Texas OpenCourts Mobile App

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There is a new app that is freely available which provides “extensive user-friendly information on Texas courts.” This new app launched in November, 2015, Texas OpenCourts, is freely available for Apple and Android devices (Google Play and Amazon).  This app is the creation of Texas law firm, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP.

This app allows the user to search for court information which can be saved as favorites and emailed to colleagues. The information includes; contact information for courts, judge bios and court rules (when available). There are also interactive maps to help located courts at the Federal, State, and Appellate levels.

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“This delivers all the information you need to know about Texas courts and judges directly to your phone.” This app is easy to use and navigate and very useful for anyone who is using or working with the Texas court system.

Peanut Butter and Jelly…and a Demo program is back!

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Starting Wednesday, January 27th from 11a.m.-1:15p.m., you can come by the Creative Commons (1st floor west side Law Library) and make your own FREE peanut butter and jelly sandwich and see a quick demo!

This week we will help you find out how to contact a Reference Librarian when you have questions! Alyson Drake, our new Student Services Librarian will be there as well.

We will have this program every other Wednesday during the spring semester!

Choosing a Writing Reference Guide

Whether you’re a master wordsmith with a hundred publications or a struggling student who has trouble keeping the active and passive voices straight, you will at some point find yourself either struggling with how to properly structure a sentence, use a word, or drop in punctuation. For those times, it’s a good idea to have a reference guide of some sort. With the new semester starting, students will soon be writing memos, briefs, and seminar papers, and faculty will be diving into the spring submission season, so getting a good reference guide is fairly timely.

First off, getting a copy of The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. is not a bad place to start, though it’s not a cure-all. The original text, published in 1918, is considered the authoritative statement on English usage, even if there has been resistance to it in recent years. There have also been updates to it over the last century. The most well-known version is the “Updated and Expanded” edition written by E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web and other stories, which is commercially available through a number of sources (and in its 5th edition). However, the original Strunk text is public domain and available freely on the web in a number of locations. John W. Cowan, a computer programmer who codifies the syntax of programming languages, maintains an updated version of Strunk’s text on his website.

Moving on from The Elements of Style, there are hundreds of guides, publications, tip sheets, and so on with writing, grammar, punctuation, and style advice. I can’t possibly review all of them here, as each writer has their own needs. Instead, let’s assess your needs with the following questions:

  1. What is your general proficiency level? If you are a highly proficient writer, you’re probably good just picking up a fairly mechanical reference book (for academic writers, your fields’ publication manual may be sufficient). If you’re moderately proficient, you’ll want something that’s thorough, but written for more advanced writers. If you struggle at the basic level, consider some of the books written by the test prep companies, as they have exercises and tips targeted towards struggling writers.
  2. What do you struggle with? If you’re struggling at the sentence level (grammar, punctuation), then you’ll want to focus on guides on proper usage. Punctuation and grammar handbooks abound, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble. If you struggle with putting sentences together into paragraphs or sets of paragraphs, you’ll want to find a guide that helps with broader organization and composition. If you write technically sound compositions that fail to be persuasive or impactful, then you may want to consider guides on rhetoric.
  3. What are you trying to write? If you’re struggling at the most basic level, then this question should wait until you’re more comfortable with the ins and outs of general composition. For those who are more advanced, however, this can be a big question. The practices for journalism, fiction writing, and legal writing can be quite different, so you may want to consider a style guide appropriate to what you’re trying to write. For legal writing, there are three books you may want to consider:
    • The Redbook, by Bryan A. Garner — This style guide for legal documents contains extensive guides on usage, grammar, punctuation, style, and formatting, and also includes the specifics on a number of document formats. Currently in its 3d Edition, published by West (978-0-314-28901-8)
    • Academic Legal Writing, by Eugene Volokh — This guide is a little more advanced, and is geared towards those writing seminar papers, law review articles, and other works of scholarship. It’s relatively cheap (around $30 on most online retailers), and has advice from the word-level to the rhetorical-level, as well as tips for finding topics and getting on law review. Currently in its 4th Edition, published by Foundation Press (978-1-59941-750-9)
    • Making Your Case, by Bryan A. Garner and Antonin Scalia — This book is about argumentation, and specifically about the forms of argumentation in the process of a legal case. If you’re fine with the general mechanics of writing, but are having difficulty being persuasive, this is probably a good place to start. Published by Thomson West (978-0-314-18471-9)

Have questions? Feel free to contact me or the Office of Academic Success and we’d be happy to help!

 

Holiday Reading Lists from the TTU Law Librarians

We here at the Reporter will be taking a few weeks off with the coming holidays, so this will be the last post here until January. We have exciting things happening in the new year that we’re looking forward to sharing when they’re ready to go. However, we won’t be sitting idle until then. As Librarians, we will all be reading over the break. I’ve gathered a few recommendations from the TTU Law Librarians as to what we’ll be reading.

Continue reading “Holiday Reading Lists from the TTU Law Librarians”

Expand your horizons with educational YouTube channels

Happy Thanksgiving!

For most of my life, educational programming on TV was limited to a few well-tested formats: Documentaries based on a particular format of photos or video with a narrator and talking heads, or children’s programming. Because of the cost of operating a station, educational programming was limited to public broadcasting or the depths of extended cable. Today, once edutainment-driven channels like TLC and the History Channel now feature shows about child beauty pageants, giant families, pawn shops, and fishermen. It’s fortunate, then, that YouTube has risen to more than cover our needs.

Continue reading “Expand your horizons with educational YouTube channels”

May Loislaw Rest in Peace

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Fastcase has acquired Loislaw from Wolters Kluwer (think Aspen Publishers), effective November 30, 2015 when Loislaw permanently shuts down. One of Loislaw’s key features has been access to Wolters Kluwer’s library of some 125 treatises in areas of law such as bankruptcy, business, employment, insurance, intellectual property, real estate and others. It appears that Fastcase subscribers will now gain access to the treatise collection. According to Fastcase, existing Loislaw subscribers will be grand-parented at current or better prices.

What is Link Rot and is it Really an Issue? What about in Texas?

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In an earlier post, Ms. Baker artfully noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has taken steps to address link rot. Link rot refers to the removal of or changes to the cited online materials, rendering the court’s citations unusable or unreliable, thereby minimizing the opinion’s precedential value. According to a recent study, 29% of the Internet citations in U.S. Supreme Court opinions between 1996 and 2011 were broken or no longer valid. A similar study of the Supreme Court of Texas found that about 40% of the Court’s Internet citations used during 1998 to 2011 no longer worked.

The U.S. Supreme Court has created a webpage with links to PDF images that capture the cited reference as it appeared at the time of citation. This is an acceptable method of addressing the link rot issue. Unfortunately, at this time, the Supreme Court of Texas has not taken equivalent measures to safeguard against link rot in its opinions.