« August 2009 | Main | October 2009 »

September 30, 2009

Use Google Docs Viewer to Quickly View Documents Online Without Leaving your Browser

Google has announced a nice Docs viewer which you can use to quickly view documents online without leaving your browser. PDF documents, PowerPoint presentations, and TIFF files are supported

Simply enter a document URL to generate a link to view it. You can then either view the document right away inside of Google Docs, or get the URL which you can then share via email or paste into a website.

To see how a PDF looks inside of Google Docs, follow this link to the WI Budget in Brief which I created with Google Docs Viewer. As a comparison, here is a link to the WI Budget in Brief as you would download it and open separately in the Adobe Acrobat viewer.

I've also noticed that some documents that appear in regular Google search results automatically contain a link to "View" in the Google Docs viewer. Others documents do not, however. Instead, they have a "View as HTML" link. See the screen capture below. I'm not sure why there is a difference. I certainly prefer viewing in the Docs viewer rather than the HTML.


Source: Research Buzz

LegalTube, a New Video Matchmaking Site for Lawyers & Clients

Robert Ambrogi over at Law.com's Legal Blogwatch discusses LegalTube, an interesting new video matching site for lawyers and clients:

A new video site wants to play matchmaker for lawyers and clients. The idea behind LegalTube is to help potential clients find the right lawyer by letting them view videos of the lawyers discussing themselves and their areas of practice.

"LegalTube is the only legal directory where finding a lawyer or the answers to your law-related questions is as easy as channel surfing," the site promises. "It's a way to connect attorneys and potential clients by offering 'face time' in the comfort of your living room."...

Although there is not much here yet, it certainly makes sense for lawyer directories to match videos with profiles. Videos let potential clients get a sense of the lawyer in a way that simple text never could. Plenty of lawyers have already discovered this with videos on YouTube. Take those YouTube-style videos and arrange them by city, state and practice area, and you could have something useful for consumers. This site is not there yet, but it might be heading in the right direction.

2009-2010 Blue Book

The 2009-2010 State of Wisconsin Blue Book is now available on the Legislative Reference Bureau website.

Past editions of the Blue Book (1995-2008) are also available on the LRB sites. Older editions (1853-2004) have been digitized and made available by University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.

From the UWDCC site:

The State of Wisconsin Blue Book remains the primary one-volume reference source about the state, documenting the organization of the state's three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial).

Typically, each volume includes extensive description and statistics on virtually all aspects of life in Wisconsin, including major sections on the state's population, geography, history, election data, educational resources, social services, finance, agriculture, industry, transportation system, etc. Various useful lists are also provided, such as of statewide associations, news media, local governmental units, post offices, political parties, etc.

September 28, 2009

70 Sizzling Apps to Increase Attorney Productivity

The ABA Journal has a great list of 70 Sizzling Apps to increase productivity.

The list is grouped by categories:

  • Word processing and office suites
  • Research and Reference
  • Accessibility
  • Task Management
  • Maps, Fun and Games

September 25, 2009

Recent UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

New faculty scholarship as appears in the latest UW Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series via SSRN.

This Saturday is Museum Day - Free Admission to Select Museums

This Saturday, September 26, 2009, is Museum Day. Enjoy free general admission for you and a guest to hundreds of museums and cultural venues nationwide.

There are a number of Wisconsin museums participating in this program. See the complete list which is available on Smithsonian.com

Source: LifeHacker

September 23, 2009

Public Hearing Scheduled for Bill Proposing Restrictions to CCAP Access

As I reported earlier on WisBlawg, there is a bill being considered in the Wisconsin legislature that could mean some pretty big changes for CCAP access.

Tony Chan, Chair of the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin Government Relations Committee offers the following summary about the changes and an alert about an upcoming public hearing on the matter.

On July 8, 2009, Representatives Schneider, Kessler and A. Williams introduced AB 340, a bill to restrict access to and limiting information contained in the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) and providing a penalty. See History of AB 340.

Under this bill, the director of state courts may only provide case information on CCAP after a court does one of the following:
1) makes a finding that a person is guilty of a criminal charge;
2) makes a finding that a person is liable in a civil matter;
3) orders a person to be evicted; or
4) issues a restraining order or an injunction against a person.

In addition, this bill:
1) allows free access to CCAP to Wisconsin judges or other court officials, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, and accredited journalists;
2) allows access to CCAP information to any other person who pays a $10 annual fee and registers his or her name and address with the director of state courts;
3) requires the director of state courts to keep a registry and log of each user who pays the annual fee that records the searches each user performs.

Under the bill:
1) if a user searches for a person's name on CCAP and subsequently denies the person employment, housing, or another public accommodation, the user must inform the person that he or she searched for the person's record on CCAP. A user who fails to do so may be fined $1,000.
2) upon the written request of a person whose case information is currently available on CCAP, the director of state courts must remove any information relating to a case that did not result in a finding of criminal guilt or civil liability, an order of eviction, or the issuance of a restraining order against the person.

A public hearing will be held on Thursday, October 1, 2009, 10:15 AM (or upon adjournment of the Executive Session) at 328 Northwest State Capitol.

MJS editorial regarding this bill
Big Money Blog comments

Sources of State and Federal Court Documents & Case Information

Legal professionals often need to access court documents and case information, but knowing where to find them most efficiently and cost effectively isn't always easy. There several services that provide access to recent court documents - some free and some fee based.

The following is a run-down of available services of which I am aware. If you know of of any others, please share them in the comments.

Federal Courts

PACER (http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov) -
Most recent federal court documents are available via the PACER system. Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts. However, users must pay a fee to access PACER - much to the consternation of those who believe that government information should be free.

Free public access to PACER is currently provided in Federal courthouses (see the clerk of courts). Note that the Western Dist of WI charges 50 cents per page for printing. If you wish to set up your own account, note that PACER waives the first $10 of annual costs for each registered user.

FreeCourtDockets (http://freecourtdockets.com) - FreeCourtDockets is a new, free service which allows anyone to retrieve federal civil, criminal, and bankruptcy court dockets. The site is the product of Courtport LLC, but is ad-sponsored. No PACER account is required to view the dockets, but if you wish to view the filings for a case, a PACER account is needed. To retrieve all court dockets except U.S. Supreme cases, you must first obtain an invitation code. To request a free code, you'll need to complete a form on the FreeCourtDockets website.

Justia Federal District Court Filings and Dockets (http://dockets.justia.com) - Justia contains case information from the Federal District Courts. Some cases also include opinions, orders, and other filings.

RECAP (https://www.recapthelaw.org/) - While RECAP isn't technically a tool for locating court documents, it is a useful PACER add-on for Firefox users. Essentially what RECAP does is archive the documents that you view in PACER and then make them available to other RECAP users at no charge. For a glimpse of RECAP in action, watch the short video available on their website. See the features page for more information.

Wisconsin Courts

CCAP (http://www.wicourts.gov/casesearch.htm) Wisconsin uses the CCAP system which contains civil and criminal case information and status reports compiled through the court's Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP) case management system. While you'll find case information and dockets in CCAP, the actual documents filed in the case are generally not available, except for briefs filed on or after July 1, 2009.

Wisconsin Briefs (http://library.law.wisc.edu/eresources/wibriefs/) - For briefs filed before July 2009, try the Wisconsin Briefs database hosted by the UW Law Library. Currently, it contains briefs for Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals published and unpublished cases from 173 Wis.2d (November 1992) through approximately 12-18 months ago.

State and Federal Courts

Westlaw (http://lawschool.westlaw.com) - Westlaw makes accessing court documents very easy. Often at the end of an opinion you'll see links to the briefs and other documents filed in the case. There are also several databases in Westlaw in which you can search for documents directly.

LexisNexis (http://lawschool.lexis.com) - LexisNexis also has several databases containing federal and state court documents. However, it doesn't appear to display links to the documents directly with the opinion as Westlaw does. [LexisNexis users: if I'm wrong about this, let me know]

Westlaw CourtExpress (http://courtexpress.westlaw.com) - CourtExpress is a separate Westlaw product, although you should be able to access it with your regular Westlaw password. It contains state and federal dockets and some filed documents. CourtExpress offers some sophisticated search options, such as jurisdiction, keyword, nature of suit, party name, attorney or judge, date, and more. You can also set up alerts to monitor new cases or track filings in a specific case.

So what happens if you try all these services and still can't find what you need?

If the documents aren't available electronically (which frequently happens with older cases), you may need to contact the clerk of courts to obtain the documents. Note that courts generally charge a fee for document delivery.

September 22, 2009

Plaintiff's Brief Filed in Wisconsin's Diploma Privilege Challenge

Last week, plaintiffs filed a brief in their challenge to Wisconsin's "diploma privilege."

From the State Bar of Wisconsin news:

In the newly filed brief, the plaintiffs ask for summary judgment on the question of whether Wisconsin discriminates against interstate commerce when it requires an examination of graduates from out-of-state law schools in subject areas not particular to Wisconsin law. That is, the plaintiffs contest the rationale for administering only to them the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), which tests areas of federal and common law.

Specifically, the plaintiffs ask the court to bar Wisconsin from enforcing SCR 40.04(2) which imposes the MBE and counting the MBE toward the requisite passing score on the bar exam. The plaintiffs also seek an injunction against bar examination fees attributable to the MBE and any examination questions testing federal law, the Uniform Commercial Code, or common law principles.

September 16, 2009

Court Dismisses Complaint from Woman Who Didn't Like Her Yahoo! Search Results

From Tech Dirt:

Earlier this year, we wrote about a woman named Beverly Stayart, who had sued Yahoo over what she found when she did a search on her name. Her complaint was that some of the links advertised porn sites and possibly contained malware, and that this was a violation of her trademark and privacy rights.....

Earlier this week, the court dismissed the lawsuit against Yahoo and denied Stayart's request to refile. The court had trouble with the idea that this was a trademark claim, noting that just because she does not like how her name is shown, it does not create a trademark violation

The case was filed in the Eastern District of Wisconsin. The Decision and Order appears below.
Stayart Decision and Order (041-ECF)

Stamps to Honor Supreme Court Justices

On September 22nd, the U.S. Postal Service will be dedicating four 44-cent stamps honoring Supreme Court justices Joseph Story, Louis Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, and William Brennan Jr.

Source: Et Seq.

September 15, 2009

Get an Anonymous, Auto-expiring Phone Number with inumbr

Thanks to my colleague, Mary Jo Koranda, for pointing me to a service called inumbr, which provides you with a free, auto-expiring anonymous phone number that forwards incoming calls to your home or mobile phone. Callers do not see your home or mobile numbers.

I tried it out this morning and it worked as advertised. You have to tell it what area code you want for your anonymous number (the closest is Chicago area), then tell it how long you want the number to last (hour, day, week), and finally enter your real phone number.

After you hit submit, you'll get a new screen with your new anonymous number. It will be a phone number with an extension.

To test out the system, I registered my office phone for the anonymous number. Then I called the anonymous number with my cell phone. The service did indeed ring my office number but there was a message that said that I'd reached the number through the numbr service.

So, people to whom you've given your anonymous number would know that there was something different about it, but not necessary what -- unless they were also familiar with inumbr. All in all, pretty slick. See the FAQ for more info.

September 14, 2009

"You Can't Say that on Facebook" - Lawyers and Social Media

Saturday's New York Times has a thought-provoking article on attorney's and social media and the dangers of opening up too much.

Sean Conway was steamed at a Fort Lauderdale judge, so he did what millions of angry people do these days: he blogged about her, saying she was an "Evil, Unfair Witch."

But Mr. Conway is a lawyer. And unlike millions of other online hotheads, he found himself hauled up before the Florida bar, which in April issued a reprimand and a fine for his intemperate blog post.

The type of comments made by Conway were not isolated, as the article reveals, and this is an issue that isn't going away any time soon.

And with thousands of blogs and so many lawyers online, legal ethics experts say that collisions between the freewheeling ways of the Internet and the tight boundaries of legal discourse are inevitable -- whether they result in damaged careers or simply raise eyebrows.

Stephen Gillers, an expert on legal ethics at New York University Law School, sees many more missteps in the future, as young people who grew up with Facebook and other social media enter a profession governed by centuries of legal tradition.

Source: Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog

September 10, 2009

Google Book Downloader

From Download Squad:

Google Book Downloader is a free utility that lets you download any book that's available in "full view" from Google Books. Of course, most of these books also feature download links right on the web page, but Google Books Downloader lets you queue up multiple jobs and convert all of the downloaded books to PDF files.

The application is available for Windows and requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. You can either install Google Book Downloader or download a portable version which you can simply unzip and run from your hard drive or a removable disk.

In order to queue up a book for download, just open the "add book" dialog in the file menu and copy an paste the book code, link, or ISBN number, click search, and then select the book that shows up. To begin downloading, right click a title and hit "start." and to export a file as a PDF, right-click and hit "export."

You can find more instructions in the tutorial.

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

2009 Legal Educator Blog Census Results

Colin Miller at the EvidenceProf Blog has compiled the results of the 2009 Legal Educator Blog Census. Here are some of the findings:

September 9, 2009

Barron's Law Dictionary for iPhone Reviewed

iPhone J.D. describes the new Barron's Law Dictionary app as fitting "neatly" between the other two legal dictionaries available for the iPhone: Black's Law Dictionary ($50) and Nolo's Plain English Law Dictionary (free).

Like the Nolo dictionary, the Barron's dictionary contains over 3,000 terms. Like Black's, the Barron's dictionary has more sophisticated definitions, although in my random check they seem to use less legalese than Black's. And the price of $14.99 fits between the other two dictionaries. For more, see the full review.

September 3, 2009

New Bibliography of Wisconsin State Documents Available

Barbara Fritschel, law librarian for the U.S. Courts Library for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, has compiled a new guide entitled, "State Documents Bibliography: Wisconsin". The guide is part of a larger series of state guides published by Hein & Co. Inc.

The guide lists selected materials produced by or about the State of Wisconsin that are useful when doing in law related research. The last such guide produced for Wisconsin was Janet Oberla's "An Introduction to Wisconsin State Documents and Law Related Materials" published in 1987.

The new guide is available at a cost of $30. For more information, see this brochure from the publisher.

September 2, 2009

Does Public Records Law Extend to Government Employees' Email ? WI Supreme Court to Decide

There is a very interesting article in the latest InsideTrack regarding a case pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court on "whether the public's right to know what its government is up to extends to reading the personal emails government employees sent from work."

The case involves a public records request sent by a citizen to the Wisconsin Rapids School District seeking emails "from the computer [the teachers] use during their school work day" from March 1, 2007 through April 13, 2007. The school district made the decision to release the emails; several teachers objected to the release of purely personal emails that did not relate to the school district or to any official acts of government.

According the the article, "the supreme court accepted the teachers' appeal after the Wisconsin Court of Appeals certified the case in April. The teachers seek reversal of the circuit court decision and an order to enjoin the school district from releasing their personal emails."

Alternative Search Engines - There's More to Life Than Google

In the latest edition of InsideTrack from the Wisconsin State Bar, Bev Butula introduces some powerful general Internet search engines - besides Google. "These alternatives often support different functionality, which can assist in a more productive online experience."

Specifically, she discusses Exalead, hakia, Clusty, and Bing.

WSLL Offers E-Filing Class

To assist attorneys who are now required to submit electronic copies of briefs and other documents when litigating matters at the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin State Law Library is offering a class entitled, E-filing: Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

The class will be held Tuesday, Sept. 22, 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. at the Wisconsin State Law Library.

In this one-hour session, David Schanker, Clerk of Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, will explain the new rule and provide technical guidance on how to create and file electronic documents. This is an opportunity for attorneys and legal assistants to gain practical skills and an understanding of the new e-filing requirements.

Cost: $35.00. 1 CLE credit applied for. Registration is limited to 20. Pre-Register Online | Print Registration Form

Source: WSLL @ Your Service

September 1, 2009

Employers Increasingly Using Social Networks to Screen Job Candidates

"According to a new study conducted by Harris Interactive for CareerBuilder.com, 45 percent of employers questioned are using social networks to screen job candidates," reports the New York Times.

More from the article:

The report showed that Facebook was the most popular online destination for employers to do their online sleuthing, followed by LinkedIn and MySpace. In addition, 7 percent followed job candidates on Twitter....

More than half of the employers who participated in the survey said that provocative photos were the biggest factor contributing to a decision not to hire a potential employee, while 44 percent of employers pinpointed references to drinking and drug use as red flags.

Other warning signs included bad-mouthing of previous employers and colleagues and poor online communication skills.

Source: WTN News

Wisconsin Eye No Longer Available on Time Warner Cable

From the Wisconsin State Journal:

The public affairs network Wisconsin Eye said it would end its service to Time Warner customers on Monday night at midnight because the company won't pay for it.

Time Warner serves customers in southeastern Wisconsin and the Fox Valley area -- Wisconsin Eye will continue to be available to Charter Cable subscribers in the Madison area and on its Web site at www.wiseye.org.