Author Archive

In the Limelight: Our New Director – Knott a Stereotypical Librarian

August 15, 2012 Leave a comment

When you hear that the Professional Center Library has a new Director who is an avid gardener, specializing in roses and orchids, do you imagine a person who looks like this? If so, you are in for a surprise.  The PCL’s new director, officially the Associate Dean for Information Services and Technology, is Professor Christopher Knott.   Aside from the fact that it would not be a flattering look, his hair is too short for a bun and he looks more like someone who would tackle a quarterback than “shush” a patron.  Professor Knott comes to Wake Forest from the University of Maine where he has been since 2006, most recently in the position of Vice Dean and Professor of Law.  Prior to his time in Maine, Professor Knott has worked The Columbia University Law School and the Georgetown University Law Center.   Before his career in academia, Knott practiced law and specialized in corporate transactions and commercial ligation.  Currently his interests are more in the area of legal research and legal information, and he is the co-author of the text Where the Law Is: an Introduction to Advanced Legal Research, soon to appear in its 4th edition.

Professor Knott’s interest in gardening could be said to be an inheritance from his father.   As a boy in Iowa, Knott and his brother returned home from school one day to discover their backyard, which had always doubled as the neighborhood playing field, transformed into a giant rose garden.  Admittedly shocked at the time, Knott’s positive outlook eventually won out and he is now a dedicated gardener himself, with a particular interest in orchids and roses.  Knott is also dedicated to his wife Maggi, with whom he is raising (but hopefully not pruning) an energetic first grade son and an teenage daughter who is an aspiring actor.

Those wishing to stop by to talk roses, research, or to just say “hi,” can find his office behind the Reference Desk, room 2201C.

This is not Knott

This IS Knott

Everybody Researches: Out of date contract is music to Def Leppard’s ears.

August 1, 2012 Leave a comment

It is a well-accepted fact that the law is a cautious and conservative profession.  While it is populated with intelligent people, these people also tend to be risk averse, be it with their client’s money or  their clients’ lives.  Whatever the reasons may be, there are times when the law finds itself having to play catch-up with concepts that are new to the courts.  The introduction of the cell phone is an excellent example.  For many years the laws regarding wire-tapping were clearly delineated, then along came cell phones.   Now, rather than getting a warrant for an area where the suspect has a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967)  law enforcement needs warrants for the individual, irrespective of the type of the phone  or type of communication (voice-mail, e-mail, etc.) he or she is using.

Wiretapping technology has advanced greatly over the years.

The criminal law field is not the only one where technological changes have left the law behind.  Copyright and property law play a part in the amusing battle between band Def Leppard and Universal, the company that holds the rights to the band’s songs.  Although Universal has rights to the songs, they do not have rights to release them digitally since at the time the contract was made (1979) digital rights did not exist.  In order to make the songs available on iTunes Universal would need the permission of the band; permission that Def Leppard is not willing to give.  Lead singer Joe Elliott discussed some of the details on a recent segment of NPR’s “All Things Considered” and shared the band’s plan to re-record most of its  back catalog.  As Elliott explained, until Universal is “willing to come to the table with some kind of reasonable proposal…we shall go in the studio and have a bit of fun.”

The band is taking advantage of  the compulsory license for non-dramatic musical compositions under the Copyright Act of 1976.  This  compulsory cover license allows an artist to “legally sell their rendition…of another song based on a set royalty payment scale….The terms for a compulsory cover license are established by the U.S. Copyright office rather than the artist or record label and  a compulsory cover license does not require negotiations with the original musical composition copyright holder. ”

After looking at the comparably negligible royalty fees, and realizing that that “Rock of Ages” has recently moved from Broadway to the movie screen and features at least three of Def Leppard’s songs, it is likely that this maneuver is causing a bit of Hysteria over at Universal.

The U.S.C. rocks!

Edwards’ Trial a Buffet of Legal Issues

June 22, 2012 Leave a comment

It is the rare person indeed who has not heard at least something about Johnny Reid Edwards‘ marital affair and  brush with the law.  Although not convicted of misusing campaign donations, Edwards will never regain his golden boy status.  Edward’s entrepreneurial mistress, Rielle Hunter, released a book telling her side of the story on June 26th.   While this latest literary effort on a tawdry topic is likely to cover Edwards’ affair and the resulting child from these assignations, I feel confident in predicting that the publicity-savvy paramour will not have given the legal issues from the debacle the same degree of attention.  Despite her omission, the array of legal topics throughout the Edwards saga reads like an exam question in issue spotting and may well be of interest to those with an interest in the law.

The legal issue that received the most press, and was of greatest concern to Edwards (as a possible sentence of 30 years does tend to get one’s attention), was the alleged violation of campaign finance laws.  After a hearing before the Federal Election Commission, Edwards was required to return over 2 million in federal election funds.  However, the FEC also found that donations Edwards used to pay expenses of his mistress and to hide his affair were not campaign contributions and therefore, did not need to be reported.  Despite the determine of the FEC, the Justice Department was not convinced and chose to move forward with charges of conspiracy and false statements in addition to receiving illegal campaign contributions.  After much sturm and drang, including a two month trial delay for Edwards to undergo heart surgery, a jury eventually found Edwards not guilty on one count and were deadlocked on the remaining five.  The Justice Department has announced that it will not refile the case.

Family law issues also abounded. Along with the commonplace matters of separation and divorce, the Edwards legal extravaganza included issues of paternity and the use of an archaic law. When Edward’s initially admitted to his affair, he still denied that he was the father of his mistress’s child.  In fact, he claimed that his former aide, Andrew Young, was the actual father and asked the aide to support this story. In a disclosure worthy of Maury Povitch, it was later determined that, JOHN EDWARDS, YOU ARE THE FATHER OF THE CHILD!  In addition to the matter of paternity, Elizabeth Edwards added another legal twist when she threatened to sue Young  under the concept of “alienation of affection,” based on his role in covering up his former boss’s affair.  Not only did she threaten to use this archaic cause of action, she chose not to use it against “the other woman,” but  instead she chose the more unusual, yet legally permissible, option of suing a third party who facilitated the marital breakdown.   Allegedly, Elizabeth Edwards was using this threat to force Young to stop speaking publicly about the Edwards’ marriage, and to either give her or destroy voice mails that she had left him during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Voice mails were not the only recordings to play a part in the saga.  When Andrew Young released his tell-all book about the events, it was discovered that he and his wife were in possession of an alleged sex tape featuring  Hunter and Edwards.  The Youngs claimed to have found the tape in the trash at a house they shared with Hunter, and claimed that they could not be sure that the tape belonged to Hunter.  Hunter alleged that she had stored the tape containing “matters of a very private and personal nature”  at the house along with other personal items.  Hunter sued the Youngs to recover the  videotape and  was initially granted a temporary restraining order to prevent the Youngs,  from selling or otherwise distributing the tape.  Eventually Superior Court Judge Abraham Penn Jones held Young and his wife  in contempt  and ordered that the “items … be produced and turned over to the court [or the couple would be put] under lock and key — and under seal — until the lawsuit is resolved.”  The couple claimed difficulty in complying due to the fact that the  tape was “in a safety deposit box in Atlanta that required two keys to open, and one of the keys was in possession of a lawyer undergoing medical treatment in New York.”  Despite these concerns, the promise of jail time proved an effective motivator.  The contempt charge was issued on a Friday and  Andrew Young , with an escort from a court appointed private security guard , managed to retrieve the original  tape from the safe deposit box in Atlanta on the following Tuesday and turn it over to the court the next day.

These are only the most notorious of the legal issues.  Consider yourself invited to join in this legal “Where’s Waldo” game and share any legal issues that this post overlooked or that you think should have been brought.

Where’s Johnny?


Everybody Researches – NC Bar Chooses Fastcase over Casemaker

June 15, 2012 Leave a comment

As students and faculty we have easy access to most of what Lexis and Westlaw have to offer.  Given this embarrassment of riches, it is easy to forget that practitioners are much more conservative in their use of these admirable yet expensive databases and prefer to substitute low cost search options when feasible.  Until recently, members of the North Carolina Bar had free access to Casemaker in their research arsenal.  However, as of June first, the NCBA switched to Fastcase, Casemaker’s rival.  NCBA’s Executive Director, Allan Head, cited Fastcases’s award-winning iPhone and iPad apps as a major factor in the decision to change.  With the recent introduction of an Android version of their FREE research apps, the NCBA should be even more pleased with its decision.

Attorneys who want to continue using Casemaker can do so, but it will now be at a cost and not as a member benefit.  Casemaker is reaching out to North Carolina attorneys with limited time special rates and is providing explanations of what makes their product unique, such as it’s “true citator service.”  Fans of Casemaker will need to weigh this feature against the fact that the North Carolina Jury Instructions will no longer be available on Casemaker but will be moving to Fastcase.

Whichever service you choose to use (or that your bar provides) there is no question that Casemaker and Fastcase will continue the battle for legal research service supremacy and for customers.  This should ensure continuing enhancements and improved access to free (for bar members) legal information.  However, as North Carolina switch shows, it is in every attorney’s best financial interest to be aware of changes in both services.

Everybody Researches: What the heck is a §?

May 18, 2012 Leave a comment

In a previous blog post we looked at some of the more unusual words found in the legal research vocabulary.  In today’s post we will  focus upon some words that are commonly misspelled or misused, as well as a couple of symbols that are frequently encountered when conducting legal research.

A perennial problem in the realm of spelling is the word “judgment.”  Unless you plan on becoming a solicitor or barrister instead of an attorney, judgment should not be spelled with an “e” after the “g.”  To help you remember think “judgement is the English spelling. (Yes I know that they are the UK, but that just is not going to work as a mnemonic so be flexible).   Another word that causes spelling grief is “harass” and all its variations (harassed, harassment, etc.)   Those of you planning on a career in employment law, pay particular attention to this one.   While you should always try to do your best, do not feel TOO (not to or two) bad if an occasional mistake creeps in.  Comfort yourself with that fact that at least you are not a university that misspelled “university”……on its own website!

Some words can be spelled correctly but used incorrectly.  This type of word is particularly insidious because spell check will not detect it.   A “citation” can be a ticket or a method of referring to legal authority.   Want to make it more complicated?  What if you have a question about how to cite a site?  Make sure to proofread carefully and determine if you are referring to legal citation or a website.  For more commonly misspelled words in legal writing and some practice exercises, check out this page from the University of New England’s law school (Australia).

It is not just words that can cause confusion.  Certain symbols  frequently used in legal research are not common to most other types of research, or at least are not used in the same way.  One of the earliest “legal runes” that you encounter may be the section symbol §.  Resembling a double S, it is used to indicate  a section of a document, often a statute or code.  When two symbols are used [§§] it indicates multiple sections.

While it is not hard to remember S=section, locating the symbol may take a bit of searching. If you are lucky, it is available form the insert menu on your computer. If not, instructions are differ for Macs and PCs.  On a PC, holding the  “Alt” key and hitting “21” on the numeric keypad should make the symbol appear. When using a Mac is “Option+6” should work.  If you think that you will be using the symbol a lot,  the University of Washington’s Gallagher Law Library has some handy tips on how to create a shortcut on your computer instead of having to key in numbers every time you want the symbol.

The paragraph symbol  (¶) may only be familiar to some from edits on term papers or legal writing submissions, but it has been commonly used in legal publishing for years, usually in place of page numbers, in looseleaf services such as Commerce Clearing House (CCH).  (See Part (b) of Bluebook Rule 19.1 below), Also, as more and more legal materials become available in various formats and as many state courts have begun to require that cases be cited in a medium-neutral format   the paragraph symbol is becoming much more common (see Bluebook Rule 10.3.3 for more details on using the symbol).

As with the section symbol, The paragraph symbol is not  going to be located in exactly the same place on every computer but, for those using Word, it is likely to be found by going to “Insert” and selecting “symbols” from either the drop down menu or the picture icons.  If you do not see it in the first batch of symbols presented, check that you are viewing Latin symbols and not Greco-Roman.  If  you prefer, or need, to use the keyboard, type “Alt+20” if using a PC or “Option+7” for a Mac.

Amendment One: last minute update

Hopefully it comes as no surprise to people that the North Carolina primary election will be this Tuesday, May 8th.  One of, if not the most debated measures on the ballot is Amendment 1.   This hotly contested issue was discussed generally on an NPR’s segment Friends And Foes Of Gay Marriage Woo Voters In N.C.  and in a detailed look at the amendment’s languageFamily law professors from North Carolina law schools (including our own Professor Reynolds) have uniformly expressed their opposition to passage of the amendment, while North Carolina business owners are divided on whether passage of Amendment 1 would harm business or have no effect.

Newspapers across the state acknowledge that the advocacy is strong on both sides and positions tend to vary with the state’s geography.  For a sampling of letters advocating both  sides, click the links below the respective images.   If you have questions about voting, such as where you should go to vote, visit the Forsyth County Board of Elections page (the polling place locator link will allow you to search all counties in North Carolina).  You can also use the Board of Elections page to view a sample of YOUR specific ballot based on party affiliation.  You might also wish to visit  Ballotpedia for a general explanation of voting and to see potential measures.

Green Scene

April 24, 2012 1 comment

From it’s humble beginnings in 1970, Earth Day has become an international event organized by the Earth Day Network. Over 190 counties participate, almost as many counties as ABA accredited law schools.  Just last year documents, photos and videos from the first Earth Week were released to the public.   The North Carolina archives has also made pictures available on Flikcr and they are worth looking at if merely to amuse yourself with the vintage the clothing and giant sideburns.  You can also view the initial Earth Day proclamation or read the 2012 proclamation.

The first  Earth Day in the U.S. was scheduled to fall on the Vernal Equinox (either March 20 or 21) and many counties still keep this date.  However,  due to a wish to maximize participation on college campuses it was determined that the “week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks…, did not conflict with religious holidays, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather.”  The late April dates are also close to when many states celebrate Arbor Day, another earth conscious holiday.

Earth Day has grown into Earth Week and activities and celebrations go on both  before and after the official day. The 42nd Earth day was this Sunday, April 22nd, but you still have the opportunity to attend the Piedmont Earth Day Fair  at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds.  It doesn’t matter if you are a fully committed green activist or just someone who struggles to remember to toss plastic bottles and paper in separate bins, there will be something for you to enjoy.  Parking and admission is FREE and there will be  exhibitors, hands-on-demonstrations, and variety of live music.  In addition to a solo folk singer, there will be bands offering everything from including  Bluegrass and Soul to the intriguingly named,  “Appalachian Punk.”  In contract to what one may expect of “fair food” you will have the opportunity to try vegetarian and vegan offerings. However, carnivores should not worry, there be plenty for you too, as well as sugary sweets.  If you happen to own any outdated electronics there will be a place in the parking lot to drop them off.   Did you know that of  the over 30 million computers discarded last year, “only 15-20% were recycled, while the rest ended up in landfills posing the threat of becoming hazardous waste?”  Cannot part from your E-waste for free?  Even if it is broken, you can resell it on eBay.

Want to do more than go to the Fair?  Visit the EPA’s website to learn how to make every day Earth Day.  Or you could treat yourself and splurge on a “prize winning light bulb” that is supposed to last 20 years; the only problem is that it costs $60.  However, there may be some opportunities for large rebates so stay alert for offers that will let you been green while still having some green in your wallet.  zif you can get away for day or two, take advantage of National Park Week and the free access to all of the national parks.  If none of these options suit you, check out some ideas provided by the Earth Day Network , sing the Earth Day anthem, or try out some of these 16 ideas  (pictures included) from wikiHow.

Worth $60?