Author Archives: Eve Ross

Researching the Wellerman

tiktok logo

TikTok logo

A New Zealand sea shanty with the refrain, “Soon may the Wellerman come to bring us sugar and tea and rum” has become unexpectedly popular on TikTok.

The term “Wellerman” may refer to a resupply ship operated by an Australian shore-whaling company known as the Weller Brothers.

Not knowing whether the specific events of the song have any basis in fact or not, the question arose: has there ever been legal liability for a Wellerman failing to resupply a stranded whaling ship? If that answer proves difficult to pin down, then is it possible to find some historical cases worthy of their own sea shanties?

New Zealand Shore Whaling and the Law

Using the search term “Weller Brothers” on HeinOnline (UofSC login required) reveals two articles by Stuart Anderson:

Harris v. Fitzherbert: Customary Rights of Labour on a Shore Whaling Station, 42 Victoria U. Wellington L. Rev. 639 (2011).

Commercial Law on the Beach: Shore Whaling Litigation in Early Colonial New Zealand – Macfarlane v. Crummer (1845), 41 Victoria U. Wellington L. Rev. 453 (2010).

mountains, a few houses on a grassy plain, a beach

1907 watercolor by Walter Bowring depicting Jillett’s whaling station on Kāpiti Island in 1844

The facts of Macfarlane involve “clothing, tobacco, soap, flour, tea, sugar, calico and more” being delivered to a struggling whaling station. Anderson at 454, emphasis added. Could this delivery of provisions be the basis of the sea shanty, with some facts changed or exaggerated? There may be no way to know, but even assuming it were true, unfortunately Anderson informs us “there are no surviving court papers” from the Macfarlane case. Anderson at 470.

A Case for a Sea Shanty?

Wouldn’t it be great if the next popular sea shanty had a legal citation we could all link to?

The fact sections of many ship collision cases from past centuries somehow seem more poetic than the fact sections of modern automobile collision cases, with notable exceptions such as Fisher v. Lowe, 122 Mich. App. 418, 333 N.W.2d 67 (1983).

HeinOnline (UofSC login required) provides access to the sea-faring example below from English Reports

In re: H.M.S. Swallow, 166 Eng. Rep. 1002 (1856).

The "Leila," coal-laden, was bound to Cadiz; the "Swallow" was proceeding from Milford 
to Portsmouth, for the purpose of taking in her engines. The "Leila," it appeared, was
close hauled on the starboard tack; the "Swallow" was running right before the wind.
The night was foggy, and on the "Leila" descrying the "Swallow," [31] from her starboard
bow, making directly for her, she exhibited a lantern, and a fog-horn was loudly blown.
The light was answered by the "Swallow," and her helm slightly ported. The "Leila" kept
close to the wind until the last moment, when in order to ease the blow, her helm was put
hard a-port, and her head sheets let fly. The "Swallow" in her defence alleged that on
descrying the "Leila" she put her helm hard a-port; that the fog was so thick that the
two vessels could not see each other in time to avoid the collision, which was the result
of inevitable accident.

Hopefully, composers of shanties will consider case law as a potential source of inspiration.

Donate in 2020 for a Tax Deduction

form and calculatorTaxpayers who do not itemize deductions will still be able to deduct up to $300 in charitable donations in 2020, thanks to a provision in the CARES Act. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, H.R. 748, 116th Cong. § 2204 (2020).

In other words, the Form 1040 for the year 2020, electronic or not, will contain a straightforward way to report up to a $300 donation, even for those who otherwise would not report charitable donations. 

Points to Remember

  • hand putting money into a box with a heartThe recipient of a donation must be a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Check the IRS’s Tax Exempt Organization Search to verify a particular organization’s status.
  • The donation must be cash (such as an electronic donation with a credit or debit card), not stocks or property.
  • Keep receipts.

More Information

The following sources may be helpful for those who have questions. Of course, consulting a tax lawyer is always advisable.

Ann Carrns, It’s Easier to Get a Tax Deduction for Donations This Year, NEW YORK TIMES (Nov. 20, 2020), (If you are a UofSC student, faculty, or staff member and need to begin or renew your free New York Times online subscription, the link is here:

Stephen Fishman, New Rules for Charitable Contribution Deductions Under the CARES Act, NOLO (This site also provides referrals to tax lawyers.)

Edward T. Killen, Special Tax Deductions Available This Year for Cash Donations to Charities; IRS Works to Raise Awareness, INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE: A CLOSER LOOK (Dec. 2, 2020), (This site also provides links to official IRS publications.)

More True Crime Podcasts

As winter break approaches, it may be time to keep that interest in criminal law and criminal procedure alive by catching up on true crime podcasts.

If you’re new to podcast listening, start with a beginners guide: how to listen to podcasts.

If you missed it, see our previous post about true crime podcasts. To branch out, consider these:

True Crime from Canada

cover photocoverThe Minds of Madness “examines the most disturbing criminal minds and the impact violent crimes have on survivors of homicide.” Canadian True Crime tells about “some of the most heinous, controversial, heartbreaking and thought-provoking true crime cases in Canada.”

Long-Running Podcasts

As of this writing, Crimelines had 85 episodes, Casefile 200 episodes, The Vanished 240 episodes, and The Generation Why Podcast 308 episodes.



Thanks to Amanda Bullington and Regenia Dowling in the law library for these podcast suggestions; they are true fans of true crime podcasts.

Historic SC Courthouse Reopens

sepia photo of classic two story building. "Old Court House Camden, S.C. Erected in 1820. Now used as D.A.R. and U.D.C. Relic Room"

undated postcard

The City of Camden, South Carolina, has reopened its historic courthouse for use as a courthouse for the first time in more than 100 years, according to the city’s website and the Associated Press.

The building was used as a courthouse from the 1820s until the 1900s. After that, it served as a relic room, as the Kershaw County Chamber of Commerce, and as a rental venue for meetings and weddings. The first floor still houses the City of Camden Welcome Center. The second-story courtroom has now been restored according to its 1845 renovation and is in use for weekly municipal court hearings. 

modern photo of classic white two-story building; historic marker in front

2004 photo by Wikipedia user Pollinator

The historic courthouse was designed by architect Robert Mills. Robert Mills also designed the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C., as well as several buildings in Columbia, South Carolina. His work influenced the design of the new UofSC School of Law building.

For more photos:

Directions to the Robert Mills Courthouse in Camden, from UofSC School of Law in Columbia:

Haunting Testimony

by guest author Melanie Griffin

One West Virginia case made U.S. legal history by a witness with haunting testimony.

In 1897, Elva “Zona” Heaster died under mysterious circumstances. Her doctor first called it an “everlasting faint” (19th century speak for “something just stopped working, we don’t know what”), then changed his ruling to childbirth. He ignored the markings on Zona’s neck and didn’t investigate her head wounds further at the insistence of her new husband, Erasmus Shue.

faded black-and-white photos of unsmiling 19th-century women

L: Zona Heaster Shue, murder victim. R: Mary Jane Heaster, victim’s mother. Photo from the Occult Museum.

Zona’s mother Mary Jane Heaster was suspicious of her son-in-law from the start, but she had no proof to take to court until, she said, Zona told her the truth herself—after the burial.

Mary Jane insisted to the county prosecutor that Zona visited her four consecutive nights after her death and gave her mother all the details about abuse she received from Erasmus. During her final visit, Mary Jane said her daughter gave a detailed account of how Erasmus killed her.

After learning that Erasmus had prevented a true post-mortem exam, the prosecutor ordered an autopsy, which brought up sufficient evidence to take the case to court.

Mary Jane told the court all about her nightly conversations with Zona, making history as the first time a ghost’s statement was allowed as evidence in a trial.

But don’t worry if you’ve made any ghosts mad—she was actually called as a defense witness to make her sound crazy and discredit her testimony. Erasmus was found guilty, based on evidence that was clearly tangible in this realm of existence.

Read news articles from the area and time with transcripts of the testimony, courtesy of the West Virginia Archives and History department.

Open Access Week 2020 – Part 2

See Part 1 for What is Open Access? and How can Open Access support equity and inclusion? 

How do UofSC Law librarians support Open Access?

There is no shortage of ways in which librarians at UofSC Law (and in many other libraries) support Open Access. Here are two examples:

Open Casebooks 

catalog search: Evidence Best Evidence Rule Miller, Colin author; Open Textbook Library distributor 2012 / Evidence Jury Impeachment Miller, Colin author; Open Textbook Library distributor 2014 / Evidence Rape Shield Rule Miller, Colin author; Open Textbook Library distributor 2014

Three Open Access casebooks by Dean Miller

Despite the high prices of casebooks, most casebook authors are not getting rich from those sales; they typically rely on a salary from other full-time work. Because Open Access textbooks help cash-strapped law students without significantly harming authors, authors are increasingly opting to create Open Access casebooks.

Law librarian Andy Kretschmar notes that there are currently some Open Access casebooks findable in the UofSC Law Library catalog, including three by Dean Colin Miller.

Scholar Commons

screenshot of with world map

Law librarians work with law faculty, law student journal editors, and UofSC librarians to get permissions and upload works to Law faculty can choose to make their articles freely available at, no matter where those articles are published, as long as the faculty have not given up their right to do so. Both the South Carolina Journal of International Law and Business (SCJILB) and the South Carolina Law Review have chosen to make back issues freely available via Scholar Commons, and SCJILB also makes its current issues available.

Approximately 37,000 times per year, articles are downloaded from UofSC Law’s Scholar Commons. The work of the UofSC Law Library (especially Lillian Bates, Dan Brackmann, Melanie Griffin, and Candle Wester) in digitizing back issues from print, obtaining permissions from authors and publishers, and putting articles online in an organized, findable way is making a difference.

Open Access Week 2020 – Part 1

What is Open Access?

open access logo (unlocked padlock)

Open Access logo, PLoS

The term Open Access refers to scholarly work that is “digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions,” in the words of Peter Suber.

Open Access typically only applies to research by scholars because most other types of authors and creators make a living by charging users for access to their work. However, scholars may receive little or none of the fees academic publishers charge. Often when scholars choose to provide Open Access to their work, their bottom line remains stable, their audience expands, and the impact of their ideas increases.

How can Open Access support equity and inclusion?

The theme of Open Access Week 2020 is Open With Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion. Just to mention two aspects of Open Access, putting works online lowers some barriers and removing purchase and subscription costs lowers others.

OPEN ACCESS WEEK 2020 | October 19-25 | Open with Purpose: Taking Action to Build Structural Equity and Inclusion (other languages)Nick Shockey / SPARC

Digitization to Reduce Barriers

When works that are not currently of mass interest only exist in printed format, they may go out-of-print. This can mean that the few existing copies are prohibitively expensive to purchase, or only available in a few libraries. Then researchers who cannot afford the cost of a rare book or travel to a distant city may not be able to refer to those works. Researchers who rely on screen readers or other accessibility technology may encounter additional barriers to using a printed format. Digitizing works and putting them online can help overcome these barriers.

Free or Affordable Textbooks

Students and faculty know how expensive textbooks are, and textbook prices continue to rise. Using Open Access textbooks is one way to help make education more affordable, and therefore more inclusive of students facing financial constraints.

Access Beyond Wealthy Institutions

Many researchers access scholarly works online via an institutional login. They may be unaware of the high rates their library pays academic publishers for group online subscriptions. Meanwhile, independent researchers or researchers whose institutions cannot pay for certain expensive subscriptions often cannot afford access to the sources they need for their research.

In Part 2: How do UofSC Law librarians support Open Access?

Election Workers Needed in SC

South Carolina Needs More Election Workers

Many election workers from past years are in high-risk categories for COVID-19 and understandably do not feel safe participating in person this year. The South Carolina Election Commission has posted this plea on its website:

“If you are willing and able to serve, South Carolina needs you.  The fact is we must have poll managers to have elections. Unless new poll managers step up to serve, we expect counties will have to close and consolidate polling places, which can cause large crowds and longer lines for voters.”

The American Bar Association ( and the South Carolina Bar (@SCBAR) also encourage law students and lawyers to step up and ensure voters can cast their ballots on Election Day.

What Do South Carolina Election Workers Receive?

The SC Election Commission specifies this pay breakdown, which does not include the supplement that some counties offer:

Poll Managers (and poll manager’s assistants): $60 for attending training + $15 for COVID-19 training + $75 for working on election day + $15 for additional COVID-19 related duties on election day = $165 Total

Clerks (the lead poll manager):  Poll Manager Pay + $60 for additional training and responsibilities = $225 Total 

For everyone’s safety this year, the SC Election Commission will provide:

  • masks
  • gloves
  • hand sanitizer
  • sanitizing wipes
  • disposable cotton swabs for making touchscreen selections
  • an online election worker training option

No Class on Election Day

University of South Carolina School of Law’s academic calendar has no classes scheduled on Election Day—Tuesday, November 3, 2020. 

How Can Law Students Be Election Workers?

Law students who meet the necessary criteria are encouraged to apply to be election workers. Poll Managers must be registered to vote in South Carolina. A Poll Manager may not serve at any polling place where they are a candidate or the spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a candidate on the ballot. A Clerk (the lead poll manager) must serve either in the county where they are registered to vote or an adjoining county.

More on South Carolina Elections

Laws governing South Carolina elections can be found in Title 7 of the South Carolina Code of Laws. To do further research on these laws, try starting with an annotated version of the South Carolina Code (such as through subscription providers Westlaw, Lexis, or Fastcase), or ask a law librarian for help navigating free online or print resources related to Title 7.

Fall 2020 Law Library Hours, Spaces, Materials & Services

by guest authors Andy Kretschmar and Rebekah Maxwell

Sent in an email to all incoming and returning law students on July 27, 2020.

Here is some information about how the law library will be adapting services and operations this semester.

Please stay safe and healthy, and we look forward to seeing you soon!

Hours & Access
  • The law library will only be accessible to law school students, staff, and faculty. Please have your Carolina Card at all times, as you’ll need it to enter the library.
  • The library will be open 8am—6pm, M-F, from August 3rd to August 20th
  • During the semester, the law library will operate under the following hours:
    • Monday—Thursday 7am-8pm
    • Friday                              7am-6pm
    • Saturday—Sunday    CLOSED (subject to change based on health & safety guidelines)
    • Any unexpected changes to hours due to unforeseen events will be announced on the law library’s Facebook page.
  • Everyone will be required to wear a face covering at all times while in the law library and on the balcony. You may remove your face covering if you are in a group study room with the door closed (see below).


Library Spaces
  • In order to create six feet of space between seats, as recommended by the university and the CDC, seating capacity has been reduced to 25% of normal capacity, or 89 seats.
  • Study Tables and Carrels – Seating is available on a first come, first served basis.
    • There will be 18 seats available in the Coleman Karesh Reading Room.
    • The basement will not be accessible for studying.
  • Study Rooms – Group study rooms have been reduced to 1 seat.  Rooms may be booked in advance on the law library’s room booking page. Students who are participating in a virtual class will have priority when booking study rooms. Students may use unoccupied study rooms without a reservation, but must leave when asked to do so by the student who booked the study room. Please note that some study rooms have been repurposed as storage space.
  • There will be extra signage in the library designating traffic flows, space usage, and other COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and protocols. Please follow these guidelines, and ask library personnel if you have any questions.


Access to Library Materials
  • For book sanitation reasons, please wash your hands before handling books, and please allow circulation or reference personnel to guide you directly to the book you need.
  • You can check out materials according to normal library policies, but items will undergo a 3-day quarantine period after use to ensure that no items are contaminated. If an item is needed while it’s in quarantine, it will only be available for copy and scanning usage, and users will be required to wear protective gloves when handling these materials.
  • Copiers and scanners will be available. Only one user will be allowed into the copy room at a time. Wearing protective gloves will be required, and users will be asked to wipe down machines before and after use (gloves and wipes will be provided by library staff). Consider using a free app such as Adobe Scan (iOS or Android) or Microsoft Office Lens (iOS or Android) to scan items with your phone.
  • All library items should be returned to the circulation desk when you have finished using them. Please don’t try to help out by reshelving books; we want to ensure that each book is sanitary before we return it to the shelf.
  • If you have questions about getting library materials, please email Andy Kretschmar at


Reference Services
  • Reference services will be available from 9:00am – 5:00pm, Monday – Friday.
  • The reference desk will offer a combination of in-person and virtual reference service.
  • Virtual reference service will offer the option of a video chat with a librarian in real time, using the law library’s chat program and Blackboard Collaborate.   Instructions for initiating a video chat will be posted at the reference desk, on the library’s webpage, and at other locations in the library.
  • The reference desk email ( text chat (click “Ask A Librarian” at or SMS 803-219-2529) will also remain available as contact points.