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Showing posts from 2015

Death Penalty Use Declines in 2015

This week, the Death Penalty Information Center released "The Death Penalty in 2015: Year End Report."The report indicates that in 2015 the U.S. had the lowest number of executions since 1991.Over the last year, there were 28 executions in just 6 states, including Texas, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, Oklahoma, and Virginia.Other indicators in the report signal the decline in the use of the death penalty.For instance, 49 new death sentences were imposed in 2015, which is the lowest number since the early 1970s when the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.The report also indicates that 6 death row inmates were exonerated in 2015, which brings the total to 153 since 1973.In addition, 70 inmates with execution dates in 2015 received stays, reprieves, or commutations.

To read the full-text of the report, see the report’s website.For more information about the death penalty, check the Death Penalty Information Center’s website.

Land Use Regulation, 3d

The ABA section of Real Property, Trust & Estate Law has recently published Land Use Regulation, 3d ed. by Peter W. Salsich, Jr. and Timothy J. Tryniecki (now available on the new titles shelf in the law library under the call number KF5698.S243). The book begins with a discussion of municipal power to regulate land use and then covers zoning, land use planning, constitutional limitations, and local approval process. There is a chapter that focuses specifically on both administrative and judicial review of land use decisions. Other topics include regulating specific uses, subdivision regulations, overcoming barriers to affordable housing, and environmental land use regulation. This book has a table of cases and subject index. The library also has the following titles on land use regulation:
Land Use Planning and Development Regulation Law, 3d (available on Westlaw Next)Land Use Planning and Development Regulation Law, 3d (Hornbook Series) (KF5692.J84 2013Land Use in a Nutshell (K…

Federal Tax Procedures for Attorneys, 2d ed.

The ABA has recently published, Federal Tax Procedures for Attorneys, 2d by W. Patrick Cantrell. This book, designed for the tax attorney and the tax scholar, provides a real-world approach to tax practice issues. The information is thorough yet well organized and there are numerous practice tips located throughout the book. There are nine chapters covering topics relevant to the tax practitioner such as IRS examinations and administrative appeals within the agency. The chapter on tax litigation  covers deficiency process, tax claims and refunds, and the U.S. Tax Court. Collection enforcement matters such as levies and liens as well as collection remedies and defenses are also covered. Other topics include penalties and interest, statute of limitations on tax cases, ethical considerations, and tax fraud. There is a subject index and the appendices include a list of abbreviations and acronyms used in tax practice, IRS form letters, IRS publications of procedural topics, and IRS forms a…

Copyright Office Releases Strategic Plan

The United States Copyright Office has released a 5-year strategic plan for 2016-2020. 

Of particular interest to legal researchers is the Office's plans to deploy a public search engine to allow for online patent research, and well as its plans to digitize older (pre-1978) copyrights and place them online in a searchable format.  The Office's plans include the development of metadata standards for the new patent research system, but specific details about these standards are not yet available.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Amended

The most recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure went into effect this week, introducing several changes to the treatment of discovery.

Possibly the most significant changes were made to Rule 26, which has eliminated the requirement that discovery requests be "reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence" and now explicitly states that responsive materials must be produced even if inadmissible in court.  The new version of the rule also has an increased emphasis on proportionality with a 6-factor test for balancing the interests of the parties to the litigation.

Additional substantial changes were made to Rule 37, which now applies exclusively to electronically stored information.  The rule contains new penalties for failure to preserve electronic information as well as requiring a determination of intent before any penalties can be applied.

Who Represents Them? Researching the Law Firms Major Companies Engage in Litigation

One of the hottest topics in legal information today is the use of data analytics, or harnessing large amounts of data to create assessments and make predictions. Legal research vendors are now offering their own, specialized tools that subscribers can use to take advantage of the copious amounts of data already present within the system’s databases.
One of these vendors, Bloomberg Law, has introduced a feature they call  Law Firm Representation Analytics. This tool uses Bloomberg Law’s popular and expansive database of court dockets to show users the top law firms representing a particular company in federal litigation. 
To use the tool, simply search for the company’s name using the “Go” bar at the upper-right hand side of any Bloomberg Law page.  Once the company’s name appears on the list of Suggested Companies, select it. The federal litigation analytics will display on the company’s page, along with other information about the company and its performance if it is a publicly-tra…

The Greenbook: Texas Rules of Form, 13th Edition

The thirteenth edition of The Greenbook was published this fall and it has a few changes of note that Texas lawyers and law students may find useful. The Greenbook’s editors remind us in the introduction to the new edition that it is neither a complete citation guide nor style guide, but rather a “lens through which Texas legal materials may be cited and understood.”  Or, perhaps, a Texas-sized supplement to the Bluebook , tailored to the Texas practitioner. Some of the more notable changes and additions include:
Citation to Opinions on Court Websites:  Rules 2-4 have been supplemented to provide more guidance for citing Texas court opinions appearing on court websites. Acknowledging that recent cases are most reliably accessed through court websites, the rules provide suggestion for pin cites to unpaginated versions of opinions available online.
Pet. Pending: You may be surprised to learn that a fourteenth citation form has been added for describing the status of a petition for review…

The History of International Law Timeline

Oxford University Press recently launched a free, interactive History of International Law timeline.It provides information about over 100 major events in the development of public international law including “the signing of major treaties, the foundation of fundamental institutions, the birth of major figures in international law and milestones in the development of some of the field’s best-known doctrines.”The timeline covers over 500 years, starting with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 and ending with the Arms Trade Treaty in 2014.
For each event, the timeline allows users to find out more about the topic by providing free access to portions of Oxford University Press resources such as Oxford Historical Treaties and the Max Planck Encyclopaedia of Public International Law as well as blog posts and journal articles.For more information and to explore this resource, see The History of International Law website.

New Report on Federal Agencies' Responsiveness to FOIA Requests

We at Nota Bene have written before about TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse. TRAC is a research organization at Syracuse University that uses Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to gather data for its reports on various government activities, including staffing, spending, and law enforcement. These reports are then published on the TRAC website.

Recently, TRAC published the results of its latest FOIA survey, which assesses the responsiveness of 21 federal agencies to FOIA requests. These requests were designed to ask only about information the agencies are legally required to maintain, and to avoid asking about sensitive information that might have to be redacted. The report indicates that two-thirds of the agencies “are now responding and providing usable data,” and this “represents an improvement over just seven agencies that gave adequate responses in April.” Six agencies have failed to provide an adequate response, and one—the Central Intelligence Age…

Treasury Department Launches New Spending Data Website

The United States Treasury Department recently launched an open beta version of its new website for tracking government spending. The Department is asking users to provide feedback on demo versions of new search tools, including live filters, SQL search, and a search builder using drop-down menus to filter on specific fields. The idea is to determine what kinds of functionality users want and to “add new features and functionalities on a rolling basis.” The new site will also allow users to make charts, graphs, and maps from their search results. The final version is scheduled to go live in May 2017. Until then, the Department’s original website for spending data is still available here.

Contract Law: Analyzing and Drafting

The ABA has just published Contract Law: Analyzing and Drafting, which is now available in the library (see the new titles shelf, which is located across from the reference desk, next to the public computer terminals) (KF801.C6135 2015). This book, edited by Karen F. Botterud, contains nineteen chapters (each authored by different attorneys who are experts in contract law) focusing on the concepts of contract law as well as contract drafting. The topics covered include, among others, essentials of contract formation, problems in contract formation, contract formation under UCC Article 2, statutes of fraud, parole evidence rule, contract performance, breach of contract and nonperformance, warranties, disclaimers, and limitations, and equitable remedies. There is even a chapter that covers drafting specific contract clauses in employment agreements. This book is thoroughly researched as indicated from the numerous excerpts from the Uniform Commercial Code, Corbin on Contracts (KF801.C6)…

CasemakerX Database Available for Law Students and Faculty

This post is a reminder that CasemakerX, which is available to members of the Texas State bar, is also available to law students and faculty. This database provides access to primary sources of law at the state and federal level. Statutes and regulations can be browsed easily and all sources are fully searchable (Casemaker X uses boolean connectors and proximity search). Users can locate the following (among other sources) on Casemaker X:
United States CodeCode of Federal RegulationsFederal RegisterFederal Agency Materials  Federal Case LawFederal Rules of CourtTexas Statutes (Texas codes and session laws) Texas Administrative CodeTexas RegisterAttorney General OpinionsTexas Case Law Texas Rules of Court Law students and faculty can register by visiting http://www.casemakerx.com/ and clicking "sign up now." The CasemakerX mobile app is available to those already registered by clicking "available mobile application" link located toward the top of the search page.

New Federal Website for Election Data

Yesterday the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) launched the beta version of a new website for election data, https://beta.fec.gov.  The website is currently a resource for locating campaign finance data, and will soon expand to offer other election information as well.

The FEC's current website for information elated to elections, http://www.fec.gov/pindex.shtml, remains accessible.

Easy Access to Federal Court Opinions Online

This week the Federal Law Librarians Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C., announced a new online resource available on their site, entitled Quick Links and Sources to U.S. Court Opinions. The new website presents quick links to all major sources for U.S. Court opinions including sites for recent years, sites for recent and historical years, and subscription sites. It also presents direct links to court opinion sites of specific U.S. courts such as the U.S. courts of appeals as well links to opinion sites to those courts before the 1990’s.  Each specific’s court’s abbreviation and city location can also be found and there is an example of how new slip opinions can be cited. Though this list is of most use for finding opinions from the federal courts, it links to Cornell's Legal Information Institute for Texas opinions. Provided this list is updated consistently, it will be a useful bookmark for any practitioner seeking quick access to case law…