"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, April 30, 2013

And Now, the Exciting Conclusion to "Which Justice Said That?"!

The Justice who once said,

I do not think the Supreme Court lives in a vacuum. It reads the newspapers. I suppose it is influenced by the reaction of a society to its decisions; at least I hope it is. I think it should be.

Is . . .

5. Antonin Scalia!!

(See Nomination of Judge Antonin Scalia: Hearings Before the S. Comm. on the Judiciary, 99th Cong., S. Hrg. 99-1064, at 34 (1986).)

[Make of it what you will.]

Monday, April 29, 2013

It's Time to Play "Which Justice Said That?"!

In this week's episode, a look back at a comment on the desirability of the Supreme Court's responsiveness to public reaction to its decisions.

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to this week's exciting installment of "Which Justice Said That?". And, without further ado, let's get right to this week's quote:

During the hearings on his nomination to the Supreme Court of the United States of America, this nominee declared,

I do not think the Supreme Court lives in a vacuum. It reads the newspapers. I suppose it is influenced by the reaction of a society to its decisions; at least I hope it is. I think it should be.


Which . . . Justice . . . Said That?!

  1. Samuel Anthony Alito, Jr.
  2. Stephen G. Breyer
  3. Anthony M. Kennedy
  4. John G. Roberts, Jr.
  5. Antonin Scalia
  6. Clarence Thomas

Feel free to put your guess in the Comments section below. Come back tomorrow for the exciting conclusion to this episode of "Which Justice Said That?"!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Don't Panic, It's Exam Time!

Law school exams are right around the corner, and there are lots of resources available to help you prepare. This short guide includes just a few these items.

Remember law students, you will survive your law school exams- don’t panic!

UHLC students can search past exams by course name or professor name at http://www.law.uh.edu/student/. You will need your cougarnet username and password to gain access. Taking an old exam can be a great way to prepare, and it is especially helpful to go over your answers with a study group, so you can use each other’s knowledge to fill in gaps.

Also at http://www.law.uh.edu/student/ there are exam tips from Tamsen Valoir. These tips are especially good for preparing for essay exams.

 The O’Quinn Law Library also has a number of books about preparing for exams, many are listed below. If you are looking for a study guide for a specific course, ask a reference librarian, we will be happy to show you what’s available in that subject area.

Ann M. Burkhart & Robert A. Stein, Law school success in a nutshell : a guide to studying law and taking law school exams (2008).
KF283.B871x 2008, Law Reference & Reserves

Charles R. Calleros, Law School Exams: Preparing and Writing to Win (2007).
KF283.C35 2007, Law Reserves

Suzanne Darrow-Kleinhaus, Mastering the law school exam : a practical blueprint for preparing and taking law school exams (2007).
KF283.D37 2007, Law Reserves

John C. Dernbach, Writing essay exams to succeed (not just to survive) (2007).
KF283.D47 2007, Law Stacks

John C. Dernbach, A practical guide to writing law school essay exams (2001).
KF283.D47 2001, Law Reserves

Barry Friedman, John C.P. Goldberg, Open book : succeeding on exams from the first day of law school (2011).
KF283.F75 2011, Law Stacks

Finally, I’ll include some wisdom from the internet crowds. These links all feature advice on law school exams, from professors and others. But remember, always listen and take to heart what your professor has said about taking their exam, he or she will be the one assigning your grade in the end.

Daniel Solove, Concurring Opinions, Law School Exam-Taking Tips 

Jeff Lipshaw, Legal Profession Blog, Beyond IRAC: Law School Exam Taking Tips 

Evan Shaeffer’s Legal Underground, A Law Professor Shares The Top Arbitrary Number (Turns Out to be Six) of Things Not to Do on Law School Exams 

Law Student Blog, How to Prepare for Law School Exams 

Douglas Whaley, Law School Exam Strategy: 30 Tips for Before, During, and After the Exam 

Best of luck!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mandatory Pro Bono Coming to a State Near You?

Last year, the New York State court system announced a new 50-hour pro bono requirement for new attorneys who wish to be admitted to the bar. The requirement, now codified at N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22, § 520.16, demands that all applicants admitted to the New York State Bar after January 1, 2015, “complete at least 50 hours of qualifying pro bono service prior to filing an application for admission with the appropriate Appellate Division department of the Supreme Court.” The statute further specifies that that “qualifying pro bono service” must be supervised, and assist in the provision of legal services without charge for persons of limited means, not-for-profit organizations, or individuals, groups or organizations seeking to secure or promote access to justice (N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. Tit. 22 § 520.16(b)-(c).  For New York applicants, work in law school clinics and court clerkships or externships will count toward the required hour, and may be completed in any U.S. state. (See, Karen Sloan, Pro Bono Mandate Gains Steam, Nat’l L.J.(Apr. 22, 2013), http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1202596770850).

It appears that California may be following New York’s lead, as the California bar’s Task Force on Admissions Regulation Reform recently completed a draft report recommending the adoption of a 50 hour pro bono mandate, to be completed either during law school or the first year of practice (http://www.calbarjournal.com/March2013/TopHeadlines/TH1.aspx). Other states seem more hesitant; New Jersey’s State Bar Association passed a resolution opposing any pro bono mandate, though the state also has a task force exploring the idea. But, if California joins New York in demanding pro bono service prior to bar admission, it is possible the idea may take root in other states. One potential problem is that if states develop different requirements, it may be onerous for law students to prepare for admission in other states, especially if students are fortunate enough to have the option to work in a number of jurisdictions. There also must be consideration of how meaningful the legal work of the students would have to be to qualify for the programs, and how to ensure sufficient resources to supervise the legal work of law students. 

In Texas, there is no mandated pro bono service, either for admitted attorneys, or for applicants to the bar. A 2009 survey of Texas lawyers found that 52% performed free legal services that “substantially benefited the poor” (State Bar of Texas 2009 Survey of Pro Bono, at 9 ). Yet, even while most Texas attorneys provide pro bono service, substantial need remains. There is one Texas attorney for every 322 Texas citizens, but only one Texas Legal Aid attorney for every 10,838 indigent Texans (Patricia L. Garcia, Partnering for Pro Bono, 74 Tex. B.J. 422 (2011)), and it follows that the legal needs of many Texans are going unmet. Texas lawyers who perform at least 75 hours of pro bono legal assistance activities may join the state bar’s Pro Bono College, which was created to honor Texas attorneys and paralegals who far exceed the aspirational pro bono goals set out by the state bar (http://www.texasbar.com/Content/NavigationMenu/LawyersGivingBack/LegalAccessDivision/ProBonoCollege.htm). Word has it that the Pro Bono College will soon extend membership to law students who complete a substantial amount of pro bono service that is law related, uncompensated, and not performed for academic credit. Whether or not this will lead to mandatory pro bono service for bar applicants remains to be seen, but Texas will certainly benefit from more legal assistance from its soon-to-be attorneys.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Information Must be Free!

The idea that information must be free, that is without restriction, is a mantra among open government folk and librarians. A companion quote is “. . .and this is especially true concerning cool information.”  I recently stumbled (hat tip to Boing Boing) upon some real cool information that, while not entirely free, is being let out of its cage to touch the grass for the first time.

The National Security Administration (NSA, aka “No Such Agency” or “Never Say Anything”) is responsible for the American intelligence community’s “Signit” (Signal intelligence) operations. They are America’s code breakers. These are the guys who “supposedly” listen to every long distance phone call out of the country and read everyone’s email. This agency is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign radio signals. They have a huge complex in the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC on a heavily patrolled stretch of road where I used to drive my kids around so that they would nap. I have heard that the NSA hires more computer science and math majors than anyone else.  According to Wikipedia they are allowed to file for patents with the USPTO that “are not revealed to the public and do not expire.” If someone files for an identical patent, the USPTO will reveal the NSA’s patent and then let the NSA hold the patent for the entire term. 

Recently they have released back issues of their in-house magazine, Cryptolog. While the front-cover looks like a fanzine from the early days of Dungeons & Dragons, these issues are packed with a lot of interesting information; as long as you don’t mind redaction; lots and lots of redaction.  The coverage begins in 1974 and ends in 1997. For an more information be sure to read the FAQ’s. 

If the reader can get past the huge amounts of redacted material, from authors and editor’s names to entire articles, a wealth of material still exists. I read a multipage article on slang in Soviet prisons. I skimmed multiple issues and found articles on Church-State relations in the Mexican state of Chiapas, packet radio (?), radar intercept systems used by the North Vietnamese, and an article titled, “Third Party Relationships” which sounds interesting, but I couldn’t tell because the whole thing was redacted. 

While I can’t verify it, this may just be an attempt to skim IP addresses, so visit the archive at your own risk.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Contract Law Can be Interesting!

Contract law is boring and hard--I blame Prof. Kingsfield for this—and gets a bad rap as far as the first year curriculum goes. Torts and Criminal law have great fact patterns,everyone wants to own real estate someday so there is an incentive to learn Property law, and Constitutional law has become politics by another name so everyone has an opinion. Only Civil Procedure can match Contracts for dullness (I will redeem Civ. Pro. in a different post). I am telling you now that Contract law can be interesting. You are just reading the wrong books.

 Foundation Press has published a series of books with the title [Insert Legal Subject] Stories in which law professors give the reader a little more context on famous and influential cases.  In the volume Contract Stories (KF801.A7 C66 2007), famous cases like Hadley v. Baxendale and Hamer v. Sidway are given “the rest of the story” treatment. The text of the actual opinion isn’t included, but a lot of background information on the parties and their situations are provided along with a great deal of analysis putting the case within the context of contract law all written in a very readable format. I’ve never read Contract Stories, but I have enjoyed selections from other books in the series and highly recommend them for “lawyerly leisure reading” (I just made that up).

You are probably saying to yourself, “but reading more about these cases doesn’t sound too interesting to me!”  You may be right. If that is the case then I recommend reading Professor Lawrence A. Cunningham’s book Contracts in the Real World: Stories of Popular Contracts and Why They Matter (KF801 .C862012). (Full disclosure: I performed some research for Prof. Cunningham several years ago, but nothing associated with this book).  Prof. Cunningham explores contract issues by utilizing a series of contemporary and interesting contract cases, many involving celebrities, and uses them to explain contract law issues. The concept of mitigation is explained using the case of Washington Redskin season ticket holders being sued for not renewing their tickets. The idea of mistake is illustrated by a divorce agreement adversely affected by the Madoff Ponzi scheme. Contract acceptance is illustrated by an attorney’s offer broadcast on the television show “Dateline” being accepted by a law student at South Texas College of Law (and he also re-tells the story of Carbolic Smoke Ball in a shout-out to Professor Kingsfield).  Contracts involving Paris Hilton, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jane Fonda are also used to illustrate important points of law.

Contract law can be a difficult subject to digest for even the most diligent student. However, both of these books make contract law more approachable by making cases and concepts come alive and feel more relevant by adding much needed depth and relevance.

Friday, April 12, 2013

O'Quinn Law Library CLE Workshop

To help recently graduated alumni to meet the needs of a demanding legal environment, the University of Houston O'Quinn Law Library will hold its second annual free CLE workshop on April 27, offering special training in Texas legal research, information on free or low cost online sources, and the application of the latest information technology.  This workshop carries three Texas CLE credits.  Law librarians and other attorneys are also welcome.  For details and registration please click here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

iWrite Legal App

Need a little help with your legal writing projects?  Try the iWrite Legal app!   This app, developed by a legal writing professor at Suffolk University Law School, is intended to help law students and legal professionals become better legal writers.  The app includes three different sections: Legal Writing Tips. Legal Writing Checklists, and Additional Resource.  The Legal Writing Tips section includes a number of short paragraphs about important aspects of legal writing such as sentence length, transitions, and surplus words.  

The Legal Writing Checklists section of the app prompts authors to think about the important issues related to particular steps in the legal writing process.  The checklists cover the initial stages of writing, revising, editing, and proofreading. For instance, if you are at the revising stage, the checklist asks “Did you logically develop your ideas, going from general to specific?” and “Have you used headings and subheadings in a logical order and structure?”  

The Additional Resources section of the app contains links to the Twitter feed and a YouTube video from the Suffolk legal writing program.  However, this section also contains a link to the law school's free legal writing podcast series. 

The app is free and available for iOS devices such as iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch.  For more information and to download the app, visit the iTunes App Store. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Environmental Protection Agency's Website

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for most federal environmental regulations and enforcement, has a comprehensive website, with information useful for everyone ranging from the general public researching environmental law to businesses interested in environmental compliance. The "about EPA" tab will allow users to access staff directories, responsibilities, and organizational information for the EPA's headquarters offices and the ten regional offices. The main page has a convenient map that allows access to EPA related information for each state.

The "Laws & Regulations" tab at the top of the page will allow users to link to "Laws & Executive Orders," which will provide information and sources pertaining to environmental acts such as the "Clean Air Act" or the "Clean Water Act" and users can get the PDF of the entire act and access related regulations. The "Policy & Guidance" link provides access to the EPA's guidance documents, which are the EPA's policies on environmental issues, which can be browsed by subject or by EPA office.

The "Learn the Issues" and "Science & Technology" tabs are designed to provide information to the public regarding testing, compliance, and enforcement pertaining to a specific environmental issue such as "air quality."