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February 25, 2010

School District Accused of Spying on Students via Home Webcams

Wow - this one just made my jaw drop. From Law.com:

It may sound like a Hollywood pitch for a summer movie aimed at teens, but it's taken directly from the pages of a federal lawsuit filed in Philadelphia that spins a tale of high school teachers secretly installing cameras in hundreds of students' homes to spy on them.

The class action suit, Robbins v. Lower Merion School District, alleges that 1,800 students were provided with laptop computers equipped with webcams which -- unbeknown to the students or their parents -- could be activated at any time by teachers and school administrators to spy on the students and their families in their homes.

February 23, 2010

Judge John DiMotto begins a Blog

From The Third Branch by the Wisconsin Court System:

Judge John DiMotto, who has served on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court for 20 years, started a blog on Dec. 3, 2009. It's called "Bench and Bar Experiences/A blog to record and convey the daily experiences of a Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge." The blog can be found at http://johndimotto.blogspot.com.

For more about the blog, see an interview with Judge DiMotto on The Third Branch.

New WI Jury Instruction on Social Media

From The Third Branch by the Wisconsin Court System:

To help judges address electronic communication during trials, the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions Committee recently developed a jury instruction that was disseminated to judges at the Judicial Conference and is also available on CCAP (the Consolidated Court Automation Programs).

Professor David Schultz, chief staff member of the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, was interviewed by Terry Bell of Wisconsin Public Radio about the new instructions. An audio recording is available online in the WPR Archives ("Online gadgetry during trials cause problems.")

[I can't seem to find the instruction on CCAP - anyone else have any luck?]

February 19, 2010

Justia Launches Portal to Mexican Statutes and Regulations

From beSpacific:

Ley.mx is another terrific addition to the family of legal sources developed and hosted by Justia. With content available in both PDF and HTML, this straight forward, well designed site hosts a database providing quick access to primary law, including the Mexican constitution, state and federal laws, codes, and regulations. The site also links to Mexican government sites with related legal information.

Thanks to my colleague, Bill Ebbott, for forwarding this to me.

February 16, 2010

Enhance your Computer Skills with the LearningExpress Library from Milwaukee Public Library

Side profile of a young woman sitting in front of a laptop and thinking
Need to brush up on your computer skills? If you live in the Milwaukee area, then you're in luck because the Milwaukee Public Library has recently acquired the LearningExpress Library Computer Skills Learning Center.

From Now @ MPL:
The database features interactive video, animations, quizzes and sound, and the tutorials include:

  • Access 2003 & 2007
  • Excel 2003, 2007 & 2008
  • Word 2003, 2007 & 2008
  • PowerPoint 2003, 2007 & 2008
  • Photoshop CS3
  • Flash CS3
  • Illustrator CS3
  • Microsoft Project 2007
  • Outlook 2003 & 2007
  • Publisher 2007
  • SharePoint Designer 2007
  • Visio 2003 & 2007
  • WordPerfect X3

The tutorials are available for both Mac and PC. Study at a basic, intermediate or advanced level, and create your own login to keep building your capabilities.

LearningExpress Library Computer Skills Learning Center is available within the library and from your home computer with your City of Milwaukee library card. To access Computer Skills Learning Center within the LearningExpress Library, select "Computer Skills" from the left sidebar that lists the Learning Center options.

Gov Doyle Weighs-in on CCAP Access

Governor Jim Doyle addressed CCAP access last week at the Wisconsin Newspaper Association's annual convention.

From the Wisconsin Law Journal:

Judges should decide whether to erase innocent people's cases from online court records, Gov. Jim Doyle said....[adding that] easily accessible electronic records make life a nightmare for people who are charged but later exonerated. The governor's remarks come after an Assembly committee approved a bill that would allow the public to see online records of court cases only where there has been a conviction.

The bill's main sponsor, Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin Rapids, argues that the mere mention of people in the state's online court database carries a connotation of guilt and can ruin their reputations forever, costing them jobs and housing.

Doyle, a Democrat, said Schneider's bill goes too far but "for those really innocent people ... we have to figure out a way to protect them."

February 12, 2010

Workshops on Current Issues in International Law: Implications for Wisconsin

The UW Law School Global Legal Studies Center, the UW-Madison Center for World Affairs and the Global Economy, and the International Practice Section of the State Bar are co-sponsoring three workshops on Current Issues in International Law: Implications for Wisconsin

The workshops are free for attorneys, policy makers, state agency personnel, civil society groups, students and others interested in global legal issues. Continuing legal education credits are pending.

Description of the workshops:

Due to globalization, international society is rapidly shrinking with the line between international law and national law becoming increasingly blurred. Given the increasing importance of international law and how close it has become to our day to day lives, we are organizing a series of workshops on the following topics:

February 18: Innovation: Role of the University, Industry and Intellectual Property Law

March 22: Beyond Copenhagen: Climate Change and Wisconsin

April 15: Legal Aspects of Doing Business in India

Click on the individual titles to view the agenda of a particular workshop.
Click here to view a full overview of the workshops and access the registration form.

All workshops run from 2:45-6:00 pm (reception from 5:30-6:00 pm) and are held in Lubar Commons (7200 Law) at the UW Law School.

Registration is free but space is limited. If you would like to register, please fill in the registration form and fax, email or mail it to Sumudu Atapattu (see below for contact details) before the date indicated for each workshop in order to facilitate planning. Registration is requested by 2/17 for Innovation, 3/15 for Beyond Copenhagen, and 4/9 for India. Access registration form here.

Questions? Contact: Sumudu Atapattu
Associate Director, Global Legal Studies Center
University of Wisconsin Law School, Room 6222 975 Bascom Mall,
Madison, WI 53706
Phone: (608) 890-1395, fax: (608) 262-5486

February 10, 2010

Fastcase App Offers Free Case Law and Statutes on your iPhone

Fastcase recently released an app for the iPhone. And not only is the app free, but so access to the case law and statutes that it contains -- even if you don't practice in a state like Wisconsin where the desktop computer version of Fastcase is free through the State Bar.

So far the reviews have been very good, including this one from iPhone JD:

Every single lawyer using an iPhone should download the Fastcase app. Moreover, the availability of the free Fastcase app is a compelling reason for any attorney not using an iPhone to purchase one today. This app is that useful....

My research needs on the iPhone usually consist of pulling a case when I am out of the office and have a citation, doing a quick search for recent cases that contain a word or phrase, or pulling a statute.... How I wish that Fastcase for the iPhone had been released last Monday instead of last Friday! I would have made extensive use of this app during my time in the courtroom, and the app is so efficient that I would have been much more productive.

Interested? Just click here to download the App from iTunes. Screenshot from iPhone JD.

Jurors' Use of Electronics Focus of Suggested Instructions

From USCourts.gov:

At its December 2009 meeting, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) endorsed a set of suggested jury instructions that district judges should consider using to help deter jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate about cases on which they serve.

WI Assembly Introduces Another CCAP Bill Which Would Alter Access to Court Records

Last month, the Wisconsin Assembly introduced another bill which would affect access to CCAP. Tony Chan, chair of Government Relations for the Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin had this report:

On January 22, 2010, 2009 ASSEMBLY BILL 663 was introduced by Representatives Marlin D. Schneider, Kelda Helen Roys and Annette Polly Williams, and Frederick Kessler. It was referred to Committee on State Affairs and Homeland Security. This bill is similar to AB 340 introduced by Representatives Schneider, Kessler and A. Williams on July 8, 2009.

Currently the Wisconsin state courts maintain a consolidated electronic system known as the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP). It contains information about civil and criminal cases filed in the circuit courts in this state, including information about the parties and their attorneys; documents filed; and deadlines, decisions, and outcomes of cases. The information on CCAP is available for free on an Internet Web site.

Assembly Bills 340 and 663 are similar in that they both restrict the public access to court records except for a permissible group of users such as judges, attorneys, the media, debt collectors, and employees of state and federal law enforcement agencies. Amendment 2 to A.B. 663 broadens the list of authorized court record viewers to real estate brokers, landlords, and employees or agents of a financial institution.

A.B. 663 also requires the director of state courts to maintain two separate CCAP databases.
One for the listed permissible users and another for the general public. The "general public" database will provide case information only after a court has done 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 injunction against the person.

In addition, A.B. 340 requires the public to pay a $10 annual fee and registers his or her name and address with the director of state courts.

The bill status is available on the Wisconsin Legislature's website.

February 9, 2010

UW Law Students to Help Dane Co Homeowners with Foreclosure Mediation

UW Law School students will help Dane County homeowners facing foreclosure take their cases through a mediation process with their lenders, reports UW-Madison News.

Beginning in February, Dane County Circuit Court will require lenders to tell homeowners they have an option to mediate their foreclosure cases and notify them of available resources, including a clinic staffed by UW Law School students.

Read more in the full article. For more information, call UW Law School Consumer Clinic at 608-263-6283.

February 3, 2010

New WI Supreme Court & Court of Appeals Cases Delivered Weekly with CaseLaw Express

CaseLaw Express is free weekly email service from the Wisconsin State Bar which lists all decisions handed down by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and Court of Appeals during the previous week. To subscribe, see the State Bar web site.

Subscribers must reconfirm their interest in receiving this service each year. If you are a subscriber who hasn't verified your subscription yet this year, you must do so before Feb. 14 to avoid service interruption.

Source: WisBar Inside Track

February 2, 2010

Revised Local Rules for Eastern Dist of WI Includes New Section on Citation to Unpublished Materials

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin has published new local rules effective Feb. 1, 2010.

Note in particular new Civil Local Rule 7 (j) governing citations to unpublished materials. It appears below along with the committee comment.

(j) Citations.
(1) With the exception of the prohibitions in Seventh Circuit Rule 32.1, this Court does not prohibit the citation of unreported or nonprecedential opinions, decisions, orders, judgments, or other written dispositions.
(2) If a party cites an unreported opinion, decision, order, judgment or other written disposition, the party must file and serve a copy of that opinion, decision, order, judgment, or other written

Committee Comment:

Civil L. R. 7(j) addressing "unreported" or non-precedential authorities is also new. The provision clarifies the Court's existing practice of allowing the citation of authorities in addition to those reported in printed national reporters, with the exception of orders whose citation and consideration is prohibited by Seventh Circuit Rule 32.1. Civil L. R. 7(j) additionally requires a party relying on such an authority to file a copy of that authority and serve it on all parties.

Notably, with the exception of orders subject to Circuit Rule 32.1, the new provision does not bar the citation of decisions or orders even if a rule would bar the citation of the decision to the court that issued the decision or to any other court. The Court may take limitations on the authority's use before other courts, as well as the "unpublished" or "non-precedential" nature of the authority, into consideration when deciding the weight, if any, to be afforded to the authority.

Hat tip to Barbara Fritschel, US Courts Library