"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


Monday, February 8, 2016

Can Casemaker Stop Fastcase from Publishing Georgia Regulations?


One of the key benefits state bar associations provide their members is complimentary access to online research services. Fastcase and Casemaker are the leading service providers in the field, each with a nearly equal share of the state bar association membership market. You can see the breakdown as of 2014 at this blog post from the Duke Law Library. Texas is unique (of course!) offering its members complimentary access to both Casemaker and Fastcase. Both the Casemaker and Fastcase products are solid legal research platforms, providing excellent coverage of primary law (and some secondary sources) with good search functionality.

Over the last few years, some state bar associations have chosen to move to one service after years with another. The Pennsylvania bar now offers Casemaker instead of InSite, and the Georgia bar partnered with Fastcase in 2011, choosing to no longer offer  Casemaker as a member benefit.

Last week, Fastcase sued Lawriter (Casemaker’s parent company), seeking a declaratory judgment that Lawriter cannot prohibit Fastcase from publishing the Georgia Regulations in its subscription legal research service.  Lawriter, the designated publisher of Georgia Regulations, claims sole rights to its distribution. Lawriter demanded via letter that Fastcase remove the Georgia regulations from its service.  Despite not knowing the contractual agreement between the State of Georgia and Lawriter, it seems difficult to imagine that Lawriter’s publication of public domain materials online involved a substantial original contribution that would allow for its protection under copyright law.

The issues in this case bring to mind the litigation between West Publishing and Mead Data Systems in the 1980s. For more background, and an excellent discussion of the availability of copyright in legal publishing, see the Law Center’s own Professor Craig Joyce’s article (with L. Ray Patterson), Monopolizing the Law: The Scope of Copyright Protection for Law Reports and Statutory Compilations, 36 UCLA L. Rev. 719 (1989). Professor Joyce’s article was also cited in Fastcase’s Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, which may be read here.

(h/t to Robert Ambrogi’s Law Sites blog for bringing this suit to our attention)

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Government Publishing Office to Replace FDsys with Govinfo


This week, the Government Publishing Office launched the beta version of a new website that will replace its current Federal Digital System (FDsys) website.  Govinfo will be the new interface where the public can access information from all three branches of the federal government.  According to the press release, GPO describes the new website as “a user friendly, modernized site that provides an easy to use navigation system accessible on smartphones, tablets, laptops and personal computers.” 

Govinfo will be in beta for a year, with the permanent website scheduled to launch in 2017.  During the transition, FDsys will still be available to users, but eventually it will be sunset. Currently, much of the content available on the FDsys system is also available on the new site.  For more information regarding the content that is currently available and how to access it, see the website’s What’s Available section.  The website also provides useful information about how to search and browse for information. The developers are also seeking feedback on the site during the testing period. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

New Inventory of Criminal Justice Datasets


Yesterday, the Sunlight Foundation announced the launch of the Hall of Justice, a new inventory of publicly available criminal justice datasets.  Currently, it contains information about and links to almost 10,000 datasets and research documents about every state and the federal government.  The inventory includes information from both government and academic sources.  It covers a number of categories including Corrections, Courts, Crime, Financial, Juvenile Justice, Law Enforcement, Victims, and Miscellaneous (covering Data Accessibility, Guns, Indian Country Justice System, Military Justice System, and State-Specific Topics). 

You can search for data in a few different ways.  You can browse by jurisdiction or by category and subcategory.  You can also do a keyword search for relevant datasets.  Once you have your results, the list can be filtered in other ways including by author group, by sector (such as government, nonprofit, or private), and by how the information can be accessed.  The information in the inventory was collected between September 2014 and October 2015.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Tax Accounting Resources

Whether you are currently enrolled in a Tax Accounting course or have an interest in this area of tax law, the law library has a number of print and electronic sources available. These sources include treatises and practice guides, among others:
    • This is a two volume loose-leaf practice guide that is updated periodically. The print edition contains a subject index.
  • Federal Tax Accounting, by Stephen F. Gertzman (WG&L) (available on Westlaw Next and Thomson Reuters Checkpoint)
    • This is a part of the Warren, Gorham & Lamont series, a well respected collection of tax treatises.
    • These consist over sixty portfolios dealing with accounting for income taxes, accounting rules and disclosures, special industries and entities, management control and analysis, audit standards and practices, and accounting practice and responsibility.
The Bloomberg BNA databases and Thomson Reuters Checkpoint are available by using the drop-down under "legal databases" on the law library's website (you must be connected to the law library's VPN). All Bloomberg BNA portfolios are available on BloombergLaw.com (requires registration).

Monday, January 25, 2016

Spring 2016-Brown Bag Presentation Series

Each semester the law library presents a series of presentations covering legal research topics. These presentations are held at 12 noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will take place in Room 1 BLB (except for Texas Legislative History Research, on Wednesday, February 17, which will be held in Room 115 BLB). We will be offering the following sessions for the Spring 2016 semester (click here for more details):

1. Texas Administrative Agency Research
Tuesday, 2/2, Wednesday, 2/3
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

2. Researching Oil & Gas Law
Tuesday, 2/9, Wednesday, 2/10
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

3. Texas Legislative History Research
Tuesday, 2/16, Wednesday, 2/17
Robert Clark, Reference and Research Librarian

4. Resources for Legal Practice
Tuesday, 2/23, Wednesday, 2/24
Katy Badeaux, Reference and Research Librarian

5. International and Foreign Law Research
Tuesday, 3/1, Wednesday, 3/2
Dan Donahue, International and Foreign Law Librarian

Light refreshments will be served.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Texas Digital Archive Online


This week the Texas State Library and Archives Commission made a portion of the electronic collection of the Texas State Archives searchable online.  The new Texas Digital Archive (TDA) has only just launched, and the current online collection is expected to grow significantly over the next few months; anyone looking for documents and records that are not currently available may want to check back later as the searchable collection grows.


Legal researches interested in capital punishment may be interested to know that the State of Texas' execution files are being loaded onto the TDA, and are currently available dating back to 1992.  Former Governor Rick Perry's Executive Office records are also already online, as well as those records of the Governor's Commission for Women that were created during his administration. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Text of the State of the Union Address


For those of you who might have missed President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, or for anyone who just wants to study the speech more closely, the full text is available in the Congressional Record on FDsys, an online repository of government documents maintained by the U.S. Government Printing Office. FDsys has the full text of the Congressional Record going back to 1994 (including previous State of the Union addresses), all of which is fully searchable. Older volumes of the Congressional Record can be found in print at the library, or in HeinOnline, a database service available on the library’s public computers.