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October 31, 2005

More on Milwaukee County Court Budget Cuts

An update on the Milwaukee County Court budget cuts and future of Milwaukee Legal Resource Center from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: (full text available to Wisconsinites via Badgerlink)

The Milwaukee County court system would get all of its abolished positions back, but only two-thirds of the money to pay for them, under a budget compromise endorsed narrowly Wednesday by the County Board's Finance and Audit Committee. . .

Court officials, backed by testimony from several trial attorneys, failed to convince the panel to fully restore the controversial $4.4 million in tax-levy cuts that [County Executive Scott] Walker proposed for the 2006 courts budget. But court officials seemed gratified over the prospect of regaining control over 75 positions the county executive had eliminated out of the total of 300 county-funded court jobs a proposed reduction of 25%. . .

Walker blasted the committee action as "reckless" because supervisors appeared to rely on getting another $1 million from the state to fill the funding gap on the 75 positions. The committee action provides $2.9 million in county funds toward the positions and to keep open a courthouse law library.

October 27, 2005

Milwaukee Legal Resource Center Threatened by Court Budget Cuts

A Wisconsin Law Journal editorial by the Milwaukee Bar Association Board of Directors reveals that under the proposed 2006 budget, Milwaukee County Circuit Court budget would be slashed by almost 25 percent.

Among the many cuts could be the elimination of the county law library, known as the Milwaukee Legal Resource Center. According to the editorial, "for many people without attorneys this law library is their only access to the legal resources they need to learn how to handle their cases. State law requires Milwaukee County to provide such a law library so that people can knowledgeably defend their legal rights."

The Milwaukee Legal Resource Center is one of the state's few staffed law libraries available to the public. It serves the legal information needs of judges, attorneys, and the general public by providing reference and research assistance, training, and forms sales and distribution.

Bypass Automated Phone Systems - Talk to a Real Person

Automated phone systems are fine when you have a routine customer service inquiry, but sometimes you just want to talk to a real person. Good look getting through to someone though.

Next time, take a peek at the Find-A-Human -- IVR Cheat Sheet (USA) before you dial. This handy guide offers instructions for bypassing automated phone systems for over one hundred businesses. It even includes hard-to-find phone numbers for online businesses such as eBay and Amazon. Nice.

Source: PC World, October 2005

Update 12/19/05: Link had become outdated so I corrected it.

Direct Legislation Effort in Jefferson

The JS Online reports that citizens in Jefferson have initiated a direct legislation effort to stop a proposed Wal-Mart SuperCenter. "The petitions call for a municipal ordinance that would require any developer seeking to annex more than 15 acres to the city to complete a series of costly steps before a project could be approved."

"The direct legislation process, which was made state law in 1911 but not used with any regularity for nearly a century, allows citizens of cities and villages - but not towns - to propose initiatives that the governing body must either approve or forward to voters in a referendum." Two years ago the Wisconsin Supreme Court validated the law's existence.

October 26, 2005

White House Sues The Onion

The New York Times reports that the White House has sued The Onion for unauthorized use of the presidential seal.

Source: The University of Baltimore Law Library Weblog

Confidential Data on WI Minors Found on a Hard Drive in Nigeria

According to an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, "confidential information on minors in the state's Child Protective Services program has surfaced on a computer hard drive in Nigeria, and state officials say they can't account for how the data got there."

It seems that an advocacy group called The Basel Action Network purchased the hard drive along with several others in a Nigerian market to see what data was still on them. One of the files was a 2001 document with the names of several dozen children and parents in the Wisconsin program along with their location and some billing information. It also contained the resume of a former Health and Family Services employee.

Apparently the group was trying to call attention to a related issue, the dumping of potentially toxic electronics from Wisconsin and the rest of the country in poor nations like Nigeria.

A related article notes that an upcoming event will give Madison residents a chance to unload their electronics without worries about private data being compromised or their computer ending up being burned in a Third World dump. Cascade Asset Management of Madison, which runs the Computer Recycling Round-up held Nov. 12, completely erases or destroys the hard drives it receives, said Sarah Blaser, who handles environmental health and safety for the company.

October 25, 2005

Opt-out of Prescreened Credit Card Offers

How many credit card offers were in your mailbox today? If you are like me, the answer is probably too many. The ones with the magnets are the worst since you have to actually open and pull them out before sending through the shredder.

These credit card offers are not only a pain to dispose, but can put you at risk for identity theft. Luckily for me, I recently learned about Optoutprescreen.com:

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Consumer Credit Reporting Companies, are permitted to include your name on lists used by creditors or insurers to make firm offers of credit or insurance. The FCRA also provides you the right to "Opt-Out", which prevents Consumer Credit Reporting Companies from providing your credit file information for firm offers of credit or insurance that are not initiated by you.

Through this website, or by calling 1-888-5OPT-OUT, you may request to opt-out from receiving firm offers for 5 years or permanently. You will no longer be included in firm offer lists provided by major consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, Innovis, & TransUnion).

Source: Presentation by James P. Nehf, Professor of Law at Indiana University School of Law, "Identify Theft: Risk, Prevention and Theft," at the ORALL/CALL conference earlier this month.

October 24, 2005

Podcasting 101

If you haven't been bitten by the podcasting bug yet and are wondering what it's all about, take a look at the article in today's Wisconsin State Journal, "Podcasting: It's More Than Just Tunes."

The article does a nice job of explaining the technology, why some people are tuning in, and why others (including businesses) are creating their own podcasts.

Madison's Wi-Fi Project Back on Track

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

The city of Madison's long-stalled wireless Internet project is back online, with officials on Thursday promising a Wi-Fi network Downtown by March.

Cellnet, an Atlanta firm, breathed new life into the initiative - originally promised by spring 2005 - when it agreed to finish the work that was started by America Online before the Internet giant abruptly walked away in August.

Employee Blogging

Findlaw's Tools of the Trade newsletter for October has a useful piece on How Employers Can Survive the New Technological Poker Game of Employee Blogging.

The article explains how off-duty blogging by employees can affect business and offers suggestions for developing a blogging policy.

October 20, 2005

Subscribe to RSS Feeds via Email with R|mail

If you are a regular WisBlawg reader, you know that I'm a big fan of RSS feeds. Receiving content via RSS in my RSS reader, Bloglines, has been a tremendous time saver.

But, I know that RSS isn't for everyone. That's why WisBlawg offers an email subscription in addition to the RSS feed. And from statistics I've gathered, it appears as though we have almost as many subscribers via email as we do with RSS.

Unfortunately for you emailers, however, there are lots of other great blogs and feeds that are only available via RSS. But now, with R|mail you can choose to have any RSS feed delivered to your email account. Simply enter the URL of the RSS feed and your email address and click Subscribe. You'll get an email explaining how to activate your subscription.

Federal Filings Alert Reports on New District Court Cases

Federal Filings Alert is a weekly report on selected new cases filed in U.S. District Courts, nationwide, compiled by WANT Publishing Co. Cased are divided into topics including antitrust, copyright, equal employment, patents, product liability and trademarks.

A new Alert appears on Monday of each week (excluding holidays when it appears on Tuesday). Dockets are provided with links to court documents available via PACER.

A more comprehensive reporting service called Findings Alert Daily is also available for a fee.

Source: AbsTracked

Marketing Tip: Make it Personal

This month's Marketing Treasures, a newsletter about library marketing, has a good piece on the importance of getting to know a user's needs before making the standard "library sales pitch."

From the conclusion of, "Promotion Gems: Forget the Slides"

Your goal during a presentation to a prospective library user is to find out how the library can make them look good and solve their information problems. So introduce yourself with only a business card, a pad of paper and pen. Take good notes and ask probing questions. Only after you have a profile of your library customer should you pull out the brochure and handouts to help you make a tailored presentation which shows the value of the library from the user's perspective.
This is a good reminder for anyone in a service profession, not just librarians. People will be much more receptive to your message if you make it clear what's in it for them.

October 19, 2005

Legislators Represented in Open Records Case

From Milwaukee's JS Online:

Taxpayers will pick up the cost of defending two legislators embroiled in an open records fight with Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager.

Legislative leaders agreed Tuesday to hire Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek to represent Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) and Michael Best & Friedrich to represent Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford). They set no caps on the expenses.

Lautenschlager, a Democrat, sued the two last month after they declined to give her drafts of a bill that would allow people to carry concealed weapons.

The lawmakers insist the drafts were confidential at the time because the bill, AB 763, had not been introduced. Lautenschlager says the state's public records law required them to provide copies because they already had shared an early version of the bill with gun-rights advocates.

Top Ten Blog Design Mistakes

From Web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, comes Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes. The mistakes include (See Nielsen's site above for elaboration):

1. No Author Biographies
2. No Author Photo
3. Nondescript Posting Titles
4. Links Don't Say Where They Go
5. Classic Hits are Buried
6. The Calendar is the Only Navigation
7. Irregular Publishing Frequency
8. Mixing Topics
9. Forgetting That You Write for Your Future Boss
10. Having a Domain Name Owned by a Weblog Service

Great tips. I have to admit that I'm guilty of a few of these myself. Number ten particularly has me concerned, given the problem with splogging on Blogger. It may be time for WisBlawg to switch domains - I'll keep you posted.

Source: Tame the Web

Blogger Targeted by Splogs

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article about the growing problem of "splogs"- or spam blogs. (Article is also available to Wisconsinites via Badgerlink's ProQuest Newstand)

Spammers have created millions of Web logs to promote everything from gambling Web sites to pornography. The spam blogs -- known as "splogs" -- often contain gibberish, and are full of links to other Web sites spammers are trying to promote. Because search engines like those of Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. base their rankings of Web sites, in part, on how many other Web sites link to them, the splogs can help artificially inflate a site's popularity. . .

Just this past weekend, Google's popular blog-creation tool, Blogger, was targeted in an apparently coordinated effort to create more than 13,000 splogs, the search giant said. The splogs were laced with popular keywords so that they would appear prominently in blog searches, and several bloggers complained online that that the splogs were gumming up searches for legitimate sites.

ProQuest Customizable RSS Feeds Coming Soon

Thanks to the Shifted Librarian for sharing some slides of ProQuest's forthcoming keyword RSS feeds. Soon, in addition to email, you will be able to choose RSS delivery of new documents matching your search terms in the ProQuest databases to which your library subscribes.

I, too, think that once ProQuest has released customizable RSS feeds, other database vendors won't be far behind. I'm waiting for the day I can get my Westclip and LexisNexis Eclipse results via RSS (hint, hint).

October 18, 2005

WisBlawg Authored Profiled in "Spotlight on Law Librarians"

Law Librarian Blog, part of the Law Professor Blogs Network, has started a new featured called "Spotlight on Law Librarians." I think that this is an excellent idea. Sharing information about ourselves will not only make us closer as a profession, but will inform others about the valuable services that law librarians can offer.

That's why I'm especially honored to have been selected for the inaugural profile. If you've ever wondered what a law librarian does all day - or if you just want to know what my favorite ice cream flavor is so you can surprise me during National Library Week - take a look.

Law Librarian Blog Contributing Editor, Lee Peoples is open to recommendations for other law librarians to be featured in the spotlight.

October 17, 2005

Finding Women and Minorities in the Blawgosphere

From Legal Talk Network: Do women and minorities have a voice in the legal blogosphere?

Robert Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams take on the important issue of diversity (or lack thereof) in the legal blogosphere. Are the ranks of women, and minorities being heard? Are they getting the recognition they deserve?

Our special guests are Lisa Stone, originator of BlogHer, a blogger and a journalist whose work has appeared in the NY Times and the LA Times, Attorney Sean Carter, a syndicated writer, blogger and legal humorist who writes Lawpsided, and Monica Bay, editor in chief of Law Technology News and who writes The Common Scold.

Wisconsin Law & Technology Conference

The 7th Annual Wisconsin Law and Technology Conference is scheduled for November 8th at the Wyndham Milwaukee Center.

This "no geek-speak" conference focuses on technology and practice management education for attorneys, judges, legal support staff, law librarians, legal admissions, court personnel and law firm IT professionals.

I'm pleased to be a panelist for two of the sessions:

  • Plenary - 60 New Legal PC Tips, Gadgets & Websites in 60 Minutes
    Our "60 Tips" program will open your eyes – a digital double espresso! With fast-paced frenzy, our panelists will cover the legal tech landscape. From disaster planning, case management, electronic discovery, blogs, podcasting, free/cheap search tools, VoIP, gadgets, PDAs, digital cameras, remote access, Blackberries, scanning, legal research – no digital stone is left unturned!
    Craig Ball, Dave Bilinsky, Mary Koshollek, Ross Kodner, Bonnie Shucha, Dale Tincher
  • T2S2 - Skyrocket Your Practice on a Shoestring: Blogs and Podcasting
    Get the low down on the pros & cons of the two newest marketing ideas:
    Blogs: a fast and low-cost way to get the word out that you’re the "go to" person in your practice area.
    Podcasting leverages the massive iPod audience – broadcast your own "talk radio" show or legal advice column.
    Larry Bodine, Bonnie Shucha, Dale Tincher
I hope to see some familiar faces and meet some new colleagues at the conference. If you are a WisBlawg reader, please stop me and say hello.

Searching the "New" Web: Blogs and RSS

Sorry for the absence last week. I was at the Ohio Regional and Chicago Association of Law Libraries (ORALL/CALL) joint meeting in Indianapolis.

It was a great conference with a wide variety of speakers. . . including me. My presentation was entitled, Searching the "New" Web: Blogs and RSS. Other sessions that I was able to attend included, "Taking the Library to the Patrons," "Publishing Opportunities for Law Librarian," and "Identify Theft."

The latter was particularly interesting. Indiana University School of Law Professor James P. Nehf described the growing problem of identify theft. He discussed efforts being made to combat it and offered tips on how we can protect ourselves. Look for a write up in an upcoming LLAW Newsletter.

October 11, 2005

Guide to Redistricting in Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau has prepared a guide to Redistricting: Why Legislative Districts Are Redrawn, How It Is Done, and by Whom. The guide is available in PDF.

2005 Future Trends in State Courts Articles Available

From the National Center for State Courts:
Individual articles from the 2005 Future Trends in State Courts Report are being featured on the Knowledge and Information Services portion of the Web site. Current articles include "Human Trafficking: A Growing Crime to Hit State Courts" and "The Future of Court Security and Judicial Safety." The report will be available in print in November 2005.

Easy Search in LexisNexis

Have new noticed the new Easy Search format in LexisNexis? Seems that it's Lexis' answer to a more "Google-like" search experience. Here's what they had to say about it:
Easy Search is a new search form on lexis.com which users may select as an alternative to the current "Terms and Connectors" or "Natural Language" search forms by clicking on a radio button. The new search form is a simple, uncluttered user interface like Google, without the more advanced search options. . . The easy search form is optimized for two or three search terms (like Google) to support "quick and dirty" legal research on lexis.com.
Hmm. I still wasn't sure how something could be "easier" than Natural Language. I asked Bridget MacMillan, LexisNexis Librarian Relations Consultant, about it and she provided the following:
This is what occurs when a search is conducted with Easy search:

The Easy Search algorithm includes elements of both our Boolean and natural language searches. For example, if a user enters "cat or dog and date=2005," then the algorithm will work with the Boolean syntax. However, the results will be relevancy ranked like natural language. Also, if Boolean returns zero results, the algorithm will try a natural language search to avoid delivering a no results message to the user. It is a new algorithm, with features of both Boolean and freestyle - Easy Search.

So, I think I understand it now. If your search includes Boolean syntax, it does a Boolean search and returns results in relevance order. If you get no results - or - if your search didn't include any Boolean syntax, it runs a natural language search instead.

BlawgThink2005! Event in Chicago

In first of its kind two-day event, BlawgThink 2005! will bring together legal bloggers for two days of education, innovation, fellowship and fun. The event will be held at the Catalyst Ranch in Chicago on November 11 and 12.

The first day of BlawgThink will feature structured educational sessions led by top legal bloggers covering basic and advanced topics, including blogging how-to, blogging tools, marketing tips, content strategies, RSS and ethics. Each session will have ample time for questions, demonstrations, and hands-on practice.

The second day of BlawgThink, in true LexThink! fashion, belongs to you. Though we'll have some planned activities, much of the agenda will be determined by the attendees. By combining collaborative brainstorming techniques with small group discussion groups, we'll give you an unparalleled opportunity to meet, learn from, and interact with the best and most innovative legal bloggers in the country.

October 10, 2005

Milwaukee Chief Judge Considers Lawsuit to Restore Court Funding

"Chief Judge Kitty Brennan is telling Milwaukee County supervisors that they could face a lawsuit on court funding unless they restore judicial and court staffing that County Executive Scott Walker has pegged for elimination in 2006."

Read the article in JS Online for more details.

Google's RSS Reader in Beta

Looks like Google it at it again - this time with its new RSS reader, Google Reader. Perhaps it's too soon to make a judgment (it is still in beta, afterall), but I wasn't impressed. The interface isn't intuitive and it didn't seem to retain my subscriptions.

If you are interested in trying out a RSS reader, I recommend Bloglines, which, by comparison, is very easy to use. And it has enough advanced features to keep more advanced users happy also. I've been very happy with it.

NYT on Why Lawyers Blog

The New York Times has an excellent article on law bloggers. Blogging, it seems, is a particularly apt medium for attorneys who, as a profession, "write well, quickly and clearly and do not fear arguments."

There are some great quotes from some notable folks:

"It's all words, that's all the law is," Scott Turow, a lawyer and the author of "Presumed Innocent" and other novels. . . When people think of law, he continued, "You think of jails and marshals and corporate executives. But the reality is, that's what it is - it's all words, and lawyers are verbal people, both in terms of the written stuff and the spoken stuff."

The article also reports on findings from Blogads.com, a blog ad service who conducted a voluntary survey of blog readers. They found that 5.1 percent of the people reading blogs were lawyers or judges, putting that group fourth behind computer professionals, students and retirees.

The survey also found legal professionals make up 6.1 percent of bloggers, putting them fourth again, behind those in education, computer software and media. Not bad when you consider that lawyers constitute considerably less than 1 percent of the population.

Day in the Life of the Law Library Photo Contest Winners

The American Association of Law Libraries has announced the winning photographs in the "Day in the Life of the Law Library Community" Contest.

The photos were taken by AALL members during National Library Week 2005 (April 10-16). Photos depict law librarians working, meeting, teaching, and doing all that law librarians do in a given day or week.

The overall winner is "Shelving in Silhouette" from King County Law Library.

October 6, 2005

Legal Topics Featured at Wisconsin Book Festival

Next week marks the fourth annual Wisconsin Book Festival in Madison (October 13-17).

The schedule features events all around the Madison area, including discussions by renowned writers, including Isabel Allende, James Magnuson, Philip Gourevitch, Tim Tyson, Joan Silber, Thylias Moss and many more!

Discussion of number of legal books are planned (see schedule for details), including:

  • Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture by UW Law Prof Marc Galanter
  • Who Killed Sarah with a discussion of the resources available to inmates through the Wisconsin Innocence Project of the UW Law School.
  • Sequestered: Three Weeks on the Kutz Jury
  • College Students' Guide to the Law
  • George Washington: The Man of the Age, and Thomas Jefferson: Philosopher and Politician.

UWDC Digitizes 1 Millionth Object

Earlier this week the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center reached a milestone with the digitization of their 1 millionth digital object, according to Library Communications.

The image, “Harvest Time,” is a painting by Lois Ireland that shows the picturesque nature of Wisconsin’s rolling hills, cobalt skies, regional agriculture and rustic barns. The scene reflects the people, land and products of rural Wisconsin and is likely familiar to anyone who has traveled Wisconsin’s roadways.
A Wisconsin-native, Ireland studied at the UW under it’s first Artist-in-Residence John Steuart Curry. Generations of UW Madison Law Students know Curry's work by virtue of his famous mural, The Freeing of the Slaves, which dominates the Old Reading Room in the UW Law Library.

Article Offers Tips on Finding Authoritative Information Efficiently on the Web

Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Vice President, Diane Duffey has compiled a useful collection of tips in the Wisconsin Law Journal article, To Google or Not to Google? Different Web Research Tactics.

In the article, which appears in the October 5, 2005 issue, Diane explains that despite their popularity, search engines have two key downsides: efficiency and authority. Fortunately, she recommends several good Web sources for finding authoritative information efficiently.

A must-read for legal practitioners who research via the Web.

October 4, 2005

Judicial Experience, or Lack Thereof

A classic from today's Odd Wisconsin:

There's a clamor in the press this morning over the President nominating for justice of the U.S. Supreme Court a candidate who's never sat as a judge anywhere, even in a small-town traffic court. Here in Wisconsin we once had a powerful judge with a similar amount of judicial experience, and he was the sole government in the state at the time.

Charles Reaume (1752-1822) was a failed merchant, farmer, and fur trader who fled to Green Bay from Montreal or Detroit about 1792. Territorial governor William Henry Harrison appointed him Justice of the Peace in 1803 and until 1822 Reaume dispensed idiosyncratic justice according to French and Indian customs rather than U.S. law. In fact, he is said not to have possessed a copy of the statutes.

Once, when two Frenchmen appeared before him over disputed property, he refused to rule in favor of either but found them both culpable and delivered this sentence: "You, Boivert," to the plaintiff, "bring me one load of hay; and you, Crely [the defendant], bring me one load of wood. Now the matter is settled." . . . Many defendants found themselves sentenced to labor a certain number of days on his farm, or to cut and split a certain number of rails for him.

Univ of Chicago Law Faculty Blog

The University of Chicago Law School has started a Faculty Blog. Although law faculty blogs are not new, a group blog of this type seems to be rather unique.

WSLL At Your Service October Edition

The October edition of the Wisconsin State Law Library newsletter, WSLL At Your Service is now available. Highlights include reference services, how to access Supreme Court oral arguments and more.

UW Law School SBA Organizes Dunk Tank for Hurricane Relief

It's a good thing it was hot today in Madison as UW Law School faculty, staff, and students lined up for the Student Bar Association sponsored dunk tank. The event was held to raise funds for Hurricane Katrina Relief.

"You don't know your active from your passive" taunted Legal Writing Instructor, Mary Barnard Ray - right before she plunged into a tank of icy cold water.

And after a little encouragement from the crowd, I even tried my aim and eventually managed to send Mary into that icy tank again - after about 25 tries!

October 3, 2005

Graphical KeyCite for Cases - and soon Legislation

A couple months ago, Westlaw unveiled a new enhancement called Graphical Keycite.

If you haven't tried it yet, give it a look. I think it is vastly easier to interpret the direct history of a case through this pictorial view. For a quick demo, take the jazzy tutorial.

At a law librarian's update today, I learned that Westlaw is planning to introduce graphical KeyCite for legislation as well. A pictorial legislative history - how nifty is that!

State's DNA Database Suffers from Backlog

From JS Online re: DNA analysis:
The state's 11-year-old DNA database is on pace to solve more than 324 cases this year, but like elsewhere, a national backlog of unanalyzed evidence from 1,100 Wisconsin cases prevents the technology from reaching its full potential. . .

But the increasing success has been accompanied by an increase in the amount of evidence law enforcement agencies are bringing into the state's two DNA labs as investigators have come to realize the ability of the science to solve more than just murder and rape - the crimes most often associated with genetic fingerprinting. Evidence for unsolved crimes, including burglary and theft, is coming in so fast analysts cannot keep up with it. . .