Wisconsin State Law Library

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WSLL @ Your Service May 2020

COVID-19 and Our Libraries - Amy Crowder

The library has served the State of Wisconsin for the past 184 years, and we continue to do so in the midst of this health crisis. While our library space remains closed, our librarians and resources are available to assist with your legal research needs.

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Reference librarians continue to offer the great legal information service for which we are known. We can help locate forms, procedural, and practice information, plus we can help direct our users to COVID-19 information from state and federal agencies. If you are missing the databases we provide in the library, librarians can search the databases for you. If you are especially missing Westlaw or Lexis, see our Library News article below. Don't forget that you can access HeinOnline, LLMC Digital, and Index to Legal Periodicals with a library card. If you do not have a library card, you can apply for one on our website.

Library staff have also been working at the library to help our users access the information they need from our library collection. We can scan materials such as older jury instructions or older briefs, scan sections from legal practice materials that are only available in print, and mail forms such as the Wisconsin Basic Will. Please email wsll.ref@wicourts.gov if you need access to an item in our collection.

While we have been working remotely at home, we have taken the opportunity to work on some of our 2020-2021 goals. For the library website, that means locating new content for our County Legal Resources and the Wisconsin Ordinances and Codes page. We are also researching additional sources for over 180 Legal Topics pages and introducing FAQs for some of those topics. With multiple staff working on this research, edits to the website will arrive for weeks to come.

To help legal researchers at this time, we are transitioning from in-person classes to online training. We look forward to offering our Public Records class in mid-May - see our Library News article below. Librarians also continue to offer instructional webinars to public librarians throughout the state on such topics as public records, Wisconsin Circuit Court Access, and methods to avoid giving legal advice while answering legal research questions.

The library's leadership team is currently planning for our librarians' return to each of our libraries. We are also looking forward to providing additional services to our library users while our spaces are closed. Keep up to date with new information via our newsletter, our Library Highlights blog, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


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Celebrating Lavinia Goodell (Part One)

This year's Law Day theme is Your Vote, Your Voice, Our Democracy: the 19th Amendment at 100. Law Day is May 1st and to help us mark the day, we're delighted to talk to Wisconsin Supreme Court Commissioner Nancy Kopp and Attorney Colleen Ball about their biographical website devoted to Lavinia Goodell, http://www.laviniagoodell.com. This article is the first in a two-part series. Read the second half in our June newsletter.

Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin's first woman lawyer, was a trailblazer in the legal profession. When her first attempt to gain admission to the Wisconsin Supreme Court was denied, she criticized the "decision in the local and national press, drafted a bill to prohibit gender discrimination in the practice of law, lobbied male legislators to pass it and a male governor to sign it, moved again for admission to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, prevailed, argued [and won] her first case there," according to the website's introduction.

Not content to let Lavinia's story remain a short line in a history book, LaviniaGoodell.com gives us a more complete picture of the life of this fascinating woman and rounds out her story with letters, family photos, diary entries, and more. In recent months, Kopp and Ball's efforts to educate the world about Lavinia have been widely recognized. Their efforts helped speed the discovery of Lavinia's certificate of admission to practice and it's now housed with the Wisconsin Historical Society, and their work is featured in several news articles. In 2019, the State Bar of Wisconsin awarded Lavinia Goodell the Lifetime Legal Innovator award posthumously for opening the practice of law to women.

Lavinia Goodell website header

When we met with Nancy in February, we were fascinated to learn about the case of mistaken identity with Lavinia's portrait. How did you feel when you discovered this? Do you think your website is helping to change the historical record?

I felt excited and relieved to know Lavinia's true identity. Like everyone else, I thought Lavinia was the pretty, demure young lady depicted in the wrong photo. That image seemed inconsistent with Lavinia's personal writings. She was a mover and shaker who always described herself as "plain."

Several years ago, I went to order a high-quality photo of Lavinia from the Wisconsin Historical Society's website and found pictures of two different women, who looked nothing alike. I ordered both and later showed them to Nancy, who went on Ancestry.com, found more photos of the person who proved to be the real Lavinia and tracked down her relatives.

I had located several of Lavinia's relatives on Ancestry.com, and one of them, who is the granddaughter of Lavinia's eldest nephew, relayed the story about how the wrong photo got into circulation.

That's how we learned that one of Lavinia's relatives had handed out a photo of an unknown relative in response to a press inquiry. He did it partly because she was better looking than the real Lavinia. (Lavinia would not be pleased at all).

I was very excited about this discovery, and it gave Colleen and me an added incentive to get our website up and running so we could correct the historical record. There is no doubt we have made great progress in this regard because now if you do a web search for Lavinia Goodell the erroneous photo is far less prominent.

We are changing the historical record. The Wisconsin State Journal, the Janesville Gazette, and the Wisconsin Lawyer have written stories about Lavinia's mistaken identity. Wikipedia and the Wisconsin Historical Society now show only the correct photo. And if you search for Lavinia Goodell on Google Images, most of the results are of the real Lavinia. That's progress!

You've done an incredible amount of research - from family papers to uncovering circuit court files for some of Lavinia's cases. What has been the most challenging resource to discover? The most surprising?

We still have not discovered the identity of the unknown relative who has masqueraded as Lavinia all these years. We would love to know who she is.

We do not have Lavinia's 1878 diary (the year her parents died, and she had major surgery). Also, Lavinia was a prolific writer of long, newsy letters. She sometimes wrote over 25 letters in one day. I really wish we could find the letters she wrote to people like Lucy Stone, Susan B. Anthony, Belva Lockwood, Charlotte Ray (the nation's first African American woman lawyer), Emma Bascom, various legislators, a governor, and so forth. If those letters have survived, they would be in the possession of the recipients' descendants (or their personal archives). We've done a little poking around but so far have not found them.

For me the most challenging resource to discover was the bill signed by Governor Ludington in 1877 that made the practice of law in Wisconsin gender neutral. I made at least five trips to the Wisconsin Historical Society to search for it and despite receiving lots of help from many people who work in the archives there it proved very elusive. We did eventually find it.

The most surprising resources were the materials still in possession of family members— information about Lavinia's true identity, more Goodell family papers only recently donated to Berea College, and the actual certificate that the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued to Lavinia Goodell.

But we found another surprising, very important resource. It turns out that Harvard Library has digitized The Woman's Journal (Lucy Stone's suffragette newspaper) and posted it online. This is how we discovered that Lavinia was publishing articles on women's issues in the national press. At one point she was listed as an editor for The Woman's Journal.

Two discoveries surprised me. The first is the multitude of pieces that Lavinia wrote during the Civil War for her father's anti-slavery newspaper, The Principia. We knew she did editorial work on the paper but had not realized how much content she contributed. (Finding The Principia articles required paging through very brittle 160 year old newspapers at the WHS [Wisconsin Historical Society] archives and scanning them in small bits with an app on my phone.) The second surprise was that the probate files for Lavinia and her parents, as well as her mother's guardianship file, are all available on Ancestry.com.

Lavinia was a prolific letter writer, and I understand you have been doing a lot of transcription of her letters. Did she have favorite correspondents? What are some of the relationships that stand out to you?

Lavinia wrote most often to family members. She also frequently corresponded with other women's right activists, women lawyers, women ministers, and women doctors. But she also corresponded with other social reformers of the period (men and women)— especially temperance advocates and proponents of prison reform.

Lavinia's relationship with Lucy Stone really stands out to me. The two appear to have connected before Lavinia moved to Wisconsin. I'd like to see their correspondence.

Her favorite correspondents were definitely her sister, Maria Frost, and her cousin, Sarah Thomas. She wrote to them every week, like clockwork. Lavinia really let down her guard with them, especially with Sarah, and it is from those letters that we have been able to get the best insights into her personality.

LaviniaGoodell.com is a treasure trove of information and a valuable window to the past. Recent updates include a look at the cholera epidemic in New York which transpired while Lavinia was teaching in Brooklyn. Cholera: NYC's 19th Century COVID-19 unpacks the epidemic on a personal level, examining the crisis through Lavinia's letters and newspaper accounts.

As we reflect on the anniversary of women's suffrage, seeing the right to vote through Lavinia's eyes in this account of one of her speeches is a wonderful way to slip into the past. Framed by Lavinia's personal accounts and professional writings, there are few better ways to mark Law Day.

Watch for part two of our interview with Nancy Kopp and Colleen Ball in our June newsletter. Visit LaviniaGoodell.com to dive into Lavinia's history, and don't miss their next update commemorating Lavinia's birthday on May 2.

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New Books & Resources - Kari Zelinka

We are continually updating our catalog with timely resources. Instead of focusing on print books this month, we're highlighting information that is available to you online from home.

COVID-19 Resources in Our Catalog

The Legislature and Legislative Council have produced new material on the COVID-19 emergency and we are making it easy to find for our users. To find the latest documents, search for Covid-19 as a keyword in our catalog. New materials include:

HeinOnline: Spinelli's Law Library Reference Shelf Trial

If you need online access to legal dictionaries while our library is closed, check out Spinelli's Law Library Reference Shelf in HeinOnline. We are currently doing a trial of this database to see how the online content supplements our print collection. In addition to over 200 legal dictionaries, it contains articles, research guides, bibliographies, biographies, and legal education tools.

Spinelli's Library

A few dictionaries include:

  • Black's Law Dictionary 1st (1891) and 2nd (1910)
  • Quote It II: A Dictionary of Memorable Legal Quotations (1988)
  • Dictionary of Intellectual Property (1954)
  • Law in Shakespeare (1883)

Remember, for firms with fewer than 25 attorneys, you can log into HeinOnline with your library card. Sign up for a library card on our website.

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Tech Tip - Heidi Yelk

Bestlaw browser extension

This month, I've been experimenting with the browser extension "Bestlaw." This tool, which is easily added to Google Chrome, adds some basic but useful features to Westlaw and Lexis. It should be noted that while the Bestlaw page indicates that the add-on is available for Firefox, it's not included in the current add-on library.

Bestlaw screenshot

Once the extension is installed in the Chrome browser, a toolbar appears across the top of a document viewed in Westlaw or Lexis. In my case, the toolbar appeared seamlessly in Westlaw but was non-existent in Lexis Advance. I did notice some Bestlaw features kick in while searching Lexis Advance but the extension definitely works better in Westlaw.

The three top features in the free version of Bestlaw include:

1) Enhanced page number highlighting - green highlighting makes it easier to find pinpoint page numbers throughout the document.

2) Readable view - this feature displays the document in a long column which you can make narrower or wider. The narrow view generally makes for easier reading.

3) A red line at the top and left of the text to distinguish the dissenting opinion. This is my favorite feature and the sole reason I will continue to use this extension. When jumping from hit to hit, it's very useful to know quickly if you've landed in the dissenting opinion.

Other features include quick links to jump to footnotes and jump to the top of the document. You can also use a "search" feature which will automatically find the case you are viewing in other services, such as Google Scholar and Casetext. And finally, there's a feature that prevents you from timing out of your research session due to inactivity. A fee-based "Bestlaw Pro" version adds a few other features. It is available for $5.00 per month.

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Library News - Carol Hassler

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Upcoming classes

Our in-person classes have been canceled through August 31 in Madison and Milwaukee. To help researchers in the age of social distancing, we are shifting to provide online training instead. Sign up for our first free webinar in May!

Public Records
Thursday, May 14, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Location: Webinar | Register for this webinar

Learn first hand how to find public records on individuals and businesses in this information packed class. Discover criminal records, state and local court records, business entity records, liens, real estate records, and more. We'll help you find the government agency sources for Wisconsin public records.
FREE. 1 CLE credit applied for. Register for this webinar!

Welcome new graduates

The Wisconsin State Law Library congratulates May graduates of Wisconsin's law schools. In the legal profession access to information can mean the difference between success and failure. Use the library's print and online collections to help your practice.

All Wisconsin licensed attorneys are eligible for a free library card. Cardholders are also able to access a number of online databases by logging in with their card number: HeinOnline (with some restrictions), Index to Legal Periodicals, and several others. We also offer a Borrow by Mail service to ship books to your office.

Email our reference staff at wsll.ref@wicourts.gov for help finding information or unraveling difficult research areas. We are the library for Wisconsin's legal professionals. Join us by applying for your free library card!

Temporary Westlaw Edge & LexisNexis access

While our libraries are closed, we know it's difficult for researchers to lose access to popular library-only databases. For a limited time, new users to Westlaw and Lexis can sign up for temporary access to these databases by registering for a trial account.

Sign up for 20 hours of research with Westlaw Edge. Researchers can sign up by going to the Westlaw Edge trial page (https://legal.thomsonreuters.com/en/forms/try-westlaw) and creating an account.

Sign up for 30 days of research on LexisNexis. Researchers can sign up by going to the LexisNexis Patron Access page (https://www.lexisnexis.com/en-us/pa-access.page) and creating an account.

Librarians are happy to help with research requests as well! Send questions or requests to wsll.ref@wicourts.gov or fill out our online form.


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May Snapshot

library shelving truck

Library Collections Vital
Photo by Amy Crowder

While we are still closed to the public, staff have been in the library (with social distancing precautions taken) to help get our users the information they need. We have been scanning and sending requests every week. This shelving truck was assembled on Monday and shows materials we have been pulling for our users. Pictured titles include superseded (older) jury instructions, Wisconsin Supreme Court Briefs, and CCH Labor Arbitration decisions.

We are accepting snapshots! Do you have a photo highlighting libraries, attractions or points of historical interest? Send your photo the editor at carol.hassler@wicourts.gov to be included in a future issue.

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