"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, March 31, 2014

Select Resources for the Soon-To-Be Solo or Small Firm Practitioner

By the numbers, solo and small firms are the places to be. According to statistics from the National Association for Law Placement (NALP, for short), employment patterns for recent law school graduates entering private practice have trended toward small and solo firms in recent years. ABA demographics suggest that regardless of where they get their start, half of all private practice attorneys in the U.S. become solo practitioners. Still, the prospect of practicing with few or no in-house mentors can be daunting. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources in the law library and on the Web to help. Here are a few to get you started:
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.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Women and the Law



March is Women’s History Month. Originally designated as Women’s History Week in 1981 (Public Law 97-28), in 1987 Congress passed a joint resolution extending this celebration of Women’s History through the entire month of March Public Law (Public Law 100-9). Since 1995, the President has issued annual proclamations reconfirming March as Women’s History Month.

Just in time for 2014’s Women’s History Month, HeinOnline has introduced a new library of historical works, “Women & the Law.” The archive contains over 800 fully searchable titles including books, government publications and reports, biographies, and scholarly articles relating to women’s relationship with the law over the centuries. Many of the works focus on the United States, but the collection also includes works regarding women from numerous other countries, including the united Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and Japan. 

The collection includes documents from as early as the 17th century, like William Heale’s  1609 Apologie for Women. Or an Opposition to Mr. Dr. G. His Assertion. Who Held in the Act at Oxforde, Anno. 1608, That It Was Lawful for Husbands to Beate their Wives.  The collection continues through the centuries to the present, including journal articles as recent as 2013. The works are divided into a few sections: Women & Education, Women & Employment, Abortion, Women & Society, Biographies, Feminism & Legal Theory Project, and Legal Rights & Suffrage. 

Much of the collection is devoted to the laws defining women’s legal rights, especially with regard to marriage and marital property and the status of working women. Some of the most interesting works in the collection are the monographs written by both men and women concerning “the state of women” at the time. The few titles below may give you some ideas of the wide variety of materials available:    

If you are a member of the law center community, you can access HeinOnline by visiting the law library’s homepage, and selecting HeinOnline from the drop-down menu of databases. If you accessing HeinOnline while off campus, be sure you are connected to the Law Center VPN and running the Law Library VPN client. For VPN instructions, please visit http://law.uh.edu/lit/instructions/VPN/vpn.asp.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Finding CRS Reports




The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is an arm of the Library of Congress. Joined today by two other congressional support agencies, the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service offers research and analysis to Congress on all current and emerging issues of national policy. CRS is unique because its time and efforts are devoted to working exclusively for Congress, providing reports that make no legislative or policy recommendations, but seek to accurately inform members of the House and Senate in its lawmaking from bill drafting to oversight of enacted laws. 

CRS Reports are a wonderful resource for research a huge variety of topics- over 700 new  reports are released annually within the broad  subjects of  American Law, Domestic Social Policy,  Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade, Government and Finance,  and  Resources, Science and Industry. Only members of Congress and their staffs can place requests and reports are not disseminated to the American public. The lack of public dissemination of these government documents can make it difficult to find the reports, and efforts to make the reports freely available on the internet have been unsuccessful to date. 

If there is a specific report you are looking for, try using a search engine to search for the report's title, and search for the report’s name along with  “filetype:pdf” to restrict your search to complete PDFs of the reports. For example:

“ACA: A Brief Overview of the Law, Implementation, and Legal Challenges” filetype:pdf

Many institutions, both public and commercial also collect and archive CRS reports, just a few of the recommended sites for finding CRS reports include:

Bloomberg Law (access limited to UHLC community): Bloomberg Law has a large collection of CRS reports with thousands of reports from 1998 through the present, covering all topics including prior versions of reports that  have been updated multiple times. To search for CRS reports on Bloomberg Law, from the home screen click on the “Legislative and Regulatory” tab, then select “Legislative Resources.”  Then select “CRS Reports” under the “Legislative Materials” section to search. Excellent resource for new and very recent reports unavailable elsewhere.

University of North Texas Digital Library (CRS Collection):  The UNT digital library collects various reports available on the web since 1990 and offers searchable access. The library currently provides access to nearly 15,000 reports.

Open CRS: Searchable collection of CRS reports from multiple sites and individual users. 

Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C: Large collection of CRS reports relating to Congress and its procedures.

Thurgood Marshall Law Library:  Large, searchable collection of CRS reports on the subjects of health law and Homeland Security/Terrorism.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Access Bloomberg Law Reports from the New Bloomberg Law App

Bloomberg Law recently released a new app that is available for both Apple and Android devices. This app will allows users to access Bloomberg Law reports including Bloomberg BNA publications such as the Environment Reporter and Daily Tax Report. Users first need to log on to the Bloomberg Law database and take the following steps:
  1. Click the "BNA Law Reports" link from the main search page
  2. Click "Manage E-mail Notifications" from the right side of the page
  3. Choose from the list of publications by subject and click the "set notification" link for the publication(s) selected
  4. Access the app to read the articles from the publication(s) selected
Law students and faculty can access the Bloomberg Law database by clicking "Register a Law School Account" from the Bloomberg Law website (make sure to use your UH Cougarnet e-mail address when registering).

Friday, March 14, 2014

New Justice Index from the National Center for Access to Justice


This month, the National Center for Access to Justice unveiled the Justice Index, an online tool providing information about the quality of access to justice in every state.  The tool offers composites scores for each state, which take into account the number of civil legal aid attorneys,  the amount of support for self-represented litigants, the support for people with limited English proficiency, and support for people with disabilities.  You can also access detailed information specific to each individual category.  

This tool, intended for a variety of audiences such as courts, lawmakers, attorneys, legal academics, social services organizations, and the public, allows you to compare and rank the states, highlight best practices, and identify gaps in services.  For more information about the Justice Index, visit the website’s FAQ page. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Free Federal Government eBooks!


The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) recently announced that they are expanding their eBook program to provide free public access to federal government eBooks through their online Catalog of U.S. Government Publications.  Currently, the free eBook collection includes over 125 titles, but GPO plans to add more titles every month.  Many of the books such as The Effectiveness of Drone Strikes in Counterinsurgency and Counterterrorism Campaigns, Making Sense of DNA Backlogs 2012: Myths vs. Reality, and NASA at 50: Interviews with NASA’s Senior Leadership may be of interest to scholars.  Other titles such as In the Loop: A Reference Guide to American English Idioms and Baseball: The National Pastime in the National Archives are of more general interest.  

To find eBooks, you can search the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications or use the eBook Search box on the Federal Depository Library website.  You can also browse all of the available titles here.  The eBooks are available in formats such as .mobi, .epub, and .pdf, so they can be read on various devices.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Laws of Mardi Gras


Today, on March 4, 2014, the Mardi Gras festival is occurring across the state border in Louisiana.  For any of our neighbors interested in the laws applicable to their celebration, for any Houston residents planning to travel to New Orleans to join in, or far anyone simply interested in the law as it relates to Mardi Gras, the following legal resources may be of interest:

Mardi Gras is a state holiday in parts of Louisiana as per La. Rev. Stat. § 1:55(A)(3).

To celebrate Mardi Gras, the normal rule against wearing festival masks in public is waived by La. Rev. Stat. § 14:313(C)(2) (except for sex offenders).  Setting up ladders to get a better view of passing parades is permissible, but for the first time this year ladders must remain at least six feet from the curb and may not be chained together to reserve sitting room; to find out more, read Chapter 34 of the New Orleans Municipal Code, the entirety of which is devoted to regulating the Mardi Gras celebration.

Anyone hoping to catch beads thrown from parade floats should be aware that under Louisiana law (specifically La. Rev. Stat. § 9:2796) parade spectators assume most of the risk of being struck by thrown trinkets during the Mardi Gras parade; if you attend, please remember what others have already written by keeping an eye out for flying bags of beads[1] or painted coconuts[2]. 

A few legal references for canon lawyers: while most Christian denominations have their own Lenten schedules and observances, the Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans is based on the French Catholic tradition under which eating meat was prohibited from Ash Wednesday until Easter; Mardi Gras, “Fat Tuesday,” was the settlers of New Orleans’ last change to eat meat for forty days (not counting Sundays).  Today, this practice is governed by §§ 1249-1253 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law.  In New Orleans, and the rest of the United States, the discretionary authority of § 1253 was invoked to permit the eating of meat during most of Lent as per Parts 12 and 13 of a 1966 Pastoral Statement on Penance and Abstinence.

And finally, for those attending the Mardi Gras celebration, please remember §§ 54-403 through 54-407 of the New Orleans Municipal Code and celebrate responsibly.


[1] See Isidore v. Victory Club, Inc., 2005-0291 (La. App. 4 Cir. 11/30/05); 923 So.2d 747.

[2] See Pierre v. Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Inc., 2004-0752 (La. App. 4 Cir. 9/29/04); 885 So.2d 1261, Brown v. Lee, 04-1302 (La. App. 4 Cir. 4/5/06); 929 So.2d 775, and Palmer v. Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Inc., 2009-0751 (La. App. 4 Cir. 3/1/10); 63 So.3d 131.