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Reference Librarian

Still can't find the resources you're looking for? Ask JURIST virtual Reference Librarian Linda Tashbook, Electronic Services Librarian at the Barco Law Library, University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Some of her answers to selected reference questions are posted below.

Please remember that JURIST cannot provide legal advice.

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  • I am gathering information about whether law school certificate programs add value to students' education and marketability. I had hoped to find an article or two in the journal of legal educatin (or any other law journal) on the subject, but have had no luck. Any suggestions?

    RG, Pennsylvania

    I would contact NALP (National Organization for Law Placement) or AALS to see if they've researched the topic, yet. If not, since you've already searched the journals, maybe you get to be the one who conducts the big survey.

  • I am trying to find some statistical info. My question is: how many claims are filed each year against physicians for malpractice? I need stats for the last five years. Thank you.

    LS, Florida

    Most courts don't keep statistical data about the subject matter of their caseload. Even the databases that compile the full text of case opinions don't publish statistics about case content, beyond claiming that they publish a certain percentage of case opinions that are written each year. Since you asked about how many claims are filed against physicians for malpractice, the number you seek includes not only cases that resulted in published opinions, but also jury trials and out of court settlements. There is no known source of such data. The only way to even get partial data would be to contact court clerks individually and ask if their court or court system happens to keep statistics on how many cases are filed in various subject areas.

  • I've been looking for information regarding the organization "Order of the Coif"! I've looked everywhere! Help....thank you.


    Here is a very thorough article documenting the history of The Order of the Coif: "Order of the Coif: English Antecedents and American Adaptation" by Frank R. Strong in 63 ABA J. 1725 (1977).

  • Can anyone point me to a web resource where I can find the original text(s) of the New York State Constitution prior to 1938?

    You should be able to get old versions of the State's constitution from The New York State Library ( The State Library is a government agency, like the State Department of Education and the State Utilities Commission. They are responsible for maintaining archives and current copies of the State's official publications. They have reference librarians, just like most libraries, to help you find what you need. All you can really do on-line is search through their catalog and send them an e-mail. Yale's Avalon Project has THE original 1777 constitution for the State of New York at

  • Can you recommend a source to get information on contracts or administrative agreements that a Dean of a Law School might have with the higher ed institution they are associated with?

    This is just the kind of research that involves weeding through lots of unrelated materials that happen to have common search terms with your topic. Be sure to look for phrases like "law school administration" and "university management" in titles and (if you have database access) key word searches. Those kinds of phrases specify more than ordinary separate subject terms like "dean" and "contract" and "university". Obviously, you will run into lots of obituaries and job announcements. You'll just have to skim past those. Here are three articles to get you started:

    1. Ken Myers. "San Diego Assistant Dean Wins $1 Million Wrongful Firing Award." The National Law Journal April 17, 1995 v17 n33 pA17 col 1.

    2. Fred Leeson, Adam Kirschner. "Oregon Dean Says He'll Quit Over Budget Cuts." The National Law Journal March 19, 1984 v6 p4.

    3. Afton Dekanal; David H. Vernon. "Anatomy of Legal Education: the Way We Were And The Way We Are." Washington Law Review, June 1985 60 n3 p571-583.

    You might want to contact the Association of American Law Schools via their Web site Also, try the ABA's Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar They have an annual Dean's Workshop and Law School Development committee and other functions and publications involving the various kinds of agreements that Law Schools enter into with their Universities.

  • Can you provide me with any information about websites that have federal circuit opinions earlier than the 1990s. Specifically, I am trying to locate and cite check 1980s and earlier cases, and none of the cicuit court cites have opinions before 1994. HELP! Thank you!

    LA, California

    At the moment, I don't know of any free Web sites that have caselaw available for longer than the courts' own Web pages. However, LEXIS recently announced that they are making primary material available for free to small and solo practitioners. I thought that they were announcing the opening of that service, not that they are just planning such a thing. I've just called our LEXIS rep to ask for confirmation and the url. I'll pass them (or an explanation of why I'm wrong) to you as soon as I get a response. Meanwhile, you might just try poking around Also, take a look at They'll give you a ten day free trial in which you can do all of your research. Their price is much lower than LEXIS and Westlaw. I've also used with good success.

  • Where can I find good comprehensive case briefs (online) on important Supreme Court decisions?

    DY, Texas

    You can read full Supreme Court opinions at I think that your request for case briefs means summaries of the opinions, rather than the briefs written by the attorneys in the case. There isn't a Web service that provides a full service like that for free. There are several publishers that sell those kinds of briefs in print. See and

  • I am looking for a newsletter that is sent to email addresses that lists/summarizes the Supreme Court's granting or denying cert. petitions that is updated daily...any ideas? thank you~!

    MS, Kansas

    I don't know of a Supreme Court listserv that tells about cert petitions. There is a free bulletin board on GPO Access which you can check every day for that information The Supreme Court generally announces certiorari orders on Mondays. The orders are made available on the Government Printing Office (GPO) site the same day that the Court announces them. When the court issues "irregular orders" (not on any specially assigned day), they are posted with whichever regular posting goes next to the GPO.

  • Do you know a source where I could find out how many law professors there are in the US? How about worldwide? Thanks!

    GO, Seattle

    The Association of American Law Schools has that statistic on their Web site at See this part of their Web page for a list of all statistical compillations available on their site. I don't know of a comparable statistical source for the data from other countries.

  • I would like clarification on the differences between U.S. Code and the Code of Fed. Regulations

    WD, Alabama

    The U.S. Code contains statutes, the laws enacted by Congress. The Code of Federal Regulations contains regulations, the laws enacted by federal administrative agencies (Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, Immigration and Naturalization Service). Regulations are authorized by statutes. In the Americans With Disabilities Act, for example, the Department of Transportation is charged with developing regulations to assure that people with disabilities are properly accommodated by public transportation. The regulations, then, delineate how the statute is to be carried out. Here is another example: Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act and directed the Department of Labor to create regulations that would guide employers in implementing the Act. The statute says that employees are entitled to this type of leave under certain circumstances. The regulations specify things like what kinds of salary and absence records the employer is required to keep in order to be in compliance with the Act.

  • Where can I find the US Tax Court volumes on-line?

    DS, New Jersey

    The US Tax Court Web page is at You can find their opinions from October 1999 to the present at that site as well as the court's rules, answers to frequently asked questions, and other basic information about the tax court. If you need opinions from further back than last October, you'll just have to access them in the printed format at a law library. If your town has a federal courthouse, use the library there.

  • What does pro per motion mean?

    KS, Michigan

    Pro Per is short for pro persona, which means for one's own person. In other words, for yourself. It means that you are writing the motion on your own behalf. Depending on the reason for your motion, it may mean that you are filing a motion to represent yourself or else to simply make one statement on your own that your attorney is not filing for you.

  • My ex-fiance wants the engagement ring back, and has threatened to get a laywer if necessary to get it back. Is there a law to keep me from having to give the ring back and if so where can I find it?

    CG, California

    This very question was asked of Auntie Nolo the Web persona on NOLO Press's web page at The answer comes from contract law. A contract exists when somebody gives another person something in exchange for a promise. Typically, in an engagement, the ring is given in exchange for a promise to marry. If the person who promised to marry takes back that promise, then the ring can be taken back by the person who gave it. If you want to know more about this, you should look in volume 44 of the fifth edition of American Law Reports which analyzes this issue and lists all of the States in which guys who gave engagement rings sued to get them back and the courts ordered that the rings be returned. From that list, you can go to the actual cases and read exactly what the judges said.

  • Dogbite victim - Nov.1994 Is there any information that is available for me to understand dog attack settlements?

    JB, Maine

    Believe it or not, there's an entire Web site dedicated to Dog Bite Law It is hosted by a lawyer who promises to respond to e-mail queries. You might also want to search your topic in the Maine statutes (The Laws of Maine)