Editor’s Corner

To continue the legal theme set by the cover photo contest, I am often called on by colleagues to teach strategies for finding legal resources in library instruction sessions. Legal databases and legal materials are often perceived as foreign and overwhelming to undergraduate students as compared to other scholarly resources. Teaching legal materials also often includes having to give a brief overview of the legal system so students understand what types of materials are available to them. When demonstrating how to find legal materials I demonstrate case law relevant to the curriculum in the class, but I find that an active learning session helps reengage the students who are needing a break. I have a collection of “fun laws” for students to find and briefly read so that I know they have learned basic searching techniques. I break down these session to search for case law by citation and by case names.

For case searches, trademark cases often have wonderful names. My favorite is Juicy Whip v. Orange Bang (185 F.3d 1364) because it sounds slightly kinky, and you can see students perk up and eagerly search to read the case. Another attention grabbing case is Mayo vs. Satan (54 F.R.D. 282). Look for the 1971 case which grabs student interest as they learn Satan could not be sued because the court did not have jurisdiction. I end case name searching with Brake v. Speed (605 So.2d 28). The defendant’s name was Sally Speed who was ironically involved in an auto-accident case. Speed rear-ended a car driven by Brake.

For citation searching, I use laws that take too long to type in during the class period. A good one to start with is 241 U.S. 265 (U.S. v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola). This case from 1916 shows the government trying to make the Coca-Cola Company remove caffeine from its product. This is also a good way to have them search for the lower court case 191 F. 431 and show how reversals are marked in the database. Another unique case is 386 F.3d 1169 (The Cetacean Community v. George W. Bush, Donald H. Rumsfeld). Here the court concluded that whales, dolphins, and porpoises do not have standing to sue. The old debate on if the tomato is a fruit or a vegetable made it to the Supreme Court in 1893 in 149 U.S. 304 (Nix v. Hedden). Here the tomato was classified as a vegetable for custom regulation purposes. To show state level court cases I like to use 784 S.W. 2d 480 (Lynd v. State) where the defendant was convicted of theft because he put weights in his fish so he could win a fishing contest that had a monetary prize.

Law reviews are also important resources, and I have a couple of fun reviews to look for as well. A search for “Star Wars” narrowed down to law reviews from Texas turns up Browning’s exploration of case law where judges and attorneys refer to various Star Wars quotes and characters. A search for “Star Trek” turns up Browning again, showing Mr. Spock is a favorite reference.

I hope you enjoyed this lighter side of the law and that it can be useful for instruction. For more cases I recommend http://loweringthebar.net/comical-case-names.


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