"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, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

European Court of Human Rights strengthens the rights of biological fathers

In a highly anticipated decision, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on December 21, 2010 that biological fathers have a right to see their children even if they had not established a relationship with them but had “shown a serious interest in the children” and expressed the wish to build a familial relationship with them.

The ECHR, based in Strasbourg, France, was ruling on a case in which successive German courts had denied the man the right to see his twin daughters, who were born after he had a relationship with a married German woman. The ruling further establishes a precedent that unmarried fathers in Germany have a right to see their children even after a relationship ends.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland are generally considered to be conservative when it comes to granting unmarried fathers custody or access to their children after separation. However, the German government is presently reviewing the laws on this issue, and the Secretary of Justice, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, announced today, that she wishes to move swiftly in the wake of this decision that comes just four month after the Constitutional Court of Germany ruled that a law denying unwed fathers custody rights to their children without the mother’s permission is unconstitutional.

The judgment is available through the database at the ECHR.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Google ebookstore now offers Government Printing Office Publications

The Washington Post is reporting that the Government Printing Office publications now can be purchased from Google ebookstore. According to the article, eventually 1,800 government publications will be available. Those who choose to purchase these items will immediately discover the difference in cost from the print version. According to the article, the President's 2011 budget proposal (which cost $77.00) is available as an e-book for $9.99. This is the latest move into the digital age by the Government Printing Office, which in the past two years has migrated many of its documents to the new Federal Digital System (FDsys). See the Washington Post article for more details.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Human Rights Day 2010

Today is Human Rights Day! Celebrated on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly, Human Rights Day was first celebrated 60 years ago after the General Assembly passed Resolution 423(V) inviting "all States and interested organizations" to celebrate this accomplishment "as part of a common effort to bring the Declaration to the attention of the peoples of the world."

Human Rights Day 2010 is dedicated to the work of human rights defenders worldwide who act to end discrimination. Let's celebrate the hard work and dedication of human rights defenders around the world, not just today, but every day!

For more information, visit the Human Rights Day 2010 website or the website of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. (The OHCHR also maintains an excellent page with links to the texts of human rights instruments.)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Latest Developments in the War on Peer-to-Peer File-Sharing Websites

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement used civil forfeiture to seize approximately 80 websites accused of violating copyright and trademark law over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend. The seizure was perpetrated in an attempt to shut down the websites, many of which dealt with allegedly counterfeit merchandise, although some were peer-to-peer file-sharing, or "torrent", websites. However, as Digital Trends reports, most of the websites simply shifted to a different URL, some switching to top-level domain names that are beyond the government's jurisdiction.

Currently in the US Senate, a bill is being considered that would make such seizures even easier. The Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, S. 3804, was recently reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Although it seems to have bi-partisan support, it appears there is just not enough time left in the current session to get it through both houses. Perhaps that will give opponents of the bill the time they need to launch an effective lobbying campaign against it.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

FTC Staff Privacy Report

FTC issued a preliminary staff report on Wednesday (12/1/2010) proposing a framework to balance the privacy interests of consumers with online companies mining consumer information. Titled “Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: A Proposed Framework for Businesses and Policymakers", this report practically declares that the online companies have failed to protect the privacy of Internet users and makes recommendations including:

1. “Companies should adopt a ‘privacy by design’ approach by building privacy protections into their everyday business practices”;
2. Consumers should be presented with choice about collection and sharing of their data at the time and in the context in which they are making decisions, not after having to read long, complicated disclosures that they often cannot find. One possible model is a “do not track” mechanism, following the idea of the National Do Not Call Registry; and
3. Other measures to improve the transparency of information practices, including consideration of standardized notices that allow the public to compare information practices of competing companies.

A New York Times news article on this report can be found here.

These measures, if adopted, could have a direct impact on the multi-billion dollar business conducted by the online advertising companies and technology giants such Google and Facebook. One has to wonder what kind of legislative/regulative/legal actions will follow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dodd-Frank Act Regulatory Reform Rules

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis announced a website this week that will assist researchers in tracking the large number of rules implementing the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. According to the site, 250 rules from 11 different agencies will be promulgated under the Act.

The Dodd-Frank Act Regulatory Reform Rules website provides links to proposed rules, including those still open for comment, and final rules. It also supplies links to the 11 agencies involved in the rulemaking process and provides an RSS feed for updates on the latest rulemaking activities.

For more information on the Dodd-Frank Act, also see the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. guide or the American Bankers Association Dodd-Frank Tracker.

Monday, November 22, 2010

ABA Online Law Review/Law Journal Search Engine

The ABA has created a search engine that does a full-text search of more than 400 law reviews and other publications that are available for free online.
It provides a list of all the journals searched, along with links to their websites. In addition, it also includes listings for online publications that are not included within the search engine.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Real Life Adverse Possession

Remember the Property lessons for 1Ls? If nothing else, we are expected to remember two doctrines: the rule against perpetuities and the doctrine of adverse possession. If you think these are just theories, think again. Yesterday New York Times published an article reporting on the modern version of this ancient common law practice in this time of foreclosure crisis: At Legal Fringe, Empty Houses Go to the Needy. I am sure somewhere there is a Property professor using this for his/her class discussion. It would be wonderful if the authors interviewed more than one law professors.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Locating Information about Judges

Practicing attorneys need to be familiar with the different sources that contain contact and background information on judges of all levels of court.There are a number of directories that the law library has on reserve that contain listings for judges as well as their staff. These sources vary with respect to the amount of the information they provide.

Federal Almanac of the Judiciary (KF8700.A19 A42 Reserve)

This source contains background on every federal judge including district and appellate judges as well as Supreme Court justices on education, experience, publications, rulings, media coverage, and evaluations from attorneys.

Judicial Yellow Book (KF8700.A19 J835 Spr. 2010 Reserve)

This contains listings of judges of federal and state courts and includes a brief summary of each judge's education and experience as well as contact information of the court and staff.

Texas Courthouse Guide (KFT 1708.A19 T487 Reserve)

This book includes basic contact information of federal and state courts and agencies within Texas and features both counties and county seat indexes.

Texas Legal Directory 2010 (KF192.T4 T55 Reserve)

This multi-volume set is largely used to locate attorney information but includes a judiciary section containg listings of all Texas state judges from the Supreme Court of Texas, the Court of Criminal Appeals, Court of Appeals, and District and County Courts.

2011 Harris County Bench Book (KFT 1710. Z9 H37 Reserve)

This provides contact information and rules and procedures for federal district and bankruptcy court as well as Texas district and county court judges. The creed for practicing before a particular judge is based on questionnaires sent to each judge and is the most useful feature of this source. Harris, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Jefferson, Liberty, and Montgomery counties are included.

Keep in mind that due to last Tuesday's elections, some of the listings from the print sources above will soon become out of date. The following websites will likely have more current listings:

Texas Supreme Court
http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/

Texas Court of Appeals
http://www.courts.state.tx.us/courts/coa.asp

Harris County Courts
http://www.ccl.hctx.net/

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Downloading

As to respond to my colleague Dan Baker's posting on October 27, here is the latest legal news on downloading: a Minnesota mom was hit with $1.5 Million fine for downloading 24 Songs. Judging from what has been happening since the era of Napster, one has to wonder what would come first, the end of illegal downloading or the end of RIAA.

European Convention turns 60!

Sixty years ago today, November 4, 1950, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, better known as the European Convention on Human Rights, was signed and adopted by 12 member states of the Council of Europe.
This Convention was the first instrument to give effect and binding force to specific rights stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights  and it was furthermore the first treaty to establish a supranational organ to ensure that the States Parties fulfilled their undertakings. The Convention was a milestone in the development of international law. Once states had accepted that a supranational court could challenge decisions taken by their own courts, human rights de facto gained precedence over national legislation and practice.
In order to join the Council of Europe, a State must first sign and ratify the European Convention on Human Rights, thus confirming its commitments to the aims of the Organization, namely the achievement of greater unity between its members based on human rights and fundamental freedoms, peace and respect for democracy and the Rule of Law.
The Convention was entered into force on 3 September 1953 and the rulings of the European Courts of Human Rights based on the Convention resulted in many changes to legislation and have helped to strengthen the rule of law. Any individual, group of individuals, company or non-governmental organization can apply to the Court, provided that they have exhausted all domestic remedies.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

November is "Native American Heritage Month"

The Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), National Park Service, National Gallery of Art, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Smithsonian Institution have jointly created a website in honor of Native American Heritage Month, which is available at the following link: http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov. This web portal provides a brief history of National American Heritage Month, includes links to various exhibits and collections, as well as audio/video clips related to American Indian History, and a schedule of events. The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian also includes a schedule of events at the following link: http://www.nmai.si.edu/anniversary/schedule.html.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This Things Still Exist?!

Maybe I've just been out of touch the last few years, but it seems like the whole Napster controversy took place ages ago. (Actually, it's been about a decade.) Needless to say, I was shocked to read a news article about yet another file-sharing website facing legal action. And to make it worse, the article claims that this particular litigation began over four years ago!! It seems like file-sharing websites are like cockroaches.

Personally, I don't know which is more disturbing: that companies keep trying to ignore copyright law while engaging in this activity, or that it can take years for subsequent offenders to be punished despite the clear precedent (even if it is only persuasive authority in the new offender's jurisdiction).

For a reminder of the original episode, see A&M Records v. Napster, Inc., 284 F.3d 1091 (9th Cir. 2002).

Friday, October 22, 2010

GPO Launches MetaLib

The U.S. Government Printing Office recently launched a new online portal to aid in finding government information. MetaLib is a federated search tool that allows users to search a number of government databases simultaneously. Currently MetaLib contains 53 databases covering a wide range of topics such as Agriculture, Energy, Patents, and Transportation.

If you would like to find information on a particular topic you can search individual databases or a subset of the databases by using the A-Z Resource List or the Expert Search function. For instance, if you need to find health information and reports, MetaLib will allow you to limit your search to databases such as CancerLit, the National Library of Medicine Gateway, and PubMed.

To access this new tool visit the MetaLib website. If you would like to learn more about searching through MetaLib visit the help page.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Supreme Court Fantasy League

Enjoy fantasy sports? Consider yourself a Supreme Court aficionado? If so, you should check out FantasySCOTUS. FantasySCOTUS is a fantasy league for the Supreme Court of the United States. Participants earn points by correctly predicting how each of the nine Justices will vote in every case. Anyone is free to join and there are leagues for specific law schools as well as category leagues for legal specialists such as Constitutional Law and Criminal Law. However, users are also allowed to create their own leagues. Participants are awarded badges based on the number of points they earn, with the top prize of the “Chief Justice Badge” going to the user with the highest total score.

Visit the FantasySCOTUS website to learn more and sign up today!

Friday, October 15, 2010

World Justice Project publishes Rule of Law Index

This year’s Rule of Law Index is the first in what is to become an annual series designed by the World Justice Project (WJP) with an effort to present a thorough and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice.

According to an announcement by WJP the Index consists of 10 factors and 49 sub-factors, organized under the following set of four principles, or bands, which constitute the WJP definition of the rule of law:
  1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law;
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property;
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient;
  4. Access to justice is provided by competent, independent, and ethical adjudicators, attorneys or representatives, and judicial officers who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
The index is available as a pdf file.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

No Fault is Now No Problem in New York

On August 15, New York Governor David Paterson signed into law A.9753A/S.3890 (text available on the New York State Assembly's website), and yesterday, the major changes to New York's divorce laws took effect. Prior to this, New York was the last remaining state without a no-fault divorce option available to those wishing to end their marriages.

Instead, section 170 of its Domestic Relations Law stipulated that an action for divorce required one of these grounds: "cruel and inhuman treatment" of one spouse by the other that "endangers the [spouse's] physical or mental well-being"; abandonment for at least one year; one spouse being in prison for "three or more consecutive years" after being married; adultery; living apart "pursuant to a decree or judgment of separation for a period of one or more years after the granting of such decree or judgment".
This required one spouse to be considered responsible for causing the end of the marriage, even if both of them wanted to get divorced.

The new law amends section 170 to add the option of the relationship between the spouses having "broken down irretrievably for a period of at least six months, provided that one party has so stated under oath." The parties will first need to also settle any issues relating to property, support, and visitation, or else the judgment will not be granted.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

EPA National Library Network

The EPA's National Library Network consists of several varieties of libraries containing different types of collections and services, depending upon which part of the agency they are associated with. The Network includes information about protecting and managing the environment, and issues that often play a major legal role - pollution, hazardous waste, water safety, and others.

The collection can be accessed using the Online Library System (OLS), the EPA's online catalog that is available to the public. It has basic and advanced search options, as well as a Help page that explains how the OLS is structured and provides examples of searches. If an item is available electronically, it can be downloaded in PDF directly from its item record.

Another very useful database within the Network is the National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NSCEP), which contains more than 7,000 print and 40,000 digital EPA publications. And...they can all be ordered (if only available in print) or downloaded in PDF for free. Yes, FREE!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Civil Law Verdict and Judgment Information now online

Interested to find out how a civil trial in Harris County turned out? Since Tuesday, October 5th, anyone can use the new “verdict search” feature on the Harris County District Clerk website to get more information.
 
“Verdict search” allows searching for both jury and non-jury trial verdicts by date range, court, public image number, judgment type, or case number. It is however limited to civil public non-family cases.

For members of the Bar or bondsman, it is possible to sign-up for e-mail notifications with the Harris County District Clerk office to receive updates for civil, family and criminal docket settings associated with the bar number or bondsman license number.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

FBI's Choice Social Network?

When FBI featurs social meida, you know that it has become mainstream. The first article in the July, 2010 issue of FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin carries the title The Public Information Officer and Today’s Digital News Environment. The author, a former police lieutenant, states that "...PIOs must continue to embrace technology and its benefits or risk becoming obsolete." The article goes on to list several tools: RSS feed, Twitter, Nixle, YouTube, and facebook, but Nixle is the one receiving a lot of attention. With a good reason: It is a secure and identity-certified communication service that allows local, county and state law enforcement and government agencies to connect with local residents over cell phone, email and web. One can limit information received by zip code.

However, one should read carefully Nixle's Terms of Service before signing up: there is a paragraph on their restrictions on linking (i.e. no deep linking) and framing activities. Caching is also not allowed. To see its Terms of Service, go to its homepage, click the button "Start receiving alerts today". I am not going to deep-link it here for you.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Just in Time for Banned Books Week

When most people think of Banned Books Week (celebrated this year Sept. 25 through Oct. 2), they usually envision puritanical parents trying to keep entire school districts from allowing students to have access to particular books that they don't want their own children to know exist because they find them offensive (usually without having read them). This week usually evokes discussions of titles such as Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, Ulysses, or the Harry Potter series, and authors such as Judy Blume, John Steinbeck, or Maya Angelou.

When ever this week rolls around, on the other hand, I am always reminded of a horrifying act of censorship that happened in the United States in the 1950s. No, I'm not talking about the uproar over roll'n'roll music. I'm talking about the literal book-burning of the works of William Reich. William Reich was a renowned, if controversial, psychiatrist and scientist, who developed a theory of "orgone energy". The FDA labeled him a quack, sought an injunction against him for "misbranding" (see Reich v. United States, 239 F.2d 134 (1st Cir. 1956)), and ordered that almost all of his books, papers, and research notes be burned.

In many ways, William Reich was a modern-day Giordano Bruno, the great alchemist and contemporary of Galileo who was burned at the stake for heresy. Bruno was a great thinker, but also a stubborn idealist and anti-authoritarian, and these traits led him to the fire. The authorities gave him several opportunities to recant and save his life, but Bruno defied them to the end. The same can be said of Reich. He did not present a defense to the FDA's injunction request, nor did he defend against charges of violating the injunction, which led to a jail sentence and, ultimately, his death in prison. Also like Bruno, his controversial views and contemptuous attitude made it difficult for the public to be outraged by the government's actions against him.

Why I am writing about this? Not only is it Banned Books Week, but, almost as if on cue, it recently came to light that the US Dept. of Defense recently destroyed almost an entire printing of a new book, the memoirs of an Army Reserve officer. Surprisingly, despite claiming that the destruction was required for national security purposes, the DoD did not go as far as the FDA in the 1950s. There does not appear to be an effort to track down and destroy the few copies that were sold or given out, and they are allowing the book to be reprinted, albeit in a redacted form.

How will the public react? How will librarians react? So far, it's been pretty quiet.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Law Library Brown Bag Series

During the 2010 Fall Semester, the O'Quinn Law Library will offer a series of lunchtime presentations on five different legal research topics. Each session will be given at 12 noon Tuesdays and Wednesdays. For for more information click the following link: http://www.law.uh.edu/libraries/publications/brownbags.htm.

The Fall 2010 schedule is as follows:

1. Advanced Search Strategies for Lexis and Westlaw
Tuesday, 9/28, 12:00-12:45, Wednesday, 9/29, 12:00-12:45 (room 4 BLB)
Lauren Schroeder, Reference and Research Librarian


2. Researching Foreign and International Law
Tuesday, 10/05, 12:00-12:45, Wednesday, 10/06, 12:00-12:45 (room 4 BLB)
Saskia Mehlhorn, Visiting Foreign and International Law Librarian


3. Bluebook Update: Welcome to the 19th Edition
Tuesday, 10/12, 12:00-12:45, Wednesday, 10/13, 12:00-12:45 (room 4 BLB)
Dan Baker, Reference and Research Librarian


4. Researching Federal Legislative History
Tuesday, 10/19, 12:00-12:45, Wednesday, 10/20, 12:00-12:45 (room 4 BLB)
Emily Woolard, Reference and Research Librarian


5. Empirical Legal Research
Tuesday, 10/26, 12:00-12:45, Wednesday, 10/27, 12:00-12:45 (room 4 BLB)
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

USA.gov

USA.gov, originally known as FirstGov.gov, was launched in 2000 as a portal for U.S. Government information. This website has evolved remarkably over the past decade and today the interface is very user friendly. USA.gov can be used as a starting point for those wishing to register to vote, obtain a passport, apply for a U.S. Government job, or even locate an alternative fuel station. Those who wish to browse this website may choose from four links at the top of the main page including obtaining government services, exploring topics, locating government agencies, and contacting the government. For each option, a convenient drop down menu is available with important sub categories and a link to a more detailed index for further exploration. Those who need quick information about a specific topic may use the search engine with advanced search options which is powered by Bing.

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Guide Aimed at Law Students

Preparing law students for the legal research demands of the real world has long been a concern of law librarians. With the advent of the Internet, and its corresponding effect on the research habits and expectations of students, many librarians have wondered why law schools continue to allow Westlaw, LexisNexis, and the rest of the legal publishers of subscription databases to dictate the contours of the legal research experience. Finally, a step has been taken to counter the publishers' power over legal research training.

Late last month, a new online resource was launched: The Law Student Guide to Free Legal Research on the Internet (http://freelaw.classcaster.net/). As its title suggests, this online guide is primarily targeted at law students, although there is also a section for law librarians and legal research instructors. Sponsored by the Legal Information Institute (LII) and Justia.com and hosted by the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), this guide aspires to help law students locate reliable, free, online legal resources and overcome their addictions to the big expensive publishers with a fun, fresh style. Although this is still a work in progress, it's a good first step and definitely worth checking out.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Live Hearings from the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea

All those that are interested in following live hearings at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea - here is a great opportunity: 

Starting on Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 8 am CT and continued until Thursday, one can follow a hearing on a request for an advisory opinion on the responsibilities and obligations of States sponsoring persons and entities with respect to activities in the International Seabed Area.

The live hearing will be transmitted through the ITLOS website.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Google Instant

If you use Google on a regular basis, you may have noticed something different this week with your search results. This is because Google launched Google Instant on Wednesday. Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. The results section is shown just below the search box and the search results are adjusted with each letter you type. This will allow you to view the results and adapt your search before you even press the “search” button. Google claims that Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search and estimates that if everyone uses the enhancement, it will save more than 3.5 billion seconds per day.

Currently, Google Instant is available for those who use updated versions of Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Chrome. It is set as a default search feature, but can be easily turned off for those who find it to be a distraction. Visit the Google Instant website to learn more about this new feature.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Finding GAO Reports

The United States Government Accountability Office is an independent, nonpartisan agency that serves as the “investigative arm of Congress.” It does so by evaluating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars and reporting on how well government programs are meeting their objectives. The GAO issues reports, often at the request of members of Congress, about various federal government programs, which offer recommendations to the agencies. These reports cover a wide range of topics and can be very helpful for researchers needing information about particular agencies and programs. For example, GAO reports were recently released about the assistance provided by the federal government to nonprofits following hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the FDA’s consideration of evidence from certain clinical trials.

GAO Reports can be found on the GAO website either through browsing by date, topic, or agency, or by using the advanced search feature. This website is updated daily and the full-text of the reports is provided going back to the 1950s. GAO Reports from 1993-2008 can also be found on the Government Printing Office’s FDsys website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Research Tips: HeinOnline - Law Journals...and Much, Much More!

HeinOnline is a database created by William S. Hein & Co., and accessible from the Legal Databases section of the library's website. It currently contains "over 40 million pages of research material", all available in their original format via PDF.

In addition to its collection of over 1,400 law journals (with coverage from the first issue onward), HeinOnline has the following libraries (keep in mind, even this list does not include everything available):

  • English Reports, Full Reprint (1220-1867)
  • Federal Register Library - this contains the Federal Register (1936-current, updated daily) and Code of Federal Regulations (1938-current), as well as the Weekly and Daily Compilations of Presidential Documents, and the United States Government Manual (1935-current)
  • Legal Classics - over 1,400 historical works, ranging from the Code of Hammurabi to Benjamin Cardozo and Louis Brandeis
  • Session Laws Library - session laws from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, also Acts of Parliament from Canada and Australia
  • Treaties and Agreements Library - this library contains all U.S. treaties (in force, expired, or not officially published yet), and is divided into 5 sections: Official Treaty Publications, Unofficial Treaty Publications, Treaty Guides and Indexes, Treaties, Books and Texts, and Important Treaties and Agreements Links
  • United States Code (complete coverage)
  • U.S. Federal Legislative History Library - contains compiled legislative histories of major federal laws
  • U.S. Presidential Library - collection of documents ranging from George Washington's term to the present
  • U.S. Statutes at Large (1789-2007)
  • U.S. Supreme Court Library - U.S. Reports and other titles pertaining to the Court
  • World Constitutions Illustrated - a new, developing library that is designed to eventually provide the complete constitutional history for every country
  • World Trials Library - includes court documents, analytical resources, and biographies of famous trial lawyers
The next time you need to conduct legal research, be sure to check out HeinOnline!

Monday, August 23, 2010

ABA Free Full-text Online Law Review/Journal Search Engine

Searching for law journal articles can be challenging for those who do not have access to any of the commercial legal periodical indexes such as LegalTrac but the ABA has a free search engine available here. This free resource enables the user to search the free full text (including PDF articles) of over 350 online legal periodicals along with academic papers and Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. This is useful because there are several law journals that now have recent articles in PDF posted on their websites. Keep in mind that the coverage of this search engine is incomplete and researchers will likely need to use other indexes and visit a law library to obtain certain articles, especially those that are dated. However, this is an effective tool for locating free articles and will likely increase in coverage in the future.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kluwer Arbitration

One of the legal databases you can access through our main library webpage is Kluwer Arbitration. This website has changed recently and apart from changes in the layout and functions, some new materials are offered. As of this month these are the materials you can browse:

1. Primary materials:
  • Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs): almost 1,700 bilateral investment treaties
  • Case Law: over 5,000 court decisions and 1,750 awards
  • Conventions: 25 multilateral treaties
  • Legislation: almost 500 laws for key jurisdictions
  • Model Clauses: close to 100 model clauses from major arbitral institutions
  • Rules: over 400 rules from major arbitral institutions
2. Analytical content: over 100
  • Books
  • Journals
  • loose-leaf collections
3. Blog posts from the Kluwer Arbitration Blog.

4. ITA Report including materials provided by the board of reporters of the Institute for Transnational Arbitration (ITA).

5. Practice Tools like the IAI Arbitrator Tool developed in conjunction with the International Arbitration Institute

The ‘browse categories’ box offers to browse by BITs, conventions, countries, the NY convention, decisions, legislation, organizations and rules, while the “advanced search” button allows one to search across all materials in the database.
You can look at books and journals Kluwer has recently added to its collection, including newly published Kluwer Law International books, and it is possible to print or email the desired text.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law now available online

This important work, which came out in its print version in 2005 as a result of a major international study, is now available as a free online version.
The study took an in depth look into state practices in international humanitarian law in order to identify customary law in this area. It analyzes the customary rules of IHL and contains a detailed summary of relevant state practice throughout the world.
For those interested in the print version, the call number is KZ6462.C87 2005.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Invisible Court

When Elena Kagan was nominated to the Supreme Court last Thursday, a nearly 3 month long confirmation process came to an end. Those of us who work in the legal field followed it with interest and oftentimes discussed the impact her nomination could have on the “Roberts court”.
Apparently we’re alone with our interest in the Supreme Court. According to a poll by the Pew Research Center 53% had no idea who the chief justice is and only 28% of the participants knew that it is John Roberts. Asked if they had information about Elena Kagan, 57% answered that they knew nothing or very little about her. Another interesting outcome was that 23% of Americans thought the Court is conservative, while another 23% believed that it is liberal.
Keeping in mind that Supreme Court Decisions shape every citizen’s life, it appears to be time for the Court to start a PR campaign.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Perry v. Schwarzenegger Case Website

On Wednesday, a federal judge in California ruled that Proposition 8, an amendment to the state's Constitution that was passed by a slim majority of voters in 2008, was unconstitutional. Although this decision has rightly been a hot topic in the news, one amazing aspect of it has not been discussed: Due to the heightened interest in this case, the Northern District of California created a webpage specifically for information about the case! The URL for the website is https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/index.html.

Through this website, any person can access the docket and filings for this case, as well as the decision itself, without needing a PACER login. In addition (and I think this is the really cool part), the court even created a special page (https://ecf.cand.uscourts.gov/cand/09cv2292/evidence/index.html) that contains links to all the evidentiary videos and documents mentioned in the opinion! So, if a person wanted to verify that the judge characterized a particular campaign ad or pamphlet correctly, they can access the evidence themselves and form their own opinion!

This is amazing, not just because of the sensational nature of the controversy at issue in the case, but because it allows average American citizens to catch a glimpse into the judicial process that they never get to see, a peek behind the curtain that usually is not fodder for legal television dramas or movies. I for one hope that many people take advantage of this opportunity to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the judicial process, regardless of their personal opinions of the correctness of the judge's decision.

In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress

This week, the Library of Congress released its fourth blog. (Can you believe it?! They have four blogs!) Entitled In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress (http://blogs.loc.gov/law/), the blog will cover current legal trends, collecting for the largest law library in the world, developments and enhancements in THOMAS, and cultural intelligence and the law. It will also include a British perspective and a perspective from New Zealand! This new blog can be subscribed to by RSS (http://blogs.loc.gov/law/feed/) and email (http://service.govdelivery.com/service/subscribe.html?code=USLOC_90).

In Custodia Legis is Latin for "in the custody of the law". One role of the Law Library of Congress is to be a custodian of law and legislation, hence the name. In addition, blogs are among the born-digital content that is being saved and preserved under the Library's National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (http://www.digitalpreservation.gov). The Law Library has been working since 2007 to save more than one hundred legal blogs (http://www.loc.gov/law/find/web-archive/legal-blawgs.php). Besides In Custodia Legis, the Library of Congress also maintains a blog for the LOC as well as a Science, Technology, & Business blog and a Performing Arts blog.


So, if you want to keep up to date on what's happening at the Law Library of Congress, they've now got a blog to satisfy your LLOC needs!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nominate Your Favorite Librarian for the "I Love My Librarian Award"!

Librarians in our nation’s 123,000 libraries make a difference in the lives of millions of people every day. If a librarian has made a difference in your life, now is the chance to tell your story.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award encourages library users to recognize the accomplishments of librarians in public, school, college, community college and university libraries for their efforts to improve the lives of people in their community.

Nominations will be open from August 2 to September 20.

Up to 10 librarians in public, school, college, community college, and university libraries will be selected to win $5,000 and will be honored at a ceremony and reception in New York, hosted by The New York Times. In addition, a plaque will be given to each award winner’s library. Winners will be announced in December 2010.

Each nominee must be a librarian with a master’s degree from a program accredited by the ALA in library and information studies or a master’s degree with a specialty in school library media from an educational unit accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education. Nominees must be currently working in the United States in a public library, a library at an accredited two- or four-year college or university, or at an accredited K-12 school.

For more information and to nominate a librarian, visit www.ilovelibraries.org/ilovemylibrarian.

The award is supported by Carnegie Corporation of New York and The New York Times.

It is administered by The American Library Association (ALA), the oldest and largest library association in the world, and The Campaign for America’s Libraries, ALA’s public awareness campaign about the value of libraries and librarians.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Bar Exam: Some History & Comparison

It's that time of year again...time for two to three days of squeezing out all the material that hopeful lawyers have been pounding into their heads over several months - the bar exam. To mark the occasion, here is a brief history of the exam itself, as well as a taste of what is required to become an attorney elsewhere.

Prior to the mid-1800s, there were no written bar exams. Instead, the path to becoming a lawyer led hopefuls through "apprenticeships, self-directed reading, and oral examinations." The next phase made use of a diploma privilege, which remained until the ABA began requiring exams in the 1920s. (A diploma privilege does still exist in Wisconsin, however.) The first state to employ a written version of the bar exam was Massachusetts, in 1855. (See Riebe, A Bar Review for Law Schools: Getting Students on Board to Pass Their Bar Exams, 45 Brandeis L. J. 269 (2007) for quoted material and historical information.)

Bar exams consisted only of essays until the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE) was developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The MBE resulted from "a universal concern among bar examiners regarding the mounting burden of preparing and grading papers in the light of the...increase in law school enrollment" during the 1960s. (Eckler, The Multistate Bar Examination: Its Origins and Objectives, reprinted in the February 1996 issue of The Bar Examiner, at page 15.) It was added to the bar exam in February 1972 as a way to both increase efficiency of grading and aid in ensuring as much fairness as possible. The Multistate Performance Test (MPT), which requires analysis of a "closed-world" legal problem, was added in 1997.

In Texas, the bar exam spans three days, with Texas material tested on days 1 and 3 (through Procedure & Evidence questions on day 1, and essays on day 3), and the MBE on day 2. There are some variations in the composition of the bar exam between states, but regardless of where a person takes it, it is universally considered to be a very difficult test.

But take heart, everyone! It's not the hardest route you could travel to reach Attorneyville. As a point of comparison, I asked Visiting Foreign & International Law Librarian Saskia Mehlhorn about what is required to become a lawyer in Germany. The German process has three steps. Step one is the First State Exam (8 written exams taken throughout law school, a thesis that is a minimum of 40-50 pages long, and then defending the thesis in front of a commission). If you pass, then you move on to step two, which is a two year apprenticeship. Finally, step three is the Second State Exam (8 written exams spread over 2 weeks that are 5 hours each, then another 2-3 weeks developing a judicial opinion or brief from a 60-80 page case file, a presentation of your opinion or brief to a commission, and then an oral exam consisting of 4 sessions in 1 day). You only become an attorney if you pass the Second State Exam, and if you fail either the First or Second State Exam, you only have one chance to retake the exam.

Monday, July 26, 2010

National Presence of O'Quinn Librarians

The 103rd American Association of Law Libraries saw the UH flag displayed in a big way: three librarians from the O'Quinn Law Library gave three different presentations separately.

Dan Baker presented his paper, “Citations to Wikipedia in Law Reviews” during a program called “The Librarian as Author: AALL/LexisNexis® Call for Papers” on July 12 in Denver. His paper won the award for the New Member Division and has also been accepted for publication in I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society. We now have the solid proof that Dan not only writes well but also speaks well.

As the sole speaker of her session, Lauren Schroeder delivered a talk on researching oil and gas law at the AALL Annual Meeting in Denver on July 13, with Dan moderating the session. Although her session was scheduled at the end of the annual meeting, Lauren entertained a very sizable audience.

Last and most, Spencer Simons spoke for a lengthy 75 minutes on accounting and budgeting in the various environments in which law librarians work at the AALL Annual Meeting in Denver on July 12. Mon Yin Lung served as his coordinator and moderator. Spencer also drew a big audience and had people lining up to talk to him after the program.

Many thanks to Dan Baker, Chris Dykes and Emily Woolard, who took care of the handouts and general crowd control for Lauren and Spencer. Thanks to Helen Boyce, Yuxin Li, and Saskia Mehlhorn, who showed our flag in many other sessions. We are a great team.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Study on “Top Secret America” Released

This week the Washington Post released the results of a two-year investigative study on the U.S. national security program. The information comes from hundreds of thousands of public records from both government organizations and the private sector. The newspaper identified 45 government organizations, with 1,271 sub-units, that engage in top-secret work. It also identified another 1,931 companies engaging in top-secret work for the government.

From this data, they compiled a Top Secret America database, which aims to depict the scope and complexity of the national security program and provides descriptions of the organizations and companies involved. More information about this project and the data collected can be found at the Top Secret America website.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Federal Register 2.0 Coming This Month

The Office of the Federal Register recently announced the launch of a Web 2.0 version of the daily Federal Register. This new website will be released on July 26, 2010, which marks the 75th anniversary of the Federal Register Act.

The new FR 2.0 website will provide news sections organized by broad topics such as Environment and Health & Public Welfare as well as agency pages listing recent agency activity and a calendar of events for rules, public meetings and comment dates. It will also provide links directly to the Regulations.gov docket for comments, RSS feeds, and the official PDF versions of the Federal Register for authentication.

For more information about this new resource, see the FR 2.0 handout.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

National Archives and Records Administration

When the National Archives celebrated their 75 anniversary last year, they unlocked quite a few remarkable records. The Archive, which is the nation’s record keeper, assures that documents that are deemed invaluable for legal and historical reasons are kept forever and they continue to expand their collection.
As not all the information is available online, one has to scan the checklist on the web site to determine, in what format the desired documents are accessible. Among others Bankruptcy files for the years 1940 to 1998 are available from all states, and Congressional Records, and the 9/11 Commission Records are retrievable.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Germany’s Federal Convention to elect new President

Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 30th, the German Federal Assembly is going to elect a new President. The election comes after the previous President, Horst Koehler, unexpectedly resigned in late May. President Koehler was very popular among German citizens, but had received growing criticism from the reigning conservative government. According to Art. 54 (4) the Basic Law (commonly referred to as the German Constitution) the new President has to be elected within 30 days once the President leaves office.
The German President has a largely ceremonial role, so usually the election wouldn’t ignite much interest, but as Chancellor Merkel has been widely criticized lately, this election is viewed as a test of her leadership.

Four candidates are on the slate for Wednesday. Merkel's governing coalition presented Christian Wulff, currently minister president of the state of Lower Saxony, as its candidate. His main opponent is Joachim Gauck , a pastor from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Gauck was once the first Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives, and is widely favored by the public as well as the opposition. The third candidate is Luc Jochimson, an outspoken proponent of the former GDR. And the fourth one is Frank Rennicke, candidate for the Nationalist Party.

The German people have no say in Wednesday's vote; the federal president will be elected by a federal convention, which includes 1,244 lawmakers. Merkel's governing coalition has a slim majority in the assembly and usually the members are expected to vote with the party that selected them for participation, but a number of high ranking personalities suggested that no one should be “forced” to vote according to party lines .

Exciting times for Germany and I will be glued to the TV tomorrow.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Looking for criminal justice statistics can be very challenging but luckily there is the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) that was established in 1979 and is the primary course for criminal justice statistics in the United States. Its mission is to collect, analyze and publish information on crime and its victim, criminal offenders and the judicial operations at all government levels.
The site offers access to the online version of the sourcebook of criminal statistics, as well as searching abilities of the BJS data collection which provides not only the collected data itself, but as well a comprehensive overview of the survey instruments.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Pygmalion or Frankenstein's Monster?

I've been thinking about the ramifications of the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Citizens United v. FEC, 130 S. Ct. 876 (Jan. 21, 2010), in which the Court gave life to the legal fiction of corporate entities by bestowing upon them the First Amendment right of freedom of speech. How will this turn out, not just in the electioneering context of the Citizens United case itself, but in the broader context of corporate activities? How will corporations use this precedent to shape their own futures and expand their rights/reach?

Will it be like the Roman myth of Pygmalion, with its happy ending of fruitfulness both for the creator and the created?

Or will it be more like that of Frankenstein, where Dr. Frankenstein gives life to a monster that, once unleashed, inevitably (and despite the monster's initial good intentions) destroys everything he holds dear? (Some might compare it to the legends of the Golem, but according to tradition, the Golem could not speak.)

My bet is that the proper literary analogy will turn out to be that of Pinocchio, except that when corporations lie, it will be their bank accounts and influence that grow.

Monday, June 14, 2010

UHLC Immigration Law Clinic Effort Leads to Major Immigration Law Decision in Supreme Court of the United States

Geoffrey Hoffman, director of the Immigration Clinic of the University of Houston Law Center, served as co-counsel on a major immigration law case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 14, 2010, on appeal from a decision of the Fifth Circuit. The Court held in Carachuri-Rosendo v. Holder that a second drug possession offense under state law is not an “aggravated felony” under federal law that would have the effect of denying eligibility for discretionary cancellation of removal under the Immigration and Nationality Act when the state conviction is not based on the fact of a prior conviction. Petitioner had been convicted in Texas of possession of a small amount of marijuana and subsequently convicted of possession of one antianxiety tablet. Although Texas law allows sentencing enhancement if the State proved that petitioner had previously been convicted of a similar offense, the State did not seek sentencing enhancement. The Federal Government initiated removal proceedings and denied the claim by petitioner that he was eligible for discretionary cancellation of removal. The Federal Government argued that petitioner’s conduct could have been punished as an aggravated felony under federal law, since it could have been punished as a recidivist offense under state law. The court rejected this “hypothetical approach.” Justice Stevens authored the opinion, joined by Roberts, Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, and Sotomayor, with Scalia and Thomas filing concurring opinions.
In addition to Geoffrey Hoffman, several Immigration Clinic staff and students of the Law Center worked on the case. According to releases by the clinic, former clinic attorneys Ann Chandler and Tom Perkinson worked on the case as it progressed through the lower courts and current UHLC students Charlotte Simon, Magda Gonzalez, and Andrea Boulares assisted with preparation of the appeal. Co-counsel on the appeal to the Supreme Court was Sri Srinivasan of O’Melveny & Myers. Congratulations to Geoffrey Hoffman and the clinic staff and students who made possible this major immigration law decision.
Critical documents are:

1. Case opinion
2. Oral argument transcripts
3. Briefs (posted on ABA Preview of U.S. Supreme Court Cases on 3/31/2010)
4. UHLC announcement on SCOTUS granting cert. to the case, and the UHLC team in front of the High Court
5. 5th Cir. Opinion (reversed by SCOTUS)

by Spencer Simons

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Obtaining CRS Reports Online

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a federal government department within the Library of Congress. It serves members of Congress through providing analysis and research that is comprehensive and designed to be unbiased and nonpartisan. This information, including reports, is given to the members only, and is not made directly available to the public.

The information contained in CRS reports can be very useful for legal research, but only a fraction of the number of reports produced have been released. One site that is designed to make it easier to search for the publicly-available reports is Open CRS.

Open CRS was created by the Center for Democracy & Technology, a nonprofit organization that wants to keep the Internet as open and free as possible. It provides a single search point for collections of CRS reports that have been gathered by six different organizations. When you conduct a search, the record for each report contains the report's order code, title and date, a summary, a link to download it in PDF, and a listing of all available versions of the report (in case it was modified or updated).

The site also allows you to get updates when new reports are added, either through Twitter, a mailing list, or RSS.

Check it out!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Justice Souter's Recent Speech

Retired Supreme Court Justice David Souter was the principal speaker at the Afternoon Exercises of Harvard’s 359th Commencement on May 27, 2010. Since then the speech has received quite some attention. The text of his speech can be found here. One can also watch the streamed event on YouTube. Just remember that Justice Souter began to talk 1 hour 53 minutes and 36 seconds after the Afternoon Exercises began if you want to skip the rest of the event.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

More Public Information (Patent and Trademark) Brought to You by Google

In its Press Release 10-22 yesterday (June 2, 2010), the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced that "the USPTO has entered into a no-cost, two-year agreement with Google to make bulk electronic patent and trademark public data available to the public in bulk form". The deal is great for the U.S. government/taxpapers because currently USPTO does not "have the technical capability to provide this public information in a bulk machine readable format", and Google just fills the void. Google's patent and trademark download page can be found here. The press release goes on to state: "This arrangement is to serve as a bridge as the USPTO develops an acquisition strategy which will allow the USPTO to enter into a contract with a contractor to retrieve and distribute USPTO patent and trademark bulk public data." Would the current arrangement give Google a head start when it is time to bid for the said contract?

Open Government Initiative

Last week I was asked to retrieve data collected by an agency within the federal government and had the chance to take a closer look at the revamped DATA.gov website.

Data.gov is an integral part of President Obama’s Open Government Initiative and was developed by the Federal CIO Council. Data.gov increases the public’s ability to find, download, and use datasets that are generated and held by the Federal Government.
This website offers different types of catalogs and especially the “raw data” feature with its instant view/download of platform-independent, machine readable data makes it interesting for anyone conducting empirical research. Links to authoritative source information from the sponsoring agency's website assure reliability, and the ”local/state” link allows access to data collected by some states.

Take a look, you won't regret it!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recent Privacy Changes on Facebook

Facebook in recent months has endured a substantial amount of criticism over privacy concerns, particularly due to confusing default settings that automatically expose information on a person's wall along with photos to the public, difficulty in controlling information that is share with third party applications, and the onerous process involved for those who wish to delete their accounts. Such concerns prompted Senator Chuck Schumer-D, NY, to call on the Federal Trade Commission to set guidelines for social networking sites with repect to how personal information is used.

In response to the growing scrutiny, Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced in a press conference on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, that Facebook will be implementing privacy changes to give the user more control in sharing information (see the press release on Mark Zuckerberg's blog). The following is a summary of those changes:

1. One simple control that will allow the user to limit the visibility of wall postings to "friends only", "friends of friends", and "everyone".

2. Lower the amount of information available to the public (pages and friends are no longer required to be listed on the profile).

3. Improve the ease of managing personal information that is available to third party applications and websites.

Whether these changes will satisfy privacy groups and keep more people from defecting from Facebook remains to be seen. While the response appears to be positive, PC Magazine posted an article on its website that evaluated most of the changes negatively based on criteria stipulated in a previous article. Chief among the concerns included the need for a"simplified privacy" link from the homepage, a "friends only" default setting that will limit the ability to view photos to those on a user's friends list, and making account deletion easier for those who wish to leave Facebook for good.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The (New) Bluebook Is Coming! The (New) Bluebook Is Coming!

It's that time again. Every five years (give or take), a new edition of The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is published. On June 1st, the 19th edition of The Bluebook will officially be released (although the 19th edition can be accessed electronically right now at www.legalbluebook.com). There is one change, however, that is generating quite a bit of buzz, and it's a doozy!! The new edition explicitly addresses, in Rule 18.7.3, that most-important question that has been on everyone's lips for the last several years: How to cite to a podcast!

Really? Out of all the deficiencies with The Bluebook, all the ambiguities that should've been addressed editions ago, the most pressing matter worthy of the editors' attentions is citing to podcasts?!

I don't know which is worse: That the editors took the time to create a specific rule for podcasts, or that that is the only change that people seem interested in!

Granted, most of the other changes are just remodeling: There has been some slight reorganization and consequent renumbering. For example, many of the primary law rules now have sub-rules dealing with how to cite to them in electronic media, whereas almost all of the electronic citation rules were limited to Rule 18 (and its sub-rules) in the 18th edition. Now, if you need to determine how to cite to a legislative document available electronically, instead of checking two Rules (Rules 13 and 18 in the 18th edition), you may only need to check one Rule (Rule 13 in the 19th edition).

However, it appears that there has been some "reorganization" that I fear will create confusion: Several types of documents that had been blessed with their own sub-rules in previous editions, such as federal taxation materials, securities-related documents, presidential documents, and patents, have been relegated to the ever-more cumbersome tables in the back of The Bluebook. There was a reason why special attention was paid to these types of documents in the past, but evidently, podcasts are more important and harder to cite than Treasury Regulations, presidential documents, or anything associated with patent law! For now, all the commentators have been excited about learning how to cite to podcasts, but come the beginning of the new law school year this fall, I won't be surprised to hear these same people complaining about The Bluebook's tables.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Supreme Court Nominations

Yesterday President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Article II of the United States Constitution requires the President to submit nominations to the Senate for advice and consent. Since 1789, presidents have submitted 159 nominations for the Court, 123 of which were confirmed.

More information about Supreme Court nominations can be found on the Senate Judiciary Committee website and the Library of Congress website. The transcripts of Supreme Court nomination hearings from 1971 – present are available at the GPO Access website. University of Michigan Law Library also has set up a timely website on Kagan. For more information and updates of the development, try the special pages posted by New York Times and Washington Post.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Sampling of Reasons to Return Your Library Books on Time

Have you ever wondered what might happen to you if you don't return your books when you get that overdue notice? Some of the answers to that question might surprise you. For example:

In Colorado, it's considered a class 3 misdemeanor, with a maximum punishment of up to 6 months in jail. (C.R.S.A. section 24-90-117)

Georgia classifies it as a misdemeanor, and may send you to jail for up to 30 days. (Ga. Code Ann. section 20-5-53)

Idaho considers it to be a petit theft, with jail time of up to 1 year. (I.C. section 33-2620)

Missouri considers it to be a misdemeanor or sometimes a felony, depending on the value of the materials. (V.A.M.S. 570-210)

Nevada fines you up to 500 dollars, and holds parents liable for any materials their children don't return. (N.R.S. 379-160)

New York can send you to jail for up to 6 months. (Education Law section 265)

Pennsylvania issues a fine, but will put you in jail for up to 10 days if you default in paying that fine. (24 P.S. section 4426)

South Carolina may jail you for up to 30 days. (Code 1976 section 16-13-340)

In West Virginia, you face a fine of up to 200 dollars, and parents are liable for the failure of their children to return books also. (W. Va. Code section 10-1-11)

So be sure to return those books when they're due!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Extended Library Hours During the Reading Period

This weenkend being the reading period, the O'Quinn Law Library implements the extended hours. Between May 1 and May 4, we will be closing at 2 a.m. For details please see here.

Knock, knock. Who’s there?

The census taker.

Despite the fact that Texas already exceeded the 2000 Census reply rate, Houston is far behind with an approximate reply rate of 40%. While there are a number of people who never received the form, the majority might have forgotten to reply or was under the impression that they don’t have to. This seems to be especially true for college students. But, according to the Census Bureau, students living away from their parents home while attending college have to be counted in the city where they attend college, even if they are staying with their parents during semester break or vacation.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flare Index to Treaties

When researching treaties where there are three or more parties to the instrument check out the Flare Index to Treaties. This is a searchable database of basic information on over 1,500 of the most significant multilateral treaties from 1856 to the present. It lists details of where the full text of each treaty may be obtained in paper and, if available, electronic format.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Texas Wildflowers and the Law














If you think these Texas wildflowers are beckoning, why not take a break from the pressing deadlines of this semester and take a walk? Nothing can beat what Mother Nature offers us. The Texas Park and Wildlife Department suggests to Stop and Smell the Wildflowers at Texas State Parks. In order not to violate the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code §88.002 and 31 Texas Administrative Code §69.1, take a look at this list of Endangered and Threatened Plants in Texas and the United States posted by the Texas Park and Wildlife Department, and you will know which flower you should not pluck.

Pictures of flowers were taken with a cell phone camera along the Brays Bayou Hike and Bike Trail between Kirby Drive and Buffalo Speedway.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Locating Federal Regulations Online


Federal Digital System (FDsys)


The new FDsys database available on the Government Printing Office's Web site (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/) makes available two sources in PDF that are essential for federal administrative law research:
  • Federal Register (1994-current)
This source is published daily (except for weekends and national holidays) and contains notices, rules, and proposed rules from federal agencies along with Presidential Executive Orders.
  • Code of Federal Regulations (2000-current)
The CFR compiles the permanent and temporary rules announced in the Federal Register and arranges them among 50 titles. Keep in mind that while the subjects are similar to the arrangement in the United States Code, they do not necessarily correspond to each other. The CFR volumes are replaced annually.

HeinOnline

The HeinOnline database contains all issues of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations in PDF format. UH law students and faculty can access this database by clicking the following link: http://www.law.uh.edu/libraries and choosing "HeinOnline" from the drop down menu under "Legal Databases". Access to this database requires the Law Library's Virtual Private Network (VPN) and information about installation can be found at: http://www.law.uh.edu/lit/instructions/vpn.html.