"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, July 28, 2016

Finding Texas Laws by Date

Many times patrons at the Law Library request assistance in finding what statute (or version of a statute) was in effect on a specific date. At times, these inquiries can become quite complex, requiring the researcher to follow a trail of session laws to find the law as at existed at that date. Thanks to some new resources from the Texas Legislative Council, Texas State Law Library, researching the history of a Texas Statute has never been easier.

The Texas Legislative Council, who makes available to citizens the Texas Constitutions and Statutes online, has added a tool for finding what version of a law was in effect on a specific date. The Statutes by Date feature allows users to (1) enter a date from the present back to 2004 and then (2)choose the code, chapter (or article), and section number. The text of the statute as it read at the date selected will be displayed, along with the legislative history annotation as it read on that date. Though this method only reaches back to 2004, it is extremely useful.

If you need to look back further than 2004, you will need to read the legislative history credits notated below the statute text. This information appears both in print volumes and statutes accessed through commercial legal research systems like Westlaw and LexisAdvance. After determining what version of the law controlled on the date you are searching, you may find it useful to look at the Texas State Law Library’s Historical Texas Statutes. The state law library has digitized versions of codified Texas law spanning the years 1879-1960. The website helpfully notes which legislative sessions are covered in a specific printing of the statutes or the supplements, and the text is searchable through PDF.

For the interim period of 1960-2004, there is not an official, reliable source currently available online. In these cases, you can use the legislative history credits following the statute text to find the year and chapter number for the session law that marked the latest change in the law before the date you are researching. Then, using the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s Legislative Archive System enter the session number (beware of called vs. regular sessions in the same year) and chapter number. The results will provide a link to a PDF image of the official Texas session laws, The General and Special Laws of Texas. The session law will tell you what was amended, added, or deleted in that action.

While accessing legislative history and older code volumes has become much easier, it can still be a very complex process. Reference librarians are available to help guide you through the process and save you time and frustration.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Practical Guide to Software Licensing for Lincensees and Licensors, 6th edition

The ABA's Business Law Section has recently published A Practical Guide to Software Licensing for Licensees and Licensors, 6th ed. by H. Ward Classen. This book looks at the issues that both the licensor and licensee will likely encounter during the course of software licensing negotiations. In particular, the author covers the negotiating and contract process, terminology of a license grant, types of licenses, ancillary clauses, boilerplate clauses, software development agreements, confidentially provisions, trade secret information, and escrow agreements. Security and privacy, free and open source software, dispute resolution, and best practices for contract drafting are also among the topics discussed. There are select model forms available and a glossary and technology acronyms list are among the materials in the appendices. The library now has this under call number KF3024.C6 C56 2016 on the new titles shelf located across from the reference desk.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Winning an Appeal, 5th ed.

The library has acquired the fifth edition of Winning an Appeal by Myron Moskovitz, which is published by Carolina Academic Press. This book is ideal for the attorney or law student interested in appellate advocacy at the state or federal level. The author provides tips on constructing an outline, with instructions on reading the court records filed and determining the issues. There is a chapter that focuses on the appellate brief, including the construction of the brief itself, advice on legal research, drafting the argument, and information regarding the respondent brief and appellant's reply brief. The last chapter covers the oral argument, addressing topics such as the opening statement, respondent's argument, appellant's rebuttal, answering questions, and the proper tone to use. Five sample briefs are included at the end. This book is now currently available on the library's new titles shelf under the call number KF9050.M63 2016.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Technology Tips for Lawyers and Other Business Professionals

The ABA's Solo, Small Firm, and Practice division has recently published, Technology Tips for Lawyers and Other Business Professionals by Jeffrey Allen and UHLC alumna, Ashley Hallene. The authors provide concise practical advice on a variety of technology topics useful to attorneys. The book covers matters related to hardware and equipment such as using a tablet in court and portable hard drives. Software topics as well as advice related to travel are also covered. Security and ethics issues such as password protection and encryption are discussed.  The Miscellaneous tips section focuses on topics such as blogging, Google search tips, storing data in the cloud, creating an inexpensive electronic signature, and electronic business cards. The library has just acquired this book and it can be found on the new titles shelf under the call number,
KF320.A9A 429 2016.

Friday, June 10, 2016

2016 Disclosure and Election Directory


The Federal Election Commission has released its combined Federal/State Disclosure and Election Directory for 2016.  This directory provides names and contact information for all parties responsible for disclosing financial information during the 2016 election season.

Anyone interested in financial disclosure requirements may find them in the relevant sections of the United States Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.  Researchers looking for further information may be interested in resources such as the reports created during the consideration of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 or the discussion of Davis v. FEC, 554 U.S. 724 (2008).

Friday, June 3, 2016

The 2016 Presidential Transition Directory

On January 20 of next year, a new president and vice-president of the United States will be sworn into office. This means a huge transition in government, with thousands of positions subject to new appointments by the incoming president. Have you ever wondered how a new administration prepares for such a transition?

Part of the answer is that they get a lot of help from the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), which has been responsible for supporting presidential transitions since 1961. Today, of course, much of that support is provided online. In November of last year, the GSA launched the 2016 Presidential Transition Directory, a website that provides access to key resources and policies related to presidential transitions. Those resources include the following:
  • The Plum Book – Officially titled “United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions,” the Plum Book contains data on over 8,000 positions in the executive and legislative branches that are subject to noncompetitive appointment. It is published alternately by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
  • Government Manual – This is the official handbook of the federal government, with information on agencies, boards, committees, and international organizations in which the U.S. participates.
  • Presidential Transition Guide to Federal Human Resources Management – This publication of the Office of Personnel Management provides information on ethical standards, positions subject to change in a transition, appointments, compensation, and personal identity verification.
  • Records Management Guidelines – The National Archives provide documents, policies, and training courses related to records management.
For more on the General Services Administration, see the Transition Directory’s About GSA page.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

New RSS and Email Alerts From Congress.gov

One of the best ways to keep up with current federal legislation is to subscribe to email alerts from Congress.gov. These alerts can be set up to notify you of the latest action on a particular bill, new legislation sponsored by a particular member of Congress, or new publications of the Congressional Record. Building on the popularity of these alerts, Congress.gov recently introduced new RSS and email alerts for the following categories:
  • Most-Viewed Bills
  • Search Tips
  • Bills Presented to the President
  • On the House Floor Today
  • On the Senate Floor Today
  • In Custodia Legis (blog of the Law Librarians of Congress)
To read more about these alerts, or to set up a free account, visit the RSS and Email Alerts page at Congress.gov.