Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Top Legal Stories: 2015 prediction

The New Yorker has an article by reporter Jeffrey Toobin titled "The Top Five Legal Stories of 2015" (he's making predictions). Topics include Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Crowdfunding for legal fees

The ABA Journal has an article about a new crowdfunding site that helps individuals raise money to cover legal fees. Developed by a Chicago lawyer, the site is called Funded Justice. Since it's' very new, it hasn't had much success yet, but the founder hopes that will change especially if high-profile issues cases decide to use it.
hat tip: Karen Shephard

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Obama Administration’s Announced Immigration Initiative: A Primer

On November 20, President Obama announced the commencement of a multi-pronged immigration initiative that could, among other things, enable a substantial portion of the unlawfully present alien population to obtain temporary relief from removal and work authorization. The new initiative also involves other actions, including narrowing the scope of aliens prioritized by federal immigration authorities for removal; using 'parole' authority to allow certain aliens to enter or remain in the United States; and modifying rules relating to visa eligibility (or processing). The Congressional Research Service has published a helpful Primer (3 page pdf with hyperlinks) online that summarizes the initiative.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Rethinking academic libraries

Inside Higher Ed has an article today titled "Clash in the Stacks" about academic libraries and librarians. The article discusses how "one common trend... is that several library directors who have left their jobs have done so after long-term disputes with other groups on campus about how the academic library should change to better serve students and faculty. The disputes highlight the growing pains of institutions and their members suddenly challenged to redefine themselves after centuries of serving as gateways and gatekeepers to knowledge." It looks at how different institutions of higher education are dealing with their libraries and librarians.

Most corrupt states

A recent article in the Washington Post is titled "A state guide to political corruption, according to the reporters who cover it". Sadly (but not surprisingly) Pennsylvania ranks in the top 7 states for "most corrupt", along with New Jersey, Illinois, Georgia and Alabama. The study on which the article is based was done by fellows at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University; the full report is available on the Center's website.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Free Law Reviews online

Robert Ambrogi recently posted about the Law Review Commons, a portal from BE Press with free access to more than 200 law reviews dating back to 1852. It includes the law reviews of the University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, and Berkeley. The portal has a search box that allows you to field search in title, abstract, subject, author, etc. Browsing is also possible.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

"Nature" moves towards open access

The Chronicle of Higher Education today has an article titled "In a Move Toward Open Access, ‘Nature’ Allows Widespread Article Sharing." The article discusses how Nature, one of the world’s most-cited scientific publications, has taken a step toward open access by granting its subscribers and journalists wide authority to let outside readers view its articles at no cost. Under the new policy, subscribers to 49 journals published by the Nature Publishing Group and collected on Nature’s website can create and share links to full-text versions of all of that content. About 100 media outlets also can include free links in news reports that reference articles in the group’s journals.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Vendors: Voluntary Product Accessibility Templates (VPATs)

The Electronic Resources in Libraries listserv recently held a discussion on vendor accessibility documentation. As a result,  a webpage has been created listing  all the vendor VPATs and accessibility statements received by list participants (the PDF is posted if the vendor gave permission, otherwise it says “available upon request”). The list will continue to be updated as information is gathered. The page is called the VPAT Repository and is hosted by Libraries for Universal Accessibility. 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Kluwer Study Guides for Pitt Law students

The School of Law administration and the Barco Law Library have been working for the past six months on a pilot program to make available the study guides published by Wolters Kluwer as a digital package available to Pitt Law students. This includes the popular outline/study/Bar prep series Examples and Explanations, Emanuel's, Crunch Time, Siegel’s, Casenote Legal Briefs and many others. The study guides are available for most law school subjects including all the 1L subjects.  All of this material is provided at no cost to students. These ebooks have useful features like highlighting, bookmarking, copying, and download options. The link to the study guides can be found on the Barco Databases page, under K for Kluwer.
 As this is a trial program any decision regarding renewal next fall will be based on this year’s usage statistics. To help you utilize these materials appropriately, the 1L Academic Success Workshop on November 20 and the Upper Level Academic Success Workshop on November 25 will be dedicated to tips and strategies for using the online study guides. The workshops will focus on the appropriate use of the outlines and the other myriad study materials now available to you. Questions should be directed to Mr. Wible at . Any questions about or problems accessing these materials should be directed to Susanna Leers, our Electronic Services Librarian, at

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Ebola info

The Homeland Security Digital Library is a hub for information about the Ebola virus. Searching the HSDL online catalog for "ebola virus", turns up hundreds of links to government information from the National Library of Medicine, the Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other reliable sources. For example you can find a link to a map and timeline of Ebola outbreaks in every country in the world, including the number of cases and deaths caused by Ebola. 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

PacerPro Live Webinar

On Tuesday, Nov. 18 at noon PacerPro is hosting a tutorial that will teach you how to use PacerPro, including conducting a boolean search, batch downloading.  PacerPro provides an advanced, user-friendly interface alternative to the clunky PACER interface.  

Friday, 7 November 2014

Another new database for Pitt Law: Investor-State Law Guide

The Barco Law Library has purchased a subscription to another database that is now available to all University of Pittsburgh students, faculty and staff. The database is called the Investor-State Law Guide and should be accessible both on- and off-campus. Note that when you are on the main page of the ISLG you get into the database by clicking on the gray "Login" button in the upper right; but no login is required. The database contains resources for researching international investment law, including treaties, arbitration rules and decisions and other related documents.
 Reviewers say: “ISLG has been a very useful tool for research in investor-state arbitration. The search engine allows you to research for a very specific topic and obtain a quite comprehensive result of investment disputes dealing with the topic. The best thing is it points directly to the specific paragraph of each case dealing with the topic, and directly provides the excerpt." and "“ISLG is an invaluable research tool, particularly in an area of law that lacks a traditional system of precedent. It enables the user to have confidence that their research is thorough and up-to-date.”

Law 360 now available at Pitt Law

Students, faculty and staff at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law now have access to Law 360, the legal news service that bills itself as "the only news source that covers the entire spectrum of practice areas every single business day". The database is accessible to us via IP range, which, translated to English, means that it is only available when you are working at a computer in the Barco Law Building. However, Law 360 is owned by LexisNexis, and Law 360 content is available in Lexis Advance, which Pitt Law students, faculty and staff have access to from anywhere they have an internet connection.  

Large amounts of university archive sound & moving image media need preservation

There's an interesting - and rather discouraging - article in the Chronicle of Higher Education today that discusses how troves of old recordings are hidden away on campuses and are degrading into unusability because archivists aren't aware of what they have. "At research universities across the country, archivists are painfully aware that large portions of their institutions’ audiovisual legacies are in decay. Old formats must be digitized if they are to be used, but first they must be identified and salvaged."  The article cites to a census that was conducted recently at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign - a census that turned up 408,000 items in 101 locations on the campus. These included rare 1920s films; caches of ethnomusicology field recordings; videotaped supercomputer animations; audiotapes for speech-recognition research; film documenting the Nobel laureate Paul Lauterbur’s work on magnetic resonance imaging; and a sociologist's pains­takingly indexed film collections of 1960s protests. A similar census at Indiana University turned up 600,000 audio, video, and film items, in 50 formats that require digitization and preservation.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

ABA ? of the week: How many bound law books do you have? Do you still use them?

The ABA Journal's question of the week is one of interest to law librarians: How many bound law books do you have? Do you still use them?
Anyone can answer the question in the Comments section at the end of the post that asks the question. There are some interesting answers being posted:
"Black's Law Dictionary and a few specialized treatises."
"It's getting to the point where the bound books are almost relegated to part of the office d├ęcor. After all, you expect to see some law books in a lawyer's office, like you expect to see tools in a garage. I do, however, have all of the big green West's Hornbooks, and I do use them. The only bound volumes I still use regularly are the Bluebook, our state search and seizure citator, and the judge's bench manuals for our state."
and: "Anyone who has a set of encyclopedia or other voluminous reference material, e.g., American Jurisprudence, Corpus Juris Secundum, or Williston on Contracts, I will gladly take them off of your hands. Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I still love books. My wife has a Nook and I find that I cannot focus or read as long as I can when reading an actual book. It makes my eyes weary."

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Ebola and the Law

Justia's Verdict newsletter has posted an excellent discussion of the legal issues involved in the recent Ebola virus epidemic and how it is being handled. Titled "Travel Bans and Mandatory Quarantines" the article looks at how federal and state governments have been dealing with the threat of Ebola. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

NTIS Reports more accessible

The National Technical Reports Library (NTRL) has announced that it is now offering the American public free public access to a searchable online database of approximately three million federal science and technology reports. The library is a service of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Technical Information Service. NTIS, a federal agency that does not receive appropriations from Congress, previously charged a fee to provide full-text electronic copies of federal documents in its collection. The full text for 800,000 of these documents can be downloaded immediately in electronic PDF format without charge. The remaining NTRL reports, most published before 1995, must be scanned from microfiche archival files before being provided either as electronic PDF’s or in print for a fee. However, each time a microfiche document is scanned to fulfill such a request, the agency will add the electronic full-text PDF to its online database for subsequent free public download. “Our mission is to collect and broadly disseminate federal science and technology information using a self-supporting business model,” said NTIS Director Bruce Borzino. “However, we also recognize that a number of the documents previously offered for a fee through our website were available for free from other sources. The public should not be treated differently depending on which website they visit to download a federal document.”

Supreme Court more accessible (cont): Friday Fun

Serendipitously, a friend sent this YouTube video of the Supreme Court just after the previous post - speaking of how the Supreme Court has become more accessible to the average citizen - was written. 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Supreme Court more accessible

The ABA Journal online has an interesting article about how the internet, social media and technology have made the Supreme Court more accessible because of blogs, websites, Twitter postings etc. People interested in the Supreme Court blog and tweet about cases and decisions; one lawyer writes haiku summarizing decisions; and a law professor even runs a fantasy Supreme Court league so participants can predict decisions. 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Asimov on creativity

The MIT Technology Review has published an essay titled "On Creativity" that was written by famous scientist and author Isaac Asimov, who died in 1992.  The essay was written in 1959, when Asimov was considering joining an MIT project looking for the most creative approaches possible for a ballistic missile defense system. Asimov never joined the project, and the essay was unpublished until now; but  its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.
Asimov says  "It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable...Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)" He also suggests working in groups, "For best purposes, there should be a feeling of informality. Joviality, the use of first names, joking, relaxed kidding are, I think, of the essence—not in themselves, but because they encourage a willingness to be involved in the folly of creativeness. For this purpose I think a meeting in someone’s home or over a dinner table at some restaurant is perhaps more useful than one in a conference room." 

Homeland Security Digital Library on Pandemics

The Homeland Security Digital Library's fall 2014 newsletter provides timely information and links to documents about communicable diseases and pandemics. Potentially deadly communicable diseases require additional vigilance and knowledge not only on the part of our nation’s medical and public health community, but also on homeland security professionals working in border security, customs, immigration, and transportation security.  The links provided include

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Write like an academic

Suffering from writer's block?  The University of Chicago has a webpage called "the Virtual Academic: write your own academic sentence" that can get you started. They provide 4 different dropdown boxes with academic phrases that will string together to amaze your friends and colleagues; for example, "The epistemology of post-capitalist hegemony functions as the conceptual frame for the discourse of the nation-state."

hat tip: Karen Shephard

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Some Federal Judges More Overburdened Than Others

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University has issued a report on the workload of federal judges in the United States. They have found that while the number of criminal and civil filings in federal district court has risen 28 percent in the last 20 years, the number of judgeships has grown by only 4 percent, so that the workload of all federal judges has increased. However, they also found that the increase in workloads and processing times is not evenly distributed, with some districts and judges shouldering significantly higher workloads than others. For example, judges in the Eastern District of Texas received an average of 1,510 weighted new filings each from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014 -- almost four times the national average of 388 -- making it the busiest federal court in the nation.
In addition, TRAC has developed individual caseload measures for all active and senior district court judges -- nearly 1,000 judges in all, available in their Judge Information Center. These figures are based on court records and millions of case-by-case data files TRAC has received as a result of 20 years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests as well as several lawsuits to force compliance with FOIA.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Westlaw webinars

Westlaw is offering the following free webinars during the month of October.  If you are wondering where all of your favorite features and tools on Westlaw Classic are located on WestlawNext? There are webinars that will help you transition from Westlaw Classic to WestlawNext, learn to effectively use the new Alert Center, and discover the uses of Practical Law.

There is also a webinar for anyone who is new to TWEN, the Westlaw course management system. 

Learning from Libraries

There's an interesting article today in the Chronicle of Higher Education called "A Good, Dumb Way to Learn from Libraries" that discusses how data gathered by libraries might be useful, if only we were able to use it (of course librarians know that library usage data is private, very private). The author says that " What (libraries) do know... reflects the behavior of a community of scholars, and it’s unpolluted by commercial imperatives."

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Help! I'm an Accidental Gov Docs Librarian webinars

"Help! I'm an Accidental Government Information Librarian" webinars are sponsored by the Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association.  The webinars are designed to help librarians do better reference work by increasing familiarity with government information resources and the strategies for navigating them.  Upcoming webinars include "The Bureau of Labor Statistics" on October 22 and "Data and Statistics for Researching Education" on December 3.  Their website has information on these upcoming webinars as well as links to webinar recordings of past webinars including "Regulate This! Federal Regulations",  "Geocoding for Beginners", "Historical Economic Data Sources", and "British and Commonwealth Legal Materials." 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

JSTOR launches daily magazine

JSTOR, the academic database used by scholars across the disciplines, has launched a new daily magazine called "JSTOR Daily: Where News Meets Its Scholarly Match" (still in beta). It already features over 100 blogposts and articles, including a post about Pitt's 2014 MacArthur fellow Terrance Hayes. The website says that "JSTOR Daily offers a fresh way for people to understand and contextualize their world. Our writers provide insight, commentary, and analysis of ideas, research, and current events, tapping into the rich scholarship on JSTOR, a digital library of more than 2,000 academic journals, dating back to the first volume ever published, along with thousands of monographs, and other material."  Catherine Halley, the magazine's editor, adds  "“Humankind’s best thinking is taking place at universities and scholars are helping develop this collective wisdom, and that’s what’s important about it.. Finding a way to take those thoughts and make them accessible to the public makes us all smarter.”
You can sign up to receive the email newsletter on the website.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Congress dot gov out of beta

The Library of Congress has announced that the website is officially out of beta. There are also several new features and improvements: Resources A new resources section providing an A to Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress
An expanded list of "most viewed" bills each day, archived to July 20, 2014
House Committee Hearing Videos Live streams of House Committee hearings and meetings, and an accompanying archive to January, 2012
Advanced Search Support for 30 new fields, including nominations, Congressional Record and name of member

Friday, 26 September 2014

Bestlaw extension for Chrome browser

A new browser extension for the Chrome browser has been developed by a Berkeley law student. It's called Bestlaw and it "adds features to Westlaw Next to make legal research more efficient, cost-effective and enjoyable".  Once you install it on your Chrome browser, it adds an unobtrusive toolbar to your Westlaw Next.  Then when you pull up a case, it offers some features that are useful:
Copy a perfect Bluebook citation with one click
Clean, readable view
Automatically-generated table of contents
Quick link to jump to footnotes
One-click copying for citations, titles, and full text
Collapse and expand statutory sections
Find the document on free sources like CourtListener, Cornell LII, Casetext, and Google Scholar
Prevent getting automatically signed off
Share the document by email or on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
It's a neat little extension and the creator, Joe Mornin, says he is working on one for Lexis.

hat tip: Sallie Smith

Fastcase partners with Clio

Fastcase, the legal research database, has announced that it is partnering with Clio, the time tracking practice management software.  By integrating the two,  legal professionals can track time spent researching without focusing attention away from the task at hand. From inside Fastcase, you can now select from clients and matters in Clio, start a timer for your research session, and record the activity automatically in Clio. According to the announcement, "In addition to the smarter research already provided by Fastcase, this partnership means more billable time and less administrative time, more accurate invoices, and more time for you".

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Title 52 of the US Code

The Office of the Law Revision Counsel recently announced new Title 52 of the United States Code (U.S.C.),  Voting and Elections. According to the OLRC, provisions relating to voting and elections are being transferred from Titles 2 and 42 into the new Title 52. The transfers are necessary and desirable to create a well organized, coherent structure for this body of law and to improve the overall organization of the United States Code. No statutory text is altered. The provisions are merely being relocated from one place to another in the Code. The transfers in the online version of the US Code occurred on Sept. 1, 2014. For the printed version, the transfers will occur with supplement II of the 2012 edition of the US Code. Westlaw's US Code Annotated included the changes online on Sept. 3, and Lexis and Bloomberg Law online also have the new Title 52. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

More on laptops in the classroom

The Chronicle of Higher Education Conversation blog has an interesting post titled "Don't Ban Laptops in the Classroom."
The theme of the post is this:   "In the classroom as everywhere else, we must learn how to exercise control over our distraction impulse—not by some imposed rule, but by our own choice. Banning laptops—removing our choice to distract ourselves—is giving up on students, isn’t it?"

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

law student annual technology survey

Every year for the past 11 years Rich McCue at the University of Victoria (BC) law school conducts a survey of law students asking about their use of technology. Here are this fall's results:
• Smartphones: 100% of incoming law students surveyed own "Smartphones" that can browse the internet (up from 96% last year and 50% four years ago), with 56% of the total being iPhones, 30% Android and 0% Blackberry. New law students are primarily using their mobile devices for directions, email, and looking up schedules & contact information.
• Tablet & eBook ownership has doubled in the past two years with 59% of students owning tablet devices or ebook readers, up from 31% two years ago. iPads make up 53% of those tablets. 35% of tablet owners bring it to school every day. Faculties should endeavour to provide course pack and textbooks in eBook formats for students.
• Videoconferencing: 100% of students use Skype for real-time audio/video calls and collaboration. 48% use Apple Facetime and 17% use Google Hangouts.
• Email: 62% of students use Gmail as their primary email account, and 4% use UVic email. To check their email, 56% forward their email to another service, and 28% use the UVic webmail interface. Over the past few years many students have complained at lack of storage space and antiquated email interface for students.
 • Document Sharing: 77% of students use Google Drive for collaborative document editing, and 62% use Dropbox, both up significantly from last year.
• Social Media: 92% of students use Facebook (down from 97% two years ago), 31% user Twitter, 19% LinkedIn, and 3% don’t use online social networks. In spite of some negative comments about social media, 79% of students used social media to connect with other students before the start of the school year.
• Laptops: 100% of students own laptops. 54% of laptops are Macs, up from 49% two years ago. 46% use Windows. 54% of students bring their laptops to school on a daily basis and 8% never bring them to school.
• Note Taking: 71% of students use laptops to take class notes, 92% use pen and paper, 8% use tablets and 8% use cell phones.
Consideration should be given to discussing the potential drawbacks associated with using laptops for transcription style class notes in a first year class, and faculty members should explore ways to creatively use personal technology to engage students more deeply during class time.
The full report is available online. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

First digital-only Federal Depository Library

The Government Printing Office and the Federal Depository Library Program recently welcomed the newest Federal depository library, Sitting Bull College, of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, serving the people of North and South Dakota. The library is the Federal Depository Library to opt for digital-only publications. Sitting Bull College is building a digital collection to meet their community's need for access to Federal information. Any selective depository now has this same option. GPO recognizes the number of libraries interested in hosting and providing access to digital content continues to increase as the information community moves toward more digital collections. Libraries that participate in the FDLP are required under law to provide free public access to and assistance in using depository resources.

PACER documents news

The Washington Post reports  that the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has a plan to restore online access to the PACER documents that were removed. The AALL is following this closely and will be following up to clarify the Post's information, including whether or not the restoration will include entire case files or just the docket sheets. 

PA legislators pass UELMA

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved SB 601, a bill adopting the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA). The bill's purpose is:
"Amending Titles 44 (Law and Justice) and 45 (Legal Notices) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, modernizing publication of Commonwealth legal materials; providing for uniformity in electronic legal materials in the areas of designation, authentication, preservation and access; conferring powers and duties on various Commonwealth agencies; and, in publication and effectiveness of Commonwealth documents, further providing for definitions, for the Joint Committee on Documents, for general administration, for payment for documents, for distribution of publication expenses, for effect of future legislation, for publication of official codification, for deposit of  documents required, for processing of deposited documents, for preliminary publication in Pennsylvania Bulletin, for permanent supplements to Pennsylvania Code, for pricing and distribution of published documents, for automatic subscriptions, for required contractual arrangements, for official text of published documents, for effective date of documents and for presumptions created."
The bill is now on to Governor Corbett's desk, where hopefully it will be signed into law. Kudos to Patricia Fox, the Western Pennsylvania Law Library Association (WPLLA) and the Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association (GPLLA) for their successful advocacy.
 To keep up with the status of UELMA bills in the states,  see AALL's bill tracking chart.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

CALI Time Trial II

Did you enjoy playing with your CALI Time Trial cards last year? Or did you go directly to the fiendishly captivating online version, available on the CALI website?  Well there is an all new set of Time Trial cards - available for free at the Barco Law Library desk. And it's also available again online.  From the description:
Each card represents a significant case, amendment or Supreme Court Justice. From the clues on the card determine the year of the case or the year the Justice was first appointed. Put the cards into ascending date order from left to right by dragging and dropping them to the left, right or between the cards in the top row. If a card turns red you've put it in the wrong spot. Shift it to the correct spot before placing the next card. The oldest played card will be discarded once there are five cards in play.
It's Educational and fun! And the music is pretty good too. 

More on the PACER brouhaha

There has been a fair bit of negative commentary about the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts recent announcement that a whole bunch of case dockets have been removed from PACER in preparation for their move to a new, updated system.  Jim Jacobs of FreeGovInfo has pointed out that "Neither PACER nor the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, which runs PACER, claims that the removal of court cases from PACER was accidental. There are always reasons and excuses and these are usually used to make it sound as if the agency responsible for the removal had no choice (or intention), but that is rarely the case. So far, we have heard two excuses from PACER: The "backwards compatibility" excuse and the "reason" that "the cases that were removed were closed and that many had not been accessed in several years.""
He also provides a link to an interesting article in Tech Dirt titled "PACER Officials Give Weak, Nonsensical Excuse For Why PACER Deleted Tons Of Public Court Records With No Notice" .  He closes by saying
Although digital preservation certainly does require attention and resources and skills, it is not *only* a question of skills or technologies. It is a question of who wants to save information and who does not. This is often a question of who will use the information. Agencies may have a different perspective on who their users are (or who their users might be) than libraries do. For me, and I hope for all of us, there should be one simple lesson from the removal of the PACER court case files: If a library wants to ensure preservation and access for digital information it can do so (can *only* do so) by getting that information and preserving it. Relying on the government to provide perpetual, free access to everything our users want is always going to fail at some point. The question is not "when" or "if" it will fail. The questions are "how much?" and "how soon?" and "who will be hurt by the loss?"

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Free Federal Rules books from LII and CALI

CALI has announced that 2015 versions of the Federal Rules of Evidence, Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure are now available. These books are powered by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School and distributed by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction's eLangdell Press. The books come in .epub format, which is compatible with iPads, Nooks, Android devices and basically everything but kindles.
 These editions of the books include:
• The complete rules as of December 1, 2014 (for the 2015 edition).
• All notes of the Advisory Committee following each rule.
• Internal links to rules referenced within the rules.
• External links to the LII website's version of the US Code.
And yes, all totally free. You are more than welcome to download as many copies as you'd like and add to digital collections.
 Here are the direct links to the books:
 2015 Federal Rules of Evidence 
2015 Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
2015 Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

hat tip: Sarah Glassmeyer

PACER news

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has cause an uproar with the recent announcement that many previously available dockets in the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system are no longer available electronically. This is due to an upcoming upgrade in the electronic file management system that they are using - according to the announcement, "the locally developed legacy case management systems in the five courts listed below are now incompatible with PACER; therefore, the judiciary is no longer able to provide electronic access to the closed cases on those systems." No longer available are: 
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2008
U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: Cases filed prior to March 1, 2012
U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California: Cases filed prior to May 1, 2001
Stosh Jonjak, a Pittsburgh law librarian at Reed Smith, has blogged about the news and included links to the major news reports on the topic.  Ars Technica, in a scathing article titled "US courts trash a decade’s worth of online documents, shrug it off", points out that the dockets were removed without any warning, and the announcement came afterwards.
The American Assn. of Law Libraries is monitoring the developments and is considering a more detailed response to the AOC (comments from members to the Govt. Relations Office are welcomed).
Meanwhile, some of the dockets are available from Bloomberg Law, depending on whether they were ever requested by a Bloomberg account holder.  The same is true for Lexis and Westlaw.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

back-to-school shopping tips for law students

Above the Law has a post titled "The Essential Law School Shopping Guide" with lots of information on what every law student needs - or maybe not necessarily needs, but might want to pick up - before heading back to law school. It includes all-important tips on buying highlighters and post-it flags for marking up casebooks; buying a good bookbag; useful law student books; and some good sources of caffeine.

Hat tip: Karen Shephard

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

New website with Presidential Documents & information

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (LLSDC) is pleased to announce the availability of a new website entitled “Executive Orders and Other Presidential Documents: Sources and Explanations". The site attempts to briefly lay out and link to all major sources for these materials which includes Presidential directives, proclamations, signing statements, executive orders, memoranda, and other documents. In addition the site links to many sources, such as CRS reports, that explain these documents. Members of the Special Interest Section have also recently updated their publication, “Questions and Answers in Legislative and Regulatory Research”, which is now only available in (a 21 page) PDF. It's got answers to lots of frequently as well as infrequently asked questions about legislative research.