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.

Monday 10 August 2009

UK National Identity Card hacked in 12 minutes

Well here's a sobering story: the Daily Mail asked a computer expert to have a go at the supposedly fail-safe National Id cards that are being considered for use in Britain. It took him 12 minutes to hack the card, create a new "cloned" card, and change all the information such as the name, address, description, fingerprints, immigration status, driver's license...

SUNY Buffalo Law School has new library director

On Saturday, the Law Librarian Blog reported that SUNY Buffalo has chosen a new director for the law library; Jim Milles announced last fall that he was changing careers and resigning as the library director to teach law full time. SUNY Buffalo Law School announced the the new law library director, James Wooten, will take charge on August 14.

Off the record "salon"

The Sunday New York Times magazine yesterday had an interesting story about a "salon" held every two weeks in New York where the hosts prohibit tweeting, blogging, or taking photos. One of the salon hosts explained that “We are fighting against this whole idea that everything people do has to be constantly chronicled. People think that every thought they have, every experience — if it is not captured it is lost.”

textbooks for the iPhone

The Wall Street Journal reports that a company called CourseSmart LLC, which provides subscription e-textbooks for college students, is making its textbooks available for accessing on iPhones and iTouches. Students who subscribe to CourseSmart can download the apps for free, and will be able to read their textbooks and course notes and search for words and phrases.

Friday 7 August 2009

EPA libraries revived

It was great to see the EPA libraries represented at the American Assn. of Law Libraries conference last month. After being threatened with closure and saved by Congress, the librarians are now energetically promoting the services that the EPA libraries provide. The moratorium on changes to library services, including the movement of library materials, was lifted in June 2009 and the EPA libraries are resuming normal collection management operations, and planning for the Agency’s future digitization efforts.
The EPA libraries website has links to the EPA National Library Network where you can search their National Catalog to find any of the holdings in EPA’s repositories and regional, laboratory, and specialized libraries. The National Catalog also has holdings for the EPA documents in the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)whether or not they are held by any libraries and can also search and display NTIS abstracts.
The libraries website also has a link to the National Service Center for Environmental Publications which has an excellent search interface allowing you to find EPA publications in digital format or to order hard copies of EPA publications.

Monday 3 August 2009

pdf readers

You don't have to use Adobe Reader to open pdf files (not that there's anything wrong with that). Lifehacker has a blogpost that compares the features of what it calls the "five best pdf readers". Why would you want to use a different pdf reader? There are readers you might want to consider that are faster, lighter, opensource, and that have advanced tools for annotation etc. For example, I've been using PDF-Xchange Viewer (one of the readers that made the list) for a few years; I like it because it takes up less space than Reader (17 mb vs. 134 mb) and has annotation tools that let me add text, sticky notes, etc. to pdfs.
The basic readers in the article are free; most have professional upgrades with more features that you can purchase.

The (real) cost of printers

PC World has a recent article titled "Is Your Printer Stealing From You? Here's How to Tell." While the title is sensationalistic, the article does tell you how to judge whether a printer is a good deal or not. According to the article, some printers seem inexpensive because it’s a common ploy for printer vendors to sell machines at or below their production cost and then make their money later on with extremely high ink or toner costs. It goes on to list some printers that aren't as inexpensive as they seem and some that give you lots of ink and toner for a low price.

House passes bill to boost funding for the law library of Congress

The Salt Lake Tribune reports that on Friday the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed HR 2728, the William Orton Law Library Improvement and Modernization Act. The bill, aimed at boosting funding for the Law Library of Congress, was named in honor of former Utah congressman Bill Orton who died in April in an ATV accident. The proposal would change the Library's name to the National Law Library and
provides new financial support mechanisms for the Law Library. In addition to other funds available for financial support of the Law Library, the bill authorizes a onetime appropriation of $3,500,000.00 to be used for maintaining and administering Law Library services and provides for the cataloging and archiving of nonproprietary material in the collection of the Law Library.
The bill also provides for a line item appropriation for the Law Library. Currently, funding for the Law Library is drawn from the Library of Congress's general budget; the bill gives the Law Library a separate appropriated amount beginning in fiscal year 2011. In addition, it creates the "William Orton Program," to solicit outside donations and create partnerships between the law library and other government and private entities, "including the American Association of Law Libraries and the American Bar Association (ABA)", to provide enhanced or special services and programs for the Law Library and otherwise support the mission of the Law Library.
According to House Report 111-170,
The Law Library occupies a unique position, not just with respect to library science or the legal profession, but within the nation as a whole. H.R. 2728 will provide the Law Library the resources necessary not just to maintain this distinctive position but also to offer new and innovative services for years to come. The Law Library is currently in the process of organizing all materials using the uniform K classification system as university law libraries do. Law Library estimates state that this process could be completed in 6.5 years with 6 full-time catalogers. The line item appropriation will ensurethat all funds for the Law Library are received by the Law Library and the William Orton Program and will ensure the continued availability of and access to this amazing collection of legal materials for future generations."
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif, who sponsored the bill, said that "Bill Orton was a tireless advocate for the law library and this legislation is a fitting way to honor his memory. He understood that it wasn't flashy, but it was important. And actually that is just like Bill, a guy who wasn't flashy, but who was serious and did important things for his country."
The bill will now go before the Senate.