"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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Who Represents Them? Researching the Law Firms Major Companies Engage in Litigation

One of the hottest topics in legal information today is the use of data analytics, or harnessing large amounts of data to create assessments and make predictions. Legal research vendors are now offering their own, specialized tools that subscribers can use to take advantage of the copious amounts of data already present within the system’s databases.

One of these vendors, Bloomberg Law, has introduced a feature they call  Law Firm Representation Analytics. This tool uses Bloomberg Law’s popular and expansive database of court dockets to show users the top law firms representing a particular company in federal litigation. 

To use the tool, simply search for the company’s name using the “Go” bar at the upper-right hand side of any Bloomberg Law page.  Once the company’s name appears on the list of Suggested Companies, select it. The federal litigation analytics will display on the company’s page, along with other information about the company and its performance if it is a publicly-traded company. Once you have clicked into the litigation analytics information, you can look at the company’s litigation history, and the firms that represent the company in various types of litigation.

For example, after searching Dallas-based Southwest Airlines and launching the law firm analytics, I can see that Vinson & Elkins has represented Southwest in 108 of 335 appearances in federal court over the last five years. This information can be used by potential hires and competing businesses and firms to understand who represents major clients, and in what practice area. Though one should note that this information is limited to federal court actions, this new tool is unlike any other we’ve seen from other major legal research vendors, and is available to all Bloomberg Law users.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Greenbook: Texas Rules of Form, 13th Edition

The thirteenth edition of The Greenbook was published this fall and it has a few changes of note that Texas lawyers and law students may find useful. The Greenbook’s editors remind us in the introduction to the new edition that it is neither a complete citation guide nor style guide, but rather a “lens through which Texas legal materials may be cited and understood.”  Or, perhaps, a Texas-sized supplement to the Bluebook , tailored to the Texas practitioner. Some of the more notable changes and additions include:

Citation to Opinions on Court Websites:  Rules 2-4 have been supplemented to provide more guidance for citing Texas court opinions appearing on court websites. Acknowledging that recent cases are most reliably accessed through court websites, the rules provide suggestion for pin cites to unpaginated versions of opinions available online.

Pet. Pending: You may be surprised to learn that a fourteenth citation form has been added for describing the status of a petition for review: pet. pending.  Rule 55.1 of the Texas Rules of Appellate procedure notes that “[w]ith or without the granting of a petition for review, the Court may request the parties to file briefs on the merits.” This designation addresses those situations where the Texas Supreme Court has ordered briefing, but has not granted or denied the petition.

Locating Petition & Writ History: Unfortunately, the 13th edition of the Greenbook suggests West’s Texas Subsequent History Table as the best resource for finding petition and writ history. As Nota Bene reported last October, the Texas Subsequent History Table will no longer be published. Searching by case number on the Texas Courts Online website to find petition notions is suggested as well. This method is reliable and does not require having advance sheets to the Southwester Reporter (Texas Cases) handy.

Enhanced Historical Information: Greenbook users will enjoy the 13th edition’s use of citation to Texas Supreme Court cases discussing the reasoning and use behind citation practices. In previous editions of the Greenbook these matters were announced without any direction for the reader interested in knowing the statements by the court about these issues. This is particularly the case in Chapter 5, regarding the Commission of Appeals, and Appendices A and E.  

The Constitution of the State of Coahuila and Texas: Appendix G, relating to the citation of prior constitutions, now includes guidance for citation to the Constitution of the State of Coahuila and Texas. Texas was part of this Mexican state, prior to the existence of the Republic of Texas, and its 1827 constitution is properly cited to Gammel’s The Laws of Texas. Greenbook editors also make mention of Gammel’s The Laws of Texas’ availability online through the University of North Texas, a helpful tip for practitioners. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The History of International Law Timeline

Oxford University Press recently launched a free, interactive History of International Law timeline.  It provides information about over 100 major events in the development of public international law including “the signing of major treaties, the foundation of fundamental institutions, the birth of major figures in international law and milestones in the development of some of the field’s best-known doctrines.”  The timeline covers over 500 years, starting with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 and ending with the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014.  
For each event, the timeline allows users to find out more about the topic by providing free access to portions of Oxford University Press resources such as Oxford Historical Treaties and the Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law as well as blog posts and journal articles.  For more information and to explore this resource, see The History of International Law website. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

New Texas openCourts App

Looking for information regarding Texas courts and judges?  Try the new app from Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP that provides contact information and more for Texas courts.  The app, Texas openCourts, provides information regarding both Texas state and federal courts.  It has phone numbers and addresses for the court as well as a map feature to help you get to each building.  In addition, it contains short biographical information regarding the judges such as employment history and education information.  For federal district court judges, it also links directly the local rules for each judge.  

This app is free and available for iOS and Android devices.  For more information or to download the app, visit the iTunes App Store, Google Play, or Amazon.  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

New Report on Federal Agencies' Responsiveness to FOIA Requests

We at Nota Bene have written before about TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. TRAC is a research organization at Syracuse University that uses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to gather data for its reports on various government activities, including staffing, spending, and law enforcement. These reports are then published on the TRAC website.

Recently, TRAC published the results of its latest FOIA survey, which assesses the responsiveness of 21 federal agencies to FOIA requests. These requests were designed to ask only about information the agencies are legally required to maintain, and to avoid asking about sensitive information that might have to be redacted. The report indicates that two-thirds of the agencies “are now responding and providing usable data,” and this “represents an improvement over just seven agencies that gave adequate responses in April.” Six agencies have failed to provide an adequate response, and one—the Central Intelligence Agency—has flatly refused to process the requests. You can read the full report here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Treasury Department Launches New Spending Data Website

The United States Treasury Department recently launched an open beta version of its new website for tracking government spending. The Department is asking users to provide feedback on demo versions of new search tools, including live filters, SQL search, and a search builder using drop-down menus to filter on specific fields. The idea is to determine what kinds of functionality users want and to “add new features and functionalities on a rolling basis.” The new site will also allow users to make charts, graphs, and maps from their search results. The final version is scheduled to go live in May 2017. Until then, the Department’s original website for spending data is still available here.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Contract Law: Analyzing and Drafting

The ABA has just published Contract Law: Analyzing and Drafting, which is now available in the library (see the new titles shelf, which is located across from the reference desk, next to the public computer terminals) (KF801.C6135 2015). This book, edited by Karen F. Botterud, contains nineteen chapters (each authored by different attorneys who are experts in contract law) focusing on the concepts of contract law as well as contract drafting. The topics covered include, among others, essentials of contract formation, problems in contract formation, contract formation under UCC Article 2, statutes of fraud, parole evidence rule, contract performance, breach of contract and nonperformance, warranties, disclaimers, and limitations, and equitable remedies. There is even a chapter that covers drafting specific contract clauses in employment agreements. This book is thoroughly researched as indicated from the numerous excerpts from the Uniform Commercial Code, Corbin on Contracts (KF801.C6), Williston on Contracts (KF801.W5 3d), Restatement on the Law, Contracts 2d (KF395.A2C683), statutes, and  court decisions. There are "practice pointers" scattered throughout the book, which highlight important concepts of contract law.