"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, June 27, 2015

Immigration Practice, 15th Edition

The library has now acquired, Immigration Practice, 15th ed by Robert C. Divine and R. Blake Chisam. This source provides an overview of immigration law and is designed for attorneys involved in immigration practice. The first part is helpful for understanding the basics of representing and interacting with clients. There is also a discussion of the different U.S. departments that are involved in regulating immigration practice as well as the rules of practice for those agencies. Researching the sources of immigration law and obtaining government files are also explored. This practice guide also covers the immigration process and focuses on non-immigrant visas and status, permanent residence, U.S. Citizenship, inadmissibility and deportability grounds, and removal proceedings. This source also explores different paths for obtaining permanent residence such as employment, family-based petitions, and asylum. There are informative charts included throughout the book and there are annotations to applicable statutes, rules and regulations, case law, and forms. The appendices contain fee schedules, lists of abbreviations used in immigration practice, government offices, and frequently used government forms. There are also tables of cases, statutes, subject index, and Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and United States Code conversion table. Immigration Practice (KF4819.D58 2014) is now available on the new titles shelf in the law library. The accompanying CD-ROM (available on reserve in the library) contains links to websites and forms.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Advanced Introduction to International Tax Law

Reuven S. Avi-Yonah, the Irwin I. Cohn Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School has authored, Advanced Introduction to International Tax Law, which provides a summary of international tax law from a global perspective. The book is essentially divided into two parts: an overview of the international tax regime; selected contemporary issues. The first part, begins with a brief introduction and then discusses both territorial and source jurisdiction. Territorial jurisdiction allows a nation to tax an individual or company within its borders and source jurisdiction allows a nation to tax citizens regardless of residence. Inbound taxation (taxation of non-residents on income taxable from sources within that country) and Outbound (taxation of a countries citizens' income from sources outside that country's jurisdiction) is explored in detail for both passive and active income. Tax treaties, source rules, and transfer pricing are also explained. The second part, covers emerging issues in international tax sand includes a discussion of the single tax principle, the challenges related to nondiscrimination (the principle that foreign taxpayers should not be treated differently domestic taxpayers) as well as the future of the international tax regime, among other issues. This book is now available on the law library's new titles shelf (K4460.A935).

Friday, June 19, 2015

2014 Terrorism Report Released

The Department of State has just released the Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, a report reviewing and analyzing international progress against terrorist activities.  It is available online from the state department’s website here; previous years’ reports are available here

The Country Reports on Terrorism reports are mandated by 22 U.S. Code § 2656f.  It has been an annual report since 2004, when it replaced the then-published Patterns of Global Terrorism report.  The new report maintains the non-statistical part of its terrorism review pursuant to the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (P.L. 108–458), which transferred the statistical function to the National Counterterrorism Center.

Friday, June 12, 2015

ECHO Website Adds Air Pollution Data

Back in 2013, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched a new version of its Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website. ECHO provides information on environmental regulatory compliance and enforcement for approximately 800,000 facilities across the nation. Since the launch of ECHO 2.0, the site has undergone a number of updates and enhancements, and this month saw the introduction of ECHO Release 2.4.1. The most salient new feature is the addition of air pollution data, compiled from the National Emissions Inventory, Toxic Release Inventory, Greenhouse Gas Reporting Tool, and Acid Rain Program, along with compliance information for individual facilities. To learn more about this and other features recently added to ECHO, see this announcement from EPA Assistant Administrator Cynthia Giles.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

New FTC Website for Victims of Identity Theft

It seems as if every day we hear about some new data security breach, whether it involves a bank, an internet service provider, or even the IRS. These breaches can have devastating consequences, including identity theft. Because of these potential dangers, it’s a good idea to have a plan of action in case your identity is stolen. A new website from the Federal Trade Commission, www.identitytheft.gov, can help. It provides instructions on what to do immediately (such as calling the companies where the fraud occurred, getting a credit report, and alerting the authorities) as well as long-term steps you might want to consider (such as an extended credit freeze). The site also includes warning signs of identity theft, rights of identity-theft victims, and sample letters you can use to dispute credit card charges or deal with debt collectors.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Are New Law Graduates Ready to Practice?

LexisNexis recently released the results of a survey commissioned to determine what skills and experience are most needed from new associates, and where their employers find them most lacking. Over 300 hiring partners and senior associates who supervise new attorneys were surveyed about both the relative importance of various skills, and to what extent they believed new attorneys to be lacking in those competencies.

In the area of litigation, the survey found associates lacking in advanced legal research skills required for complex legal issues. The attorneys surveyed placed advanced legal research skills alongside drafting pleadings and motions as the skills both “most needed” and “most lacking” in litigation practice.

For those in transactional practice, new associates are reportedly most lacking in basic understanding of fundamental financial and business concepts. The next most cited problem area for new associates in transactional areas was inability to conduct due diligence and draft simple contracts and agreements.  

The surveyed attorneys recommended what many law schools have begun to implement to satisfy the ABA’s Revised Standards for Approval of Law Schools: increased advanced legal research integration, more experiential learning opportunities, and more writing and drafting exercises that reflect the competencies needed in day-to-day law practice. You can read the complete white paper here

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cruising from Texas: How U.S., Maritime, Texas, and Panamanian Law May All Govern Your Vacation

While our law school community stays hard at work during the summer months, thoughts still occasionally turn toward vacation. Cruises are among the most popular vacation choices for Houston-area residents as the area boasts cruise ports both in Galveston and Pasadena, eliminating the need for costly air travel. Cruising is a big industry for Texas as well. Six percent of all cruise passengers leave from the Texas ports (605,000) and cruise industry expenditures in Texas exceeded $1.26 billion in 2013 (See, The Contribution of the North American Cruise Industry to the U.S. Economy in 2013, at 57). As travelers both depart and return from the United States it is easy for many to that these ships are generally not subject to U.S. laws. Here are some things to be aware of if you are planning on taking a cruise vacation. 

Open Registries: Despite the vast number of cruise ships sailing closed-loop itineraries from United States ports, these ships are nearly exclusively registered in other countries. Under international law, every merchant ship must be registered with a country, known as its flag state. The country of registry has jurisdiction over the vessel and is responsible for inspecting that it is safe to sail and to check on the crew's working conditions. Open registries are also known as “flags of convenience,” a term now generally understood to mean registration of a ship in a country with an open registry for primarily economic reasons. Only one major cruise ship is currently registered in the United States, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America, which sails exclusively in the Hawaiian Islands from Honolulu.

The practice of registering ships in Panama began in 1922 as a way for the passenger vessels to serve alcohol to its passengers during Prohibition. Registering ships in Panama grew in popularity even after the end of Prohibition as companies found it an effective way to avoid costly compliance with labor laws and avoid taxation Once a ship is outside of United States territorial waters the flag state exercises jurisdiction to adjudicate and enforce laws with respect to the ship or any conduct that occurs on the ship. In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (Pub. L. No. 111-207) to provide increased security and at least some level of regulation to foreign flagged passenger vessels operated in U.S. territorial waters. The act establishes requirements to ensure the security and safety of passengers and crew on cruise vessels and implements reporting of crimes that affect U.S. passengers. For more about open registries and flags of convenience, see Brian Baker, Flags of Convenience and the Gulf Oil Spill: Problems and Proposed Solutions, 34 Houston Journal of International Law 687 (2012); and H. Edwin Anderson, III, The Nationality of Ships and Flags of Convenience: Economics, Politics, and Alternatives, 21 Tulane Maritime Law Journal 139 (1996).

Contracts: As is the case in many consumer transactions, the cruise passenger’s ticket contract will control the rights and remedies of the passenger. These contracts typically contain forum-selection clauses, choice-of-law provisions, and notice-requirement clauses that limits the time available for a passenger to make a claim against a cruise line.

Safety: Due to the myriad of laws and often lax reporting requirements, historically it has been difficult to find specific health and safety information about a given cruise ship. Recently ProPublica brought together data from a number of sources to provide the Cruise Control database  that allows users to search the known health and safety information and incidents for all cruise ships sailing out of the U.S.

Taxes: Texas law comes into play if your ship returns to the cruise ports in Galveston or Pasadena. In 2013, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission announced  it would begin collecting personal importation taxes on alcohol and cigarettes from passengers returning from cruises under the authority of § 107.07 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Enforcement of this law requires cruisers returning through Texas to pay a duty on alcohol and cigarettes that are considered exempt under U.S. Customs and Border Patrol regulations. That is, the “duty free” liter of spirits you purchased in port will not be taxed by U.S. Customs, but to enter the state of Texas with your bottle you’ll be charged $3.75

Happy cruising and safe travels to all this summer! Don't forget your sunscreen!