"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



Friday, May 30, 2014

Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction


Like legal fiction?  Looking for some summer reading ideas?  The ABA Journal and the University of Alabama School of Law have announced the nominees for the 2014 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. According to the prize’s website, the award “is given annually to a book-length work of fiction, published in the preceding year, that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.”  This year’s nominees are:
The public can help pick a winner by voting in the poll available on the ABA Journal website. The poll will be open until June 30th.  If you are looking for other good book ideas, information about past winners is also available on the Harper Lee Prize website.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Red Hot Legal Practice Areas


If you’re a law student looking for a little inspiration about which practice area to pursue, the May 2014 issue of the ABA’s Student Lawyer magazine provides information about three of the hottest practice areas right now.  Currently, there is a greater need for energy law, health law, and regulatory law attorneys.   These are areas where the UHLC is strong and students will find a variety of course offerings on these subjects.  To learn more, students might want to peruse the UHLC course catalog with these practice areas in mind or check out the websites for the Environment, Energy, & Natural Resources Center and the Health Law and Policy Institute.  

For more general information about these practice areas, try visiting the Texas Bar Association’s Administrative and Public Law, Health Law, and Oil, Gas, and Energy Law section websites as well as the American Bar Association’s Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, Environment, Energy, and Resources, and Health Law section websites. 

Issues of the Student Lawyer can be accessed via the library catalog or in the law library bound journals collection at KF23.T832.  The publication is also free to members of the ABA’s Law Student Division.

Friday, May 23, 2014

IRS Delays New Regulations Designed to Limit Political Activity by Non-profits


The New York Times is reporting that the Internal Revenue Service has decided to postpone implementation of new tax regulations designed to discourage political activity from groups given tax exempt status by the agency. See the IRS' official announcement. According to the article, the proposed regulations which specify what constitutes "political activity" and  limit expenditures on such activity yielded 150,000 comments from the public. The rules are not expected to go into effect until after this year's midterm elections.

Internal Revenue Code (I.R.C.) Section 501provides the authority for such tax exempt status with 501(c) listing the different types of entities that are eligible. The proposed rule, titled "Guidance on "(Section 501(c)(4)) tax exempt social welfare organizations on political activities related to candidates that will not be considered to promote social welfare" was announced in the Federal Register on Friday, November 29, 2013. More information regarding current regulations can be found on the IRS' "Exempt Organizations, Tax Code, Regulations, and Official Guidance" page.


Monday, May 19, 2014

SCOTUSblog Denied Press Credentials

The ABA Journal has recently reported that SCOTUSblog is appealing a decision by the U.S. Senate Press Gallery refusing to grant press credentials to the blog and Lyle Denniston, it's journalist. The Standing Committee of the Senate Daily Press Gallery will hear the blog's appeal on May 23. According to the article, Tom Goldstein, the blog's founder, did not receive a list of reasons for the refusal, complicating the appeal. See SCOTUSblog's appeal letter for more details.We will follow this closely and post any updates.

Monday, May 12, 2014

UHLC Class of 2014 Celebrates Commencement

University of Houston Law Center’s Class of 2014 graduated this past Saturday.  Congratulations to all of the new graduates!  For any former students who are not still celebrating, the following resources may be useful for new doctors of law as they move on to the next stage of their legal careers:
  • Information on the upcoming Texas Bar Examination is available from the official website.  A very basic summary is available here.
  • When the Bar Exam is over, examinees may be interested a series of free presentations introducing new lawyers to the legal profession; this collection is specifically intended for new graduates waiting for the results of the Texas Bar Exam.
  • The State Bar of Texas’ offers a collection of resources for new lawyers.  The American Bar Association offers a similar collection less focused on Texas practice.
  • Information on Texas CLE requirements is available for consultation; guides to local (Houston area) CLE opportunities are available here and here.  The O’Quinn Law Library also holds an annual free CLE workshop (for three CLE credits) on legal research and lawyering skills at the end of each Spring semester; this year’s workshop is over, but next year’s workshop still falls within Texas’ 24-month MCLE compliance ‘year’ for newly-licensed attorneys.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Free Online Resource Provides Visualization of Legislative Data

The University of Washington’s Center for American Politics and Public Policy (CAPPP) recently unveiled a new data-driven discovery tool called Legislative Explorer, or LegEx, which allows users to observe large-scale trends in legislative activity in the United States Congress. Using data drawn from a number of different legislative tracking sources (including Congress.gov), Legislative Explorer provides a visual representation of the progress of bills and resolutions through both the House and Senate. Coverage is available from the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) to the present, and the dataset is updated nightly. The visual representation can be limited by party, Senator or Representative, topic, committee, type of legislation, and several other categories. For more information on how LegEx works, click on “Tutorial” in the top right corner of the screen, or see this post on the CAPPP website.  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy Law Day!

Today is the 53rd annual U.S. Law Day, a day set aside to celebrate the rule of law. Though not a government holiday, Law Day was declared by President Eisenhower in 1958, and in 1961 became Public Law 87-20, codified at 36 U.S.C. 113. Every year on Law Day the President makes a proclamation inviting the nation to celebrate the importance of our Nation's legal and judicial systems.

Each law day is given a theme by the American Bar Association, and for Law Day 2014 it’s “ American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” celebrating the coming 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This year’s efforts focus on the importance of voting and of ensuring that our nation’s election laws and practices permit the broadest, least restrictive access to the ballot box.

There are no specific voter qualifications contained within the text of the Constitution. The Framers left that topic up to the states. For this reason, Amendments guaranteeing the right of women and African American men to vote are not phrased as grants of the right to vote, but instead as prohibitions on preventing individuals from voting because of their race or sex.

·         In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The landmark legislation tackled discriminatory voting restrictions head-on. Jurisdictions with a history of discrimination were required to get federal preclearance before enacting new voting procedures. Restrictions that had the impact of disenfranchising voters on the basis of race were prohibited.


·         In June 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby County v. Holder that the Voting Rights Act’s key provision, which required several states to receive preclearance from the federal government before  implementing voting changes, was invalid. The Court reasoned that the formula used to determine which jurisdictions were subject to preclearance because they had a history of discrimination was out of date.