Friday, 5 February 2016

Hall of Justice, new database of criminal justice across the U.S.

A new database called "Hall of Justice" was announced today by the Sunlight Foundation. According to the announcement, "Hall of Justice is a robust, searchable inventory of publicly available criminal justice datasets and research. While not comprehensive, Hall of Justice contains nearly 10,000 datasets and research documents from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories and the federal government. The data was collected between September 2014 and October 2015. We have tagged datasets so that users can search across the inventory for broad topics, ranging from death in custody to domestic violence to prison population. The inventory incorporates government as well as academic data."

GPO Launches Beta of, eventually to replace FDsys

The Government Publishing Office has announced the beta launch of, a new platform for federal government information that will eventually replace FDsys, GPO’s current digital archive, in 2017. According to the announcement, "govinfo is a user-friendly, modernized site that provides an easy to use navigation system accessible on smartphones, tablets, laptops and personal computers." GPO said other features include an alphabetical list of collections, quick links to popular publications, related documents and search by calendar.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Task Force on Federal Corrections issues sweeping report

The Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections has issued a Report titled "Transforming Prisons, Restoring Lives" (132 p. pdf) that makes a set of recommendations to reform the federal justice system, enhance public safety, and save the government billions of dollars. The report provides both an urgent call to action and a roadmap for reforming the federal prison system. The Task Force was established by Congressional mandate in 2014 as a nine-person, bipartisan, blue ribbon panel charged with developing practical, data-driven recommendations to enhance public safety by creating a more just and efficient federal corrections system. The Task Force found that punitive mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes represent "the primary driver" of prison overcrowding and recommends they be reserved for the most violent offenders. The report also urges more oversight and resources for the Federal Bureau of Prisons — and for programs that return inmates to their communities and foster bonds with their families.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Oyez Project's future up in the air

The Chicago-Kent Law professor who has been building and maintaining the Oyez Project since the early '90s is retiring in May, and the future of Oyez is up in the air. Jerry Goldman has been providing his content free to the public but now he would like to sell the content, according to an article in the WSJ Law Blog. "“There are a lot of buyers out there if the cost is zero,” Mr. Goldman says.
Oyez includes 7,794 hours of argument since Oct. 13, 1955, including such landmark cases as Engel v. Vitale (striking down mandatory prayer in public school, 1962), Loving v. Virginia (invalidating ban on interracial marriage, 1967) and U.S. v. Nixon (requiring president to surrender Watergate tapes, 1974). Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court's own website, Oyez also offers audio of justices reading their opinions as the decisions are announced.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Harvard Law announces a new tool for preserving online info

Jonathan Zittrain, chair of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law has announced the release of Amber, a free software tool that can be used with WordPress and Drupal to preserve content and prevent broken hyperlinks. Zittrain said "Amber harnesses the distributed resources of the Web to safeguard it. By allowing a form of mutual assistance among Web sites, we can together ensure that information placed online can remain there, even amidst denial of service attacks or broad-based attempts at censorship.”

Friday, 29 January 2016

Supreme Court Justices' favorite words

An article in the Stanford Technology Law Review called USING ALGORITHMIC ATTRIBUTION TECHNIQUES TO DETERMINE AUTHORSHIP IN UNSIGNED JUDICIAL OPINIONS by William Li, Pablo Azar, David Larochelle, Phil Hill, James Cox, Robert C. Berwick, & Andrew W. Lo was recently discussed in the Atlantic Monthly. These computer scientists developed a program that analyzes signed opinions to spot words, phrases and sentence structure characterizing each justice’s writing style, then uses its findings to determine the author of unsigned opinions. Examples: Chief Justice John J. Roberts Jr. uses the words “pertinent” and “accordingly” a lot. He tends to start sentences with “here” and end them with “the first place.” He also likes the phrases “without regard to,” “given that” and “a general matter.”  Justice  Scalia favors the words “utterly,” “thinks” and “finally.” He also likes to start sentences with “of course” and “that is not.” Justice  Breyer likes to use the phrase “in respect to” and to start sentences with “for one thing,” “that is because” and “hence.” He likes to use the words “consequently” and “thing.”  Justice  Ginsburg often uses the words “observed” and “stated,” and likes to start sentences with “notably.” She likes the phrases “reasons stated” and “case concerns.” Justice Sotomayor often uses the words “observes,” “heightened” and “lawsuits.” Justice Clarence Thomas likes the phrases “the foregoing reasons” and “address whether.” He likes to begin sentences with “therefore” and “however.” Justice Alito favors the words “fundamentally,” “widely” and “regarded.” He also uses the phrases “set out,” “noted above,” “is generally” and “the decision of.” Justice Kagan tends to use the words “enables,” “earlier” and “matters,” and the phrases “result is” “after all” and “the theory.” Justice Kennedy likes to begin sentences with “though” and “the question is.” He favors ending sentences with “however.” He also uses the phrase “he or she.”

Monday, 25 January 2016

Title IX Investigation Tracker for sexual violence

The Chronicle of Higher Education has created an online project called the Title IX Investigation Tracker. The project tracks federal investigations of colleges for possible violations of the gender-equity law Title IX involving alleged sexual violence. It includes all investigations "in this wave of enforcement": those either open now or resolved since April 4, 2011, when the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a “Dear Colleague” letter exhorting colleges to resolve students’ reports of sexual assault — and to protect them throughout the process.
You can search federal investigations by institution or keyword, see which ones are open and which are resolved, and learn the context. You can also sign up for alerts about specific campuses or federal enforcement in general.  As more information is gathered by the Chronicle  — such as the federal investigations’ case files, which they have requested through the Freedom of Information Act — it  will be added to the site.
Note that this project is focused on federal enforcement. It does not document each step in state or federal legislation on campus sexual assault, colleges’ internal investigations of students’ reports, or related lawsuits.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Data and Fastcase

The LLSDC's newsletter, Lights, has a fascinating interview with Ed Walters, the CEO of Fastcase. Since the Barco Law Library is in the process of subscribing to Fastcase, the article is especially relevant.
Walters explains that Fastcase is really built on data, he says, "Even in 1999 when we got started, we did things like integrate citation analysis into search results, so Big Data is baked into our company’s DNA. We were ahead of our time then, but it seems like the legal market is really catching on to the idea of legal analytics." He goes on to say that "Right now, law is trying to collect data. It’s early times. In the next stage, our profession will deploy the data that we’ve collected and structure it to understand the past. Then, in the third stage, we can use history and predictive analytics to predict the future, at least probabilistically." (Shades of Isaac Asimov!).
The interview is well worth reading and kudos to law librarian and editor Amy Taylor, of American University's law school, for conducting the interview.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Pitt News launches interactive crime map

The Pitt News has announced the introduction of an interactive crime map, which they will use to show Pitt Police activity every week. The map will be updated every Sunday with information from the previous week. Here is the map for Jan. 8-15, 2016. The map includes pins showing each reported crime, and a text version appears below each new map.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Radio stations and webcasting

If you're wondering why radio stations aren't devoting large blocks of time this week to playing David Bowie's music in honor of his memory... the Washington Post has the answer. In a blogpost called "All-day Bowie and the Copyright Act" author David Post explains that it's because of " the complicated webcasting provisions buried deep, deep in the Copyright Act."

Above the Law on fixing the US News rankings

The Above the Law blog has a new post titled "How To Fix The U.S. News Law School Rankings", written by Kyle McEntee, the executive director of nonprofit Law School Transparency. The post focuses on the finances of law schools and how the rankings incentivise excessive spending by law schools.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

New PLI online books Dec. 2015

Now available online, PLI Course Handbooks published in December 2015:
 • Coping with U.S. Export Controls and Sanctions 2015
 • New Developments in Securitization 2015
 • Nuts and Bolts of Corporate Bankruptcy 2015 CORPORATE LAW
 • 48th Annual Immigration and Naturalization Institute
 • Advanced Venture Capital 2015
 • Annual Disclosure Documents 2015
 • Banking Law Institute 2015
 • Understanding the Securities Law Fall 2015
 • 33rd Annual Institute on Telecommunications Policy & Regulation
 • Open Source and Free Software 2015
• Understanding the Intellectual Property License 2015
 • 17th Annual Commercial Real Estate Institute
 • Building Better Construction Contracts 2015

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Pittsburgh Regional Diversity Survey

A group of local organizations including the University of Pittsburgh University Center for Social and Urban Research, Pittsburgh Today, Vibrant Pittsburgh, the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance have just released The Pittsburgh Regional Diversity Survey (also available as a 32 page pdf), a new report showcasing the results of a survey that asked more than 3,500 southwestern Pennsylvania residents for their views on diversity in the workplace, region and their neighborhood. Results from the survey indicate that, while most respondents of all races see value in racial and ethnic diversity, significant differences exist along racial lines in answers to many of the 54 questions which focus on diversity in the workplace and community. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

New enhancements to

The law librarians of Congress have announced that has made a number of end-of-year enhancements. These include a new Quick Search for legislation, the Congressional Record Index (back to 1995), and the History of Bills from the Congressional Record Index (available from the Actions tab). They have also brought over the State Legislature Websites page from THOMAS, which has links to state level websites similar to Text of legislation from the 101st and 102nd Congresses (1989-1992) has been migrated to The Legislative Process infographic that has been available from the homepage as a JPG and PDF is now available in Spanish as a JPG and PDF. They've added Fiscal Year 2003 and 2004 to the Appropriations Table. There is also a new About page on the site for XML Bulk Data.
The improvements to the Quick Search interface were based on user feedback, and highlights selected fields most likely to be needed for a search.  The Advanced Search has added additional fields and ways to search for those who want to delve deeper into the data. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Secret History of the Bluebook

Fred Shapiro at Yale Law reports that The New York Times today has a story about the article by Fred and Julie Graves Krishnaswami entitled "The Secret History of the Bluebook." This article will be printed in the Minnesota Law Review in its April issue, and the unedited version is already posted on SSRN. From the Abstract:
The Bluebook, or Uniform System of Citation as it was formerly titled, has long been a significant component of American legal culture. The standard account of the origins of the Bluebook, deriving directly from statements made by longtime Harvard Law School Dean and later Solicitor General of the United States Erwin N. Griswold, maintains that the citation manual originated at the Harvard Law Review in the 1920s and was created or adapted by Dean Griswold himself. This account is wildly erroneous, as proven by intensive research we conducted in the archives of Harvard and Yale. In fact, the Bluebook grew out of precursor manuals at Yale Law School, apparently inspired by a legal scholar even more important than Griswold, namely Karl N. Llewellyn. The "uniform citations" movement that began at Yale was actually at first opposed by Harvard.

Friday, 4 December 2015

GPO's new Regional Discard Policy

At the end of October, the Government Publishing Office moved forward with a new Regional Discard Policy for depository libraries. The librarians at the Free Government Info blog recently posted a lengthy discussion of the new policy, which the GPO plans to begin testing in January 2016 (and will not be fully implemented until they analyze the results).  FGI poses a number of questions about the new policy, saying that
..."there will no longer be any Regional Depositories for documents more than seven years old. It removes the requirement that there be access paper copies of all documents in the FDLP. It weakens the FDL Program by continuing the shift of responsibility away from FDLP members and toward GPO. It does not increase flexibility (as advocates of the policy claim), it shifts flexibility away from Selectives and gives it to Regionals. It puts new burdens on Selective Depositories. It establishes a new model for the preservation of paper copies of documents that is undocumented, unproven, and risky. It ignores long-term implications in favor of short-term benefits to a few large libraries. It makes GPO’s “guarantee” of long-term, free access to government information nothing more than a hollow promise."

Monday, 30 November 2015

Amendments to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in effect 12/1/15

On Dec. 1, 2015, new amendments for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure go into effect for the first time since 2010. The amendments will encompass changes to Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 55, and 84. The Supreme Court, through these amendments, emphasizes a policy of reducing inefficiency, transaction costs, time in litigation, and side litigation on discovery or other procedural issues. While the amendments are not major in the sense that they do not establish completely new procedures, they do encourage litigants and the district courts to reduce discovery abuses and costs. The amendments also further clarify issues regarding the proliferation of electronically stored information and its discovery. Law 360 has an article previewing the impact of some key amendments governing discovery. 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Search engine for Wayback

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation has announced that it’s donating $1.9 million to develop a search engine for the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine. The search engine will allow researchers, historians, and others to retrieve data and information from the billions of webpages and websites stored in the Wayback Machine and will ensure that there is a comprehensive, open record of the Internet that is accessible to all.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

LexisNexis buys Lex Machina

The legal research community is abuzz about the acquisition of Lex Machina by LexisNexis. According to Bloomberg BNA news, Lex Machina, founded in 2010, provides analytics primarily around IP litigation. It crawls PACER, the USPTO and the ITC's EDIS databases, capturing data about judges, lawyers, parties and patents to inform lawyers’ litigation strategy, according to the company’s web site. With the transaction, which closed on Friday, Lex Machina will retain its management structure and name. Effective immediately, it has become a wholly owned subsidiary of LexisNexis, according to Lex Machina CEO Josh Becker. Bob Ambrogi at Law Sites Blog has been following the story. He interviewed a VP at LexisNexis who says that Lex Machinas analytics technology will develop in several directions - likely areas of development include other areas of federal court litigation such as securities and bankruptcy. He also sees Lex Machina being used to help power and enhance other LexisNexis products like Lexis Advance and Patent Advisor. 

The Statutes at Large Modernization Act

On November 16, 2015, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) and Rep. David Brat (R-VA) introduced H.R. 4006, The Statutes at Large Modernization Act, calling for the digitization of entire run of the United States Statutes at Large. According the Rep. Brat's press release the act is "essential in ensuring the federal government is accountable to the American people." The aim of the legislation is to "ensure that Americans have easy access to the entire legal history of the United States by putting it online." The legislation is an acknowledgement that our federal government is dependent on an informed public. The Law Library of Congress has already made a version of the Statutes at Large available, but, according to Rep. Brat's office blog post, "The Law Library of Congress has published the Statutes at Large in a text-over-PDF format. It does not, however, include adequately defined and embedded data elements that enable advanced search functions, machine readability, and other useful options. It's a good start, but it isn't the modern, authoritative version we need." The legislation call for the new digitization process to be overseen by the Archivist at the National Archives and specifies a budget of $5M per year for the next five years. Leading groups working to improve government transparency have endorsed this bill including the Sunlight Foundation, R Street Institute, Demand Progress, Liberty Coalition, Data Transparency Coalition,, and Niskanen Center.

hat tip:  Richard Leiter

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

HSDL blog compiles informational resources on Islamic State

The Homeland Security Digital Library has prepared a collection of information resources called Paris and the Threat of the Islamic State: Background and Context.

GPO enhances Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government

The Government Publishing Office has completely updated the "Ben's Guide" website, which explains how the government works for children of all ages. The enhancements include a glossary that includes over 80 terms and definitions; downloadable, printable activities that include Word Searches and Crossword Puzzles; and a graphic that libraries can use to link to the site.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

SuDocs libguide (attention library cataloging nerds)

Librarian Kelly Smith at the U.C. San Diego has created a new LibGuide that she hopes will be of some use to other librarians and users. Called "Browse Federal Documents by Call Number", the guide’s primary purpose is to allow users to browse UCSD’s federal documents collection by call number. However, it goes beyond that by including call numbers that are not in UCSD's collection – essentially, it’s an historical list of SuDocs assigned to agencies over the years. There’s also a companion guide that sorts the agencies by name and leads users to the associated SuDocs number. If you find cataloging fascinating - and what librarian doesn't? - it's a great guide to finding SuDoc numbers but more importantly it's fun to browse alphabetically to see all the federal agencies that have put out documents over the years.

Monday, 9 November 2015

webinar: Learn to navigate UN data information sources

There is a webinar this Wednesday Nov. 11, 2015 from noon - 1 pm called Making Peace with United Nations Data: Learn to navigate UN data information sources. This comes to us from the "Help! I'm an Accidental Government Documents Librarian" folks in the North Carolina Library Association. The description: "Learn where agencies and key initiatives store their data in the United Nation’s many repositories. This program will examine and differentiate between information sources at the United Nations Statistics Division,, UN Libraries and Information Centers. We will discuss where to find country, demographic and trade data in addition to how to field basic UN-related reference questions. The program will also briefly discuss the UN’s data visualization efforts in Comtrade and statistics promotion through World Statistics Day. Join this webinar to learn new reference sources for data and programming ideas for your college and university community."
 Register at this link. If you can't make the webinar they will send the recording to all registrants.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Open access and subscription database skirmishes

Two kerfuffles pitting subscription databases against open access academia took place over the last week. First, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, in an article titled "Subscription Scare Fuels Worries Over Who Controls Data That Scholars Need," that database giant ProQuest was involved in a controversy with the Renaissance Society of America. Scholars who make up the Society were upset when ProQuest suddenly cancelled their subscription to an important collection of early Englist texts. Access was eventually restored but "it was also clear that the episode had touched a nerve among those who think about the future of scholarly research. 'What really enrages me about this is not that ProQuest is for-profit," said one English scholar. "The problem is that by prioritizing profits over access it is really contributing to major barriers for the research in the field".
A few days later, Inside Higher Education had a story titled "Elsevier Battle Escalates", reporting that the entire editorial board and editorial staff of the journal Lingua had resigned to protest Elsevier's policies on pricing and its refusal to convert the journal to an open-access publication that would be free online.
Inside Higher Ed reports that "While Elsevier has faced protest resignations in the past, this one has people talking, including people in the corporate world, not just the academic world"... evidenced by the fact that Fortune magazine has a recent story called Elsevier Mutiny: Cracks Are Widening in the Fortress of Academic Publishing.'"

Friday Fun: Pronunciation Quiz

The ABA Journal has a Pronunciation Quiz to help you find out if you've been pronouncing some difficult-to-pronounce words properly or improperly all you life (chicanery, anyone?).

Law Librarian of Congress discusses Harvard/Ravel Law Project

In Custodia Legis, the blog of the Law Librarians of Congress, recently posted that Roberta Shaffer, who is currently Acting Law Librarian of Congress, has praised the recently announced collaboration between Harvard Law and Ravel Law. The "Free the Law" project plans to make over 40 million pages of US caselaw available for free online, according to Robert Ambrogi. Ms. Shaffer said that "she looked forward to exploring ways the Law Library of Congress can contribute to innovative projects such as this one", adding that "greater collaboration among institutions on projects like this would not only avoid duplication of effort, but also provide an opportunity for institutions around the world to contribute content from their unique, multi-faceted collections to create a “coral reef of knowledge” that encompasses a variety of subject-matter disciplines."

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New Bloomberg Law Privacy & Data Security center

Bloomberg Law has a new Privacy and Data Security practice center available on its website, with interesting new ways of presenting information with interactive tools and visually attractive graphic displays. Legal research on the topic can be challenging because privacy and data security are global issues. The Bloomberg Privacy & Data Security product offers tools to simplify the research. Each country has very different regulatory schemes. BBNA uses big data technology to aggregate and normalize regulations and laws from around the globe, "attempting to shrink the problem of global research and add transparency". The product is organized into four main functional areas Stay Current for news, Research for primary sources, Advise for specialized insights , Plan & Execute for drafting policies. The product offers some terrific On the home page there is an interactive news “heat map” which shows were specific issues are “hot” around the globe.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Amazon opens physical bookstore

The Verge reports on Amazon opening its first physical bookstore in Seattle this week. The store's name - wait for it - Amazon Books. It's in Seattle, near the University of Washington. The store will rely on Amazon's website data, including customer reviews and popularity, to decide which books to stock; and books are displayed "cover out" rather than "spine out". The store also carries Amazon devices: Kindle, Fire TV, Fire tablet.

Monday, 2 November 2015

NYT major story on arbitration in the US

The front page story in the Sunday New York Times yesterday was a lengthy article titled "In Arbitration, a Privatization of the Justice System". The article says that "Over the last 10 years, thousands of businesses across the country — from big corporations to storefront shops — have used arbitration to create an alternate system of justice. There, rules tend to favor businesses, and judges and juries have been replaced by arbitrators who commonly consider the companies their clients, The Times found." The article has a great deal of supporting stories and information that leads them to conclude that "it has meant that tens of millions of Americans have lost a fundamental right: their day in court."

Thursday, 29 October 2015

News for Canadian lawyers...

Lexbox is a free Google Chrome extension for use in Canada that helps users organize and monitor online legal research. It enables users to assemble in one central location relevant legal information from various online sources, and to create personalized alerts. Legal research is not a task completed on one single website. You may start with Google, then identify a few relevant cases on CanLII, note a regulation on a Queen’s Printer website, as well as a few web pages specifying the administrative policies of a regulatory body. The idea behind Lexbox is to provide a workspace to keep track of all this information in one centralized location. You can setup folders by client/file name or topics of interest, whatever makes most sense in your context. And because the documents saved in your Lexbox account remain on the publisher’s website, they keep being updated as the law changes..

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

TWEN to drop the term "dropbox"

An announcement from Westlaw Academic about TWEN:
* Important TWEN Announcement:
We are not changing functionality, but we will saying goodbye to the term, drop box.
Why? The term drop box has been confusing administrators and students alike since the advent of©.
What’s the plan?
Spring semester professors will see the term sections wherever they previously saw drop box. If, for
example, professors use their TWEN course(s) for more than one set of students, they will add an
additional section.
Spring semester, students will go to Assignments & Quizzes (currently they go to Assignment & Quiz
Drop Box). Neither the term drop box nor sections will be seen by students.

I have always found the term “assignment and quiz dropbox” to be awkward and confusing for both faculty and students, so the change is probably a good thing.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Practicing Law Institute online library now available

The Barco Law Library has purchased a subscription to the PLI collection of treatises, forms, course handbooks, and answer books for the University of Pittsburgh. The PLI collection is available both on- and off-campus, and the content has been catalogued so it is available through PittCat. You can browse the full collection or limit your search by such fields as author and date of publication. Users are encouraged to set up their own personalized accounts so they can save the books they want to use in one place. All the usual database functionality is available, such as creating permalinks, bookmarks, pdfs, emailing content, printing, etc.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Infographic guide to the war in Syria

The dizzyingly complex war taking place in Syria involves many countries, rebel forces, and other groups/actors. The online magazine Slate has published a helpful infographic chart showing who is fighting whom. The author also points out that "Many of the powers involved in the conflict have found themselves on the same side as countries they’re normally at odds with, and vice versa."

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Law Library eBooks

Digital materials continue to pose problems for libraries. On the RIPS-SIS law librarian blog, librarian Jamie Baker (Texas Tech law school) has an interesting post titled "Issues Surrounding eBook Collections in Law Libraries." She uses Suffolk University Law School library as a case study, noting that Suffolk drastically cut its library budget by 50% and will be using the Lexis Nexis Digital Law Library as a partial replacement. Her analysis offers much food for thought.

Friday, 2 October 2015

Fastcase buys Loislaw

Recent big news in legal research land: Fastcase has purchased Loislaw from Wolters Kluwer. Dewey B. Strategic has a good blogpost examining the news, and talking about what this might mean for law libraries.