"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, March 31, 2016

(Unauthorized) Supreme Court Style Manual Published for the First Time

The Supreme Court Style Manual, an internal legal writing manual used by justices and law clerks of the Supreme Court, has been copied and for the first time made available for purchase.  A member of the Supreme Court Bar claims to have photocopied the manual in the private Supreme Court Library to create a text for publication.

Reports note that the style manual is considered an internal document by the Supreme Court, not one for general use, and that this is an unauthorized publication:
The manual, prepared by the office of the court’s Reporter of Decisions, states explicitly that it is “the property of the Supreme Court of the United States and is not for publication. It is intended solely for the use of the staff of the Court, and copies should not be distributed except to members of that staff.”
Copies of the manual are numbered and assigned to specific recipients at the court, presumably to prevent it from being circulated outside the court.
The Supreme Court has not made any comment regarding the publication.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The 5th annual O'Quinn Law Library Free CLE Workshop

I am mighty glad to announce that a brand new version of the annual O'Quinn Law Library free CLE workshop is forthcoming.  The inaugural presentation of Specialized Legal Research for the Generalist: Tax, Health, and International Law will be held on Saturday, April 23, 2016.  Each session carries one Texas CLE credit. 

First created in 2012 to help recently graduated alumni to meet the needs of a demanding legal environment, this year's workshop marks the 5th round with all new contents.  For detailed information and registration please click here.  Librarians and non-UH folks are equally welcome.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Congressional Directory Now Available on Govinfo Website

The Government Printing Office (GPO) recently made the official directory of the 114th U.S. Congress available on its govinfo website. The directory includes room and telephone numbers for members of the House and Senate, as well as committee memberships, district descriptions, and biographical information. It also contains personnel listings and contact information for executive agencies, federal courts, international organizations, foreign diplomatic offices, and press galleries. Previous editions of the directory going back to the 105th Congress (1997-1998) are available as well.   

Govinfo is the GPO’s beta website, and will eventually replace the Federal Digital System (FDSys). You can learn more about govinfo and what’s available there on the Q&A page.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

New Report on IRS Criminal Enforcement

The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) recently released a report on criminal enforcement by the Internal Revenue Service. It turns out that the IRS has been referring fewer cases for criminal prosecution in recent years, largely due to Congressional budget cuts that have led to a 16 percent decline in the number of criminal investigators at the agency since 2010. Referrals sent to federal prosecutors declined from 13.3 per million population in Fiscal Year 2013 to 9.2 per million in Fiscal Year 2015, which is the lowest level seen during the Obama administration. You can use TRAC’s IRS criminal enforcement tool to examine the data in a number of different ways, including a breakdown by federal district.

As readers of Nota Bene may already know, TRAC is a research organization at Syracuse University that uses Freedom of Information Act requests to gather data and prepare reports on various government activities. You can learn more by visiting TRAC’s About Us page.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

New Book Review: Choreographing Copyright

Recently, on the Law Library’s New Titles List, Choreographing Copyright: Race, Gender and Intellectual Property Rights in American Dance by Anthea Kraut (KF 3054.C56 K73 2016) caught my eye.

The book gives, as the author suggests, “what might be considered a counter history of choreographic copyright in the United States,” examining the raced, classed, and gendered aspects of attempts by dance-makers in the United States to control the circulation of their choreography. Not until 1976 did  U.S. federal copyright law officially recognize choreographic works as a protectable class, but efforts by U.S. dancers to exert rights over their choreography began in the 19th century.

The book uses case studies to demonstrate how race, class, and gender have intersected with attempts by choreographers to protect their work at different historical moments. It tells the stories of African American pantomimist Johnny Hudgins in the early decades of the twentieth century, early white modern dancer Loie Fuller at the end of the nineteenth century, and many others including  well-known choreographers George Balanchine and Martha Graham whose copyright cases went to trial and helped define how we see “work for hire” in the creative arts.

A dense book, with vivid stories and images Choreographic Copyright will challenge the way you think about ownership of dance works, and question how the choreographer’s frequent status as “other” lead to diminished intellectual property protection. Brining history to dance today, Kraut delivers a fascinating examination of Beyonce’s unauthorized reproduction of De Keersmaeker’s  “Rosas danst Rosas” choreography for her own “Countdown” video. It appears the parties reached a settlement, but the fascinating story highlights the tension still seen today between the art and the commercial society the work inhabits. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Understanding the U.S. Supreme Court Nomination Process

Yesterday, the White House announced that Merrick Garland, the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and a former U.S. Justice Department lawyer will be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Much has already been made of the coming Senate confirmation battle, with Senate republicans vowing to refuse to hold hearings or vote for any nominees in the election year. Since the late 1960s, the Judiciary Committee's consideration of a Supreme Court nominee almost always has consisted of three distinct stages-(1) a pre-hearing investigative stage, followed by (2) public hearings, and concluding with (3) a committee decision on what recommendation to make to the full Senate.

Here’s what we know from the history of Supreme Court nominations and appointments, from just a few of the many library resources devoted to the topic:

The entire nomination-and-confirmation process (from when the President first learned of a vacancy to final Senate action) has generally taken almost twice as long for nominees after 1980 than for nominees in the previous 80 years. From 1900 to 1980, the entire process took a median of 59 days; from 1981 through 2006, the process took a median of 113 days. For more information on the process, check out the CRS Report Speed of Presidential and Senate Actions on Supreme Court Nominations, 1900-2006 (2007).
Since the late 1960s, the Judiciary Committee's consideration of a Supreme Court nominee almost always has consisted of three distinct stages-(1) a pre-hearing  investigative  stage, followed by (2) public hearings, and concluding with (3) a committee decision on what recommendation to make to the full Senate.

A 2008 CRS report, Supreme Court Nominees Not Confirmed, found that there were 158 presidential nominations to the Court between 1789 and 2007, with 36 nominations failing to win confirmation from the Senate. Most recently, Texas attorney Harriet Miers’ 2005 nomination by President George W. Bush was withdrawn.

For a complete look at the process of Supreme Court nominees and their journey to the bench, Law Center users can spend hours paging through HeinOnline’s History of Supreme Court Nominations Library. The materials include the complete Hearings and Reports on Successful and Unsuccessful Nominations of Supreme Court Justices by the Senate Judiciary Committee (1977-present) as well as biographies, commentaries, and scholarly articles about and by nearly all nominees to the Court, beginning with John Jay. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Texas to Unveil Registered Access to Court Electric Records System This Year

An article from the Texas Lawyer reports that Texas is planning to launch a PACER-like court records system this year.  Many of you may remember that PACER is the federal court records system that allows courts, attorneys, and the public to access federal court dockets and records.  The new Texas Registered Access to Court Electronic Records (RACER) system will provide similar access to Texas court records.  According to the article, RACER will be available for judges on June 1, attorneys in December, and the general public in the summer of 2017.  Full details are not available yet, but the Texas Office of Court Administration indicated that there may be a fee for records that is similar to the PACER system.

Hopefully we will get more information soon about RACER!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Violation Tracker: Finding Information on Corporate Misconduct

If you need to find information regarding corporate misconduct regarding the environment, health, or safety, try the Violation Tracker database from the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First.  Released in 2015, this resource contains information regarding enforcement data covering 2010 to 2015 from a number of different federal agencies charged with enforcing various environmental, health, and safety laws.  Penalty amounts were found using agency enforcement records and settlement announcements.  

The data can be accessed in a couple of ways.  Users can choose from a variety of summary pages providing overviews of violations by parent company (e.g. American Airlines or Exxon Mobil), industry (e.g. healthcare services or telecommunications), agency (e.g. Food and Drug Administration or Justice Department), or by state/country where the company is headquartered.  Users can also run searches to find all of the violations involving a specific company, industry or agency, violations involving a certain penalty amount or during a specific year, and violations that took place in a particular city and state.  

For more information regarding the database, see the website’s page on data sources and its user guide.

Friday, March 4, 2016

RIA Guide to Sales and Use Taxes 2016

The library now has the 2016 edition of Thomson Reuter's RIA's Guide to Sales and Use Taxes (KF6767.R53 2016), which provides a detailed overview of sales and use taxes for all fifty states and the District of Columbia. Each state summary begins with an overview, then discusses imposition, collection, and liability for tax. Other topics include taxable transactions, exemptions, exemption certificates and permits, basis of tax, tax credits, tax rates, vendor licensing and registration, record keeping, returns and payments, tax collection, review and appeal, penalties and interest, and refunds. This handbook contains a table of contents and a list of state tax offices. The library now has the following tax handbooks for 2016:
Note: Law students, faculty, and staff can also access the  RIA handbooks on Thomson Reuters Checkpoint (available from the law library's website using the drop-down menu under "legal databases) and Westlaw.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

IRS Reports that 390,000 Additional Taxpayer Accounts Potentially Compromised

The IRS issued a statement last Friday, announcing that 390,000 additional accounts of taxpayers, who used the the IRS's "Get Transcript" application from January 2014 through May 2015, were compromised. According to the statement, problems were originally discovered with the application last May, resulting in a nine month long investigation by the service's Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration. The application has been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. The IRS states in the announcement that the agency will start contacting the impacted taxpayers by letter beginning this past Monday. Click here for more information regarding help for taxpayers as well as the status of the "Get Transcript" application.