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January 31, 2007

Wisconsin Legislative Council Redesigns Website, Removes Older Documents

The library recently received a letter from the Wisconsin Legislative Council regarding their newly redesigned web site. It states:

Due to fiscal and resource constraints, it is not feasible for this office to keep more than five years of publications on the site. All publications are kept permanently at the Wisconsin Legislative Council offices and are available upon request at any time.

As you are probably aware, because of the redesign, current links and bookmarks to our publications will no longer function.


This is quite troubling. The removal of online government documents always is. As a potential work around, my colleague, Cindy May, suggests trying the WayBack Machine to retrieve documents.

On-Demand CLE Approved for Wisconsin attorneys

Nerino Petro's Compujurist reports that effective January 29, 2007, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin has approved On-Demand CLE for Wisconsin attorneys.

Supreme Court Rule 31.01(6m) is created to read:

"Repeated on-demand program" means an on-line program delivered over the Internet, repeating a program previously approved by the board, and given at a time of the attendee's choosing within twelve (12) months of the approval of the on-demand on-line program.

Supreme Court Documentary Begins Tonight on PBS

Tune in to PBS tonight for the beginning of a four-part documentary on the Supreme Court. "It is a must-see series that takes the viewer back to the pitifully weak early days of the Court, then all the way forward to its current incarnation as a center-of-the-universe powerhouse," writes Law.com. See the full article for more about the program.

Milwaukee Magazine on Judicial Conflicts of Interest

On Their Honor is the title of a Milwaukee Magazine article about judicial conflicts of interest in Milwaukee County.

From the article:


The [Wisconsin Supreme Court] rule requires that judges disqualify themselves from any case when "a judge has a significant financial or personal interest in the outcome of the matter." If, however, the financial conflict is de minimis - meaning so insignificant it doesn't raise "reasonable question as to the judge's impartiality" - no disqualification is required. But it's up to the judges themselves to decide that question...

Judges rarely remove themselves from cases in which they have an interest - in Milwaukee County, it happened only 12 times in all of 2005 and 25 times in 2003. Meanwhile, the problem of financial conflicts is growing. The number of cases in Milwaukee in which judges had a financial conflict grew from 42 cases in 2004 to 71 in 2005 and 89 for the first eight months of 2006. At that pace, there would be 133 cases with a conflict in 2006.

Source: beSpacific

January 30, 2007

Citing Wikipedia in Judicial Decisions

Monday's New York Times has a very interesting article on courts use of Wikipedia.

More than 100 judicial rulings have relied on Wikipedia, beginning in 2004, including 13 from circuit courts of appeal, one step below the Supreme Court. (The Supreme Court thus far has never cited Wikipedia.)...

[According to] Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University Law School... : "The most critical fact is public acceptance, including the litigants," he said. "A judge should not use Wikipedia when the public is not prepared to accept it as authority."

For now, Professor Gillers said, Wikipedia is best used for "soft facts" that are not central to the reasoning of a decision. All of which leads to the question, if a fact isn't central to a judge's ruling, why include it?

"Because you want your opinion to be readable," said Professor Gillers. "You want to apply context. Judges will try to set the stage. There are background facts. You don't have to include them. They are not determinitive. But they help the reader appreciate the context."

Source: TVC Alert

Article on Paid Wikipedia Entries

This Capital Times article entitled, Wikipedia payment: Why the big deal? was today's Library Link of the Day.

Abstract: Gregory Kohs last year launched MyWikiBiz, a service that offered to write Wikipedia entries for businesses for $49 to $99. But a few days afterward, MyWikiBiz's account on Wikipedia was blocked. Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales called Kohs to tell him MyWikiBiz was "antithetical" to Wikipedia's mission.

Online WI Statutes Will No Longer be Labeled "Unofficial"

I've just received word that as of the next update in March, the RSB is removing "that troubling 'u' word" from the online Wisconsin Statutes. Instead of noting that the text is unofficial, the PDF version will state that the text is not certified.

The new footer will read as follows:

Text from the 2005-06 Wis. Stats. database updated by the Revisor of Statutes. Only printed statutes are certifed under s. 35.18(2), stats. Statutory changes effective prior to 1-2-07 are printed as if currently in effect. Statutory changes effective on or after 1-2-07 are designated by NOTES. Report errors at (608) 266-2011, FAX 264-6978, http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/

According to Bruce Hoesly, Deputy Revisor of Statutes, "the underlying law remains the same, and these disclaimers, I believe, actually more accurately reflect the legal status of the on-line statutes."

See earlier WisBlawg post with Hoesly's explanation of what "unofficial" really means.

January 29, 2007

LSAT, etc. Online Exam Prep Tool Free at Public Library

Know anyone that's taking the LSAT soon? How about the SAT, ACT or GRE? If so, direct them to LearningExpressLibrary, an interactive online learning platform of practice tests and tutorial course series. LearningExpressLibrary is available at no cost at the Madison Public Library, the Milwaukee Public Library or remotely to Milwaukee Public Library cardholders. For a list of the many exams available, see the LearningExpressLibrary web site.

From What's New at the Madison Public Library:

In Learning Express, users can create their own accounts, take any of the dozens of tests offered or read any of the electronic books relating to study skills, military service, Federal job requirements and much more. Want to know how you're doing? Learning Express will score your test. Not enough time to finish? You can stop at any point and pick up next time where you left off.

Madison Stuff Exchange

Developed by Dane County and the City of Madison to reduce the amount of waste going to the Dane County Landfill, Madison Stuff Exchange provides area residents and businesses with a convenient way to exchange, re-use, or sell items they no longer need or want.

To be eligible to post items, you must live or work in Dane County. Anyone, regardless of where you live, may respond to a post. You do not have to live in Dane County. Listings are posted for free.

Check out also Craigslist Madison or Milwaukee for local "stuff," jobs, events, etc.

January 26, 2007

Adoption Information Mistakenly Available on CCAP

When looking for his own parking citation in CCAP, a UW-Whitewater faculty member was surprised to find a piece of his son's confidential adoption record, reports JS Online. [CCAP, officially known as the Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (WCCA) database, contains the records of Wisconsin county courts.]

"I was stunned," said [David] Munro, who teaches issues related to computer security and ethics... "I knew some sealed records, including ours, had been partially revealed. I had no idea what the scope was."

After a little research on the database, Munro realized that the information was just enough for people to discover they had been adopted or to possibly lead to the identification of birth parents.

State officials confirmed that they were unaware of the problem until Munro contacted them late last year. Pieces of adoption records involving about 200 families were publicly exposed on the state system for about four months, authorities said...

Robert Knoll, Register in Probate for Milwaukee County, said the records were a microfilm index of old adoption records uploaded into the CCAP system for storage and should have been coded differently. None of the families whose adoption records were partially exposed was contacted because CCAP fixed the problem and because only the index information was revealed, he said.

Counties are responsible for coding cases properly so the CCAP system can decipher whether the cases should be displayed on public access or not, Bousquet said. There is no way of knowing how many "hits" were made on the adoption index records during the time they were exposed, she added.

January 25, 2007

Use Your Cell Phone to Dictate an Email Message with Jott

It often happens that I'm in my car or walking somewhere when I remember something that I'm supposed to do. Or I think of something that I need to reminder my husband about. And I always seem to be without a pen and paper. That's why I'm excited about a free new web service called Jott with which you use your cell phone to leave email messages for yourself or others. Jott delivers both your recorded message and a text transcription.

You set up an account for yourself with your cell phone number and email address. Then you call a (currently toll free) phone number and dictate yourself a message. Jott will transcribe it and send you an email with your message. I've tried a few messages so far and the transcription has been dead on.

You can also set up contacts in Jott by entering the name, email and phone for someone else. Then you call the same Jott phone number, press 2 (for "Jottcast"), say their name, and leave them a message. The message will be sent to their email (along with a copy to yours).

This is one of the most useful applications I've seen in a while. I can envision using it to send reminders to myself and communicate with my husband. I could also see using it when I don't have access to my email and need to contact someone in my office.

You can also use Jott as an online to-do list. All your jots are saved in your account, whether you create them by phone, sending an email to Jot or entering text directly.

Source: PDF for Lawyers

"Places Mentioned in this Book" Now In Some Google Book Search Results

Google has announced a new feature in the "About the Book" pages on Google Book Search. It's called "Places Mentioned in this Book" and it displays an interactive map with pointers to cities and addresses mentioned in the text of the book.

From a Google Libraries Group message:


Readers can click and drag or zoom in/out on the map, as well as view the page numbers and snippets of text where the locations appear in the book.

For a few examples of the "places mentioned in this book" section in action, check out War and Peace or The 9/11 Commission Report.

I did a search for a few other titles and inclusion was more miss than hit. One of my favorite books, Gone with the Wind, did include the map though. This is really neat. I've often read books where place names were central to the story. Having a map would be helpful. Although, frankly, I doubt that I'd bother to look up from the pages of a good novel to do a Google Book Search to see the map.

It would be neat if you could search by place name in the Advanced Book Search, but, alas, you can't. Maybe that feature will eventually be added.

January 23, 2007

WI Criminal Law Decisions Online

From the Web site:

Criminal Law Decisions Online (CLDO) covers all criminal law decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court and Wisconsin Supreme Court, and published cases of the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, from July 1, 1977, through December 15, 2006.

This system replicates, in an online format, the Master Compilation of Criminal Law Decisions documents previously published by the Department of Justice, and it retains the table of contents and numerical digesting system used in print versions of the Master Compilation.

Decisions of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals which were published after the July 1, 2001 term are also linked to the court's public website.

Apparently, when CLDO first started out it wasn't available to the public, but it is now. Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

Accessing PACER At No Cost

According to a government documents listserv email from Judith C. Russell, Superintendent of Documents and Managing Director at the U.S. Government Printing Office, the Judiciary is considering a one year pilot project to assess the effect of offering free public access to PACER through the Federal Depository Library Program. (What's PACER?)

Currently, PACER is available at no cost in Federal courthouses by visiting the office of the clerk of courts. But note that printing costs may be high. For example, the cost for printing in the Western District of WI Clerk of Courts office is 50 cents/page. However, anyone can request their own PACER account and the service is "free" in that no billing is done until $10.00 in charges are generated.

According to Marc Weinberger of the U.S. Courts Library, Western District of WI, individual PACER account applications can be obtained a couple of ways: 1) from the PACER Service Center [800-676-6856]; 2) via the website http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ There is an instant registration option (with a valid email address and credit card number) or a regular account with billing can be set up and it takes about a week to get a confirmation.

January 22, 2007

Meta Search for Inside the Book Searches

Over the last year or so, several search engines have been released that let you search inside books (Google Books, Amazon Search Inside/A9 & MSN Live Book Search). But there has never been a way, until now, to search them all simultaneously.

Developer Kokogiak notes that there are some big differences in the type of books available on each system. "It's been interesting to see the quantity/quality differences between the 3 in trying several searches. Results for "ajax", for instance - Amazon is all current programming books, Google is a mix of classic mythology and programming, and MSN is all classic mythology."

Source: ResearchBuzz

Judicial Reports - Consumer Reports for NY Judges

Law.com's Legal Technology section has a useful article by Robert Ambrogi entitled, Superior Legal Web Sites to Watch. There are a number of good sites listed, but one that struck me was Judicial Reports.

Ambrogi writes:

What Consumer Reports does for appliances and Zagat does for restaurants, a new Web site aims to do for judges. Called Judicial Reports, the site offers in-depth profiles of New York state's 328 Supreme Court judges. Eventually, it will add New York's federal judges and, if there is demand, judges in other states.

Each profile draws on information available in public records together with independent research and analysis. Thus, a profile includes a judge's biography and vital statistics, but also the judge's reversal record, judicial conduct report and financial and campaign-finance disclosures. Included in a judge's biographical profile are comments from lawyers who have direct experience appearing before the judge.

Free Adobe Seminar and Security Flaw Fix

Free Adobe for Legal Professionals eSeminar:

In conjunction with LLRX, Adobe is hosting a free eSeminar on Acrobat 8: Top Features for Legal Professionals. The eSeminar, to be be held on Thursday, January 25, 2007,1:00 PM - 2:00 PM US/Eastern, will cover how to create PDF files from Microsoft Office, the web and other programs, how to turn paper into searchable electronic PDF files, how to comment and annotate PDFs. Also learn best practices for eFiling with Acrobat, using new built-in Bates Numbering to prepare document sets, securely redact both electronic and image-only PDFs, and more.

Adobe Fixes Security Flaw:

From Findlaw -
In response to the discovery of a security flaw in Adobe Acrobat and Acrobat Reader, Adobe has released updates to older versions of the popular PDF viewing and editing software...

Adobe recommends that all users of the Acrobat and Acrobat Reader software upgrade to version 8, which does not contain the XSS vulnerability. For users who aren't able to upgrade, however, the new updates to Acrobat and Acrobat Reader 6 and 7 will plug the security hole. Instructions for downloading the updates are available here.

Sources: beSpacific and Stark County Law Library Blog

January 19, 2007

Article: How to Go to M.I.T. for Free

From the Christian Science Monitor:
How to go to M.I.T. for free


By the end of this year, the contents of all 1,800 courses taught at one of the world's most prestigious universities will be available online to anyone in the world, anywhere in the world. Learners won't have to register for the classes, and everyone is accepted. The cost? It's all free of charge...

The MIT site (ocw.mit.edu), along with companion sites that translate the material into other languages, now average about 1.4 million visits per month from learners "in every single country on the planet,"

Thanks to Mary Ray for the tip.

Articles by UW Law Profs Macaulay and Galanter Considered Top Works in American Legal Thought

The Wisconsin Law Journal has a nice article on UW Law profs, Stewart Macaulay and Marc Galanter, who each had an article included in the "The Canon of American Legal Thought," an anthology looking at the top 20 works in American legal thought since 1890.

From the article:

Macaulay's contribution was his 1963 article, "Non-Contractual Relations in Business," and Galanter's contribution was the 1974 essay, "Why the Haves Come out Ahead: Speculations on the Limits of Legal Change."

"We selected what we thought were the deepest and most influential essays," said Fisher, who is a professor of Intellectual Property Law and Director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. "The articles by Macaulay and Galanter -- both of them crucial in launching the 'Law and Society' movement -- easily fit those criteria."

Thanks to Bill Ebbott for the tip.

FirstGov is Now USA.gov

To better reflect it's purpose as the official web portal of the U.S. government, FirstGov.gov has changed its named to USA.gov. A Spanish version is also available.

January 16, 2007

WI Ct of App Rules That PDF No Substitute For Database Access Under Open Access Law

TVC Alert reports:

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals last week ruled that in accordance with the state's open access law, PDF copies of information in a database do not substitute for access to the database. Therefore, the municipalities violated public records law when they denied plaintiff access to the information in the format it which it was available to the municipalities.

More from Electronic Discovery Law, a blog from K&L Gates:

In this open records case, WIREdata, Inc. had filed open records requests with three municipalities seeking property assessment records in the format created and maintained by the municipalities' independent contractor assessors in a computer database.

The court held that the open records law allowed WIREdata the opportunity to access that database in order to examine and copy the property assessment records, and that the municipalities committed open records law violations when they denied WIREdata such access and instead provided it with a "PDF," or portable document file.

Case: WIREdata, Inc. v. Village of Sussex (Wis. Ct. App. Jan. 3, 2007)

Legal Research Movie on YouTube

From Law Librarian Blog:

A group of students in Stanford Law's advanced legal research class created a short (3 minute) silent film, Legal Research: The Movie. Fantastic! I guess the movie isn't a "talkie" because some scenes were filmed in the law library.

January 11, 2007

Add Chat to Your Web Site with Plugoo

The UW Law Library has recently upgraded our IM/chat reference service with a new tool called Plugoo. We've added a text chat box to our home page inviting our students, faculty, and staff to contact us with reference questions. And it was free and easy.

Interested in developing a chat service for your organization? Just get yourself an instant messaging account, register with Plugoo, copy some code into your web page and you've got your own chat service.

This is an awesome tool for libraries. Patrons can contact you in real time right from their computer. They don't need to have an IM account to use it - just type their question into the box. And if you're not logged into your IM account, patrons can email their questions instead.

Anyone else using Plugoo? If so, please share your comments.

January 9, 2007

Best Free Reference Web Sites of 2006

The ALA Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) has named Best Free Reference Web Sites of 2006.

Highlights include:

And there are lots of other really interesting sites. Definitely worth a little browsing time.

Thanks to my UW Madison colleague, Nancy McClements, for the tip.

January 4, 2007

Time to Resubscribe to Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service

Yesterday, I received this notice from the Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service:

The Wisconsin Legislative Notification Service will be temporarily unavailable until January 4th, 2007. During this time the 2005-2006 legislative session data will be removed from the system. This includes proposals, committees, author information, etc, as well as your subscriptions for notifications to these items. All of your account information will remain intact, however, you will need to resubscribe to items again if you wish to receive notifications.

Looks like it's time to resubscribe to your legislative alerts.

Article on Filtering RSS Feeds

I'm please to report that my article, Too Much Information: Filtering RSS Feeds, appears in the Winter 2006 issue of Connecting..., the newsletter of the AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section.

In the article, I offer instructions for:

January 3, 2007

Free Software Giveaway of the Day

From Inter Alia: Free Software.....Every Day

I've been a big fan of Giveaway of the Day for about a month now. It's a site that offers fully licensed software to you every day -- a different title -- for free. Software developers are giving away free copies of their software for one day only -- it's a win-win situation, because we get to know about new software, and the software companies get great exposure. I have already downloaded 5 or 6 programs that I have started to regularly use. This is a great place to learn about new software.

UWDC Digitizes Additional Volumes of Foreign Relations of the United States

The University of Wisconsin Digital Collections has recently digitized additional volumes of the Foreign Relations of the United States. It now covers 311 volumes from 1861 to 1958/1960.

The Foreign Relations of the United States series is the official documentary historical record of major U.S. foreign policy decisions that have been declassified and edited for publication. The series is produced by the State Department's Office of the Historian and printed volumes are available from the Government Printing Office.

January 2, 2007

News is Not Good for Libraries

It seems that libraries are big news today - and none of it is good:

  • Today's New York Times has a story entitled, Lock the Library! Rowdy Students Are Taking Over. This one is truly sad. It seems that a NJ public library has seen no alternative but to close its doors during afterschool hours due to unruly middle school students "taking over the library." I sincerely hope that this is only a temporary measure until library, school and community leaders can come up with some more creative after school programming.

  • The Wall Street Journal also has a piece on the changing roles and low salaries of librarians. The author notes that today's public libraries offer a more robust suite of services than in years past. Alongside the traditional reference desk and story hour are databases, workshops, and community events. Unfortunately, many libraries are struggling to finance equipment and hire qualified staff. Low wages in the public library sector are encouraging more new librarians to pursue opportunities in academia, business or government. (Article available in Wisconsin via BadgerLink -ProQuest)

  • Finally, the Washington Post has a horrible story lamenting that local librarians had taken literary classics "off the shelves and dumped them." This one really pushed my buttons. Apparently the author didn't seem to understand that shelf space in a library is relatively constant, not to mention expensive. In order for new materials to make their way to the public, it's a hard truth that some older, lesser used items must be weeded.

    Does that mean every locally available copy of Hemingway gets tossed to make way for the new Grisham? Of course not. While it may not be available at every local branch, it is very likely available at a larger central library. Or, if not, it's quickly available via interlibrary loan.

    For libraries to remain vital to the communities they serve, it is imperative that they collect new and interesting materials to match the interests of their patrons. And to do that, something has to give.