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February 28, 2005

Free Credit Reports Available Starting March 1st

Beginning March 1st, Wisconsinites can request a free copy of their credit report once every twelve months. You may request your report online, by calling 1-877-322-8228, or via mail by printing and completing the request form and mailing it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service P.O. Box 105281 Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

For more information, see Law Dawg Blawg's post on Free Credit Reports.

Associated Press Offering RSS Feeds

The Associated Press has begun offering RSS feeds in a variety of topics. They are:

  • Featured Feed - Pope John Paul II - RSS
  • Top News - RSS
  • U.S. National - RSS
  • World - RSS
  • Politics - RSS
  • Washington - RSS
  • Business - RSS
  • Technology - RSS
  • Sports - RSS
  • Entertainment - RSS
  • Health - RSS
  • Science - RSS
  • Strange - RSS

Source: Blawg

March Edition of DCLRC Docket

The March 2005 edition of the DCLRC Docket from the Dane County Legal Resource Center is now available. Circulation is highlighted this month.

RSS Feed for WI State Journal & Cap Times from Madison.com

Madison.com has created an RSS feed for the articles that appear on its home page. This includes stories from the Wisconsin State Journal, The Capital Times, NBC News, etc.

As you can imagine with articles from multiple sources there tends to be duplication of topics. But according to Timothy Nott from Madison.com, they will soon be offering individual feeds by section and source.

February 24, 2005

Finding Legal Resources on the Invisible Web Article in The Colorado Lawyer

Searching Smarter: Finding Legal Resources on the Invisible Web has been reprinted in The Colorado Lawyer's February 2005 issue. The text is available only to members of the Colorado Bar Association.

However, the original article, which appeared in the September 2004 issue of the Wisconsin Lawyer is still available on their site.

2003/2004 WI Legislative Drafting Records Available on UW Law Library Site

The Wisconsin Legislative Drafting Records for the 2003/2004 session have recently been added to the UW Law Library's drafting records database which is freely available on the Web. The documents are available in PDF format. A guide to using the collection is also available.

Drafting records are written materials, letters, and memoranda given to or created by the legislative drafting attorney in the process of drafting a bill, resolution, or subsequent amendments. Although these records are not designed to document legislative intent, they may provide some insight into the meaning of statutory language.

The drafting records have been made available in electronic format by the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau. The UW Law Library has made these electronic records freely available from our Web site.

Cannon Research Service Offers Wisconsin Legislative Research

Peter Cannon, whom many know was a legislative analyst at the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB), has recently retired after 26 years. Cannon Research Service, a legislative research service, is his latest endeavor.

Cannon shared some information about the service in a Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Newsletter article (p. 8):

Since the LRB’s primary function is answering legislative questions, it cannot do rush jobs for the public. If a legislator calls, other work is set aside until the legislator’s question is answered. Staff cannot do the kind of in-depth research some projects require. That leaves the LRB unable to help researchers faced with time constraints or people who simply didn’t have the knowledge necessary to do the research for themselves. While I agree with the policy, I was always somewhat uncomfortable with the lack of any alternative.

Since I enjoy doing research, I decided to try to fill this gap by starting “Cannon Research Service”, peter.cannon@charter.net , (608) 692-1276. I will find documents related to the legislative history of bills and acts and, where necessary, explain how the documents came to exist. It’s a way to continue doing research and continue to use the expertise I’ve spent years developing.

Source: LLAW Newsletter

1979-87 WI Statutes Added to RSB Site

Wisconsin Deputy Revisor of Statutes, Bruce Hoesly, informs me that the 1979 through 1987 Wisconsin Statutes have been added to the RSB web site. Links to the statutes in PDF format appear at the bottom of the page.

The RSB plans to also add statutes from 1969-1977 within the next couple of months.

Lawyer Who Misses Court Date Because of Spam Blocker Won't be Sanctioned

Findlaw reports that a lawyer who missed a court date because his spam blocker blocked the court's email notice will not be sanctioned. For more, read the full article.

Source: The Practice Paper

February 23, 2005

Finding Blawgs

Diane Murley at Southern Illinois University's Law Dawg Blawg has written a nice summary of some of the blawg directories and lists available on the web. If you are looking for blogs on a specific legal topic, give Diane's summary a try.

Federal Judges Biographical Database

The Federal Judges Biographical Database provides information about all judges who have served on the U.S. District Courts, the U.S. Courts of Appeals, the Supreme Court and other life-tenured courts since 1789. You can create customized lists of judges based on multiple categories, including nominating president, type of court, dates of service, and demographic groups.

TVC's Genie Tyburski reports that a new search feature was recently added which limits retrieval to current judges.

If you want to find biographical information for a judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, for instance, follow the link for the database (mid-way down the page). Then select "Court" and "Limit Query to Sitting Judges." Choose your court from the drop down list and the option you want for sitting judges. Press search, and the bio for the judge should appear in the resulting list.

Source: TVC Alert

State Legislators' / Legislative Blogs & RSS feeds

The National Conference of State Legislators has compiled a list of links to state legislators' Blogs and legislatures with RSS feeds. Wisconsin's own Legislative Reference Bureau news feeds are listed.

February 22, 2005

Database of the President's Appointees

beSpacific reports that the Progressive Government Institute has compiled a searchable database of the President's appointees. Search by agency appointee name or title, appointee job function, and nominee name or background.

Pretrieve - A Free People/Business Finder

I recently discovered Pretrieve and consider it to be the best people/business finder freely available on the Web. Although it doesn't offer the kind of detailed info available from fee-based services, it does gather an impressive array of free information.

With a people search you can discover an individual's address and phone, as well as information in the following categories:

  • property (satellite photo, map, census info about neighborhood, presidential campaign contributions)
  • criminal (registered sex offender & federal inmate search)
  • court (death records)
  • financial (UCC filings by debtor, personal political contributions, federally-excluded parties, HEAL defaulted loans)
  • professional (professional history, OIG exclusions, attorney licenses, patents records and applications)
  • local info (school ratings, sex offenders, political contributions)
  • miscellaneous (birthdate)

Do a search for yourself and see what you find. It might surprise you.

A business finder search will turn up address, phone and the following:

  • financial (UCC & SEC filings, political contributions, federally-excluded parties)
  • legal & government (corporation registration records, patent records and applications, OIG exclusions)
  • trade-related info (better business bureau reports, domain name registrations)
  • miscellaneous (satellite photo, map, census info about neighborhood, presidential campaign contributions, sex offenders, political contributions)

Pretrieve also has a reverse address and phone number look-up. Very impressive!

Source: inter alia

More Budget Bill Impact Studies from LFB

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau has added two new Wisconsin Budget Bill impact studies:

Lessig Tries Podcasting

Lawrence Lessig is trying his hand at podcasting. From lessig blog:

Wired has encouraged me to podcast readings of my columns, and as that was an easy and deadline-related reason to get going, I've made that the beginning. The best of podcasting, I am told and have seen, is not read, but written. Writing in mp3 is something I hope to experiment with soon. Until then, here is 050201 (the first, maybe the only, podcast from February, 2005): A reading of my March column in Wired, read with a very bad cold.

What is podcasting you ask? Here's an excerpt on the topic from Cindy Chick's LawLibTech:

You all know how an RSS feed works. Podcasting is a similar concept, but instead of distributing text, podcasts distribute audio recordings via what is essentially a RSS feed for audio files. Blogs allow anyone to be a publisher. Podcasts allow anyone to be a broadcaster. These audio files are in MP3 format, and can be played on your computer, any MP3 player, or, wait for it....your iPod!

Sources: Robert Ambrogi's Lawsites and LawLibTech

Consumer Data Stolen by Hackers

Update - 2/22/05:

It appears that not only Californians were affected - all 50 states have had consumer data stolen. The Wisconsin State Journal reports that 830 potential victims in Wisconsin have also been notified.

Findlaw's Cyberlaw Newsletter reports:

A company that collects consumer data warned thousands of Californians that hackers penetrated the company's computer network and may have stolen credit reports, Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. ChoicePoint Inc., which sells such data to government agencies and a variety of companies, acknowledged Tuesday that several hackers broke into its computer database and purloined data from as many as 35,000 Californians.

February 21, 2005

Article: Essential Wisconsin Legal Resources Available for Free on the Internet

Paula Seeger, librarian at the Dane County Legal Resource Center, has compiled a very useful guide to Essential Wisconsin Legal Resources Available for Free on the Internet. The guide appears in the Winter 2005 edition of "The Verdict," a quarterly publication of the Wisconsin Academy of Trial Lawyers.

Categories include:

  • Statutes/Ordinances/Legislation
  • Administrative Code and Register
  • Opinions/Decisions
  • Court Rules/Case Status
  • Court and Legal Forms
  • Briefs
  • Law Reviews/Journals
  • State Bar Resources
  • Secondary Resources
  • Sources for Legal Research Assistance

Although it is not available online at this time, it may be eventually posted on the WATL website. Or, you may consult your local public law library for a copy.

See also a similar guide that I prepared: Sources of Legal Information for the Wisconsin Attorney.

Milwaukee and Madison Both Rated Top Tech Cities by Popular Science

Popular Science recently ranked the top tech cities in the United States. Milwaukee came in 31st with an overall rating of 71 out of 100 possible. Madison was ranked 42nd with a rating of 69. For more, reach Techopolis Found.

Source: Ohio Legal Research Blog

LexisNexis Introduces New Shepard's "Q" Signal & Combined Search Functionality

According to my LexisNexis representative, two new enhancements are scheduled to be released on n February 19th: the Shepard's orange "Q" signal and Combined Search functionality. The following is from an email announcement:

  • The Shepard's "Q" Signal A new signal has been added to the list of Shepard's Signals: the orange "Q".

    The orange "Q" will be displayed only when the citing court has "questioned" the validity of some aspect of the target case. This signal is more serious than the yellow triangle (Distinguished or Criticized) and not as negative as the red stop sign (Overruled or Superseded). E.g., Roe v. Wade is a famous case that everyone knows is still "good law", but in the past, it has always received the red signal due to the phrase "Questioned by." Roe v. Wade now displays the orange "Q" signal. Click here to Shepardize Roe v. Wade to view this new symbol.

  • Combined Search
    The new LexisNexis Combined Search functionality allows you to run one search through multiple sources. You can now combine sources from any page of the source selection hierarchy (up to 50 sources!), and you are able to select and search sources not previously combinable (e.g., cases & statutes). The "cite list" that you will receive will be in the form of a tabbed answer set organized by content type (e.g., Cases, News, Secondary). You are able to utilize the FOCUS and Print capability by source, source category or selected documents. Click here to tour this new function.

ThinkEquity Launches Blog About Stocks

ThinkEquity, a company offering targeted research and investment banking services for institutional investors and corporate clients, has launched a new blog called ThinkBlog.

According to an article in MarketWatch:

ThinkEquity Partners said Thursday that it's launching ThinkBlog, which will be a resource on the Web where investors can find stocks.

"We are the first investment bank to launch its own blog creating real-time, dynamic exchange with bloggers from the worlds of business, technology and investing. No other bank allows the level of openness and collaboration between its readers, proving once again that ThinkEquity Partners is a leader in new media that is emerging due to its anywhere, anytime access," said ThinkEquity Chief Executive Michael Moe.

February 17, 2005

Free Abstract Database of Criminal Justice Publications

NCJRS Abstracts Database is a free resource containing abstracts of publications on criminal justice, including government reports, books, research reports, journal articles, and unpublished research. Some links to full-text documents are also provided. Coverage is from the 1970's to the present.

NCJRS Abstracts is compiled by the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, a federally funded resource offering justice and substance abuse information to support research, policy, and program development worldwide.

Customized e-mail delivery of JUSTINFO, a bi-weekly newsletter of new NCJRS publications, is also available.

LRB Brief on the Wisconsin Jury Process

The Legislative Reference Bureau has prepared a Wisconsin Brief entitled The Wisconsin Jury Process.

The sixth and seventh amendments to the U.S. Constitution guarantee citizens the right to a trial by jury in all criminal and civil matters. This right is further protected by Article I, Section 5 of the Wisconsin Constitution. This right, however, depends on the willingness of people to participate in the jury process. Serving on a jury can impose a significant burden in terms of lost income and time away from job and family. Reducing that burden has been the focus of several proposals to reform the process.

The Brief outlines types of juries, their responsibilities and compensation and introduces proposals for change.

Technology Issue of Law Practice Today

Technology is the focus of the latest issue of Law Practice Today. Selected articles include:

February 16, 2005

JURIST Lists Live Legal Webcasts

JURIST, a legal news and research portal from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, now has a daily listing of live law news-related webcasts.

According to Professor Bernard Hibbitts, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief of JURIST, the webcasts cover US House and Senate proceedings, important Congressional committee hearings, law-related UN meetings & policy briefings, White House briefings, legal news-related lectures and presentations from law schools, universities and think-tanks, etc.

JURIST also has up-to-date coverage of legal news, new documents and video, law school news, and more. And it offers RSS feeds!

Budget Bill Impact Summaries from LFB

The Wisconsin Legislative Fiscal Bureau has recently posted a handful of documents summarizing the impact of the Governor's 2005-07 biennial budget bill. They are:

How To Conduct a Background Check

TVC's Genie Tyburski has compiled an excellent guide on How to Conduct a Background Check. It covers the types of background checks, legal restrictions, and gives links to companies offering this type of service.

The Virtual Chase also has other useful guides to company information, legal research, people finders, and search engines. They are available as links from the left menu.

Source: After Hours in the Law Library

February 15, 2005

PACER Considers Adding Bulk Data Retrieval for bankruptcy Cases

From the PACER Notice:

The Federal judiciary is considering adding bulk data retrieval functionality to the CM/ECF systems. The proposed functionality will be designed to allow customers to enter a bankruptcy CM/ECF location and download an XML file that contains all data from every case that was filed the previous day.

In addition to new cases, the file will contain the complete case record for any case filed within the last week where the data has changed from the previous day. There will be a new file available for downloading each day. The proposed cost of the file will be one page (8 cents) for each case record in the file. A detailed requirements document is available by clicking here.

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC) is soliciting comments from PACER users on their interest in this capability. The AOUSC is attempting to determine the demand as well as the scope for this functionality. Public comment will be accepted through May 31, 2005.

You may submit your comments by mail, email, or fax to the following: U.S. Mail: PACER Service Center, Attention: Bulk Data Download, P.O. Box 780549, San Antonio, TX 78278 Email: pacer@psc.uscourts.gov Fax: (210) 301-6441

Internet Tip - Screen Shots, Send To, and More

DCRLC Blawg offers a series of Internet Tips to readers. The latest tip covers how to capture screen shots for using in presentations, etc. and using the "send to" feature in Windows XP.

Executive Budget Support Documentation Guide from LRB

From the Legislative Reference Bureau's Tap the Power series:

Executive Budget Support Documentation Using the 2003-05 executive budget (2003 Wisconsin Act 33 (SB-44)) as an example, the following bibliography lists documents published by various agencies during the budget process; similar documentation will be issued for the 2005-07 budget cycle. The documents from the 2003-04 session are substantially the same as those from the last several sessions and therefore are representative. Also included are selected state agency budget requests for 2005-07.

Free Wireless Internet Access at Madison Public Library

Check out today's Wisconsin State Journal - Daybreak section - for an article about free wireless Internet access at the Madison Public Library's Central branch.

According to the article, the Central Library has offered access since the first week of January. Eight other Madison branches are expected to offer access by the end of March.

To use the MPL's wireless service, you'll need a Wi-Fi compliant 802.11b or 802.11g wireless Ethernet card installed in your computer, or have one with built-in Wi-Fi compatibility. Ask a librarian for assistance logging in.

Google Uncle Sam for .GOV & .MIL sites

Not exactly news - it's been around as long as Google itself. But did you know that Google Uncle Sam is a specialized tool for searching government (.gov) and military (.mil) web sites?

Google Uncle Sam is one of the tools I use when I search for information that I'm guessing is out there on a government site somewhere. And, as an experienced Web searcher, I know that the information on government sites is usually quite reliable. You certainly can't get that guarantee with just any site that the general Google search engine turns up.

There is a nice review of the features of Google Uncle Sam in the latest LLRX.com.

February 14, 2005

Milwaukee County Court Statistics

The February issue of the MBA Messenger contains experts from a statistical report prepared by the Milwaukee County Clerk of Court Administrative Support Division staff.

According to the report, Milwaukee Co. Circuit Court experienced a 6.8% decrease in total cases filed between 199-2003. For breakdowns by division, see the full article.

More Tales of Bloodshed from Wisconsin Law Makers

Not exactly your typical legislative history. Odd Wisconsin gives us another tale of bloodshed - this time from Wisconsin's own territorial legislature.
Frustration and animosity is said to be running high among legislators these days, but at least they're not shooting each other. That's what happened on February 11, 1842, during a dispute in the territorial legislature between representatives Charles Arndt and James Vineyard. When Arndt accused Vineyard of... well, read the gory details for yourself in our new Museum Object of the Week feature where you can even see the vest that Arndt was wearing that day, complete with bullet hole. You can also read an account of the affair by a Madison resident who appeared on the scene the following day.

Battles in Legal Publishing

It is an interesting time in the legal publishing industry - Big Guys (Lexis, Westlaw) v. Little Guys (Loislaw, Versuslaw, etc.) & Print v. Online. This month's issue of Washington Lawyer has an excellent article entitled, Web Wars: Online Legal Research at the Crossroads which offers some insights on the status of the legal publishing and information services market.

According to the article, more than 1/3 of the U.S. professional publishing and information market comes from the legal market. And books still remain the biggest moneymaker.

Print resources aren’t a crutch for the technologically challenged—those who can’t tell a computer monitor from a television screen. They are fixtures in law school and law firm libraries because they are often the easiest and quickest way to find a particular citation or statute.

But online sales are on the rise as 62% of publishers report that they are converting their libraries from print to online.
“The big thing is legal publishers have the opportunity for duality today, whereas you didn’t have the electronic option in the past. A lot of firms are ditching their reporters’ sets all together. The primary legal research materials are more and more accessed via the Internet,” says Reach. “As attorneys hit a comfort level with electronic sources and the availability is there, I think we’ll see even more conversion.”

And the battle to be the online product of choice is heating up, especially for the solo and small firm market.

It didn’t take long for the large publishing companies to find out what their smaller rivals had known all along about solo practitioners and small law firms: whatever online research service you sell them needs to be inexpensive and easy to use. Within a short time, they were looking at creating their own low-maintenance online research sites, or buying somebody else’s.
In the battle of the Big Guys, it's seems that Westlaw may have the edge - at least according to the St Paul Pioneer Press. It appears that "Westlaw now has a larger share of the online legal publishing market than Lexis-Nexis, though Lexis-Nexis' growth rates have rebounded since 2002."

Thanks to Robert Pear of the NY Times for pointing out the Washington Lawyer article and to The House of Butter for the St Paul Pioneer Press item.

February 10, 2005

Best Search Tools

How do the top search engines stack up? What type of content do they search? What are their features?

Infopeople has recently updated its useful Best Search Tools Chart. In addition to providing information about the contents of search tools such as Google, Yahoo, Teoma, etc., the chart advises searchers of available Boolean connectors (and, or, etc.) and other search options. Good stuff.

Source: beSpacific

Guides to Wisconsin Legislators

The Legislative Reference Bureau has recently published three guides to Wisconsin legislators in their Wisconsin Briefs series.

February 9, 2005

Free, Live Help for Government Information Questions

As anyone who has performed this type of research knows, searching for government information can be tricky. But thanks to Government Information Online (GIO), it just got a little easier.

GIO is a national pilot project that will connect users online with reference librarians who are knowledgeable about government information. To initiate a live chat, complete the GIO chat form. Librarians are available Monday through Thursday, 8am to 8pm, Friday 8am to 5pm.

Source: Robert Ambrogi's LawSites

WI State Officer List / Biographies & Elected Official Salaries

The Legislative Reference Bureau has prepared some information publications about Wisconsin officers and electronic officials.
  • The first is a listing of state officers with contact information.
  • The second offers brief biographical information about each state officer.
  • The third is a listing of salaries for Wisconsin's elected officials.

February 8, 2005

WI Judge/Congressman in Fist Fight on Floor of Congress

Today's Odd Wisconsin reminds us that things sometimes got a bit heated - and bloody - on the floor of the U.S. Congress back in the 1800s.
A bloody melee broke out on February 8, 1858, that brought fame to Wisconsin congressman John F. Potter . The House was engaged that day in a heated debate over sectional issues. Northern representatives outnumbered those from the South and they pressed their parliamentary advantage, infuriating the few Southerners present. A fist fight between two members quickly turned into a general brawl, and during the fray Potter pulled the wig off an opponent’s head. At this, a cry went up in the gallery that Potter had "taken a scalp." Read more.
Potter was a Republican member of the Wisconsin state assembly in 1856, a state court judge in Wisconsin, and a U.S. Representative from the Wisconsin 1st District from 1857 until 1863.

Google Launches Map Service

Google just released a beta version of a new mapping service called Google Maps. Wow! It's clear, easy to use, and just plain nice.

Check out my results (below) when I entered the address for the UW Law Library.

So what makes Google Maps different from other online maps like Mapquest? A couple things. According to Google Weblog, features include:

  • Easy navigation-- Users can drag the map to view the adjacent parts of a map.

  • Search results from Google Local-- To find a wifi hot spot in a local area, users may type [wifi hot spot] and their local zip code to see wifi locations on the map. They will see phone numbers for each location appearing on the right side of the page. When users click on locations on the map, they will also find address information.

  • Single search box-- Users can type search terms into a single search box under the Maps tab for local search results and driving directions. For example, typing [great sushi in New York] will display great sushi restaurants located in New York. Typing [Manhattan to Brooklyn] shows directions from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

  • Turn-by-turn directions-- Users may type in an address and Google Maps plots a route, displaying it visually on the map itself, together with step-by-step directions for getting there (or back from there). When users click on one of these steps, they will see a magnified view of the area mentioned in the directions.

  • Keyboard shortcuts-- Users can use the arrow keys to pan left, right, up and down; pan wider with page up, page down, home and end keys; and zoom in and out with the (+) and (-) keys.

February 7, 2005

Search for WI Businesses & Nonprofits on DFI Web Site

Looking for information about a Wisconsin business or nonprofit organization? Try searching the Department of Financial Institution's Corporate Registration Information System.

CRIS contains information recorded by the DFI such as legal business name, date of registration, current status (incorporated, organized, merged, dissolved, etc.), statutory entity description (corporation, llc, cooperative, etc), name/address of registered agent, and previously used entity names.

For more information, check out the FAQ page.

State of the Union Webcast & Database

Here are two State of the Union items: Source: Law Librarian Blog

WSLL @ Your Service February Issue Available

The February issue of WSLL @ Your Service from the Wisconsin State Law Library is now available. Highlights include citing early Wisconsin Reports; legal blogs; and February celebrations.

February 1, 2005

Wisconsin Briefs Available on the Web

It's not news, but it's worth a reminder that Wisconsin briefs are available on the Internet. The collection is generated from scanned images created by the Wisconsin State Law Library. The UW Law Library has made these electronic documents freely available from our Web site.

The Wisconsin Briefs collection contains briefs for all published Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals published cases and all unpublished Court of Appeals cases beginning with 173 Wis.2d (November, 1992). Briefs from very recent or pending cases may not be available. Contact the Wisconsin State Law Library to request these briefs.

The database does not contain briefs for cases that have been summarily disposed of or otherwise terminated. Contact the Clerk of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals for access to briefs from these cases.

Wisconsin Makes List of Top 25 Digital States

The Center for Digital Government has recently released the results of its 2004 Digital States Survey. The survey is a comprehensive study on best practices, policies and progress made by state governments in their use of digital technologies to better serve their citizens and streamline operations. Wisconsin placed 25th.

For a copy of 2004 Digital States Survey report is available from the Center for Digital Government's web site. Registration is required.

Source: Florida Legal Research Blog