Monday, 31 October 2011

ACLU on photographers' rights

The American Civil Liberties Union has an online guide for photographers, with information about rights to take pictures and videos in public places. The guide says that "Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties."

Organizations oppose proposed new FOIA rule

The ACLU, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and announced that they have joined together to file comments opposing a provision of a proposed rule from the Department of Justice, which would amend the DoJ’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Regulations by adding section 16.6(f)(2). The paragraph states: “When a component (federal agency) applies an exclusion to exclude records from the requirements of the FOIA pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 522(c), the component utilizing the exclusion will respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.” In their letter, the opposed organizations say that "Authorizing government agencies to lie to FOIA requesters by affirmatively denying the existence of agency records when they actually exist undermines the purpose of FOIA, obstructs judicial review of agency FOIA decisions, and destroys integrity in government."

Friday, 28 October 2011

Study shows rise in spending on state court races

A report just released by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law school shows an increase of 60% in independent spending on state supreme court elections by state parties and special interest groups in 2009-10 over spending in elections four years earlier. A total of $38.4 million was spent on state high court elections in 2009-10. The most expensive high court elections were in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the courts are closely divided by party or judicial philosophy. According to the report's Introduction, "(t)he story of the 2009-10 elections, and their aftermath in state legislatures in 2011, reveals a coalescing national campaign that seeks to intimidate America’s state judges into becoming accountable to money and ideologies instead of the constitution and the law. In its full context, the most recent election cycle poses some of the gravest threats yet to fair and impartial justice in America."
The report can also be viewed online at Scribd.

Sustainability: ideas for using computer heat

MIT's Technology Review has an interesting article about ideas for using all the heat generated by data center computers and servers. According to the article, about half of the massive amounts of energy used by computing and data centers goes toward cooling down the computer chips. How can all that waste heat be used? There is a lovely photo of a botanical garden at the South Bend Conservatory, which is heated by University of Notre Dame servers sitting at the rear of the conservatory. According to the article, the servers are connected to the university’s main computing cluster and are given more processing tasks if higher temperatures are needed. This is just one example of creative reuse of the waste heat generated by computers.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

law review articles: Really ?

The Wall Street Journal law blog has a post about a recent "study" on how the titles of academic papers affect their rate of citation and download. The study showed law review articles containing a question mark in the  title were downloaded more but cited less; and articles containing a colon in the title had fewer downloads and fewer citations.  Hmmm. 

redesigning the eBook

Technology Review has an articlediscussing how some publishers are experimenting with creating new kinds of reading experiences with ebooks, rather than simply digital versions of text on a page. The author talks about Pottermore, a website where JK Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books, has hired a team to create a new way to read her books. "Over time, the site will weave the books together with interactive and social features that allow readers to connect with one another and with the characters in Row­ling's world."
 The article goes on to discuss a second example of redesigning the eBook, Principles of Biology, published by Nature Publishing Group. It is written as a series of more than 200 self-contained modules; the publisher has suggested an order for the modules, but instructors who use the book in their classes can freely drop or shuffle them. Instructors can also choose settings that increase or decrease the difficulty of the material. Principles of Biology links related modules as well as journal articles, summaries of those articles, and other online resources. This is not the sort of e-book familiar to users of the Kindle or iPad but is fundamentally a website designed for interactivity and can be "read" on any device with a Web browser.

University of Cincinnati Law Review

The University of Cincinnati Law Review has launched its online full-text version hosted on Digital Commons. The student editors have put the current issue as well as several earlier issues online, and are working to add older issues.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Wikileaks temporarily suspends publishing

Wikileaks, the whistleblower website,  has announced that it is temporarily suspending publication because of financial constraints. It claims that several large financial institutions have made it difficult to receive donations as the result of "aggressive retaliation" for publishing classified State Dept. documents last fall. 

Thursday, 20 October 2011

DOJ proposes change in rules governing historic grand jury materials

Attorney General Eric Holder has written a letter to the Advisory Committee on the Criminal Rules of the federal judiciary in which he recommends amending the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow federal judges to release historically significant grand jury materials in cases that are 30 years old or more. Currently, the federal rules do not recognize any "temporal end point for grand jury secrecy".  The proposed amendment of Rule 6(e) "would accommodate society's legitimate interest in securing eventual public access to grand-jury materials of significant historical interest while at the same time defining the contours of that access within the text of Rule 6(e)."
The proposed amendment includes three parts:
1. Define the term "archival grand-jury records" by adding a new Rule 6(j):   (j) "Archival Grand-jury Records" Defined. For purposes of this Rule, "archival grand-jury records" means records from grand-jury proceedings, including recordings, transcripts, and exhibits, where the relevant case files have been determined to have permanent historical or other value warranting their continued preservation under Title 44, United States Code.
2. The following addition to Rule 6(e)(3)(E) to permit district courts to grant petitions for the release of archival grand-jury records that have exceptional historical importance after 30 years in appropriate cases:
(E) The court may authorize disclosure-at a time, in a manner, and subject to any other conditions that it directs--of a grand-jury matter:
(vi) on the petition of any interested person if, after notice to the government and an opportunity for a hearing, the district court finds on the record by a preponderance of the evidence that:
(a) the petition seeks only archival grand-jury records;
(b) the records have exceptional historical importance;
(c) at least 30 years have passed since the relevant case files associated with the grand-jury records have been closed;
(d) no living person would be materially prejudiced by disclosure, or that any prejudice could be avoided through redactions or such other reasonable steps as the court may direct;
(e) disclosure would not impede any pending government investigation or prosecution; and
(f) no other reason exists why the public interest requires continued secrecy.
An order granting or denying a petition under this paragraph is a fmal decision for purposes of Section 1291, Title 28.
3. Finally, they propose  to make the following addition to Rule 6(e)(2) to establish the authority of NARA to release archival grand-jury materials in its collections after 75 years.
(2) Secrecy.
(C) Nothing in this Rule shall require the Archivist of the United States to withhold from the public archival grand-jury records more than 75 years after the relevant case files associated with the grand-jury records have been closed.

hat tip: Blog of the Legal Times 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Uniform Electronic Legal Materials Act

Prof. Barbara A. Bintliff of the University of Texas School of Law has posted "The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act Is Ready for Legislative Action,"on the Legal Information Institute's VoxPopuLII Blog.
Prof. Bintliff  is the Reporter for the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) and in her post she explains the provisions of UELMA : a new, proposed, uniform, U.S. state statute requiring states that enact it to authenticate, preserve, and provide permanent public access to legal information that those states publish in electronic formats. The statute is intended to “ensur[e] the trustworthiness of online legal resources and preserv[e] … electronic [legal] publications to provide for continuing accessibility.”
Her post also examines the policy principles that inform the Act, especially the Act’s “outcomes-based” approach, intended to accommodate technological change and to afford states substantial flexibility in complying with the Act, as well as the origins of the Act in the American Association of Law Libraries’ 2007 National Summit on Authentication of Digital Legal Information.  The UELMA is scheduled to be introduced into a number of U.S. state legislatures in January 2012.

hat tip: Rob Richards

PA Supreme Court is tweeting opinions and rulings

 The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania announced yesterday that it has established a new Twitter feed to increase online ease and access to its rulings and decisions. The feed will provide instant notification of the online posting of most Supreme Court information, such as orders, new rules, opinions and concurring and dissenting statements written by the justices. The link will appear on the state court system’s website.
All new rulings posted to the Pennsylvania Judiciary Web site will be linked to a Tweet, and available immediately on a follower’s personal home page.Each tweet will have a link to the Pennsylvania Judiciary's website.  The new service complements and expands the Pennsylvania Judiciary’s online offerings through cell phones and other devices.

Tinker v. Des Moines podcast from the Supreme Court

A new podcast in the Supreme Court Landmarks series is available. This episode focuses on the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, which involved student protests during the Vietnam War. In each podcast  landmark case is discussed,  with a law professor covering the case’s background and why it is important today. You can access more episodes at the Supreme Court Landmarks page .

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Federal Court Opinions Beta Collection Now Available on FDsys

The Federal Depository Library System Desktop reports that at the request of the Judicial Conference, the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) has been working closely with the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) on a pilot project to make lower Federal court opinions available through FDsys . The pilot currently is in the public beta test phase and GPO and the AOUSC are very interested in any comments or suggestions anyone may have regarding the U.S. Courts Opinions Collection.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Federal coloring books

A big shoutout to Carlos Diaz, the gov docs librarian at Central Washington University, for creating a webpage with links to all the coloring books published by Federal government agencies. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New Institutional Repository for federal agencies

The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) has announced that they have recently formed a Joint Venture (JV) partnership with Information International Associates (IIa) to develop an Institutional Repository Service for federal agencies. Institutional Repositories (IR) are collections of agency scientific and technical information documents and other content that represent the work and mission of the agency, provided as a searchable, digital collection. Individual IRs will be developed for agencies based on a core set of services including those based on Web 2.0 technologies.  Agencies will be able to respond to growing Administration Open Government requirements for transparency and citizen involvement. The Insitutional Repositories will provide a framework through which federal agency content can be made available, providing users with increased ease of access and agencies with cost savings.

Monday, 3 October 2011


FreeLegalWeb is  a new UK-based project that hopes to connect the multitude of separate and unorganized free legal resources currently residing on the web, including legislation, judgments, guides and articles.  Initiated by Nick Homes of infolaw, the project is supported by many who are involved in the publishing of legal materials, including attorneys, law students, and legal information specialists. Among its many aspirations, the project plans to link its articles to primary law resources, maintain a comprehensive citations database that is automatically updated from free resources, and provide a Citator. There are at present two main sections of the website: Discover and Create.  "Discover" is for browsing and searching the site’s contents; primary materials are organized by source, while articles are organized by subject. "Create" is for contributing articles and commentary to the site.

hat tip: Jean Pajerek