"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, October 9, 2015

Elephind.com Brings Together Thousands of Historical Newspapers

Here’s a website that will be of interest to librarians and history buffs alike. Elephind.com allows you to search across thousands of digitized historical newspapers from one search box. So far, the site includes over 2.6 million issues from 2,705 titles, and claims to be adding more newspapers every day. In addition to a search engine that allows you to search headlines or full text and to limit your search by country, the site also provides links to the source of each paper, which will often provide more advanced search or browsing features. To learn more, check out Elephind’s “About” page.  

Thursday, October 8, 2015

New Rulemaking Database From SEC

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently announced the launch of a new database to provide transparency into its rules and rulemaking process. The SEC currently invites public comment on proposed rules, and the new database is intended to provide “one-stop shopping” for those who wish to track the development of new rules, or to research completed rules or other actions related to rulemaking. The database is available at http://www.sec.gov/rules/rulemaking-index.shtml.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Congress Passes Revision to Affordable Care Act

The New York Times reported this week that Congress has passed legislation to amend the Affordable Care Act with the goal of protecting midsize businesses with 51-100 employees from increases in health insurance costs. These costs would result from the new requirements set to take effect on January 1, 2016. Currently, small employers, which typically are defined by states as consisting of 50 or less employees, are protected these the Affordable Care Act requirements.  The revision allows states to expand the definition of "small group" to include businesses 51-100 employees, protecting them from the new provisions as well. This act, known as Protecting Affordable Coverage for Employees Act (PACE), H.R. 1624, was introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky), and the Senate version (S. 1099) was introduced by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Senator Jean Shaheen (D-NH) earlier this year. Congress.gov has the full text of the bill is available along with the status, CRS Summary, list of actions related to the bill, and the CBO cost estimates.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Texas Attorney Population Increased by 28% from 2004-2014

The number of actively practicing attorneys in Texas has increased from 67,764 in 2004 to 86,494 in 2014, according to a report issued by the Texas State Bar, which has been reported by the Wall Street Journal Blog and the Dallas Morning News. This is an increase 28% of attorneys while the population of Texas increased by 20% for that same period. In the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metropolitan area, the number of attorneys increased from 21,492 in 2004 to 27,827 in 2014 (a 29% increase). In the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metropolitan area, the number of attorneys increased from 20,378 in 2004 to 26,364 in 2014 (also a 29% increase). Despite the growth, the article in the Wall Street Journal blog points out that Texas still lags behind other states with respect to the number of attorneys per person (there is one attorney for every 250 people in Texas according to the article). See the 2014 Attorney Populations Density by Metropolitan Statistical Area 2014-15 by the State Bar of Texas Department of Research & Analysis for more details.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Law Behind the Volkswagen Scandal

This past Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency accused German automaker Volkswagen of cheating on emissions tests.  Several studies determined that Volkswagen had programmed its cars to detect when a government-mandated emissions test was occurring and to reduce their nitrogen oxide output during the test.  Volkswagen has acknowledged that the actions behind this scandal may result in criminal prosecutions.  But which laws have been broken?

In the United States where this scandal broke, the Clean Air Act of 1970 is the primary law governing air pollution emissions standards.  The Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 to add several new items, including rules for particulate emissions from diesel engines.  These standards are required under 42 U.S.C. § 7521 and tested as per 42 U.S.C. § 7525; Volkswagen is accused of installing its cars with software created specifically to cheat this test, which is specifically illegal under 42 U.S.C. § 7522(a)(3)(B).

Volkswagen will be facing possible criminal and congressional investigations in the United States, and may soon be facing legal difficulties in other countries as well; legal researchers interested in this scandal should keep an eye out for the many new judicial and legislative materials that may become available soon.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Finding and Understanding Materials from the American Law Institute

For nearly 100 years, the American Law Institute (ALI) has sought to ameliorate the uncertainty and complexity of modern American law. After its founding in 1923, the American Law Institute initiated its initial Restatement projects for Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Judgments, Property, Restitution, Security, Torts, and Trusts. These projects were completed in 1944, and work on Restatements Second and Third began in the years 1952 and 1987, respectively. Recent  projects have led to the addition of Restatements for Foreign Relations Law of the United States, The Law Governing Lawyers, Suretyship and Guaranty, and Unfair Competition.

In addition, the Institute publishes its Principles of Laws on a number of topics, which result from “intensive examination and analysis of legal areas thought to need reform.” Some of the areas studied have included Aggregate Litigation, Family Dissolution, Software Contracts, and Transnational Civil Procedure.

The American Law Institute’s members are nominated by their peers and then vetted through a rigorous selection process. The Institute’s membership is capped at 3,000 leading legal experts, including numerous UHLC faculty members.                
The Restatements are authored by committees who analyze cases on a topic to derive a clearly and concisely stated rule. They can be thought of as a codification of common law principles that have While some courts may later adopt a Restatement rule as the law of its jurisdiction, it is otherwise a secondary source.

There are numerous resources for finding ALI materials in the library, including our print collection, and through LexisNexis, Westlaw. HeinOnline’s American Law Institute Library has the most extensive collection available to library users online, with current Restatements and Principles, along with current pocket parts and complete text and drafts of the Uniform Commercial Code.

Note that Restatements and Principles are not revised until a new edition is complete. Later volumes of a Restatement are labeled as Appendixes (supplemented by pocket parts), and contain citations to case law citing Restatement provisions. Restatements and Principles, including their notes and illustrations, are a wonderful tool for understanding common law rules on a variety of topics.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Happy Constitution Day!

Today is Constitution Day, the day we commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution in 1787. Since 2004, September 17 has also been the celebration of Citizenship Day, which  “recognize[s] all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.” In fact, when Senator Robert Bryd shepherded the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 (Pub. L. No. 108-447) into law, he added additional requirements to encourage citizens to learn more about their Constitution. Now the head of every federal agency must provide each employee with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution on September 17 and any educational institution which receives Federal funds shall hold a program on the U.S. Constitution for students on this day.

Beyond reading the Constitution, you may wish to celebrate more thoroughly by studying the Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and InterpretationThis work, prepared by the Congressional Research Service, provides an annotated analysis of the Constitution and its amendments with cases decided by the Supreme Court which “bear significantly upon the analysis and interpretation of the Constitution.”

For those who could use a refresher on the history of the Constitution, try this quiz from the Washington Post. A great supply of cocktail party-ready facts and anecdotes about the Constitution can be found at the National Archives, and you can embrace your inner Madison or Hamilton with this quiz to determine which founding father you most resemble (ideologically, that is).

No matter how you celebrate, today is a great day to reflect on the rights and freedoms guaranteed to the nation’s citizens by the Constitution. Take time today to consider both on the past struggles to achieve these liberties, and the enduring work needed from current and future generations to preserve them.