Law in the News

Explanation of new tax law available via CCH IntelliConnect

You’ve probably heard by now that Congress finally managed to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” by passing new tax legislation. The main features of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 are that it allows the Bush-era tax rates to sunset after 2012 for individuals with income over $400,000 and families with incomes over $450,000; permanently “patches” the alternative minimum tax (AMT); revives many now-expired tax extenders; and provides for a maximum estate tax of 40 percent with a $5 million exclusion. In total, the Act makes over 100 changes to the Internal Revenue Code. If you are interested in learning more about the specific implications for tax law (and who doesn’t find tax law fascinating?), then take a look at American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012: Law, Explanation & Analysis, a new publication available via CCH IntelliConnect. Since 1913, CCH has been a leading source of comprehensive, ongoing practical and timely analysis of the federal tax law.


United Nations resources

On this day, October 24, in 1945, the  Charter of the United Nations entered into force, and the UN was born.  To celebrate, here are a few useful resources on the Charter’s history and law, and the UN generally:

Flag of the United Nations


Supreme Court 2012 Term

Today is the start of the Supreme Court’s October 2012 term. The Court is expected to rule on affirmative action, in a case involving admissions at the University of Texas; same-sex marriage, in challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8; and the Voting Rights Act’s continuing restraints on southern state governments. Check out our Supreme Court Research Guide for sources of news and analysis, briefs, and calendars and transcripts of oral arguments. 

Chicago speed camera program delayed by old AG opinion

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported that, due to a 38-year old Attorney General’s opinion, the City of Chicago has decided to delay the start date for its speed camera program until early next year. The program was set to begin with at least 25 speed cameras set up throughout the city in “safety zones” located within one-eighth of a mile of schools and parks. Drivers caught by the cameras would be issued a warning ticket on their first offense, followed by tickets of up to $100.

The Attorney General’s opinion interpreted the Illinois state statute on special speed limits in school zones (625 ILCS 5/11-605) to mean that children must be “visibly present” before the school zone speed limits can be enforced. The City has interpreted this opinion to mean that the speed cameras must not only capture photographs of the speeding car and its license plate, but also a child within the vicinity, preferably in the same shot.

The Tribune reports that the old AG opinion did not come up earlier during the debate over initiating the speed camera program. An excellent way to discover such opinions is to look at an annotated code, such as West’s Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes. In the “Notes of Decisions” section for the Illinois statute on speeding in a school zone, there is a citation to the relevant AG opinion with text stating that that the statute applies “only when children are physically present on such street or are outside the school building in a school zone.”

The moral of the story: always use an annotated code when doing legal research!


NATO and Chicago: Research information resources

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will hold its 25th meeting in Chicago May 20-21, 2012.  Heads of state and government from NATO’s member states and more than 30 other countries will attend.  The U.S. and 11 other original signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty (34 U.N.T.S. 243 via HeinOnline) established NATO on April 4, 1949 to promote mutual defense and cooperation.  NATO’s current 28 member states include:  Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  NATO works with partner countries on “a broad array of issues from counter-piracy, to energy security, counter-terrorism, promoting the role of women in peace and security, and more.”

At the NATO Chicago Summit, the  participants expect to discuss three agenda items:   assistance to Afghanistan through transition and beyond, cost-efficient defense capabilities, and partnerships – improving relations with other governments and international organizations.

NATO Chicago Summit banner/logo II For further reading:

Chicago NATO Summit 2012 (City of Chicago NATO Host Committee/World Business Chicago)

Chicago Summit (NATO)(including mobile)

NATO Chicago Summit 2012 (United States Mission to NATO)

Senate Hears Testimony on Upcoming NATO Meeting in Chicago (C-SPAN, May 10, 2012)

Smart Defense and the Future of NATO (Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conference papers)

NATO website:

Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA)

NATO Handbook (2006).  eBook (PDF).  Call number:  KA18.N86A2.

Thilo Marauhn, “North Atlantic Treaty Organization ,” in Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Online).  Last updated May 2011.  Includes “Select Bibliography” of books and journal articles.

“Closing the Circle:  The Negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty,” in Brian C. Rathbun, Trust in International Cooperation:  International Security Institutions, Domestic Politics and American Multilateralism (2012).  Call number:  JZ1318.R375 2012.

The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (Dieter Fleck, ed., 2001).  Call number:  XXKZ5589.H36 2001.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, The Long Entanglement:  NATO’s First Fifty Years (1999).  Call number:  E744.K177 1999.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO 1948:  The Birth of the Transatlantic Alliance (2007).  Call number:  UA646.3.K365 2007.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the UN:  A Peculiar Relationship (2010).  eBook.  Call number:  JZ5930.K36 2010.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the United States:  The Enduring Alliance (1994).  Call number: UA646.5.U5K370 1994.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO Divided, NATO United:  The Evolution of an Alliance (2004).  Call number:  JZ5930.K37 2004.

NATO Review (see Chicago Summit Special Edition).

Marco Rimanelli, Historical Dictionary of NATO and Other International Security Organizations (2009).  Call number:  UA646.3.R485 2009.

Snežana Trifunovska, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)(2d ed., 2012)(also online in the International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Intergovernmental Organizations).  Call number:  XXKZ5930.T75 2012.

John Woodliffe, The Peacetime Use of Foreign Military Installations Under Modern International Law (1992).  Call number:  XXK4720.W66 1992.

The Titanic disaster and international law

Titanic sinking painting

Titanic Sinking (Willy Stöwer, 1912 )

This weekend is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  On April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic, while on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City,  struck an iceberg.  It sank in the early morning on April 15.  Over 1,500 passengers and crew perished in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.  The Titanic disaster led to adoption of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, in 1914 (revised in 1929, 1948, 1960, and 1974) , and the creation of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) in 1948, which became the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1982.  However, as IMO Secretary-General, Koji Sekimizu, noted in a video message:

“[N]ew generations of vessels bring fresh challenges and, even today, accidents still occur, reinforcing the need for continual improvement. Our efforts to promote maritime safety and, in particular, to avoid such disasters befalling passenger ships as Titanic, will never end.  Today, on the 100th anniversary of that disaster, let us remember those who lost their lives in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic on that fateful night of 14 April 1912 and reflect on the dangers and perils still associated with sea voyages today.”

For further reading:

Kelly Buchanan, “Failure to Update the Law a Titanic Mistake“, In Custodia Legis (Law Library of Congress blog)(links to U.S. Senate Investigating Committee and UK Wrecking Commissioner inquiry reports, historic laws, treaties, and related other publications).

Comment, “Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability:  Substance or Procedure? “, 17 University of Chicago Law Review 388, 389, 393-395 (1949-1950)(via HeinOnline)(suggests that The Titanic case be re-examined).

IMO:  100 Years after the Titanic (links to “Surviving Disaster:  The Titanic and SOLAS” graphic in PDF).

Arthur K. Kuhn, “International Aspects of the Titanic Case, ” 9 American Journal of International Law 336 (1915) (via HeinOnline)(discusses U.S. federal and foreign case-law on shipowner’s liabilitiy for accidents at sea, including The Titanic case, Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Mellor,  233 U.S. 718 (1914)).

Thomas A. Mensah, “International Maritime Organization“, Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law Online.

James E. Mercante, “In the Wake of ‘The Titanic’: An Unsinkable Law,” New York Law Journal, April 12, 2012.

Everett P. Wheeler, “International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea,” 8 American Journal of International Law 758 (1914)(via HeinOnline).

You can use Lens to locate documents and reports on international conferences on the safety of life at sea available via Hathi Trust, The Making of Modern Law, and ProQuest Congressional.   See for example, the April 10, 1913 letter from the Secretary of Commerce on the need to have enough life-boats for every passenger and efficient water-tight divisions of hulls for vessels.

Follow the Supreme Court hearings on health care reform

On Monday the Supreme Court begins hearings on three cases that challenge the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. The cases are Dept. of Health and Human Services v. Florida (11-398); National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (11-393); and Florida v. Dept. of H&HS (11-400), Twenty-six states have challenged provisions of the Act, and issues before the court include the “individual mandate,” severability of the challenged provisions, and coercing state compliance by threatening to withhold Medicaid funds. Complete audio recordings of the arguments will be posted in the evening after each day’s arguments, along with transcripts. Bloomberg Law will live blog the hearings. For more sources of news and documents, check our Supreme Court Research Guide.

You can now read the FRUS on your iPad, Kindle, or Nook!

Photo of Brandt-Nixon meeting in the White House in 1973

Brandt-Nixon, White House, 1973 (National Archives)

The 151-year-old Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) “presents the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions and significant diplomatic activity.” It is a useful research tool for legal historians and international law scholars and practitioners.  As Mary L. Dudziak states in her Legal History Blog post, “[The FRUS] records are not only valuable for historians of U.S. foreign relations, but can shed light on other topics related to global reaction to events in the United States, constitutional development in other nations, and more.”

The FRUS has been online for free at the Department of State’s website for some time now, from 1861-1976, from the Lincoln to the Nixon-Ford administrations.  It’s also available via the University of Wisconsin and HeinOnline.  But now, as part of the DOS Office of the Historian’s “E-Books Initiative,” you can read selected FRUS volumes via your iPad, Nook, or Kindle!   The first volumes, released on March 8th in ePub and Mobipocket formats, cover 1964-1976:

 Can’t wait till they go back all the way to the 19th century!

Photo of Ulysses S. Grant & Li Hung Chang, Tientsin, China, 1879

Ulysses S. Grant & Li Hung Chang, Tientsin, China 1879 (CC Flickr by Yaohua2k7)

Women’s legal history

Public domain photo of Sophonisba P. Breckenridge

Sophonisba P. Breckenridge

My record there was not distinguished, but the faculty and students were kind, and the fact that the law school like the rest of the University … accepted men and women students on equal terms was publicly settled.Sophonisba Breckinridge (J.D. 1904).

For biographical information about Ms. Breckinridge and other women in the law in the United States, check the free Women’s Legal History website at Stanford. Under the “WLH Biography Project” tab, you can search for biographies of women lawyers by name, year, race/ethnicity, law school, legal practice area, state, region, and time period.  The biographical sketches include professional facts, pioneering accomplishments, photos if available, and materials for further research. Under the same tab, you can do a bibliographic search, browse historiographical articles and other materials (such as a 2011 women’s legal history bibliography by Paul Lomio in PDF), and view related web resources.  You can also browse for bios of women lawyers by last name. The University of Chicago Law School’s first woman graduate, Sophonisba Preston Breckinridge, is in the WLH database. She founded the University’s School of Social Service Administration and helped found the Chicago chapter of the NAACP. Additional bio info is available via Professor Geoffrey Stone’s 1994 Law School Record article, “In Honor of Nisba,” a 1948 article via JSTOR, and her Papers in the Library’s Special Collections Research Center. 

Another Chicagoan (and an SSAd graduate), Edith Spurlock Sampson Clayton, was the first African-American woman to be elected a judge in the United States (1962). President Truman appointed her to represent the United States as an alternate delegate to the United Nations (1950). You can find more information about her (as Edith Sampson) in the online Encyclopedia of African-American History, 1896 to the Present (Paul Finkelman ed., Oxford University Press, 2009).

GPO Access transitions to FDsys on March 16, 2012

GPO Access will be taken down on March 16, 2012. It has not been updated since November of 2011. On the 16th, one-to-one redirects will be activated that will direct users from GPO Access URLs to the FDsys equivalent or the nearest best equivalent if an exact page match is impossible. Read the GPO Access to FDsys Transition project page for more information. GPO Access provided electronic access to United States government documents for 16 years.

HT to FDLP Desktop: