Visiting the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Library System - Houston Satellite

March is Federal Practice Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library. Throughout the month we are featuring some of the federal practice legal materials found in our collection. We are also calling attention to a select few online resources, including the Federal Practice Manual for Legal Aid Attorneys.  Law Library staff are always available at the reference desk to help in using any of these materials.

Another helpful resource is the satellite branch of the United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Library System, located right here in Houston at 515 Rusk.  This Satellite Library, open to the public, is a valuable resource for researching federal legal issues and it's well-worth a visit for those working in federal law.

You can learn about the Satellite Library's services and guidelines using the Visitors' Guide to the U.S. Courts Library in Houston, Texas.  Many of the sources available in the Harris County Law Library collection are also available at the Fifth Circuit Library, but the staff's knowledge and expertise regarding the federal judiciary may add even more value to your research. Federal law is their specialty, and they are happy to help you access the resources you need. The Houston Satellite is also a United States Federal Depository Library, where government publications, including a selection of official sources of our nation's primary legal documents, are housed.

Looking Back - Judge Roy Bean

Throughout its history, Texas has had its share of larger-than-life figures from outlaws Bonnie & Clyde to war hero Audie Murphy to R & B superstar Beyoncé. Perhaps, one of the more colorful characters to arrive and take up residence in the Lone Star State was Judge Roy Bean, who died on this day in 1903. As we celebrate Texas History Month, let’s take a look back at the life of one of the more interesting and picturesque figures in American jurisprudence.

Born in Kentucky, Judge Roy Bean found himself in Texas after encountering some trouble (of his own making) in both Mexico and California. He opened a saloon, The Jersey Lilly, as an homage to the beautiful actress Lillie Langtry with whom he was quite smitten, and founded the village of Langtry, described as “a one-street frontier town nestl[ed] in a deep canyon of the Rio Grande where the railroad crosses the big river.” (See Orange Daily Tribune 5/29/1903). It was in this saloon, that Judge Bean, the self-proclaimed “law West of the Pecos,” meted out his own version of justice in the Old West based upon his notions of fairness and the law. No one is quite certain as to how he became vested with the authority of a justice of the peace, but nevertheless, he held court while seated “on the billiard table with a copy of the statutes of 1879 (the only one in his possession).” (See The Southern Mercury 6/30/1904). (To see a copy of the Laws of Texas, visit the Law Library). Of course, it's not surprising that his decisions were always final with no room for an appeal.

Judge Roy Bean Saloon & Justice Court, Langtry, Val Verde County, TX

Photo from the Library of Congress Photo, Print, & Drawing Collection

Judge Roy Bean is best remembered for his peculiar rulings that really did seem, in retrospect, to smack of common sense.  In one case, two men came to the court with their wives and expressed a desire to be divorced, adding that they wished to marry the other man’s wife. The judge granted the requested divorces and then proceeded to marry each man to the other’s wife. (See The Sunday Gazetteer 9/14/1902). In one of his most noted cases, Judge Bean held an inquest over the remains of a man found under the bridge that crossed the Pecos River. In the man’s pockets, the judge found a revolver and $50. The judge then fined the corpse $50 for carrying a concealed weapon. This ruling may still be the only one on record where a dead man was fined for carrying a concealed weapon. (See The Southern Mercury 6/30/1904). The judge was also known for handing out punishments whereby the offender was required to pay his fine by purchasing beer, typically two dozen bottles, at The Jersey Lilly and treating the crowd. (See Orange Daily Tribune 5/29/1903). Perhaps, not the most ethical of punishments, but it is certainly one of the most memorable and popular with the townsfolk.

The exploits and rulings of Judge Roy Bean have been documented in newspapers throughout the State of Texas. If you are interested in learning more about the judge and reading some articles about him, visit The Portal to Texas History, a wonderful website maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries that features some rare and historical primary source materials. Also visit the site of the Texas State Historical Association and The Handbook of Texas, a digital gateway to all things Texas.

If pop culture is more to your liking, sit down and watch The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, a 1972 film starring Paul Newman as the judge and Ava Gardner as Lilly Langtry, the object of his affection. There was also a short-lived television series, Judge Roy Bean, that ran for one season from 1956-57, and a French film, entitled Le Juge, which was released in 1971.

For good or for bad, Judge Roy Bean has certainly carved himself a place in Texas history. As for the question of whether he is a leading figure in American jurisprudence, you be the judge.

Happy Birthday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

On this day in 1933, Joan Ruth Bader was born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian, Jewish immigrant parents. After marrying Martin Ginsburg in 1954 and taking his name, she attended law school, graduating in 1959. As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she has served on the bench of our nation's highest judicial body for nearly 24 years. During this time, Justice Ginsburg has written several notable opinions but is perhaps better known for her, occasionally, blistering dissents.

In recent years, Justice Ginsburg has become something of a pop culture icon, and today, in honor of her 84th birthday as well as National Women's History Month, we at the Harris County Law Library are celebrating. Many are familiar with the "Notorious RBG" meme that has taken over the Internet and the New York Times bestselling book of the same name, but lesser-known facts about the second woman to ever serve on the United States Supreme Court include her achievements as an athlete, opera emcee, collar collector, and as a namesake to a preying mantis. What's more, she is full of good advice for women, and, after many successful years in the law, has much wisdom to dispense. As a gifted writer (who credits her college professor Vladimir Nabokov with improving her skill) and a sharp, articulate thinker who has been called the Thurgood Marshall of gender equality law, Justice Ginsburg's words are worth heeding. Although she is serious on the bench (and perhaps less funny than her best buddy, Antonin Scalia, according to a tabulation of laughter notations in Supreme Court oral argument transcripts), she is clever and quick with a quip. Justice Ginsburg's brilliance, warmth, virtue, magnanimity, and good humor are qualities to admire. As they say, there is no Truth without Ruth. Happy birthday, RBG!

Spring Forward: The History Of Daylight Saving Time

Don't forget!  Daylight savings time begins this weekend at precisely 2:00 am on Sunday, March 12th. For a look at the historical origins of daylight savings time, which was established by the federal government in 1918, visit the links below:

Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns forward the Ohio Clock for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators William Calder (NY), William Saulsbury, Jr. (DE), and Joseph T. Robinson (AR) look on, 1918. credit: Senate Historical Office

Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns forward the Ohio Clock for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators William Calder (NY), William Saulsbury, Jr. (DE), and Joseph T. Robinson (AR) look on, 1918.
credit: Senate Historical Office

Establishing Daylight Saving Time

"Spring Forward, Fall Back -- It's Daylight Saving Time," In Custodia Legis, Law Librarians of Congress

Photo: Changing the Clock for the First Daylight Saving Time, U.S. Senate

Topics in Chronicling American -- Daylight Saving Time, Sample articles, Important Dates, Search Strategies

For access to House Bill 150, which proposes to end Daylight Saving Time in Texas, see the link below. Coverage of the proposed legislation and commentary about the history of Daylight Saving Time in Texas is also provided.  

Daylight Saving Time in Texas

Texas HB 150: Relating to daylight saving time (Filed 11/10/2014)

"Hate Daylight Saving Time? Thank Two Presidents from Texas," BirkaBlog, Texas Monthly Politics Blog, R.G. Ratcliffe

"Is Texas Going to Give Up Daylight Saving Time?," Wide Open Country, Elizabeth Abrahamsen

Video: Speaker Barnes Explains Daylight Savings Time for Texas, Texas Archive of the Moving Image

Women's History Month at the Harris County Law Library

In 1987, Congress passed a law designating March as Women’s History Month. In his proclamation, President Reagan called upon “all Americans to mark this month with appropriate observances to honor the achievements of American women.” This month, the Harris County Law Library celebrates the achievements of a pioneering Houston attorney, Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw, who overcame bias in the male-dominated legal field of the early 20th century to obtain her law degree and make significant contributions in her legal career.

Camille E.S. Openshaw is the subject of both a physical exhibit and digital exhibit at the Harris County Law Library. In our digital exhibit, you can find Openshaw's yearbook photo from South Texas School of Law, where she was the second woman to graduate with a law degree, and her 1935 notoriety as she represented a member of the Bonnie & Clyde gang. As Openshaw persisted to pursue her legal career in a strongly biased era, she demonstrated a strong spirit worth celebrating. 

Today, women continue to make enormous strides in the law in both legal practice and academia. After 130 years, the prestigious Harvard Law Review elected for the first time a black woman, ImeIme Umana, as president , and Yale Law School just named a new dean, Heather Gerken, the first woman to ever hold the position. In a recent Bloomberg Law interview, Ms. Gerken comments on the personal significance of her position, pointing to her role as the mother of a 14-year old daughter while outlining her vision for the future of the institution she now helms. Continued inclusion and promotion of women in the legal profession and increasing overall diversity will remain perennially important topics as the significant contributions of women like Openshaw, Umana, and Gerken continue to receive deserved recognition. Here are a few sources to help you learn about the topic and keep tabs on new developments: