The great headnote/key number confusion

Several times this semester I have run into some people who are a bit confused about Westlaw’s headnote and key number system — and quite understandably! For something that is used so much, it seems that little attention is given to explaining exactly what is going on. Well, I would like to cure that right here, right now!

First, let’s look at a headnote taken from the case Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954).

>[4] Constitutional Law k. 3278(1)

The doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in the field of public education, since separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. U.S.C.A. Const. Amend. 14.

What we are looking at are actually two completely different things: the key number and the headnote. As I’m sure you already know, West’s key number system was developed and is used to label different legal topics, making it easier to search case law. It uses a broad topic name (there are more than 450!) followed by a narrower number. It looks something like, “Constitutional Law k. 32878(1)” where “k” represents a tiny picture of a key.

Well to make things a bit more complicated, we also have headnotes. Headnotes are quotes taken from the case pertaining to an area of law and placed at the beginning in order of appearance. So the part of the case addressing “constitutional law, equal protection in general” would be one headnote, and “constitution or law of state contravening constitution of United States” would be a difference headnote. There is no uniform system of numbering with headnotes, so “constitutional law, equal protection in general” in one case may be headnote 4, while it’s headnote 2 in another case. It really just depends where it falls within the case.

Now that West has the key numbers and headnotes all lined up for each case, searching out your area of law becomes easier. West prints off all of the topics and key numbers in a series of books called The Digest. The legal topics are in alpha-numeric order, and each jurisdiction has its own. Kansas has the Kansas Digest, and Missouri has the Missouri Digest. There are also regional digests that include cases from states within a set region. Under each topic and key number, you will find the headnotes from the cases. So if you are looking for other cases that touch on “constitutional law, equal protection in general,” you would look up “constitutional law k. 32878(1).”

You can do all of this online if you desire. However, if you are looking online, “constitutional law” will be turned into a number, which just happens to be “92”.

So where does “92” come from? Well, if you were to list all of the legal topics in alphabetical order and then assign it a number, “constitutional law” would be “92.” Of course, I find it easier to grab any Digest volume and look at the front. The topics and their numbers are listed, starting with “1 abandoned and lost property” going through “414 zoning and planning.” So “constitutional law k. 32878(1)” is the same as “92k.32878(1).” Or it usually is. But that’s another story.

>Here is what the same headnote will look like online:

>[4] KeyCite Citing References for this Headnote 92 Constitutional Law
   92XXVI Equal Protection
       92XXVI(B) Particular Classes
           92XXVI(B)8 Race, National Origin, or Ethnicity
               92k3275 Education
                 92k3278 Public Elementary and Secondary Education
                   92k3278(1) k. In General.
                     (Formerly 92k220(2.1), 92k220(2), 92k220) The doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place in the field of public education, since separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. U.S.C.A.Const. Amend. 14.

All of the extra information is showing you the Digest outline so that you get a feel for where you are. So “92k3278(1)” is constitutional law> equal protection> particular classes> race, national origin, or ethnicity> education> public elementary and secondary education> in general.

The key number system is proprietary. You will only find it in West products and on Westlaw. LexisNexis, though, has developed its own version, which works much the same. Unfortunately, there is no book version of Lexis’ headnote system.

I hope this makes sense. As always, let me know if you need help!

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Judicial Clerkship Clinic an invaluable educational experience

One of the main reasons I chose KU Law was the wide range of clinical opportunities provided for students. The effort the faculty and staff put into these programs is a true testament to the level of investment they have in each of us students, and it shows their desire to help make us the best legal professionals we can be. I knew that this level of encouragement and support I would receive from my professors and other staff members would make an enormous difference in my legal education.

This past summer I was fortunate to participate in the Judicial Clerkship Clinic. Students in the program are paired with judges in the Lawrence, Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita areas in both state and federal courts. I worked with a bankruptcy judge in Topeka and enjoyed the experience immensely. I learned more than I ever could have anticipated prior to beginning the clerkship. This clinic was a great way to get both practical legal experience and to make meaningful connections with members of the legal community.

I had received encouragement to make use of the clinical programs once I was here, and I could not be more thankful that I did. Not only did I learn and develop skills from the work projects I was assigned, but I also had ample opportunity to observe in the bankruptcy court as well as in federal district court and magistrate court. The time spent observing was one of the best learning experiences I believe I will have during law school. It was wonderful to see all of the procedure I read about in my first-year classes come to life. This experience helped complete my understanding of what will serve to be the foundation for the rest of my legal education and career.

I believe that KU Law is truly unique in the 11 clinical opportunities that it provides, and the benefit of these programs is extraordinary.

Kristen Koenen, 2L and Student Ambassador

BNA a trusted source of news for legal community

Library to offer BNA training session

In 1926, David Lawrence launched what he called the country’s “first truly national newspaper,” The United States Daily. He established the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) in 1929 as a division of U.S. Daily. BNA’s purpose was to report, interpret and explain the increasingly complicated workings of the federal government and their far-reaching impact on the economic life of the nation. In 1946, Lawrence offered to sell BNA to his top editors, who, in turn, opened up ownership to all BNA employees, making BNA the largest independent publisher of specialized news and information for professionals in business and government.

Today, BNA is a leading publisher of print and electronic news and information, reporting on developments in health care, business, labor relations, law, economics, taxation, environmental protection, safety and other public policy and regulatory issues. It is licensed for all KU Law students, faculty and staff connecting to the Internet through the Wheat Law Library.

BNA publishes – in print and electronic formats – more than 350 daily, weekly, monthly and up-to-the-minute news services covering the full range of legal, legislative, regulatory and economic developments that impact the business environment around the nation and the world. BNA’s full-service research and data division offers custom research, data and document retrieval services that augment the value of BNA publications.

More than 600 reporters, lawyers and editors working from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, along with a network of national and international correspondents, deliver the highest editorial quality in the industry, providing timely, comprehensive, focused coverage so BNA customers spend less time on reading and research.

Year after year, customer groups recognize BNA’s leadership in editorial quality. American Lawyer Media’s annual survey of law librarians at the nation’s 200 largest law firms has given BNA the top rating on content quality among legal and business publishers since 2002.

Being that there are more than 350 news services available through BNA, I will only list some of my favorites.

  • BioTech Watch provides up-to-date information on the field of biotechnology.
  • Computer Technology Law Report covers areas ranging from anti-piracy to trademarks to open government. It’s not only applicable to those practicing law but also to those who use technology. Like everyone.
  • Daily Environment Report may sound like a segment on The Weather Channel, but you will not find your local forecast here. What is provided for you is analysis and perspectives on key issues shaping the laws and legislation that, in turn, affect the environment.
  • Health Law Reporter may be of particular interest as health care reform is being tested in Congress.
  • Tax and Accounting Center, also known as Tax Managment Portfolios. Anyone who has done any type of tax work will be familiar with BNA’s Tax Management Portfolios. Did you know that these are available online?

Of course, showing you what is available is only one step. The next is showing you how to use BNA. Want to learn? Attend our training session!

Tuesday, October 20
3:45 pm, 106 Green Hall

I hope to see you there!

Blake Wilson
Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Law students, lawyers should take stock of evolving career, personal goals

Just as the seasons change, our goals and dreams may also evolve or change over time. Now is a great time to assess your personal and career goals and take the necessary steps to get or stay on the right path.

Consider assessing your:

  • Personal goals: Although there are several assessment tools readily available, a familiar one is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory. Your personal style influences many things, from how you address others to the type of work environment you prefer.
  • Skills and interests: Interested in exploring new career paths or want to learn if your job is the best fit for your skills and interests? The Strong Interest Inventory is one type of assessment test to help you with these particular questions.
  • Career goals: When was the last time you took stock of where you are and where you want to be this time next year, or in five years? Some questions to ponder:
    • What is your attitude toward your career right now?
    • If you could do it again, would you go to law school?. Why?
    • At work, what do you enjoy doing the most, the least?
    • What accomplishments during law school or your career are you most proud of and why?
    • Are you satisfied with the amount of time spent with your family and friends? Is there anything you would like to change?
    • If you couldn’t practice law, what would you do instead? Why?

There are many excellent resources available to help get you started, including:

  • “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties,” by Lisa Abrams
  • “Life After Law: Second Careers for Lawyers,” by Mary Ann Altman
  • “What Can You Do With a Law Degree?” by Deborah Arron
  • “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles
  • “The Opportunity Maker,” by Ari Kaplan
  • “Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Jobs of Your Dreams,” by Kimm Walton

All of these books, and many others, are available at the Office of Career Services library.

Don’t forget to take advantage of your local resources. As a student or alumnus of KU, the University Career Center offers assessment tests at a discounted rate, including the Strong Interest Inventory and the Do What You Are personality assessment test. Todd Rogers and Karen Hester can counsel you on available opportunities based on your goals and information gleaned from your self-evaluations. There are also career coaches, some of whom specialize in working with attorneys, who can help you identify your goals and the steps you need to take.

Karen Hester, Director of Career Services

Law School Olympians square off in hoops, joust and hot dog-eating

The KU Sports & Entertainment Law Society put on the first Law School Olympics on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Dad “Perry” Park. Six teams, made up of both law and non-law students, fought the early morning cold weather only to be rewarded with a beautiful fall afternoon.

To kick off the event, the PIG tournament started on the basketball courts as the bag toss showdown was going on at the top of the hill. Sharp shooters highlighted both the PIG and bag toss tournaments, and the Olympics were off to a great start. Over-the-line waffle ball was full of diving catches, knuckling line drives and wind-aided long bombs. Everyone enjoyed the four-inning games while eating hot dogs and chips for lunch.

After the first three events had completed, we moved on to one of our headliner events — the joust. With homemade weapons and a gymnastics balance beam (thanks to event director Francie Boyer), Olympians tried to do their best American Gladiators impersonation. While nobody would have been confused for Blaze or Nitro, there were plenty of hard hits and big laughs.

The sand volleyball tournament was the one pre-finals event that incorporated all team members. Some of us still might be shaking sand out of our ears and picking it out of our teeth. The weather had warmed up, and the Olympians had loosened up enough to make a few picture-worthy dives in the sand.

Five events down, just one to go: the hot dog-eating contest. With a two-minute time limit, 10 hot dogs were looming on the picnic tables for the brave Olympians willing to try and become the next Kobayashi. Needless to say, nobody is taking on a career change. Two and a half hot dogs was the top mark.

After calculating the point totals, the top four teams were put into the dodgeball finals. The five D’s were on full display: dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge. After a full day of great events, Francie awarded our official Olympic medals to all of our champions, both individual and team.

I want to thank all of those who came out and participated, and especially those who volunteered their help. Francie Boyer did a terrific job of organizing and running this event, and I hope that the next wave of SELS members will continue the Law School Olympics for years to come.

Brian Martinek
President, KU Sports & Entertainment Law Society

Event Winners
PIG: John Lamb (non-law)
Bags: Greg Thorne and Kevin Robertson (2Ls)
Wiffle: Team Nibbles
Joust: Matt Meyer (1L)
Sand volleyball: Team Nibbles
Hot dogs: Randy Krahulik (non-law) and Brian Duerksen (1L)
Dodgeball: Burge Brawlers

Confidence key to performing well in law school

The first year of law school is a wholly unique experience. Everything is new: people, textbooks and even the law itself. Law school requires you to develop a method of studying that best aids your learning, and it also requires you to take notes differently than you did in undergrad. New experiences are always exciting, but they can also be a little bit intimidating – my 1L year was no exception.

I had a different feeling this year as a 2L: lots of the same people, same heavy books and the law itself was more familiar to me. The basic confidence that you gain by successfully completing your first year of law school makes the following year a much different experience. Confidence is important in many areas of your life, but it is particularly important in law school. The more nervous your are, the more difficult it is to perform well in Socratic.

This semester I am taking Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Juvenile Law and Professional Responsibility. Although I am still enrolled in a couple of required courses, it was nice to be able to develop my own schedule. It is also neat to be able to enroll in elective classes that are of particular interest to me. I am enjoying all of my classes, but Evidence is probably my favorite so far.

Well, until next time…

Chelsea Barnett, 2L and Student Ambassador

ScotusWiki a convenient tool to preview, follow the 2009-10 Supreme Court term

Yesterday was the first Monday in October, which means it is time to start the 2009-10 Supreme Court term. So you are curious about the cases coming up, right? And you would like a place to go to where you can browse these cases and, if you want, pull the documents. Well you are in luck!, the blog of the United States Supreme Court, has a companion site called ScotusWiki.

From ScotusWiki’s About page:

"Wiki" is derived from the Hawaiian word for quick, and in that spirit we’ve launched the ScotusWiki project; we hope the site enables you to find a plethora of information about Supreme Court cases incredibly quickly. While this site is still in its early stages, we’ve created a page for each case set for argument in the October sitting, and at each case’s page, you’ll find detailed previews, recaps and analyses, as well as links to briefs and other articles of interest. Each page will be regularly updated as the case progresses, but all the information will be available in one easy-to-find place (you can also view each page in a printable view). Organizing information by case is something that we can’t do given the scrolling format of a blog, and we’re excited for the possibilities. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be expanding the case section to include all cases granted in OT07.

One-stop shopping!

A couple of cases I’ve heard a lot of buzz about are Graham v. Florida (08-7412) and Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621). The issue of each is whether the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a minor for a non-homicide violates the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments under the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments, where the freakishly rare imposition of such a sentence reflects a national consensus on the reduced criminal culpability of children. Currently available on the Wiki are links to all of the briefs and documents, including the petitions for certiori and the merit and amicus briefs. For cases that have alread been heard or that have further analysis, there are areas in the Wiki for oral argument recap, opinion analysis and links with further information.

So visit ScotusWiki and take a look at the cases scheduled to be heard. Any of them seem interesting to you? Which ones?

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Federalist Society to bring Robert Levy, Ken Starr to KU Law

This semester has been busy for the Federalist Society, and we are just getting started.

Officers and members have been busy planning social events and getting ready for our fall lecture series. We started off with Professor Teresa Collett, from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Professor Collett was a former special Attorney General for the state of Kansas. Her event, titled “Sex, Jurisprudence and Rock and Roll,” centered on the controversy of requiring health practitioners to report statutory rape of female minors seeking abortions. KU’s own Professor Jelani Exum offered some great commentary for the 75 or more students, faculty and community members who attended the event. The free pizza was a plus, but these distinguished scholars were the real treat.

This fall will continue to be busy for the Federalist Society. We are preparing to elect a couple of 1L officers to help with our remaining events for the semester. Bringing in heavy hitters like Robert Levy, chairman of the CATO Institute, and Kenneth Starr, takes a lot of effort. Thankfully, the KU Law administration and faculty have been supportive of our events, from funding to attending.

The rest of the semester should shape up nicely. Membership this year has grown quite a bit. There are over 45 dues-paying members at KU alone. With so many events yet to come, we expect membership and attendance to keep going up!

Brandon Smith, president, KU Federalist Society

Happy Banned Books Week! Sept. 26-Oct. 3, 2009

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. The American Library Association, through their Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), gathers statistics on books which have been challenged in various jurisdictions. In 2008, 513 challenges were reported to the OIF. The top 10 most challenged books of 2008?

  1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
    The book is based on the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. They formed a coupling and were given an abandoned egg to raise.

    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group

  2. “His Dark Materials” (trilogy), by Philip Pullman
    This book follows the coming-of-age of two children as they wander through a series of parallel universes against a backdrop of epic events.

    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint and violence

  3. “TTYL;” “TTFN;” “L8R, G8R” (series), by Lauren Myracle
    This book follows three best friends throughout their high school careers. The books are told entirely in instant messages.

    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

  4. “Scary Stories” (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    The title sums it up! Just toss in some gruesome, nightmarish illustrations.

    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint and violence

  5. “Bless Me, Ultima,” by Rudolfo Anaya
    This stort is about a Mexican boy who is torn between the Native American religion and Catholocism. All this is set upon the backdrop of World War II.

    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit and violence

  6. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
    This story is narrated by a teenager who describes various scenes in his life in letters written to an annonymous person. It takes place during his freshman year of high school.

    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide and unsuited to age group

  7. “Gossip Girl” (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Narrated by the omniscient yet unseen blogger “Gossip Girl,” the series revolves around the lives and romances of the privileged teenagers at an elite school for girls. The story follows the characters through their high school lives up through their graduation and moving on to college.

    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

  8. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen
    Two male guinea pigs get married.

    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group

  9. “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
    The story of a young Afghan boy and his struggles through the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban.

    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

  10. “Flashcards of My Life,” by Charise Mericle Harper
    A young girls recieves flash cards as a present, which are meant to be filled out according to their topic (e.g., Friends, Kiss, Identity). This book is what is on those flashcards.

    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

There are a ton of books out there which have been banned, many of which we now consider “classics.” Take a look around and see what you find. Which do you find to be the strangest? Let me know!

Blake Wilson

KU basketball, football feud offers cautionary tale for law students, lawyers on Facebook

If you’re a KU student or alum, you’re undoubtedly aware of the recent brouhaha pitting members of the KU football team versus members of the KU basketball team. As I read the press coverage in the Lawrence Journal-World, University Daily Kansan and (gulp), I predictably thought of lessons law students and attorneys could glean from these ugly incidents.

Let’s put aside the fisticuffs and focus on the fallout from a certain basketball team member’s Facebook postings. It seems obvious that someone who represents a university, business or other organization should never post offensive and possibly self-incriminatory statements on Facebook or other social media sites. But far too often posts are cringe-worthy and cause embarrassment or worse for the organizations the posters represent.

It also seems obvious that lawyers, schooled in the recognition of potential liability, and those training to be lawyers would grasp the dangers of social networking sites. For example, it’s common knowledge that employers search the publicly accessible Facebook, My Space and Twitter accounts of potential employees. But ask any employer in the legal profession if they’ve ever encountered information on social networking sites that made them think twice about a candidate. The answer will be yes.

The reality is that many law students and attorneys, through imprudent use of social networking, put themselves at risk of the same type of negative publicity that has befallen the basketball team. In the September 2009 edition of the KC Counselor (the magazine of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association) appears the article “J.D. Bird Street: All the Little Lawyers Go Tweet, Tweet, Tweet: Legal Ethics of the Socially Networked,” by Therese Miller of the law firm of Shook Hardy & Bacon. Ms. Miller offers many general guidelines to social networking; the following bear repeating:

  • Everything you post is discoverable and traceable.
  • Be respectful.
  • Stop and think before posting. Make sure it would be something you would be OK with if your colleagues or a judge read it.
  • Avoid personal attacks, online fights and hostile communications.
  • Do not post anything that is offensive or inflammatory.
  • Do not post anything negatively about opposing counsel, judges or other members of the profession.
  • Be honest.
  • Your profile should never contain anything that is false or misleading.

An article from the Lawyerist Web site gets more specific, offering some practical suggestions for utilizing the privacy features of Facebook.

Todd Rogers, assistant dean for career services