"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, April 30, 2015

Texas Legislature to Consider Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act

Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence favorably reported on HB 1799, a bill that would make the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) law in Texas. The purpose of the proposed law is to ensure that official electronic legal materials, such as the Texas Constitution, statutes, and state agency rules, are authenticated, preserved, and accessible by citizens online. The bill is authored by Rep. Senfronia Thompson, of District 141 in Houston. Now that the bill has been favorably reported out of committee by unanimous vote, it will be placed on the calendar for debate and vote in the Texas House of Representatives.

Already law in twelve states, UELMA provides a technology-neutral, outcomes-based approach to ensuring that online state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. While readers may be aware that the text of the Texas Constitution, Texas statutes, and regulations are available to view online, UELMA would require that the materials be authenticated, preserved, and permanently available to the public. An authentic text is one “whose content has been verified by a government entity to be complete and unaltered when compared to the previous version approved or published by the content originator.” American Association of Law Libraries, State-By-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources (2007). Authentication provides assurances to users that the constitutional provisions, laws, and regulations promulgated on official state websites are in fact the unaltered and verifiable law of the state.


You can read the committee’s analysis of the bill, as well as the text and the fiscal note on the Texas Legislature Online website. For more information about UELMA, read the Frequently Asked Questions created by one of UELMA’s chief supporters, the American Association of Law Libraries. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Fair Use Index from the U.S. Copyright Office


Yesterday, the U.S. Copyright Office announced the launch of its new Fair Use Index. Designed to provide the public with searchable summaries of major fair use decisions, the index can be searched by jurisdiction or subject matter. For example, searching the database for 5th Circuit decisions regarding fair use in satire or parody returns the result of Dall. Cowboys Cheerleaders, Inc. v. Scoreboard Posters, Inc., 600 F.2d 1184 (5th Cir. 1979). The index does not link to the full text of the cases, rather a case brief that explains the basic facts, issue, holding, and outcome.

Though the database would be more helpful to practitioners if it linked to the full-text of the cases, it is easy to use and provides information to the public that is easy to understand. Anyone who is interested in learn the basics of how the fair use exception operates in copyright law will find it worth a look. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Texas State Symbols and Capitals


This week, the Texas House Committee on Culture, Recreation, and Tourism considered several resolutions regarding new official state symbols and capitals.  For instance, resolutions have been introduced to designate the cowboy hat as the official state hat of Texas, Hico as the official steak capital of Texas, “the Lone Star State” as the official nickname of Texas, and #Texas as the official hashtag of Texas. 

For over one hundred years, the legislature has been designating certain things as state symbols.  In 1901, the legislature designated the bluebonnet as the official state flower and the practice has gained momentum over time.  Now Texas has an official amphibian (Texas toad), footwear (cowboy boot), musical instrument (guitar), pie (pecan), vehicle (chuck wagon), and more.   Since the 1980s, the legislature has also been designating certain cities and counties as official capitals.  Anahuac is the Alligator Capital of Texas, Lockhart is the Barbecue Capital, Caldwell is the Kolache Capital, and Fredericksburg is the Polka Capital.  Approximately 70 cities and counties have been designated state capitals.  

For a full list, see the Texas State Library and Archives Commission websites for Texas State Symbols and Official Capital Designations.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Find Public Health Law Information With LawAtlas


LawAtlas: The Policy Surveillance Portal is a website created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Public Health Law Research program and Temple University providing information about state laws that impact public health.  This free tool covers a wide variety of health policy topics such as alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs; environmental health; infectious disease prevention and control; health services; and occupational safety and health.  

Once you find a topic of interest, you find out which states have laws on that issue.  The website provides information about particular state law provisions as well as links to the entire text of the state code sections.  For each topic, it also provides links to related information such as journal articles, websites, and government reports.  For more information, see the website’s FAQ page. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Dckt App Makes PACER Searching Easier

Mathew Zorn designed the Dckt app for the purpose of making searching PACER documents on a mobile device much easier. Those who have used PACER are all too familiar with the difficulty of locating federal court dockets and filings on mobile devices. The app covers this website with an interface that is more user friendly, thus making it easier to locate documents from the Bankruptcy, District, and Appellate courts. In particular, this app features the ability to bookmark documents so that the user can avoid multiple charges for the court filings already retrieved, passwords can be saved, and it is more manageable to enter the case numbers. Documents can also be saved, printed, and e-mailed easily. A review by Jeff Richardson, available from iPhone JD, effectively explains the features of this app, which is only available at this time for the iPad and iPhone. Hopefully, a similar app will be created for Android devices soon.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Tax Deadline is Almost Here!

The tax deadline of April 15, is just two days away and for those who have procrastinated, the forms and publications are available on the IRS's website. The following is list of the most pertinent forms and publications as well as articles and resources that provide tax advice.

Forms:
Publications:
IRS Resources:
News Articles: 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Congress.gov Adds Treaty Documents


Congress.gov, the official website for federal legislative information, continues to add new features. Among the most significant recent additions are the texts of treaty documents going back to the 94th Congress (1975-1976). These can be searched in a number of different ways, including by citation, index terms, and document text. Each treaty has a detail page that gives an overview and a list of Senate actions taken on the treaty. To search for treaties, select “Treaty Documents” from the drop-down menu next to the search box.

For more on this and other recent enhancements to Congress.gov, see the Congress.gov Enhancements page. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Income Data by State and County on TRAC

April 15 is just one week away. Have you filed your tax return yet? The IRS estimates that over 247 million federal income tax returns will be filed this year. That means that in addition to collecting revenue, the IRS also collects massive amounts of economic data.

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research organization at Syracuse University, uses IRS data to compile rankings of various types of income by state and county. The results are often surprising. For example, it may surprise you to learn that in 2013, Wyoming had a higher average dividend income than any other state. In Wyoming’s Teton County, the average dividend income was $32,793, nearly twenty times higher than the national average. (Teton County, with a population of just over ten thousand, is home to Harrison Ford, Dick Cheney, and Walmart heiress Christy Walton, the richest woman in the world.) The state with the highest average adjusted gross income (AGI) was Connecticut, at $91,417. That’s quite a contrast to the average AGI of just $15,379 in Gooding County, Idaho. Other categories of data analyzed by TRAC include wages and salaries, interest income, and exemptions.  

In addition to IRS data, TRAC also reports on other aspects of government, including law enforcement, immigration, and the judiciary. For more information, visit the “About Us” page on the organization’s website.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The ‘People’s Law School’ Back at UHLC

The People’s Law School will be returning to the University of Houston Law Center tomorrow.  The People’s Law School is a biannual program in which volunteer lawyers, judges, and law professors teach registered attendees courses on specialized legal topics designed for members of the general public.  The O’Quinn Law Library will also be participating in tomorrow’s activities: law librarians will be teaching the class Finding the Law, an introduction to legal research.

See the official announcement for the People’s Law School here.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

the 4th annual O'Quinn Law Library Free CLE Workshop

I am glad to announce that this year's Law Library free CLE workshop is now opened for registration. 

To help recently graduated alumni to meet the needs of a demanding legal environment, the University of Houston O'Quinn Law Library will hold a free workshop on April 25, offering special training in legal research and the application of the latest information technology: two hours of intensive training in advanced Texas legal research and free or low cost online resources for lawyers, and one hour on special mobile device applications for attorneys.

First created in 2012, this year's workshop marks the 4th round with updated contents.  For detailed information and registration please click here.  Librarians and non-UH people are equally welcome.