"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, April 17, 2015

Dckt App Makes PACER Searching Easier

Mathew Zorn designed the Dckt app for the purpose of making searching PACER documents on a mobile device much easier. Those who have used PACER are all too familiar with the difficulty of locating federal court dockets and filings on mobile devices. The app covers this website with an interface that is more user friendly, thus making it easier to locate documents from the Bankruptcy, District, and Appellate courts. In particular, this app features the ability to bookmark documents so that the user can avoid multiple charges for the court filings already retrieved, passwords can be saved, and it is more manageable to enter the case numbers. Documents can also be saved, printed, and e-mailed easily. A review by Jeff Richardson, available from iPhone JD, effectively explains the features of this app, which is only available at this time for the iPad and iPhone. Hopefully, a similar app will be created for Android devices soon.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Tax Deadline is Almost Here!

The tax deadline of April 15, is just two days away and for those who have procrastinated, the forms and publications are available on the IRS's website. The following is list of the most pertinent forms and publications as well as articles and resources that provide tax advice.

IRS Resources:
News Articles: 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Congress.gov Adds Treaty Documents

Congress.gov, the official website for federal legislative information, continues to add new features. Among the most significant recent additions are the texts of treaty documents going back to the 94th Congress (1975-1976). These can be searched in a number of different ways, including by citation, index terms, and document text. Each treaty has a detail page that gives an overview and a list of Senate actions taken on the treaty. To search for treaties, select “Treaty Documents” from the drop-down menu next to the search box.

For more on this and other recent enhancements to Congress.gov, see the Congress.gov Enhancements page. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Income Data by State and County on TRAC

April 15 is just one week away. Have you filed your tax return yet? The IRS estimates that over 247 million federal income tax returns will be filed this year. That means that in addition to collecting revenue, the IRS also collects massive amounts of economic data.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research organization at Syracuse University, uses IRS data to compile rankings of various types of income by state and county. The results are often surprising. For example, it may surprise you to learn that in 2013, Wyoming had a higher average dividend income than any other state. In Wyoming’s Teton County, the average dividend income was $32,793, nearly twenty times higher than the national average. (Teton County, with a population of just over ten thousand, is home to Harrison Ford, Dick Cheney, and Walmart heiress Christy Walton, the richest woman in the world.) The state with the highest average adjusted gross income (AGI) was Connecticut, at $91,417. That’s quite a contrast to the average AGI of just $15,379 in Gooding County, Idaho. Other categories of data analyzed by TRAC include wages and salaries, interest income, and exemptions.  

In addition to IRS data, TRAC also reports on other aspects of government, including law enforcement, immigration, and the judiciary. For more information, visit the “About Us” page on the organization’s website.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The ‘People’s Law School’ Back at UHLC

The People’s Law School will be returning to the University of Houston Law Center tomorrow.  The People’s Law School is a biannual program in which volunteer lawyers, judges, and law professors teach registered attendees courses on specialized legal topics designed for members of the general public.  The O’Quinn Law Library will also be participating in tomorrow’s activities: law librarians will be teaching the class Finding the Law, an introduction to legal research.

See the official announcement for the People’s Law School here.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

the 4th annual O'Quinn Law Library Free CLE Workshop

I am glad to announce that this year's Law Library free CLE workshop is now opened for registration. 

To help recently graduated alumni to meet the needs of a demanding legal environment, the University of Houston O'Quinn Law Library will hold a free workshop on April 25, offering special training in legal research and the application of the latest information technology: two hours of intensive training in advanced Texas legal research and free or low cost online resources for lawyers, and one hour on special mobile device applications for attorneys.

First created in 2012, this year's workshop marks the 4th round with updated contents.  For detailed information and registration please click here.  Librarians and non-UH people are equally welcome.

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.