Constitution Day is observed each year on September 17 to commemorate the signing of our Constitution in 1787. On display in the Law Library lobby throughout the month of September is an exhibit featuring foundational documents that shaped the Constitution, including the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, along with examples of broadsides that were crucial to the states’ decisions to ratify our founding document.
During the month of July, Harris County Law Library is celebrating summer! Our exhibit, Summertime and the Law, will be on display all month long. On your next visit, pause for a moment in the Law Library lobby to view the exhibit and take a whimsical look at law and some of the hallmarks of summer -- sunshine, swimming, theme parks, barbecue, swimming, and more.
Featured items in the exhibit, along with a few additional sources, are listed here:
Gabriel Gomez v. The State of Texas, Unpublished
Gabriel Gomez appealed his conviction for aggravated assault asserting that he was denied a fair trial. In his complaint, Gomez described the State’s closing remarks as childish, improper, and prejudicial, and “an embarrassment to the legal dignity of the Court.” A portion of the prosecutor’s closing statement, which referenced various Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse, Peter Pan, Snow White, and the Seven Dwarves, is quoted in the opinion. See pages 6 and 7.
Animal Legal Defense Fund v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 789 F. 3d 1206 (2015)
Living in captivity at a Florida theme park called Seaquarium, an orca named Lolita was exposed to persistent ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Seaquarium tried to combat the harmful UV rays by applying a black-colored zinc oxide to Lolita’s skin, the physiological effects of which were untested and unknown. Plaintiffs argued that the park should be denied renewal of its operating license for violating the Animal Welfare Act.
The plaintiff, a manufacturer of charcoal briquettes, brought action against the similarly named Kingsfords, Inc. seeking to enjoin the defendant’s further use of the Kingsford mark on their barbecue sauce product. The District Court held that, despite the plaintiff’s aspirations to one day produce and sell a barbecue sauce under the Kingsford name, they were not entitled to trademark protection. The defendant had already established its product, developed from a family recipe, and the associated brand, so the plaintiff’s arguments went up in proverbial smoke.
Amusement Ride Safety and Inspection and Insurance Act, Vernon's Texas Code Annotated, Occupations Code, Chapter 2151. Regulation of Amusement Rides
Today is the first day of summer, the longest day of the year with more than 14 hours of sunlight in the Houston area. On this day, the sun will reach its northernmost point, seeming to stand still. People around the world will mark the occasion with feasts, festivals, and other festivities, including rituals that honor the sun. We’re celebrating the day in the way we know best -- by sharing information. We’ve compiled a short list of interesting cases that involve the hallmarks of summer -- sunburn, mosquitoes, ice cream, barbeque, and theme parks. We're also sharing a bit of etymology.
Interestingly, the summer solstice has somewhat of a connection to the law. The word solstice is derived from the Latin solstitium, meaning the point at which the sun stands. It combines sol (sun) with the past participle stem of sistere (to stand, stay, set, or place). The stare in stare decisis derives from the same root. Its literal meaning, let the decision stand, is the basis for establishing legal precedent. In Houston, we feel the blaze of the sun all summer long as it seemingly stands still for three (or more) uninterrupted months. There is definitely precedent for the kind of heat we experience annually, and it is sure to get even hotter. Happy Solstice!
In honor of Women’s History Month, the Harris County Law Library is paying tribute the life and accomplishments of a remarkable woman, Camille Elizabeth Stanford Openshaw. At a time when women’s educational and career options were very limited, Ms. Openshaw excelled not only as an attorney but as a leader in the local legal community.
Just five years after graduating from South Texas College of Law in 1930, she was elected to the board of directors of the Lawyers Library Association, the first woman to hold the position. She later distinguished herself as a founding partner of the Houston law firm, McIntosh & Openshaw. But perhaps her most sensational claim to fame was her representation of former bank robber, kidnapper, murderer, and fugitive, Raymond Hamilton, whose exploits with the infamous Clyde Barrow Gang resulted in his ultimate execution. Despite Ms. Openshaw’s best efforts to spare his life with a last-minute plea to the State Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin, Hamilton was put to death on May 10, 1935.
To learn more about Ms. Openshaw, please visit the Harris County Law Library’s downtown location, where an exhibit honoring her accomplishments will be on display throughout the month of March. An accompanying digital exhibit can be viewed on the library’s website.
In 1925, the historian, Carter G. Woodson, called for a week-long celebration to recognize the contributions of African Americans in the development of our country. Negro History Week was celebrated for the first time in 1926 and expanded to a full month in 1976, the year of our nation's sesquicentennial. President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."
This year, the tradition continues. In the presidential proclamation issued by the White House on January 31, 2018, a special theme was designated commemorating the contributions of African Americans in Times of War. To educate and inform the public about the significant contributions of African Americans in combat, the National Archives has assembled an extensive list of resources called Blacks in the Military.
We at the Harris County Law Library hope to do our part in honoring National African American History Month. We'd like to call greater attention to the many notable African Americans who have played such crucial roles in shaping the law and achieving civil rights. With a special exhibit, we honor the first African American to rise to the bench of the U.S. Supreme Court and perhaps the most influential African American lawyer in U.S. history -- Justice Thurgood Marshall.
An exhibit commemorating the extraordinary life of Justice Marshall will be on display in the Law Library lobby throughout the month, and a digital exhibit is available on the Law Library's website.
For additional digital resources celebrating African American history and the remarkable life of Justice Thurgood Marshall, please visit the following sites:
The Harris County Law Library has seen many changes since it opened on October 1, 1915, including many changes in technology. This month's exhibit features several treasures from the past century representing the evolution of technology in the Law Library and in the practice of law. Don't miss the exhibit, which will be located in the library's lobby throughout January.
The electric light bulb was the first technology introduced to the Law Library, followed three decades later by a new development in sound recording technology.
The Soundscriber Dictation Machine, which featured an amplified microphone and soft-vinyl recording discs was introduced in 1945. It allowed attorneys to dictate notes, letters, and other documents while conducting research in the Law Library.
In the 1980s, electronic legal research made its debut with W.A.L.T. (West Automated Legal Terminal), Harris County Law Library's portal to the Westlaw database. This dedicated computer terminal allowed users to access the Westlaw database over the Internet, but the cost of online legal research was prohibitive for most users. Electronic searching could cost up to $150 per hour, so print materials remained popular.
Demand for print resources guided the Law Library's collection development decisions throughout the 1990s. The library began purchasing books on computers and the law, but developments in tech quickly outpaced their usefulness. Fortunately, Westlaw and Lexis were becoming more accessible and robust. Today, the Law Library relies heavily on electronic resources. With 25 public legal research computers available for patron use, a great variety of digital content is readily available.Computers are Internet-connected, allowing for access to several databases, including Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, O’Connor’s Online, and the State Bar of Texas Practice Manuals.
The library's presence on social media -- Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram -- has also grown, providing users with up-to-date access to information about Law Library resources, services, and events, including the CLE sessions presented by the Law Library's Legal Tech Institute.
The Legal Tech Institute is an ongoing series of free learning opportunities focused on using technology for more efficient legal work. Since October of 2016, a new learning session has been offered each month with content designed for a diverse audience of legal tech beginners and experts. Microsoft Word for Lawyers, Excel Essentials, and Finding & Formatting Legal Forms are just a few of the courses that LTI has presented so far. Representatives from Westlaw and Lexis have rounded out the schedule with regular Vendor Visits.
LTI continues to grow with an ever-expanding menu of learning opportunities both in person an online. Earn CLE credit and improve your tech proficiency by visiting the LTI webpage where on-demand recordings of previous events are available. Look for even more offerings via our Hands-On Legal Tech Training courses which are scheduled to launch in 2018.