Friday, September 19, 2014

New Title In United States Code - Voting & Election

For any die-hard researcher, the news of a new title in the U.S. Code offers a rare kind of excitement. 

As of September 1, the United States Code has extended to Title 52 “Voting and Election."

Title 52 will cover federal election statutes under three subtitles:
  • Voting Rights
  • Voting Assistance and Election Administration
  • Federal Campaign Finance
As George Mason's blog noted, there was no congressional bill needed for the new title. "The U.S. Code is administered by the Office of Law Revision Counsel pursuant to 2 U.S.C. § 285. The OLRC has authority over the preparation of the United States Code, including the ability to make revisions. In the case of voting and election laws, the OLRC staff determined that the volume of laws enacted on these topics warranted a separate title."

And now for West & Lexis to pick up the title and start adding the annotations that are so helpful to researchers. 

See the Office of Revision Counsel's website for more information about the reclassification. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Should Law Students Get Credit & Cash?

The reform idea that law student should receive credit and pay for their externships has been around for awhile

This time, it's the NYTimes Room for Discussion series taking up the issue. As the intro to the series mentions, "[t]he American Bar Association prohibits law students from receiving pay for internships and externships that grant them academic credit. Critics have pressured the organization to reverse this standard, as law students face mounting debt and a slow job market."

A law student, a law professor, and a legal professional all chimed in. The law student argues that law students should get paid and receive credit. "While in school, [law] students have to decide whether to accept an unpaid externship and receive law school credit — which could allow them to graduate and find a paying job more quickly — or take a paid legal position, without school credit, which might extend their time in law school."

The law professor argues that the current ABA standard prohibiting pay should stay in place. "Under the current standards, law students cannot be compensated for work they do for school credit. This policy should remain in place because separating compensation and 'study outside the classroom' is a crucial step toward safeguarding the academic integrity of the externship."

The legal professional argues that law students should receive pay. "Most law school graduates, no matter how well schooled, lack significant experiential learning — the firsthand experience that comes from trying a case, arguing in court and advising a client. A major impediment is the American Bar Association rule that prohibits law schools from giving students academic credit for legal work for which they are paid, no matter how valuable the school might think the work experience is. This makes no sense. Medical schools let interns receive compensation."

As the ABA continues to contemplate changing this standard, it must take law school debt into consideration. With a huge percentage of graduates facing six-figure debt, the ABA should do everything in its power to help alleviate some of the burden. Allowing students to receive pay and credit makes sense. 

The argument that the law professor gives, in essence, that the main focus of the externship should be academic and allowing pay would undermine that is offset by the fact that law students would be paid a fraction of what licensed attorneys are paid for similar work. This ensures that the focus remains on the educational component because the employer understands that by getting a deal on the work, the employer has a responsibility to focus on educating the student. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Judge Calls Out BP Lawyers For Using Trickery

NPR reported that the judge in a case related to the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was not amused when the BP lawyers manipulated the spacing in a brief to comply with the page limit.

"Back in school, did you ever fudge the spacing on a report to meet the teacher's page-length requirement? Lawyers representing oil company BP tried something similar in a recent court filing connected to the company's 2010 drilling rig accident and oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico."

Judge Barbier reprimanded the lawyers for the tactic. "BP's counsel filed a brief that, at first blush, appeared just within the 35-page limit. A closer study reveals that BP's counsel abused the page limit by reducing the line spacing to slightly less than double-spaced. As a result, BP exceeded the (already enlarged) page limit by roughly six pages. The Court should not have to waste its time policing such simple rules — particularly in a case as massive and complex as this. ... Counsel's tactic would not be appropriate for a college term paper. It certainly is not appropriate here."

As one of Judge Barbier's former clerks mentioned, "[t]he subtext seems to be Judge Barbier saying, 'Look, every time I give you an inch you take a mile, and I'm tired of it.' BP is lucky because some judges would have stricken the entire brief for not following the rules."

This is a good lesson for any future attorney. Judges are savvy enough to know when a brief has been manipulated. If a judge has been on the bench long enough, he or she has probably seen lawyers try every trick in the book to comply with a page limit, including changing font or spacing. It's just not worth it to upset judges over something as silly as spacing in a brief.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Visit The Library For An Experience

When most people think library, they think of a quiet warehouse full of books. Of course, that's all changing as libraries continue to transition to a digital collection.

Some libraries are continuing to step outside of the traditional role of the library by offering cutting edge technology like Google Glass or 3D printers to their patrons.

The other programming happening in Colorado libraries include:

  • Anythink created The Studio at Wright Farms, which has HD cameras, a green screen, tripods, lighting kits and editing software. And that's just for video. There's an audio recording studio, graphic design software and gaming computers
  • A programmable Finch to learn computer code
  • Seed libraries to offer up cheaper ways to cultivate plants, herbs, fruits and vegetables
  • In Denver, you can stream and download music from local bands
  • In JeffCo, a library card also gets you a Culture Pass, where cardholders can reserve passes to access local museums and attractions

The Communications Director of Anythink Libraries said, "[w]e are really shifting and think of the library less as a place to warehouse books, and more of a place where you can come and interact with information in a new way and actually participate in a new experience."

And how users interact with information should be more of a focus for librarians today. It's great to see public libraries taking such an active role in their community.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lexis Advance Is Here

Lexis released the new interface, Lexis Advance, on Monday, September 8.

From the promotional literature:
It's cleaner, simpler and easier to use than ever before. Some of the new Lexis Advance features include:

  • A new streamlined interface
  • Tab-less, uncluttered results
  • More intuitive filters get you to the answer faster
  • Improved Alerts, Tables of Contents, Mobile Apps and more
  • The same great search functions that you already know
For more information on the Lexis Advance interface, see the following YouTube videos:
On first impression, it looks like Lexis Advance really listened to user comments and recommendations for improvement.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Twitter Account Announces Changes To SCOTUS Opinions

Earlier this year, I posted about SCOTUS continuing to edit opinions after release.

From the NYTimes, "[t]he Supreme Court has been quietly revising its decisions years after they were issued, altering the law of the land without public notice. The revisions include 'truly substantive changes in factual statements and legal reasoning,' said Richard J. Lazarus, a law professor at Harvard and the author of a new study examining the phenomenon."

In June, the ABAJournal noted that there is a Twitter account that is tracking the changes made to opinions after release.

"Lawyer David Zvenyach, general counsel to the Council of the District of Columbia, looked for a solution [to notifying the public of changes to the opinions]. He used an application called Node to crawl slip opinions from the Supreme Court’s website every five minutes. The changes are automatically noted on Twitter at the account @Scotus_servo."

A a caveat, "TechDirt points out that the system only works when the Supreme Court updates its website with the latest changes, and that doesn’t always happen."

But this alert is better than nothing.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Find A Little Help From My Friends (Reading First-Year Cases)

As law school heads into the first few weeks of class, it is probable that 1Ls will run across the most famous cases in the first-year subjects.

The Findlaw Blog has a series of helpful posts for the classic law school cases.

Torts:

  • Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (1928)
  • Summers v. Tice (1948)
  • MacPherson v. Buick Motor Co. (1916)
  • Garratt v. Dailey (1955)
  • United States v. Carroll Towing Co. (1947)

Criminal Law:

  • R. v. Dudley and Stephens (Queen's Bench, 1884)
  • M'Naghten's Case (House of Lords 1843)
  • R. v. Cunningham (Queen's Bench, 1957)
  • People v. Ceballos (Calif. Supreme Court, 1973)
  • Lawrence v. Texas (U.S. Supreme Court, 2003)

Property:

  • Pierson v. Post (New York, 1805)
  • Ghen v. Rich (Massachusetts, 1881)
  • Duke of Norfolk's Case (House of Lords, 1682)
  • United States v. Causby (U.S. Supreme Court, 1946)
  • Johnson & Graham's Lessee v. M'Intosh (U.S. Supreme Court, 1823)

Civil Procedure:

  • Pennoyer v. Neff (SCOTUS 1878)
  • International Shoe v. Washington (SCOTUS 1945)
  • Gray v. American Radiator (Illinois Supreme Court 1961)
  • World Wide Volkswagen v. Woodson (SCOTUS 1980)
  • Asahi Metal Industry v. Superior Court (SCOTUS 1986)

Contracts:

  • Hawkins v. McGee (New Hampshire 1929)
  • Hadley v. Baxendale (English Exchequer Court 1854)
  • Frigaliment Importing Co. v. BNS International Sales Corp. (New York 1960)
  • Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (Queen's Bench 1893)
  • Hamer v. Sidway
These posts offer an overview of the foundational doctrines in these areas of law as laid out by these cases. They are a good refresher for the more seasoned law student and a good overview of the doctrines that a 1L should pull from the cases. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

SCOTUS Relies Perilously On Amicus Briefs

The NYTimes reported on a fairly new phenomenon at the Supreme Court level. As the justices look to amicus briefs for help with data, "[t]heir opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs."

While this may not seem problematic on its face, "'[t]his is a perilous trend,' said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William and Mary. 'The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,' she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review."

"Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited 'facts' from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all."

The justices must be cognizant of the resources that amicus briefs cite for authority. It is not enough to merely cite to the amicus brief - the justices must also look to the reputability of the sources that the amicus brief cites to determine if the information is unbiased and represents the true nature of the reasoning in an opinion.

While not all amicus briefs cite questionable material, many amicus briefs rely on inferior data. "Some 'studies' presented in amicus briefs were paid for or conducted by the group that submitted the brief and published only on the Internet. Some studies seem to have been created for the purpose of influencing the Supreme Court." If the justices are going to cite an amicus brief, they should look for information that is, in part, peer-reviewed and published in a reputable journal.

"Yet the justices are quite receptive to this dodgy data. Over the five terms from 2008 to 2013, the court’s opinions cited factual assertions from amicus briefs 124 times."

The justices should take heed of Professor Larsen's article and pay closer attention to the reputable nature of the information cited in amicus briefs. Otherwise the SCOTUS opinions are undermined by potentially inaccurate or bias information.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

FREE Librarian Webinars In September

The Open Education Database posted a slew of free professional-development webinars for librarians in the month of September. There are 48 webinars in total.

Here are a few of the listings:

Wednesday, September 3
11:00 – 12:00 pm (Eastern)
Resource Description and What? RDA for Non-Catalogers (Nebraska Library Commission)

Thursday, September 4
2:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
20 Questions: Government Information Resources (Florida Library)

Tuesday, September 9
12:00 – 1:00 pm (Eastern)
The Reader’s First Initiative: Fighting for Fair Access to ebooks (Washington State Library)

Tuesday, September 9
3:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
The Reference Interview Today: Practical Principles, Timeless Tips (Library Journal)

Thursday, September 18
2:00 – 3:00 pm (Eastern)
Taming Tech Tools for Libraries (WebJunction)

Friday, September 19
11:00 – 12:00 pm (Eastern)
Tech Tools with Tine: 1 Hour of Google Drive (Texas State Library & Archives Commission)

Tuesday, September 23
2:00 – 3:00 pm (Eastern)
Promoting eResources at Academic Libraries (Florida Library)

Tuesday, September 23
2:00 – 4:00 pm (Eastern)
Introduction to Mobile Services for Libraries (Florida Library)

Friday, September 26
10:00 – 11:00 am (Eastern)
The Wild, Wild Web: A Labor of Gov (Florida Library)

These are the listings that I found particularly appealing, but there are webinars for all types of librarians. Librarians must be life-long learners, and these FREE resources are very helpful to stay current on trends and technologies in libraries.