JSTOR Labs recently announced a new way to search called Text Analyzer (https://www.jstor.org/analyze/). You can upload a document such as a draft paper or another article that you found on JSTOR and the Text Analyzer generates a list of research articles and subject terms to help you find new sources. We have seen similar technology in brief checking tools offered by Westlaw and Lexis, but this is the first tool we’ve seen that applies this kind of AI in a scholarly setting.
How does it work? After you upload a document, the tool analyzes the text for key topics and phrases. It will identify certain keywords as “prioritized terms” and then look for similar content in JSTOR. The Text Analyzer allows you to edit the list of “prioritized terms” by adding or removing words or phrases or by adjusting their importance.
While I imagine that MS Word or PDF files would be the most common types of documents uploaded, the Text Analyzer accepts the following types of files: csv, doc, docx, gif, htm, html, jpg, jpeg, json, pdf, png, pptx, rtf, tif (tiff), txt, xlsx.
In addition to the Supreme Court of the United States, the United States Courts of Appeals, the United States District Courts and the United States Bankruptcy Courts, the Almanac also covers the judges of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, the Court of Federal Claims, the Court of International Trade, and the United States Tax Court.
A typical district/circuit judge bio in the Almanac includes the following:
Civil & criminal practices/procedures
Senate nomination questionnaire
Annual financial disclosure statements
For both litigators and clerkship seekers, the lawyer evaluations are especially important, and the civil & criminal practices/procedures section (for district court judges) are also a boon to litigators.
Profiles of Supreme Court Justices go into greater detail, including such categories as “Media Coverage;” “Quick Sketch;” “Verbatim” (a quote or quotes from the Justice); “If You Need Her Vote” (explaining to Supreme Court advocates how to tailor arguments towards a particular Justice); “At Oral Argument” (highlight the Justice’s tendencies during oral arguments); “If You Meet Him” (topics that appeal to the Justice when engaged in conversation); “Just One Case” (a suggestion of which of a Justice’s opinions to read to get the overall impression of their judicial philosophy); and “Friends and Adversaries” (highlighting which other Justices are most likely and least likely to be aligned in voting, based on the most recent term’s statistics).
Two other unique aspects of the Almanac contribute to its must-see status. First, it is not limited to current information; it retains archived profiles of those judges who have retired or passed away (judges that have taken senior status are still included as active profiles). Second, it contains profiles for U.S. Magistrate Judges, for whom there is less publicly-available content available (including their omission from the FJC biographical database).
All in all, the Almanac is a total package for students researching federal judges for potential clerkships (both in terms of deciding to whom to apply and as essential in preparing for the interview process) and for litigators (including clinic students) who need to know how the judge to which their case is assigned ticks.
If you need to conduct a literature review or would like to identify reputable secondary and primary sources on a topic or concept, you may be able to save a ton of time by consulting Oxford Bibliographies.
Oxford Bibliographies provides access to annotated bibliographies that are written and reviewed by academic experts. Each bibliography includes a brief overview of the topic or concept along with citations to relevant primary and secondary sources. The sources included on the bibliographies are selective to ensure that they contain the best available scholarship.
Let’s take a look at Oxford Bibliographies: International Law. You can browse entries alphabetically or conduct keyword searches in the upper right corner of the screen. If you conduct a keyword search, you can restrict that search to a particular subject area (using the advanced search feature), or you can search across all subject areas included within Oxford Bibliographies.
The bibliography identifies literature providing a general overview about cyber warfare as well as literature discussing the development of the law of cyber warfare and state responsibility in cyberspace. Each source listed in the bibliography contains a citation and brief summary. You can retrieve the books and materials in NUsearch or by using the “Find this resource” feature accompanying each citation.
Consider checking for an annotated bibliography on Oxford Bibliographies whenever you need to identify relevant secondary and primary sources on a topic or concept!
Unfortunately, little documentation survives to offer a full understanding of how The Pleader and HOOPS were perceived by their communities during the time of their publication. The newsletters themselves printed letters that praised and disparaged the newsletters’ content, but the newsletters were rarely mentioned in other primary sources written about and for Northwestern Law. Although editors of The Pleader and HOOPS frequently mentioned deans of the Law School and other administration officials, the degree to which the administration discussed the newsletters in official and unofficial channels is unclear. One source that did mention the newsletters is Northwestern Law’s The Reporter, a magazine that chronicled events and alumni news. The Pritzker Legal Research Center has a rich collection of digitized Reporter issues, and searching this digital collection revealed that The Reporter acknowledged the existence of The Pleader twice around the time of the latter’s foundation. First, the Summer 1978 issue of The Reporter mentioned The Pleader in passing in the essay “A Report on the Year 1977-78, Northwestern University School of Law” by Dean David S. Ruder: “A new student newspaper, The Pleader, has added spice, wit, criticism, and current events to the Law School scene.” Later, the Fall 1978 issue of The Reporter dedicated half a page to The Pleader in an essay about the newsletter’s first year of publication (see illustration). Describing The Pleader’s role as “an open forum for the Law School community [that] strives to be responsive to all areas of the School”, the author plainly recounted the historical formation of the newsletter, naming the founding editors and listing some of the contents of each issue. Besides describing The Pleader as adding “spice”, there is little characterization of the critical role that The Pleader undertook. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, The Reporter made no mention of HOOPS at all. Further research is required to see if The Pleader or HOOPS were described in non-digitized Northwestern publications.
Despite this apparent dearth in written acknowledgement, both The Pleader and HOOPS were keen to report any opinions expressed by Law School officials about the newsletters, which usually took the form of verbal statements. For example, a 1987 issue of HOOPS ran a cover story describing how a senior faculty member was overheard referring to HOOPS as “trash”. The outrage in the article was palpable: “To disparage this forum is to disparage the many who have sacrificed their time and effort to contribute articles, features, and information; to cheapen their contribution is to demean a valuable asset of law school life.” The responses in the following issue raised questions about the validity of both the faculty member’s remark and HOOPS’s outraged response. In a letter to the editors, one student criticized HOOPS for printing the equivalent of gossip by choosing not to confirm the quote with the faculty member. “It all leads to the conclusion that HOOPS editors are more interested in bashing [the faculty member] than promoting ‘constructive criticism’ or dialogue and providing reliable information,” the student wrote. He also questioned HOOPS’s own character, which seemed to embrace bawdy humor to the point of self-identifying as a “trashy” publication:
“These are the same editors who dish out plenty of ‘disparaging’ remarks in the Bar Review. And this is, after all, the same publication that prints [the f-word] in a headline and runs cut-outs of NULS faculty in embarrassing costumes and poses. The Sun-Times has been called trash for a lot less. It’s all a lot of fun, and I always enjoy reading HOOPS. It is definitely a ‘valuable asset of law school life,’ as HOOPS editors put it. But sometimes, in some parts, it’s just trash. So what? Are those parts meant to be anything else?”
On the same page, a wry letter from a professor – indeed, the same professor who wrote the infamous “300-500%” letter back in 1978 — denounced the faculty member’s comment while artfully offering his own attack. “Since I am only objecting to [the faculty member’s] characterization, and not offering an affirmative proposal of my own, I will refrain from attempting to characterize your publication in a mere word. (Actually, the word ‘mere’ itself might be good for starters.) I think you should apply your ingenuity to this task and come up with a self-characterization. You might begin by investigating the ecological significance of the felling of forests to provide thin products upon which symbols of dubious significance are imprinted.” A careful reader might notice that this professor’s name is included in HOOPS’s list of staff members on the issue’s second page, his involvement offering a tacit endorsement to offset the biting tone of his letter.
Did more readers think of HOOPS as trash or as a valuable asset to the Law School community? As the student letter suggests, there may have been some validity to both stances. Even to a contemporary reader, it is clear that some portions of HOOPS – and The Pleader – included gossip, bawdy humor, and cheap jokes about professors with no basis in legitimate critique. A 1986 issue of HOOPS (see illustration)included a collage of faculty member faces pasted onto models in bikinis, an illustration that might be considered more juvenile than substantive in its content. The Pleader also took its share of jabs at faculty members, such as in heavily annotated caricatures (see illustration). However, the comedy in the newsletters was sometimes used to explore substantive issues, similar to the contemporary parody publication The Onion; a 1987 issue of HOOPS included one such satirical page that discussed censorship (see illustration). Moreover, even at its silliest, the indulgence in jokes for their own sake cannot fully offset the role of these student newsletters in providing a unique, widely-read forum in which students offer critique to the institution receiving their tuition. The Pleader and HOOPS provided a unique means by which to engage in discussions and share law school experiences, cultivating a kind of community in its readership that may not have existed before or since.
In celebration of Black History Month, the National Archives has curated a collection of African American History Month Resources. Needless to say, our National Archives contain a vast collection of primary and secondary materials related to the Black experience in America; in fact, the largest such collection our country has to offer, spanning time from the dark dawn of slavery in the colonies to today’s continuing civil rights struggle.
Due to the pandemic, the National Archive and Records Administration aka NARA aka the National Archives, is not open to the public. However, their research guides make exploring online resources a breeze, whether you’re interested in various topics or a time period in the chronological development of the Black experience. There’s three collections I would like to highlight: The American Image: Portrait of Black Chicago, The Modern Civil Rights Movement, and the Center for Black Music Research.
The American Image: Portrait of Black Chicago John H. White, currently the staff photographer for the Chicago Sun-Times but then a photographer for the Chicago Daily News, took a series of photographs of Chicago’s African American community from mid-1973 to early 1974. He took these photos as part of the Environmental Protection Agency`s (EPA) DOCUMERICA project, and they comprise a candid time capsule view of Black life in Chicago during the early 1970s. [To navigate this collection, use the Intro, Part One, Part Two, Part Three links found under the photographer’s name in the top left corner.]
The Modern Civil Rights Movement Chicago is the home of the midwestern regional office of the National Archives featuring permanent records created by federal agencies and courts in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Many of these materials have not been digitized and made available online, but this civil rights finding aid details notable civil rights cases from the Great Lakes region and the many primary records, such as court documents and investigative reports from federal agencies, available at the Chicago site.
Center for Black Music Research (CBMR) While the National Archives own holdings are extensive, they also index other archival and research collections on aspects of the Black experience, so browsing the National Archives guides will lead you to other niche collections like the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia Community College in Chicago. This Center collects materials on Black music in world culture, including the United States, and features personal scores, recordings, notes, and other ephemera created as part of the artistic process of musical composition. Use their finding aids to discover both interesting and invaluable materials providing a unique and immersive view of the influence of Black musicians on American and world culture.
Throughout their publication histories, student-run newsletters The Pleader and HOOPS positioned themselves as politically motivated forces: they offered law students a platform that reversed traditional hierarchies of power in the law school, allowing students to respond to the daily function of the school and offer criticism about authority figures whose decisions affected them. In their editorials, the staff writers took an active role in amplifying controversial statements or actions from the administration, boldly sharing their own critiques and soliciting student responses to these issues, too.
Many of these writers focused on news specific to the law school, like statements from the dean, but others responded to contentious events that affected the Northwestern community on a whole. In an April 1978 issue of The Pleader, the editors addressed Northwestern’s decision to grant an honorary degree to Israel’s Prime Minister. In response to this event, the editors printed several letters from law students criticizing this decision and released a poll inviting students to submit their opinion on the honorary degree conferral. Printing the results of the poll in the next issue, the editors of The Pleader demonstrated a desire to affect institutional change democratically by collecting and disseminating student response.
The Letters to the Editor sections gave the larger law student body a context in which to discuss law school issues large and small, serving as an analogue social media platform specific to the Law School. Among many other topics, students frequently shared their opinions on their courses; these letters were required to be signed by their author, but the lack of anonymity did not seem to deter students from strongly wording their critiques. A contemporary reader may wonder if these students would be as willing to speak out in a face-to-face classroom setting as they were in The Pleader or HOOPS; like in an online forum or comments section, the removed context of the newsletter may have offered students the freedom to speak more candidly, especially in a newsletter by and for their peers. Despite their student focus, these newsletters were not simply echo chambers for student opinion: as The Pleader gained popularity (and perhaps notoriety) on campus, it also became widely read among faculty and administration members, including those on the receiving end of student criticism. The newsletters allowed such faculty members to respond to criticism that had been printed in previous issues, and dialogue often developed in the Letters to the Editor section from issue to issue. Perhaps because the student-run newsletter prioritized the student voice above any other, students often had the final word in such printed exchanges that involved authority figures like professors.
For example, a 1978 issue of The Pleader printed a brief letter to the editor from a law student concerned about professors’ grade turnover. Without naming any faculty members, the student is far from shy in her criticism. “What I want to know is this,” she begins. “What are our professors getting paid for if they can never grade our exams within anything approaching a reasonable time?” In the following issue, a law professor submitted a rebuttal to this letter, denouncing the student’s critique and taking the greatest issue with the student’s jab at faculty members’ compensation. “I could be making 300% to 500% more money than I am making here by practicing law, and my colleagues can say the same. Therefore, I would suggest that your tuition be at least quadrupled, so that law professors can earn an income that would be on par with what they could earn on the outside.”
Student responses to the professor’s rebuttal flooded the following Pleader issue. Nearly 3 pages were dedicated to letters to the editor regarding the professor’s defense of his work, many matching or escalating the biting tone of the previous issues’ letters. “[The professor] suggests that he could quintuple his income in practice,” one student writes. “Perhaps. But I wonder if he would still have time to produce Broadway shows and do leisurely research in areas which interest him.” Another student submitted a clever metaphor that would be legible to anyone who had been following this exchange: “A accepts employment as a garbage collector. He subsequently decides not to empty cans on the north or west side of any street or alley because: (a) it’s a pain in the neck; and (b) he could make more money as a plumber. Logical?” It is easy to imagine such sharp retorts to an authority figure (one who may or may not control these students’ grades) igniting conversation around the law school and even altering the dynamic between students and faculty at the time.
“The Pleader was conceived last year, so the story goes, simultaneously by two second-year students who felt the need for a school newspaper. […] There is a theory that a stroke of genius, an apple on Newton’s head so to speak, occurs simultaneously to more than one individual. Such was the case with The Pleader. From that initial spark a meaningful part of life at NULS was created.”
As if describing the origins of a sacred text, this passage from the essay “Long Live The Pleader” recounts the formation of Northwestern Law’s infamous student newsletter, The Pleader. It is featured on the front page of volume III, issue no. 5, circa 1978. This is the earliest issue in the Pritzker Legal Research Center’s archival collection, and serendipitously, it offers the contemporary reader a tidy introduction to the newsletter’s history with its trademark tongue-in-cheek irreverence. The essay concludes with a statement of the newsletter’s thesis, the anonymous author insisting that the participation of their fellow law students is crucial to The Pleader’s continued existence:
“We must now work together to realize the potential for expression, communication, and positive change which The Pleader offers. As a source of information, the paper has an important purpose; as an expression of our collective experience, it has a life of its own. Can you hear the buzz?”
With its satirical tone and its dedication to rallying students, The Pleader’s most enduring legacy can perhaps best be described as creating a buzz. Established in Fall 1977, The Pleader served as a for-students, by-students platform in which to share information on Northwestern Law’s current events. More infamously, it also gave students an opportunity to freely voice their opinions on their law school experiences with virtually no target considered off-limits. Despite its popularity, The Pleader ended after a short run in 1979, but a new student newsletter quickly filled the void it left behind: beginning in 1980, HOOPS provided a similar outlet for student voices and included many features that were indebted to those established by The Pleader. HOOPS was regularly published through the 1980s and well into the 1990s, a mainstay of law student life that embraced and even invited controversy throughout its publication history.
The Anatomy of the Student Newsletter
For the contemporary reader, the library’s archive of The Pleader and HOOPS serves as a time capsule of student life during the 1970s-1990s. During their time, the newsletters served myriad purposes for their contemporary readers, thus capturing a broad range of student interests and needs. For example, a student might have consulted the newsletter for information on upcoming law school events, examining the calendars at the beginning of the issue or checking the regular reports from SFPIF (the Student Funded Public Interest Fellowships Program) or the Student Bar Association. Other students might have picked up a copy of The Pleader or HOOPS for its pure entertainment value, perhaps finishing a puzzle between classes or laughing with their friends about the salacious “Dear Fritz” advice column. However, most other sections offered an opinionated take on a specific facet of law school life. For example, a regular column reported on the Clinic (known as the “Clinic Weasel” in The Pleader); another discussed student commutes to and from campus (“Commutin’” in The Pleader); a later column even focused on law students’ favorite off-campus haunts (see HOOPS’s “The Bar Review”). These sections gathered pithy observations and complaints with which the reader might commiserate, offering a public record of these experiences for which there is little contemporary analogue, even online. Beyond these columns, the newsletters offered a rare creative outlet for students to reflect on law school: students channeled their frustrations and anxieties into poetry, prose, comics, or caricatures, which could often be found near the back of an issue. One such comic, printed in a 1978 issue of The Pleader, satirizes the ongoing existential crises of law students and professionals, which they depict as unchanging despite the encouragement that the seniors offer their juniors (see illustration).
In their formal and visual qualities, almost every Xeroxed page of these newsletters bears the touch of law student attitude. Unlike many traditional student newspapers, most issues of The Pleader included handwritten section titles, letterheads, and doodles, while HOOPS often featured handmade photo collages reminiscent of DIY punk fanzines of the 1980s. These photo collages frequently featured faculty and administration portraits, their faces sometimes pasted in absurdist assemblages or drawn over with mustaches (see illustration). With these bold and jeering visuals, the strong tone of their writing, and their dedication to an unfiltered account of the law student experience, these newsletters embraced an air of rebellion and playful irreverence from cover to cover.
“He has betrayed his countrymen, that he might perpetuate his power, and has sacrificed their interests, that he might swell his authority.”
Sound familiar? You might think you’d heard Nancy Pelosi say it yesterday, but it’s actually a quote from the argument of Representative John A. Logan of Illinois, one of the impeachment managers, arguing before the U.S. Senate in favor of the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868. The documents of Hein’s U.S. Presidential Impeachment Library present those of us who are living through history a look at what came before. Hein’s library is organized by type of document and by president, which is even better. It offers a helpful summary of the impeachments of Presidents Johnson, Clinton, and Trump and the near-impeachment of Nixon. There are scholarly articles about impeachment, historical documents, and links to other sources including the popular Slow Burn podcasts about Watergate and the Clinton impeachment. This would be a helpful resource for anyone who wants to write about impeachment or who wants reliable information about the history that has come before.
Speaking of things that have echoes in history, Fordham Law School offers the Twenty-Fifth Amendment Archive, an online collection of materials relating to the drafting and ratification of the 25th Amendment. The archive also shares information about proposed reforms to presidential succession since ratification. There is a fascinating timeline on the front page of the archive that gives a summary of the history of all of the times that we lost our president or nearly lost our president, many of which I had never heard about before. Did you know that President Eisenhower and Vice President Nixon formed their own agreement that Nixon could declare Eisenhower disabled? I didn’t.
Fordham’s archive is not organized by president, which makes it more difficult to browse than Hein’s Impeachment Library, but there is a search function. I think this would be an excellent source for anyone who has followed the present arguments about presidential incapacity and would like additional background and history.
It’s a cliché to say that these are unprecedented times, and we’ve certainly never been in a position quite like January 2021 before. But these resources let us see where there are precedents. And it’s even better that we have electronic access to this history!
For research assistants and summer law firm associates, a frequent, yet intimidating, request goes something like this: “Can you figure out what the law is on Topic X in every state?” As a reference librarian, one of the most satisfying moments in my job is getting to tell a stressed-out recipient of this request that they do not need to dive into all 50 state codes; instead, 50 state surveys aggregating this information are often available. For an excellent look at some of the available resources for locating 50 state surveys, I recommend reviewing Tom Gaylord’s 2018 post for this blog. Today, I would like to take a deeper dive into one of these resources, HeinOnline’s Subject Compilation of State Laws.
Subject Compilation of State Laws (SCSL) is available through the Pritzker Legal Research Center’s list of databases, and a link is also provided within the right-hand column on the HeinOnline landing page. SCSL provides citations and, oftentimes, links to the full-text of resources that compare the laws of multiple states on a given topic. To get started, I recommend selecting the “Browse the Subjects” button, then navigating the alphabetical list to find your topic.
For example, using the alphabetical list, we can scroll down and choose “Electioneering.” At this point, we retrieve a list of 18 results, the first of which is a summary of and link to a resource from the National Association of Secretaries of State, entitled “State Laws on Electioneering Boundaries.” If we continue working our way down the list, we also find links to the full-text of academic law review articles, as well as citations to relevant court briefs.
SCSL can be incredibly useful, but a few qualifications are in order. First, the number of available results depends on the topic you are researching. In our “electioneering” example, SCSL provided us with 18 quality leads for our research; however, for some topics, you may find that only a few resources are listed, and they may be quite dated. Second, many of the resources identified in SCSL, including law journal articles and court briefs, are static. So, it will be necessary to update and verify any information you locate to make sure it is still accurate. Finally, many of the resources listed in SCSL are only citations, so it will be necessary to track them down after the fact (if you need help with this, feel free to ask a librarian). Despite these potential drawbacks, though, SCSL is a tremendous resource to keep in mind when you need to identify the laws on a topic in multiple jurisdictions.
The Documentary History is composed of three main parts: 1) Constitutional Documents and Records, 1776-1787 [Vol. I]; 2) Ratification by the States [Vols. II – XII & XIX – XXIX]; and 3) Commentaries on the Constitution [Vols. XIII – XVIII]. Although the digital edition is not rendered as a PDF, it retains the page numbering from the print volumes, facilitating citation.
The Documentary History is an important resource for the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and has been cited in the Supreme Court as recently as Justice Thomas’s concurrence in Dep’t of Homeland Security v. Thuraissigiam on June 25, 2020. Users can search by keyword(s) or browse, and each volume also contains an index.