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August 31, 2009

Federal Judiciary to Assess PACER

From the PACER Service Center:

The Federal Judiciary has undertaken a year-long, comprehensive program assessment. The goal of the assessment is to identify potential enhancements to existing services and new public access services that could be provided. We are gathering information through focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Please be aware you may be solicited about your views about PACER and our services with an eye towards what you, the customer, would like to see in the future.
If you have any questions about this assessment, please contact the PACER Service Center at pacer@psc.uscourts.gov.

August 19, 2009

Some WI Firms Cancel, Reduce Summer Associate Programs

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

Though large firms around the country have been cancelling their summer associate programs, the trend had yet to hit in Wisconsin.

Until now.

Milwaukee-based Quarles & Brady LLP confirmed that they have "suspended" their 2010 summer associate program...

Though Quarles is the only firm in the state so far to confirm its cancellation of the 2010 summer program, others have shortened their programs or reduced the number of hires.

Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren SC trimmed its program from 12 to 10 weeks this year, and Godfrey & Kahn SC went from 12 weeks to nine.

August 17, 2009

Ten Years and a New Adventure

This week marks my tenth anniversary at the University of Wisconsin Law Library. I feel fortunate to have received the opportunity to work at a great institution, doing a job that I enjoy with a wonderful group of colleagues. Not many people can say that they truly love their job, but I am one of them.

And now on to the next great adventure... law school. In just two weeks, I'll be starting as a 1L here at the UW Law School. I'll be a part time student and continue my position in the library. It will be interesting, and eye-opening I'm sure, to experience things from the student perspective. I'm very much looking forward to it.

August 14, 2009

Online v. Print Cost Savings Examined

Mark Gediman at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog has an interesting post about law firm cost recovery for online database charges.

I find myself constantly explaining/defending/justifying our cost recovery policy. Maybe I've been sampling the Kool-aid along the way, but I've come to realize that most firms that charge back for online services are actually saving their clients money.

Mark offers some examples of the cost savings that can be achieved using online databases v print materials, including this one:

Charging a fee for pulling a case online is less than the cost of pulling it off the shelf
Let's say a firm charges clients $10 per case. It takes about a minute to pull and print the case. With a billing rate of $300/hr, the total cost to pull that case would be $15 ($10 for the case, $5 for the attorney's time).

If the case is pulled from the shelf, let's figure the following time is spent: 5 minutes to walk to the books, 2 minutes to pull the right volume, 5 more to copy the case and 5 more to walk back to the office for a grand total of 17 minutes. The cost is $85. And this doesn't count the cost of the space required to house the cases or the copying charges.

The cost to pull the case online is only 17% the cost of pulling it in print. I realize that not everyone does these activities in exactly the same way. However, what is clear is that the client actually saved money in the process.

But he does note that there are some caveats to the online saving rule, particularly when using a treatise, "usually a practice guide, that the end user knows intimately." He notes that "it is actually better to keep these types of treatises in print."

RECAP Firefox Add-on - Access PACER Docs for Free; Contribute New Docs to Archive

I'm excited about a new Firefox add on called RECAP that "improves the experience of using PACER, the electronic public access system for the U.S. Federal District and Bankruptcy Courts."

According to the website, RECAP:

  • Helps you give back: Contributes to a public archive hosted by the Internet Archive
  • Saves you money: Shows you when free documents are available
  • Keeps you organized: Gives you better filenames, enables useful headers

For a glimpse of RECAP in action, I highly recommend that you watch the short video available on their website. See the features page for more information.

RECAP is a project of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University. The RECAP repository is hosted by the Internet Archive and they already working with Justia and public.resource.org to integrate the public records they already have into the RECAP archive.

Hat tip to Erika Wayne via the ALL-SIS listserv.

August 13, 2009

Does Posting Briefs in Database Violate Copyright?

The Volokh Conspiracy examines the question of whether Lexis and Westlaw infringe copyright when they post briefs filed in court.

Read more:

The argument for infringement is actually moderately strong. Like most other documents, briefs are protected by copyright the moment they are written. The fact that they're filed in court doesn't waive any copyright. Lexis and Westlaw's distribution of the briefs is thus presumptively copyright infringement.

Legacies of Lincoln Conference & Database of Materials from Lincoln's Law Practice

From the Marquette Law School Faculty Blog:

This year marks both the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth and the sesquicentennial of his visit to Milwaukee to speak at the Wisconsin State Fair... To commemorate these events, Marquette University Law School, together with the Department of History, will host a conference entitled "Legacies of Lincoln." This conference, occurring on October 1 & 2, promises to be a very fine event.
For more information, see the website. Note that CLE credit is available for a fee.

One of the sessions on Friday is entitled "Lincoln as Lawyer" which reminds me of a database I learned about at the AALL Annual Meeting last month. The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln is a free database containing records, letters, documents, contemporary printed accounts, or after-the-fact recollections that relate directly to Abraham Lincoln's law practice during the years 1836 to 1861.

August 12, 2009

New Budget changes Sentencing Practices in WI

From The Third Branch (newsletter of the Wisconsin Court System):

The new state budget, 2009 Act 28, includes changes in sentencing practices that go well beyond the early release provisions that received most of the media attention during the five months the budget was under consideration. Most of the provisions will become effective on October 1....

Proposed as an effort to give inmates more incentives for good behavior and to reduce costs for the state Department of Corrections (DOC), the changes give greater authority to the DOC to manage the inmate population and affect inmate release dates....

Under the new budget, the Earned Release Review Commission (ERRC) replaces the Parole Commission and is given enhanced duties and responsibilities. The ERRC will have the authority that now resides with the sentencing court to adjust a sentence of an inmate who has served 75 percent of a term of confinement for Class F to I felonies, or 85 percent of the term for Class C to E felonies.

The budget introduces a new concept called Positive Adjustment Time that allows DOC to give credit for days served without rule violations and in compliance with the inmate's programming. DOC is required to perform an objective risk assessment to determine the inmate's risk of reoffending, and then allocate resources to match the risk each inmate poses with appropriate and effective programming.

August 10, 2009

Article: Law Practice Technology Information Sources and Tools

The latest edition of LLRX features a useful article by Ken Strutin on Law Practice Technology Information Sources and Tools.

This article is a short list identifying some ways to learn about new technologies that apply to legal research and law practice. At the same time, some specific tools have been identified that will help manage research, communication and information-based tasks.
The article covers tools for current awareness, web-tech 2.0, website monitoring, citation tools, and communication management. Lots of good stuff here to check out.

Hat tip to Scott Frey of Western State University College of Law.

Bill Would Provide Funding For and Change Name of Law Library of Congress

From :

The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Thursday named in honor of former Utah Rep. Bill Orton that would boost funding to the Law Library of Congress...

"Bill Orton was a tireless advocate for the law library and this legislation is a fitting way to honor his memory," said Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., the proposal's sponsor....

Lofgren's proposal would change the name from the Law Library of Congress to the National Law Library and provide an additional $3.5 million to help reduce the backlog in books that have not yet been cataloged....

It also would create the "William Orton Program," which would solicit outside donations and create partnerships between the law library and groups such as the American Bar Association to fund its ongoing operations.


Thanks to my colleague, Nancy Paul, for the tip.

Tools for Scheduling Meetings

Bev Butula's recent column in InsideTrack introduces a couple of tools for scheduling meetings:

Coordinating schedules when working with a group of individuals can be a time-consuming process. It often entails several email exchanges or numerous telephone calls. Many experience the problem arranging times to meet with co-counsel, committee members or social groups. There are several online programs designed to help facilitate the process. This article discusses two of them [Doodle and Meeting Wizard].

August 7, 2009

Budget May be Republished due to Veto Error

"The Legislature is looking at republishing the state budget without one of Gov. Jim Doyle's partial vetoes because the veto violated the state constitution," reports JS Online.

Legislative leaders did not want to try to override the veto -- which requires a two-thirds vote -- because they didn't want to recognize it as valid... Leadership committees for both houses are expected to authorize republishing the budget next week.

Source: The Wheeler Report

First Criminal Arrest for Domain Name Theft in U.S.

DomainNameNews reports on the first criminal arrest for domain name theft in the United States.

According to the story:

Daniel Goncalves, the 25 year old law firm computer technician arrested on Thursday, reportedly hacked in to the Angel's [the domain name owners] AOL email account, used that information to retrieve the login details for the P2P.com [the stolen domain name] from the Godaddy.com [domain name registrar] domain account. Goncalves performed an internal "domain push" transfer, which in effect transferred the domain name to another Godaddy account that he owned....

In late 2006, Goncalves put the domain name P2P.com up for sale on eBay.com and on September 24, 2006 the eBay.com auction for the domain P2P.com closed in the amount of $111,000.

The article goes on to explain why so few of these cases are prosecuted.
Cases of domain name theft have not typically involved a criminal prosecution because of the complexities, financial restraints and sheer time and energy involved. If a domain name is stolen, the victim of the crime in most cases would need experience with the technical and legal intricacies associated with the domain name system. To move the case forward, they would also need a law enforcement professional who understands the case or is willing to take the time to learn....

Additionally financial restraints play a major role. Often times the rightful owners of these domains simply can't justify the thousands of dollars in legal fees necessary to handle a case like this....

Attorney Paul Keating told DNN that most cases of domain theft recovery that he has dealt with have been complicated at best. The real problem stems from the fact that domain names aren't considered property.

Source: VLLB Linkblog

August 6, 2009

Free, Easy File Format Conversion

Have you ever received a document in a format that you couldn't open? Maybe a MS Office 2007 .docx format but you're using an older version of Office?

Or wanted to convert a document to PDF but don't have a PDF creator installed on your computer?

Then check out Zamzar, a free online file conversion tool. Simply upload your files, choose the desired format, and enter your email address. In a few minutes, your receive an email notice that your file has been converted and a url where you can download it.

Zamzar also works for other formats, including video and image files. See the full list of conversion types.

Source: TechTips (South Central Library System)


Refocusing the Debate over Statutory History

The Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog features an interesting take on the debate over the usability of statutory history.


The current debate centers on whether reliance on statutory history is consistent with a plain meaning analysis. Justice Roggensack has asserted, "statutory history is part of a plain meaning analysis because it is part of the context in which we interpret statutory terms." Chief Justice Abrahamson, on the other hand, asserts that statutory history is inconsistent with a plain meaning analysis because if the text is plain, there is no need to go beyond the text.

While the intellectual debate over statutory history is commendable, the arguments thus far have been misplaced, and as a result, we should refocus the debate. The debate should not center on whether statutory history is consistent with a plain meaning analysis because such a debate does not answer when and how statutory history can be utilized. As such, the current debate is meaningless. Rather, the debate should center on whether statutory history is an intrinsic or extrinsic aid to interpretation.


Read the full post for more.

August 5, 2009

Search Wisconsin Lawyer Archives Back to 1997

From Heidi Yelk's Tech Tip in Brief in the latest WSLL @ Your Service:

In case you missed it (as I did), Wisbar.org, the State Bar of Wisconsin's website, now provides full text searching of Wisconsin Lawyer issues dating back to 1997. This can be a quick way to locate full text feature articles as well as news and case notes. To find it, click on the Wisconsin Lawyer tab under the Research Tools module.
You're not alone, Heidi. I'd missed that too. It's great to be able to search Wisconsin Lawyer content now!

August 4, 2009

Docket Number Searching Available via Justia Docket Search

Nicholas from Justia just let me know that case number searching is now available on Justia's Docket Search. He was responding to an earlier WisBlawg post which indicated that case number searching was not available.

His comment appears below:

I just wanted to make one slight comment on Justia having no case number searching. Actually we do. We haven't documented it yet, but if you put a case number in the #:####cv##### format (4 digit year, no hyphens) into the Party Search, it will search for a case by case number.

For an example, here is a search of the Western Washington District Court for case number 2:2009cv0108 which is the recent Amazon case.

Unsung Heroes 2009

It's time to nominate your favorite legal support staff for the 2009 Wisconsin Law Journal Unsung Heroes awards. Categories include:

  • Secretary
  • Paralegal
  • Law Librarian
  • Administrator
  • Human Resources
  • IT Specialists
  • Marketers
  • Court Staff

For more information, see the Wisconsin Law Journal website. The nomination form is available there.

The awards ceremony will be held November 13, 2009 at Milwaukee's Italian Conference Center.

August 3, 2009

FreeCourtDockets Sets Limit on Number of Free Dockets per Day

In response to rising demand and rising cost, FreeCourtDockets has set a limit on the number of free dockets that users can obtain daily.

From a recent email:

The word has been quickly spreading about FreeCourtDockets, many people have been granted invite codes, and our costs have quickly risen. To manage these costs we have been forced to implement a limit on how much docket data a person can obtain in a single day.

Pacer charges us eight cents per page with a cap of $2.40 for dockets. We have made your daily limit $2.40. This means you can obtain $2.40 worth of dockets from us for free every day. This could be one 200 page docket, 30 one page dockets, etc. This does not apply to U.S. Supreme Court Dockets--there is no limit on the amount of dockets you can retrieve.


For more about FreeCourtDockets, see my earlier post.

"Suggested Practices" for Federal Judges when Citing Internet Sources in Opinions

From The Third Branch, newsletter of the Federal Courts:

The Judicial Conference has issued a series of "suggested practices" to assist courts in the use of Internet materials in opinions. The recommendations follow a pilot project conducted by circuit librarians who captured and preserved webpages cited in opinions over a six-month period....

In approving those recommendations in March 2009, the Judicial Conference agreed that all Internet materials cited in final opinions be considered for preservation, while each judge should retain the discretion to decide whether the specific cited resource should be captured and preserved....

The guidelines suggest that, if a webpage is cited, chambers staff preserve the citation by downloading a copy of the site's page and filing it as an attachment to the judicial opinion in the Judiciary's Case Management/Electronic Case Files System. The attachment, like the opinion, would be retrievable on a non-fee basis through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records system....

The Judicial Conference also recommended that the Judiciary avoid including in final opinions working hyperlinks that lead directly to materials contained within commercial vendor databases to prevent a stated or implied endorsement or preferential treatment. To the extent that a court determines that such hyperlinks are to be used in opinions, it is recommended that an appropriate disclaimer be provided.

Recent UW Law School Faculty & Staff Scholarship

From the latest edition of the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series in SSRN.

Several UW Law Library staff have also recently published works:

  • Sunil Rao, Review of Faith & Law: How Religious Traditions from Calvinism to Islam View American Law, International Journal of Legal Information 375 (Summer 2008).
  • Bonnie Shucha (with Deborah Ginsberg and Meg Kribble), Inspiring Innovation: Planning, Implementing, and Evaluating the Web 2.0 Challenge, 101 Law Library Journal 355 (Summer 2009).
  • Bonnie Shucha (with Heidi Yelk), A Guide to Wisconsin Legal Information Sources, Wisconsin Lawyer, July 2009.