This Week in Legal History

I’m a day late for Throwback Thursday, but in the spirit of thinking about the past, here are some events from this week in legal history, along with some sources for legal history research. Fair warning: this is the kind of research it’s easy to lose a whole day on just because it’s really interesting.

This Week in Legal History

Image from Dred Scott Opinion

March 6, 1857: The U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Dred Scott v. Sanford issued, holding that because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and could not sue for his freedom. The case also held unconstitutional the Missouri Compromise, which restricted slave ownership in certain territories.

Photograph of Susan B AnthonyMarch 8, 1884: Susan B. Anthony testified in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee for the women’s suffrage and 19th Amendment.



Illustration of the revolt on board the slave ship Amistad.

Source: A History of the Amistad Captives by John Warner Barber. Electronic edition courtesy of UNC-Chapel Hill.


March 9, 1841: Amistad slave ship case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.




Button saying old enough to fight old enough to voteMarch 10, 1971: Senate approves 26th Amendment to lower voting age from 21 to 18.



For more legal history events, see Jurist’s This Day at Law and Findlaw’s Today in Legal History.

Legal History Research

American Memory Project: “American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.” Many of these collections chronicle the history of legal issues and cases. For example, the Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 contains materials about the Dred Scott case, noted above.  Note that the Library of Congress is in the process of migrating the collections to a new digital collections platform and the legal materials are currently split between the platforms.

Famous Trials: This is an incredible collection of documents, images, testimony, timelines, news coverage, etc. of famous trials going back to the trial of Socrates in 399 B.C. This comprehensive collection is the work of Prof. Douglas O. Linder from UMKC School of Law. This collection includes materials on the trial and conviction of Susan B. Anthony for illegal voting, 13 years before her historic testimony before the Judiciary Committee, noted above.

Hein Legal Classics: The Legal Classics library on HeinOnline contains 6700+ historical law books, including books written by legal scholars like Joseph Story, Jeremy Bentham, William Blackstone, William Holdsworth, Henry Maine, Federick William Maitland, Frederick Pollock, and Benjamin E. Cardozo. The collection includes works dating as far back as pre-1700. HeinOnline is available to University of Montana students and faculty through the Law Library Databases web page.

Making of Modern Law, Legal Treatises 1800-1926: This digital collection includes casebooks, local practice manuals, form books, works for lay readers, pamphlets, letters and speeches that make it an invaluable research tool for 19th Century Anglo-American law. This database is also available to University of Montana students and faculty through the Law Library Databases web page. Other Making of Modern Law collections not available on the UM campus cover primary sources from 1620-1970, trials from 1600-1926, and U.S. Supreme Court records and briefs from 1832-1978.

Eighteenth Century Collections Online: 18th Century Collections Online is a database of full-text works published in England in the 18th century. The full collection is multidisciplinary and covers all academic topics, including almost 10,000 legal titles. This database is also available to University of Montana students and faculty through the Law Library Databases web page.

Legal History on the Web: Compiled by the Triangle Legal History Seminar, this is a comprehensive portal to everything legal history on the internet. In addition to a plethora of research sites, this site also links to scholarship, prizes, and jobs in legal history.

ABA Journal Precedents: ABA Journal’s Precedents feature highlights photographs of some of the most famous events in American law. Each month, the last page of the journal contains a summary and photographs. The Precedents feature is available online on the journals’ website.

Montana’s Early Women Lawyers: And for something local, Prof. Bari Burke’s blog provides insight into the history of women lawyers in Montana, and by extension, early women lawyers across the United States. For more information about this blog, see our earlier blog post, There’s a New Blog in Town.

Posted in Research | Leave a comment

Casetext: Making All the World’s Laws Free and Understandable.

Guest blogger Morgan Hoyt is a 2L student at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law. When he became a Casetext Ambassador, we asked him to blog about this new resource.

This spring semester, I became the first Casetext Ambassador at Alexander Blewett III School of Law. I did not know much about Casetext prior to applying for the position. I first heard about it through a classmate and immediately became intrigued after learning that Casetext was a free legal research platform powered by insights from the legal community. The concept of democratizing legal research was intriguing, and I decided to apply because I wanted to get involved. The more I use and work with Casetext, the more I see a future where this becomes the place where lawyers, professors, and law students come together to make the law free and understandable. I’m excited to be a part of helping to increase access to those who would otherwise not have it.

In its simplest form, Casetext is a legal research and writing platform. Its library includes over 8.3 million cases and statutes, and they already have over 500,000 users visiting the site each month. However, what makes Casetext different from other platforms is the commentary and analysis from real life members of the legal coScreenshot of case from Casetextmmunity linked directly to the cases they are discussing. This provides context and gives life to the text of the case that you are researching.

Casetext also has a host of unique features to further aid your research. One of these features is the Heatmap. The Heatmap is a visual aid that helps you quickly navigate a case. It is located on the left hand side of the case, and it appears as a segmented line with varying shades of blue. The darker the color of blue, the more often that section of the case has been cited to. To travel to that section of the case, simply click on that portion of the line. I regularly use this feature when I need to quickly navigate to the crucial sections of a case.

Another unique feature is Judicial Summaries. Judicial Summaries are concise summaries of the key aspects of a decision extracted from explanatory parentheticals. Casetext has used data science to extract these summaries, and who better to provide you with a summary of the case then a subsequent judge? Together with the Heatmap, these two tools add an additional layer of analysis to your legal research.

Outside of providing access to cases and unique tools to better understand them, you can write about the law using Casetext’s writing tool called LegalPad. LegalPad makes it possible for users to easily write about and connect their analysis directly to the law they are discussing. Generally, these posts are in reference to either a recent court case or regard the contributor’s area of expertise. A great example of this is Doug Hallward-Driemeier’s post regarding the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges merely nine days after the Court issued their opinion.

Casetext has organized thisscreenshot of Casetext communities page kind of analysis into legal communities. After signing up, users can follow the communities or legal practices areas they are most interested in (e.g. Criminal Law). Each community has a feed similar to one you would see on Facebook so you can stay up to date on what members of that legal community are currently talking about. In my opinion, this is one of the coolest features of Casetext because you can easily stay up to date, and this is a great resource for students who are looking for current topics to write on.

A final feature of Casetext I want to highlight is the WeCite project. The WeCite project demonstrates just how Casetext is truly driving the democratization of legal research. WeCite is Casetext’s version of Shepardizing, but they are building it through crowdsourcing. Last semester, Casetext developed the WeCite project into an exclusive contest for law students, and it has really taken off with students from over 100 law schools participating. It is really easy to get involved, and I encourage students to check it out. All students have to do is go to and sign up. You are then presented with a case and asked how a citation highlighted within that case is being treated. You then choose from one of four relationships to describe the relationship with points being awarded and prizes earned at certain milestones. As a student, I have found WeCite to be particularly helpful. By reading and analyzing citation treatments, my reading comprehension has greatly increased in both speed and accuracy, and I have also earned awesome prizes for my WeCites.

Overall, I have found Casetext to be extremely user friendly with a number of very useful features. It is easy to sign up and free. The access to the communities and blog posts alone make this service worth adding to your research routine. To sign up, head over to Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions or are interested in learning more about Casetext!

Posted in Research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Passing the Bar

pass the bar2

The law library owns a board game called Passing the Bar: A Game of Legal Reasoning. The game is based on current multistate legal reasoning and is meant to be an interesting supplement to other study materials. The idea is that you can prepare for the bar exam and have a little fun at the same time.

Like other popular board games this one has a set of dice, a timer, a piece that is moved around the board and, of course, a bunch of cards with questions that must be answered correctly. Most of the cards contain a multiple choice question from one of seven legal topics that are also required law school courses: torts, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, professional responsibility, property, and evidence. There is also a Justice deck of cards that includes legal trivia and game changing events like Lose a Turn, Go Back Two Spaces and Repeat a Topic.

The game reviews well and is often described as fun, thought provoking, entertaining, educational and so on. (

Passing the Bar is not for everyone however. One review said it was boring and another pointed out that it is not suited to those with no legal training or background ( ). It seems to work best if all of the players have been to law school.

If you are planning on the July bar exam, check this game out – you can have some fun, learn a few things, study for the exam, and take a break from studying for the exam all at the same time.

Passing the Bar board game is kept on the academic success shelf of the class reserves shelves at the circulation desk in the Jameson Law Library.

Posted in Library News | Leave a comment

Mobile Law Apps: Part 1 – Best Apps for Law Students

Welcome to guest blogger Terry Gilham! Terry has recently joined the library staff as a part-time volunteer librarian. She will be blogging from time to time.

 Law Dojo logoLaw Dojo – Know Your Rights
For iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch; Android version coming
Basic game is free, individual games $2.99 each

This app provides a series of games that test a player’s knowledge of a number of law subjects. A free version covers in general all topics. Individual games are available for $2.99 for specific areas of the law such as, civil procedure, torts, contracts, Supreme Court, criminal law, etc. Designed by Margaret Hagen, a lawyer, it features cartoon illustrations   to underscore the philosophy of Law Dojo, that law can be fun.

Law in a Flash thumbnailLaw in a Flash
Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch and iPad and all Android devices.
$19.99 each for the full version of each specific areas of the law

This mobile app is essentially a digital version of the traditional flashcard model. It is ideal for reviewing legal topics by examining the essential elements of each legal concept. The app allows the user to download cards, read the questions or hypothetical situation on the front of the card and then tap the screen to flip the card over for the correct answer. In addition, the app allows one to enter personal study notes for each card using the touch screen keyboard. Cards that require further study can be bookmarked and saved using the “Study Set” feature.

Basic law school subject areas covered include Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Contracts, Criminal Law, Evidence, Professional Responsibility and Ethics, Property and Torts. Flash card versions are available for more advanced courses as well.

Law Stack thumbnailLaw Stack
Compatible with iPhone and iPad devices. Android version available. Free download with add-ons from $1.99.

This portable library is essentially a rule book containing the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Appellate Procedure, Evidence and Bankruptcy. In addition it includes the U.S. Constitution.

Complete offline access is available for the downloaded titles. Other useful features include full-text searching, bookmarking, search highlighting, header only search option, context-sensitive searching, search history save, and email sections.

Fastcase mobile thumbnailFastcase HD
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. Android version as well. Free download, but registration is required for accessing full features. Law students and faculty can use their free account provided through the Jameson Law Library.

This free legal research application contains cases and statutes from all 50 states and from the federal government. Searchable by citation, keyword (Boolean and natural language), or statute collection browsing. Results are presented with the most relevant appearing first. Search results are sortable and customizable and automatically display the number of citing cases. Users may go immediately to the most relevant paragraph of any case or statute and save favorite documents for later use. The site is updated daily.

WestlawNext mobile thumbnailWestlawNext
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices. Android version (has not received favorable reviews). The mobile app is free with a WestlawNext Account. Law students and faculty can use their law school Westlaw accounts.

The mobile app provides access to the resources of the Westlaw legal research system. Users can search the content of their database. Access features include WestSearch, Keycite, folders, history, document notes and highlighting. Additional mobile features include Westlaw alerts, the ability to track and follow companies of interest, customizable news feed and automatic updates for practice areas of interest. Users may save documents for offline reading, organize and share folders, access research history and email documents or selected text with a reference.

Law Dictionary thumbnailThe Law Dictionary & Guide
Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Android version available.   Free download.

A mobile app that incorporates a searchable legal dictionary containing 8,500+ definitions, with a database of legal articles, FAQs, a lawyer directory, legal abbreviations and maxims. An “ask your legal question” with answers is also available. Content is updated continuously. The legal dictionary is available anytime offline. The legal guide requires an internet connection for accessing the web based guide to these materials.

Posted in Research | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Library Spaces

“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.” Shelby Foote, historian and author of The Civil War: A Narrative.

Photo of the New York Public Library Reading Room

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon via Visual Hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I have been thinking recently about library spaces. Of course, libraries are much more than spaces, and I usually think much more about library services, but now I’m focused on the library as a space. And more specifically, I’m focused on questions surrounding how library space can foster learning, which I define broadly to include many different types of activities that take place in the law school to prepare students to practice law.

Photo of the main reading room at the libbrary of congressLibraries are not just central to a college campus, they are central to society. Some of the most beautiful spaces in the world are libraries, and there are many beautiful libraries, both ancient and modern. Some are architectural masterpieces, some have amazing interiors, some house precious art works and sculptures. They contain rows and rows of books, the writings of civilizations. The libraries themselves are works of civilizations.

Except for the rows of books, our library has little of this. Yet still, it is a pleasant space. There are times were almost every seat is taken. We have students who spend hours each day in there. Alumni come back and are proud when they still know where things are. It’s a functional space where people like to be.

I’m not unhappy with the space, but I have been playing with ideas about space and learning, and, putting those together, how to deliberately plan space to foster learning in all its manifestations. The traditional role of academic libraries was to support learning by containing knowledge and providing a quiet place to read. Libraries are changing. The books are still important, but so are alternative forms of access—especially electronic formats—and services.

Photo of the interior of the Beinecke Library at Yale University

Photo credit: Lauren Manning via / CC BY

Some of my questions are: how can we best configure our space to highlight our collections? How can we design our space so everybody, even those who are now not library users, want to come in? What kind of spaces and furniture provide people with places to study quietly, to collaborate, to discuss ideas? How do we turn one space into multiple spaces and still be one library? What is inspirational space?

But it’s not all about space. One of my questions is what new services could we offer is we had different space? How can we use our space to enhance the visibility of librarians?

I put all these questions out there not just so you know what is occupying my mind, but because I am very interested in your thoughts. If you are already a library user, how could the library space serve you even better? If you aren’t a library user, what would draw you into the library? Email your thoughts about library spaces


Posted in Library News | Leave a comment

For the Lawyer Who Has Everything: A Gift List for Book-Loving Lawyers

Photo of Christmas tree made of library booksFor Christmas this year, all three of my nephews are getting books. Lots of books. (It’s okay, they are all under 2 years old and won’t be reading this.) This is what happens when your aunt is a librarian– you get books. My nephews are getting those age-appropriate, big, fat cardboard books with cute pictures, but perhaps you have a book-loving lawyer on your holiday gift list. The following is a by-no-means-exhaustive list of lawyer-appropriate suggestions.


Foodie Lawyers

The Little Book of Foodie LawThumbnail image of The Little Book of Foodie Law. Consider pairing this one with the Little Book of BBQ Law or the Little Book of Coffee Law.



  • LegalEats: A Lawyer’s Lite Cookbook. Contains recipes such as Legal Lasagna, Libelously Light Strawberry Cheesecake and Prosecutor’s Pizza. Also contains lawyer cartoons and amusing quotations.

Supreme Court Bios

There is no shortage of biographies of United States Supreme Court Justices. Here are a few recent bestsellers.

Thumbnail image of Notorious RGBNotorious RGB: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Pair this book with a Notorious RGB tshirt, cell-phone case, or coffee mug.



Coffee Table Books

Thumbnail image of The Law BookThe Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law. “Offering authoritative context to ancient documents as well as today’s hot-button issues, The Law Book presents a comprehensive look at the rules by which we live our lives. It covers such diverse topics as the Code of Hammurabi, the Ten Commandments, the Trial of Socrates, the Bill of Rights, women’s suffrage, the insanity defense, and more.”

  • Magna Carta: Foundation of Freedom 1215-2015. 2015 is the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, one of the most important historical legal documents. In celebration of the anniversary, this book contains the reflections of British and American legal scholars, all illustrated with photos and historical illustrations.
  • Courthouses of America. This book spotlights some of America’s most beautiful courthouses. Along with photographs, it contains local lore about the courthouses, stories of famous trials, and architectural history. Also available: fine art prints, calendars, and planners.

Book Collections

ABA Little Book Series.Thumbnail image of Little Book of Cowboy Law All 19 books in the ABA’s “Little Book” series sold together. Includes the Little Book of Foodie Law, Little Book of BBQ Law, and the Little Book of Coffee Law suggested above as well as the Little Book of Cowboy Law, the Little Book of Basketball Law, and the Little Book of Elvis Law.


Consider also some banned book accessories such as a banned books tote bag to go with the collection. (To learn more about banned books, see our blog post about Banned Books Week 2013).

Just for Fun

thumbnail of cover of New Yorker Book of Lawyer CartoonsThe New Yorker Book of Lawyer Cartoons. For lawyers and lovers of New Yorker cartoons alike. By the way, if I’m the lawyer on your gift-list, I see they also have The New Yorker Book of Dog Cartoons. I want that.


  • US Lawyer Presidents Coloring & Activity Book. Adult coloring books are all the rage. And truthfully, what lawyer couldn’t use a little stress relief. The book is really meant for kids, but the ABA suggests that “law firms will want to purchase to book in bulk for their employees.”
  • Stump Your Lawyer! A Quiz to Challenge the Legal Mind. Comic relief with a twist. “Short case histories, definitions, multiple-choice quizzes, and other formats mock the bar exam approach and probe the reader’s knowledge of obscure statutes, baffling decisions, bizarre legal concepts, and antiquated jargon.”
  • Law of Superheroes. We like this one so much, we’ve reviewed it twice!
  • Harry Potter & the Law. This one was first recommended to me by a student and is featured on our Great Summer Reads 2015 book list. This book is a scholarly discussion of law and legal institutions as portrayed in the Harry Potter series but it is appropriate for lawyers, students, and anyone interested in both Harry Potter and the law.

The Jameson Law Library Blog will be on break until classes start again at the end of January.

Happy Holidays!

Posted in Reviews, Viewpoints | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Animal Property Rights

It’s not every day that you see the seminal text for a new academic discipline but that is what we might have in John Hadley’s Animal Property Rights: A Theory of Habitat Rights for Wild Animals (Lexington Books, 2015).

When I first saw this book I thought it would be worth forwarding on to our animal rights professor. On closer inspection I decided that it wasn’t so much about animal rights in the traditional sense as it was about property rights. So I decided to forward it on to our property rights professor. Looking even closer I decided that this book is really about environmental habitats and natural resources issues and should be forwarded to the director of the Land Use and Natural Resources Clinic. Is this a cross disciplinary book or is it staking out a new sub-discipline in legal thought?

Hadley’s short book (there’s barely 100 pages of text) concisely presents the philosophical underpinnings of what he clearly sees as a future sub-discipline in legal thought – or at the least, a strong legal theory. From the introductory chapter to the last, Hadley methodically provides definitions, sets the background, introduces terminology, and outlines philosophical justifications for the academic study of animal property rights. He spends the last portion of the book answering actual and potential objections- a sort of clearing away of obstacles to the development of animal rights theory. I found this book fascinating and highly recommend it.

animal property rights

Call Number: HV4708 .F33 2015

Posted in Library News | Leave a comment