"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



Monday, October 31, 2011

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) posts the full text of relevant statutes, regulations, releases, litigation including briefs by the SEC, and EDGAR, a database that provides public access to certain mandated forms submitted to the commission by public companies.

Statutes

The SEC provides information regarding major securities acts
Regulations

Proposed, Final, and Temporary Regulations are posted along with various notices and releases as well as public petitions for rule making. Staff interpretations and similar internal documents designed to provide guidance but are not considered authoritative are also available on the Commission's website.

Documents Related to Litigation

The SEC makes its enforcement actions, briefs, commission opinions, SEC Rules of Practice along with other documents available from its website. The SEC's Administrative Law Judge initial decisions (1960-current) and orders (1996-current) are also available.

EDGAR

The Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System (EDGAR) provides access to certain forms filed by public companies as required by the Securities Exchange Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, such as the 10-K Form (Annual) and 10-Q Form (Quarterly). A list and descriptions of the different forms are on the SEC's website.

More Information

See the research guide on the SEC's website for more information.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Law Librarians in Lawrence

The coming week, the Mid-America Association of Law Libraries (MAALL) and the Southwestern Association of Law Libraries (SWALL) will be having a joint meeting in Lawrence, KS. Several staff members of the O'Quinn Law Library will be attending this event and/or helped put it together:

• Mon Yin Lung, our Associate Director, is also the current President of SWALL and, as such, co-chaired the Programs Committee.
• Chris Dykes, one of our Reference/Research Librarians, was a co-coordinator for a two-part program entitled Navigating your Way through Legislative Research-A Six State Survey.
• Emily Lawson, another of our Reference/Research Librarians, also served on the Programs Committee and will also be participating as a moderator and speaker in the two-part, six-state-survey program she co-coordinated with Chris.

Finally, I will be presenting my program, The Bluebook, 19th ed.: Changes Every Legal Researcher Should Know, during which I will be discussing what I believe are the most important or significant changes made to The Bluebook during the change from the 18th to the 19th edition. For those who will be attending and would like to get a headstart on it, or for those who can't attend but would like to know what changes were made (or are just masochistic), here is a list I made of all the changes I could find (not counting the Bluepages, Tables, or Index).

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Advice for Law Students

1. Dress up as an element from your favorite case; try the carbolic smoke ball from Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Company or the scales from Palsgraf v. Long Island R. Co. The scales are the only participant in the case that acted rationally.

2. Be Blackacre. This costume is freely adaptable depending upon your taste in color.

3. INS v. Chada. Since this case stands for so many propositions it can literally be anything. When in doubt, cite to Chada.

4. Be the Bluebook. No one will like you but it’s a great costume.

5. Dress as Chief Justice Melville Fuller’s mustache. First lady Ida McKinley did so at the 1899 White House Halloween party and she was a big hit.

6. When trick-or-treaters come to your door remember that they are not interested in the rules regarding the liability of owners/occupiers of land.

7. Instead of handing out candy hand out “fruit of the poisonous tree.” The kids’ parents will love this.

8. Dicta does not make a good treat.

9. Dress up as a judge and tell trick-or-treaters that in order to get candy they have to submit motions in writing.

10. Get two friends to join you and you can trick-or-treat dressed as a three prong test.

11. The Rule Against Perpetuities is still the scariest thing there is.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Will Texas Take One Step Closer to Uniform Citation?

On the Tex Parte Blog, Angela Morris recently wrote about an impending hearing by the Texas Supreme Court to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a PACER-like system for Texas courts. From an access-to-information standpoint, this would be a great development! Not only would it make accessing court documents much easier state-wide, but it would require the creation of "a centralized service".

As anyone who has been following the debate over the creation of uniform (or neutral) citation standards should recognize, one of the largest obstacles to uniform citation is the lack in many states of a centralized body responsible for assigning sequential numbers to the opinions of that particular state's many courts. Thus, for example, in Texas, there is currently no body charged with assigning unique sequential opinion numbers to all of the opinions from the various Texas Courts of Appeals. (Of course, Texas could take a leap forward and utilize a neutral format similar to Louisiana's, but c'mon, nobody really wants that.)

Granted, even if the system envisioned by the Texas Supreme Court were to be implemented, it would not, of itself, establish a centralized body charged with assigning sequential numbers to the opinions of the state's courts. However, I believe it would still be a positive first step toward such an institution. Once Texas has a centralized body working with the case documents from all the courts, it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that body's mission expanding to include practices that would be conducive to the establishment of a vendor- and format-neutral citation standard for Texas. That may be a long ways off, but one can dream.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Week in Legal History -- October 22, 1910.

During the first half of the 20th century Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen was one of the most notorious murderers on both sides of the Atlantic, and it was on October 22, 1910 that he was convicted of murdering his wife.

Dr. H.H. Crippen was an American homeopathic physician living in London. He was married to Corrine “Cora” Turner, a frustrated music-hall singer who performed under the stage name “Bella Elmore.” By all accounts theirs was not a happy marriage, and one that gives lie to the expression “opposites attract.” Crippen was quiet and hard working; the very picture of an Edwardian-era nerd. Cora was loud, brash, hard-drinking, and bragged about her many affairs. Put off by his wife, Crippen himself began an affair with his secretary, Ethel Neave.

On January 31, 1910 after a dinner party at the Crippen home, Cora disappeared. Friends began to call for her and Crippen told them that she had moved back to the United States. Cora’s friends continued to ask about her and Crippen then asserted that she had died. The friends then contacted the police. The police came to Crippen’s home, performed a cursory searched, and interviewed Crippen. Although the police had found nothing and Crippen had made a positive impression he panicked, and with his mistress in tow, fled London to the Continent and eventually boarding a ship sailing from Antwerp to Canada. A routine follow-up revealed Crippen’s escape and a trans-Atlantic chase ensued, with the world following closely by virtue of the newly invented wireless radio.

Crippen was caught just before he landed in Canada and he and Ms. Neave were transported back to England for trial. When Crippen’s home was searched again human remains were found (but did not include a head, limbs, bones, or reproductive organs), and it appeared impossible to tell for certain that they were the remains of Cora. The new science of forensics came to the rescue. The noted pathologist Bernard Spilsbury was able to identify the remains as belonging to Cora due to a piece of skin which appeared to be a scar which matched a surgical scar that Cora had had. In addition, large amounts of the toxic compound hyoscine were found in the remains. Crippen had recently purchased a large amount of this substance. After a five day trial, and a jury deliberation of just 27 minutes, Crippen was convicted of Cora’s murder. He was sentenced to death. Ethel Neave was acquitted.

Crippen protested his innocence to the end, and new evidence may support his claim. In 2007 forensic scientists from Michigan State University tested some of the tissue samples originally taken by Spilsbury from the remains found in Crippen’s cellar. The testing revealed that not only did the DNA found in the cellar have nothing in common with the DNA from three of Cora’s still living maternal relatives, but the remains were not even of a female! The forensic experts suggest that Crippen was framed by detectives who were feeling pressure to solve the case. While the DNA evidence is intriguing there are still unanswered questions that must prevent anyone from presenting Crippen with a posthumous pardon. Crippen’s defense asserted that Cora had fled to America with another man; if that was the case how come she never came forward? Given Cora’s personality the trial would have given her the 15 minutes of fame she so desired.

Eric Larson’s book Thunderstruck deals with the Crippen murder and the man-hunt across the ocean that followed. Larson tells a two stories; Crippen’s and the story of Marconi’s invention of the wireless radio and the intersection of the invention and the felon. The murder of Cora Crippen was one of the first murders to be followed so closely by so many people; it was the O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco chase of its time.

Besides the aforementioned Thunderstruck , other notable books on the Crippen murder case include The Mild Murderer: the true story of the Dr. Crippen case by Tom A. Cullen and The Trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen from the Notable British Trials series. The latter reproduces verbatim the testimony given during the trial.

The perfect description of this case is provided in the prefatory note in The Trial of Hawley Harvey Crippen , “If the trial is less interesting from a legal point of view than some others, this defect is atoned for by the extraordinary human and dramatic interest with which the story is packed, and which has placed Dr. Crippen in the front rank, so to speak, of convicted murderers.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

This Day in Legal History--October 17th

“There is always someone tougher than you are.” –Anonymous

“… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” –Benjamin Franklin

There should be no doubt that Al Capone was a tough man. He ordered the death of Bugs Moran and his gang from the comfort of his Florida vacation home, an order that resulted in the infamous “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” that left 7 men dead. “Scarface” Al was tough, but the Internal Revenue Service was tougher, and on this day in 1931 Al Capone was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for tax evasion. The story of Al Capone’s reign of terror ending in charges more likely to be brought against a shady small businessman is interesting as tax stories go, and available, with primary documentation, on the IRS web site.

As one can imagine getting a conviction for anything against Al Capone, Public Enemy No. 1, would not be an easy thing. The fact that “Al Capone never had a bank account and only on one occasion could it be found where he ever endorsed a check,” financial evidence was scarce. Getting individuals to testify was also difficult as a result of “fear of personal injury” or loyalty. And finally the agents of the Treasury Dept. had to contend with Capone’s “native Italian secretiveness”. Convicting Al Capone of anything was going to be a challenge.

A key piece of evidence against Al was the testimony of three members of a citizens’ militia that raided one of his gambling joints. In the midst of the citizens’ raid Al shows up to find out what is going on. He is admitted to the premises only after telling the crowd that he is the owner and he is later heard instructing the cashier to secure the money in the cash drawer. With this evidence of his ownership of a gambling establishment the government proceeds to base a case for tax evasion. Al Capone owns a gambling establishment, he has made profits from said establishment, and has failed to pay taxes on these profits. Tax evasion!

Capone was convicted and did time in the federal prison on Alcatraz Island and was paroled in 1939. Suffering from advanced syphilis Capone died in 1947. As I said, this is interesting for a story related to taxation. What makes it more interesting that some of the original reports filed by the investigators of the Intelligence Unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue are available on the IRS web site. To read these reports go here.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

50 State Surveys

Sometimes legal researchers are called upon to do state-by-state comparisons of the law in particular areas. These 50 state surveys can be daunting and very time consuming, but there are some helpful resources you can look to in order to determine if someone has already compiled the information you need.

A great place to start is with the Subject Compilations of State Laws bibliographies, available in print in the library. The most recent volume is located in the Reference collection at KF240.S795, with the older volumes in the stacks at the same call number. This resource lists citations to where you can find 50 state surveys on hundreds of subjects. Another good print source is the National Survey of State Laws (6th ed.) located in the Reference collection at KF386.N38, which is updated through June 1, 2007. It contains summaries of the laws in each state, with citations, on a variety of topics.

Westlaw and Lexis both contain a large number of 50 states surveys. In Westlaw, consult the 50 State Surveys (SURVEYS) database and in Lexis, look for the LexisNexis 50 State Surveys, Legislation & Regulations database. Be sure to note when the survey was last updated. Since the surveys in Lexis and Westlaw are only available to subscribers, a free source you can turn to is the National Conference of State Legislatures website. This website contains information about laws passed in the states on a number of topics such as health care, immigration, and employment law.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Free Federal Rules Ebooks

The Cornell Legal Information Institute (LII) and the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Education (CALI) have partnered to provide access to free ebook copies of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Evidence. The ebooks can be downloaded in the .epub format making them compatible with devices such as the iPad and the Nook as well as the .mobi format for Kindle users.

The ebooks have Tables of Contents and Advisory Committee notes after each rule. They also contain internal links to other rules referenced within a particular rule as well as external links to the United States Code available on the LII website. Visit the ebook help page to learn more about how to download these ebooks.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Reforming Tax Liens

Professor Danshera Cords of Albany Law School has authored the forthcoming article: Lien of Me: Virtual Debtors Prisons, the Practical Effects of Tax Liens and Proposals for Reform (forthcoming University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 49, 2011) that discusses the devastating damage done to a person's credit rating and employment prospects by having unpaid tax liens levied by the IRS. According to Professor Cords, such liens do unnecessary damage because they do not improve the chances that the tax amount in question will ever be collected. The author proposes a number of reforms including:

1). Amend the Internal Revenue Code to require a tax lien to be removed from an individual's credit report and treated as if it had never been filed once payment is satisfied.

2) Amend the Fair Credit Reporting Act to require the removal of a tax lien from a taxpayer's credit report after the same period of time that debts from other creditors would have been removed.

3) The decision to issue tax lien notices should take into account whether such notice will increase the chances of collecting the tax debt from the taxpayer.

This article is now available on SSRN.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Eminent Domain: A Handbook of Condemnation Law

The ABA Section of State and Local Government Law has published Eminent Domain: a Handbook of Condemnation Law (KF5599.E468 2011), which is now on the law library's new titles shelf. All eight chapters are authored by different contributors who focus on a specific area of eminent domain including, among other topics, the principles of "public use" and "public purpose" as well as "just compensation," which is owed to the property owner for the seizure of property. The chapter covering "public use" and public purpose" summarizes the Michigan Supreme Court case, County of Wayne v. Hathcock, and the U.S. Supreme Court case, Kelo v. City of New London, which had opposite results on these matters. Measures available to those who choose to fight the attempted seizure of property and the litigation process involved are covered in Chapters 6 and 7, and this book also discusses actions taken by the government that result in damage such as the flooding of property. A table of cases and a state-by-state survey of public use standards are included in the appendices.