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March 31, 2009

Dane Co to Redact SSNs from County Records

WKOW reports that Dane County is installing software to redact the social security numbers from county records. They are the only county in the state to do so. Register of Deeds, Kristi Chlebowski indicated that all social security numbers should be redacted by the fall.

For now, however, it seems that anyone can access mortgage documents and other bank records containing SSNs via the Dane Co. Register of Deeds web for a small fee of $5.95. Watch the WKOW report for details.

Source: The Wheeler Report

Federal Nominating Commission Recommendations for Vacancy at U.S. District Court -Western District of WI

On Monday, the Federal Nominating Commission announced its recommendations for the pending vacancy for the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The opening results from the retirement of Judge John Shabaz.

The four individuals recommended for consideration for the pending vacancy are (in alphabetical order):

  • Louis B. Butler, Jr.
  • William M. Conley
  • Ramona A. Gonzalez
  • Stephen J. Meyer

From the Federal Nominating Commission press release on WisBar

Wisconsin 2009 Law School Applications High

Despite the downturn in the economy, or perhaps because of it, applications at Wisconsin's law schools are high for 2009.

According to WisBar, "applications for the entering class of 2009 are up 5 percent over last year at University of Wisconsin Law School, according to Michael Hall, assistant dean for admissions and financial aid."

At Marquette "applications to date are down about 6 percent versus this time a year ago. However, [Sean] Reilly [assistant dean for admissions at Marquette] noted that the number of applications to Marquette in 2008 represented an extraordinary increase of 21 percent over 2007. According to the school's admissions data, Marquette received 2,222 applications for the class entering in 2008. Reilly said applications this year are running approximately 20 percent ahead of the numbers received by this time in 2007."

This story was of particular interest to me since I am one of those law school applicants. I'm pleased to share that I was accepted to the UW Law School and will begin my part time studies in the fall.

Wisconsin Law Journal's Best of 2009

In a reader's poll, the Wisconsin Law Journal has announced the winners of its first "Best of" Wisconsin's Legal Community. The full list of winners appears on their website.

March 23, 2009

Bill Would Disallow Caucus Exemption in Open Records Law

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on a new bill (Assembly Bill 143) which would remove the open meetings law exemption for partisan caucus activities.

From the bill analysis:

Currently, under the open meetings law, with certain exceptions, meetings of state and local governmental bodies must be preceded by public notice, must be held in places that are reasonably accessible to the public, and must be open to the public at all times. If a meeting is properly noticed, a governmental body may, by recorded vote of a majority of the members present, convene in closed session for the purpose of considering certain matters specified by law. The open meetings law provides that the law does not apply to any partisan caucus of the senate or assembly, except as provided by legislative rule.

This bill deletes the exception in the open meetings law that makes the law inapplicable to a partisan caucus of the senate or assembly...

March 20, 2009

State Open Government Bill Would Clarify Public Access to Bill Drafts

State Representative Louis J. Molepske, Jr. re-introduced the Open Government Act, legislation which attempts to clarify when bill drafts should be made available to the public.

From a media release from Rep. Molepske:

This bill sets up a process whereby the official's desire to keep bill drafts confidential is balanced against the public's expectation to inspect taxpayer-funded records prepared by state employees when the document is no longer in the "preparer's level of authority." It will be up to the official to determine if a draft is in the public domain or not....

According to a December 2003 Attorney General's opinion, the common legislative practice of providing drafts exclusively to third parties not empowered to draft legislation is already illegal under Wisconsin's Open Records laws. Some legislators have argued that limited public access protects the institutional integrity of the legislature and that an attorney-client relationship exists between legislators and drafting attorneys. However, the 2003 Attorney General's Opinion states that, "once an individual legislator selectively releases draft documents to a third party, any such privilege, if it exists, would be extinguished."...

Molepske's bill will codify the Attorney General's opinion by stating that once a bill draft is disclosed to an outside party, the draft may be subject to inspection and copying as provided under Wisconsin's Open Record Law; it is up to the legislator or official to determine whether or not to comply with an open records request. The bill will also provide guidance to legislative support agencies as to when they may release a bill draft to the public. The bill draft file and accompanying documents will remain confidential.

Source: The Wheeler Report

March 19, 2009

Jurors, the Web, and One Simple Rule

Accounts of jurors doing Web research and using Twitter and other social networking tools has been much in the news recently. Deliberations' Anne Reed has a nice summary of the buzz.

No one seems to know just what to do when jurors take to the Internet. Anne offers One Simple Rule When Jurors Go Online in another post over at the Wisconsin Law Journal.

WI Bill Would Require Repeat Domestic Abusers to Wear Tracking Device

State representative Scott Suder is sponsoring a bi-partisan bill that will allow courts to make repeat domestic abusers wear a satellite tracking device. Read more from the Marshfield News Herald.

In a time of major budget reform and a looming deficit, Suder said it's key that the perpetrators pay for the device and any other costs. It's estimated to cost about $200 for one person to be equipped with the tracking system....

[A similar bill in Illinois] passed with 100 percent approval within five months of being drafted, and Suder said he doesn't expect much pushback from Wisconsin lawmakers.

Source: The Wheeler Report

March 18, 2009

Inspiring Innovation: Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating the Web 2.0 Challenge

I'm pleased to share that an article I co-wrote, Inspiring Innovation: Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating the Web 2.0 Challenge, appears in the latest Legal Information & Technology eJournal on SSRN (available by subscription).

In the article, my co-authors and I discuss the Web 2.0 Challenge, a five week, online course designed to introduce popular Web 2.0 applications to law librarians. The free course, hosted on Moodle, is still available.

The article, which has also been accepted for publication in the Law Library Journal, was co-written by Deborah Ginsberg from Chicago Kent and Meg Kribble of the Harvard Law School Library.

Why People Cheat

TED has produced this very interesting talk on why people cheat. Fascinating viewing, especially for legal professionals whose work involves studying and predicting human behavior.

Here's a synopsis from the Mental Floss Blog:

Today I bring you a truly fascinating talk about irrationality and cheating. Dan Ariely was a burn patient, with burns over 70% of his body. While recovering in the hospital, the nurses had a common practice of ripping off bandages, rather than removing them slowly. Ariely disagreed with this methodology (preferring slower removal), but didn't have evidence to back his argument up. When he left the hospital, he started doing experiments on pain, to figure out what indeed would be the best method of removing bandages.

But Ariely's work isn't really about pain...it's about human behavior (he's a behavioral economist). Ariely turned to the problem of cheating. He performed an experiment in which he handed a paper containing a series of math problems to his test subjects. He had them solve as many problems as they could in a limited time, then asked them to hand the papers back. He counted the correct answers and paid subjects based on the questions they got right (the average was four correct answers, for four dollars).

Then he changed the experiment: he asked people to self-report how many answers they got right...and all of a sudden, on average people were reporting seven correct answers -- a little bit of cheating. Ariely further changed the experiment by increasing the economic incentives (more money per question), altering the risk of being caught (either shredding the papers or not), and so on. What's fascinating is that he found, across the board, that his test subjects were cheating "a little bit," and were insensitive to the economic rewards as well as the risk of being caught. You'll have to watch the talk to hear how it all came out...but let's just say the experiments involved a Personal Fudge Factor, the Ten Commandments, a fake MIT Honor Code, sweatshirts, and atheists swearing on Bibles.

Why Wisconsin is the Badger State

Do you know why Wisconsin is referred to as the Badger State? Mental Floss explains this and other "Curious, Bizarre & Storied State Symbols."

... The Badger State title originally refers not to Bucky, nor to the savage beast itself, but to lead miners in the 1820s and 30s. These miners moved from prospect to prospect in southwestern Wisconsin, traveling light and often, with little money for luxury. When winter came and conditions worsened, those miners too far from home to migrate would dig themselves sheltering caves in the hills -- like badgers. These temporary dwellings could be abandoned if a prospect proved fruitless, without much regret; and if the lead pickings were good, the lucky miner could fluff up his badger hole or upgrade to a more traditional Euro-American residence. For this practice Wisconsin miners were dubbed "badgers" -- a jibe that was soon appropriated as a proud, statewide nickname. Bucky didn't come along until 1949; the furry, quadruped badger, notoriously vicious when cornered, wasn't declared Wisconsin's state animal until 1957.

Being a history buff, I knew this already, but thought that some WisBlawg readers might not.

The above photo from the UWDCC's University of Wisconsin Collection is of Bill Sagal, the first human Bucky Badger mascot in 1949.

March 17, 2009

Partner Cuts on the Rise

From the ABA Journal:

Few U.S. law firms are acknowledging partner cuts, but they are happening and could gather steam if firm leaders foresee a long recession.

Consultants tell the Daily Journal that partner terminations are on the upswing and, if the downturn continues, they will likely be made in a proportion that is at least half that of associate layoffs...

Tony Williams of London-based Jomati Consultants told the publication that firms are likely considering partner cuts to preserve associate-to-partner ratios. A firm that has laid off 10 percent of its associates will consider cutting at least 5 percent of its partners--and probably more, he said.

Source: Out of the Jungle

Legal Times to Merge With The National Law Journal

From the Blog of the Legal Times:

Legal Times, which has reported on the D.C. legal and lobbying communities since 1978, is merging with one of its sibling publications, The National Law Journal.

The combined publication will focus on national legal news, with a special emphasis on Washington, and it will carry the name The National Law Journal.

Source: Lex Scripta

Short Turn Around for Most Records Requests from Gov. Doyle's Office

The Appleton Post-Crescent reports that "most people requesting records from Gov. Jim Doyle's office last year did not have to wait long to get them."

In their "fifth annual review of public records requests found that about two-thirds of people seeking records got them within two weeks....

The P-C could discern a response time for 65 requests. Of these requests, 43 received requests within two weeks, and 59 requestors, more than 90 percent, received request within about a month."

Did you know that Wisconsin was the first state to pass an open records law? See Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 10, Section 137 from 1849.

March 16, 2009

Global Financial Crisis and Implications for Wisconsin Workshop

The University of Wisconsin Law School Global Legal Studies Center has announced an outreach workshop entitled Global Financial Crisis and Implications for Wisconsin. Attorneys, policy makers, state agencies, civil society groups and other interested groups are invited to attend.

The workshop will be held on March 25, 2009, 2:45-6:00 pm at the UW Law School in the Lubar Commons (7200 Law). CLE credit for Wisconsin attorneys pending. See the draft agenda.

Speakers are:

  • Professor Mark Copelovitch, Political Science Department, UW-Madison
  • Professor Menzie Chinn, La Follette School of Public Affairs, UW-Madison
  • Professor Darian Ibrahim, UW Law School
  • Sara Jensen, Promega Corporation, Madison

To register, complete the registration form by March 20, 2009.

This is part of a series of workshops on global legal issues on the theme: "International law and Globalization: Implications for Wisconsin"

March 12, 2009

Coming Soon - Route Calls, Manage Voicemail & Make Free Calls with Google Voice

From the NYT:

Google stepped up its attack on the telecommunications industry on Thursday with a free service called Google Voice... [The service] is intended to simplify the way people handle phone calls, voice mail and text messages...

Google Voice allows users to route all their calls through a single number that can ring their home, work and mobile phones simultaneously. It also gives users a single and easy-to-manage voice mail system for multiple phone lines. And it lets users make calls, routed via the Internet, free in the United States and for a small fee internationally...

There are also a slew of other features available such as call screening, blocking, voicemail transcripts, email or text notifications, conference calling and more. See the Google Voice Features page for more info, including video demos of each feature.

The service is initially only available to a select group of users but Google says the general public will be able to use it in the coming weeks. Definitely watch for news when it does become available. This is going to be huge.

March 11, 2009

CCAP Upgrades Security and E-file Presentation for Judges

According to The Third Branch, the newsletter of the Wisconsin Court System, CCAP is undergoing some security upgrades. It seems that the majority of these recommendations will have an impact only on CCAP staff, but some will be noticeable to CCAP users. Some of the updates include:

  • Authenticating new users
  • Implementing OS patches
  • Implement hard drive encryption
  • Securing router connections

The Third Branch also reports that the latest CCAP software includes a new case file presentation designed to help judges and court commissioners to find, read and sign documents electronically.

March 10, 2009

Archival Case Law Free with FindACase

FindACase, from VersusLaw, is a new source for free case law. While there are other free case law sites out there, such as Justia, Public Library of Law and PreCYdent, the coverage on FindACase appears to be more comprehensive.

FindACase contains case law from:

  • U.S. Sup. Ct. 1886-
  • Fed. Circ. Cts. 1930-
  • Fed. District Cts. vary (most 1940s-)
  • States vary (most 1990s-)

Users can retrieve cases by by citation or keyword search.

BUT - there are a few "gotchas"

  • First, you are required to provide your zip code before a search " to provide advertisers with information they need to support the site"
  • Second, the documents you retrieve with your search do not contain the citation or docket number . If you want the citation or docket number, you may purchase a complete version of the document by selecting the "Buy This Document" button and will be charged $2.95 per document.

    The FindACase Network consists of 52 web sites: one for each state (including Wisconsin), Washington D.C., and a FindACase Network homepage. Each web site consists of the state and federal case law for that particular state, i.e., the state appellate courts, the Federal Circuit Court, the U.S. District Court cases, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Source: LexLibris

  • Print Your Resume Free Today at FedEx Office

    Today, March 10, 2009, FedEx Office (formerly Kinkos) is hosting "Free Resume Printing Day." The company is offering to print up to 25 copies of each customer's resume for free.

    This offer is good for 25 black-and-white resume copies per customer and is only valid for orders placed and picked up in-store. Customers may place orders by submitting their resume in printed format or as a digital file, and the copies will be printed single-sided on resume-quality paper.

    Source: LexScripta

    March 5, 2009

    Joe Lieberman Grills Federal Judiciary About PACER System

    From The National Law Journal:

    Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., has asked the policy body of the federal judiciary why it continues to charge the public and lawyers for access to electronically filed documents and whether enough is being done to protect the personal data collected by courts.

    The senator, who is head of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed concern in a Feb. 27 letter that the federal judiciary had a $150 million surplus in its technology fund as of fiscal year 2006 yet continues to charge the public and lawyers $.08 per page for access to documents.

    Lieberman also raised concerns "that not enough has been done to protect personal information contained in publicly available court rulings, potentially violating another provision of the E-Government Act." He referred to research from Carl Malamud's organization which found thousands of privacy violations in scanning documents.

    Source: aall-advoc listserv

    AALL Annual Meeting Planning & Tracking Tools

    Law librarians are a pretty tech savvy bunch. As evidence, take a look at some of the exciting tools my colleagues have created relating to the 2009 American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting. This year, the meeting will be held in Washington DC on July 25th - 28th.

    March 4, 2009

    Social Media Best Practices for Law Schools

    The Social Media Law Student has launched a series called Social Media Best Practices for Law Schools. In part one, the author shares her frustrations about her school's stance on social media:

    Like other law students, I was told not to blog about law school and to be careful what I posted on that evil place called Facebook. About a month into law school I started following lawyers on Twitter and reading law blogs (a.k.a blawgs). As anyone reading this already knows, participating in Twitter and commenting on blawgs is a hugely beneficial way to meet people and learn about the field. I got pretty upset with my school, and blogged about it (against their advice, of course). As with many rants, I ended up feeling guilty for whining but not offering up any solutions to the problem. So, I emailed the Assistant Dean of my school and let him know how I felt.

    To my surprise, he was really receptive and we're now working together on a Social Media Best Practices Guide.

    If you're interested in how law schools and students can use technology (esp. social media), I highly recommend following the Social Media Law Student. The site is well designed and features lot of great content.

    WisBar InsideTrack and Bluebook Helpers

    The March 4 edition of InsideTrack is now available. InsideTrack is the new e-newsletter available from the Wisconsin State Bar.

    I contributed an article entitled Bluebook helpers: Tools for creating legal citations. In the article, I explore several new tools that can help attorneys create citations more easily: CiteGenie, Introduction to Basic Legal Citation, and Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations.

    There is also an article about Arctic Justice - the University of Wisconsin Law School team that participated in the Polar Plunge for Special Olympics in Lake Monona on Feb. 21, 2009, at Olin Park, Madison.

    March 2, 2009

    Pittsburgh Couple Loses Privacy Case Against Google Maps Street View

    "A couple in Pittsburgh whose lawsuit claimed that Street View on Google Maps is a reckless invasion of their privacy lost their case." Read more from CNet News:

    Aaron and Christine Boring sued the Internet search giant last April, alleging that Google "significantly disregarded (their) privacy interests" when Street View cameras captured images of their house beyond signs marked "private road." The couple claimed in their five-count lawsuit that finding their home clearly visible on Google's Street View caused them "mental suffering" and diluted their home value. They sought more than $25,000 in damages and asked that the images of their home be taken off the site and destroyed.

    However, the U.S. District Court for Western Pennsylvania wasn't impressed by the suit and dismissed it (PDF) Tuesday, saying the Borings "failed to state a claim under any count."

    Source: Search Engine Watch