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May 27, 2009

Search and Compare Pending State Legislation with BillFinder

In her Wisconsin Law Journal blog, Bev Butula discusses a useful service called BillFinder which "helps you find any bill eligible for consideration in the current calendar year using either keywords and phrases or bill numbers."

As Bev notes, BillFinder is particularly useful when looking for similar legislation being considered by more than one state. For example, I did a search for bills containing email and public record to see if there was any pending state legislation relating to government email as public record. As you can see by my search below, I did find a number of state bills.billfinder.jpg

For each bill, BillFinder provides the bill number, a summary, and bill tracking (see "Details" button). For some states, the text of the bill is also provided.

Bev also notes that "the search tool allows for Boolean operators, phrase searching, wildcard, and proximity options. These features help an individual locate legislation when a state's website lacks powerful search functionality. If you only need to search a select group of states, a checkbox window allows you to choose particular states."

BillFinder, which is free, is a service of StateScape, a fee-based service.

May 22, 2009

The Third Branch Articles on New Judges & Citation of Unpublished Opinions

The Third Branch newsletter from the Wisconsin court system has several interesting articles:

May 21, 2009

Legal Information Center Moves to University Square

Update 11/18/2010: Note that Legal Information Center has changed offices in the Student Activity Center. See the updated information below. The URL has also been corrected.

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The Legal Information Center (LIC) has moved to a new location in the Student Activity Center at University Square. The LIC offers free legal information and referrals to callers and walk-ins seeking assistance with legal issues.

The center is staffed by UW Law School and undergraduate student volunteers. The LIC does not staff or consult with any attorneys, and therefore cannot provide legal advice.

Their new address is:

The Legal Information Center
Student Activity Center
Office #3111 #1
333 E. Campus Mall
Madison, WI 53715-1380

May 20, 2009

Happy 5th Birthday, WisBlawg!


Today marks the fifth anniversary of the creation of WisBlawg.

Thanks to my faithful readers. I hope that you've enjoyed reading the blog as much as I've enjoyed writing it.

(Image from Flickr)

Open Jurist Offers F. 1st, 2nd, 3rd & US Reports

Open Jurist is a new (I think) database of free US Supreme Court and Federal Appellate opinions. It joins a number of other sites which offer federal opinions, such as Altlaw, PreCYdent, Public Library of Law, Justia and FindACase.

However, the coverage for Open Jurist extends farther back in time than do the others. It contains U.S. Reports from volume one and the Federal Reports back to the first series.

To help you navigate which content is available on what database, you might find the UW Law Library's Guide to Wisconsin Legal Information Sources to be a useful resource. The guide will also soon appear in The Wisconsin Lawyer.

May 19, 2009

UW Law School Twitter Feed

The UW Law School now has a Twitter feed. Marquette University Law School has a feed as well.

For a list of other law schools on Twitter, see the Social Media Law Student.

WiLS Offers Digitization on Demand of Public Domain Materials

WiLS (Wisconsin Library Services) has recently announced a new Digitization on Demand service. This service will provide complete digital copies of works from UW Madison Memorial Library's Special Collections and the Mills Music library that are within public domain.

Works will be scanned in their entirety for a library patron to use at their point of need, but the digital copy of the work will also be moved to the Digital Collection Center. Once the works have gone through processing with the Digital Collection Center, they will be linked to in the local OPAC and be hosted at the level of Google and the Hathi Trust to further future access to the work. The cost for this service will be paid for entirely by the requestor.

For more information or to request that an item be digitized, see the WILS web site.

May 18, 2009

Zotero 2.0 Now Supports Citation Sharing with Groups

Zotero, a wonderful free resource for collecting, managing and citing sources, recently announced a major upgrade to version 2.0. "Most important among the new features is the long-anticipated ability to collaborate in groups and group libraries," according to their post entitled Zotero 2.0 Mothership Lands.

ReadWriteWeb has done a nice job of explaining the new features:

Now, users who are working on collaborative projects can finally share their research in an easy, straightforward manner. If you are working on a research project in a group, for example, you can now easily create a new group and all the members of the group can just add the papers and books they found to this new group, including notes and other remarks they added to the new entry.

Here's a screenshot of both how groups looks inside of Zotero itself (Firefox plug) as well as how a shared group appears on the web.

So you can see how it looks, here's a list of my publications which I collected using Zotero groups.

I've said it before, but I say it again: I love Zotero. It's a truly wonderful tool for compiling resources - and now it's also great for sharing them. As a librarian, I can see myself using the groups page to share bibliographies with faculty and staff members. As a incoming OneL, I can see how I might want to share resources with my classmates using Zotero Groups.

ReadWriteWeb also reports that:

Some of the most exciting changes to Zotero are still ahead. The team also announced that it expects to roll out a recommendation engine in the near future, as well as a storage solution for sharing attached files (PDFs of academic papers, for example), as well as the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds from public groups and libraries.

Dickens & the Bookaneers: 19th Century Copyright Law

NPR has a very interesting interview with Matthew Pearl, author of The Last Dickens.

The story centers around the 19th century U.S. copyright laws which did not protect foreign authors, such as Charles Dickens. As a result, literary thieves called "bookaneers" would wait at the docks for new manuscripts to arrive from overseas, "ready to pilfer whatever they could get their hands on." (read more at the Bookreporter.com)

May 15, 2009

Law Library Blogs List Gets a New Home

For several years now, I've maintained a list of Law Library Blogs on the UW Law Library web server. I'm pleased to share that this list of blogs written by law librarians or law library associations is now available on the new AALL Computing Services Special Interest Section wiki.

In the course of the migration, the list has been updated by Michael Robak of the University of Illinois College of Law. Michael located many new blogs and diligently checked all of the existing ones to ensure that they were current (and removed those that weren't). Thank you, Michael! There are currently 185 known law library blogs.

May 14, 2009

Tomorrow's UW Law School Commencement Ceremony to be Webcast Live

The UW Law School Commencement Ceremony will be held tomorrow, Friday, May 15, 2009 at 1:00 p.m. at the Monona Terrace. For the first time, the hooding ceremony will be webcast live on the Law School's website. Family and friends who are not able to attend the ceremony in person are invited to watch it all online.
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5/15 Update: This link will take you directly to the webcast.

Costs of Imprisonment Far Exceed Supervision Costs

From the U.S. Courts Web site:

The daily cost of keeping someone imprisoned in a federal Bureau of Prisons facility was $70.75 in fiscal year 2008, and $65.25 in a community correction center. By comparison, the daily cost of supervision by federal probation officers was $10.23.

Ex Parte Blogging and the Supreme Court

Social Media Law Student reviews a recent student note in the Stanford Law Review which claims that blogs can and eventually will influence the Supreme Court.

In Rachel C. Lee's article, she discusses the flaws in the current ethics law to handle this form of ex parte communication with the court. "Ex Parte Blogging: The Legal Ethics of Supreme Court Advocacy in the Internet Era" is an interesting article. Lee's argument stems from the influence bloggers had on Kennedy v. Louisiana....

Lee argues that the current ethical rules are insufficient to properly prevent attorneys from using blogs as an ex parte form of communication with the Court. The note's biggest suggestion is the implementation of a new rule of professional conduct.

Opinion Rules Third Party Facebook "Friending" Unethical

The Philadelphia Bar Association recently issued an advisory opinion stating that it is unethical to have a third party "friend" a witness on Facebook for the purpose of gaining information about that person.

From the opinion:

The inquirer believes that the [Facebook & MySpace] pages maintained by the witness may contain information relevant to the matter in which the witness was deposed, and that could be used to impeach the witness's testimony should she testify at trial. The inquirer did not ask the witness to reveal the contents of her pages, either by permitting access to them on line or otherwise. He has, however, either himself or through agents, visited Facebook and Myspace and attempted to access both accounts. When that was done, it was found that access to the pages can be obtained only by the witness's permission, as discussed in detail above.

The inquirer states that based on what he saw in trying to access the pages, he has determined that the witness tends to allow access to anyone who asks (although it is not clear how he could know that), and states that he does not know if the witness would allow access to him if he asked her directly to do so.

The inquirer proposes to ask a third person, someone whose name the witness will not recognize, to go to the Facebook and Myspace websites, contact the witness and seek to "friend" her, to obtain access to the information on the pages. The third person would state only truthful information, for example, his or her true name, but would not reveal that he or she is affiliated with the lawyer or the true purpose for which he or she is seeking access, namely, to provide the information posted on the pages to a lawyer for possible use antagonistic to the witness. If the witness allows access, the third person would then provide the information posted on the pages to the inquirer who would evaluate it for possible use in the litigation.

The inquirer asks the [Professional Guidance] Committee's view as to whether the proposed course of conduct is permissible under the Rules of Professional Conduct, and whether he may use the information obtained from the pages if access is allowed.

See the full opinion for the Bar Associations' response to the this request.

Source: Fastcase blog

GPS Tracking by Police Reviewed by Wisconsin Court of Appeals

From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinellast week:

The 4th District Court of Appeals on Thursday upheld the secret use by police of a GPS tracking device to gather evidence against a Dane County man accused of stalking an ex-girlfriend.

But the court also urged the state Legislature to consider regulating police and private use of the technology.

For more news stories on this topic, see Google News.

May 12, 2009

Article: Huge shortfall forces Legislature to push Department of Revenue to collect

From the Badger Herald:

Wisconsin taxpayers would face more audits and revenue agents would pursue more of those who owe back taxes under a plan approved Tuesday to help close the state's budget shortfall.

The Joint Finance Committee voted 15-0, without any debate, to restore $11.8 million to the Department of Revenue's budget that Gov. Jim Doyle had proposed cutting over the next two years....

The Legislative Fiscal Bureau estimates the effort could bring in $70 million in revenue in the next two years, making a small dent in the $6.6 billion budget shortfall the state faces through June 30, 2011. The plan needs approval from the Legislature and Doyle to take effect.

Student's Wikipedia Hoax Fools Journalists, Bloggers

From Yahoo Tech:

When Dublin university student Shane Fitzgerald posted a poetic but phony quote on Wikipedia, he said he was testing how our globalized, increasingly Internet-dependent media was upholding accuracy and accountability in an age of instant news.

His report card: Wikipedia passed. Journalism flunked.

The sociology major's made-up quote -- which he added to the Wikipedia page of Maurice Jarre hours after the French composer's death March 28 -- flew straight on to dozens of U.S. blogs and newspaper Web sites in Britain, Australia and India.

There is nothing wrong with using Wikipedia for quick look-ups. I do it myself. BUT - you absolutely need to verify the information against other reputable sources. If the article contains footnotes, you need to follow them. If it doesn't contain footnotes, you should be suspicious.

See my recent post, Case Reversed for Allowing Wikipedia as Evidence.

Source: Twitter - Ross Kodner

"In Defense of Food" Selected for "Go Big Read" Reading Program

This fall, the university will launch "Go Big Read," a common reading program intended to engage students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members in a shared, academically focused reading experience. Students, faculty, staff, and community members are invited to participate by reading the book, and taking part in classroom discussions and campus events.

"In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto," by Michael Pollan is the book for the inaugural year. From the Go Big Read website:

Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto examines the modern American food landscape where the deceptively simple question of what to eat has been muddled by the numerous and often conflicting claims of food producers, marketers, and nutrition experts

Author Michael Pollan will visit campus Sept. 24-26 for a series of major events for campus and the community.

The UW-Madison Libraries are working with the publisher to secure copies of the book for students at a substantial discount. Arrangements are also being made to assure that the book is available in campus and public libraries, as well as in local bookstores.

Lexis Offers Free Access for One Year to Grads Serving Public Interest

LexisNexis has launched a new program for deferred graduates which will enable students who pursue public service during the deferral of professional practice to access certain LexisNexis services free of charge.

Initially, the LexisNexis ASPIRE (Associates Serving Public Interests Research) program was limited to graduates who have accepted an associate position at a law firm but are experiencing a deferred fall 2009 start date and are taking on public interest work during the deferral period.

But Lexis has recently announced that they are expanding eligibility to all 2009 graduates pursuing verifiable public interest (non-profit or charitable) work. This includes:

(1) Deferred fall associates pursuing public interest work during their deferral periods,

(2) 2009 graduates who elect to pursue public interest work while searching for law firm employment, and

(3) Those 2009 graduates who pursue public interest work as a continuing profession.

Complimentary LexisNexis access will be provided throughout these graduates' public interest employment periods, up until September 2010 maximum.

Interested students may sign up now at www.lexisnexis.com/aspire.

May 11, 2009

WisBar InsideTrack and Finding Journal Articles on the Net

A new edition of WisBar's InsideTrack was published last week. Highlights include:

This issue also features my last column in InsideTrack, Finding journal articles on the Internet. I've decided to step down due to increased responsibilities in the coming months. Bev Butula of Davis & Kuelthau will contribute legal research articles in the future.

May 1, 2009

Wisconsin State Law Library Redesigns Website

Update: The new State Law Library Website went live today, Monday May 11th.
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Kudos to the Wisconsin State Law Library on their newly redesigned website. Note that this is just a sneak peek. The new site will go live soon.

From the WSLL @ Your Service newsletter:

With its natural colors and clean lines, the new site reflects the aesthetics of the library. Along with a new style, the website features accessible, neatly arranged information, allowing users to quickly find pages relevant to their needs.

The home page features popular legal topics such as divorce, foreclosure, and name change, letting users quickly find the law and the forms they need. Library Highlights promotes upcoming library CLE classes and features legal research tips and library updates on a weekly basis. New Request a Document forms let users order copies of opinions and other library materials or request a library book be shipped to them directly. We are always ready to answer your questions; Ask a Librarian is just a click away.

For the first time, legal resources from every Wisconsin county will be conveniently available in one location. A new County Resources database offers streamlined access to county departments, forms, procedural guides, sources of legal assistance, court rules and ordinances. Users can simply choose their county or select "All Wisconsin Counties" to browse.

The Library's acclaimed Legal Topics pages provide links to circuit court forms and guides, state and federal agencies, organizations, and state and federal law. The website now offers enhanced features. Each of the topics includes new information such as links to notable titles in the Library's collection, on-point law review articles, and subject area journals.