"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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Law Library of Congress Hearing Digitization Project

The Law Library of Congress has a collection of approximately 75,000 bound volumes of congressional hearings, and is partnering with Google on a pilot project to digitize all of them and make them freely available to the public.

Currently, there are selections relating to the U.S. Census, privacy and freedom of information, and immigration, with many more planned to follow. All of the digitized hearings are searchable PDFs, and full citation information is provided.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)

While at the reference desk this week a seasoned attorney came up and was wondering whether we have access to the reports and decision of the National Labor Relations Board. Actually, we have a subscription through the BNA databases but in this case it might be more convenient for anyone who doesn't have that access to go to the official government website.   
The NLRB website offers a wide variety of rules and regulations, guides, and manuals in English as well as in Spanish. In addition its research section allows access to legal-related documents, specifically NLRB Board decisions and memos, the weekly summary of NLRB cases, and AppellateCourt briefs and motions filed by the NLRB General Counsel.  
Furthermore one can find the National Labor Relations Act, manuals written for legal and non-legal audiences which provide a wealth of material useful for understanding and navigating NLRB cases as well as the General Counsel memos.

Friday, May 13, 2011

General Explanation on Tax Legislation

The Joint Committee on Taxation publishes a valuable resource for tax attorneys that analyzes recently enacted tax legislation, titled General Explanation of Tax Legislation (also known as the "blue book") for every Congress. The Joint Committee on Taxation, is a nonpartisan committee that advises congressional committees considering tax legislation. While CCH publishes its own version (KF6369.G46 2011), the official version is available on the Joint Committee on Taxation's website.

The following are some of the tax acts analyzed in the General Explanation of Tax Legislation Enacted in the 111th Congress:

  • American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5)
  • Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-3)
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111-203)
  • Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-198)
  • Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act 0f 2010 (P.L. 111-312)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Production of the Congressional Record

According to an announcement from the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) created a YouTube video covering the production of the Congressional Record. The video shows how GPO employees undergo the process of transforming manuscripts from Congress into print and electronic publications for use by the public. While most academic law libraries have the Congressional Record in print, the Government Printing Office's Federal Digital System (FDsys) contains these from 1994 until present.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The "Gray Areas" of Westlaw/LexisNexis

I recently had a student email me with a problem. He was looking for a particular document in its original form (it has been amended at least once). He was wondering if there was a source in the library that would contain this document, but he also wondered if it was available online at all. He stated that he couldn't find it on Westlaw or LexisNexis, and that he even talked with a LexisNexis rep who "conceded that they probably don't have it."

Having spent several years working in the customer support department of one of these publishers, I recognized that this particular document was the kind of thing that could easily fall into what I call a "gray area" in the content available through Westlaw and LexisNexis.

Many of the secondary sources available through LexisNexis and Westlaw reprint the texts of entire treaties (including some not ratified by the US), decisions (of US courts, international bodies, and other entities), legislative materials (including model acts), older versions of documents that are no longer in effect, and a myriad of other, unusually hard-to-find, documents. Frequently, these are reprinted in appendices in treatises or in relevant periodicals, but treatises can also reprint the text of relevant documents within its own sections.

That's where we located this student's document: On LexisNexis, a treatise reproduced the text within a section, while on Westlaw, the text was reproduced in an appendix to another treatise. So remember: If you can't find it elsewhere, see if there is a treatise on the topic and look in it. It's amazing what you can find!

P.S. These aren't the only places to look: The Congressional Record is a good place to find difficult-to-locate documents, and even courts may have relevant or unusual documents appended to their decisions, such as a transcript of George Carlin's famous "Filthy Words" (also known as "the seven words you can't say on television") comedy routine. See FCC v. Pacifica Found., 438 U.S. 726, 751 (1978).

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

And Then There Were None . . .

In my recent article, "A Jester's Promenade: Citations to Wikipedia in Law Reviews, 2002-2008" (7 I/S - A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, forthcoming 2011 (draft available through SSRN)), I applauded the University of Pennsylvania Law Review for being the only Top 30 (at the time) student-edited law review not to have cited to Wikipedia. Considering the edition of the Bluebook current when I finished writing the piece generally frowned upon citing to websites, I had originally planned to point out that Penn was the only one of the compiling editors of the Bluebook not to have cited to Wikipedia. I ultimately decided against it for two reasons: 1) I thought it would be redundant considering that all of the compiling editors are also within the Top 30, and 2) because there are instances where Wikipedia should appropriately be cited (although that pains me to admit).

The Bluebook is "[c]ompiled by the editors of the Columbia Law Review, the Harvard Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, and the Yale Law Journal." Of these four student-edited publications, the Yale Law Journal was the first to publish a citation to Wikipedia. This initial foray into citing to Wikipedia was Yochai Benkler's seminal article, Coase's Penguin, or, Linux and The Nature of the Firm, 112 Yale L.J. 369 (2002), which was also the first work appearing in a student-edited law review to contain multiple citations to Wikipedia (3 in total, all appropriate references). Since that first step (as of this writing), the Yale Law Journal has been somewhat conservative (compared to other student-edited law reviews), publishing only an additional five pieces (all written by professors) that cite to Wikipedia, with each article containing only one such citation apiece (two were appropriate references, one was superfluous, and two should have been to more authoritative, non-legal, print resources).

The next year, the Harvard Law Review decided to become an early adopter with A. Michael Froomkin's Habermas@discourse.net: Toward a Critical Theory of Cyberspace, 116 Harv. L. Rev. 749 (2003). Prof. Froomkin's article contains one citation to Wikipedia, which, although it relates to pop culture, should have been, in this author's opinion, a citation to a more authoritative resource (especially considering that he describes the item as a "commonly used" phrase (p. 837, n.397)). In the years that have followed, the Harvard Law Review has been a moderate publisher of articles citing to Wikipedia. As of this writing, they have published a total of 11 pieces containing such citations, with seven works (three by professors and four by law students) containing a single citation apiece, two articles (one by a professor, one by a student) containing two such citations, one article from a student containing four citations, and one written by a professor with 22 citations to Wikipedia. The vast majority of these citations were either superfluous or should have been to more authoritative, non-legal, resources.

It took quite a while for the Columbia Law Review to take the plunge, and even then, it just got its feet wet, having published only two articles that cite to Wikipedia (one in 2007 (one citation), the other in 2008 (two citations). Both articles were written by professors and both cited to Wikipedia appropriately.

Now, the last has fallen. In its March 2011 issue, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review has finally published an article that cites to Wikipedia: Michael Abramowicz, Ian Ayres & Yair Listokin, Randomizing Law, 159 U. Pa. L. Rev. 929 (2011). In note 118 (on page 962), these three professors cite to Wikipedia's entry on Google's AdWords. Whether this citation is superfluous (they cite to three other sources that appear to contain the relevant information, but the Wikipedia cite is introduced with the phrase "For more information on . . .", separating it from the other sources) or should have been to a more appropriate, albeit non-legal, resource (perhaps to Google's website itself?) I will leave to the reader to decide. [Note 192 is not, in this author's opinion, a clear and unambiguous supra reference back specifically to the Wikipedia citation (although others could reasonably argue otherwise) so the reference in note 118 is the only one.] With that, all of the compiling editors of the Bluebook have now published works citing to Wikipedia. I will applaud them for having used Wikipedia sparingly.

Now, the highest ranked student-edited law review not to have published a citation to Wikipedia is the Boston College Law Review, although they did just publish an article that cites to Wookieepedia: the Star Wars Wiki. See Joseph P. Liu, Sports Merchandising, Publicity Rights, and the Missing Role of the Sports Fan, 52 B.C. L. Rev 493, 506 n. 97 (2011).