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August 15, 2013

Working Paper on the Availability of Tribal Law

Last year I became responsible for our collection of Native American materials at the UW Law Library. In reviewing the collection and availability of sources, I learned that tribal legal materials are very difficult to track down, especially for non-Indians.

There are 566 federally recognized tribes in the United States today. For a majority, no law has been published. Where is it available, tribal law is scattered across various websites, databases and print publications.

Curious about why this was true, I did some research on the matter. I've recently posted a working paper on SSRN that describes my findings. The paper, entitled 'Whatever Tribal Precedent There May Be': The (Un)Availability of Tribal Law, explores the costs and benefits of publishing tribal law and presents various publication options.

Part I analyzes why tribal law may not be more widely available; part II illustrates how making tribal law more accessible can benefit tribes and others; and part III describes how tribes can make their law available if they so choose.

An appendix lists existing publicly available tribal law collections, both historical and current.

August 5, 2013

WI Administrative Code Online Archive Complete Back to 1956

The Legislative Reference Bureau has announced that it has completed scanning the Wisconsin Administrative Code archive back to 1956 (vol 1 of the Administrative Register).

The Code does not appear in it's entirety for these archived editions. Rather, each year contains a list of the Administrative Code Registers for each month. The chapters that were inserted or removed that month are linked.

The easiest way to track the history of the Administrative Code is to go the current version available on the LRB website. Find the chapter and section that you need.

Each section includes a History note at the bottom. This will include a citation for the Administrative Register(s) which created and changed the section. Links to the archived Code chapter pages are available here. Follow each of these links to view the chapter as it existed when that change was made. I find that it is best to work in reverse chronological order.

The Code archive is also keyword searchable. This is particularly useful for locating text and chapters that may no longer exist in the current version of the Code.

Some even older versions of the building codes are available via Hathi Trust. The LRB may link those up at some time in the future.

Changes for CCAP? New Legislation is Introduced

CCAP, Wisconsin's online access to Circuit Court Records, may be altered if pending legislation passes. Introduced by Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) in the Senate and Representative Evan Goyke (D-Milwaukee) in the Assembly, the bill is designed to give persons who were wrongfully arrested a chance to clear their records. Currently, the records that can be accessed by the public include wrongful arrests and any charges, even if they are dropped. The legislation that was introduced wants to give the wrongfully arrested a chance to have that information removed from the CCAP website.

According to Rep. Goyke, "Too many people stop at the initial screen that says [a person is] charged with a crime, and that's it. And that's not an accurate picture." Similar legislation has been debated in the past, and failed. Notably, committees studied the possibility of removing wrongful arrests from CCAP most recently in 2010, but no recommendations were made.

The information would still be available, but not on CCAP. The legislation proposes a separate database that would be accessible for certain groups, such as landlords, court employees, journalists, attorneys, real-estate workers and others that may need to see the information. The County Clerk's office would also retain records of all arrests and charges that would be available to the public.

Some are concerned that the elimination of information from CCAP may fly in the face of first amendment 'freedom of information' rights, while others are leery that private companies could begin charging the public for the information that was once found for free on CCAP.

In addition to the proposed changes to CCAP, the legislation would also require landlords and employers to disclose that they used CCAP information when deciding to deny employment or housing or face a $1,000 fine.

It remains to be seen if this most recent iteration of the CCAP revamp will pass the Senate and Assembly. If so, it will alter how arrest information is made available to the public.

For more information, read the full text of the legislation that was introduced into the Senate.

WI Online Statutes to be Certified Prima Facie Evidence; Ebook Version Moves Out of Beta

A little noticed part of the WI Budget Act (Act 20) requires the Legislative Reference Bureau to certify the online version of the Wisconsin Statutes. The online statutes will be considered prima facie evidence of the law--the legal equivalent of the printed statutes.

2013 WI Act 20, section 575L states:

35.18 (2) (b) of the statutes is created to read:

35.18 (2) (b) After making the necessary comparison, the legislative reference bureau shall publish on the Internet, and with each electronic publication of the Wisconsin statutes under sub. (1) (b), a certification that the bureau has compared each section of the Wisconsin statutes published under sub. (1) (b) with the original section of the statutes, or with the original section contained in the enrolled act from which the section was derived, together with all amendments of such original section, if any, and that all the sections appear to be correctly published. The certification shall indicate any electronic file formats in which the statutes are published that do not contain all graphic images and tables due to incompatibility with the electronic file format.

According to Steven Miller, Chief at the LRB, the certification of the online statutes should be happening very soon.

Also coming very soon will be the removal of the "Beta" tag for the ebook version of the Wisconsin Statutes. The statutes are available in both epub or mobi (Kindle) format. Note that the functionality of links to external documents is device-dependent.

I downloaded the mobi file to my Kindle app on my iPad and found that it works very well. It's nice to have a full version of the statutes that I can access anytime - including when I'm offline. An RSS feed is available to alert me to the latest updates to the Statutes ebook.

Kudos to the LRB for all of the wonderful technological advancements that they are making.