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March 27, 2012

Get Ready for April 3rd Election with the Interactive Online Voter Guide

The Wisconsin State Journal has compiled an interactive online voter guide for the spring general elections in Dane County.

It allows Dane County residents to type in their address and call up a ballot with only those races that apply to their address. Then the ballot shows the candidates, their races, and their own statements about their candidacies. Readers can use this for research only, or can create a customized ballot with notes and indications of which candidates they wish to choose.

Read this article for more. Thanks to my law school colleagues for sharing the information about this site.

March 22, 2012

Today in Wisconsin History - 1877, Passage of WI Law Prohibiting Denial of Admission to the Bar on the Basis of Gender

Today's On This Day in Wisconsin History features the passage of a bill in the Wisconsin Legislature prohibiting denial of admission to the bar on the basis of gender.

Here's more from the State Historical Society:

R. Lavinia Goodell was the first woman admitted to the Wisconsin State Bar in 1897. Goodell had first applied in 1875, but was denied because it was believed that women were not suited to practice law. According to Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan, "Nature has tempered woman as little for the juridicial conflicts of the court room, as for the physical conflicts of the battle field."

Goodell then worked with the legislature to pass and defend enabling legislation. After the legislature passed it, she reapplied for admission to practice before the Wisconsin Supreme Court and her petition was granted on June 18, 1879, with Judge Ryan dissenting.

If you're interested in learning more about Goodell, see her biography entitled, Strong-minded woman : the story of Lavinia Goodell, Wisconsin's first female lawyer. Note that it is written for young readers.

March 20, 2012

Book Review

My colleague Sunil Rao has published a well written book review of The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law, by Albie Sachs. It appears on the AALL Spectrum blog.

From the review:

In the process of conceiving this book, Justice Albie Sachs--who served on South Africa's first Constitutional Court from 1994 until his retirement in 2009--asked himself: "How do I actually make my decisions and write my judgments?". The Strange Alchemy of Life and Law is a lively and elegantly written exploration of this question; it is a series of interlinking chapters held together by the thread of Sachs' broad and varied experiences as a lawyer, anti-apartheid activist, participant in the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, co-drafter of South Africa's constitution, and Justice on the Constitutional Court.

March 13, 2012

Google Changes Format of Legal Citator

I suspect that most of you know that Google Scholar offers full text federal and state court opinions. But did you know that it also offers a citator similar to (although not as extensive as) Shepards or KeyCite? This feature allows you to find significant citing decisions for a case.

Google has recently announced that it has changed the way that it presents these citing decisions. Previously, it had sorted by prominence, but it will now sort them by the extent of discussion of the cited case.

To access the citator, view a case in Google Scholar by entering the citation in the search box - try, for example, 603 F. 3d 181.

At the top you should see two tabs: the default tab is "Read this Case" and the other one is "How cited." If you click on the latter, you'll get the following screen.


Note that in the middle it shows you how other cases have quoted your case. On the right you'll see a list of cases that have cited your case, sorted by depth of treatment as described above.

March 8, 2012

Improve Your Google Search Results

Hack College has created a useful infographic on how to use Google more effectively. It's targeted toward students, but is helpful to anyone who uses Google - which is just about everyone, right?

I found the section on the operators to be the most useful. I've long used quotes to search for exact phases and the minus sign to exclude words, but I didn't know about the ~ to search related works or the .. to do a number range search. I will certainly be making use of those from now on.

You can also limit your search to a specific file type, search just the title of a webpage, search within a specific site, get a definition, do calculations or unit conversions, and lots more.

Don't worry if you can't remember all these operators. Google will walk you through many of them on the Google advanced search page. I just wish that Google didn't make the advanced search page so hard to find. There used to be a link to it from the main Google page, but they removed it for some odd reason. Now you have to either know the direct URL (http://www.google.ca/advanced_search) or search for it.

GPO Access to Shut Down in March

GPO Access will officially be shut down on March 16, 2012. Users will be redirected to content on FDsys for at least one year thereafter.

For more info, see FDLP Desktop