to know what the embassy or consulate can and can’t do for you. The following information is from the State Department web page:

Avoid getting arrested overseas by:

  • Following the laws and regulations of the country you are visiting or living in.
  • Learning about laws there which might be different from the laws in the United States. We provide some information for each country on our Country Specific pages.  For further information on laws within the foreign country before you go, contact that country’s nearest embassy or consulate within the United States.

If you are arrested overseas or know a U.S. citizen who is:

  • Ask the prison authorities to notify the U.S. embassy or consulate
  • You may also wish to reach out to the closest U.S. embassy or consulate to let us know of arrest.  Contact information for U.S. Embassies and Consulates overseas can be found here or by going to our individual Country Specific Information pages.

 We can help:

  • Provide a list of local attorneys who speak English
  • Contact family, friends, or employers of the detained U.S. citizen with their written permission
  • Visit the detained U.S. citizen regularly and provide reading materials and vitamin supplements, where appropriate
  • Help ensure that prison officials are providing appropriate medical care for you
  • Provide a general overview of the local criminal justice process
  • Inform the detainee of local and U.S.-based resources to assist victims of crime that may be available to them
  • If they would like, ensuring that prison officials are permitting visits with  a member of the clergy of the religion of your choice
  • Establish an OCS Trust so friends and family can transfer funds to imprisoned U.S. citizens, when permissible under prison regulations

We cannot:

  • Get U.S. citizens out of jail overseas
  • State to a court that anyone is guilty or innocent
  • Provide legal advice or represent U.S. citizens in court overseas
  • Serve as official interpreters or translators
  • Pay legal, medical, or other fees for U.S. citizens overseas

So with that in mind, I’m packing up and getting ready to go. If you need me, I’ll be somewhere around here:

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Is the Book for This Course on Reserve?

As classes begin, we are reposting this reminder from last year about what we have on course reserves in the library and how you can determine whether the book you need is available.

What is on reserve?

Currently there are two principles guiding class reserve materials for law school courses. Keep in mind I am not addressing Moodle materials or facpacs – just the materials kept behind the circulation desk in the Law Library.

  1. Required texts for required classes.
    This category is straight forward. These are the same required books you will find at the bookstore.
  2. Materials that are placed on placed on reserve at the request of the course instructor.
    This category is less straight forward because it often includes the required texts for non-required classes. This sometimes leads people to believe that all required texts are on reserve in the library – not true.

Can I have it right now?

There is an easy way to ascertain exactly what is on reserve for any law school course and whether or not it is currently available.

  1. Go to the law library home page.

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2. Find the link to the library catalog (in the menu bar, marked by the red arrow above).

3. Select course reserves.

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4. Click on Courses.

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If your class is listed in the pop up menu, then there are materials placed on reserve for that class. If your class is not listed in the pop up menu, there are no materials on reserve for that class.

5. Select your class. If you select and search a particular class you will learn which materials are on reserve for that class.

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6. Select the book you need. And if you select one of the items listed, you will learn whether or not it is currently available.
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If you have further question about Law School class reserves, ask a library staff member or email Phil at phil.cousineau@umontana.edu.

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