Articles Posted in General Legal Research Resources

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The purpose of this blog is to explore Oregon law. However, the navigable waters off the Oregon coast are governed by federal maritime law, or outside the U.S. borders, international law. Federal law incorporates the international laws of piracy and has provisions for U.S. citizens who engage, or assist, in piracy on the “high seas.”

The blog post “Modern Piracy and the United States Code” from the Law Library of Congress, by Aaron Lombard, explores this topic. It is a fun introduction to federal laws and legal resources.

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Cite checking goes by many names, including Shepardizing, KeyCite, and authority checking, among others. At a basic level it is checking a case one plans to use to make sure it’s still okay. Rulings from cases can become invalid over time if a more recent case from the same or a higher court changes the rule, or if the legislature passed a statute that impacted the case. In order to find such events, legal publishers have created tools (called citators) to track such changes.

One of the original tools was Shepard’s (now a LexisNexis product). The online LexisNexis version allows a user to find documents that cite the case they are looking at. It also allows a user to see if any of those have overturned the case of interest, or otherwise challenged part of its ruling. In Shepard’s there are visual indicators to suggest a case is still good (green), called into question (yellow), or part of it has been overturned (red). Westlaw has a similar tool called KeyCite, and Fastcase uses Authority Check.

It is important to note that any of these tools can only indicate that there might be something. The user will have to read the newer case that may affect the original case to see what that impact actually is, and how it relates to the user’s situation.

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How did it get to be December so quickly? In the spirit of the holiday season, here are some of the most bizarre holiday laws!

Misdemeanor for throwing snowballs

In Provo, Utah, there is a city ordinance that restricts residents from using a snowball or any object that could be labeled as a “missile,” to inflict damage to other’s property. The ordinance states “Every person who shall willfully or carelessly within the limits of this city throw any stone, stick, snowball or other missiles whereby any person shall hit, or any window broken or other property injured or destroyed or in such a manner as to render travel upon the public streets and places of the city dangerous, or in such a manner as to frighten or annoy any traveler, is guilty of a misdemeanor.”

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So your loved one can no longer care for themselves. Now What?!

In October the Washington County Law Library hosted a webinar on the divorce process with Sara Kearsley from McKean and Knaupp Attorneys. The video of the presentation is now available on the county’s YouTube!

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A patron recently asked what something meant. They were pointing at a series of numbers and abbreviations at the end of a statute. It looked like this “[1957 c.448 §1; 1981 c.88 §2; 1983 c.330 §1; 1993 c.741 §110; 1993 c.796 §1; 2001 c.403 §1]” (ORS 776.015). I told them that is the history of the law.

When the legislature passes a law, it starts as a bill. That bill has a number, like HB 2001 or SB 101. That tells us if it’s a House Bill (HB) or Senate Bill (SB). Those bills that are approved by both houses and signed by the Governor become a session law. Those session laws are compiled after each legislative session. Those compilations are titled Oregon Laws.

The Oregon Revised Statutes are a compilation of all the session laws passed by the legislature that are currently in effect. To make it easier to find a law, they are organized by subject. But each statute has a list of the session laws that have impacted it, in brackets. That is the text our patron was asking about.

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How did we answer that? Can I have a lawyer in Small Claims Court

I had someone come in a few days ago asking about suing someone in Small Claims Court and wanted to know if they could have a lawyer with them. They also wanted to know what was special about Small Claims Court.

Small Claims is a part of civil trial court where the amount claimed is $10,000 or less. Additionally, lawyers are not allowed, on either side, to participate in small claims hearings without the judge’s permission. People can talk to a lawyer at any time to help with the claim and to prepare for the hearing.

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Imagine this: A patron comes into the law library at 4:40 and says “I’m being sued, and I need to file a response before 5:00 today. Do you have the form for that? Oh, and I need help filling it out.” We would really like to help this person, but realistically this may not be possible. Unfortunately, patrons usually do not know what services we provide. Read on for information on what law libraries can and can’t do and how to get the most from your visit.

Don’t leave your research until the last minute. Leave enough time to handle any problems that might arise. In our example, the patron assumes that there is a fill-in-the-blank form that they can use, and that law library personnel can help them fill it out. Oregon does not have many fill-in-the-blank forms and law library employees cannot help patrons fill out forms. We would direct the patron to possible sources of templates that they can use to create their own document, and to resources that might help them to fill out the form. They probably wouldn’t have time to do all that in less than 20 minutes and get it to the court before they close.

Along those same lines, make sure you can devote time to research your questions. Law library personnel can’t do research for you. We can point you to resources that might be useful and show you how to do the research yourself.

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How did we answer that? Contract Law

We got an email asking for assistance with contract law, specifically breach of contract. The email specified a dollar amount, which was greater than can be claimed in Small Claims Court, so we limited our response to resources in Civil Court.

Our first suggestion was to start with Nolo press self-help book. We recommended Contracts: The Essential Business Desk Reference and Represent Yourself in Court: Prepare and Try a Winning Case.  We suggested these titles for different reasons. The first because it was about Contracts and might have substantive information on breach of contract. The second because it has valuable information about the court process and what someone is going to need to know if they represent themselves. Nolo books can be found at many public libraries, online via the State of Oregon Law Library, as well as many Law Libraries.

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How did we answer that? Service of process

A patron came in needing to serve someone with a civil lawsuit. However, they didn’t know the address or any other contact information. What other options did they have?

First, “service” or “service of process” is the legal term for delivering legal filings or documents to someone. The requirements for service are designed to make sure the person knows they are involved in the case and what is expected of them.

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