"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



Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Grand Jury


The United States grand jury system is receiving national attention in the wake of two controversial grand juries’ decisions that have prompted popular protests following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the chokehold death of Eric Garner.  For persons interested in learning about grand juries in order to better follow the national debate, the following resource links may be of use:

The grand jury was established in the United States by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, and Title III, Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure governs its operations in federal court.  A grand jury practitioner’s resource guide is offered by the Department of Justice. 

The Fifth Amendment does not apply to state courts; the states themselves have the authority to chose whether or not to employ grand juries.  The following links lead to the relevant constitutional provisions, statutes or criminal code sections empowering grand juries in the various states and the District of Columbia:
  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arizona
  4. Arkansas
  5. California
  6. Colorado
  7. Connecticut
  8. Delaware
  9. District of Columbia
  10. Florida
  11. Georgia
  12. Hawaii
  13. Idaho (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
  14. Illinois
  15. Indiana
  16. Iowa
  17. Kansas
  18. Kentucky (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
  19. Louisiana
  20. Maine
  21. Maryland
  22. Massachusetts
  23. Michigan
  24. Minnesota
  25. Mississippi
  26. Missouri
  27. Montana
  28. Nebraska
  29. Nevada
  30. New Hampshire
  31. New Jersey
  32. New Mexico
  33. New York
  34. North Carolina
  35. North Dakota (1, 2)
  36. Ohio
  37. Oklahoma
  38. Oregon
  39. Pennsylvania
  40. Rhode Island (1, 2)
  41. South Carolina
  42. South Dakota
  43. Tennessee
  44. Texas (1, 2)
  45. Utah
  46. Vermont (1, 2)
  47. Virginia
  48. Washington
  49. West Virginia
  50. Wisconsin
  51. Wyoming
Finally, while the Brown and Garner decisions were made in Missouri and New York, the question of bias in grand jury deliberations is not a new subject of concern in the Houston area.  Local scholars interested in learning more about grand juries have the opportunity to consult the following resources, all available from the University of Houston library system:

Friday, December 5, 2014

New Amendments to Federal Rules


Several amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Practice and Procedure became effective on Monday. The Federal Rules govern the process of litigation in the federal courts. Amendments are proposed by the Judicial Conference of the United States and promulgated by the Supreme Court as authorized by 28 U.S.C. § 331. The latest amendments affect the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Bankruptcy Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Civil Procedure, and Evidence. The amendments, as well as the complete text of the rules, can be found at the United States Courts website.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Congress Publishes Collection of CRS Reports


Back in March, “Nota Bene” featured a post about finding Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports online. Last month, a new collection of CRS reports was published as a committee print by Congress. This new publication is noteworthy because, as we pointed out in our earlier post, CRS reports are typically made available only to members of Congress and their staffs, who rely on them for background information when considering new bills. While a handful of libraries and other institutions have made a limited number of CRS reports available online, the government has yet to provide free public access to the reports, even though they are not classified or protected by copyright.

The new collection of reports is called “The Evolving Congress,” and it was produced to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the CRS. As the title implies, the collection focuses on the ways in which Congress has evolved over time. Part I provides an overview of the history of Congress in the modern era. Part II, “The Members of Congress,” looks at various aspects of the members’ lives, including their use of social media, their election campaigns, and changing demographics among the members themselves. Part III examines changes in the legislative process, and Part IV is devoted to a number of case studies in policymaking, including the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and Congressional responses to financial crises.    

For more information about the CRS, see the Library of Congress website or revisit our earlier post.