Most weeks, Jane VanBuskirk of Technical Services will take our Roving Law Library Cart, and will search the Ruth Lilly Law Library, finding one person per week, and ask them a series of questions. The library cart will have refreshments, and Jane will ask a student, staff or a faculty member to take a moment to have a snack, and answer a few questions about our library, but mostly answer questions about themselves (spoiler alert– some questions are a little off the wall).
Today I am interviewing John W. Davis III, an employee of the Ruth Lilly Law Library, and regular Ruth Lilly Law Library blogger. John’s last day here is Friday, December 11th because he has accepted a job with the Indiana Attorney General’s office. John will no longer be working in a law library, but he will still be working with the legal system and a team of attorneys.
What would you say is the best part of your job here in the law library?
The best part for me has been doing legal research. I’ve done legal research for different professors first at the Kresge Law Library at the Notre Dame Law School and then here for the librarians that work with our law professors. I use legal databases such as WestlawNext, LexisNexis Advance, Bloomberg , Google Scholar, and many others. When I was in graduate school, I took a legal research class here with Director Murphy. When I was finding materials for the Guantanamo Bay fair trial manual project some were difficult to find in English. Occasionally I had to find articles that quoted the opinion or statute. I love the thrill of the hunt, the hard to find details.
Very important question: If you were a character in the Harry Potter series, which Hogwarts house would you belong in? (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytheryn– or an optional choice- name your favorite character in a novel)
My favorite character in a novel is Atticus Finch, in To Kill a Mockingbird. Through his words and actions he taught not only his children and the community enduring principles but also the reader. He was guided by the fundamental rights that all men are created equal. It was one of the first books that interested me in the law.
What is the best thing about the Ruth Lilly Law Library?
Ever since I got my MLS, I’ve wanted to work here. I love libraries and books. I first worked at the Kresge Law Library at the University of Notre Dame. I did an internship there and took their legal research class. I was then hired to work there which was a great experience. When a job opened up at IU McKinney I jumped at the chance to be closer to Indianapolis and work for another great law school. But while I’ve worked here, I’ve enjoyed writing for the Ruth Law Library Blog. I try to tell a story in my blogs usually about little known or forgotten events, cases, and people in legal history. Every statute, regulation, or case has a story behind it and a history. It’s fascinating to me to find some of our most important legal histories originated in the most unlikely of places.
What is your favorite movie to do with law or lawyers?
There’s something interesting going on in movies. The way lawyers are portrayed has changed dramatically over the years. In the past lawyers were portrayed in a more favorable light. Now, they are portrayed usually as sharks or ambulance chasers. I still believe that becoming a lawyer is noble.
My favorite law movie is an old movie, Gideon’s Trumpet. The main character, Clarence Earl Gideon, is played by Henry Fonda. It’s the true story of an indigent man accused of a crime he didn’t commit. At the time in Florida you were only appointed a lawyer for a capital offense. He therefore tried to represent himself and he got five years in prison. He went through all the legal processes in Florida, and then he wrote a hand written petition from prison to the U.S. Supreme Court. Gideon’s case was selected to be heard and the rest is history. Abe Fortas represented Gideon and he won the right to a new trial only this time with a lawyer. This ruling also overturned Betts v. Brady and the legality of only giving people with special circumstances an attorney. In the end it’s not just Gideon who wins but it is a victory for us all.
The author of the book by the same title as the film, Anthony Lewis, is in a cameo part at the end of the movie . Anthony Lewis recently passed away but was a First Amendment and legal author and expert. The movie ends with a quote from Robert Kennedy.
(The quote is–“If an obscure Florida convict named Clarence Earl Gideon had not sat down in prison with a pencil and paper to write a letter to the Supreme Court; and if the Supreme Court had not taken the trouble to look at the merits in that one crude petition among all the bundles of mail it must receive every day, the vast machinery of American law would have gone on functioning undisturbed. But Gideon did write that letter; the court did look into his case; he was re-tried with the help of competent defense counsel; found not guilty and released from prison after two years of punishment for a crime he did not commit. And the whole course of legal history has been changed.”)
And now, to sum up, the following questions are borrowed from the end of the show “Inside the Actors Studio:” What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?
Writer or artist. I have done commercial art for children’s books and sold my paintings and prints.
What profession would you not like to do?
River Dancer, though I am a great dancer.
(And so, in honor of John’s leaving, here is a link to “River Dance, the Final Performance”)
Thank you to everyone who participates in the Roving Law Library Cart series!