This Week in the Law Library …

This week in the Law Library we welcome Dean Hamoudi, provide additional summer legal research tips, and celebrate Disability Pride Month.

Welcome Dean Hamoudi!

Haider Ala Hamoudi

Haider Ala Hamoudi serves as the college’s 27th dean since its founding in 1833. Dean Hamoudi comes to us from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (Pitt Law) where he most recently served as interim dean. He joined Pitt Law in 2007 as assistant professor and was named associate professor in 2012. He additional served as associate dean of research and faculty development from 2013 to 2017, associate dean for academic affairs from 2017 – 2018, and vice dean in 2018. Dean Hamoudi’s research primarily focuses on Middle Eastern and Islamic law. He is also the Editor in Chief of the Arab Law Quarterly. He was brought in to revitalize and restore its scholarly reputation as the most highly regarded and widely distributed law journal addressing matters of Arab law in the English language. He has led the effort to revamp the peer review process, instigate and implement significant structural change to improve the quality of submissions, recompose the Board of Editors entirely, and worked to increase the ALQ’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Selected Publications (2014 – Present)

Summer Legal Research Tips

Previously, we looked at initial steps to take when you get a summer research project, researching secondary sources, the structure and organization of statutory codes and where to find them, statutory finding tools, using citators to validate statutes, researching historical codes, statutory surveys, finding cases, and validating cases.

This week we’re going to take an initial look at legislative history research. If you have a statutory issue but no or very little case law interpreting the statute, you may need to look at legislative history. Legislative history research involves trying to establish legislative intent by looking into the documents produced as a law goes through the legislative process. The types of documents you might look at when doing legislative history research will include bill versions, amendments, committee reports, committee hearings, committee prints, and debates. The Plain Meaning Rule dictates whether or not you would want to do legislative history research. The Plain Meaning Rule states that if the language is plain on its face, you should not introduce evidence of legislative history. Do courts use legislative history? Despite many claims to the contrary, yes! See, for example, Abbe R. Gluck & Richard A. Posner, Statutory Interpretation on the Bench: A Survey of Forty-Two Judges on the Federal Courts of Appeals, 131 Harv. L. Rev. 1298 (2018).

Determine Which Law Added Your Language

The first step in doing legislative history research is to figure out which public law added the statutory language you need to interpret. Remember that statutes can be amended so if you are trying to determine what the legislature intended when they passed a law, you need to know which law incorporated your language. Your code should have a chronological list of the laws making up a code section and that list should be directly underneath the text of the statute. This is sometimes called the credit field. For Federal statutes, these are your public laws. Annotated codes will also have a history section where they summarize the changes that various laws made to the statute. Once you have determined which public law added your language, you will be ready to take the next step.

Look for a Compiled Legislative History

Unfortunately, legislative history research is often a lot of work with very little reward. Federal legislative history research is generally easier than state legislative history research. One way to make it easier on yourself is to take advantage of work that someone else has already done — look to see if someone has created a compiled legislative history. The following are excellent sources of compiled legislative histories:

ProQuest Legislative Insight

ProQuest legislative histories are comprised of fully searchable PDFs of full-text publications generated in the course of congressional lawmaking. Each history includes the full text of the public law itself, all versions of related bills, law-specific Congressional Record excerpts, committee hearings, reports, and prints. Also included are presidential signing statements, CRS reports, and miscellaneous congressional publications that provide background material.

HeinOnline US Federal Legislative History Library

In addition to the inclusion of comprehensive federal legislative histories published by the U.S. GPO and private publishers, this database also includes a unique finding aid based on Nancy Johnson’s award-winning work, Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories.

GAO Federal Legislative Histories on Westlaw

Comprehensive legislative histories for most U.S. Public Laws enacted from 1921 to 1995, and PL 104-191, as compiled by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, including the text of laws, bills, committee reports, Congressional Record documents, transcripts of hearings, and other documents in pdf format.

Arnold & Porter Legislative Histories on Westlaw

Very selective compilation of legislative histories available on Westlaw.

July Is Disability Pride Month!

Disability Pride Flag

Disability Pride Flag. A black flag with a lightning bolt of blue, yellow, white, red, and green. Source: Ann Magill/Public Domain

About Disability Pride Month

Disability Pride Month is an annual worldwide observance holiday during the month of July. It promotes awareness of disability as an identity, a community, a culture & the positive pride felt by disabled people. It directly challenges systematic ableism and discrimination.

5 More Resources on Accessibility & Disability Issues

Disability and Political Theory (Barbara Arneil & Nancy J. Hirschmann, eds. 2016) (UC e-Book)

Though disability scholarship has been robust in history, philosophy, English, and sociology for decades, political theory and political science more generally have been slow to catch up. This volume presents political theory approaches to disability issues. Barbara Arneil and Nancy J. Hirschmann bring together some of the leading scholars in political theory to provide a historical analysis of disability through the works of canonical figures, ranging from Hobbes and Locke to Kant, Rawls and Arendt, as well as an analysis of disability in contemporary political theory, examining key concepts, such as freedom, power and justice. Disability and Political Theory introduces a new disciplinary framework to disability studies, and provides a comprehensive introduction to a new topic of political theory.

Disability in Practice: Attitudes, Policies, and Relationships (Adam Cureton & Thomas E. Hill, Jr, eds.2018) (UC e-Book)

Everyone is disabled in some respect, at least in the sense that others can do things that we cannot. But significant limitations on pursuing major life activities due to severely limited eyesight, hearing, mobility, cognitive functioning and so on pose special problems that fortunately have been recognized (to some extent) in our public policies. Public policy is important, as are the deliberative frameworks that we use to justify them, and the essays in the second and third sections of this volume have significant implications for public policy and offer new proposals for justifying frameworks. Underlying public policies and their assessment, however, are the attitudes, good and bad, that we bring to them, and our attitudes as well deeply affect our interpersonal relationships. The essays here, especially in the first section, reveal how complex and problematic our attitudes towards persons with disabilities are when we are in relationships with them as care-givers, friends, family members, or briefly encountered strangers. Our attitudes towards ourselves as persons with (or without) disabilities are implicated in these discussions as well. Among the special highlights of this volume are its focus on moral attitudes and relationships involving disabilities and its contributors’ recognition of the multi-faceted nature of disability problems. The importance of respect for persons as a necessary complement to beneficence is an underlying theme, and a deeper understanding of respect is made possible by considering closely its implications for relationships with persons with disabilities. Awareness of the common and uncommon human vulnerabilities also makes clear the need for modifying traditional deliberative frameworks for assessing policies, and several essays make constructive proposals for the changes that are needed.

Inclusive Sustainability: Harmonising Disability Law and Policy (Ottavio Quirico, ed.2022) (UC e-Book)

In light of the third-generation concept of inclusive sustainability, the volume explores the architecture of global disability governance and its degree of harmonisation. The book integrates socio-cultural, economic, political and legal analyses from an international and comparative perspective. The first part of the volume outlines a tripartite systematisation of disability rights for States and non-state persons. In light of essential economic considerations, the second part explores the relationship between disability and specific fundamental rights and regimes, particularly the rights to life, health, education, work and participation. The third part takes an institutional approach and focuses on the way in which the UN and regional organisations regulate disability (rectius, different ability).

James I. Charlton, Nothing About Us Without Us: Disability Oppression and Empowerment (UC e-Book)

The author asserts that disability oppression is rooted in degradation, dependency, and powerlessness and is experienced in some form by five hundred million persons throughout the world who have physical, sensory, cognitive, or developmental disabilities. This book provides a theoretical overview of disability oppression that shows its similarities to, and differences from, racism, sexism, and colonialism. Charlton’s analysis is illuminated by interviews he conducted over a ten-year period with disability rights activists throughout the Third World, Europe, and the United States. Charlton finds an antidote for dependency and powerlessness in the resistance to disability oppression that is emerging worldwide. His interviews contain striking stories of self-reliance and empowerment evoking the new consciousness of disability rights activists. As a latecomer among the world’s liberation movements, the disability rights movement will gain visibility and momentum from Charlton’s elucidation of its history and its political philosophy of self-determination, which is captured in the title of his book.

The Routledge Handbook of Disability Activism (Maria Berghs et al., eds. 2020) (UC e-Book)

This handbook emphasizes the importance of everyday disability activism and how activists across the world bring together a wide range of activism tactics and strategies. It also challenges the activist movements, transnational and emancipatory politics, as well as providing future directions for disability activism.

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