G-Man Exhibit Opens in Law Library

by guest author Pamela Rogers Melton

Melvin Purvis display at Law Library

Melvin Purvis: American Tragic Hero

Melvin Horace Purvis. To many people today, the name means nothing. But it was not so long ago that Purvis was a household name, and over 260,000 boys and girls were digging through boxes of Post Toasties breakfast cereal to get their very own decoder rings and Junior G-Man badges.

Purvis, the Timmonsville native with the unassuming name, skyrocketed to fame in the 1930s as the leader of the FBI team that took down some of the biggest gangsters of his day, including John Dillinger, “Baby Face” Nelson and “Pretty Boy” Floyd.  At the height of his short career with the FBI, he was more popular and recognizable than J. Edgar Hoover, which was his undoing.

Learn about meteoric rise and fall of one of the most famous graduates of the USC School of Law in the South Carolina Legal History Room on the first floor of the Coleman Karesh Law Library.

Incorporated By Reference: Who Owns the Law?

On Tuesday, August 9, 2016, after debate from both sides of the issue, the ABA House of Delegates passed a resolution calling on Congress to require federal agencies to provide free online read-only access to all privately drafted materials that are incorporated by reference into federal regulations.

When many federal agencies write regulations, the specific standards for items ranging from toys and cribs to nuclear power plants are written by private entities with expertise in those fields. In other words, the details of regulations (which have the force of law) are being written not by elected legislators, nor by agency employees, but by private industry associations. Currently, the Director of the Federal Register requires federal agencies to state how they are making those incorporated standards available to the public, but the full text is still not always available online, and copies may cost thousands of dollars.

Arguably, when industry groups have hard-earned expertise and non-governmental status, the standards they write are their own intellectual property for which they are entitled to charge a fee for access. On the other hand, democracy and the rule of law arguably depend on all people being freely able to read and discuss the laws to which they are subject, and some say “read-only access” to the law would be insufficient to support this freedom.

Do you think the ABA was right to pass this resolution? Do you think it goes too far, or not far enough? Tell us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter.

1L Orientation to the Law Library

Bloomberg, Lexis, and Westlaw
Legal Research, Analysis, and Writing (LRAW)
  • 1Ls use their Westlaw account to access TWEN and sign up for their LRAW section. The Getting Started page in the LRAW textbook has a video showing how to add a course in TWEN.
  • 1Ls complete the Legal System Pre-Class Exercise by clicking on their research professor’s name, then answering the questions in one session. (Saving answers and returning to finish later is not possible; however, referring to the online textbook is allowed.)
On the Law Library’s Website:
More Law Library Information:

@UofSCLawLib is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 1Ls who “like” or “follow” @UofSCLawLib on any of these services by August 22 will be entered into a drawing to win a reserved study carrel.

Library Fest will be September 12 during lunch. All UofSC law students are invited. The law library will offer cake and prizes, and the last-ever chance for 1Ls to win a reserved study carrel.

South Carolina Department of Social Services lawsuit

The South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) is in the news because of a class-action lawsuit in federal court (The State). Two organizations—Children’s Rights and Appleseed Legal Justice Center—sued the agency, alleging that its shortcomings have caused repeated harm to children.

A settlement agreement has been proposed and preliminarily approved, and the date has been set for a hearing to finalize the settlement. The settlement proposes to ensure that case workers are not overloaded with more cases than they can reasonably handle, along with other proposed improvements.

Research perspective:

It is somewhat challenging to find the court documents referred to in the news article. Here are some clues to navigating the public record.

The case is in federal district court, and as of the June 3, 2016 date of the news article, there had not yet been a final order in the case. These two facts mean the settlement agreement will not appear in databases that focus on appellate decisions, nor will it be included in collections of trial court orders. Two places to look would be PACER or Bloomberg Law Dockets.

DSS is not a party to the case; neither are Children’s Rights or Appleseed Legal Justice Center. Searching on any of these names will lead to a dead-end. The named defendants are Nikki Haley in her capacity as governor and Susan Alford in her capacity as director.

One possible shortcut in researching a high-profile case such as this, is to see whether the parties or lawyers in the case may have posted court documents on their website. In this case, Appleseed Legal Justice Center has posted the settlement agreement as a pdf on its website. The title of the case is in the description, and the case number is stamped on the pdf; both these pieces of information would help a researcher find additional documents from the case.

Supreme Court opinions: more changeable than previously thought

Nothing could be more reliable as precedent than an opinion of the United States Supreme Court, issued earlier in the day. Yet even that could change.

The New York Times gives examples of justices altering the wording of published opinions, sometimes in ways that are legally significant, hours, days, or even years after the opinions were first issued. Sometimes the unrevised opinion remains available on respected sites for legal research. Fortunately, the Court is now making the changes more transparent, but it remains to be seen whether, or how quickly various websites will ensure that they have the current version.

Chalk it up as just one more reason lawyers need to update their legal research from a reliable and current source.

Britain’s Iraq Inquiry issues its report


In 2009, when the UK withdrew combat troops from Iraq, the UK government began a public inquiry to consider what happened with UK involvement in Iraq from 2001 through mid-2009. The Report of the Iraq Inquiry was published July 6, 2016.

public inquiry is generally supposed to identify institutional missteps that resulted in a bad outcome, and to make recommendations for how to redesign laws and institutions to improve future outcomes.

Glen Rangwala of Times Higher Education argues that the Report of the Iraq Inquiry is so wordy and abstract that it does not succeed in the typical purpose of a public inquiry, but that it is a powerfully resonant work of academic analysis.

What do you think? Skim the report, and let the law library know on Facebook or Twitter what audience you think is well or poorly served by the report and why.

Resources relating to the five Dallas police officers

In the words of President Obama, the library is horrified at the events in Dallas on July 7.

Award issued regarding South China Sea territorial claims

map displaying disputed territories in South China Sea

Award issued July 12, 2016

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, the Netherlands, issued its award regarding the dispute between the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Background material

Permanent Court of Arbitration

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) is an intergovernmental organization established by the 1899 Hague Convention on the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes. The PCA has 121 Member States. Headquartered at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands, the PCA facilitates arbitration, conciliation, fact-finding, and other dispute resolution proceedings among various combinations of States, State entities, intergovernmental organizations, and private parties.

Resources relating to fatal shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

Today the library is, in the words of President Obama, deeply troubled by the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.