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Trending: An App to Answer Your Questions about the Constitution

This is a guest post by Margaret M. Wood, legal reference librarian in the Law Library.

Two years ago, in honor of Constitution Day—celebrated annually on September 17—I wrote a post about the publication “Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation,” also referred to as the “Constitution Annotated.” Along with the U.S. Code, it is one of my favorite work resources.

Unfortunately, it is a behemoth of a work—it takes two hands to hold the volume, which weighs a good 10 pounds. Fortunately, the text is also available online through Congress.gov and through the U.S. Government Publishing Office, whose digital system includes both the most recent edition (2016) as well as historic editions back to 1992.

But given my penchant for bringing work topics into social situations, even the online version is not very practical. I cannot, very easily, fire up the computer during a conversation at a dinner or cocktail party. However, fortunately for me, there is an app for the “Constitution Annotated.” It debuted in 2013, when Congress.gov was still in beta, and has since been updated.

Using this app, I can just whip out my phone during a casual conversation with friends and provide them with information about our tripartite system of government or search for words and phrases that will help me win my argument. The app allows me to easily access sections of the “Constitution Annotated,” the historical note on the formation of the Constitution and the annotated amendments being particular favorites. It also allows me to search the document for a word or a phrase such as “we the people.” Alternatively, I can search for U.S. Supreme Court decisions governing the freedom of expression guaranteed in the First Amendment, such as New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, or cases on the Fifth Amendment’s “rights of person,” such as Miranda v. Arizona.

My colleague Andrew Weber provided two screen shots of the app below. Now you, too, can wow your friends!

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