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November 25, 2009

Litigation - WI Law Firm Purchases Search Results for Another Firm's Name

A suit filed last week by Habush Habush & Rottier alleges that the firm of Cannon & Dunphy effectively hijacked the names and reputation of Habush attorneys by purchasing the keywords "Habush" and "Rottier" for its Internet search results.

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

Until a day after the suit was filed, anyone who typed in the names Habush or Rottier on the popular search engine Google would see the home site for Cannon & Dunphy appear first.

According to the Associated Press, Cannon has acknowledged paying for the keywords but denied any wrongdoing, saying it was following a legal business strategy....

In the suit, Habush claims that Cannon violated the Wisconsin privacy law - Wis. Stat. 995.50(2)(b) - which states that someone's name or likeness cannot be used for advertising purposes without written consent from the individual.

Is this a big deal? Consider this from WTN News..."According to Google, 75 percent of Google users NEVER click past the first page. The top three Google results get 79 percent of all clicks. The remaining 7 results share just 21 percent of the clicks."

Guides to Legal Research for the Layperson

The American Association of Law Libraries Legal Information Services to the Public SIS has recently published a new edition of its research guide, How to Research a Legal Problem: A Guide for Non-Lawyers. This guide introduces sources of law generally and offers tips on how to get started.

For a more detailed guide covering both federal and Wisconsin specific resources, see the Introduction to Legal Materials: A Manual for Non-Law Librarians in Wisconsin prepared by the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin.

November 23, 2009

Latest UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

Here is the latest faculty scholarship from the UW Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series via SSRN.

November 18, 2009

Finalists for 7th Circ. Judge Selected

From the Chicago Tribune:
Six finalists from a field of 11 applicants have been selected to fill a pending vacancy on a federal appeals court which handles appeals from Wisconsin and other states. Two of the six finalists are UW-Madison law professors Anuj Desai and Victoria Nourse. Read the article for the full list.

November 17, 2009

Free Case Law Now Available on Google Scholar

Wow - big news last night from Google: Free case law is now available in Google Scholar!

There isn't much description yet from Google, but Internet For Lawyers has a nice run down of the features. Here are some highlights:

Coverage of the database:

  • 1 US 1 (pre 1776)
  • 1 F 2d 1 (1924 +)
  • F Supp Cases
  • US State Cases (1950+)

Go to the Advanced Search page to limit results to:

  • all legal opinions and journals
  • only US Federal court opinions
  • only state court opinions (where you can select any combination of the 50 states and the District of Columbia)

Google Scholar includes the full text of the returned case and links to other cases cited in the returned case.


As cool as this is, remember that free is free and this isn't Westlaw or Lexis. There will be inadequacies of the search and coverage of the database. According to the 2009 ABA Legal Technology Survey Report "respondents are significantly more satisfied with the characteristics of fee-based online legal research resources than they are with those of free online legal research resources."
Update: 9/23/09

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin has a good review of the ups and downs of Google Scholar's legal offerings.

November 16, 2009

Something Rotten at the State Capitol - Literally!

You never know what you're going to turn up in the Odd Wisconsin Archives. I had to laugh at the story about the "cache of decaying venison and sturgeon" stored a basement room of the Capitol wreaking havoc on the olfactory sensibilities of our distinguished lawmakers. And, funnier still, was that it was of their own doing. Brings new meaning to the contention that there's something rotten in politics.

In the early 1930s, lawmakers decided to hold wardens accountable for the proper disposal of confiscated animals. A new provision was inserted in the legal code requiring that seized fish and game be sent to the state Capitol. And so there a captured sturgeon was soon deposited, unpreserved, in a basement storage room.

Ever dignified, members of the Supreme Court initially ignored the stench rising up the elevator shaft from below. But as it intensified, the justices decided that laws about abating a public nuisance trumped those about confiscated game....

Many lawmakers were said to be so scarred by the stench that they swore off sturgeon altogether, even giving up caviar. In an effort to avoid another incident, the law was changed and conservation wardens were once again entrusted with selling confiscated sturgeon locally.

Image: Capitol East Gallery, 1934, from the Wisconsin History Society Image Archive

Revised Google Settlement on Digital Books

Google has filed a modified version of their controversial books settlement in federal court last Friday.

From the New York Times:

The settlement, of a 2005 lawsuit over Google's ambitious plan to digitize books from major American libraries, outlined a plan to create a comprehensive database of in-print and out-of-print works. But the original agreement, primarily between Google, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers, drew much criticism.

The Justice Department and others said Google was potentially violating copyright law, setting itself up to unfairly control access to electronic versions of older books and depriving authors and their heirs of proper compensation.

The revisions to the settlement primarily address the handling of so-called orphan works, the millions of books whose rights holders are unknown or cannot be found. The changes call for the appointment of an independent fiduciary, or trustee, who will be solely responsible for decisions regarding orphan works.

The Library Journal offers some additional analysis:

The one notable response to criticisms from the library community was an agreement that, as Google representatives had already stated, more than one free public access terminal per library building may be authorized.

The revised settlement also incorporates some other concerns raised by the library community and similarly interested parties. The settlement will allow for Creative Commons licensing, which means that rightsholders--notably academics--can ensure their works are available for no cost. And Google won't "provide personally identifiable information about end users to the Registry other than as required by law or valid legal process."

However, library critics were not pleased by the "vague--and, to critics, fatally inadequate--concession on orphan works. There was also no response to library concerns about pricing of the potentially monopolistic institutional database--an issue that Google representatives say can't be addressed in the settlement."

Article: After Supreme Court clerkship, Klingele back teaching at UW Law School

UW Madison News has a wonderful profile of Cecelia Klingele about her experience as a U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens. A 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin Law School, Cecelia returned to Madison this fall to start a two-year teaching appointment as a visiting assistant law professor.

November 13, 2009

Supreme Court Fantasy League

FantasySCOTUS.net is a new fantasy league that allows you to compete against your friends, colleagues, and adversaries to determine who has the greatest ability to predict the outcome of Supreme Court cases.

The site is the brainchild of Josh Blackman, recent George Mason law grad and "big Supreme Court nerd."

The Rules are simple, say the FantasySCOTUS.net website:

For each case the Supreme Court grants cert, predict:

-The Outcome of the Case (Affirm or Reverse the lower Court)
-The Split (9-0, 8-1, 7-2, 6-3, 5-4, 4-1-4, or fragmented)
- The Justices in the Majority, and the Justices in the Dissent

At the end of the Term, the Associate Justice who predicts the most cases correctly will be confirmed as the Chief Justice of the Fantasy Supreme Court League, and win a to-be-determined prize.

Update: By popular demand, I am currently developing a League feature. Soon, users will be able to join leagues for schools, law firms, and other groups. Stay tuned.

Now you can play like the Tenth Justice.

Source: Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog See also WSJ Law blog

A Facebook Alibi

There is an interesting story in this week's New York Times about a robbery suspect cleared because of his Facebook alibi.

His defense lawyer, Robert Reuland, told a Brooklyn assistant district attorney, Lindsay Gerdes, about the Facebook entry, which was made at the time of the robbery. The district attorney subpoenaed Facebook to verify that the words had been typed from a computer at an apartment at 71 West 118th Street in Manhattan, the home of Mr. Bradford's father. When that was confirmed, the charges were dropped.

"This is the first case that I'm aware of in which a Facebook update has been used as alibi evidence," said John G. Browning, a lawyer in Dallas who studies social networking and the law. "We are going to see more of that because of how prevalent social networking has become."

Source: Fastcase blog

November 12, 2009

Wisconsin Public Library Consortium Now Offers Text EBooks

The Wisconsin Public Library Consortium has recently added text eBooks to their Digital Download Center, which already contains digital audio books. See the screen shot below. ebook2.jpg

No eBook reader is required to view the eBooks - any computer (Windows or Mac) will do. But they will also work with a Sony Reader, though unfortunately not with the Amazon Kindle or Palm/Pocket PC devices.

A small software download is required to "check out" both digital text or audio books. A public library card and PIN number are also needed.

For more information about the digital text eBooks or audio books, see the Wisconsin Public Library Consortium's Digital Download Center.

Source: TechBits

November 11, 2009

Federal Court Rules that Twitter Use in Courtroom Violates Fed. R. Crim. P.

From Law.com's Legal Blog Watch:

In United States v. Shelnutt (M.D. Ga. Nov. 2), a federal court in Georgia ruled that Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits "tweeting" from the courtroom and that Rule 53 does not unconstitutionally restrict freedom of the press....

The immediate result of the court's decision is to reject a request from a reporter for the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer that he be allowed to use his BlackBerry during the Shellnutt criminal case in order to send updates to his newspaper's Twitter feed.

Source: Ross Blakley Law Library Blog

Google Offers Free Wifi at Airports and Virgin American Flights During the Holidays

Traveling this holiday season? Then you may be very pleased to learn that Google is providing free WiFi at 47 participating airports and on every Virgin America flight. The service is already available and will run through January 15, 2010.

Milwaukee is one of the airports available. See the Google site for a list others.

No login or email is required, simply select the option for the complimentary WiFi and accept the terms of service. See the FAQ for more info.

Source: Social Media Law Student

November 10, 2009

LexisNexis Releases iPhone App

LexisNexis has released its first iPhone app.

From the announcement: It is called "Get Cases and Shepardize," and (as you may have guessed) allows users to get cases from Lexis.com and Shepardize them to make sure what they have found is still good law. Users must have a current account with Lexis.com and a valid password to use the application. The app itself is free at the iTunes App Store.

See the review at Legal Geekery

Source: Robert Ambrogi's LawSites

Tips from Law Practice Management Blogs

In her Wisconsin Law Journal column, Jane Pribek has compiled some law practice management tips culled from various legal blogs, including WisBlawg.

She reviews "Firefox 'add-ons' for attorneys" for archiving and citing resources, as well as "miscellaneous money-savers" for directory assistance, marketing, and domain name registration. A very handy list of useful little tools.

November 6, 2009

Refworks Now Supports Bluebook Citation Style

I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but it seems that Refworks now supports the Bluebook citation style. It must not have been too long ago since it's not even showing up yet on the RefWorks Output Style list.

If you're not familiar with Refworks is one of several citation management applications. Other applications that support the Bluebook style include EndNote and Zotero.

Refworks offers the choice of Bluebook - Notes and Bibliography or Bluebook - Notes only. It does not have brief format. See a sample of the Notes and Bibliography style below.


Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Library has created a Refworks Quick Start guide tailored to law users. The guide notes that direct export is available from LexisNexis Academic, Newsbank, JSTOR, Google Scholar. Note direct export is not available for LexisNexis and Westlaw, but you can manually add references yourself.

CM Law Librarian Sue Altmeyer notes that Refworks appears to be more accurate than Zotero when putting citations into Bluebook form. And that both Zotero and Refworks can attach a copy of the article or case to the file.

Wisconsin Legislative Session Wrap-up

From today's Wheeler Report:

The Assembly adjourned about 3:45 a.m. today, ending the floor sessions scheduled for 2009. Regular sessions will resume January 19, 2010.

However, legislative leaders are expected to call lawmakers back to Madison in the coming weeks to take up any agreement that can be worked out between the Senate and Assembly on stiffening drunken driving laws.

Also, there is a possibility Gov. Doyle will call the Legislature into special session to consider the proposed mayoral takeover of Milwaukee Public Schools.

On Thursday and early today, the Legislature completed action on additional Wisconsin Shares child welfare reform, provided for taxpayer funding of state Supreme Court races, took away the governor's authority to appoint the DNR secretary, and a package of bills providing Wisconsin the ability to seek federal Race to the Top funding.

See the Wheeler Report for news articles and press releases about the legislation.

November 4, 2009

LRB Launches WI Legislative Oral History Project

The Legislative Reference Bureau has begun work on the Wisconsin Legislative Oral History Project. The project will include recorded interviews with former members of the Wisconsin Legislature, conducted by John Powell, the former Capitol reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.

The goal of the project is to record the oral histories of as many former legislators as possible; the purpose is to learn from the interviews how the legislature functions as a forum for determining public policy, what enables it to work well, and what prevents it from functioning better.

Each interview is about two hours long. The LRB will publish the entire series on DVDs and will eventually make them available as streaming video from their Web site. Brief excerpts are already viewable at the LRB's YouTube channel.


Thanks to LRB Chief, Steve Miller for sharing the news.

ISP Legal Department Contact Info

"Need to subpoena Facebook or Gmail? If you do, then you'll need to know where to serve the subpoena."

Jon Groth's Wisconsin Personal Injury Weblog points to a useful site called SEARCH which contains contact info for the legal departments of various Internet service providers (ISP) and similar information services. This information may be useful for service of subpoena, court orders, and search warrants.

November 3, 2009

Jotwell Highlights Best New Legal Scholarship

Jotwell is a new online law journal from "leading academics and practitioners providing short reviews of recent scholarship related to the law that the reviewer likes and thinks deserves a wide audience."

Jotwell, short for The Journal of Things We Like (Lots), is housed on a set of inter-linked blogs on the following subjects:

You can view each section individually or view them all on the Jotwell main page. If you wish to subscribe by RSS or email to specific subject sections or to all Jotwell posts.

Jotwell is sponsored by the University of Miami School of Law. As you can see below, UW Law School's Allison Christians is one of the editors for the Tax section.jotwell.jpg

November 2, 2009

AZ Sup Ct - Metadata in Public Records Subject to Disclosure

From Wired Magazine:

Arizona's Supreme Court, in a surprising but welcome ruling, has declared that electronic metadata is part of the public record under state law, in a case involving an Arizona police officer who suspects his superiors of backdating a document related to his work performance....

The city argued that metadata -- digital information that can reveal when a document was created and subsequently accessed or modified -- was not part of the public record..... But the state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that "if a public entity maintains a public record in an electronic format, then the electronic version, including any embedded metadata, is subject to disclosure under our public records laws."

See the full en banc opinion.

Hat tip to Steve Miller, Chief of the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau