"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, December 2, 2016

Federal Jurisdiction, 7th Edition

Wolters Kluwer has just published the 7th edition of Federal Jurisdiction by Erwin Chemerinsky, which is now available on the law library's new titles shelf (located next to the public computer terminals across from the reference desk, under the call number KF8858.C48). This source, a part of the Aspen Student Treatise Series, covers topics related to constitutional and statutory limits on federal court jurisdiction, federal court relief against governments and government officers, and federal court review of state judgments and proceedings. There is a table of cases, subject index, and the appendices contain the full text of the U.S. Constitution along with relevant statutes. This treatise is is an excellent source to supplement exam preparation.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

U.S. International Tax Guide

Bloomberg BNA has just published the 2016 edition of the U.S. International Tax Guide (KF1276.A2H47), which is now available in the law library. This handbook is an excellent source for U.S. tax attorneys involved in international tax. It provides an overview of topics related to general principles of international taxation, taxation of foreign persons' U.S. activities and U.S. persons' foreign activities. Matters pertaining to U.S. income tax treaties, and withholding and compliance are also discussed. There are numerous examples available throughout this book that will illustrate international tax concepts. There are also annotations to relevant primary sources of tax law including the Internal Revenue Code, Treasury Regulations, tax cases, administrative pronouncements, and the Internal Revenue Manual. This source is also available electronically on BloombergLaw.com.

Friday, November 18, 2016

GAO Launches Government Transition App


Want to learn more about the upcoming presidential and congressional transitions? There’s an app for that. 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently launched its Priorities for Policy Makers app (available free of charge for iPhone or Android), which is intended to “help President-elect Donald Trump and the next Congress tackle critical challenges facing the nation, fix agency-specific problems, and scrutinize government areas with the potential for large savings,” according to Gene Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO. The app allows users to search by agency or topic, and provides brief summaries of relevant issues as well as links to more detailed GAO reports. 

You can also find GAO priority recommendations on the agency’s Presidential and Congressional Transition web pages.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Federal Privacy Council Law Library


Back in February, President Obama issued an executive order establishing the Federal Privacy Council (FPC), defined as “the principal interagency forum to improve the Government privacy practices of agencies and entities acting on their behalf.” Given the amount of private information handled by the federal government—everything from medical records to income tax returns—it makes sense for agencies to coordinate their efforts to keep that information secure. 

From a legal researcher's perspective, one of the more interesting developments to come out of the FPC is the creation of its Law Library, a compilation of laws, regulations, and supplemental materials pertaining to “the creation, collection, use, processing, storage, maintenance, dissemination, disclosure, and disposal of personally identifiable information (PII) by departments and agencies within the Federal Government.” The Law Library's resources are not new—the site consists mostly of links to other government websites—but for anyone interested in privacy policy, it’s useful to have all of these things gathered in one place. If nothing else, it gives you an idea of the scope of the issue.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Now Available: Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, & Law

The Law Library’s subscription to HeinOnline now includes a new resource in its collection of over fifty resource groups for primary and secondary legal sources: Slavery in America and the World: History, Culture, & Law. This collection brings together a vast array of legal content and materials related to slavery in the United States and the English-speaking world. This includes every statute passed by every colony and state on slavery, every federal statute dealing with slavery, and all reported state and federal cases on slavery. 

Beyond these primary legal materials the collection every English-language legal commentary on slavery published before 1920 and more than a thousand pamphlets and books on slavery from the 19th century. The collection also word searchable access to all Congressional debates from the Continental Congress to 1880 along with many modern histories of slavery. 

Edited by Paul Finkelman, an expert on slavery and American legal history, the collection identifies his picks with gold stars. Clicking on the star will open an in-depth explanation of the title’s significance. The 1836 title Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans, by Lydia Maria Child, is marked for its significance as a landmark of abolitionist literature created by American women. The collection is expected to grow continually, with both new scholarship and from additional historical material discovered. 

Blog readers who do not have full access to HeinOnline as Law Center community members may still explore the vast array of content in the Slavery in America and the World, at no cost, courtesy of Hein. Any interested reader may register for access here. There is no cost to register, but Hein asks registrants to consider making a donation to NAACP, the United Negro College Fund, or another charity of the user's choice which supports civil rights, equality, or the advancement of people of color. Making a donation is voluntary, and is not required to access the database. Be sure to check out this amazing collection today. 

A Brief History of the Texas Courts and Why Texans See So Many Judges on their Ballots

At election time, I am time and time again surprised at the number of judicial races Texas voters decide. While direct election of judges by popular vote in Texas is nothing new, what happened to create so many courts and so many judges in the state? Here is a brief history of how these many courts and judges came to be, and links to the original sources.

1836: In the 1836 Constitution of the Republic of Texas, allowed for the creation of three district courts, and allowed for up to eight. District judges also served as associate judges of the supreme court.

1845: As Texas joined the United States, the 1845 Constitution of Texas held that the governor would appoint judges to the district and supreme courts. An amendment made during the 1845 constitutional convention to allow for direct election of judges failed to pass.

1850: Following a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment to allow for popular vote, 75% of Texas voters approved the amendment and direct election of judges for the Texas supreme and district courts begins.

1876: The 1876 Constitution of the State of Texas creates the Texas Court of Appeals to hear all criminal appeals and civil appeals arising from the county courts.

1891:  Article V of the Texas Constitution amended to create the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to hear all criminal appeals, and renaming the Texas Court of Appeals to the Texas Court of Civil Appeals to reflect its new jurisdiction. These efforts to reduce the Supreme Court’s backlog did not achieve the desired result as new civil courts created more litigation, more appeals, and more requests from writs of error from the Supreme Court.

1945:  A constitutional amendment expands the Texas Supreme Court’s membership from three to nine.

1977: The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ membership rose from three to nine.

1980: The Texas Courts of Civil Appeals were renamed the Texas Courts of Appeals and given jurisdiction over initial appeals in all criminal cases other than capital cases. This change is due in part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s criminal procedure revolution in the 1960s and 1970s that resulted in more legal issues for courts to consider in criminal cases.

1992: A Republican majority is elected to the Texas Supreme Court for the first time in its history. This has remained unchanged, after the 2016 election both the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will have all Republican membership.


For more on the history of Texas Courts, check out the excellent book by Michael Ariens, Lone Star Law, which provided some of the references used in this post.  

Saturday, November 5, 2016

State Ballot Measures


Not surprisingly, much of the focus of the 2016 election has been on the presidential race.  However, in addition to electing federal, state, and local leaders, citizens in many states will also be making specific choices about a number of important topics when they go to the polls next week.  According to the Ballotpedia website, statewide ballot measures will be considered in 35 states this year and will affect 205 million people.  The ballot measures cover a broad range of important, and often controversial, issues such as the legalization of recreational marijuana, establishing universal healthcare programs, and increased background checks for gun sales. 

To explore other state ballot measures, visit the Ballotpedia website, where you can browse through them by state or by topic.