Roe v Wade, or how to find international resources

A scanned photo of the original black and white photograph taken by Lorie Shaull at the Supreme Court. Norma McCorvey, left, who was Jane Roe in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, stands with her attorney, Gloria Allred, outside the Supreme Court in April 1989. They hold a circular sign that says 'Keep Abortion Legal'.

Norma McCorvey, left, who was Jane Roe in the 1973 Roe v. Wade case, with her attorney, Gloria Allred, outside the Supreme Court in April 1989, where the Court heard arguments in a case that could have overturned the Roe v. Wade decision. [Photo by Lorie Shaull, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

If you’ve been online over the past few days it is likely you’ll have heard about the leaked majority draft from SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) which suggests that landmark case Roe v Wade may about to be overturned. This news comes from Politico, a political news company based in the USA.

If you are interested in the outcome of this draft, you may be interested in finding reputable sources for American legal information. Fortunately we have access to several.

In the UK the Act to amend and clarify the law relating to termination of pregnancy by registered medical practitioners came into force in 1967. It is referred to as The Abortion Act 1967, and the full text can be viewed on Westlaw.

Don’t forget that when viewing legislation on Westlaw it is possible to view amendments and previous versions of Acts by using the navigational tools. In the below image you can see where to locate information about previous versions of this section. By clicking on each hyperlinked version title you will see the text of the Act as it was when each version was in force.

Snapshot of a page of legislation from Westlaw UK. A red box highlights the area towards the bottom right of the page, showing that this section is version five of five, and listing the timeline for previous versions and the dates each was in force.

If you have any questions about finding legislation or reputable law sources for your research you can contact us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk at any time to arrange an appointment with one of us. We’d love to hear about your research and help you find academic resources for your work.

True crime podcasts: finding the real story in law reports

If you listen to true crime podcasts you may recently have heard Bad People (BBC Sounds) report on the story of little Helen Priestley, a child from Aberdeen who was killed in 1934 in a case famously referred to as the ‘Aberdeen Sack Murder’. The evidence from this case was analysed and presented in part by Dr Sydney Smith, Regius Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and a forefather of forensic pathology, who used bacteria from vomit and hairs found inside a sack to identify the suspect Jeannie Donald. The jury deliberated for only 18 minutes before returning a guilty verdict. This made Mrs Donald one of the first people in the world to be convicted on the basis of forensic evidence.

Digitised version of the Daily Record front page from July 1934. Headline reads 'Woman condemned to hang: Jurywomen weep at sack trial verdict'. Photographs of Helen Priestly (victim, aged 8) and Jeannie Donald (accused) feature below the headline.

Image of Daily Record newspaper dated Tuesday 24th July 1934.

Although there are some sources online to back up the podcast’s story (such as from an article on Aberdeen Live, or an entry which might be useful for background reading on Murderpedia), as a librarian with a world of Scottish legal resources at my fingertips I felt it was important to verify the reporting of the story with good academic resources. I was particularly interested in how the case was reported in Justiciary Cases, however when searching Westlaw I found that access to the archive of material online from 1934/1935 is incomplete. If I were on-campus I’d be able to visit the Law Library to find the item in print, and even though I’m working remotely I could request scans via the Scan & Deliver service, however as this is just out of interest and not for research I thought I’d persevere online. Not to be deterred, I decided to try my luck with HeinOnline as I know it provides good access to many historical resources for Scots Law.

When I clicked through to Hein’s Scottish Legal History section and searched for ‘Jeannie Donald’ in the text box the first article of commentary I found was by William Roughead Juridical Review 46 Jurid. Rev. (1934). While skimming through the case I began to wonder if there was a market for significant crime reports being read aloud as audiobooks rather than podcasts, as Roughead’s analysis of the case made for engaging reading!

MURDER has a magic of its own, its peculiar alchemy.
Touched by that crimson wand things base and
sordid, things ugly and of ill report, are transformed into
matters wondrous, weird, and tragical. Dull streets
become fraught with mystery, commonplace dwellings
assume a sinister aspect, everyone concerned, howsoever
plain and ordinary, is invested with a new value and
importance as the red light falls upon each.

Although I couldn’t locate more information from Session Cases or another legal report, the 46 pages of Roughead’s account certainly provided a great deal of detail. I also found from searching online that a PhD student in Manchester used Sydney Smith’s writing up of the case from 1940 in the Police Journal 13, no.3 (1940): 273-87 as part of his thesis, and so was able to find further analysis of the case in that way. (Please note: The Police Journal is currently outside our subscription but if relevant for research it would be possible for the library to secure access using the Interlibrary Loan service.).

If you’re struggling to find good academic resources related to a case or legislation, you may find the following resources to be helpful:

If you feel that you’re familiar with these resources but need a bit more guidance, why not book a one-to-one appointment with a law librarian. We offer bespoke 30 minute appointments to help you with your area of study; simply book the date and time that works best for you using the MyEd booking link. A week before the appointment date we will contact you to ask for information about your query or area of interest, and then we will arrange either a Teams call or a location to meet in person.

If the appointment times listed don’t suit or you have any queries you’d like email assistance with, please contact us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion resources in Law

This month the Academic Support Librarian team are highlighting resources linked to Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in the areas of Law and Social and Political Science. You may be aware that Justice Week 2022 is nearly upon us (28th February to 4th March), and we thought this would be an excellent time to shine a light on a number of legal materials which are free to access, and therefore help to make the understanding of law more accessible to a greater number of people. We list several useful resources on the Law subject guide under ‘More Legal Resources’, including:

  • Free legal dictionaries
  • Links to Scottish, UK and European court websites
  • Links to legal regulatory and advisory bodies
  • Links to resources that offer free case details e.g. BAILII
  • Human Rights – free databases from UN and IJRC

The University subscribes to even more databases which offer staff and students additional access to support their study and research. You can find these by visiting our Law Databases page:

  • Jutastat – containing legal content from Africa
  • Slavery and the Law – a collection of petitions on race, slavery and free blacks submitted to American state legislatures and county courthouses 1775-1867
  • China Law Info– also known as Beida fabao
  • Making of Modern Law: Legal Treatises, 1800- 1926 – the world’s most comprehensive full-text collection of British Commonwealth and American legal treatises from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
  • Proquest Law Sources via the History Vault Platform – including African American Police League Records, 1961-1988, Law and Society since the Civil War

You may also be interested in our short video (9 minutes) which demonstrates how to access international legal resources via library services online.:

Thumbnail of the opening slide of the 'Finding International Legal resources via the University Library' presentation video

Video: Finding International Legal resources via the University Library

As well as databases we have some great books and eBooks including:

We hope this will inspire you to explore the library’s collections further when considering Equity, Diversity and Inclusion themes – so now over to you to take a look!

NEW: UK Dockets on Westlaw

Westlaw are pleased to announce the launch of UK Dockets on Westlaw UK. A docket is a record of litigation events as a case goes through the courts, starting when a claim is filed through to judgment.

A screengrab capturing a section of the homepage of WestlawUK. The dropdown for 'Cases' is selected from the navigational bar, below which there are a list of options. Dockets is the third option, highlighted in green.

You can access UK Dockets from the Cases menu. This brand-new content set containing over 230,000 litigation events will make it easier for you to receive daily updates of new cases filed in the High Court — all in one place.

With UK Dockets on Westlaw, you can easily:

  • create daily alerts on new cases, specific courts or parties, and other events
  • track individual cases and be alerted to any changes
  • access every step of the case journey from a claim being filed to judgment and through to the appeals process

We hope this will be an easy to use service for our staff and students, but if you’d like to attend any training on using UK Dockets please contact the Law Librarians for more information: law.librarian@ed.ac.uk 

New Resources on HeinOnline: Covid-19 Research

HeinOnline is one of the most used legal resources that staff and students have access to. It offers access to a large number of resources including:

  • Full text legal journals
  • U.S Treaties and Agreements
  • U.S. Supreme Court decisions
  • Over 15 million pages of image-based, fully searchable material.
  • Access to several smaller collections for example:
    • Law Journal Library,
      • Criminal Justice Journals,
      • European Centre for Minority Issues,
      • Scottish Legal History,
      • Selden Society Publications and the History of Early English Law,
      • Slavery in America and the World
      • History, Culture & Law
      • The Open Society Justice Initiative.

The most recent addition is a collection on Covid-19: Pandemics Past and Present. This covers materials on the global, societal and economic impact of COVID-19, and also has material on past pandemics and vaccinations.

Worth a look for those staff and students who are undertaking research in this area. You can access HeinOnline using the link above, or via the Law Databases A-Z page.

 

Finding International Legal Resources

Following on from our last post about Finding Material for your Research and Study, we’ve just recorded a new video to introduce some of the databases we subscribe to for international law. If this is an area that is relevant to your study, grab a cup of tea and spend eight and a half minutes finding out more about how library subscription services can support your work.

Screenshot of the opening slide from the 'International legal resources' video. The slide indicates the presenters are from the Library Academic Support team, displays the title of the video, and three quarters of a greyed out university crest on a white background.

Is there an area of legal research you’d like to know more about, or would like to find resources for? Email us on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk to discuss, or book a one-to-one appointment with us via the MyEd booking system; search for “Literature search clinic” and select the Law specific event, or search for “Law” and select provider group “IS Library and University Collections” to find all our Law related training.

Meet your LexisNexis Student Associate for 2021/22!

We’d like to introduce you to Noah Norbash, one of your fellow students who is a specialist in working with LexisNexis and all their resources – such as the invaluable LexisLibrary and Lexis PSL databases! We recently met with Noah to discuss what he has planned for the year, and he’s answered the following questions so you can get to know him too.

Tell us a little bit about yourself! Who are you and what do you study at Edinburgh?

Noah stands in the foreground of the picture, smiling at the camera. He has dark hair and beard, and is wearing glasses. He has a colourful tshirt on. Behind him the pillars of a building in Old College are visible. The photo is taken with the camera from a low angle so that a portion of blue sky and white clouds are also visible.

Noah outside the magnificent buildings of Old College

I’m Noah – currently a student in the Graduate LLB programme. I grew up in the United States just outside of Boston, but I have spent many a year studying and living in St Andrews, the Veneto region of Italy, London, and finally here in Edinburgh!

Why did you apply to be the student representative for LexisNexis?

I applied to be the LexisNexis Student Associate on campus to not only enhance my own understanding of legal databases, but also to convey my knowledge to my fellow students. As an added extroverted bonus, I also get to have a bit of a chat here and there with interesting people! LexisLibrary has been of extraordinary help to me in my degree programme so far, and no doubt LexisPSL will be of equal significance when I begin the diploma and a traineeship. As a simultaneous LawPALS leader and a LexisNexis Student Associate, I looked forward to giving members of the university community the tools to succeed and achieve whatever they put their minds to.

What do you think is the best feature that Lexis offers for students in the Law School?

The #1 top-notch feature that can be accessed on LexisLibrary is without a doubt the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia – it is a resource exclusive to LexisNexis, and it contains a wealth of information on every imaginable topic in Scots law with links to any relevant case law and legislation. In a nutshell, it serves as a textbook on the entirety of the laws of Scotland, and its usefulness cannot be overstated! When it came to preparing for moots or even getting a birds-eye view of material in advance of tutorials, the Encyclopaedia can quickly steer you in the right direction for where you need to go.

If you could name one top tip that everyone should know about your platform, what would it be?

A top tip everyone should know about the platform is that you can easily narrow searches of case law to only a particular firm: this is especially useful to those seeking a traineeship to be able to discuss specifically what issues their firm of choice may be facing in today’s legal climate. There is no better way to stand out from the crowd in an interview setting – being able to express niche insider-quality knowledge about the firm that is totally available to applicants is a spectacular way to impress. By reading a firms’ submissions and the judge’s opinion on LexisLibrary, you as an applicant can see the fruits of the firm’s labour and gain a clearer understanding of what the firm seeks to achieve in the courtroom.

When students book a training session with you, what can they expect to get from the meeting?

When students book a training with me, they can expect to gain insight into how to use LexisNexis software in an approachable and friendly setting. Over the course of the year, I will be running training sessions for Foundation- and Advanced-level LexisLibrary Certifications, LexisPSL certification, and Commercial Awareness more generally. Otherwise, students can get in contact with me for any Lexis-themed questions and I will be happy to help! Although I’m not an expert on par with the full-time Lexis Customer Success Managers, I will do all I can to imbue you with the knowledge I have been given and to give you a solid base of LexisNexis database-searching skills that will prove indispensable for the legal journey of your lifetime. Don’t be a stranger!


You can find Noah in his new and fabulous Teams group: tinyurl.com/LexisCorner

Alternatively youcan reach him by email at n.norbash@sms.ed.ac.uk.

Database Trials

After a break in arranging database trials these have now restarted. Two current trials that may be of interest to staff and students alike are:

Policy Commons database:

The Library has taken out a one-year trial subscription to the Policy Commons database, a unique database providing access to nearly 3 million curated, high quality policy reports, briefs, analyses, working papers, books, case studies, media and datasets from thousands of policy organizations and think-tanks world-wide. This talk will cover content and search of the database, including searching for tables and graphs, as well as the facility to upload documents. Access to Policy Commons can be found at policycommons.net.

Off-campus access requires the use of the University’s VPN, or to register for a Policy Commons account using a University of Edinburgh email address.

A demonstration of the database will be held for University of Edinburgh users on Thursday 9th December, 10:00 – 11:00. Book a place at this online event at : events.ed.ac.uk/index.cfm?event=book&scheduleID=51607

Europresse:

The library has access to Europresse for a ten-day trial, until Friday 12th November.

This databases provides access to over 6,200 international publications including journals, newspapers, blogs and magazines. Coverage is international with many of the publications included available in their original language and layout, which differs from many of the news databases we currently subscribe to. The range of available sources includes numerous European national newspapers such as Le Monde, Libération and Le Figaro, along with regional newspapers. English language titles such as The Guardian and The New York Times are also available. Full details are on the databases trials page.


If you try out either of these databases (or any of the databases linked on the trials webpage) we’d be really grateful if you would complete the feedback form to tell us what you think. This helps us get a feel for what has been useful to you and whether we should subscribe. Alternatively you can send us feedback or any ideas for future resources we should trial by email on law.librarian@ed.ac.uk

Access to Lexis PSL modules

Over the last few weeks the library have been working with the tutors on the Diploma course to set up access to four modules from Lexis PSL.

Aimed at diploma level students it offers practice notes, precedents, forms and current awareness alerts.

Access is provided to four specific modules within this database –

  • Banking & Finance,
  • Commercial,
  • Private Client
  • Property.

Specific Scots Law content is available within these modules which is why they were chosen to compliment the current resources that are available to students undertaking this course.

You can access it from the Law databases page at:

https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/library-museum-gallery/finding-resources/library-databases/databases-subject-a-z/database-law

When you get logged in, you will automatically arrive in the Property module. To switch to other modules, use the dropdown arrow next to the word ‘Property’ in the top navigational bar. The modules we have access to will have a tick next to the titles.

Screenshot taken from the LexisPSL website demonstrating the dropdown arrow on the top navigational bar, and showing the resultant module options displayed in a grey box below the bar.

If you wish to move over to LexisLibrary without returning to the Law Databases page, you can do that using the dropdown arrow next to the Lexis PSL page title.

If you have any problems with this or any of our other databases, please get in touch by emailing law.librarian@ed.ac.uk.

Session Cases: Celebrating 200 years of Scotland’s prestigious law report series

A row of leather bound books fills the frame from left to right. The title 'Session Cases' and the year are embossed on the spines. The leather is blonde and each spine has a red and black square.

Session Cases volumes 1971-1982, image courtesy of the Supreme Court Library team, SCTS.

This year the Scottish Council of Law Reporting celebrates 200 years of publishing Session Cases, Scotland’s most authoritative law report series. From the SCLR website:

The Session Cases law report series contains all the key appellate decisions, civil and criminal, from the Court of Session and High Court of Justiciary in Scotland together with selected cases decided at first instance.

Also included in Session Cases are all decisions, as issued, on Scottish appeals to the House of Lords and to the Privy Council. All judgments are reported in full.

The judges who gave opinions (judgments) in each case have the opportunity to review the report before it is published – this gives Session Cases its unsurpassed authority in Scottish courts.

The first case ever published in Session Cases was Rev. Wm. Strang v Wm. McIntosh (1821) 1 S.5, dated 12 May 1821. You can access a copy of this case via our subscription databases Westlaw or Lexis Library UK, via the Law Databases page. If you’re not familiar with using these databases we have a recording of a session on Using Legal Databases available here (22 mins) There’s more information about SC and other law reports available via our subscription services on the Law Subject Guide ‘Law Reports’ page.

To mark this anniversary the Scottish Council of Law Reporting is running a poll to determine readers’ top three cases featured in Session Cases. They don’t have to be the most important cases, legally, but may be just a quirky case or one that has caught your interest. You can vote for your cases here: SurveyLegend Survey.

Another way SCLR marked this milestone was by creating a postgraduate research scholarship available to students in Scottish institutions studying Scots Law. The inaugural recipient of this award was Shona Warwick, a PhD candidate at Edinburgh. The scholarship will contribute to her tuition and living costs as she completes her PhD thesis on Leases and Licences in Scotland. From the SCLR headlines page describing Shona’s research:

For commercial landlords and tenants in Scotland, the common law, rather than legislation, is the source of most rules. Yet, despite its widespread practical importance, a lack of research has left the common law regarding leases and licences to occupy riddled with uncertainty. Through a historical study, this research sheds light for the first time on some of the most fundamental unanswered questions: it evaluates which occupancy agreements can be validly created, and how their formation requirements differ.

The announcement of Shona’s success featured in the Scottish Legal News bulletin in September last year. Shona is also the winner of one of the two Scottish Universities Law Institute (SULI) Scholarships. Congratulations Shona!