“Ours” – Images of 21st Century Women Voters

From the walls of the Alameda County Law Library, currently closed to the public

a virtual art show

   “Ours” – Images of 21st Century Women Voters

in honor of the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage – an exhibition honoring

The 19th Amendment, Women’s Right to Vote: 1920 – 2020

Images by

Mary Millman      Frances Jacobson    Iris Sabre 

   Suzanne Anderson-Carey

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Take A Letter – Legislative Intent

Take a letter – legislative intent

The California Legislature and the Governor have wrapped up this session’s business; passing and signing bills including a number of newsworthy laws – AB 5, dealing with the status of employees and independent contractors, AB 1482, California’s “anti-rent-gouging bill”, and SB 206 on student athlete compensation and representation authored by Alameda County’s own State Senator, Nancy “Nancy Cares About Athletes” Skinner.

From a legal research perspective, an interesting aspect of the last session has been noted in an article from Capitol Weekly, “Take a Letter – to the Legislature’s Journal.”   The article’s author, Chris Mitchell, points to a growing trend in Sacramento of the use of letters of intent published in the Daily Journals of the Assembly and Senate – letters which contain language that reference legislative intent in an attempt to substitute for making bill amendments.  Mitchell states that this new phenomenon seems to be growing due to amendment restrictions that were imposed by 2016’s Proposition 54 which effectively prevents bills from being amended in the final three days of the session.

Mitchell’s article discusses the history of the courts’ rulings on the use of letters of intent.  It will be interesting to see in the future how the courts react to this expanded use of the letters.

Guiding patrons seeking support for their legal arguments in the area of legislative research – helping them understand the difference between resources for legislative history and those for legislative intent – is just one of the information services provided by county law librarians.

See the Legislative Counsel’s Digests in the bill text links above and the language of intent stated in Section 1 of SB 206 for examples of intent.

End Of The Session – California Legislative Information

End of the session

The California Legislature is wrapping up its current legislative session.  Bills have been sent to the Governor to await his signature.  A number of these bills involve contentious topics in our society and have made the national news.  California has moved into the vanguard for issues involving the legal status of workers in the gig economy and athletes in the billion-dollar school sports organization complexes.  Also awaiting final action are bills amending the laws on state rent control and automatic expungement of certain criminal records.

It seems to be a good time of the year to discuss the most comprehensive source of California legislative bill tracking.  The state site, California Legislative Information, also referred to as LegInfo, is a free, public site providing a wealth of information including a bill’s versions, votes, history, and official bill analysis.   Searching capabilities include bill number search and text search.  The site also has a bill tracking function.  Coverage goes back to the 1999 – 2000 legislative session.

The site also contains under the tab, California Law, current text of all California Code titles including the California Constitution.  Searching can be done by section number and text search.

The Alameda County Law Library has other resources for California legislative research.  Westlaw has files for current session enacted legislation and files for historical enacted legislation back to 1987.  Lexis has California full text bills back to 1991.  ACLL also has a selection of California legislative history materials in a number of formats.  An ACLL professional legal reference librarian can help you identify and locate resources.

Here is a selection of recent articles on new California bills making the news:

New Bill Clears Path for Freelance Attorney Independent Contractor StatusThe Recorder, 9/11/19. (AB 5)

“Bill to Help Scrub Records of Low-level Offenders Hits Newsom’s Desk.” Courthouse News Service. 9/10/19. (AB 1076)

California Lawmakers Vote to Undo N.C.A.A, Amateurism.” The New York Times 9/11/19.  Bill was introduced by Alameda County State Senator Nancy Skinner.  Article contains interview with her. (SB 206)

Contempt Of Court

Utter contempt

The TV news trucks and camera crews have disappeared from ACLL’s neighborhood, here at the intersection of Oak Street and 12th in downtown Oakland.  The news staffs are no longer hovering because the jury in the Ghost Ship Trial (AC Superior Ct. No. 17-CR-017349 A/B)* is on hiatus from deliberations until after Labor Day.  The sidewalks, no-parking areas, and curbside planted areas around the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse are no longer occupied throughout the day.  No longer is anyone on standby waiting for the announcement of the verdict in the involuntary manslaughter (CA Penal Code 192(b)) trial of Max Harris and Derick Almena related to a fire in an Alameda County structure that resulted in the deaths of 36 people.

Recently, the judge in the case removed and replaced three jurors for reasons not yet made public. Reports state that the judge is considering bringing contempt charges against the dismissed jurors.

“Contempt” is a common English word, in use since the 14th century – the act or state of despising.  It is also used in legal contexts.  For anyone wishing to research legal topics in the news, Alameda County Law Library is here.  ACLL’s mission is to provide equitable access to legal information materials to our county – self-represented litigants, legal professionals, and others engaged in legal research or the preparation of legal documents.  A professional law librarian can help you navigate our print and digital collections.

For the legal uses of “contempt”, Black’s Law Dictionary gives you definitions for the term and its use in legal phrases.  CEB’s California Criminal Law Procedure and Practice, one of the most useful California criminal law practice guides, contains Chapter 58 on contempt.  One section (§58.5) reviews California’s code provisions found in the Code of Civil Procedure, CCP §1209(a), which state behaviors relating to jurors.

  • Disobedience by a juror of a court admonishment related to the prohibition on any form of communication or research about the case, including all forms of electronic or wireless communication or research;  …
  • Unlawfully failing to attend or serve as a juror after having been summoned;
  • While serving as juror, improperly conversing with a party to an action to be tried at the court, or with any other person, in relation to the merits of the action, or receiving a communication from a party or other person in respect to the action, without immediately disclosing it to the court; …

Or, a library user might wish to research law reviews and articles using HeinOnline to find articles such as, “Preventing Juror Misconduct in a Digital World” by Thaddeus Hoffmeister, Juries and Lay Participation: American Perspectives and Global Trends, 90 Chicago-Kent Law Review 981 (2015).

The public will have to wait to find out more about what might happen to the former Ghost Ship jurors.  But legal researchers are able to start research at ACLL during our business hours – MWF 8:30 am – 4:30 pm | Tues, Thurs 8:30 am – 7:30 pm | Sat 9:00 am – 3:00 pm.

For more information or assistance in researching legal topics, contact the ACLL reference staff at 510-208-4832.

Grey Is The New Red.  Lexis Has A New Look.

Grey is the new red.  Lexis has a new look.

When using Lexis Advance at ACLL on one of our public computers, you might notice that the Lexis home screen has a new look.

Changes include:

  • No more Big Red Box, instead, small subtle grey boxes.  On the Lexis Home page, you will find one box for entering search terms, next to another for selecting a category of resource, and a final box that allows you to limit your search by jurisdiction.  Move down the line and click on the magnifying glass icon to start your search.
  • In the first box, experienced searchers can type a quick search.  One such search – “shep: [citation]” – allows you to quickly and easily Shepardize a case or code section.
  • The Advance Search screen is still available by clicking the More Options button.  Advance Search provides fields to guide you in building your search statement.
  • Because the ACLL Lexis subscription is a shared subscription, you will not be able to save your personal preferences.

If you need help, the ACLL law librarians are here to assist you.

Basic black letter law always available.

As always, codes and cases are available.  Lexis is an official publisher for a number of important California legal sources including appellate case reporters.

ACLL’s subscription does not include access to all Lexis files, but we do have many useful, searchable resources beyond cases and codes — including California practice guides and California administrative agency decisions.  Lexis covers many state agency publications.  Here is a listing:

  • Insurance Bulletins & Notice
  • WCAB Noteworthy Panel Decisions
  • Board of Equalization Opinions
  • Department of Corporations Decisions
  • Div. Labor Standards Enf. Policies & Interp. Manual
  • Fair Employment & Housing Commission
  • Franchise Tax Board Chief Counsel Rulings
  • Franchise Tax Board Decisions
  • Franchise Tax Board Information Letters
  • Franchise Tax Board Technical Advice Memorandums
  • State Bar Court Decision
  • State Campaign Finance Receipts
  • State Water Resources Control Board
  • Agricultural Labor Relations Board
  • Alcohol Beverage Control Appeals Board
  • Department of Financial Institutions Releases
  • Department of Toxic Substances Control
  • Division of Labor Standards Enforcement Opinion Letters
  • Market Conduct Examinations
  • Public Employment Relations Board
  • State Bar Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct
  • State Personnel Board of the State of California

Check for years of coverage for the individual files.

Briefs At ACLL

California legal briefs – examples and templates

Looking for California appellate briefs?  Seeking guidance when drafting a brief?

Alameda County Law Library offers resources for researching appellate and trial briefs.

We are one of the few public law libraries in California that provides free access to a database – California Public Law Library Briefs Service – supplied by Thomson Reuters.  The database, whose holdings begin around 1992, is available on our public computers using your ACLL patron number.  With a party name or case number, you can retrieve the text of documents.  Not all California appellate court briefs are part of this database.  This service is a stripped down version of commercial resources.  No keyword or subject searching.  The original formatting of the document is removed but the text can be cut and pasted into a Word document, then saved to a flash drive.  No direct emailing from the database.  But it is free and may save the effort of going to the court to locate a copy of a brief for an identified appellate case.

For earlier appeals, ACLL has a collection of California briefs on microfiche.  This collection is organized by court district and appellate case number.  (For all you millennials, here is a definition of microfiche.)   ACLL has a viewer but no printing facilities.

ACLL also has access on Lexis to the California Briefs, Pleadings, & Motions file which the publisher describes as:

The file includes all available California Federal and State Briefs, submitted to lay out the argument for various petitions and motions before the court, to counter the arguments of opposing lawyers, and to provide the judge with reasons to rule in favor of the party represented by the brief writer.

This file can be searched by keywords, party names, and other document segments.  The ACLL Lexis subscription allows for emailing items, as well as, downloading and printing.

The mechanics of writing a brief

Instructions and templates for writing briefs can be found in a number of guides at our library or on the internet.  Included are:

CEB also has a number of resources:

Trial brief

A “trial brief” is a written summary or statement submitted by a party that explains to a judge the party’s position on particular issues that will be part of the trial [Cal. Rules of Ct., Rule 5.393(a)(3)].  For specific jurisdictional requirements, consult the appropriate local court rules.

  • 18 California Forms of Pleading and Practice–Annotated § 221.63
  • CEB California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial
  • California Trial Handbook § 9:3
  • 36 California Forms of Pleading and Practice–Annotated § 417.12, “Points and Authorities Compared With Briefs”
  • Litigation by the Numbers., § 6.3.2 sample Memorandum of Points & Authorities

Arbitration brief

  • MB CA Torts §95.04 has a detailed description of the parts of an arbitration brief
  • CA Forms of Pleading & Practice §33.53 “arbitration book”


Can’t get into the library?  ACLL does provide document delivery services.

Local government law resources

Local government law resources

The Alameda County Law Library has legal information resources for state, federal, and also, local law.

One of the best resources for researching issues involving California municipal law is the CEB title – The California Municipal Law Handbook available through OnLAW on our public computers.  The paper version is on the shelf at KFC 752 .A49.   We await the new 2019 edition to be published at the end of July.

Topics in this title include:

  • Nature of municipal corporations
  • Open government and ethics
  • Elections
  • Personnel
  • Finance and economic development
  • Municipal services and utilities
  • Public contracting
  • Public property
  • Regulating businesses and personal conduct
  • Land use
  • Protecting the environment
  • Code enforcement

For information on litigation against a city or other public entity, we have CEB’s Government Tort Liability Practice (KFC 332 .V3 and OnLAW) which has a good discussion for the popular topic of general immunities of public entities and employees in Chapter 10.  Chapter 11 covers liabilities and immunities in specific functional areas including police, fire, and administrative activities.

Lexis offers California Public Sector Labor Relations (KFC562 .P8 C32 and Lexis) and California Public Sector Employment Law (Lexis) for those researchers interested in studying the law involving government employees.

Primary law  

ACLL has a few paper resources for codes and charters of local government – Oakland, Alameda County, Berkeley, and Hayward.  Most governments are keeping their codes current using internet sites.

There are a number of internet publishers that specialize in municipal codes.

Municode’s Code Library provides text for the Alameda, Alameda County, Hayward, Newark and Oakland codes online.

Code Publishing Co. hosts Dublin, Emeryville, Livermore,  Berkeley,

Qcode.us has Pleasanton, San Leandro, Union City

Albany is at clerkshq.com

Doing their own thing are Fremont and Piedmont

Legislative history

ACLL does have selected legislative history resources for local government.  As local governments moved to digital resources and away from paper, historical texts were not always made readily available for the collection.  On the plus side, many government websites now retain electronic documents related to the legislative process as digital files on their city’s databases.

Be sure to ask the ACLL law librarians for assistance when researching local government legislative history.  We may be able to offer useful suggestions.

Federal Criminal Law Resources

Convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and the attorneys who negotiated his 2008 federal criminal plea deal are in the news.  US Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta is resigning from President Trump’s cabinet after defending his role in the negotiations.  Epstein has recently been charged with additional federal sexual offenses in New York.  His most recent case is being heard in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York.  The intricacies of federal criminal procedure, especially when they involve separate federal districts, are being discussed in news and social media outlets that cover legal issues. 

Librarians’ minds work in strange ways.  Since topics that are in the headlines can find their way to the Reference Desk, it leads us to a discussion of resources that the Alameda County Law Library collection offers for researching federal criminal law.

Much of ACLL’s collection is focused on California state law but here is information for attorneys and others who are involved in federal criminal cases.  Most of the federal law secondary resources can be accessed through our Westlaw subscription.

On the shelf at ACLL

ACLL does have primary and a few secondary resources on federal law in paper including:

United States Code Service Lawyers Edition

Federal Reporter cases to 2013, for later federal cases use Lexis or Westlaw.

Bender’s Federal Practice Forms (includes criminal) KF 8836 .F78

Available at ACLL through our Westlaw subscription

Complete Manual of Criminal Forms (includes federal)

Federal Criminal Appeals

Federal Criminal Restitution

Federal Criminal Rules Handbook

Federal Habeas Manual

Federal Jury Practice & Instructions (includes criminal)

Federal Jury Practice & Instructions: Criminal Companion Handbook

Federal Postconviction Remedies and Relief Handbook with Forms

Federal Practice & Procedure (the treatise formerly known as Wright & Miller)

Federal Rules of Evidence (treatise) (includes criminal)

Federal Trial Handbook: Criminal

Federal Trial Objections (includes criminal)

Federal criminal legal resources on the internet

There are also resources available on the internet.  Many legal pundits interested in the Epstein case are perusing the Justice Manual (JM) published by the United States Department of Justice.  The JM was previously known as the United States Attorneys’ Manual (USAM).  It was comprehensively revised and renamed in 2018.  Sections are updated periodically.  In general, the date of last revision will be noted at the end of each section.  For prior versions of the USAM, visit the USAM Archive.

Full text of the current JM is available at https://www.justice.gov/jm/justice-manual

With a personal PACER account, a researcher can gain access to online federal court filings and docket information.  Currently there are fees involved for searching and retrieving information off PACER.  ACLL does not offer access but librarians can offer guidance in using the site.

By setting up an account with Court Listener/Recap, a researcher may be able to access PACER dockets without charge as part of the co-operative file sharing of public documents that the site offers.  (And the archives are easier to search than the PACER website.)   With a case of high interest such as US v. Epstein, the docket activity can be reviewed and many of the documents are posted on the site and available for download.