Monday 29 February 2016

National Archives website adds new features

The National Archives has announced updates to their website - in particular, to the National Archives Catalog. "You can now:
- Enjoy the updated homepage featuring background images from Catalog records.
- Find what you need with a more intuitive advanced search page.
- Add your comments on digitized records, descriptions, and authority records; and
- Track your "citizen archivist" contributions with updated user account pages.
- Add data from scanned records to your developer toolbox with increased API functionality.”
Also, if you enjoy coloring books, the National Archives recently released the "Coloring Book of Patents 2016," available as a free 17 page PDF and full of "sheer inventive weirdness." 

Friday 26 February 2016

Psychology & Lawyering symposium

The U. of Nevada - Las Vegas law school recently published a collection of papers that were presented at their symposium on Psychology and Lawyering. These articles discuss how research in psychology can be used to inform legal education and lawyering in general. Among the interesting titles:
Getting Students Psyched: Using Psychology to Encourage Classroom Participation;
Hiding the Elephant: How the Psychological Techniques of Magicians Can Be Used to Manipulate Witnesses at Trial;
Virtuous Billing; and
Silencing our Elders.

US v. Apple at a glance

The Wall Street Journal Tech Blog has a very concise explanation of the U.S. v. Apple dispute titled U.S. v. Apple: Where They Disagree. For a slightly longer take on the dispute, the MIT Technology Review has an article called The Legal Question At the Core of the Apple Encryption Standoff. 

Thursday 25 February 2016

cellphone battery help

The New York Times Personal Tech blog has a really helpful article today called "Tips and Myths About Extending Smartphone Battery Life." The bad news is that we're stuck with not very good batteries for "the forseeable future"; but there are some ways to eke out battery life that I didn't know about.

Tuesday 16 February 2016

ABA Journal Peeps diorama contest opens

It's that time of the year again: Law in Peepculture, aka the ABA Journal's Peeps Diorama Contest. To quote the ABA Journal article: "The spring awakens, which means it is time for 2016 Peeps in Law: Peep Wars... Create a law-related diorama with Peeps, take a photo of the diorama and send the photo (JPG, GIF or PNG) by 11:59 p.m. on Monday, March 21 to Include a title of the diorama, how you would like to be identified and a description of what the diorama represents. If you’d like to attach additional multimedia, go for it! In the past, some dioramas have had accompanying videos and original songs. Decisions to accept and post dioramas are solely up to ABA Journal staff. Here is a photo gallery of 2015 entries to give you some inspiration."

Finally, Fastcase

We were intrigued and a bit nervous last fall when new-ish legal research company Fastcase announced the acquisition of competing service Loislaw from Wolters Kluwer. We had a subscription to Loislaw but not to Fastcase. So we are pleased that Fastcase invited us to "grandfather" our Loislaw subscription into a Fastcase subscription, now available on the Barco databases page. And Fastcase's "smarter legal research tools" are more intuitive and help users drill down to the information they need more quickly. Features include:
- Interactive Timeline - the first data visualization for results.
- Smartphone apps, for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.
- Bad Law Bot, the first big data service to find negative history.
- Integrated citation analysis - know which results are most important with a single click.
- The Loislaw treatise libraries.

Fastcase helpfully links out to other websites for information not (currently) included in the database, like Federal docket filings and HeinOnline. There's a "Search Newspapers" link to NewsLibrary, where you can find stories from newspapers across the US.
Fastcase is available to law school faculty, staff and students inside the Barco Law Building (including via wireless network). Currently it isn't available off-campus.
Fastcase also provides free live training webinars that you can register for throughout the spring.  

Friday 12 February 2016

New map of academic law libraries

Law Librarian Aaron Kirschenfeld from UNC has put together a list of academic law libraries in the U.S., available as a map and as a downloadable spreadsheet. H collected the library's name, website, and Twitter profile, and plans to add blogs to the mix soon. He is also asking for help in correcting information I've gotten wrong or for suggestions about what else to include - you can email him your comments.

Friday 5 February 2016

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

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

GPO Launches Beta of, eventually to replace FDsys

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

Thursday 4 February 2016

Task Force on Federal Corrections issues sweeping report

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

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Oyez Project's future up in the air

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