Monday 7 December 2009

Article: Wikipedia in Court

An interesting paper posted on SSRN is titled Wikipedia in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate. The paper discusses how and when Wikipedia should be used in court and some of the controversies attached to it. According to the abstract, "Practitioners and courts are relying more and more on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Hundreds of court opinions, including at least one from every federal circuit court, and thousands of law review articles cite Wikipedia. Some opinions have relied on Wikipedia for technical information, although others only turned to the consensus website for background information on minor points." The authors lays out a process for determining when it is and when it is not appropriate to cite Wikipedia and other similar online sources. The authors are Jason C. Miller, law clerk to the Honorable Deborah L. Cook, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and Hannah B. Murray, Editor-in-chief, Michigan Telecommunications and Technology of Law Review.

ULS training sess on United Nations Resources this friday

This Friday, Dec. 11 at 2 PM the University Library System at Pitt is hosting a Public Services Training Group session on United Nations Resources. Tom Twiss, ULS's resident expert, will lead the session, discussing the variety of resources we have in our UN collection, the kinds of UN materials that are most frequently requested, how to search for UN publications, and the UN call number systems. The session will be held in the Amy Knapp Instruction Room, and can also be accessed remotely via Webex by going to the webex site for the session .

House of Representatives publishes financial disclosure records online

On November 30, the House of Representatives published its Members financial records of official expenditures online. The House administration office had previously only published the records in print form, but the records will now be released in downloadable PDF form too. The pdf, which is over 3,000 pages long, is broken into three parts of about a thousand pages each. It is browsable and searchable, and you can look up a particular Congressman's or Congresswoman's information through an alphabetical list in the table of contents.

New CRS report on Executive Branch lobbying rules

The Congressional Research Service issued a report called "Lobbying the Executive Branch: Current Practices and Options for Change" on December 1. The report discusses the Obama Administration's new lobbying rules for members of the executive branch of government. It concludes that the new White House rules have changed the game in Washington, noting that "Creation of restrictions on federally registered lobbyists' access to executive branch departments and agencies has already changed the relationship between lobbyists and covered executive branch officials."
The report also suggests that Congress might consider enacting similar restrictions on itself.

Friday 4 December 2009

New website gathers complaints about internet privacy (or lack thereof)

Technology Review reports that an internet freedom and privacy advocacy group in Washington D.C. called the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) has created a new privacy complaint site that is meant to gather information and get Congress to pass privacy protection laws. The CDT guide to online privacy problems explains existing and often narrowly-written patchwork of court rulings and laws, most of them falling hopelessly behind rapid technological advances. "In the past ten years, the ability of Internet companies to collect and aggregate information has increased dramatically," says Leslie Harris, CDT's president. But while some states have taken action, Congress has not. "We see next year as the first time in a decade that we will have serious debate in Congress on whether we will have comprehensive privacy laws."

Thursday 3 December 2009

Digitized Civil War photo collection online

The Army Heritage and Education Center (AHEC) has created a digitized collection of approximately 23,000 vintage Civil War photographs from the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States from the Massachusetts Commandery. This collection is considered by historians the single best Civil War photograph collection in the world because of its complexity and completeness. Ken Burns and his staff spent six weeks going through this collection to pull illustrations for his popular PBS series on the Civil War. The collection is browsable and searchable (the link is to the main page of AHEC; click on the MOLLUS collection in the lower right corner of the screen).

Wednesday 2 December 2009

GWU has robot helping to digitize books

The Chronicle of Higher Education's Wired Campus blog reports that George Washington University is testing out a robot to help digitize rare books. GW has announced that it will use an automated system to digitize rare Middle Eastern texts from its own library and from that of Georgetown University. Library staffers will digitize hundreds of works over the next two years, and when the project is completed, they will examine the associated costs. They hope to be able to tell other libraries which method of digitization is more affordable. Digitizing just one book can take a human being hours and can involve removing the binding and/or having someone turn the pages. The automated robot at GW uses a black plastic arm to turn pages, pauses as two cameras take pictures of both open pages, and then turns the page again. Air circulates through the arm of the machine, creating a gentle vacuum that can attract a page and guide it from the right side of the book to the left.

Convicted Sex Offenders have Facebook, MySpace accounts disabled in New York State

Slate reports that Facebook and MySpace, two popular social networking sites, have disabled the accounts of about 4500 registered sex offenders in New York State under a new New York law called the Electronic Security and Targeting of Online Predators Act (ESTOP). Under e-STOP, convicted sex offenders forced to register with the state must provide home addresses, e-mail addresses, site usernames, and online profiles as well. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wants other networking sites to follow the lead of My-Space and Facebook.

Tuesday 1 December 2009

Sprint: 50 million customers, 8 million law enforcement GPS requests in 1 year

Graduate student Chris Soghoian has a sobering post on his "slight paranoia" blog. His summary of the information says "Sprint Nextel provided law enforcement agencies with its customers' (GPS) location information over 8 million times between September 2008 and October 2009. This massive disclosure of sensitive customer information was made possible due to the roll-out by Sprint of a new, special web portal for law enforcement officers. "
Chris is gathering and analyzing this information as part of his doctoral dissertation and welcomes constructive criticism from other "experts in the field".

Monday 23 November 2009

Write your own eBooks online with Adobe Buzzword

Adobe has a new service called Adobe Buzzword at the new website (free registration required). The service allows you to write and publish your own ebook in a format that is compatible with most ebook readers (including the Kindle, Nook, and Sony eBook Reader). Adobe Buzzword is an online word processor that you can use to create and edit documents in any web browser. The service supports collaborative editing so multiple authors can work simultaneously on the same document from their respective location.
Buzzword allows you to write an eBook on any browser and then export documents directly as EPUB files, a format that is supported by all popular ebook readers - including apps like Stanza that let you read ebook on a mobile device. You just compose your document inside Buzzword, export it as an ePUB file and then import it in your ebook reader.

LexisNexis Academic adds database

LexisNexis Academic has announced the addition of a new database called "Discover America's Story". The publications in "Discover America's Story" focus on small-town and rural articles. The product is rich with articles relevant to geographic locations often under-reported or overlooked by mainstream news coverage such as natural resources, agriculture, land use, water rights and farming. "Small-town" news, op-ed, business, arts, government and life in general are covered well, plus published legal notices and obituaries are included. To see a list of publications included in the collection, go to LN Academic, click the “Browse Sources” tab and type “Discover America’s Story” in the blue Find a Source box. Click the “I” icon next to the source title for more information. You'll see a long list of smalltown publications including the Beverly Hills Weekly, Mouse River Journal, Turtle Mountain Star and Wahkiakum County Eagle.

Google Scholar Advanced Scholar Search Now Includes Free Case Law Database

The blawgosphere has been abuzz the past week about a new feature in Google Scholar: you can now use Google Scholar Advanced Scholar Search (still in beta) to find case law as well as patents and articles in legal journals! (Search options include Search all legal opinions and journals; Search only US federal court opinions; Search only court opinions from individual states).
According to Justia, the Google Scholar database includes US Federal Appellate, District Court, Bankruptcy & Tax Opinions since 1924, US 50 State Cases since 1950. Google Scholar also gives alternatives versions of cases from legal websites including Cornell's LII, Justia, and Carl Malamud's
The Case Western law library blog has done some testing and has a useful post that reports in more depth about how to use this feature and what content you can find.
Google explains the reasons for the new addition on the Official Google Blog: "Laws that you don't know about, you can't follow — or make effective arguments to change. Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts... We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants."

Pitt's University Center for Social & Urban Research resources

Last week the University Library System hosted a workshop session on the publications, research, and services provided by University Center for Social & Urban Research (UCSUR). UCSUR serves as a resource for researchers and educators interested in the basic and applied social and behavioral sciences, and as a hub for inter-disciplinary research and collaboration, it promotes a research agenda focused on the social, economic, and health issues most relevant to our society.
In addition to the programs described on their website, they host the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Community Information System (PNCIS) project, which is a large collection of data describing property and neighborhood conditions in the Pittsburgh area. This data is freely available to all non-profit, government, or University-affiliated users, at the PNCIS website. A basic layer of data is readily available just by accessing as a guest (click on that tab), but to access the property level of detail, you need to register by attending a brief (1 hour) training session (more will be scheduled after the holidays).

hat tip: Sallie Smith

Two new databases from ULS

The University Library System has added two new databases to its Databases A-Z list:
1. GreenFILE from EBSCO is a research database focusing on the relationship between human beings and the environment. Comprised of scholarly and general interest titles, as well as government documents and reports, GreenFILE offers perspective on the positive and negative ways humans affect the ecology. GreenFILE draws on the connections between the environment and a variety of disciplines such as agriculture, education, law, health and technology. Topics covered include global climate change, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, and more. The database provides indexing and abstracts for ~ 384,000 records and full text for more than 4,700 records.
2. Rand Reports is a full text archive of over 17,000 Rand Corporation titles dating back to 1948. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decision-making through research and analysis. Their research areas are wide-ranging and include Child Policy, Civil Justice, Population & Aging, Terrorism and Security, Transportation & Infrastructure, International Affairs, Education, Health & Health Care, Environment, Substance Abuse, and the Arts. Recent reports include Going Jihad: The Fort Hood Slayings and Home-Grown Terrorism: testimony presented before the Senate Homeland Security & Govt. Affairs committee, Nov. 19, 2009.

Monday 16 November 2009

From Harvard: Report from Task Force on University Libraries

Now available online, Harvard University's Report from the Task Force on University Libraries suggests sweeping changes. From the report: "At a time of rapid change and severe financial stress, the Task Force on University Libraries was
charged to make clear recommendations to the President and Deans to adapt the Harvard
Library system to the 21st century and to make a stronger and more efficient library system.
Given the long history and labyrinthine complexity of the library system, the pressing need to
move forward effectively in the face of technological change and financial challenge, and the
universal desire to avoid unintended harm to the existing strengths of the library, the Task Force
recommends that the University and its libraries undertake a significant and focused initial effort
in five principal areas. "

New resource: Regulation Room (beta)

A new resource from those excellent folks at Cornell law, Regulation Room is "a public participation research site" for "people talking to people talking to government". It has the laudable ambition of making federal agency rulemaking more transparent and participatory. It also educates users about the federal rulemaking process and how any interested citizen can participate effectively. As a first step in the beta test of Regulation Room, users are encouraged to learn about, react to, and discuss a proposed National Highway Transportation Safety Administration rule: Tire Efficiency Consumer Information Program. Please note that the comment period for this proposed rulemaking closed in late August; Reg.Room is using materials from this rule for testing purposes only. Users can read and respond to daily posts on the tire rule and comment on particular aspects of the rule. Next Nov. 23, the research team will post a summary of the discussion. Users will then be able to comment on that summary and suggest changes to it.

Lawberry Camp Midwinter

Excellent news announcement from the AALL Computer Services SIS via Sarah Glassmeyer and Jason Eiseman!: Save the Date

When: January 16, 2010 9am - 5 pm (Casual dinner outing Friday evening)

Where: Harvard Law School Library

Why: Why wait until July to meet, learn and laugh with other law librarians and legal information professionals?

Lawberry Camp Midwinter will be a full day of activities...including lightning talks, open round table discussions and ending with the exciting and fun Battledecks Powerpoint Karaoke competition.

Have you tried an interesting project in your library and want to give a 5 minute talk about it? Is there some pressing issue that you'd like to hash out and discuss? Public services, technical services, private, court or academic...whatever your job title is and no matter where you work, if you are interested in law libraries or legal information, you should come to Lawberry Camp!

Registration is not open yet! We'll announce that closer to the date. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the organizers, Jason Eiseman or Sarah Glassmeyer. We hope to see you in Boston!


Jason Eiseman and Sarah Glassmeyer

p.s. Sharp eyed individuals may note that this is the same weekend as ALA Midwinter, also happening in Boston. This is not entirely a coincidence! So come to Boston! Make a weekend of it! ALA exhibit passes are available for only $25…double your professional development fun!

Friday 13 November 2009

PACER survey

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts announced on November 2 that it is looking for feedback on PACER through an online survey to assess user satisfaction and generate suggestions for future improvements to the system. The survey is part of the Administrative Office's year-long, comprehensive assessment of PACER. According to the announcement, the survey will be open for approximately 30 days.
It's important for the Courts to hear from law faculty, law librarians, and law students. Please take a moment to participate in the survey, and share this info with your chapters and colleagues. Note that you must have a PACER account to take the survey.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Helpful info for law journals

Lee Ryan at the University of San Francisco School of Law has put together a great resource for students who are cite checking for law reviews. Called the Source Collection for Law Reviews & Journals at USF , it provides information on where to find reliable digital versions of documents that are frequently cited in law reviews and journals. Many of the sources are subscription databases, but fortunately we have most of those subscriptions.

hat tip: Elmer Masters

Wednesday 11 November 2009

CRS Report: Congressional Printing: Background and Issues for Congress

The Congressional Research Service has published a report (37 page pdf) entitled Congressional Printing: Background and Issues for Congress. It is a must-read for gov docs librarians (and law librarians who deal with Congressional documents). The report gives an overview of the GPO and the statutory requirements it must fulfill, as well as the actual practices of the GPO and statistics of what it publishes and how much it spends.
Some tidbits from the Summary:
"In current practice, more than half of all government documents originate in digital form, and are distributed electronically. As a consequence of electronic production and dissemination, some congressional materials are now more readily available to wider congressional, governmental, and public audiences than when they were only produced and distributed in paper form."
and " (T)he transition to electronic distribution of materials may raise questions about the capacity of current law and congressional practices to effectively oversee GPO’s management and distribution responsibilities regarding congressional information."
Finally, the report lists "Potential Options for Congress", should Congress believe that action on government printing practices might be necessary or desirable, (p. 16) which include:
1. Maintain the status quo.
2. Conduct Studies related to congressional printing policieson such topics as how users access congressional documents; whether current distribution practices for GPO-printed and electronic documents
are effective or efficient; the costs of creating paper and electronic documents, including retention of
archival documents, and disposal of obsolete materials; the extent to which current congressional printing and document distribution practices support Congress in its work; and what potential changes to congressional rules and practices might be necessary if Congress were to transition to “paperless” operations.
3. Consider legislation to amend current printing authorizations, found in 44 U.S.C. 906 and 44 U.S.C. 701 , to reflect current printing practices.

United States Supreme Court’s Recorder of Decisions to visit Pitt Law

Who edits and compiles the official US Supreme Court case decisions? And what is it like to deal with the dynamic and powerful personalities of the Supreme Court justices? And, by the way, do the justices write their own opinions or do they farm that work out to the clerks? Wouldn’t you love to know what goes on behind the scenes in the making of the U.S. Reports?
Here’s your chance….
On Thursday November 19, 2009 from Noon-1:00 Mr. Frank Wagner, the United States Supreme Court’s Recorder of Decisions will speak at University of Pittsburgh School of Law in Room G-12. Please join us for this exciting and illuminating presentation. For more information, contact Marc Silverman. Please note that this program is being sponsored by Jurist- Legal News and Research .
hat tip: Linda Tashbook

Veterans' Day

Today, Nov. 11, is Veterans' Day in the US. The date commemorates the signing of the Armistice that ended WWI, when Germany signed the Armistice on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting the President issue another proclamation to observe November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday; "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day'."
Other US legal documents from 20th Century wars:
April 2, 1917 President Woodrow Wilson's Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Germany (1917)
April 6, 1917 40 Stat. 1 Public Resolution 65-1 Joint Resolution: Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and the people of the United States and making provision to prosecute the same.
Dec. 8, 1941 President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Joint Address to Congress Leading to a Declaration of War Against Japan
Dec. 8, 1941 55 Stat. 795 Public Law 77-328 Joint Resolution: Declaring that a state of war exists between the Imperial Government of Japan and the Government and the people of the United States and making provisions to prosecute the same.
Aug. 7, 1964, 78 Stat. 384 Public Law 88-408 The Tonkin Gulf Resolution This joint resolution of Congress (H.J. RES 1145) authorized "all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the UniteStates" and all steps necessary for the defense of U.S. allies in Southeast Asia. This gave President Lyndon Johnson authority to increase U.S. involvement in the war between North and South Vietnam.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

CALI webinar: law profs using CALI lessons

This Friday, Nov. 13, at 3pm Eastern time, CALI will host a free webinar for law school faculty about using CALI lessons in your course, including how you can integrate CALI lessons with TWEN. The presenters will be Prof. Debra Cohen, Visiting Associate Professor & Interim Director of Academic Support at the University of Baltimore School of Law; and Prof. Sally Wise, Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at the University of Miami School of Law Register for the webinar on the CALI website.

Don't be Evil for the holidays...

Two items of Google (our motto: Don't be evil") holiday news. First, CNET reports that Google is subsidizing free wifi in 47 airports from now until January 15 - and indefinitely in the airports of Burbank CA and Seattle WA. A full list of the airports is at Google's free holiday Wi-Fi site.
Second, Computer World has a report that Google has unveiled - also in time for the holidays - a new search engine service called Google Commerce Search, designed specifically for e-commerce sites.

Penn State's Second Life requirement

Hard to believe, but the Chronicle of HIgher Ed. reports that academic advisors at Penn State are required to be available at the Penn State World Campus Island in Second Life. The site provides the avatar names for advisors, though I don't see any real-life photos..

Monday 9 November 2009

Luzerne County court asks lawyers to hear cases

The ABA Journal reports that the court in Luzerne County PA, where two judges were forced to resign due to federal corruption charges in the "kids for cash" scandal, is asking for seasoned lawyers to volunteer as special trial masters. According to the Luzerne County Times Leader the county court is facing a serious backlog in the trial calendar with 24 pending homicide cases (seven of which are death penalty cases) and 356 civil cases. Luzerne County President Judge Chester Muroski has asked experienced lawyers to lend a hand by serving as judges in some civil cases.

New ULS database: Brill's Encyclopedia of China

ULS has added Brill's encyclopedia of China to its database content. According to the description, Brill's contains "sound, in-depth information on China from its early beginnings up to today, with a clear focus on the modern period from the mid-nineteenth century to the 21st century. The encyclopedia is the result of an international academic effort, and covers the history, geography, society, economy, politics, science, and culture of China." It includes articles on the history of the legal system in China , Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, and much more.

Google Books adds magazine browsing

Google Books is in the process of scanning new and old magazines for the Google Books database. They have added a webpage for browsing and searching magazines; at the top you will find a search field that lets you limit your search to the content of magazines. You can also browse the editions of a given magazine - for example, you can browse every edition of Life magazine from 1935 to 1972. The magazines are all at least one year old, the number of magazines included is limited and they are all American.

Friday 6 November 2009

Supreme Court Database

The Supreme Court Database created by Prof. Harold Spaeth (Michigan State College of Law) has been around for a long time, but it was just this week updated with new technology to make it much more user-friendly. The database has 247 pieces of information for each case, roughly broken down into six categories: (1) identification variables (e.g., citations and docket numbers); (2) background variables (e.g., how the Court took jurisdiction, origin and source of the case, the reason the Court agreed to decide it); (3) chronological variables (e.g., the date of decision, term of Court, natural court); (4) substantive variables (e.g., legal provisions, issues, direction of decision); (5) outcome variables (e.g., disposition of the case, winning party, formal alteration of precedent, declaration of unconstitutionality); and (6) voting and opinion variables (e.g., how the individual justices voted, their opinions and interagreements). The interface has been modernized to make it easy to access all variables (with descriptive names) and quickly select a case or set of cases.

Friday fun: Making it fun to take the stairs

Maybe next time an elevator breaks we should do this...

GPO's annotated Constitution

Senator Russell Feingold, chairman of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter requesting that the Government Printing Office post the Constitution Annotated online in xml format. He points out that the Constitution Annotated has been continuously published by the Congressional Research Service for almost 100 years and contains analysis of nearly 8,000 Supreme Court cases. Currently the Constitution Annotated is only available in pdf format and is cumbersome to browse. Sen. Feingold points out in his letter that it would be much more navigable if it were available in xml format - and since CRS provides the publication to the GPO in xml format it shouldn't be difficult for GPO to comply with his request.

Thursday 5 November 2009

leaks of Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations are taking place in Seoul, Korea with representatives from the United States, European Union, Canada, Mexico, Korea and a few other countries. The US government has been disappointingly secretive about the agreement, claiming national security interests. Prof. Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa Law School has been writing about the negotiations on his blog (Prof. Geist is a specialist on internet law and compiles BNA's Internet Law News). Despite the secrecy of the talks, he has been getting leaked information that he summarizes on his blog. BoingBoing blogged about the leaks succinctly in a post entitled "Secret copyright treaty leaks. It's bad. Very bad. " If you are interested in internet law, it is well worth taking the time to follow Prof. Geists reporting and discussion.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Password complexity

Has the Westlaw "Strong OnePass Initiative" got you down? Do you worry that your aging brain will never be able to remember all the passwords and updates? Do you fear that some day you will be unable to use Purdon's because you just can't remember how to get into Westlaw?
Well cheer up, some people have it worse. Here's a (tongue-in-cheek) McSweeney's post containing a letter from Corporate Security on Secure Passwords. A quote from the letter:
"Here's a sample password that meets the new requirements: J8JΒΝzγΨfΛδ@6%vΤfShr57w/
(This password is for example purposes only and cannot serve as your personal password.)"

Carl Malamud on Law Librarian radio

This Friday, November 6, at 3:00 PM Eastern Time,The Law Librarian on BlogTalkRadio will welcome Carl Malamud, founder of EDGAR, FedFlix, and Public Resource dot org to discuss his newest project,Law.Gov. Host Richard Leiter of the University of Nebraska law school, co-host Marcia Dority-Baker, Margi Maes, (Executive Director of LIPA) and Roger Skalbeck, Associate Librarian of Electronic Resources, will delve into the subject of Open Access to Law, and explore the nuances of the "nation's operating system." You can call in and/or join the chat room to participate. (Follow the link above for phone numbers and log in information.) The transcript of the chat room will be posted online after the show.

CRS report on ADA implications for Flu

In a recent report , the Congressional Research Service said that individuals now infected with the H1N1 virus “would most likely not be considered” individuals with a disability under the ADA but warned that situation might change if “the virus were to mutate to cause more severe illness.” The report outlined possible applications of the ADA for employers and individuals who might become infected with the H1N1 virus, aka “swine flu.”

Library of Congress rebuffs calls to retract Honduras report

The Resource Shelf reports that the Law Library of Congress is refusing calls from Sen. John Kerry, Chair of the Senate foreign relations committees and Rep. Howard Bermanthe, Chair of the House foreign relations committee, to retract a report on the military-backed coup in Honduras that the lawmakers say is flawed. A spokesperson for the Law Library of Congress said that the research agency stands by the report and that Librarian of Congress James Billington is preparing a response to the lawmakers who, according to Resource Shelf, don’t like what the August report said: that the government of Honduras had the authority to remove deposed President Manuel Zelaya from office.

Somerset County Jail to allow Westlaw for prisoners

The Somerset (PA) Daily American reports today that Somerset County Jail inmates will be able to research cases online with Westlaw after Jan 1. Currently, when inmates do their legal research they have to ask jail staff to go to the county law library to look up and print cases that they want. The jail’s subscription will be restricted to Westlaw so inmates can’t navigate away from that site to see other online sites. They will only be able to see Pennsylvania and Supreme Court cases, not others.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

1L Required Career Training

Next Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2009, Career Services is holding mandatory training for all 1Ls on how to use LexisNexis and Westlaw career resources. Note that the training will be in the Teplitz Moot Courtroom on the Ground Floor. The sessions will last for approximately 45 minutes. The schedule is as follows:

10:30 Section A
1:00 Section C
2:00 Section B

Any student who has a schedule conflict may attend any of the sessions. Attendance will be taken.

Important info about Westlaw accounts

This Sunday, Nov. 1, is the first “deadline” in Westlaw’s “Secure OnePass” rollout.
What does that mean?

1. If you rely on the Westlaw “Remember Me” feature to log in (your computer saves your password and logs you in automatically) …. it won’t work anymore.
The first time you try to log in with “Remember Me” all your “remembered” credentials will be turned off, and you will get an e-mail from Westlaw explaining what has happened, and including some of your log-in information to help you get signed back in.

2. If you sign in to Westlaw with your usual credentials you will be given a choice - proceed to as per usual, or opt to update your OnePass account immediately (if you use OnePass).
Even if you already use the OnePass “username” and “password” system you may have to update to a “strong” OnePass.
If you are one of the 13,000 faculty nationwide who DON’T have a OnePass set up, you will need to set up a “strong” OnePass.

3. You have until Jan. 31, 2010 to set up or update your OnePass. Until you do, you will get message reminders from Westlaw.

4. If you want to deal with this before Nov. 1, just go to and log in as usual. Once you have logged in, click on “Update” next to your name in the upper left corner of the screen. On the next page, in the West> OnePass box, create a “strong” username and password for yourself and submit.

5. What is a “strong” username and password?
a. Username:
must be unique
must be 8 – 70 characters
must contain TWO of the following: lowercase letter, uppercase letter, number, or one of these symbols .(period) @(at sign) –(dash) _ (underscore).
TIP: You can use your email address since it fulfills all the requirements.
b. Password:
must be 8 – 16 characters
must contain THREE of above requirements.
Can’t be the same as your username.

Monday 26 October 2009

Windows 7 review

Washington Technologyhas a thorough review of Windows 7, the new operating system from Microsoft. Their summary:
Pros: Quick boot-ups, fast activation of USB devices, good user interface tools.
Cons: No system performance upgrade compared with Vista, still has annoying Vista pop-ups, expensive for somewhat minor enhancements.
Performance: B
Ease of Use: A
Features: A-
Value: C (based on the retail price of $319.00 for the full Ultimate Edition).

Friday 23 October 2009

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Duke Law marks Open Access Week

The IT Dept. at Duke Law (specifically Wayne Miller, Asst. Dean for Academic Technologies) has announced that they are marking Open Access Week by relaunching the Duke Law Scholarship Repository . The Repository, originally made public in 2005, now holds over 1,600 works by Duke Law faculty, and links out to over 1,500 articles published in Duke's journals, which have been freely available on the Duke Law website since the late 1990s.
The repository will be developed over the next few months to include more student papers and dissertations, publications of our centers and programs, and video recordings of Duke Law conferences, workshops and lectures dating back to 2000.
You can read more here, including remarks about open access by law professors Richard Danner and James Boyle.

Chinese Electronic Resources at the ULS

There will be a workshop for librarians sponsored by the University Library System this Friday, Oct. 23, at 2 PM when Xiuying Zou will lead a Public Services Traiing Group session on Chinese Electronic Resources at the ULS: a Review and Update. The session will go over the Chinese electronic resources available at the ULS. The focus will be on the subject coverage, major functions, and search features of the new e-book databases and some of the most frequently used databases.

This session will be held in room 272 Hillman Library (not in the Amy Knapp Instruction Room). Alternatively, people can access the meeting remotely via Webex.

Google Editions

CNET news reports that Google has announced that it will launch Google Editions, an online bookstore, early in 2010. plans to open for business with about 500,000 available titles from a variety of publishers. The new service will not be device-specific so that e-books purchased through Google Editions will be available for any e-book reader. Google's e-books will be accessible through any Web-enabled computer, e-reader, or mobile phone instead of a dedicated device so that the content to be unchained from expensive devices such as Amazon's Kindle e-book reader.

Monday 19 October 2009

Westlaw strong OnePass Initiative

On November 1, 2009, West will begin the process of migrating all Westlaw users to a "strong OnePass". Ryan Vandegrift, our Westlaw representative, has been talking with the Westlaw folks and is hopeful that the changes will be as seamless as possible.
OnePass is the username and password that each user creates to access Westlaw. Once the migration to the "strong OnePass" is completed in January:
-- nobody will be able to access their accounts with their original Westlaw password which looks something like "012345ABCD" and
-- all OnePass logins must meet the WL security requirements. If you use a OnePass login to access Westlaw you may need to update your username and password to meet the new security requirements.
The new OnePass requirements are that your username must be Unique from all other usernames, from 8 to 70 characters in length and contain at least 2 of the attributes:
uppercase letter
lowercase letter
special characters
(Note that email addresses are valid usernames).
Passwords have to be from 8 to 16 characters and contain at least 3 of the above attributes.
There will be more info from Westlaw as they prepare for the migration. Meanwhile, if you don't use OnePass or if your OnePass username and password don't meet the security requirements.. plan ahead! Can anyone think of a 70 character username?

Blogger is 10 years old

Webpronews has a report and video about the 10th birthday of Blogger, Google's blogging platform (and the one used by Barco 2.0). A quick check shows that we first started blogging on May 27, 2004; more than 5 years ago! Anyway, in Webpronews's video they interview Blogger Product Manager Rick Klau, who has some interesting comments about blogging and Twittering. He points out that despite all the hype surrounding Twitter blogs are still growing as well - 290,000 words are now written on Blogger per minute worldwide, which represents an increase of 10 percent versus six months ago, and two-thirds of the world's blogs are outside of the US. Klau also says that Twitter and blogs “each have their place,” - blogging and microblogging aren’t part of a zero-sum game.

Friday 16 October 2009

Upcoming CALI webinars

Austin Groothuis, the Marketing Manager at CALI, recently sent out an announcement about upcoming free CALI webinars that may be of interest to Pitt Law librarians or faculty. All the webinars take place on Fridays at 3 PM EDT. You can click the links to sign up:
Oct 23: Advanced Twitter (Twitter from a Law School Communications Director's Perspective Part II) To effectively master Twitter, there is a lot you need to do beyond what we covered in our first Twitter webinar. Tonya Oaks Smith, Director of Communications at the UALR Bowen School of Law, will present on advanced Twitter topics as a follow-up to her popular August webinar.
Nov 13: Using CALI Lessons in Your Teaching Professors Deb Cohen, Southern New England School of Law, and Sally Wise, University of Miami School of Law, will guest present for this one.
Nov 27: Using Moodle for Your Law School Course Professor Vernellia Randall of the University of Dayton School of Law will present on using Moodle (, an open-source course management system.
Dec 11: Five Steps to Promoting CALI at Your School We'll cover free, easy, and effective ways to ensure your students know about CALI and CALI Lessons, some of the few free study tools available to them in law school.
By the way, video archives of past CALI webinars are available at

Thursday 15 October 2009

Inventor of the internet apologizes for the "//"

Tim Berners-Lee, who is credited with creating the world wide web, has apologized for putting the two forward slashes after the "http" of all web addresses, according to the Australian. He admitted that “forward slashes”
in internet addresses “were a mistake”. Saying that the ‘//‘ was pointless and unnecessary, Mr Lee confessed at a recent talk in US that at the time of creating the WWW, he had failed to predict how much effect what he was producing would have on people now. “When I designed the URL, this thing which starts http:// , the slash was to indicate we’re actually starting at the top, not starting down at the next slash. Really, if you think about it, it doesn’t need the //.... People are having to use that finger so much. Look at all the paper and trees that could have been saved if people had not had to write or type out those slashes on paper over the years — not to mention the human labour and time spent typing those two keystrokes countless millions of times in browser address boxes."

Wednesday 14 October 2009

100 years of technology fears

Ars Technica has an interesting historical retrospective : a look at 100 years of Big Content's fearmongering, in their own words. Remember when Lawrence Lessig spoke at Pitt Law, and told us about how John Philip Sousa in 1906 warned that recording technology would destroy the US pastime of gathering around the piano to sing music ("What of the national throat? Will it not weaken? What of the national chest? Will it not shrink?"). Well there are other instances of technofear. For example, regarding the Xerox machine; in 1972,Time magaizne quoted UCLA law professor Melville Nimmer as saying, "the day may not be far off when no one need purchase books" thanks to the sinister uses of the copier. There was the VCR in the 1970s, which a movie lobbyist predicted would result in tidal waves, avalanches, and bleeding and hemorrhaging by the music business. He compared the VCR to the Boston Strangler — in this scenario the US public was a woman home alone. Then home taping of music, digital audio tape, MP3 players, and Napster, each of which was predicted to lay waste to entire industries; and so on up to date with DVRs, HD radio, and HDTV. The article concludes with a quote from copyright expert William Patry in his book Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars: "I cannot think of a single significant innovation in either the creation or distribution of works of authorship that owes its origins to the copyright industries."

Monday 12 October 2009

Trial subscription to Fastcase

Through our membership in NELLCO Pitt Law has trial access to the Fastcase database. Fastcase is a smaller, cheaper legal database that offers an alternative to the more expensive Lexis and Westlaw. Fastcase is marketing itself through state bar associations, as it is particularly of interest to smaller law firms and solo practices.
The Fastcase database contents include 50-state and federal case law databases; Federal District, Bankruptcy, and Tax Courts; and Federal and state statutes and regulations. Robert Ambrogi, author of (among other things) the Legal Blog Watch , recently wrote an article comparing Fastcase with Casemaker, another database that is marketed to state bar associations, available here: Casemaker v. Fastcase by Robert Ambrogi (Westlaw login required).
We can't post the trial password information here, but if you would like to take a look at Fastcase just email Pitt Law's Electronic Research & Technology Services Librarian.

Saturday 10 October 2009

CIC-Google Government Documents Digitization Project

Google and the CIC have announced that they are partnering to digitize a comprehensive collection of U.S. Federal Documents, eventually creating a collection of between 1 and 1.5 million volumes (the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) is a consortium of the Big Ten universities plus the University of Chicago). The workflow and scanning process for the initiative was tested by the University of Minnesota, which has sent Google approximately 85,000 duplicate holdings. As the pilot phase draws to an end Penn State is preparing to move the project forward by readying a portion of its collection for scanning. Digital facsimiles of successfully scanned Federal Documents from Minnesota and other CIC institutions will be accessible through Google Book Search.

Friday 9 October 2009

West to make some law books available for Kindle

West publishing has announced that it is making nearly 30 of its titles available for electronic download for the Amazon Kindle. The addition of electronic versions of selected titles allows West to meet the needs of law students, law school faculty and legal professionals who are increasingly using new electronic media in the classroom, on the job and for personal use.
"We've been fascinated by the shift lawyers and law students in particular are making toward smartphones and electronic book readers," said Mike Suchsland, senior vice president, West. "Customers have responded favorably to our various iPhone and iPod touch apps, so we see this as a natural extension of our advanced media strategy - making key content accessible on a variety of mobile devices, beginning with the platforms from Apple and Amazon."
Included in the list of books now available for electronic download on for the Kindle device and Kindle app for iPhone and iPod touch is Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges, co-authored by Justice Antonin Scalia and Bryan Garner, editor-in-chief of Black's Law Dictionary; Writing a Legal Memo, and a number of the popular Nutshells.

Thursday 8 October 2009

Summer Bar Exam results now available

The Pennsylvania Board of Law Examiners has posted the results of the July 2009 Bar Exam. Pitt Law had a pass rate of 92.9% for first-time takers, which represents a continued upward trend.

Monday 5 October 2009

Data dot gov is a new website from the federal government meant to "increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government" , which includes all federal agencies. There is a useful tutorial page to help you get started using the site. According to the site, a primary goal of is to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from will strengthen our Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government. Currently there are 592 datasets but more will be added. You can even suggest datasets that you would like to have added to the site.

OMG! Law Talk launches episode 1

The Slaw blog has announced the launch of OMG! Law Talk on YouTube. The first episode is 3 lawyers " talking about why we blog, why litigators are often reluctant to participate, and a couple other issues. "

The Federal Register online just got better

The Washington Post reports that as of today it is much easier to access the Federal Register. The launch of the new Federal Register is the outgrowth of President Obama's first executive order, which mandated greater transparency in federal government AALL's Mary Alice Baish is quoted in the article: "Mary Alice Baish, director of government relations for the American Association of Law Libraries, said members are "delighted" about the move. "This is a win-win situation for business, the regulatory community and consumers," she said".
There is also a blog called "FedThread" that allows anyone to annotate the Federal Register. Carl Malamud of Public Resource dot Org praises the GPO and Office of the Federal Register on BoingBoing, and adds that they are also making all the "Official Journals of Government" available for free in bulk; previous price was $17,000 a year per product.

Friday 2 October 2009

Supreme Court Database adds extensive analysis tools

The Supreme Court Database now has quite extensive analysis tools on its website. The newly expanded version is still officially in beta mode, but is very functional. The Supreme Court Database is the creation of Prof. Harold Spaeth of the Michigan State University College of Law, with contributions from various other illustrious law and politics scholars.
Among the extensive variables you can study are:
Identification Variables (Case, Docket, U.S. Reporter Citation, Supreme Court Citation, Lawyers Edition Citation , LEXIS Citation )
Background Variables: (Case Name, Petitioner, Petitioner State, Respondent, Respondent State, Manner in which the Court takes Jurisdiction , Administrative Action Preceeding Litigation , Administrative Action Preceeding Litigation State ,Three-Judge District Court , Origin of Case, Origin of Case State , Source of Case, Lower Court Disagreement, Reason for Granting Cert , Lower Court Disposition , Lower Court Disposition Direction, Chronological Variables , Date of Decision , Term of Court, Natural Court, Chief Justice, Date of Oral Argument, Date of Reargument)
Substantive Variables (Issue, Issue Area, Decision Direction, Decision Direction Dissent, Authority for Decision 1, Authority for Decision 2, Legal Provisions Considered by the Court, Legal Provision Supplement, Legal Provision Minor Supplement
Outcome Variables (Decision Type, Declaration of Unconstitutionality, Disposition of Case, Unusual Disposition, Winning Party, Formal Alteration of Precedent, Voting & Opinion Variables, Vote Not Clearly Specified, Majority Opinion Writer, Majority Opinion Assigner, Split Vote, Majority Votes, Minority Votes, Justice ID, Justice Name, The Vote in the Case, Opinion, Direction of the Individual Justice's Votes, Majority and Minority Voting by Justice, First Agreement, Second Agreement).

Thursday 1 October 2009

Holocaust Records Made Available

The National Archives and Records Administration and announced the release of the Internet’s largest Interactive Holocaust Collection with hundreds of thousands of records, including:
  • The Ardelia Hall Collection of records relating to the Nazi looting of Jewish possessions, including looted art
  • Concentration camp registers and documents from Dachau, Mauthausen, Auschwitz, and Flossenburg
  • Captured German records including deportation and death lists from concentration camps
  • Nuremberg War Crimes Trial proceedings.

Access to the collection will be available for free on through the month of October.

Monday 28 September 2009

Lobbyists can no longer serve on federal agency advisory boards

Norm Eisen, the White House Special Counsel on Ethics and Government Reform, has announced in a blogpost on the White House blog that the Obama administration is strongly discouraging the appointment of federally registered lobbyists to federal agency advisory boards and commissions. According to the post, "the President has made a commitment to close the revolving door that has in the past allowed lobbyists and others to move to and from full-time federal government service." And since appointments to agency advisory committees are made by the Head of the agency, the post goes on to say "We recognize that there are many registered lobbyists who currently serve on these committees as a result of a prior appointment. When these appointments expire, it is our hope that agencies not reappoint anyone who is currently registered as a federal lobbyist at the time of their potential reappointment."
According to an article in The Hill, one result of this announcement will be that lobbyists won't register or will de-register. At least 1,000 federal advisory committees report to the General Services Administration under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, and many of them now include registered lobbyists.

Improvements in library online catalogs

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting article entitled "After Losing Users in Catalogs, Libraries Find Better Search Software" that details recent changes and advances in online library catalogs. The problem has been that traditional online library catalogs don't tend to order search results by ranked relevance and can befuddle users with clunky interfaces. According to the article, this is changing because of two technology trends. First, a growing number of university libraries are paying serious money for sophisticated software that makes exploring their collections much easier. Second, several universities like Virginia, Villanova University and the University of Rochester are producing free open-source programs that tackle the same problems with no licensing fees. With an open-source system, a library can set its own relevance rankings and adjust them based on what users want.

FastPencil brings self-publishing to the internet

FastPencil may be of interest to authors interested in retaining complete control over their work - or interested in publishing their work but not inclined to clear all of the hurdles imposed by traditional publishers. According to the website "You shouldn’t have to ask anyone’s permission to write and publish your own book! We have removed the hurdles inherent in traditional publishing by combining amazing advances in print on demand technology with a sophisticated online workflow system."
FastPencil also provides lots of opportunities for social networking and collaboration, so that authors have ready access to a community of friends, readers, and partners to give feedback and assistance.
The FastPencil Basic service is free and includes book templates, the writing platform and social networking. Additional publishing services, including consulting, author and editorial services, custom formatting and distribution, are available for a price. There is also a handy "Book Price Calculator" allowing authors to determine the cost of printing their work.

JuriGlobe foreign law website

JuriGlobe is a website of the World Legal Systems Research Group, four law professors from the University of Ottawa. The site provides a free multilingual information data bank containing general information on legal systems, languages, international commercial conventions, and multilateral commercial tools. The site aims to provide practitioners with tools that might be applicable in a multinational practice, and to provide professors and students with an educational tool useful in the study of comparative and international law. The site provides data on the distribution of legal systems by various factors, including geography, political entity, UN member status, GDP and GNI per capita, and language. Information is presented in a variety of formats, including lists, graphs, tables, and maps, with some information available in multiple formats. The site also has a Bibliography of works about the concept of "legal system", the methods of classification of legal systems, classifications themselves, the interest that those present and "the controversies which they do not cease causing."

hat tip: Jean Pajerek

Friday 25 September 2009

New resource on EEO laws, cases and resources

The invaluable Legislative Source Book published by the Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. (LLSDC) has added a webpage on Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Laws, Cases and Resources. It contains links to Federal EEO laws, and selected related CRS reports, Federal agency resources, nongovernmental resources, and U.S. court opinions.

Lawyers' Conference on Polygamy reports that today the first ever conference focusing on the legal implications of polygamy is being held in Utah. The conference is meant to provide a snapshot into the family, criminal law and constitutional issues that often confront "plural" families. The conference, Family or Felony? , has a full slate of speakers who will provide a review of past cases, including a massive 2008 raid on the Texas ranch owned by Utah's Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that put more than 430 in temporary protective custody. Attendees will be awarded 6.5 CLE credits.
Bill Paxton and Chloë Sevigny will not be attending :-) .

IT and Libraries

Inside Higher Education has a blogpost today that reflects on the relationship between university IT departments and libraries. The author is an IT guy who has his office in the campus library. He says that in the future the academic library and academic technology disciplines will be increasingly intermingle and merge. "Even if academic technology and academic library services remain organizationally independent, our daily work and strategic goals will become increasingly intertwined."

Hat tip: Elizabeth Ferrall

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Lawsuit Seeks Larger Congress

The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog reports that a group called filed suit in federal district court for the Northern District of Mississippi on behalf of five people, one resident from each of the following states: Montana, Delaware, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah. The complaint claims that their votes carry far less weight in the House of Representatives than do those from residents of other states, like Rhode Island and Iowa. The action challenges the constitutionality of the current interstate apportionment of Congress under the principle of one person, one vote, saying that by freezing the size of Congress at 435 seats for the past 100 years the interstate apportionment is now grossley out of compliance with the requirement of Article I Section 2 and the Section 2 of the 14th Amendment.

Microsoft Office Web Apps

Microsoft's new Office Web Apps will let you work between your desktop Office documents and the web, but it's currently in an invite-only preview - and the invites are long gone. However, it turns out that all you need to do is log into Microsoft's SkyDrive using a account (if you don't already have one, registering is free) and then upload any Microsoft Word doc. When the upload completes, SkyDrive will ask you if you want to join the Office Web Apps preview program .
Once you've joined, you'll be able to view any uploaded Word doc, Excel spreadsheet, or PowerPoint presentation from your browser in Microsoft's (currently barebones) online offerings. Word documents are currently read-only, but Excel docs and PowerPoint presentations are fully editable.

HeinOnline Tax Webinar

HeinOnline blogs that there is still time to sign up for their webinar which will demonstrate the new Taxation and Economic Reform in America historical archive of legislative histories. Barco has a free testdrive of the database until Oct. 8, so if you're interested in Tax you might want to take the free webinar.

Thursday 17 September 2009

Westcast - A day in the life of a case

How West attorneys process a case.

G20 transportation safety plan

The Pittsburgh Dept. of Public Safety has a website with lots of information about the G20 transportation situation, including maps, road closures, vehicle entry procedures, parking areas, and a video presentation by Pittsburgh Bureau of Police Lieutenant Joseph Tersak who explains the Plan's traffic restrictions in great detail.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Online newspaper archives

Wikipedia has a great page with a list of all (or many) of the newspaper archives in the world, both free and pay. Thanks to Vicki Szymczak for providing the link.

Innovation Practice Institute

Prof. Max Miller's Innovation Practice Institute at Pitt Law is diving into social networking. There is a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter account (#PittLawIPI). The IPI was also recently featured in a story in the Pitt Chronicle.

Monday 14 September 2009

New Scholarly Calendar at Pitt Law

Prof. Mike Madison has announced the creation of a Pitt Law Google calendar that displays scholarly events around Pitt Law school. In his announcement Prof. Madison says:
"The purpose of the calendar is partly to help all of us keep track of the many scholarly events at the law school. The purpose is partly to promote those events to audiences outside the law school. Because the calendar is "public" in Google-speak, it is searchable by the Google search engine, and events at the law school will appear in Google search results. As much as I could, in creating the calendar I distinguished between events that are open to the public and events that are not.
The calendar includes:
-- Faculty workshops
-- Major "named" lectures at the law school
-- Conferences and symposia
-- Special scholarly presentations and invited lectures"
This is a great new resource for the law school. Kudos to Prof. Madison!

Wednesday 9 September 2009

Visiting Lecture this Friday

Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow

On Friday, Sept. 11 at noon in the Moot Courtroom the Center for International Legal Education is hosting a guest lecture, "The Contribution of the Rwanda Tribunal to International Law and the Challenge sof Completion: The Prosecutor's Perspective" . Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Chief Prosecutor of the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is the guest speaker. Justice Jallow served as Solicitor-General, Attorney-General, and Supreme Court Justice for Gambia. He has served as an international legal expert for the U.N. and the Organization of African Unity. Prior to his appointment as Chief Prosecutor for the ICTR, he served as a Judge in the Appeals Chambers of the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

A reception in the Alcoa Room will follow the lecture. You can see the Event flyer on the CILE website.

New databases available on FDsys

The Government Printing Office has added eight new resource collections to FDsys (GPO's Federal Digital System). They are:
History of Bills (1983 - present) lists legislative actions on bills that are reported in the Congressional Record. In print this is part of the Congressional Record Index but on FDsys it is a separate collection. The current year's collection is updated daily. A typical entry includes a bill number, title, summary, names of sponsors and cosponsors, and a chronological list of actions on the bill.
Congressional Record Index (1983 - present) lists individuals, organizations, and topics mentioned in the Congressional Record.
Congressional Record (Bound Edition) (1998 - 2002) At the end of each session of Congress, all of the daily CR editions are collected, re-paginated, and re-indexed into a permanent, bound edition. This permanent edition is made up of one volume per session of Congress, with each volume published in multiple parts, each part containing approximately 10 to 20 days of Congressional proceedings. The primary ways in which the bound edition differs from the daily edition are continuous pagination; somewhat edited, revised, and rearranged text; and the dropping of the prefixes H, S, and E before page numbers.
U.S. Statutes at Large (2003 - 2006, authenticated digital signature), the permanent collection of all laws and resolutions enacted during each session of Congress. The Statutes at Large is legal evidence of the laws, concurrent resolutions, proclamations by the President, and proposed and ratified amendments to the Constitution.
Congressional Directory (105th Congress (1997) to present, authenticated digital signature) the official directory of the U.S. Congress. It contains short biographies of each member of the Senate and House, listed by state or district; committee memberships, terms of service, administrative assistants and/or secretaries, and room and telephone numbers for Members of Congress; officials of the courts, military establishments, and other Federal departments and agencies, including D.C. government officials, governors of states and territories, foreign diplomats, and members of the press, radio, and television galleries.
United States Government Manual (1995/1996 to present, authenticated digital signature), the official handbook of the Federal Government. It provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches and also includes information on quasi-official agencies; international organizations in which the United States participates; and boards, commissions, and committees.
Economic Report of the President (1996 to present), an annual report written by the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers. It overviews the nation's economic progress using text and extensive data appendices. The Economic Report of the President is transmitted to Congress no later than ten days after the submission of the Budget of the United States Government.
GAO Reports and Comptroller General Decisions (1994 to 2008) contains reports (“blue books”) on audits, surveys, investigations, and evaluations of Federal programs conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). All published reports, testimonies, correspondence, and special publications are included. Products that are restricted or classified are not included. The GAO collection on FDsys is provided as an archive of the content as it was at the time GAO and the GPO signed an agreement to provide permanent public access to the GAO Reports database on September 19, 2008. More recent reports are available on the GAO Web site.

hat tip: Jamie Keller

Tuesday 8 September 2009

LexisNexis Academic has a new Beta release

LexisNexis Academic has announced the release of the Beta version of significant interface improvements scheduled for full release in late December. The interface looks quite different from the one we are accustomed to - instead of just one search box, there are six individual search boxes for the most common searches: Search the News, Look up a Legal Case, Get Company Information, Research Countries, Research People and a Combined Search. Check it out and let them know what you think.

Google books

James Boyle, a professor at Duke Law School, has an interesting article in the Financial Times entitled "A copyright black hole swallows our culture". He discusses the Google Books project in which Google has teamed up with a number of large libraries to digitise their collections. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that in the EU, Google has made concessions to European publishers, saying it will remove all European books that are still commercially available from its $125 million program to scan orphaned and out-of-print books in the U.S. and sell them online.

Friday 28 August 2009

Legal Rebels at the ABA

The ABA Journal has launched the Legal Rebels Project to profile innovators in the legal profession. Today's ABA Journal has the profiles of the first seven Legal Rebels:
the first seven:
Jeffrey J. Hughes: The Legal Grinder (his office is also a coffeehouse)
Laurel Edgeworth: The Matchmaker (she created the Law Clerk Connection , a virtual forum that allows law students to bid on contract clerking assignments at small to medium firms around the country)
Patrick J. Lamb: A Betting Man (he founded law firm Valorum with other biglaw refugees)
Roderick A. Palmore: Demanding Diversity (he spearheaded the Association of Corporate Counsel program Call to Action, in which other General Counsels evaluate outside law firms’ diversity efforts. )
David Van Zandt: Purple Praise (the Dean of Northwestern's law school always wears purple, the school color)
Denise Annunciata: Paralegal Power (she developed her own business, Virtual Paralegal Services)
Richard Granat: Internet Obsessive (he has numerous online ventures, all of which focus on using the Internet in legal services delivery to underserved firms and clients.)

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Suggested practices for citing internet materials in Federal Court opinions

The Third Branch, the newsletter of the Federal Courts, has an article that gives recommendations for "suggested practices" for courts to use when citing Internet materials.
The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) began the pilot project, conducted by circuit libraries, and received and endorsed the recommendations of an ad hoc working group of circuit librarians. In approving those recommendations in March 2009, the Judicial Conference agreed that all Internet materials cited in final opinions be considered for preservation, while each judge should retain the discretion to decide whether the specific cited resource should be captured and preserved. The Conference directed the Administrative Office to work with the CACM Committee to develop guidelines “to assist judges in making the determination of which citations to preserve.”
The guidelines suggest that, if a webpage is cited, chambers staff preserve the citation by downloading a copy of the site’s page and filing it as an attachment to the judicial opinion in the Judiciary’s Case Management/Electronic Case Files System. The attachment, like the opinion, would be retrievable on a non-fee basis through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system. When considering whether to cite Internet sources, judges are reminded that some litigants, particularly pro se litigants, may not have access to a computer.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

LLMC and Google to make CR available online

The Law Library Microform Consortium (LLMC) just published its August newsletter. Some excellent news: they have partnered with Google Books and are planning to digitize The Congressional Record from 1873-date. If all goes well, they hope to have it available online by early next year. This title will also include the three predecessor series: Annals of Congress, 1789-1824, Congressional Debates, 1824-37, and the Congressional Globe, 1833-73.
In addition, after they finish The Congressional Record, they are thinking of moving the Google/LLMC focus on to the CFR and The Federal Register. They add that they "could definitely use donor libraries for both of these titles and would appreciate your contacting us if your library has a copy that is in reasonably good physical shape and which you would be willing to “weed to digital”. "

Monday 17 August 2009

TWEN enhancements

On August 18th there will be a release of new enhancements for Westlaw's TWEN course management system. TWEN users may notice a few changes:
- Modifying Forums and Document Pages
Users will see a simplified modify page for both Forums and Document pages, with all the options for modification existing on a single page, rather than a page with several different links to these options.
- Add a Link
Users will be able to add an individual link to their document pages rather than uploading a file or entering in text as a document item. The feature will allow participants to click on the name of the link and it will open in a new browser window.
- Sign-Up Sheets
Some changes have been made to the sign-up sheets redesign that was released late this spring. The changes mean that the sign-up sheet page will appear less cluttered and will also default to the "expand al" option when the user first enters onto the sign-up sheet page. Administrators will also be able to custom sort their sign-up sheets. Also included in this release is the ability for administrators to give participants a custom list of dropdown options from which they can select during their sign-up process.

Facebook and Canada's Privacy Law

The Ottawa Citizen reports that Facebook must find a way to live up to Canada's privacy law by today (Monday Aug. 17) and respond to Jennifer Stoddart, Canada's privacy commissioner order to close its "serious privacy gaps."If Facebook's final response is unsatisfactory, she has two weeks to take the California-based company to Federal Court in Ottawa to try and get a court order requiring it to change its business practices to comply with Canada's Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, the country's private-sector privacy law.
If the dispute goes to court it would be an international first for Facebook, which has grown to more than 200 million users since its launch in 2004. In addition to an "overarching" concern relating to the "confusing" or "incomplete" way in which Facebook provides information to users about its privacy practices, the Privacy Commissioner concluded Facebook's policy to indefinitely keep the personal information of people who have deactivated their accounts is contrary to the Act. But the biggest concern is Facebook's sharing of personal information to companies that operate third-party applications on its site. In order to download popular games and quizzes, Facebook users must consent to share all their personal information, except their contact details. These companies, totalling nearly one million, operate in 180 countries.
Immediately after the privacy commissioner issued her report (pdf, html) last month, Facebook's chief privacy officer said the company looked forward to reaching a resolution, but also said Facebook believed its approach was already in compliance with Canada's law.

Sunday 16 August 2009

US Army testing wiki-style editing of manuals

The US Army is in the midst of a 90-day online test of using wiki-style methodology to keep Army manuals up to date, according to the Army Times . The pilot program called Army Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (ATTP) converts the contents of field manuals into a wiki format and posts them online. The Army is using seven existing manuals that every soldier, from private to general officer, can then read and modify the manuals in a “wiki”-style environment.
The manuals are FMI 3-04.155 Army Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations, FM 3-07.20 Modular Brigade Augmented for Security Force Assistance, FM 3-21.9 The SBCT Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad, FM 3-09.15 Site Exploitation, FM 3-97.11 Cold Weather Operations, FM 5-19 Composite Risk Management, and FM 6.01-1 Knowledge Management Section. The people who write the doctrine in the manuals say that with things changing so fast in the field, it has been hard to keep the Army’s 550 manuals up to date and relevant. By letting the entire Army update the manuals, they say, more and better information can go out to a wider population of soldiers. This system will allow lessons learned in the field to become an immediate part of doctrine, with rapid dissemination.

Measuring Real Time Public Opinion With Twitter

The New York Times has an interesting article about two statisticians at the University of Vermont who hope to harness the messages flowing through Twitter to read public opinion and sentiment in real time. They feel that tracking and analyzing public Web writings could provide better results than some surveys or polls because the answers tend to be unfiltered and more genuine, allowing them to analyze reactions and emotional responses to current events by the hour. In addition, since relationships and conversations are so intrinsic to how people communicate on Twitter, the researchers hope that observing how one user’s mood is affected by another might shed some light on crowd behavior and emotional contagion.

Friday 14 August 2009

Improving PACER

From the Academic Law Libraries group:
RECAP is a free extension for Firefox that improves the experience of using PACER, the electronic public access system for the U.S. Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts. Some of the things it does:
- Contributes to a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive
- Saves you money: Shows you when free documents are available
- Keeps you organized: Gives you better filenames, enables useful headers
From the RECAP website:
"Since the 1980s, the cutting edge of judicial transparency has been PACER, an electronic system that allows attorneys and the general public to access millions of federal court records. PACER was a big step forward when it was originally created, but lately it has begun to show its age. At a time when the other two branches of government are becoming ever more subject to online scrutiny, the judicial branch still requires citizens to provide a credit card and pay eight cents a page for its documents...
Today we’re excited to release the public beta of RECAP. RECAP is an extension to the popular Firefox web browser that gives PACER users a hassle-free way to contribute to a free, open repository of federal court records. When a RECAP user purchases a document from PACER, the RECAP extension helps her automatically send a copy of that document to the RECAP archive. And RECAP saves its users money by notifying them when documents they’re searching for are already available for free from the public archive.
RECAP is a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. It was developed by Harlan Yu, Steve Schultze, and Timothy B. Lee, under the supervision of Prof. Ed Felten...
The RECAP repository is hosted by the Internet Archive, a world-renowned online library. With the help of RECAP users, we want to build the nation’s most comprehensive public archive of freely-available federal judicial records. And we’re looking for partners to help us build the archive more quickly and find new, innovative uses for the information. We are already working with Justia and to integrate the public records they already have into our archive."

New Law Librarian of Congress

According to the Washington D.C . law librarian listserv, Roberta I. Shaffer has been appointed Law Librarian of Congress. Ms. Shaffer is currently the executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC) and the Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK) at the Library of Congress. Herappointment as Law Librarian of Congress is effective August 30, 2009.
Ms. Shaffer holds degrees from Vassar College, Emory University and Tulane University. She served as director of External Relations and Program Development in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland at College Park and developed a new master's of information management degree program there. Prior to that, she was dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin, served as a Fulbright senior research scholar at the Tel Aviv University Faculty of Law and the Portuguese Ministry of Justice, and worked as a special assistant to the Law Librarian of Congress.
In announcing his selection, Dr. James Billington, Librarian of Congress said, "Roberta Shaffer brings to this critical management position both extraordinary vision and demonstrated leadership skills that will continue the Law Library's historically exemplary service to Congress and to the public while addressing the challenges of providing legal research and reference services in our rapidly changing and technologically-driven world."

Thursday 13 August 2009

JSTOR and the U. of California Press team up

The Wired Campus Blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that JSTOR and the University of California Press have initiated a new effort in academic publishing called the Current Scholarship Program.
The initiative hopes to make current and historical scholarly content available on a single, integrated platform, to provide a single point of purchase and access for librarians and end users around the world, and to ensure its long-term preservation. Beginning in 2011, current and historical content from all University of California Press published journals, including those from scholarly societies, will be available on a redesigned JSTOR platform.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping the scholarly community discover, use, and build upon a wide range of intellectual content in a trusted digital archive. It is highly respected for hosting scholarly content and known for the user-friendliness of its website.