"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, December 20, 2012

Here They Come



The “they” is the members of the 83rd Texas Legislature which is just around the corner. The Texas Legislature meets every other year starting on the first Tuesday in January and ending the session (known as “sine die”) after 140 days unless the governor calls for a special session. 

The 83rd Legislative session will begin on January 8th 2013. If you want to follow the legislature while they are in session you are fortunate because the State of Texas provides many useful tools to monitor the legislature’s actions. 

The first place to look would obviously be the TexasLegislature Online web site.  The main page has links to each chamber, and the key parts of each chamber including the chambers’ leader (Speaker in the House, Lt. Gov. in the Senate), members, committees, calendars, news, and journals. There are also the requisite search tools for legislative items and some handy FAQs on the legislative process and how to find particular items.  I find the strength of the web site to be the My TLO link. My TLO allows you to make a list of bills to be monitored, and every time you return to the site information on your bills is updated. You can also create alerts which will notify you when different actions are taken on matters before the legislature. The final really valuable element is the ability to save previous searches. 

Another good place to go for legislative information is the Texas Legislative Reference Library.  This library, located in the capital building, assists legislators, their staff, and member of the public with legislative research. Many of the resources provided on the Legislative Reference Library’s (LRL)web page link back to the Texas Legislature Online web site, but the LRL web site also provides some its own unique content. The LRL web site allows you to search for all members of the Texas legislature from its inception. There is also a handy table providing years and session numbers.  The most helpful resource provided by the LRL is the Legislative  Archive System (LRS). This tool allows searching legislation all the way back to the 16th Legislative session (that is 1879 in real years!) if you have a bill number or session law chapter number. The advanced search feature (use this if you don’t have specific information) allows searching back to the 18th Legislative session (1884).

Here are some other links of interest:

Guide to Texas Legislative Information. Web site produced by the Texas Legislative Council; this site is especially useful for outlining the legislative process in Texas. 

Guide to Texas Legislative Information .PDF format produced by the Texas Legislative Council 

Legislative Information Locator Table. Good resource for locating legislative information in table format

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Man Without A Country



In Edward Everett Hale’s story “The Man Without a Country”, the fictional protagonist Philip Nolan is tried for treason along with Aaron Burr. Nolan is convicted and proclaims “Damn the United States! I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge grants his wish by sentencing him to live for the rest of his life on US Navy ships whose crews are instructed never to talk about the United State in Nolan’s presence.  As Nolan lives out his life moving from ship to ship, never setting foot on US soil again, he learns the painful lesson of what it means to be a “man without a country.” As he lay dying he shows a sailor the shrine he has assembled to the United States and dies happy knowing how his country has prospered.

Patriotism is the obvious theme of Hale’s story. It is worth noting that the story was written in 1863, during the middle of the Civil War; its purpose to add backbone to the Union war effort. The story was written in such a realistic manner that many thought Philip Nolan to have been a real person.  The story is graphic in its portrayal of the loss Nolan endures as a result of renouncing his country. 

The idea of renouncing one’s country, albeit in not so dramatic fashion, is alive and well today. While Nolan damned the United States in a fit of pique, today those turning their backs on the United States do so mostly to avoid taxes.  The most recent “big name” to de-friend the United States was Eduardo Saverin, a billionaire who helped found Facebook and decided he would rather be a citizen of Singapore, not for tax reasons, but because it was “more practical.” The majority of the new Philip Nolans renounce their citizenship for tax reasons and do so voluntarily, but there are other ways to re-nationalize.

The law governing a citizens loss of nationality is laid out in 8 USC sec. 1481. All of the actions that would cause one to lose their citizenship must be performed voluntarily and with intent to relinquish their citizenship. 


1)      Obtaining naturalization in a foreign state
2)      Making a formal declaration of allegiance to a foreign state
3)      Serving in the armed forces of a foreign state if that state is engaged in hostilities against the United states or they serve as a commissioned or non-commissioned officer in said armed forces
4)      Accepting, serving in, or performing the duties of any office, post, or employment under the government of a foreign state
5)      Making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States while in a foreign state
6)      Making a formal written renunciation while in the United States when the United States is in a state of war.
7)      Committing treason or attempting to overthrow or bearing arms against the United States or violating 18 USC secs. 2383, 2384, or 2385.


There is however, more to leaving than just complying with this statute. The names of those who renounce their citizenship are published in the Federal Register. In addition an "exit tax" is imposed on those who renounce their citizenship. There are also laws that allow the U.S. to bar ex-citizens from returning to the U.S. (although this provision has not been used). 

The process of surrendering one’s U.S. citizenship is not to be taken lightly. Renouncing one’s citizenship seems to be limited to the very rich or those wishing to emigrate permanently with the odd terrorist thrown in.  
For more information on the process I suggest the following web sites:

 Travel.state.gov : This is the State Department’s web site on the subject.


Renunciationguide.com: This is a site put together by persons who would rather not advertise their names or affiliations. It walks one through the process







Sunday, December 16, 2012

Top Quotes of Year


This week Fred Shapiro, associate law librarian at Yale Law School and editor of the Yale Book of Quotations, unveiled his annual list of the most notable quotes of the year.  Given that many of us were focused on politics for much of the year, it’s not surprising that this ten quote list is dominated by quotes on the topic.  Included are quotes from Mitt Romney regarding the “47 percent” and President Obama on “horses and bayonets.”  On a the entertainment side, the list also includes a reference to the Gangnam Style craze.  If you would like to see the entire top ten list, it can be viewed here.  And the Yale Book of Quotations can be found in the library reference collection at PN6081.Y35. 

If you are interested in more quotation resources, others such as the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations can also be found in the law library reference collection.  Or try one of the free online quote resources such as Bartleby.com or Quoteland.