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February 28, 2008

JD Supra Combines Business Networking & Document Repository

Since its launch earlier this week, JD Supra is already creating quite a buzz around the blawgosphere. It's a combination business networking site and shared document repository for legal professionals - quite ingenious actually. And it's all free.

As a Business Networking Site:
JD Supra offers legal professionals and organizations a chance to showcase their work. Individuals, firms or organizations create profiles for themselves in which they describe their expertise, practice areas, educational background, etc.

Once the profile is created, individuals or organizations can post documents - court filings, articles & newsletters, and legal forms. "The more documents you post on JD Supra, the more exposure you receive. Each document you post advertises your experience and the quality of your work."

As a Shared Document Repository:
As more and more legal documents are shared, JD Supra is quickly becoming an important tool for legal researchers, too. It's not only that JD Supra is facilitating the sharing of legal content - there are other sites do that, like DocStoc or Scribd - but what makes it unique is that it is able to lend some authority to those documents by tying them to author profiles. As a librarian, I'm much more likely to rely on a source when I can verify the expertise of its author.

There are already lots of documents available, including numerous items from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Morrison & Foerster. Justia reports that they are in the process of doing a major data upload of the higher quality briefs and filings aggregated from Pacer.

As I said, JD Supra is creating quite a buzz, and rightly so. To read more, check out the ABA Journal, WSJ law blog, and Robert Ambrogi's Law Sites to name just a few.

Really Useful Law-Related RSS Feeds

Court Documents

  • CCAP - Notification of new WI Circuit Court, Court of Appeals, and Supreme Court cases by party name and/or all filings for an individual case
  • Wisconsin Courts - All new Court of Appeals and Supreme Court opinions, oral arguments, certifications, etc.
  • Justia - Receive new full-text U.S. District Circuit Court opinions and filings by type, keyword, or jurisdiction
  • Seventh Circuit - Track the latest opinions released by the US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals
  • Cornell Supreme Court Collection - Monitor recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions

Legislation & Regulations

  • GovTrack - Track U.S. Congressional bills - new bills by subject or representative, or by action on individual bills
  • Justia Regulations Tracker - Track new Federal Register documents by agency, type of document or keyword

Legal Scholarship




  • PubSub - Customized SEC filings [not currently available]


RSS for Law School Faculty & Staff

Last week I gave a presentation to the UW Law School faculty and staff on the legal applications of RSS. I've posted my slides and handouts on Scribd and thought I'd share them here.

Read this doc on Scribd: RSS for Law School Faculty & Staff

Related handouts:

February 27, 2008

C-SPAN Video Archive of House and Senate Floor Proceedings

C-SPAN has created a video archive House and Senate floor proceedings. The new C-SPAN Congressional Chronicle is produced through a automated matching of the video recordings with the Congressional Record soon after the Record is available in the day following the session. Browse by date, bill number, or person's name. Looks like there is even a RSS feed for each representative.

Each appearance has both the text from the Congressional Record as well as a video link where users can watch and listen to the actual remarks. Only actual appearances by Representatives and Senators on the floor are included.

Currently the 108th (2003-2004), 109th (2005-2006), and 110th (2007-present) Congresses are available. The 107th (2001-2002) will be available soon and the 106 (1999-2000) in late 2007. Previous Congresses back to 1988 will be added as the video is digitized and indexed at the rate of two Congresses per year.

Source: beSpacific

February 26, 2008

Article: Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business

With so many great resources available on the Internet at no cost, you may wonder how content creators can afford to offer them for free. Wired magazine has a very useful article which explains Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.

Source: Vancouver Law Librarian Blog

GPO to Digitize All FDLP Legacy Materials

According to a GPO Request for Information:

The United States Government Printing Office (GPO) plans to digitize the entire collection of legacy materials that have been disseminated through the Federal Depository Library Program. The estimated size of the collection is approximately 2.2 million documents, which amounts to about 90 million pages.

Source: GOVDOCS-L list

February 25, 2008

Busted by YouTube

BBC News has an interesting article on the increasing use of YouTube videos as criminal evidence.
Source: law.librarians

Send and Receive Faxes from Your Computer at No Cost

Here are a couple of useful tools for sending and receiving faxes from you computer at no charge:

  • To Send: FaxZero
    Simply enter your name and email, the recipient's name and fax number, upload the document to fax, and send. There is no cost for this service, however there will be an ad on the cover page. The pages of your document will bear no extra marks.

  • To Receive: JConnect Free
    Sign up for your own personal phone number you can use to receive voicemail and faxes as email attachments.
Source: What I Learned Today

Cool RSS Tools

RSS aficionados will appreciate 14 "Other" Ways to Use RSS Feeds from makeuseof.com. With these tools, you can do all sorts of interesting things with RSS feeds, such as:

  • filter feeds by keyword
  • send feed content to email, cell phone, chat, etc
  • combine multiple feeds into one
  • format feed content for print
  • display feed content on a Web page
  • convert text based feeds to audio

Researching "Green" Issues

Bev Butula over at the Wisconsin Law Journal blog has put together a useful guide to researching "green" issues.

The list also appeared in the print edition of this week's Wisconsin Law Journal on page 10A.

February 21, 2008

Photos of Milwaukee Businesses, Homes Now on Google

Google Street Views has made its way to Milwaukee. Simply do a Google search for an address in Milwaukee and click on the "Street Views" link in the resulting map. You'll see a panoramic view from the street like the one below. Notice that you can pan, rotate and zoom, as well as, move forward or backward down the street.

View Larger Map

Despite its usefulness for travelers, home buyers, etc., it's no surprise that Google Street Views has raised privacy concerns. See the related NYT article. Google does allow users to report inappropriate photographs.

Google Street Views is currently only available for major metropolitan areas.

Source: Wisconsin Law Journal blog

AALL Annual Meeting Web Site & Blog

It seems to be the day for AALL blogs. In addition to the afore mentioned Washington Affairs blog, the AALL Annual Meeting blog also makes its debut today. Actually, it's more than just a blog - it's a whole Web site.

Here are some of creator Jason Eiseman's favorite features:

  • It's a single website: in previous years blogs & websites were separate, with different styles, url's, etc. This is often due to hosting issues, we were really lucky to have Lewis & Clark's option for WordPress.
  • Fewer navigation links. We really wanted to cut down on how many links people had to deal with, so we simplified the home page and added more links on the inside pages. I think this worked out pretty well.
  • Registration for the blog is easy. People can register themselves. Instead of people emailing me, which you're welcome to do, people can simply sign up on their own and start posting to the blog. We might have to do some monitoring and quality control, but I think it's worth it.
  • Check out the collaborative Google map on the Explore page. I wish I could take credit for it, but I have to thank Diane Murley at ALL-SIS.
  • Videos... I have added a video to the blog and I hope to add more in the future, introducing you to Portland sites, and Portland's awesome law librarians. The next video should be coming very soon.

New Blog from AALL Washington Affairs Office

Washington Blawg is the new blog from the AALL Washington Affairs Office.

Here at the Washington Affairs Office (WAO) of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), we're always trying to find new ways to update our members and others about the latest policy news, resources, and activities in D.C. and around the country. After considering the different ways we currently communicate with our members (primarily through our Advocacy Listserv, our monthly E-Bulletin, and AALL's From the Desk of... E-Newsletter), we determined we needed a new, fast, and comprehensive way to update our members and friends about our work. Thus the Washington Blawg was born!

The Washington Blawg will keep you up-to-date about the policy issues that matter to AALL. We will cover legislative, judicial and regulatory activities on the state, national, and international levels and address important topics such as access to government information, digital authentication, copyright, and open government issues.

February 20, 2008

Cell Phones Added to "Do Not Call" List?

From JS Online:

The state Senate unanimously voted Tuesday to add cell phones to the state's "do not call" list and raise the maximum fine for violating that law from $100 to $1,000.

February 19, 2008

Law Library of Congress RSS Feeds

The Law Library of Congress is now offering a handful of RSS feeds.

  • News & Events
  • Research Reports
  • Webcasts
  • Global Legal Monitor

Source: AbsTracked

February 17, 2008

Law Library Closing at 1:00 pm on Sunday

Due to weather conditions, the UW Law Library will be closing at 1:00 pm on Sunday, February 17th.

February 15, 2008

New Bills Would Open Deliberations of Supreme Court & Criminalize CCAP Discrimination

WisPolitics.com reports on two new pieces of legislation proposed by State Representative Marlin Schneider.

The first would open the deliberations of the State Supreme Court. From the article:

Schneider believes the public should also have the right to know about the private discussions of the Supreme Court. Just as the legislature must debate bills and issues in public, so too should the appellate courts. Hence, the lawmaker's.. bill opens up these deliberations to the public.

The second provides criminal penalties against those who CCAP to discriminate against employment and housing. This bill is in response to criticism of Schneider's earlier bill which would have limited CCAP access court and law enforcement personnel.

From the article:

The... bill disavows the restrictions made in his previous bill but directly addresses the problem of discrimination, particularly in employment and housing. Schneider's bill would make it a Class I felon for anyone to discriminate in employment or housing because of an arrest or conviction record on CCAP.

Thanks to Bev Butula for the tip.

Create a Form with Google Docs

Google recently announced that you can create forms using spreadsheets in Google Docs.

Create a form in a Google Docs spreadsheet and send it out to anyone with an email address. They won't need to sign in, and they can respond directly from the email message or from an automatically generated web page. Responses are automatically added to your spreadsheet.

Forms are great for collecting information and now you don't have to know anything about programming to set up one of your own. Very nice.

February 14, 2008

UW Law Library Facebook Page

I'm pleased to announce that I've recently created a Facebook page for the UW Law Library. Stop by and check it out.

Printing Public Domain Books on Demand

Tom Mighell over at Inter Alia reports on a cool service called PublicDomainReprints.org whereby you can order a reprint of a book in the public domain. Here's how it works:

1. You request any public domain book from the Internet Archive or Google Books.

2. The book is processed and submitted to Lulu, a no upfront fee print on demand company.

3. You can order the printed book from Lulu at $1 over cost.

Printed reprints currently are priced between $4.99 and $18.99 depending on the number of pages, and in soft cover, perfect binding. Shipping costs extra.

February 13, 2008

Public Library of Law Gathers Free State & Federal Law - Cases, Statutes, Regs, Etc.

Wow - more big news today stemming from the availability of free federal case law. Fastcase has developed a new resource called The Public Library of Law which brings together a wide variety of free legal resources, including:

State Law for All 50 States:
Supreme and Appellate Court cases from 1997 to the present
Statutes from all 50 states
Constitutions from all 50 states
Court Rules from all 50 states
Regulations and Administrative Codes from selected states

Federal Law:
All U.S. Supreme Court Cases
All Federal Circuit Courts from 1950 to the present
The United States Code
US Code of Federal Regulations
Federal Court Rules

Free registration is required to view materials. PLoL also includes free links to paid content on Fastcase. See the PLoL user guide for more information.

Thanks to Tim Stanley of Justia for the heads up.

Free Federal Case Law (F 2d & F 3d) Available on Justia

I was using Justia yesterday and noticed something I hadn't seen before - US Federal Court Appeals Opinions. It includes all US Federal appellate cases since 1950 browse-able by F 2d and F 3d citation. Wow - how long has that been there?

An email from Justia's Tim Stanley confirmed that the 1950+ Fed is indeed brand new. According to Tim:

Carl Malamud (of Media.org) and Ed Walters (of Fastcase.com) worked out the deal, and Public.Resource.org and the Creative Commons are setting up the Legal Commons where copies of all the free case law will be online in archive form for anyone to download and use.

There is a lot of fixing to do (multiple versions of the same case, getting in the internal page numbers) but this will get done :) And of course more free case law and codes are on the way.

This is outstanding! Kudos to all involved! What a valuable resource for the legal community and for the community as a whole. I'd seen Robert Ambrogi's announcement last week that this was coming and it appears that he was dead-on, as usual.
Updates: For more info, see the press release from PublicResource.Org.

And see also the post from Justia which says to "look for the cases to also appear on AltLaw and PreCYdent soon (if not already) and... many many other places"

How true - here is a beta search engine for the Federal Reporter.

February 11, 2008

Confidential Court Records Mistakenly Released by Milwaukee County

JS Online reports that:

Milwaukee County officials mistakenly released numerous confidential court records for a citizens group's Web site that detail payments for tests and other costs linked to mental competency, paternity and guardianship cases, officials acknowledged.

The records obtained by Citizens for Responsible Government Network were part of a county database of 188,000 purchasing invoices for 2006 and 2007. The group put the information on its Web site Tuesday morning. Late Friday, the group agreed to remove the confidential court records at the county's request.

The database is available on the Citizens for Responsible Government Network web site.

Wisconsin-Related Public Records Databases

The Appleton Post-Crescent has gathered together a number of Wisconsin-related public records databases, some useful, others, well, maybe more interesting than useful. They include:

  • Banned Wisconsin license plates
  • Delinquent Appleton accounts
  • Disciplined doctors, dentists and other licensed professionals
  • Smoking cost calculator
  • New businesses in Northeastern Wisconsin
  • Wisconsin school salaries
  • Fox Valley delinquent taxpayers
  • Wisconsin sexually transmitted disease cases
  • Wisconsin teen mothers
  • Wisconsin public library statistics
  • Trophy deer, bear
  • Records on car crashes with deer
  • DNR hunting and fishing license sales locations
  • Wisconsin fishing records
  • Fox Valley unclaimed property
See the Post-Crescent's DataMine page for even more databases.

Source: The Wheeler Report

Editorial on Bills Seeking to Limit Access to CCAP

The Beloit Daily News weighs in on the two pending Wisconsin bills which would limit access to court records via CCAP.

AB 418 would restrict public access and allow only judges, court officials, police, lawyers and "accredited" journalists to view the information.

AB 754 would require that all records pertaining to a case be deleted if it is dismissed; if a defendant is found not guilty; or if a case is overturned on appeal.

Source: The Wheeler Report

February 9, 2008

Capital Times Suspends Print Publication and Goes Online

From Channel 3000:

The Capital Times, Madison's 90-year-old newspaper announced Thursday it will stop printing a daily newspaper, reduce staff and focus on Internet operations.

For more, read the full article. Dane 101 also posts their reaction.

February 8, 2008

Revolving Books Stacks as 19th Century's "Library of the Future"?

Here's another intriguing image from the Wisconsin Historical Society Image archive. This sketch of a revolving book stack circa 1900 is absolutely mind boggling. The caption reads: "Sketch of two huge round revolving book stacks with an elevator. This was apparently a 'library of the future' idea and was probably never actually built." Check out the full image on the WHS site for more detail.

The first thing that struck me was its sheer size. Good lord, this thing is a monster. How many books could this thing supposedly hold? Just look at the size of the guy in the elevator.

And what of the visionary sketch-artist? Just who was W.D. Lewis? Neither I nor the kind folks at the Wisconsin Historical Society could find anything about him/her.

Then I wondered, was this a common-place notion of the library of the future? A giant book storage facility where volumes would be pulled upon request? A quick search in Google Books turned up an 1888 Encyclopaedia Britannica entry for the subject "Libraries" which reads:

A speedy supply of books is ensured by the use of the automatic book delivery contrived for the Harvard book store... At the delivery-desk a keyboard shows the digits which combine the various shelf marks; and the number of the book wanted being struck upon it, is repeated at the floor on which the work is located where it is sought for by an attendant and place in a box attached to an endless belt, which carefully deposits it on a cushioned receptacle close by the delivery truck.

But it seems that this vision was not looked well upon by all. From a 1881 article Library Journal article:

If the library of the future is to be a Harvard "book-stack," six or eight stories high, with the book cases two feet four inches apart, not warmed in winter, and from whose prison-cells readers are to be excluded, the question arises whether such a minute classification of the books upon the shelves, as we have been making, is necessary... My preference , however, at present, is not running in the direction of "book-stacks." I still hold to a minute classification of the books upon the shelves, and to giving to scholarly persons, when it is necessary, the opportunity of access to the shelves under conditions of ordinary comfort.

February 6, 2008

Medical Tourism Meets Health Law: Wisconsin International Law Journal Symposium

The 2007-2008 Wisconsin International Law Journal's Symposium entitled "Medical Tourism Meets Health Law: US-EU Dialogue" will be held at the University of Wisconsin on Friday, March 7, 2008 in the Health Sciences Learning Center. For more information, visit the symposium Web site.

To register, e-mail WILJSymposium@gmail.com by February 29, 2008. The event is free and open to the public. Continuing legal education credits for Wisconsin attorneys pending.

February 4, 2008

Docstoc Shares Legal Documents, But Are They Reliable?

Denise Howell over at Lawgarithims has good things to stay about Docstoc, a "user generated community where you can find and share professional documents." There are tons of sample legal and business forms to be had, not to mention law school outlines and bar exam resources. Seems a lot like Scribd but with more legal content.

The content is extensive to be sure, but the lack of authority scares me. I was troubled that so many Docstoc documents are of anonymous authorship, and even when authorship is listed, authority is certainly not guaranteed.

As a librarian, I'm constantly advising people to pay attention to the source when replying upon information from the Web. This is particularly important for legal information where so much as a misplaced comma can cost millions.

I'll all for social networking and building up the information commons, but legal contract language does doesn't strike me as something I'd be willing to trust to an unknown author. But, maybe I'm being overly cautious and not appreciating the whole social networking dynamic. What do you think?

Recycled PACER Documents Available at No Cost

Thanks to Legal Dockets Online for alerting me to the PACER recycling center, run by the folks at Public.Resource.org. Basically, this gathers "recycled" court filings donated by people who have paid to access them via PACER, then offers them free on the Internet.

According to the FAQ, here's how it works:

Just upload all your PACER Documents to our recycling bin. Click on the recycle bin and you'll be presented with a dialogue to choose files to upload. Then, just hit the "Start Upload" button and you'll hear the sounds of progress as your documents get reinjected into the public domain.

We'll take the documents, look at them, and then put them onto bulk.resource.org/courts.gov/pacer for future distribution. This is a manual process and you won't see your documents show up right away. But, over time, we hope to accumulate a significant database of PACER Documents.

While the ideal of making law freely available on the Internet is admirable, I'm not really convinced of the value of this system. So far, the total number of documents offered looks very slim - only time will tell if that number increases enough to be useful. However, I'm also not seeing that any dockets are available, which puts the documents that are there somewhat out of context.

More troublesome, however, is that unlike the fanciful site instructing you to upload your PACER docs, viewing the already uploaded documents is not nearly as pretty. Basically, you're presented with a list of folders in which you must browse your way through state, court, docket number, and a few other folders whose labels I couldn't decipher. No search engine to be had, as far as I could see. Nothing in the way of instructions either. Perhaps more sophistication is to come and it's simply too early to tell.

Frankly, in the realm of free PACER alternatives, you're much better off with Justia. Not only is there a lot more content, the search interface is excellent. And it's got dockets, RSS feeds, and more.

February 1, 2008

Ice Quake Shakes UW Madison Campus

So there I am on my lunch break reading a book, when I feel the ground tremble beneath me. At the time, I assumed that someone had dropped something heavy in the mail room next door, but later I learned the true cause: an ice quake emanating from Lake Mendota which geologists measured as 0.2 on the Richter scale.

Channel 3000 reported that the ice quake was too small to cause any damage, but experts said it was the strongest ice quake the area has seen in nearly a decade.

According to the Isthmus:

Such events are not without precedent. There's a lot of expansion and contraction happening out on the big ice sheets that cover Madison's lakes in winter. One of the most dramatic such occurrences happened a little before noon on Jan.15, 1948, when seismographs measured a tremor at 3.8 on the Richter scale.