"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


Friday, March 27, 2015

The Strange Legal History of the Alamo & The Daughters of the Republic of Texas

In our last entry, we discussed the current legal battle between the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the State of Texas over the materials archived in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library. As mentioned in the previous post, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas served as the custodial stewards of the Alamo complex from 1905 to 2011. The uneasy relationship between the State of Texas and the DRT began long ago, at the dawn of the 20th century.

The San Antonio de Valero mission was founded in 1718 and the construction of its famous chapel (what most people think of as “The Alamo”) was completed in 1744. After its abandonment in 1794, Spanish soldiers occupied the mission during Mexico’s war for independence. The mission was occupied by Mexican soldiers in 1803 until December 1835, when the company surrendered to Texan forces. The siege of the Alamo began on February 23, 1836 and continued until all Texan combatants had been lost, on March 6, 1836. For the next forty years, the mission was property of the Catholic Church (returned through an act in the 1841 Texas Republic legislature) and then the United States (who leased the mission from the church). In 1883, through an appropriations act in the legislature, Texas purchased the mission from the church and placed it in the custody of the city of San Antonio. This purchase, however, only included the chapel, and not the convent portions of the mission. The other parts of the mission were privately owned, and the convent was sold to the grocery firm of Hugo & Schmeltzer in 1886.

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas was founded in 1891. In 1902 a powerful member of the group, Adina De Zavala, made a motion to protect the Missions of Texas and to ascertain if the Alamo could be placed in the control of the DRT. De Zavala, as early as 1892, was able to secure a purchase option of the convent portions of the mission. In 1903, there was rumor that the property would be sold to construct a new hotel on the site once the DRT’s option expired. In need of cash to secure their position, De Zavala brought in Clara Driscoll, who paid over $4000 to extend the DRT’s option until February 1904. With the option set to expire, the DRT had raised only $7,000 of the needed $25,000 down payment (purchase price $75,000). Again, Clara Driscoll used her personal fortune to save the day and bought the property in her own name.

By the 29th Legislative Session in 1905, the DRT had enough support to persuade the Legislature to pass an appropriations bill for the purchase and preservation of the Alamo. The act (Act of January 26, 1905, 29th Leg., R.S., ch. 7, 1905  Tex. Gen. Laws 7) provides that the state will pay $65,000 (the DRT had raised $10,000) for the Hugo & Schmeltzer property, bringing both the convent and mission under State ownership. The act further provided that once the land was acquired, “the Governor shall deliver the property. . . . to the custody and care of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, to be maintained by them in good order and repair, without charge to the State, as a sacred memorial to the heroes who immolated themselves on that hallowed ground. . . “ While the DRT had achieved their goal, this was only the beginning of the battle among the DRT for control of the Alamo. Clara Driscoll and Adina De Zavala and their respective chapters fought on for control of the property, as described in juicy detail in L. Robert Ables, The Second Battle for the Alamo, 70(3) Southwestern Historical Quarterly 372 (Jan. 1967).

Only a few years later, the Texas Supreme Court laid the groundwork for what would become the key to divesting the Daughters of their custodial role. In 1911, the 32nd Legislature apportioned $5,000 for improvement of Alamo property under Governor Colquitt (Act of August 29, 1911, 32nd Leg., 1st C. S., ch. 3, 1911 Tex. Gen. Laws 7). The DRT opposed the Governor’s proposed changes, leading the Governor to to call for the removal as DRT custodians. The DRT sought an injunction and the case made its way to the Texas Supreme Court.  Conley v. Daughters of the Republic of Texas, 156 S.W. 197 (1913). In Conley the court found that the appropriations act did not divest the DRT of control, but the Governor could authorize improvements.

This narrow victory would come back to haunt the DRT a century later. The Conley decision describes the DRT as trustees of the Alamo. Conley, 156 S.W. at 200. In 2012, the Attorney General’s report calls on this language in its arguments to remove the DRT as custodians, claiming the DRT had not met the high legal standard that is required of a trustee.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Who Owns the Library? The New Battle of the Alamo

This week the Daughters of the Republic of Texas  (DRT) filed a lawsuit against the General Land Office of Texas. The petition, filed in the 407th Bexar County District Court, alleges that the General Land Office and the State of Texas have illegally claimed ownership of the DRT’s library collection as an unconstitutional  taking of private property. 

The dispute arose after the Texas Legislature, in 2011, turned over responsibility for the “preservation, maintenance, and restoration of the Alamo complex,” (Act of May 30, 2011, 82nd Leg., R.S., ch. 1046, § 2, 2011 Tex. Gen. Laws 2676) from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to the state’s General Land Office (GLO). In June 2010, the Office of the Attorney General began an investigation of the DRT’s management of the Alamo. Once the investigation began, public scrutiny and highly publicized structural problems at the Alamo prompted the Texas legislature to act and end the DRT’s stewardship of the Alamo before the investigation was complete.  The law mandated that the General Land Office and the Daughters of the Republic of Texas enter an agreement that would detail the management, operation, and financial support of the Alamo complex. After the legislation transferred stewardship from DRT, the Attorney General issued its report detailing  the organization’s failures as trustees, which provides a lengthy discussion of the problems that the DRT library presents. 

The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library opened in 1945, and the current library building, located on the grounds of the Alamo complex, and was built with DRT funds and opened in 1950. The Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library is a non-circulating research library of Texas history, with particular emphasis on the republic period and on the Alamo and San Antonio history. The collections include books, newspapers and periodicals, family papers, genealogical records, documents, maps, architectural renderings, clipping files, fine arts, artifacts, and photographs. These items have been donated to the library since it opened with the donations of Dr. William Eager Howard, who provided the nucleus of its collection. The collection has grown to include over 38,000 items either donated or purchased with donated funds. 

According to the 2012 Attorney General’s report, the state believes the DRT Library wrongly asserts ownership over state-owned artifacts and that state funds were improperly used to operate the library. After the General Land Office began its oversight of the Alamo complex, the parties agreed that the collection would be inventoried and the appropriate owner of the items would be determined. In their petition, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas in their petition, argue that the State and the General Land Office used biased methodology to improperly claim ownership of many items in the collection. The DRT is asking the court to enter a declaratory judgment finding that the majority of the items in the collection were intentionally donated to the DRT library, and not the State of Texas. 

The current conflict begs the question of how the Daughters of the Republic of Texas became the custodians of the Alamo complex. The uneasy relationship between the DRT and the State of Texas began at the dawn of the 20th century, and its strange legal history is the subject of tomorrow’s blog. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Status of Women in the States


Given that March is Women’s History Month, I thought that some of you may be interested in finding data regarding issues that impact women.  One such resource for this is the Status of Women in the States 2015 from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.  This new website provides information regarding the progress of women in the United States, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia.  The first set of data regarding Employment & Earnings has been released.  Forthcoming data releases will focus on topics including Poverty & Opportunity, Work & Family, Violence & Safety, Reproductive Rights, Health & Well-Being, and Political Participation.  If you need data before the remainder of the 2015 information is released, check the archive for information from previous years.    

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mobile Security Apps


Legal professionals handle a great deal of confidential information.  As more and more people have transitioned to using mobile devices for work-related tasks, the issue of mobile security has become more important as well.  There are several ways you can help protect sensitive data on mobile devices.  One way to help secure your device is to install an antivirus app.  For instance, try the AvastMobile, McAfee, or Norton security apps. In addition to scanning for and removing viruses, mobile security apps like these may also allow you locate your device if it is lost as well as remotely lock it or wipe its memory. 

There are some other ways to protect information on your mobile devices.  If you store confidential files on your device, you might try an encryption app such as the SSE Universal Encryption App, which will allow you to select specific files you want to encrypt so that they cannot be read by others. If you work in public places on public Wi-Fi, you may want to take a look at an app like Cloak.  This app will create a secure connection on public Wi-Fi, so that no one will be able to intercept your sensitive data while you work.  Finally, you may also try a password management app such as LastPass to securely store your various passwords, rather than simply using the same password over and over for every website or database. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

New Judicial Business Report

Good news for number crunchers: the Administrative Office of the United States Courts recently released its annual report on the business of the federal judiciary. The report presents data and statistics for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, with separate sections for district courts, bankruptcy courts, courts of appeals, and so on. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Defendant filings for drug crimes declined 14 percent from the previous year, while those for firearms and explosives crimes declined 10 percent.
  • The number of defendants prosecuted for immigration crimes fell by 8 percent.
  • Five southwestern border districts accounted for 77 percent of immigration defendant filings.
  • Bankruptcy filings fell by 13 percent. 
You can read the full report here. You can also compare this year’s numbers to those of previous reports, which can be found in the Judicial Business Archive.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Bills Propose Changes to FOIA


The recent controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State is the latest in a series of high-profile stories that have focused attention on the issue of government transparency. The United States Congress is currently considering two bills (S. 337 and H.R. 653) that would have a significant effect in this area. Both of these bills propose changes to a number of provisions of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in the interest of greater public access to government information. FOIA was enacted in 1966 and created a presumptive right of public access to government documents, with limited exceptions. The law was last amended in 2009. For those interested in learning more about the proposed legislation, a recent report of the Congressional Research Service provides background information and a side-by-side analysis of the two bills.    
 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Senate Finance Committee to Hold Hearings on "Tax Schemes and Scams"

The Senate Committee on Finance has announced that it will hold hearings on Thursday, March 12 at 10:00 .am. EST on tax scams. The hearings official titled, "Protecting Taxpayers from Schemes and Scams During the 2015 Tax Filing Season" will explore how to protect taxpayers from scams ranging from refund scams to identity theft. The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:


The IRS focused on different "Dirty Dozen" tax scams in information releases (I.R.) issued each business day from January 22-February 6, this year to help taxpayers avoid falling victim to these scams.