"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, August 29, 2013

How Do Texas Homeowners Associations Work?



Many homes in Texas are located in subdivisions that are governed or managed by a homeowners association, or property owners association, as they are referred to in the state statutes. A property owners’ association is a designated representative of the owners of property in a subdivision (Tex. Prop. Code §204.004). The association must be a non-profit, but many are surprised to learn that no Texas state agency regulates home or property owners’ associations. Yet, disputes between homeowners and their associations are all too common. Here are some basics of how a property owner’s association in Texas functions when it comes to disputes, as outlined in the Texas Property Code.

The association has the power to: (1) adopt and amend bylaws; (2)adopt and amend budgets; (3) hire managing agents and employees; (4) regulate use, maintenance, repair, replacement, and appearance of the subdivision; (5) institute, defend, settle, or compromise litigation or administrative proceedings on matters affecting the subdivision; (6) impose and receive payments and fees for services (§204.010(a)).

Before any enforcement action takes place (suspend right to common areas; file a suit against an owner; charge owner for property damage; or levying fine for violation of restrictions, bylaws, or rules), the association must give written notice to the owner by certified mail, return receipt requested. This notice must describe the basis for the action, and inform the owner of right to cure and her right to request a hearing. (§209.006). 

For disputes that cannot be resolved through hearing or other alternative dispute resolution, the dispute can then go to court. The county attorney is authorized to sue an association as well, to enjoin or abate violations of a restriction contained or incorporated by reference in a real property subdivision. (§203.003). A court may assess civil damages for the violation of a restrictive covenant in an amount not to exceed $200 for each day of the violation.

Note that an exercise of discretionary authority by a property owners’ association concerning a restrictive covenant is presumed reasonable, and will be strictly construed. Only if the court determines by a preponderance of the evidence that the exercise of discretionary authority was “arbitrary, capricious, or discriminatory,” will the covenant not be presumed reasonable (§202.004(a)).

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The March on Washington at 50



Today marks the 50th anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have A Dream” speech. 1963, the year of the March, was also the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, making it 150 years old in 2013, With today’s anniversary, media outlets, libraries, and archives everywhere are providing artifacts from the day, including oral histories and films from the day:






The goals of the March organizers included both the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation and legislation that would prohibit discrimination in public and private employment. Today as we reflect on this important anniversary, we may debate the extent of the progress America has made in the name of civil rights, but many of these goals have been realized. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (P.L.88-352, 78 Stat. 241), signed by President Johnson, outlawed discrimination against racial, ethnic, national, and religious minorities and women. The law ended segregation in schools, workplaces, and public accommodations.  The March also provided momentum for the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (Pub. L.89–110, 79 Stat. 437) which prohibits states and local governments from imposing any "voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure ... to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color." Today’s anniversary reminds us of the value of our civil liberties, and the great efforts of those who struggled to achieve meaningful liberty for all Americans.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Back to (Law) School Apps


As a new school year begins, you may be looking for some ways to start things off on the right foot.  Well, as you might expect, there are apps for that! 

If you need a little help with your legal research, try using the WestlawNext app, which can be accessed for free with your law school account, or the free Fastcase app.  Work on those cite-checking assignments with the Bluebook app ($39.99) and keep up to date on legal news with the free ABA Journal app.

To keep yourselves organized, think about downloading the Evernote app (free), which allows you to gather and save everything you need for your projects in one place.  And we all need a good calendar app; iStudiez Pro ($2.99) can help you plan your schedule and keep you from missing assignment deadlines.  Finally, make sure you get everything on your to-do list done with the list-making app, Clear ($2.99).  

And it’s also important to take a break sometimes!  Check reviews on the Urbanspoon app (free) for restaurant ideas, look for a good book using GoodReads (free), or listen to music through the Pandora radio app (free). 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New National Library of Energy


The Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the Department of Energy recently launched the National Library of Energy (Beta), a new search tool providing access to content from the DOE website and all DOE program offices as well as national laboratories and other facilities.  It covers topics such as science and R&D results, energy market information and analysis, and nuclear security and environmental management.  
  
Currently, you can search across 17 databases and 83 websites using basic and advanced search options.  Once you have your results, you can limit them with filters such as subtopic, publisher, and date.  You can also email results and set up automatic alerts.  For more information, visit the National Library of Energy FAQS page. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Proceedings of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Annual Institute

Those whose research interests involve oil and gas, natural resources, mineral, energy, and environmental law, will find the proceedings of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Annual Institute helpful for developing and refining a research topic. These materials contain papers of scholars who've presented at the annual institute sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation. The law library has access to the multi-volume print set, which is located in the oil and gas law section of the law library stacks as well as the online version, which is available by clicking "Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation Library" from the drop-down menu under "legal databases" on the law library's website. The print version contains a loose-leaf binder with three indexes that will allow the user to locate information by author, case, and subject. The online database, which requires the "law library's VPN" in order to access, allows the proceedings to be browsed and searched and contains the full text in PDF format for the articles.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Texas Tribune Series on New Legislation


Now that the regular and called sessions of the 83rd Legislature have come to a close, it is time to sort through all of the new legislation to determine how it affects you. One useful resource that makes for lighter reading than the enrolled bills comes from the Texas Tribune. During the month of August, the Tribune will run its 31 Ways, 31 Days series that features a new column each day concerning a law that will impact the lives of Texans. Thus far, topics discussed run the gamut from regulations on craft breweries to proxy marriages for inmates. With such a variety of topics, the series is likely to touch on a law of interest before September 1, 2013, when much of the new legislation goes into effect.

Of course, reports on 31 new laws only scratches the surface of the more than 6,000 bills passed without veto during the 83rd Legislature. For tips on researching Texas legislation, see these helpful Nota Bene posts:

Also, visit the Legislative Reference Library of Texas online for more great tools and research tips.


Joseph Lawson is a guest blogger for Nota Bene and the law librarian at the Fort Bend County Law Library. Please note that the views expressed in this post do not represent an official position or opinion of Fort Bend County, Texas.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Civil Liberties Act of 1988 turns 25

 
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, the law that apologized and authorized compensation for the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.  Parties who would like to learn about the internment or its aftermath may be interested in the following historical legal documents:
 
  • Executive Order 9066: In 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated certain areas of the United States as “military areas” from which all persons could be excluded, and authorized the Secretary of War to enforce compliance with this exclusion policy.
  • Executive Order 9102: Also in 1942, President Roosevelt formed the War Relocation Authority, an agency empowered to establish internment camps and to relocate persons to those camps.
  • Korematsu v. United States: This 1944 Supreme Court case ruled that Executive Order 9066 was constitutional.
  • Executive Order 9742: President Harry S. Truman terminated the War Relocation Authority in 1946.
  • Proclamation 4417: With this 1976 proclamation President Gerald R. Ford rescinded Executive Order 9066.
  •  Civil Liberties Act of 1988: This Act apologized for the internment and offered $20,000 in compensation to each victim.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Legal References for Shark Week


In honor of Shark Week, please enjoy the following list of resources suitable for addressing your shark-related legal interests, at least while in United States waters:

Shark Management
Sharks are considered a highly migratory fish species under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.  As such, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is authorized to study sharks and work towards restocking shark populations.

Shark Finning
Under the Shark Conservation Act of 2010, in United States waters sharks may only be fished if landed with their fins fully attached.  This law is intended to prevent shark finning, a practice in which sharks are fished and thrown back after having their fins removed.  Additionally, it is currently illegal to possess or trade in the fins of any or most sharks in Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, Delaware and Maryland; New York has just enacted a law that will ban trade in shark fins beginning in 2014.

Fake Megalodon Documentaries
The question of whether deliberately misleading “documentaries” expose their creators to legal liability has been discussed before (look here to see one free example).  However, unless the megalodon comes back from extinction and sues the creators of Megalodon: The Monster Shark That Lives for defamation, complaints about the show will likely find a home on the Internet rather than in courtrooms.

Friday, August 2, 2013

To Our Readers

Dear readers,

Thank you for your readership.  Because of you, as of August 2, 2013 afternoon, Nota Bene has achieved 59,810 page views with readers from five continents.  According to the record kept by Blogger (our hosting platform), you access our posts by all sorts of computers and handheld devices via many different browsers.  We here at O’Quinn Law Library are mighty glad that you find our blog useful.  Meanwhile would you like to give us some encouragement by nominating us to the American Bar Association’s Blawg 100, its list of the 100 best legal blogs?  The process is very simple: just click this link http://www.abajournal.com/blawgs/blawg100_submit/ and fill out the simple form.  Your nomination means a lot to us.  Many thanks. 

The Nota Bene Team at O’Quinn

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Archiving the Internet



Libraries are well-known for archiving all kinds of materials, from books to manuscripts, to art and other tangible objects. Now, with the advent and proliferation of the internet, libraries are beginning to archive webpages and other born-digital material. Internet archives have increasing significance in the legal field as time goes on, as websites and their content change rapidly and are now serve as crucial evidence in all types of cases (issues concerning authenticating this type of evidence will be discussed in a future post). The International Internet Preservation Consortium was organized with the mission to “acquire, preserve and make accessible knowledge and information from the Internet for future generations everywhere” (http://netpreserve.org/about-us/mission-goals). The Library of Congress is one of many contributing members (including the well-known Internet Archive, a non-profit website) in addition to libraries and universities across the globe. In 2004, the Library of Congress’ Office of Strategic Initiatives created a Web Archiving Team to support the goal of managing and sustaining at-risk digital content.

The Library of Congress’ web archives can be viewed at http://www.loc.gov/websites/collections/, and you can browse their various collections. One collection of  particular interest to lawyers is the library’s Legal Blawg Archive . This archive, which began in 2007, collects legal blogs the site as possible, including html pages, images, flash, PDFs, audio, and video files, to provide context for future researchers. At the moment, the library is collecting 134 law related blogs. Other collections in the web archives include an Iraq war archive and a visual image website archive.

If you are the owner of a legal blog or other website, it’s possible that you may be contacted by the Library of Congress for permission to have your website included, if it meets the library’s collection policies.  If you agree, you maintain the copyright to your website and its materials, and the library’s webcrawler will collect images of your website about once a week. Then, the pages are made publically accessible about a year later. Take a look at the websites already archived, and stay tuned for more on legal issues concerning online archives and use of web content.