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March 28, 2006

IRS Plans to Allow Preparers to Sell Data

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: IRS Plans to Allow Preparers to Sell Data

The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers.

The change is raising alarm among consumer and privacy-rights advocates. It was included in a set of proposed rules that the Treasury Department and the IRS published in the Dec. 8 Federal Register, where the official notice labeled them "not a significant regulatory action."

The proposed rule is available via GPO Access.

Thanks to my colleague, Margaret Booth for the tip,

Governor Signs Virtual Visitation Bill

On March 22, Governor Doyle signed Senate Bill 244, creating 2005 Wisconsin Act 174, which provides for supervised electronic communication between a parent and child after a divorce or legal separation, if allowed by the court.

For more, see the article in JS Online.

Some family law experts said the Wisconsin legislation wasn't necessary because judges could already allow for such visitations, and some fear parents could be forced to exchange face time with their children for electronic visits if the law isn't applied appropriately.

But supporters argue that it's important to formally add electronic visitation to the list of options available to judges, so they feel compelled to consider it when requested.

March 27, 2006

Judging By His Handwriting

Here's a funny one from the Smoking Gun: Judging By His Handwriting

MARCH 14--It seems that there is a serious penmanship problem with lawyers filing documents in Mississippi's Eighth Circuit Court. So much so that the presiding judge there issued the below order warning attorneys that the court clerk would now reject pleadings and motions containing illegible signatures. The judicial order, filed February 3, will be enforced by clerks in four Mississippi counties: Leake, Neshoba, Newton, and Scott.

Now here's the funny part: We defy you to make out the signature of the judge who issued the handwriting order.

A copy of the opinion appears at the Smoking Gun.

Source: Law Librarian Blog

Milwaukee & Madison Wi-Fi News

Here's a pair of items about Wi-Fi access:

- Milwaukee Wi-Fi provider ready to start building network (WI Technology Network) - "Installation work on Milwaukee's Wi-Fi network could begin in a matter of weeks, representatives of the City of Milwaukee and Midwest Fiber Networks said Thursday."

- Wireless Hot Spots in the Courthouse (DCLRC Blawg) - "There are at least four wireless access points, or 'hot spots,' in the Dane County Courthouse."

WisBlawg at UW-Madison Showcase 2006

The Law Library has been invited to take part in UW-Madison Showcase 2006 by presenting a poster featuring WisBlawg. In addition to sharing details about the blog, I'll offer participants on-the-spot guidance in creating a blog of their own. Wonder if I'll get any takers?

The annual UW-Madison Showcase is a best practices fair where members of the university community learn from each other in order to improve work processes, learning environments, and the campus climate in both academic and administrative areas. All members of the university community are encouraged to attend Showcase 2006. The event is free, but registration is required.

The Showcase also features hands-on technology demonstrations, concurrent breakout sessions and presentations by Chancellor John D. Wiley; Provost Pat Farrell; Athletic Director Barry Alvarez; Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell; Frances Westley, Director of the Gaylord Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and Joanne Berg, Registrar and Associate Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management. Showcase has expanded this year to include a noontime roundtable with Don Beck, who has advised world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Tony Blair, U.S. presidents on problem solving.

March 23, 2006

Cooper's Hawks on Bascom Hill

We've had a pair of Cooper's Hawks in the tree right outside the Grand Reading Room this week. Beautiful birds.

Competitive Intelligence Resource Guide

Donna Cavallini and Sabrina I. Pacifici have recently updated their Competitive Intelligence - A Selective Resource Guide on LLRX. They recommend a number of excellent free or low cost resources for monitoring of your competitors.

Elvis on Velvet - Finding It With RSS Enabled eBay

I wouldn't say that I'm addicted to eBay, but I do like to find a good bargain now and then. Finding just the right item can be a major time drain, though.

So, I was pleased to hear that eBay has enabled keyword-generated RSS for monitoring new search results.

Just do a search as usual, then look for the orange RSS button at the bottom of the page. Subscribe to the feed and you'll be alerted to new listings. Items for sale display with a picture (when available), buy-it-now price or current bid, ending date and links to bid or add it to your watch list.

Very cool, especially when you're searching for a specific item, like that gotta-have-it Elvis on velvet.

My Ultimate Collectible

Source: TVC Alert

March 22, 2006

WI Act Discourages Use of SSNs on Public Documents

WisPolitics reports that Governor Doyle signed into law consumer protection legislation known as the Register of Deeds Privacy Act (2005 Wisconsin Act 139). The act reduces public access to Social Security numbers on documents filed with the state's seventy-two registers of deeds offices.

The bill uses a two-pronged approach for discouraging the practice of placing Social Security numbers on documents to be recorded in the offices of the register of deeds. First, the bill allows the register of deeds to reject the document from filing, something they are not permitted to do under current law. Secondly, the legislation would make the practice of filing records with a Social Security number illegal, and would provide the victim of identity theft recourse against the party responsible for not blocking out Social Security numbers.

Nothing Special About Google Finance

According to MarketWatch's Bambi Francisco, Google's newest service, Google Finance, gets a thumbs-down from some hedge-fund managers.

Launched Tuesday, Google's (GOOG) latest, Google Finance -- with its perfunctory quotes, news headlines, charts and the like -- is not terribly impressive, partly because it looks so much like other finance sites created years ago, notably Yahoo Finance...

To be fair, there are some interesting features, like a very cool chart and news mash-up. In it, Google has taken its charts and news and integrated them so that readers can see where the stock was trading as particular news hit. People do this all the time -- look at news, and the time it hit, and then go to a chart and pinpoint the time. But it's eliminating the interim steps that makes Google stock charts instantly appealing.

But besides an interactive chart, there is nothing innovative or certainly spectacular about the new service. Where are the real-time, live quotes? Where's the related video? Where are the open application programming interfaces, or APIs, so that techies can add maps and other neat tools that Google hasn't thought of?

March 21, 2006

Am I Annoying the Librarian?

In response to my post lamenting that more legal researchers don't seek out the help of a law librarian, Jeremy Richey asks a good question on the Advanced Electronic Legal Research Blog:

What sort of questions would be appropriate to ask? For example, would it be appropriate to call them in an attempt to find information outside my Wexis plan? What if I need to research an unfamiliar area of law and want suggestions as to good overview resources? Should I only call them if I am absolutely stumped in trying to find something? Basically, what I am trying to get at here is when will I be making good use of the librarians and when will I be annoying them?

Thank you, Jeremy, for the thoughtful question. In answer to your question - it depends. It depends on the policies of the library and the resources that they have available (both in staff and materials).

If you are at a firm/corporation that employs a law librarian, count your blessings. Firm librarians are amazing at tracking down the resources you need - sometimes even before you know that you need them! They are often very tuned into the firm's interests and can set up alerts to monitor information affecting the firm and its clients.

If there isn't a librarian on staff, (why isn't there a librarian on staff?), check out a local public law library. This may be a state, court, or university law library. While the librarians there can't offer you the level of support that a firm librarian can, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by the help that they can offer.

Here's a sampling of what we CAN do:
- Help you track down known, but hard-to-find information or documents. Most libraries will deliver documents to you for a fee.
- Get you started in a new area of law by suggesting good overview sources
- Suggest search strategies for cost effective database searching
- Help you locate on-point journal articles, books, cases, etc. that may answer your research needs

Here's some of what public law librarians WON'T do:
- Your research for you. Don't ask for "everything you've got on ..." Don't ask us to do a complex state legislative history. Public law librarians will help you get started and maybe even teach you how, but we aren't going to do your work for you.

What we CAN'T do:
- Interpret the law for you. You're the attorney - that's why you get the big bucks. And it's not our law license on the line. But what exactly does "interpreting the law" mean - that can be a bit murky. It's often a "I'll know it when I see it" type rule.

Hopefully this clears things up a bit. If you still aren't sure, give us a call. If we can't help, we will tell you. But, chances are, we can. Don't wait until you are completely stumped. Your time is expensive - we may be able to help you save some. And, no, you aren't annoying us.

Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated

On the UW Law Library New Book Shelf: Surviving Justice: America's Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated

Chapter one features an "oral history" by Chris Ochoa, entitled "My Life Is a Broken Puzzle." Currently a law student at the UW Law School, he spent 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and was exonerated thanks to the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

Free Federal District Court Opinions via PACER

PACER is now offering free access to opinions in federal district courts using CM/ECF version 2.4 or higher. CM/ECF is the Federal Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Files System.

This applies to the Eastern District of Wisconsin which uses CM/ECF Version 2.5. The Western District of Wisconsin, however, apparently does not use the CM/ECF system.

The opinions are available under the "Reports" menu in PACER. You may also access opinions via existing reports and queries, such as the docket report. You will not be billed for accessing the written opinion document itself, but will be billed for the report or query used to identify the document.

Note that PACER only provides free access to opinions filed after the court is actively using version 2.4. Earlier opinions may be subject to fees.

Graphical Statutes on Westlaw

West has released Graphical Statutes for the USCA, offering "a visual timeline of a statute's past, present and future, with links to all underlying documents."

Like graphical KeyCite, this flowcart-like display really helps me understand the big picture.

March 20, 2006

Thin Ice

So how'd they get the sign out there?

Posted to Madison Snaps, Isthmus.com

Smurfy Blogs

An observation by Jesse Russell of Dane101:

It occurs to me that the word blog is becoming to bloggers what the word smurf was to Smurfs.
"I saw the bloggingest blog the other day. It was bloggingly bloggy."

Read more about Jesse's bloggy thoughts on the WisPolitics.com blog summit.

Canadian Association of Law Libraries Conference Blog

The Canadian Association of Law Libraries has launched its first conference blog. Look for posts by SLAW's Michael Lines, Vancouver Law Librarian Blog's Steve Matthews, and Connie Crosby.

The CALL conference will be held May 7-10, 2006 in Edmonton, Alberta. Although I won't be attending the conference, reading the blog is the next best thing.

Source: Steve Matthews

March 15, 2006

High Tech, Circa 1986

In going through some files, I found an old issue of Westlaw Password featuring this photo, circa 1986. Bring back any memories?

I think that my parents got our first home computer around that time. It was an Atari which used our TV as a monitor and cassette tapes as storage media. Those were the days.

Article: Make the Most of Courtroom Technology

An interesting article on courtroom technology appears in Law.com's Small Firm Business. The author describes various technologies being used in the courtroom today and the benefits of a paperless presentation.

Source: Legal Technology Blog

March 14, 2006

Happy 70th Anniversary, Federal Register

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Federal Register, our Documents Assistant, Margaret Booth, got a little creative.

"In its first year back in 1936, the Register printed 2,620 pages. Today, nearly that many pages are published each week. Approximately 100 million Register documents are viewed annually over the Internet through GPO Access."

Source: ResourceShelf

March 13, 2006

Good, Fast, or Cheap: Best Two out of Three

The following is based on an article about evaluating information that I wrote for our Law School Newsletter a few years back:

First the good news: Legal information may have three desirable characteristics - good, fast, and cheap.
Now the bad news: You can only have two out of the three at one time.

As researchers, we would like for the sources we choose to meet all three criteria. Unfortunately, this is a very rare occurrence. Quite often we must choose which two of these three characteristics are most important for our research needs.

Good and Fast

The most obvious example of legal information that is both good and fast is that which can be found in subscription databases such as Westlaw and Lexis. An experienced researcher can quickly find accurate information to address a legal issue. But, it's not cheap!

In fact, a single search in one of the larger databases could reach almost $200. However, considering the rate at which many attorneys bill their time, this cost may be perfectly acceptable. Remember-time is money.

Good and Cheap

There are several examples of information that is both good and cheap. One might be print resources. Attorneys can often find accurate information using the print resources in the firm's library with no per use search fees. However, it often takes more time to research with books than it does to search a database.

(With the high cost of maintaining print subscriptions, many librarians know that this type of search may not be as inexpensive as it seems. However, many attorneys do not pass on this cost to their clients.)

The Internet could also be considered another source of good and cheap information. There very well might be a free site out there by a reputable author that accurately answers your legal question. But how long is it going to take you to find it?

Fast and Cheap

Internet information can also be categorized as fast and cheap. Using any number of search engines, you can often very quickly find free information on your legal issue. Unfortunately, it may or may not be accurate. In fact, the very first site you find may say that the US Constitution was signed in 1984. Be aware that just because someone "publishes" a site, doesn't mean that the information contained within it is reliable.

Which Two to Choose?

Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer to this question. The type of resource you choose to answer your legal question may be different in every situation. How able is your client to pay for legal services? How comfortable are you using databases versus print resources? What is your hourly billing rate? Do you think the answer you seek will be elusive or easily found?

To be an effective legal researcher, you must learn to balance your time, search costs, and the accuracy of the information you find.

Study Finds Flaws in TV News Health Coverage

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison News - Viewer beware: Study finds flaws in TV news coverage of health

Local television newscasts, where most Americans get most of their news, are packed with medical stories and health information. But the first-ever national study of that coverage finds many problems with it, and sees room for improvement by both TV stations and the health experts whose work fills the news. . .

The average story was 33 seconds long, and most did not give specifics about the source of the information presented. Items about specific diseases tended not to contain recommendations for viewers, or information about how common the disease was - which could help put the news into perspective with other health issues.

But most disturbing, the study's authors say, were the egregious errors contained in a small minority of studies - errors that could have led to serious consequences.

What Happens When You Stop Blogging

Unshelved - Friday, March 10, 2006

National Conference of State Legislatures Podcast

The National Conference of State Legislatures has launched its first podcast. The Conference Report will cover the latest trends and developments from America's state legislatures.

Source: MyNCSL News, March 10, 2006

March 9, 2006

Not Worried by Wireless Piggybackers? Think Again

Yesterday's Wisconsin State Journal had an interesting article about piggybacking whereby computer users use someone else's unprotected wireless Internet connections.

For the most part, piggybackers don't consider the practice stealing. And most piggybackees weren't too worried about it either, other than the few who noted that it could potentially slow their access speed.

But Brian Lisse, owner of Madison Computer Works, 353 Island Drive, said that's not the half of it.

"If someone is using your ISP (Internet service provider) to do something illegal, like kid pornography, drug deals, terrorism, whatever, the FBI will come beating on your door," Lisse said. "That's the biggest danger. You're leaving it open for others to use."

"You better hope the guy next door isn't using your connection for something illegal," Lisse said.

The article goes on to list Wireless networks found throughout Madison.

WisPolitics/WisOpinion Blog Summit Next Weekend

Update 3/13/06:
Mike Schramm from WisPolitics.com informs me that the agenda has changed a bit from the original posted below. An addition: Panelists Owen Robinson of Boots & Sabers and Jay Bullock of folkbum's rambles and rants, joined by other citizen bloggers, will discuss "Why blog? Defining the phenomenon from a citizen bloggers' perspective''

See press release with new agenda
Jennifer Peterson, author of The Shifting Legal Landscape of Blogging which I posted about yesterday, informed me that there will be WisPolitics/WisOpinion Blog Summit in Waukesha next weekend. Attendance is free, but preregistration is required.

Jennifer will be speaking, as well as, UW Law Prof Ann Althouse and some other great bloggers. Additional details appear below.

Inaugural WisPolitics/WisOpinion Blog Summit
March 18, 2006
1 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
Country Springs Hotel
Attendance is free and open to all interested parties, but they must register in advance by contacting link@wispolitics.com

Schedule of Events:

**12:55 p.m. Short introduction by Mayers

**1 p.m. to 1:20 p.m. State of Blogging keynote by Ann Althouse

**1:25 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. The Legalities of Blogging by Jennifer L. Peterson, attorney, LaFollette Godfrey & Kahn. Short speech and some question and answers from audience.

**Short break

**2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Moderated panel discussion: How will history view early blogging? An academic view. Jessica McBride, journalism instructor, radio talk show host and blogger, UW-Milwaukee; John McAdams, blogger and Marquette professor of political science; and Ken Mayer, UW-Madison political scientist.

**2:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Moderated panel discussion: Impact of blogging on election 2006. Participants: Ed Garvey of FightingBob.com, Charlie Sykes of WTMJ-AM, state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Brian Fraley, GOP strategist and blogger.

**3 p.m. Presentation of the WisPolitics staff choice for 2005 Wisconsin political blogger of the year. TO BE ANNOUNCED.

March 8, 2006

Einstein Wrote What?

You decide what Einstein writes in the fun little web tool from Hetemeel.com.

What text would you want to appear in the famous photo of Einstein writing the E=MC2 equation? I chose one of Einstein's quotes.

Legal Aspects of Blogging

UW Law Alum, Jennifer Peterson has written a great article about the legal aspects of blogging in this month's Wisconsin Lawyer. The article is entitled, The Shifting Legal Landscape of Blogging.


The use of blogs as a forum for online communication is gaining popularity and their content is gaining influence. Yet the structure and nature of blogs raise a litany of challenging legal issues, including ones involving defamation, privacy, and copyright law. As the law catches up to this new technology, bloggers and their lawyers need to tread carefully in the shifting legal landscape of blogging.

I'm definitely going to consult this article the next time I do a blogging presentation and am asked about legal issues.

Law Librarians Adding Value to the Practice of Law

Yesterday, I had a visit from fellow blogger, Compujurist.com's Nerino Petro. Nerino is now the Practice Management Advisor for the Law Office Management Assistance program of the State Bar of Wisconsin. You might recognize him from the cover of the Feb. 2006 Wisconsin Lawyer.

We talked about ways that law librarians can add value to the practice of law. We brainstormed how Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin members can advise legal practitioners about research, technology, and other useful things that live in our brains. In return, law librarians will be awarded with a higher profile among the legal community. We can use all the help that we can get.

Marketing our selves and our services has always been a challenge for librarians. When asked, most people say that librarians are great. But, how many actually seek out our assistance when confronted with a difficult research or technology problem?

Nerino gets it. "Librarians are unrecognized and often over looked resources for lawyers and the community as a whole, " he writes in his blog. I wonder if that has anything to do with his wife being a librarian?

March 7, 2006

Judge Quotes Scene from "Billy Madison"

The Smoking Gun reports that "in what is surely a first for the federal judiciary, a Texas bankruptcy judge has quoted from the Adam Sandler film canon in a recent opinion. Dismissing a motion due to 'incomprehensibility,' Judge Leif Clark cited a scene from 'Billy Madison,' Sandler's 1995 comedy, in a footnote to a February 21 court order."

"Mr. Madison, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Ouch. See a complete copy of the Order Denying Motion for Incomprehensibility at The Smoking Gun.

UW-Madison Issues Challenge to Hackers

From Dane 101:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Information Technology (DoIT) has hooked up a webserver to the internet and issued a general challenge for people to hack it in an attempt to prove that Mac OS X is a fairly secure operating system.

The challenge comes as a response to another contest reported on by ZDNet in which a Swedish Mac enthusiast held a similar contest albeit with some significant differences that ended after 30 minutes because someone was able to hack into the box.

At the time this post was written no one had yet been able to hack into the machine.

Update 3/9/06:
According to a Wisconsin Technology Network article, "Dave Schroeder, senior Apple system engineer for the UW-Madison Division of Information Technology, said that of over half a million web site hits and 4,000 login attempts during his public test yesterday, not a one was able to scratch his Mac's security."

Publication Opportunities for Law Librarians

Law librarians have a lot to say and a lot to teach about legal research...

By writing articles for... law-related publications, librarians can reach out beyond our own organizations and offer research guidance to a much wider audience...

Just as importantly, writing articles for legal journals and publications helps law librarians build a higher profile among the legal community, both as individual authors and as a profession.

That is a selection from an article I co-wrote with LLAW member, Carol Bannen. (Write and Reach Out: AALL Chapters Tout the Value of Law Librarians through Journal Submissions, AALL Spectrum, March 2004)

Carol and I are both active in the AALL Publishing Initiatives Caucus, whose charge is to inspire and motivate law librarians to write articles for legal publications. To that end, Carol has just created a very useful guide to Publication Resources for Law Librarians.

The guide compiles information about legal publications, such as target audience, editorial contact information, and sample articles written by law librarians (when applicable). I suspect that there are a number of law librarians who could write some really killer articles, but, unfortunately, they don't know where to submit them. This guide should help.

A word of advice for those new to writing: start locally. There are probably a handful of small, local associations or publications who are looking for content. Once you have successfully published an article there, writing for a national publication may not seem so daunting.

March 6, 2006

Most Major Newspapers Also Publish Blogs

In an interesting survey, BluePlateSpecial.net found that all but fourteen of America's 100 largest newspapers also published one or more blogs. Most blogs are devoted to a specific topic, such as politics, law, sports, lifestyle, etc.

Locally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel blogs (#41) made the list. The Wisconsin State Journal also has a blog.

Source: ResourceShelf

March 2, 2006

UW Law Prof's Voice Sampled on Album

Cougar, a Madison-based instrumental post-rock band, had sampled UW Law Prof and blogger, Ann Althouse's voice on two songs from its debut album, Law, including the first track, "Atlatl."

From the Isthmus:

"Atlatl" is available for listening on Cougar's myspace profile, where it was uploaded in early February. The song is a moderately-paced guitar instrumental that features Althouse lecturing in a law school class on federal jurisdiction, originally recorded several years ago by Cougar guitarist Trent Johnson, one of her students.

Johnson, now a lawyer, supplied a recording of a class lecture by Althouse as collage material when the band was composing Law, says Aaron Sleator, Cougar's multi-instrumentalist. . .

Althouse was contacted by Johnson in September, 2004, for permission to use the sample, which was promptly given. Another track named "Your Excellency" also briefly samples the lecture.

AALL Annual Meeting Blog

The blog for this summer's American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting in St. Louis is already up. The AALL Gateway will feature news, announcements and informational pieces about the upcoming meeting (and birthday celebration), as well as stories, tips and other items of interest for conference attendees.

AALL is recruiting "Gateway Bloggers" to report on the meeting or post an occasional article or picture. Contact James Duggan or Diane Murley for more information.

Source: Law-lib

March 1, 2006

E-Resources & Events at the WI State Law Library

The March 2006 edition of WSLL @ Your Service is out and it's a good one.

Heidi Yelk explores some of the electronic resources available at the Wisconsin State Law Library and Connie Von Der Heide shares the schedule of upcoming library events. It appears as though they have a very nice slate of workshops and National Library Week activities planned.

Click to Donate Sites

My colleague, Jenny Zook, has written a short article on click to donate sites for the UW Law School Newsletter. These sites donate part of their advertising revenue to charity whenever you use their search engine or click on an advertisement from their home page.

Dane County Legal Resource Center Grand Opening

On Monday April 3 at 2:00 p.m., the Dane County Legal Resource Center is celebrating its move into a larger space in the new courthouse with a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony and reception.

DCLRC's grand opening corresponds with National Library Week, April 2-8, and features week long events, classes, and door prizes. For more information on the grand opening, see the press release on the DCLRC Blawg.