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Showing posts from June, 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 …

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.

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 i…

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 pro…

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 …

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.

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!