"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.
N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law


Thursday, September 3, 2015

FCC Announces Platform for Sign Language Communication With Federal Agencies


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced that the agency will introduce a video access platform to allow speech- and hearing-impaired people to communicate with federal agencies using American Sign Language (ASL). Users will be able to download open source applications to their smartphones or computers that will allow video calling to agency representatives fluent in ASL. The beta version of the program will be introduced later this year, with a final release scheduled for spring of 2016. The open source accessibility platform will also allow other public institutions and private businesses to offer similar services in the future. To read more about the platform, see this announcement on the FCC website.  

Friday, August 28, 2015

Black's Law Dictionary, 10th edition Mobile App

Those who haven't purchased the new edition of Black's Law Dictionary may wish to consider using the mobile app version. The 10th edition of Black's Dictionary was released as an app in April and is available for Apple devices. The app provides, among other things, access to over 50,000 definitions, 1000 abbreviations and acronyms, and audio pronunciations for more than 7000 terms. The ability to track viewed definitions and  a "Did You Mean" tool (that assists the user in finding the correct term), are just of the new features that were not available on the 9th edition of the mobile app. The app is $54.99 and is available on the App store.  See iPhoneJD's review for more details.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Law Library Brown Bag Series

Each semester the law library presents a series of presentations on legal research topics. These presentations are held at 12 noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Room 4 BLB. We will be offering the following sessions during the Fall 2015 semester:

1. Bluebook Update: Welcome to the 20th Edition!
Tuesday, 9/29, Wednesday, 9/30
Katy Badeaux, Reference and Research Librarian

2. Federal Legislative Research
Tuesday, 10/6, Wednesday, 10/7
Robert Clark, Reference and Research Librarian

3. Federal Administrative Law Research
Tuesday, 10/13, Wednesday, 10/14
Dan Donahue, International and Foreign Law Librarian

4. Researching Federal Income Tax Law
Tuesday, 10/20, Wednesday, 10/21
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

5. Power Searching on Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law
Tuesday, 10/27, Wednesday, 10/28
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Resources for New Law Students


This Monday, August 24, is the first day of classes for the Fall 2015 semester at the University of Houston Law Center.  Many of the arriving students will be 1L or foreign LLM students, each of whom will receive their first introductions to an academic system that in some ways is notably different from anything in their educational background. 

For anyone interested, the O'Quinn Law Library collection contains a number of resources designed specifically to help these new law students find their footing.  The following books are held on reserve:

And the following books are in the library stacks available to be checked out:

Friday, August 21, 2015

Proposed Emissions Rules Announced


The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new rules controlling emissions in the oil and natural gas industry.  Copies of the proposed rules are available here and will soon be available in the Federal Register

The federal rulemaking process is governed by 5 U.S.C. § 553.  This code requires the publication of proposed rules in the Federal Register, as well as requiring that federal agencies invite public comments regarding new rules.  This is currently done through the government website, www.regulations.gov.  In this case, the proposed emission rules are expected to be published in EPA-HQ-OAR-2010-0505, the docket in which the EPA has posted changes to emissions standards in the past.  Any legal researchers investigating this rule specifically or this subject generally may be interested in following this docket.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Searching and Using FDA Guidance Documents

When practicing in areas heavily regulated by government agencies, guidance documents can be invaluable resources. Generally, guidance documents describe the agency's interpretation of or policy on a regulatory issue. While these documents are often available through the agency’s website(s), they are often scattered throughout site and not always kept up to date. The larger the agency, the more difficult it can be to make sure you have performed a comprehensive search. For example, it is easy to find the EPA’s list of significant guidance documents, but there is no tool to perform comprehensive searches of all the agency’s guidance documents. 

The Food and Drug Administration is another large agency that produces a large number of guidance documents addressing a wide range of topics. The FDA’s guidance documents include documents relating to (1) the design, production, labeling, promotion, manufacturing, and testing of regulated products, (2) the processing, content, and evaluation or approval of submissions, and (3) inspection and enforcement policies.


Recently, the Food and Drug administration unveiled its new guidance document database containing many guidance documents issued by all of FDA's various offices and centers, and it is updated to clearly list all of the agency's most recent documents. The database allows the user to filter results by product type, FDA organization, type of document, subject, and whether the document is a preliminary draft or has been made final.  Users can also choose to browse the guidance documents by subject matter rather than performing a search. The ability to keyword searches in conjunction with useful filters makes researching FDA documents significantly more efficient. Hopefully, other agencies will follow the FDA's lead and advanced databases will become the norm across agency websites, rather than the exception.   

Monday, August 10, 2015

New HeinOnline Libraries Now Available to the Law Center Community

Nearly every day at our reference desk, I direct patrons to  the wide  array of resources accessible through HeinOnline.  From journal articles to session laws and treaties to agency decisions, I am still amazed at the breadth and depth of our HeinOnline content.  Starting today, the O’Quinn Law Library now has even more content accessible through HeinOnline for researchers to discover.

The newly available collections include:

Foreign & International Law Resources Database: A vast collection of international yearbooks, international tribunals and judicial decisions, English translations of foreign penal codes, and materials from the Court of Justice of the European Communities.

American Law Institute Library: Materials from the American Law Institute including restatements, drafts, studies, and more from the American Law Institute.

History of International Law: Library includes more than 1,100 titles and 800,000 pages dating back to 1690 on International Law subjects

Intellectual Property Law Collection:  Focusing on copyrights, patents, and trademarks in the United States, this collection features more than 100 legislative histories, which provide researchers with a complete history of copyright laws from 1909 to date, along with other books and materials.

Congress and the Courts: This library, featuring William H. Manz's Congress and the Courts: A Legislative History 1787-2010, brings together materials reflecting congressional concern with the composition and structure of Article III Courts and provides all relevant documents prepared by various Congresses relating to the purpose, formation, organization, and restructuring of the federal government.

Immigration Law & Policy in the U.S.: This monumental collection is a compilation of the most important historical documents and legislation related to immigration in the United States as well as current hearings, debates and recent developments in immigration law. This first comprehensive database includes BIA Precedent Decisions, legislative histories, law and policy titles, extradition titles, scholarly articles, an extensive bibliography, and other related works.

Bar Journals: This collection features more than 100 state and local Bar Journals.

Hein has also announced that HeinOnline will have an enhanced interface coming later this month. The new, streamlined look will be more responsive to mobile devices and is more user-friendly. You can see a preview of HeinOnline’s new look here.