Thursday, September 18, 2014

Banjo: Deadly Weapon or Dangerous Instrument?

Kentucky Digest. Image credit: Ryan Valentin
Duel challenge between brothers in Pulaski County leads to filing of charges read a recent headline in the Lexington Herald-Leader. According to the article, "Rodney Abbott called his mother on the day of the incident and told her to meet him at James Abbott's home 'if she wanted to see him alive again.' And went on to say, "[t]hey got into it because their mother had broken up with her boyfriend of 17 years, and Rodney actually thought James caused that...[h]e was pretty hot."

The Constitution of Kentucky oath of officers and attorneys contains the following language:

“…and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it, nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.”

A few years ago a call to delete the dueling provision in the state oath of office was made. From NPR’s Kentucky Duels Over Oath Of Office, Louisville state Rep. Darryl Owens was quoted as saying, “One of the problems when you have people from out of state, and I’ve had it at some swearing-in ceremonies that I’ve been to, they look at you like you’re crazy, what are you talking about…[i]t perpetuates that image of Kentucky as being backward.” In opposition to the proposal, former governor State Sen. Julian Carroll noted “[i]t is a part of the history of this great commonwealth, and I don’t think that we ought to make any changes with respect to the reflection of that history.”

Some citizens, concerned the language would vanish from the oath wrote to Sen. Carroll:

“I am contacting you today regarding the proposed amendment [HB 36] to Section 228 of the Constitution of Kentucky.

The recent trend towards the globalization and homogenization of culture manifests itself in a variety of forms.  Removal of the dueling language from Section 228 is one step closer to losing part of our great Kentucky heritage.  Just as bourbon, horses, and bluegrass music are hallmarks of the Commonwealth, so too is the language in Section 228. 

Although the “snickering” upon utterance of the dueling language can be a distraction to a dignified ceremony, to suggest the language “harm[s] efforts to bring business to the state” is too great a leap in logic for constituents to make.  The dueling language does not perpetuate the “image of Kentucky as being backward” but rather as a fascinating place.  If the perception of Kentucky as “backward” is a genuine concern, addressing the “Kentucky uglies” - “high rates of diabetes, lung cancer, illiteracy and poverty” - would be time better spent.        

Our collective past experience with “dueling as dispute resolution” is part of the historical fabric that makes Kentuckians interesting and unique.  I support your assertion that the dueling provision is “a part of the history of this great commonwealth” and we should not “make any changes with respect to the reflection of that history.” 

Thank you for speaking out in opposition to this amendment.”

If the opportunity presents itself, will the Pulaski County brothers ever be able to take the oath of officers and attorneys? Although the Herald-Leader article noted "a citation filed in the case does not include the word "duel" the language prohibiting participation in a duel is broad.

What about the bigger issue here? Although both terms are defined under the KRS, the language in the oath appears to be limited to dueling with “deadly weapons” and not "dangerous instruments". Still the question remains, may any citizen of the Commonwealth who directly participates, sends or accepts a challenge, acts as a second, aids or assists any person in a contest of dueling banjos be free to take the oath with a clear conscience? 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesdays Around the World: Whither Scotland?

Tomorrow, the Scottish people head to the polls to vote on whether Scotland should leave the U.K. to form an independent country. Currently, the vote remains too close to call, and each side of the issue are holding massive rallies today as a final push.

Were Scotland to leave the U.K., it would be a reversal of more than four centuries' history. James VI of Scotland assumed the throne of England as James I in 1603, uniting the two nations through a "personal union." The unification of the separate states into Great Britain (via the Acts of Union of 1707), and later into the United Kingdom (after Ireland was added in 1800), only strengthened the bond between England and Scotland. (Ireland, except for the northern bit, later left the U.K. for independence in 1922.) Now, that unity sits at a precipice.

Scottish secession would also affect the unification efforts of the European Union, as at least one member state's government has publicly stated that Scotland would need to reapply for membership in the E.U. if it separates from the U.K. All in all, tomorrow's decision may be the most momentous moment in British history since the end of World War Two and its accompanying period of decolonization.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wednesdays Around the World: The Northwest Passage

Students of history may recall that much of the (European) exploration of North America occurred as the result of a quixotic search for the fabled "Northwest Passage," a sea route around North America that would enable European merchants to sail to Asia without needing to go all the way around South America or Africa. It turned out that the Northwest Passage did exist to the north of Canada, but was generally too icebound to be of use for merchant shipping. In fact, the most famous expedition seeking to chart the icy Northwest Passage, the Franklin expedition, disappeared with all hands in 1845. Yesterday, the Canadian government found one of the missing ships at the bottom of the sea.

The story becomes more interesting when one considers why the Canadian government searched for the vessels in the first place. As a result of global warming, the Northwest Passage is now ice-free enough to function as a viable merchant shipping route, and would save shippers between Europe and Asia a significant amount of time over even the Panama Canal Route (which was not an option during the original age of exploration). Canada claims the valuable shipping route as internal waters, while other states, including the U.S. assert that it should be an internationally recognized shipping passage that would allow other states to claim the right of innocent passage under Section 3 of Part II the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Canada, which inherited British claims upon gaining independence, would like to verify the route taken by Franklin and his crew. Doing so would strengthen the Canadian argument for treating the passage as internal waters because of the historic application of the Doctrine of Discovery under the Law of Nations in determining national boundaries. Regardless of whether the location of the lost expedition helps settle the legal status of the Northwest Passage, yesterday's discovery does answer one of the history's great mysteries.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Lexis Advance has an Updated Interface with a New Look

New Look for Lexis Advance
If you sign into Lexis Advance on Monday, you may notice that it has a brand new look that makes the research platform much more usable.  Lexis has provided a video comparing the before and after looks, or you can take a peek at the PDF document covering similar material.

Lexis will be presenting a webinar on new interface on Mon., Sept 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET.  Register here. There will also be a follow up webinar on efficient research with the new interface on Sept. 11 at 1:30 p.m. ET.  Register here.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wednesdays Around the World: Off the Coast of Africa

As the International Law Prof Blog reported earlier this week, Somalia initiated proceedings against Kenya in the International Court of Justice. Somalia is seeking a resolution to a maritime border dispute and alleges that Kenya's definition of the maritime border between the two countries does not comply with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which both states are parties. Of course, there is some irony involved with Somalia arguing for application of maritime laws, given its recent history, and the fact that the duty of all nations to punish piracy is one of the oldest tenets of admiralty law. We will have to wait and see what the I.C.J. thinks of the matter.


Privacy Law and Harm from Data Breaches

Over the last few years, millions of people have been impacted by breaches of consumer data (e.g., the credit card data stolen from Target in 2013).   How does the law handle harm caused by these incidents? For a brief overview of the topic, check out the series of posts by Professor Daniel J. Solove of George Washington University Law School on

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

They're Back! West Study Aids

Just as useful as ever, the West Study Aids Subscription is available again to the UK College of Law community.  The subscription includes access to familiar titles such as Black Letter Outlines, Concise Hornbooks, Gilbert Law Summaries, the Acing Series, and more.
Main screen of the West Study Aids Subscription 
(click image for a larger version)