"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



Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Law Library Brown Bag Series

Each semester the law library presents a series of presentations on legal research topics. These presentations are held at 12 noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in Room 4 BLB. We will be offering the following sessions during the Spring 2013 semester:

1. Laws & Sausages: Texas Legislative History and Bill Tracking
Tuesday, 2/5, Wednesday, 2/6, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Matthew Mantel, Reference and Research Librarian

2. International and Foreign Law Research
Tuesday, 2/12, Wednesday, 2/13, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Dan Baker, International and Foreign Law Librarian

 3. Texas Administrative Law Research
Tuesday, 2/19, Wednesday, 2/20, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

4. Environmental Law Research
Tuesday, 2/26, Wednesday, 2/27, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

5. Researching Insurance Law
Tuesday, 3/5, Wednesday, 3/6, 12:00-12:45 P.M.
Katy Stein, Reference and Research Librarian


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lawyer’s Professional Assistant App


The Lawyer’s Professional Assistant App from Wolfram Alpha has a variety of helpful information and tools for legal professionals and law students.  For instance, it contains a legal dictionary; information about the statutes of limitations in each state; an overview of the different types of visas; financial tools for calculating fees, settlements, and tax rates; a calendar computation tool; and damages and estate planning computation tools.  It also has information on crime rates, demographics, and companies.

This app costs $4.99 to download and is available for iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  More information about the app can be found on the Wolfram Alpha website as well as the iTunes store.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Roe v. Wade Turns 40


Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.  On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court issued the landmark decision, holding that certain laws prohibiting abortion are unconstitutional.  Even though the decision is 40 years old, the controversy surrounding the case and the issue of abortion persists.

There are a number of resources available if you would like to learn more about the case, the impact it has had, and where this issue is headed.  The full opinion is available on the Legal Information Institute website and other information about the case, including a summary and audio/transcripts of the oral arguments, can be found on the Oyez Project website dedicated to the decision.  As you might expect, there are also a number of recent news reports discussing the decision and reflecting on what it means today.  Also, for current information about abortion laws and public opinion, try the National Conference of State Legislatures abortion laws site as well as the results of the recent Pew Forum survey Roe v. Wade at 40

The library also has several books on the topic if you would like to do more in-depth reading on the issue.  For instance, see:

A Documentary history of the legal aspects of abortion in the United States : Roe v. Wade, compiled by Roy M. Mersky and Gary R. Hartman - KF228.R59D64 1993 (3 volumes)

Roe v. Wade : the abortion rights controversy in American history, N.E.H. Hull - KF228.R59H85 2010

What Roe v. Wade should have said : the nation's top legal experts rewrite America's most controversial decision, edited by Jack M. Balkin - KF228.R59 W47 2005

The abortion rights controversy in America : a legal reader, edited by N.E.H. Hull, et al. - KF3771.A937 2004

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lincoln the Prophet?

It seems that talk of Abraham Lincoln is everywhere these days. Steven Speilberg's movie "Lincoln", which includes an incredibly powerful performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as the 16th president, is a front-runner for several Academy Awards. Many organizations are holding special events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Even our current president, President Obama, is getting into the act, announcing he will take his second oath of office on bibles owned by President Lincoln and the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Since President Lincoln is getting so much attention, I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite words of his. These lines come from a speech Mr. Lincoln gave before he was even 30 years old:

"In the great journal of things happening under the sun, we, the American people, find our account running . . . . We find ourselves in the peaceful possession of the fairest portion of the earth as regards extent of territory, fertility of soil, and salubrity of climate. We find ourselves under the government of a system of political institutions conducing more essentially to the ends of civil and religious liberty than any of which the history of former times tells us. We, when mounting the stage of existence, found ourselves the legal inheritors of these fundamental blessings. We toiled not in the acquirement or establishment of them; they are a legacy bequeathed us by a once hardy, brave, and patriotic, but now lamented and departed, race of ancestors. Theirs was the task (and nobly they performed it) to possess themselves, and through themselves us, of this goodly land, and to uprear upon its hills and its valleys a political edifice of liberty and equal rights; 'tis ours only to transmit these — the former unprofaned by the foot of an invader, the latter undecayed by the lapse of time and untorn by usurpation — to the latest generation that fate shall permit the world to know. This task of gratitude to our fathers, justice to ourselves, duty to posterity, and love for our species in general, all imperatively require us faithfully to perform.

"How then shall we perform it? At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.

"At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, If it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Bills to Watch in the Texas Legislature


The Texas legislature convened on Tuesday, January 8, 2013 to begin its 83rd legislative session. Pre-filing of legislation began on November 12, 2012, so legislators have already had time to file many of their bills in advance of the legislative session. Listed below are just a handful of bills worth watching in the coming months, as well as one topic that seems to be ignored, at least so far:
 
Senate Bill 11, similar to the controversial Florida law that is currently stalled in federal court, would require Texans applying for financial assistance to undergo drug testing to receive benefits.

House Bill 29 proposes a fixed rate tuition plan that would require Texas state universities to offer a four-year fixed tuition rate that would allow each incoming class to pay the same tuition each year for four years, without increase.

House Bill 67 would permit the University of Texas system to open an additional law school in the state's Rio Grande Valley.
 
House Bill 288 would prevent Texas courts from considering "foreign or international law or doctrine" as a basis for a decision or ruling, an alleged attempt to prevent Texas courts from subverting the U.S. Constitution with application of Islamic law.        
 
One topic that the legislature has been silent on so far is immigration law reform. As of January 11, none of the bills filed in the 83rd session have addressed the topic of immigration law or immigration reform. Whether this is due to the statistically low numbers of undocumented immigrants entering Texas, or the perception that calls for immigration reform may be politically harmful, it will be interesting to see whether this issue is ignored altogether during the legislative session. To search for bills on topics that are interesting to you, visit the Texas Legislature Online and click on "bill search" to search for laws by subject area.   














Thursday, January 10, 2013

Inside the Minds of Legal Academics

Ever wonder how legal scholars get their start in academia? How they refine their theories? How their ideas have changed over the years? Or even what they thought of their own law school experience? James R. Hackney has posed all of these questions, and many more, to some of the great legal scholars of our time. In his new book, Legal Intellectuals in Conversation: Reflections on the Construction of Contemporary American Legal Theory, Hackney conducts one-on-one interviews with some of the most prominent legal scholars alive today.  He discusses how Richard Posner became interested in law and economics, and the development of feminist legal theory with Catharine MacKinnon. A law professor himself, James Hackney is no stranger to the worlds of legal academia and legal theory, and he asks probing questions in each of the interviews, often with surprising results. Richard Posner announces that he considers cognitive psychology as the new driver of law and economics; critical race theorist Patricia Wiliams comments that women of color in law school today may have a harder time gaining acceptance than she did during her time at Harvard Law School.

The ten interviews in the book also include Austin Sarat on law and society, Drucilla Cornell on postmodern legal theory, and Jules Coleman on law and philosophy. Each interview not only gives insight into the construction of each scholar's legal theories, but also insight into how their personal and formative experiences have shaped their ideas as well. The scholars comment candidly about their own professors, their feelings about other scholars in the book, and their predictions of where legal thought is headed today. For all their intellectual revelations, what is most satisfying about Legal Intellectuals in Conversation is how human these larger than life scholars truly are, and that it is their own humanity and thoughtfulness that has inspired them to do their life's work. Hackney's Legal Intellectuals in Conversation is highly recommended for anyone curious about the life and work of legal academics, whether familiar with their scholarship or not.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On Law Students, Reading, and Library

Happy New Year to our readers.  The list below is dedicated to UH Law students.  May you have success and enough sleep in the year to come.  Let us begin 2013 with a smiles or two. 

You Know You Are a Law Student When…  
1.      You know you are a law student when your reading speed is reduced to ten pages an hour.
2.      You know you are a law student when you start spotting issues in everything you read.
3.      You know you are a law student when you consider a great idea to have 24/7 access to your law school library.
4.      You know you are a law student when you meet your friends and make plan for the rest of the week at the library.
5.      You know you are a law student when your student association offers free ear plugs in the library.
6.      You know you are a law student when you think napping in the library is a natural part of life.
7.      You know you are a law student when you start reading the fine print of free Internet downloads.
8.      You know you are a law student when you are happy to find that the used textbook you just purchased from amazon.com is full of notes in the margins.
9.      You know you are a law student when you stay in the library instead of going home for a ten-hour take-home exam.
10.   You know you are a law student when you go to your library at 1 a.m. to study until 6 a.m., then catch a nap to wake up at 7:45 a.m. for your first class.