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Friday, November 20, 2009

Thomas Jefferson and the Danbury Letter

From the Government Documents department...

In the first Thanksgiving proclamation, George Washington established November 26, 1798 as a day dedicated "to service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be." Read the full text of the proclamation here. Every president since has issued a similar proclamation -- expect for Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor, and, most notably, Thomas Jefferson.

In 1802, President Jefferson wrote a letter to a Baptist church in Danbury, Connecticut, in thanks for their praise of him as the newly-elected president. He also used the letter to explain his reasons for not issuing a proclamation of thanksgiving and prayer:

"religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions."

This letter has become an important and, some say, revealing document from which the phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state" originates. This letter has been cited at least five times by members of the Supreme Court to support the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Some argue that, because this letter was penned many years after the Bill of Rights was written, it is not a good indicator of the intentions of that document's authors. Others feel that, as author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson certainly played an important role in the formation of the country, and his opinions, at whatever time, should be considered. Either way, Jefferson's description of the separatist wall endures as a metaphor for church-state relations.

For more history, go to A Wall of Separation, presented by the Library of Congress. Here, you can link to the text of the Danbury letter and view the original document.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Providing access to CONAN online

From the Government Documents department...

Last month, Senator Russell Feingold, who currently sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to the Government Printing Office (GPO) requesting that the publication of an important legal research tool undergo a revision. That tool is The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation.

CONAN, as it’s called, is published every ten years as a single volume, with biennial supplements published in the interim. It’s a cumbersome tome with incomplete coverage, due to the lag time between publication of the supplements. It is available in PDF via GPO Access, but the files are quite large, making navigation of the text impracticable. Furthermore, the electronic version is simply a reproduction of the static print version, without any updates or changes to the material over time. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) does update the material regularly, but does not make the new information available to the public until the next biennial supplement is published. Only members of Congress are privy to the updated content; CRS makes it available to them via the Congressional intranet in XML format. In his letter, Senator Feingold urges the GPO to make the updated content available to the general public as well, thereby granting equal access to everyone easily and inexpensively.

We spotlighted CONAN in this blog in September, just after we received the 2008 biennial supplement in print. Unfortunately, it is already out-of-date, and we won’t receive the next supplement until 2011. If Congress has access to the most current information in a format that is easily searchable, why shouldn’t we?

Carl Malamud introduces Law.gov

From the Government Documents department...


Carl Malamud, a public domain advocate and champion of transparency in government, is determined to make public information more accessible. He has already succeeded by opening access to SEC filings through a free, online database known as EDGAR. He is also responsible for Fedflix and has contributed millions of bankruptcy and Federal District Court documents to RECAP, the new Firefox plugin that captures documents from PACER. Now, Mr. Malamud has created Law.gov, a “distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States.” This site has three goals:


  • To develop law.Gov as a central tool for access to all United States primary legal materials, with the hope of creating streamlined, efficient and consistent access for all citizens


  • To systematically capture, preserve and maintain all primary United States legal materials which are born digital


  • To make all United States primary legal materials freely accessible to all its citizens


Mr. Malamud believes that public documents and the information they contain serve as the operating system of our democracy; we all have a right to view, read, and utilize these documents without any bureaucratic or financial barriers. As his new project, Law.gov, evolves, we should be able to access information that is currently only available for a fee levied by the government (as is the case with PACER) or through subscription-based services. This is definitely a development to watch.


See also:


Law.gov: America's Operating System, Open Source by Carl Malamud, O'Reily Radar, October 15, 2009


An Effort to Upgrade a Court Archive System to Free and Easy, New York Times, February 12, 2009


Transparency Chic, Wall Street Journal, August 21, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Recent Legislation Introduced to make CRS Reports Available Online

From the Government Documents department...


Democratic congressional representative Frank M. Kratovil, Jr. recently introduced legislation (H.R. 3762) to expand the availability of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports via the Internet. The goal of this bill, which complements S. Res. 118 introduced earlier this year by Senator Joseph Lieberman, is to "increase transparency and help citizens become more informed and engaged advocates." (Read Representaive Kratovil's press release here.)

CRS reports are produced by the Library of Congress as a legislative research tool for members of the House and Senate. These reports are public domain documents, yet they are not made available directly to the public. Constituents can request the reports from their Senators and Congressional Representatives; the reports can also be purchased from private vendors. However, aside from a few online archives assembled by various universities and public interest organizations, there is no central, comprehensive repository of CRS reports on the Internet. That's why the recent legislative efforts to expand their availability are so critical.

To encourage further sponsorship in Congress for the initiatives proposed by Representative Kratovil and Senator Lieberman, the American Assocaition of Law Libraries is calling upon concerned citizens to voice their support. The AALL Government Relations Office has issued an Action Alert that makes it easy for you to write to your senators and House representatives. The Alert includes sample emails and links to the Webmail forms of your members of Congress so that you can easily start writing an email right away. Please take action. Your help will keep the momentum going on this important issue.

For more information about CRS reports and to find links to CRS sources online, read the Guide to CRS Reports on the Web, available from LLRX.com






Friday, September 25, 2009

Can't find a book? Try ILL!

By Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian

You may not be aware that the library provides interlibrary loan services to all South Texas College of Law faculty, staff, and currently enrolled students. If you need a book or article that we don't own, we are usually able to locate it in another library and borrow it for you (if a book) or send it to you electronically (if an article). And it's easy! Just go to the Library tab in Stanley, scroll down to the Interlibrary Loan channel on the left, and click on the link to ILLiad, our automated ILL request system. You will need to create an account with a unique username and password, and then you can start submitting requests. The system is very user friendly and convenient, and you can track the progress of your request throughout the whole process. For more information, take a look at the ILLiad FAQ page or email the Interlibrary Loan Librarian at stclill@stcl.edu.

You can also view a very short tutorial here.

Even if you're already an ILLiad user, you may not know about one of its features that makes submitting requests even easier. After locating an item in OCLC FirstSearch (WorldCat or ArticleFirst), view the full record display. Under the section labeled "Get This Item," you will see a link that says "Send Request to ILLiad." When you click on this link, the ILLiad Logon page will open in a new window. Logon as you normally would, and the form (for Book or Photocopy, depending on your request type) should open, and all fields will be populated with the bibliographic information from OCLC. Click the submit button. It's that easy, and it saves you the trouble of keying in all that info yourself! If you've already used this feature, you'll know how convenient it is. If you've experienced problems submitting requests through OCLC from off campus, you will no longer have any difficulty. Any snags in off-campus accessibility to ILLiad via OCLC have been repaired.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Banned books Weeks: Celebrate the Freedom to Read, September 26 – October 3, 2009

By Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian


On October 27, 1553 Michael Servetus, a scientist and theologian, was burned at the stake with the last known copy of his heretical book, the Christianismi Restitutio, chained to his leg. Three copies of this work survived the flames and can be found today at the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, and the library of the University of Edinburgh. While authors no longer face such extreme punishment when their work is deemed objectionable, they are sanctioned nonetheless when libraries, schools, and communities are pressured to remove their books from shelves and classrooms. For these authors, and in recognition of all censored authors before them, Banned Books Week is celebrated each year.


"History is an ocean that books help us to navigate. It is the permanence of the printed word that has allowed ideas to travel from place to place, from age to age." (Lawrence Goldstone & Nancy Goldstone, Out of the Flames 325, Broadway Books 2002) Today books are banned mainly because of sex, offensive language, violence, religion or politics, particularly in school districts. The American Library Association and the Fred Parks Law Library want you to celebrate the freedom to read. Check out the list of the most frequently banned books of the 21st century, and the list of banned Classics. How many have you read?


A selection of banned books from the librarians’ personal collections is on display in the lobby, along with books from the Fred Parks Law Library. Come see the exhibit and join us in celebrating our freedom to read.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

BNA For Law Review

Are you a South Texas College of Law student looking for a topic for a research paper? Would you like to become more familiar with some of the databases offered by the Fred Parks Law Library?

The Fred Parks Law Library will be holding a review session with a BNA representative in the library for any students who are interested in learning more about BNA databases.

Where: Fred Parks Law Library, Room 2018
When: 2:15 pm, September 17th

ABOUT BNA
  • Independent publisher of more than 300 print and electronic news, analysis and references services.
  • Intensive coverage of legal, legislative, regulatory, economic and international developments on a wide range of topics.
  • Headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, with reporters covering Capitol Hill and the world for over 75 years.
  • Publications include the highly respected United States Law Week.

Celebrate Constitution Day!

From the Government Documents Department...

Every year on this date, Constitution Day is observed to commemorate the formation and signing of our nation's guiding document. Schools and public offices are encouraged to promote Constitution Day and to engage in activities that recognize our country's legal origins, as well as the responsibilities and opportunities that come with United States citizenship. The Law Library of Congress has compiled an excellent site about the origins of Constitution Day, and the National Archives has created a number of fascinating sites about the Constitution itself. See especially: Our Documents, Constitution of the United States and Charters of Freedom, Constitution of the United States. And finally, don't miss the Interactive Constitution presented by the National Constitution Center.

Also, see the post dated September 2, 2009 for discussion about another wonderful resource that interprets the Constitution through Supreme Court case analysis.

Happy Constitution Day!



Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New collections available on FDsys

From the Government Documents department...

The Government Printing Office, the agency that publishes our nation's official documents, recently announced the availability of several new collections on the Federal Digital System website (or FDsys). FDsys will ultimately replace GPO Access as the source for electronic government information; the migration should be complete by the end of the year. Visit FDsys to access the following collections:

  • Congressional Directory (105th Congress to present)
  • Congressional Record (Bound) (1999 to 2001)
  • Congressional Record Index (1993 to present)
  • Economic Report of the President (1996 to present)
  • GAO Reports and Comptroller General Decisions (1994 to 2008)
  • History of Bills (1983 to present)
  • United States Government Manual (1995/1996 to present)
  • United States Statutes at Large (2003 to 2006)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

U.S. Constitution analyzed and interpreted

From the Government Documents department…


Spotlight on: The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation: Analysis of Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of the the United States


This annotated, one-volume edition of the Constitution is published every ten years, with biennial supplements published in the interim. The library has just received the 2008 supplement, and as I reviewed it, I discovered just how wonderful this source really is. Each article, section, and clause of the Constitution is presented, with annotations and commentary prepared by the editorial staff at the Library of Congress Constitutional Research Service. It is not a comprehensive treatment of all Supreme Court cases, but it does offer analysis of the most significant decisions, making it an excellent starting point for research on constitutional law. Be sure to browse the extensive index and the many tables included in the volume:

  • Proposed amendments not ratified by the States
  • Acts of Congress held unconstitutional in whole or in part by the Supreme Court of the United States
  • State constitutional or statutory provisions and municipal ordinances held unconstitutional or held to be preempted by federal law
  • Supreme Court decisions overruled by subsequent decisions
  • Table of Cases

Find this source on the fourth floor of the library at KF4527 U54 or online on GPOAccess.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Spotlight on Texas

By Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

Texan’s are just a little different than other folks. That difference is reflected in our legal history. From our roots as a Spanish colony to our time as an independent Republic, we have adopted what works and dismissed what does not. While our legal system is largely based on English Common Law, we kept pieces of the Spanish legal system and adopted part of the Civil Code of Louisiana. A selection of early Texas legal materials is on display in the library lobby until December, 2009

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Library Map Now Available through STELLA

Barbara Szalkowski, Senior Catalog Librarian

A new feature has been added to our online public access catalog, STELLA. When you do a search, some of the locations will be "hot-linked" and when you click on one, you will get a map with the appropriate section highlighted. We have not hot-linked "Main", since it is over multiple floors. All the other locations (Reference, Reserve, History, Special Collections, etc.) have been hot-linked to a map of that specific floor showing the highlighted location of the section.

If you go into STELLA directly (htttp://stexl.stcl.edu/search/) or from the library webpage (http://www.stcl.edu/library/libhome.html), you will be able to use this new function. Access to this feature is not yet available through STANLEY, but it will be soon. -- UPDATE 8/25/09: Access is now available through STANLEY. Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Digitization of rare material means better access for you

Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

This year marked two big anniversaries: the fortieth anniversary of the moon landing and the 65th anniversary of D-Day. Both of these events are awe inspiring – not only because they succeeded, but because the bravery of the participants. Thanks to what was then cutting edge technology we can watch footage of WWII and relive, or see for the first time, man's first steps on the moon. What did we do before we had cameras to preserve these historic events? People kept copious notes and wrote very detailed, descriptive books. Unfortunately, these manuscripts and books are now so old and fragile that they are kept in locked, climate controlled rooms forgotten by the public. However, thanks to technology more and more of these books and documents are being digitized. Here at South Texas, we have the Making of Modern Law Database, which contains over 21,000 treatises on British and American law dating from 1800 to 1926 as well as an ongoing project digitizing the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure starting from 1941. New projects digitizing the South Texas College of Law Newspaper, Annotations, and South Texas CLEs have just begun. You can find dozens of digitial collections on the Internet. A database that just recently came online is The Solider in Later Medieval England. This joint project between the Arts & Humanities Research Council, the University of Reading and the University of Southampton has produced a free to use, fully searchable database of tens of thousands military records dating from 1369 to 1453, from The National Archives (read the BBC article about the project here). If you prefer antiquity to the Hundred Years' War, check out the Perseus Digital Library, hosted by Tufts University, where you can read the works of Aeschylus, Aristotle, Livy and Homer, among others. They have the works of Marlowe and Shakespeare as well as a very nice collection of 19th century American historical material. One of the biggest and perhaps the most well known digital collections is Project Gutenberg. With nearly 30,000 available books you can find something on almost anything (I recommend everything by Desiderius Erasmus.) A great feature of this site is that you can search by Library of Congress Classification system – check out the KFs to find works by John Jay, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. When you have some free time try doing a search for digital collections - you might be surprised by what you can find.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Current Scholarship

Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

Akron Law Review -42(3) Akron L. Rev. 2009 - Neuroscience, Law & Government Symposium

As I am opposed to the death penalty, I have concluded that criminal law lags far behind neuroscience. This issue presents symposium articles that discuss neuroimaging tools, those used to look at our brain. The symposium's key note address, Law and the Revolution in Neuroscience: An Early Look at the Field, was delivered by Henry T. Greely. p. 687. He is a Stanford law professor who is, according to his profile, "A leading expert on the legal, ethical, and social issues surrounding health law and the biosciences. "

The theme of Greely's keynote speech is the advance in neuroscience compared to thirty years ago. He reminds us that everything we do and think is controlled by electrochemical reactions in the neurons. Despite the advances he posits that we are only beginning to understand the way the brain works. Here is a fascinating excerpt from his paper:


Our society is built on our understandings of the human brain as reflected in our expectations for what people will do. Soon we will be better able to understand, in new ways and using new tools, what people are thinking, planning, or doing. This will be particularly important for the law, because although the law may seem to be concerned about bodies, it is actually usually concerned about brains, or at least about minds. If my fist were to make forceful contact with Judge Rakoff’s chin, I might or might not be in legal trouble. It could matter whether I had been thrown from a car after somebody had negligently run into our car, or if I were having an epileptic seizure at the time, or if we had gotten into an argument about the Yankees and tempers flared. All that can make a difference. The law is usually worried about individuals’ motives, purposes, intentions, knowledge, and other mental states, in addition to their actions.
So knowing more about brains—and as a result being able to know more about minds and mental states—may fundamentally change, in important ways, the legal system of the United States and every other country in the world.

The other symposium articles explore neuroimaging, the fourth amendment,cognitive freedom, juror reaction to neuroimaging and juvenile justice issues in neuroscience.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Introduction to the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) from the Law Library of Congress

From the Government Documents department...

The Law Library of Congress recently produced a short video, now available for viewing, that introduces a wonderful online resource called GLIN, the Global Legal Information Network. The 8-minute video features GLIN Director Janice Hyde and Comparative Law Specialist Hanibal Goitom discussing what the network is and how it was developed. In the video you will learn that GLIN is a network of governments working together to exchange legal information, as well as a rich database of legal materials contributed by 52 countries around the world. GLIN is an excellent research and reference tool that is definitely worth checking out

Friday, July 10, 2009

DARTS now available from the FDLP & NTIS

From the Government Documents department...

Did you know that The Fred Parks Law Library is a designated U.S. Federal Depository Library? That means that we can access restricted government databases for free. One such database is called DARTS (Depository Access to Reports, Technical and Scientific), a project of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS). DARTS provides access to approximately 240,000 full text documents dating from 1964 to 2000. The documents, produced by many different Federal agencies, are downloadable as full-text PDF files. Much of the content covers scientific, techinal, and medical topics, but the database also includes reports dealing with behavior and society as well as law. A few interesting titles...

Space Stations and the Law: Selected Legal Issues

Legal Constraints on Information Warfare


Legal Impediments to Information Sharing


Women in Jail: Legal Issues


Because access to the database is restricted to FDLP users, it can only be used in the library. The reference librarian on duty can log on to the site for you. The DARTS pilot program is still in the beta testing phase, so, if you have comments to share, please do. The FDLP and NTIS will appreciate the feedback.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Legal Blawgs from the Law Library of Congress

From the Government Documents department...

Did you know that the Law Library of Congress has compiled a directory of legal blogs that you can access from one convenient page? Visit Legal Blawgs by Topic to find more than 100 items covering a broad cross section of legal topics, including civil procedure, constitutional law, legal ethics, and so much more.



Friday, July 3, 2009

New collections available on FDsys

From the Government Documents department...

The Government Printing Office, the agency that publishes our nation's official documents, recently announced the availability of several new collections on the Federal Digital System website (or FDsys). FDsys will ultimately replace GPO Access as the source for electronic government information; the migration should be complete by the end of the year. Visit FDsys to access the following collections:

Budget of the United States Government (Fiscal Year 2010)

Compilation of Presidential Documents (1993 to Present)

Congressional Bills (103rd Congress to Present)

Congressional Calendars (104th Congress to Present)

Congressional Committee Prints (105th Congress to Present)

Congressional Documents (104th Congress to Present)

Congressional Hearings (105th Congress to Present)

Congressional Record (1994 to Present)

Congressional Reports (104th Congress to Present)

Economic Indicators (1995 to Present)

Federal Register (1994 to Present)

List of CFR Sections Affected (1997 to Present)

Public and Private Laws (104th Congress to Present)

Friday, June 26, 2009

EBSCO Titles on Google Scholar

Many members of the South Texas College of Law should be familiar with the databases available via Stanley in the Electronic Resources channel on the Library tab. This conveniently allows you to access databases away from the South Texas campus.

The Fred Parks Law Library has recently joined a program with Google Scholar to allow you to access the same journals available in EBSCO databases, such as MEDLINE and Academic Search Complete, in Google Scholar search results. Now if you are on the South Texas campus and searching for titles in Google Scholar a link will automatically appear next to the title of a result linking to the full text.

There is nothing extra you as a researcher need to do. Simply type your query in Google Scholar, hit search and if the result is available in an EBSCO database there will be a link next to the result taking you directly to the article.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Judge Sotomayor's questionnaire and speeches now available

From the Government Documents department...

Judicial nominees, including nominees to United States Supreme Court, are required to complete a bipartisan questionnaire compiled by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Judge Sonia Sotomayor's questionnaire and related attachment are available on the Senate Judiciary Comittee's website.

The document submitted to the committee catalogues all of Sotomayor's decisions in 17 years as a federal judge, awards she has received and groups of which she has been a member. Also included in the questionnaire are the transcripts of 83 speeches given from 1993 until April of this year. (Washington Post)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Touching the Future - Jim Alfini steps down as Dean and President

by Heather Kushnerick, Special Collections Librarian

As we look forward to Dean Donald Guter joining the South Texas family, one can’t help but think that we are losing a great advocate and friend in Dean Alfini. (Ok, so we aren’t really losing him, he’s just relocating to the sixth floor.) While we look forward to the future with our new Dean and President, let’s take a moment to look back at Dean Alfini's contributions to legal education.

James Alfini became the ninth dean and president of South Texas College of Law on August 1, 2003. Prior to joining the South Texas, he served as Dean of Northern Illinois University College of Law, and taught at NIU, Florida State University College of Law, Chicago-Kent School of Law, Hamline University School of Law and Santa Clara University School of Law. He has expertise in judicial ethics and dispute resolution. He served as the Director of Education and Research of the Florida Dispute Resolution Center and was a member of the Florida Supreme Court Arbitration and Mediation Rules Committee. He has served as the chair of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section and the Chair of the AALS Alternative Dispute Resolution Section. Under his deanship, South Texas created the Centers of Excellence and stressed the importance of pro bono work. He has published numerous books and articles, a selection of which is on display in the Library lobby along with photos and other items from the Archives until the end of the summer.

Jim Alfini will step down as Dean this summer and join the faculty full-time. While we know he will still be an advocate for the school and the students, we will miss his leadership. Enjoy your "retirement," Dean Alfini!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Learn about Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor from the Law Library of Congress

From the Government Documents department...

The Law Library of Congress has launched a new website on Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The site contains a bibliography of articles written by Sotomayor (accessible via HeinOnline on the Library tab in Stanley), along with Congressional documents, and web resources. Additional material will be added throughout the nomination process.

To access Judge Sotomayor's previous confirmation hearings on Congressional Universe (by proxy via Stanley), visit these links:

United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments, Part 9. Washington: US G.P.O., 1992. S. Hrg. 102-505, pt. 9.

United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on the Judiciary. Confirmation Hearings on Federal Appointments, Part 2. Washington: US G.P.O., 1998. S. Hrg. 105-205, pt. 2.

Friday, May 22, 2009

FantasyLaw leagues now forming!

Heather Waltman, Interibrary Loan & Reference Librarian

In the Winter 2009 issue of The Green Bag (see this blog's post of May 1st), the development of a new online diversion called FantasyLaw was announced. Modeled on the fantasy leagues so popular with baseball, bass fishing, and poker fans, FantasyLaw will allow participants to build dream teams of federal legislators, chosen for their perceived ability to score well on a set of performance criteria, selected and compiled by an impartial Administrator.

Details have yet to be worked out, but an official website has already been created, though it's not yet active. FantasyLaw will open to the public in late 2009, so you have plenty of time to form a league and start thinking about your draft picks before the season opens on January 2010.

A similar experiment called Fantasy Congress (now defunct) was created a few years ago, complete with political baseball cards (or at least that was the goal). It's great to see the idea resurrected, and, if anyone can pull it off, it's the folks at The Green Bag. So don't waste any more time; call up your favorite political junkies and jump into the preseason fun. For full details, check out the full article. Play ball!

Advice for Summer Associates re: email

Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian

As the summer begins, you may enjoy this very brief article that appeared in the June 30, 2003 issue of the New Yorker. It's a humorous look at the Summer Associate Season in New York, "that debauched perennial perkfest for rising 3Ls at Harvard and Fordham and Yale." The experiences recounted in the article may differ from yours, but they're useful in demonstrating what not to do on the job. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

GovFresh, a new Web 2.0 source for access to official U.S. government information

From the Government Documents department...

On May 1st, two web professionals based in San Francisco launched a new site called GovFresh, a live feed of official news from the U.S. Government; information is aggregated from Twitter, YouTube, RSS, Facebook, and Flickr and made accessible in one place. You can currently track feeds from the White House, the Supreme Court, the House and Senate, the Office of Law Revision Counsel, the Library of Congress, all branches of the military, four national labs, eight federal departments, six agencies, and the Democratic and Republican National Committees. As the site develops, additional feeds will be added.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Paper explores "The Next Generation of Legal Citations"

From

The Next Generation of Legal Citations: A Survey of Internet Citations in the Opinions of the Washington Supreme Court and Washington Appellate Courts, 1999-2005, 9 J. App. Prac. & Process 387 (2007)

As more legal research is conducted online, it is reasonable to conclude that there will be a corresponding increase in citations to the Internet by judges in their opinions. With the widespread public use of the Internet to access information along with the constant changes and impermanence of websites, citing to the Internet should be an issue of increasing concern to the legal community across the country. This paper surveys the types of Internet sources the Washington state Supreme Court and Appellate Court justices are citing. It discusses the interrelated issues of link rot and the impermanence of web pages, citation format, authentication and preservation of online electronic legal information.

Several options available for retrieval of full text including HeinOnline, accessible via the Library tab in Stanley

Hat tip: Law Librarian Blog

Law Library of Congress launches new website on the U.S. Constitution

From the Government Documents department...

The Law Library of Congress has just launched a new website with links to resources about the United States Constitution. The site combines various items from the Law Library of Congress in one centralized location.

The website includes sections on Constitutional Interpretation, Executive Privilege, Military Tribunals, Presidential Inherent Powers, Presidential Signing Statements, Second Amendment, State Secrets Privilege, War Powers, War Powers Resolution, and Additional Constitutional Resources.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Are women judges different?

By Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian
Now that U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter has announced his retirement, many are speculating that President Obama will appoint a woman to fill his vacancy. Some who support this choice argue that women bring a unique approach to jurisprudence. In a recent Newsweek article, Dahlia Lithwick sums up the argument, first asserted by psychologist Carol Gilligan in 1982:

"...female moral reasoning differs from that of males. Men...prefer their law with rigid rules, clear lines and neutral principles; women prefer to look at the totality of the circumstances and favor... an ethic of care over an ethic of rights."

This will surely be a topic of lively debate as President Obama weighs his options for the new appointment. If you'd like to explore the idea further, take a look at the 2008 award-winning paper titled, Untangling the Causal Effects of Sex on Judging. It suggests that women judges do in fact bring something different to the bench. An extensive bibliography identifies additional sources.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Best Legal Writing of 2008...and more!

By Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian
The Green Bag is an entertaining journal of law (responsible for the production and distribution of Supreme Court Justice bobbleheads) that publishes insightful, funny, and provocative legal writing. Every year since 2006, The Green Bag has produced an annual compendium called An Almanac of Useful and Entertaining Tidbits for Lawyers for the Year to Come and Reader of Exemplary Legal Writing from the Year Just Passed. Each volume contains a selection of the best (according to a board of advisors) legal opinions, books, articles and essays of the prior year, supplemented by original writing 0n the law. The Almanac is truly a unique creation whose medley of factoids, commentaries, photographs, illustrations, and other oddities makes for a fascinating read.

The library has all volumes (2006-2009) of the Almanac in hard copy, available for check-out, on the third floor of the library at K184 .G742. Visit The Green Bag website to read about the Almanac. While you're there, check out the rest of their interesting and entertaining offerings. The library also subscribes to the journal in print (available at K7 .R43).

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tracking swine flu activity

From the Government Documents department...

An excellent compilation of government documents covering the Swine Flu outbreak of 1976 is available here thanks to Daniel Cornwall at the Alaska State Library. This list of sources is also available on his page on WorldCat.org. Included are Congressional documents (bills, reports, hearings) that address some the same issues we are facing with the current outbreak -- very interesting! Many of these documents are available in full text (PDF) on Congressional Universe, which is available on the Library tab in Stanley. Please see the reference librarian for assistance in accessing these documents.

A librarian at Bowling Green State University has posted a library guide about The Swine Flu Scare of 1976. Sources for further exploration are included. Also, don't forget the check the CDC website for up-to-date information, including this page dedicated to coverage of the swine flu outbreak and this guide to proper handwashing.

Google has created an interesting resource that harnesses the power of its search engine to track trends in the spread of swine flu. Google analyzes popular search terms and the geographic origins of queries that are thought to indicate flu activity. See especially Experimental Flu Trends for Mexico. During past flu seasons, Google was able to accurately estimate the pattern of outbreak even before published CDC reports were released. The CDC is also teaming up with Twitter, using the power of real-time, online social networks to track the flu and disseminate information about the progress of the illness.




Monday, April 27, 2009

Law review publishing in plain English

Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian
If you'd like to read the latest scholarly publishing in a condensed, accessible format, take a look at LegalWorkshop.org. This site makes available the abbreviated versions of law review articles from seven different law reviews. Articles published in Stanford Law Review, New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Review, Northwestern Law Review and University of Chicago Law Review are summarized in "op-ed" pieces designed for a more generalist audience. According to the website,

"Each Legal Workshop Editorial undergoes the same rigorous editorial treatment and quality screening as the journals’ print content, but readers are able to offer comments and esteemed academics have the option of submitting response pieces, which are checked for citations and substance."

Other schools plan to contribute their law review content in the near future. For the layperson, as well as those who simply don't have time to pore over the latest journals in detail, LegalWorkshop.org is a site worth checking out.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Release of President's and Vice President's Tax Returns

Heather Waltman, Interlibrary Loan & Reference Librarian
News from the Government Documents department...

Honoring its pledge to achieve greater transparency in government, the White House has made public the President's and Vice President's 2008 state and federal income tax returns. You can view PDF copies of the returns on the White House blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Today's Legal News

Today's Legal News:

Worried About Student Loans? Listen to NPR

This week NPR is airing a series on student loans during this economic crisis. There will be a lot of helpful information regarding what students and colleges are doing to account for financial challenges. There is also information regarding federal student loans. To listen or read a transcript go to NPR.org.

Monday, March 23, 2009

FREE screening of Tulia, Texas

A community event, Tuesday, March 24, 7-9 p.m....

Houston PBS Community Cinema is hosting a FREE screening of the film, Tulia, Texas, at Rice University. KUHT-TV describes the film as follows:

On July 23, 1999, undercover narcotics officer Thomas Coleman executed one of the biggest drug stings in Texas history. By the end of the blazing summer day, Coleman and his drug task force had rounded up and arrested dozens of residents of the small farming town of Tulia. Thirty-nine of the 46 people accused of selling drugs to Coleman were African American. It was a bold move by the man later named Texas Lawman of the Year, but it was exactly what many of Tulia's white citizens had hoped for when Coleman came to town. In the years to follow, troubling evidence about the undercover investigation and the narcotics officer's past began to surface. The documentary weaves together the stories of the last remaining defendants in jail, the families and lawyers fighting for their freedom, and the sheriff, undercover agent and townspeople who stand against them. Tulia, Texas is the story of a small town's search for justice and the price Americans pay for the war on drugs.

For more information, visit Houston PBS Community Cinema online.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stanford Law Professor Jenny S. Martinez to speak at Rice University

Barbara Szalkowski, Senior Catalog Librarian

On Tuesday, March 24, 7:30-9pm, with a reception to follow, Jenny S. Martinez, Professor of Law and Justin M. Roach, Jr. Faculty Scholar, Stanford Law School, will give The Harold E. and Margaret H. Rorschach Lecture in Legal History on Anti-Slavery Courts and the Dawn of International Human Rights Law. View the list of upcoming events at Rice's School of Humanities to read Professor Martinez's bio.

For more information contact [History Professor] Martin Wiener (713-348-4947). Paid self-parking is available near the event. Click here for location, parking information and downloadable campus maps.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

LSAT Critics, etc.

By Jessica R. Alexander, J.D., M.L.S., Reference Librarian

The New York Times March 11, 2009 edition features an article on efforts to find alternatives to the LSAT, the most prominent test for law school admission. The article, "Study Offer a New Test of Potential Lawyers," is about a study by professors from The University of California at Berkeley which seeks to find an alternative test for law school admission based on characteristics of good lawyers. The characteristics were gleaned from "coordinated individual interviews, focus groups and ultimately a survey of judges, law school professors, law firm clients and hundreds of graduates of Berkeley’s law school."
The article appears on Page A22 of the paper edition, March 11, 2009.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Keep up with federal stimulus and recovery initiatives

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides $311 billion in appropriations, including investments in infrastructure, science, health, education and training, energy, law enforcement, and aid for those Americans hit hardest by the economic crisis. To learn more about this act, visit the following sites.

Find the text (PDF) of the act here: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Recovery.gov has been created to ensure that the act is carried out with full transparency and accountability. Right now, the site features an overview of the law and an explanation of what it is intended to accomplish. Soon you will have access to data from Federal agencies regarding their allocation of the funds.

Visit IRS Information Related to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for details about tax-related provisions of the act and how the IRS is implementing them.

Stimulus Watch is a watchdog organization created "to help the new administration keep its pledge to invest stimulus money smartly, and to hold public officials to account for the taxpayer money they spend." Search by state or city to learn about "shovel-ready" projects in your area, and evaluate them to advise lawmakers which projects should be funded.

FinancialStability.gov is a work in progress, but it already provides good information about the Financial Stability Plan and the Capital Assistance Program. Check back for more information soon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Supreme Court of Texas visits STCL

Mary Lippold, Serials & Reference Librarian

The Supreme Court of Texas will be sitting in the T. Gerald Treece Courtroom on Tuesday, March 10 at 9:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. Security checks start at 8:30 a.m. Seating will be available in the courtroom on a first come first served basis. Overflow seating will be available in Garrett-Townes where a question and answer session will be held following the proceedings.

The two cases before the court will be:

WHIRLPOOL v. CAMACHO, 251 S.W.3d 88 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi, 2008)
Whirlpool Corporation, Appellant v. Margarita Camacho and Santos Camacho, Individually and on Behalf of the Estate of Joab Camacho, Deceased, and as Next Friend of Asael Camacho and Abisai Camacho, and Salvador Gonzalez, Appellees.
No. 13-05-00361-CV

Read the electronic brief here.

YAMADA v. FRIEND, Not Reported (Tex.App.-Fort Worth, 2008.)
Roy Kenji Yamada, Appellant v. Laura Friend, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Sarah Elizabeth Friend, deceased, and Luther Friend, individually, Appellees.
NO. 2-07-177-CV

Read the electronic brief here.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Legal News from Jurist.org

The site Jurist.org is the foremost site for current legal news. Check out today's postings.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Obama Backs Off a Reversal on Secrets

The New York Times reports on the closely watched case of Mohamed et al. v. Jeppesen:

In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration.

In the case, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian native, and four other detainees filed suit against a subsidiary of Boeing for arranging flights for the Bush administration’s “extraordinary rendition” program, in which terrorism suspects were secretly taken to other countries, where they say they were tortured.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice

NPR reports on the nearly 25 year old case of Timothy Cole who was wrongly convicted of rape and died in prison: Family Of Man Cleared By DNA Still Seeks Justice

"In 1985, Timothy Cole was a student in Lubbock when he was arrested and accused of being the Texas Tech rapist. A string of coeds had been raped, and the young African-American man from Fort Worth, who'd never been in trouble with the law before, was convicted largely on the eyewitness account of one rape victim.

"The Innocence Project of Texas sought relief in court to clear Cole's name, but no judge in Lubbock would grant them a hearing. Darnell, the former district attorney who later became a local family court judge, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. However, he told the Lubbock paper that he regretted what happened to Cole. "

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Defining the Law: 400 Years of Legal Dictionaries

Language evolves. The English used by Chaucer is drastically different than that used by Shakespeare which in turn doesn’t much resemble that used by Stephen King. The argument can be made that were it not for television and modern communication technology American English and British English would inevitably diverge from each other, resulting in two distinct languages. As is, the different pronunciation and slang terms can make it difficult for native speakers from both sides of the pond to understand each other. It is through dictionaries that we can trace the origins and evolution of words. The oldest known dictionary dates from around 2300 BC. It is a bilingual wordlist in Sumerian and Akkadian on a cuneiform tablet. Determining when the first law dictionary was published is difficult, as our knowledge is limited to surviving copies and notations in the historical record. It is not unreasonable to suggest that a legal dictionary in some form existed during the time that Justinian codified Roman law in the 6th century or even when Hammurabi wrote his Code in 1760 BC. Regardless of when the first law dictionary was written, please enjoy this sample of dictionaries from the Special Collections Department. This exhibition will be up through May 31, 2009.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Change in the Whitehouse

Today a change not only occured in the White House, but to the White House website as well. The same technilogical savvy that helped President Barak Obama win the presidential election has carried over onto the new website for the President of the United States: Whitehouse.gov.

Noticable changes include:

You can view more changes here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

OUR TRACFED SUBSCRIPTION

The library subscribes to a database called TracFed. We have described this database in prior posts. See post of 5/5/08, Our TracFed Database. A recent front page article in the New York Times by Eric Lichtblau, December 24, 2008, "Federal Cases of Stock Frau Drop Sharply," demonstrates that this database enjoys prominence in the American journalistic and political sphere.

TracFed is a source of government information compiled from government data about its law enforcement efforts, spending and personnel allocation. If the government itself has not compiled the information, TracFed professionals make freedom of information requests and compile the data for publication. Portions of the information offered is free and some data searches require a payment or subscription.

In this case the article uses TracFed data to highlight the fact that federal fraud prosecutions have dropped because law enforcement was diverted to the war on terror after 9/11. The article characterizes the TracFed data this way:

There were 133 prosecutions for securities fraud in the first 11 months of this fiscal year. That is down from 437 cases in 2000 and from a high of 513 cases in 2002, when Wall Street scandals from Enron to WorldCom led to a crackdown on corporate crime, the data showed.
I was delighted that the article quoted co-director, David Burnham, who made a personal trip to South Texas to talk to librarians about using TracFed:
David Burnham, co-director of the Syracuse research group, which is known as the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, said the decline in stock fraud prosecutions growing out of the F.B.I. “really is no surprise. It’s a reflection of a choice that was made right after 9-11 to move investigators into terrorism, and this is the cost of that.