If you want to have the most important criminal cases at your fingertips, Judge Birmingham created a free, searchable database of Landmark Opinions for the Texas Criminal Trial Lawyer.1The following commentary is offered pursuant to Canon 4(B) of the Code of Judicial Conduct: “A Judge may (1) speak, write, lecture, teach and participate in extrajudicial activities concerning the law, the legal system, the administration of justice and non-legal subjects subject to the requirements of this Code.” The LandMark Tool is part of a larger project he is working on called “A Practitioner’s Guide to the Identity, Analysis and Introduction of Criminative Evidence.” Here’s more on the LandMark Tool.
In the Summer of 2008, Judge Birmingham created an Evidence Primer Presentation for a series of CLE’s he presented to Texas practitioners. The curriculum focused on developing an understanding of the most applicable rules of evidence and the landmark cases interpreting them. He created a “Trial Rules Caselaw Table” for the attendees to use in their preparation and practice. The caselaw table was divided into 4 major categories: Authentication, Constitutional Challenges, Hearsay, and Impeachment. The table contained the case citation and rule. He created a “sourcebook” of his materials, compiling printouts into a three-ring binder containing each case cited in the presentation.
But all of that was back when lawyers used paper and could only access the internet with a cord.
If you’ve kept up with the blog, you’ll recall that Judge Birmingham discovered Google Data Studio (GDS) during the pandemic. GDS allows users to generate reports, synthesize information, and manage data. Using GDS, Judge Birmingham turned his evidence sourcebook into a useful tool for those trial lawyers who can’t remember the leading case for the introduction of social media evidence, or needs to quickly provide a case when trying to convince a Court that the other side has missed the mark in an offer of proof. It probably wasn’t designed for trial lawyers, but organizing information with a view for quick retrieval is the core function of GDS making it a powerful tool for your courtroom responsibilities.
How do you Use it? Use the keyword search function to type in search “values” such as “Hearsay,” “excited utterance,” or “Impeachment.” You can also pull all of the cases by subject matter. Simply hover over the Subject Matter Table, and select “Only” next to the subject. Once you find a useful case, you can click on the “Get Case” link to pull the full opinion.
How do you make it better? E-mail a case you’ve found useful to Judge Birmingham to add to the Landmark Database – firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you are confronted with an issue at trial and find a useful case, share it.
We’ll all be better off.
If you are interested in seeing how GDS can be used differently, check out Judge Birmingham’s “Trial Visualization Reports” on the historic trials he’s covered for his documentary podcast series “A Murderous Design”: Timothy McVeigh v. The USA; Charlie Manson’s Chief Lieutenant; The Jack Ruby Trial; The Trinity River Massacre; Enucleated – The Trial of Dallas Serial Killer Charles Albright.
Stay tuned for more about “The Practitioner’s Guide.”