"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
This past Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency accused German automaker Volkswagen of cheating on emissions tests. Several studies determined that Volkswagen had programmed its cars to detect when a government-mandated emissions test was occurring and to reduce their nitrogen oxide output during the test. Volkswagen has acknowledged that the actions behind this scandal may result in criminal prosecutions. But which laws have been broken?
In the United States where this scandal broke, the Clean Air Act of 1970 is the primary law governing air pollution emissions standards. The Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 to add several new items, including rules for particulate emissions from diesel engines. These standards are required under 42 U.S.C. § 7521 and tested as per 42 U.S.C. § 7525; Volkswagen is accused of installing its cars with software created specifically to cheat this test, which is specifically illegal under 42 U.S.C. § 7522(a)(3)(B).
For nearly 100 years, the American Law Institute (ALI) has sought to ameliorate the uncertainty and complexity of modern American law. After its founding in 1923, the American Law Institute initiated its initial Restatement projects for Agency, Conflict of Laws, Contracts, Judgments, Property, Restitution, Security, Torts, and Trusts. These projects were completed in 1944, and work on Restatements Second and Third began in the years 1952 and 1987, respectively. Recent projects have led to the addition of Restatements for Foreign Relations Law of the United States, The Law Governing Lawyers, Suretyship and Guaranty, and Unfair Competition.
In addition, the Institute publishes its Principles of Laws on a number of topics, which result from “intensive examination and analysis of legal areas thought to need reform.” Some of the areas studied have included Aggregate Litigation, Family Dissolution, Software Contracts, and Transnational Civil Procedure.
The American Law Institute’s members are nominated by their peers and then vetted through a rigorous selection process. The Institute’s membership is capped at 3,000 leading legal experts, including numerous UHLC faculty members.
The Restatements are authored by committees who analyze cases on a topic to derive a clearly and concisely stated rule. They can be thought of as a codification of common law principles that have While some courts may later adopt a Restatement rule as the law of its jurisdiction, it is otherwise a secondary source.
There are numerous resources for finding ALI materials in the library, including our print collection, and through LexisNexis, Westlaw. HeinOnline’s American Law Institute Library has the most extensive collection available to library users online, with current Restatements and Principles, along with current pocket parts and complete text and drafts of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Note that Restatements and Principles are not revised until a new edition is complete. Later volumes of a Restatement are labeled as Appendixes (supplemented by pocket parts), and contain citations to case law citing Restatement provisions. Restatements and Principles, including their notes and illustrations, are a wonderful tool for understanding common law rules on a variety of topics.
is Constitution Day, the day we commemorate the signing of the United States Constitution in
1787. Since 2004, September 17 has also been the celebration of
Citizenship Day, which “recognize[s] all who, by coming of age or by
naturalization, have become citizens.” In fact, when Senator Robert Bryd
shepherded the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 (Pub. L. No. 108-447) into law, he
added additional requirements to encourage citizens to learn more about their
Constitution. Now the head of every federal agency must provide each employee
with educational and training materials concerning the Constitution on
September 17 and any educational institution which receives
Federal funds shall hold a program on the U.S. Constitution for students on
reading the Constitution, you may wish to celebrate more thoroughly by studying
theConstitution of the United States of
America: Analysis and Interpretation. This work, prepared by the
Congressional Research Service, provides an annotated analysis of the
Constitution and its amendments with cases decided by the Supreme Court which
“bear significantly upon the analysis and interpretation of the Constitution.”
those who could use a refresher on the history of the Constitution, try this quiz from the Washington Post. A
great supply of cocktail party-ready facts and anecdotes about the Constitution
can be found at the National Archives, and you can embrace
your inner Madison or Hamilton with this quiz to determine which founding
father you most resemble (ideologically, that is).
No matter how you
celebrate, today is a great day to reflect on the rights and freedoms
guaranteed to the nation’s citizens by the Constitution. Take time today to
consider both on the past struggles to achieve these liberties, and the
enduring work needed from current and future generations to preserve them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately
48 million people per year get sick from foodborne diseases and it seems like every
day we hear about another disease outbreak caused by contaminated food.Now, recent activity from the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) is aimed at preventing these illnesses.On September 10, the FDA released
long-anticipated new rules regarding food safety.The rules are in response to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed in 2011, which was the most extensive reform
of food safety laws in over 70 years.According
to the FDA website, this law “aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by
shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it.”
These days more and more attorneys are using technology in
the courtroom and some apps have been created to help them with organizing
information and presenting it at trial.The following apps have been created specifically to help attorneys with
TrialDirector – This free app is currently available for the
iPad.Users can import PDF documents, images,
and videos through Dropbox, iTunes, and other programs, markup and annotate
documents, and present and annotate two exhibits side-by-side.More features are available for those who
subscribe to the desktop TrialDirector software.
ExhibitView – This iPad app costs $89.99 and allows users
to import PDF, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and image documents through iTunes or
Dropbox.Audio and video files are also
supported.You can also markup and
annotate files as well as print documents. Those who subscribe to the PC
version of ExhibitView can also create presentations on their PCs and save
them to their iPads.
TrialPad – This app, available for iPad, costs $129.99.It allows users to import PDF, TXT, and image
files through Dropbox, iTunes, and other online file systems.Users can also edit and show video clips, markup
and annotate documents, and create side-by-side document comparisons.This app does not have a desktop version of its
For more information about these apps and all of their
features, see the links provided for each one above.
According to a recent press
release, the U.S. Census Bureau has added a number of new features to its World Population Clock web tool.
These include national profiles with trade, population, and demographic data, as well as
national population projections. You can access this information by clicking on
a country in the interactive map. And for those of you keeping score at home,
the world’s population is now 7.27 billion and counting.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced that the agency
will introduce a video access platform to allow speech- and hearing-impaired
people to communicate with federal agencies using American Sign Language (ASL).
Users will be able to download open source applications to their smartphones or
computers that will allow video calling to agency representatives fluent in
ASL. The beta version of the program will be introduced later this year, with a
final release scheduled for spring of 2016. The open source accessibility
platform will also allow other public institutions and private businesses to
offer similar services in the future. To read more about the platform, see this
on the FCC website.