"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



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.