Law Librarians’ Society’s Legislative Source Book

Law Librarians Society logo

The Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C. is an association established for educational, informational and scientific purposes with a geographical focus on the Washington, D.C. region.  Luckily for us, they have compiled a great online Federal legal source book!

The Legislative Source Book contains many pdfs with information on how to research various types of Federal information.  There are documents explaining how to located current legislative and regulatory activity, how to locate United States Statutes and Code, as well as an overview of the Congressional Record and Congressional Serial Set.  If you want to learn how Federal Laws are drafted they explain it!  Most information is for Federal information but there is some information on State Legislatures, laws and regulations as well.

Overall, this is a very comprehensive source on how to find current and historical Federal Legislative information.

“Free the Law”: Harvard Law & Ravel’s Free Case Law Project

Last Thursday, Harvard Law Library and Ravel Law announced a partnership they call “Free the Law.” In short, Harvard is digitizing their entire library of U.S. Case Law, which includes materials going back to pre-revolutionary days, and putting them into Ravel’s system, to be available free of charge.

The project is ambitious, and won’t be done overnight — even scanning half a million pages a week, they’re not expecting to have it fully developed for 2 years. However, it also provides a great opportunity for researchers everywhere to have access to case law. They’ve also agreed to release the full database for bulk use (that is, data mining and so on) within 8 years.

Is this a game-changer? Yes, and no. Google Scholar already has a free database of modern case law (since 1960 for most courts, and going back as far as 1791 for some) that anyone with an internet connection can search as easily as using Google, so from that respect, this really only fills the historical gap. Moreover, those older cases, especially those prior to the Great Depression, are more useful to academics than to practitioners or citizens in general, as they become attenuated from the modern day.

However, the fact that Harvard is partnering with Ravel makes this more interesting to me. Ravel is a relatively new platform that is focused on performing analytics on cases, which they use to connect cases together and highlighting the significant passages of cases. The data from this pool of case law will greatly improve the effectiveness and value of what Ravel provides, and in turn, will add value to the case law in the system. The open availability of the database also means that intrepid data hounds will be able to conduct extensive analysis of U.S. case law that was hampered by the difficulty of finding it all in a single place.

The other caveat I’ll toss out is that the project is only for case law. Most new law in the US is either statutes or administrative regulations, and those appear to be absent from this project (at least, for now). However, I’m still excited to get access to the treasure trove of case law data and to see what the data team at Ravel is able to do with it.

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.

New Database: Tax Notes!!

tax notes

Tax Notes is the Law Library’s newest database.  It is a current awareness and tax research database.  This product will help you stay on top of current tax news.  It is easy and quick to sign-up.  Here are the instructions*:

Please go to http://www.taxnotes.com to sign on to the new site.  For the initial sign-in, you need to be within your company’s/university’s IP range.

Please follow these steps:

  • Please go to http://www.taxnotes.com, and click SIGN IN at the top right.
  • In the username field, please enter your Texas Tech University e-mail address.  Click Next.
  • On the next screen, please click on the blue “Register Here” link.
  • You’ll be taken to a Profile page.  Enter your name and Texas Tech University e-mail address.
  • Choose a password and enter it.
  • When you’ve finished the Profile, click SAVE CHANGES.
  • You’ll go to the Tax Notes webpage, where you can sign in with your username Texas Tech University  and the password you chose.

If you have any problems signing up or setting preferences, please contact Marin Dell (marin.dell@ttu.edu) for assistance.

*[NOTE: The user must be a Texas Tech University faculty, student or staff to access.]

Throwback Thursday

law library oldThe Law Library has been an integral part of the Law School since 1967.  This particular picture from before the Law Library is opened, is of law librarian U.V. Jones showing Dean Richard B. Amandes some of the new books that are going to be added to the collection.

Even today, the Law Library continues to be a valuable resource helping our faculty, students,  practitioners and public patrons with the help of our vast collection of legal resources and of course, our librarians!

(original post from Texas Tech tumblr page http://longlivethematadors.tumblr.com/post/131950176873/new-law-library)

New Book – Lawyer, Activist, Judge: Fighting for Civil and Voting Rights in Mississippi and Illinois

lawyer activist judge Lawyer, Activist, Judge: Fighting for Civil and Voting Rights in Mississippi and Illinois by The Hon. Martha A. Mills (Ret.) is the autobiography of Martha Mills, an attorney in the turbulent 1960’s era who spent time working to further justice in Mississippi and Illinois for those that were not treated equally under the law.

In the forward to this new book, Justice Michael B. Hyman notes, “In 1967, Martha Mills left the sedate offices of a Wall Street law firm, where she made history as its first woman attorney, and joined the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  She was sent to Mississippi and made history again by confronting the injustices of racism in hundreds of cases involving civil and voting rights, social and economic rights, and constitutional rights.  In these pages, she shares her compelling and fascinating story of those years and the years that followed in Cairo, Illinois.”

Check this new book out at the Texas Tech Law Library’s Collaborative Commons’ “New Book Display” (KF373 .M5318 A3 2015)

SCOTUS Addresses Opinion Editing & Link Rot

banner_h120In May 2014, the NYTimes wrote about the Supreme Court continuing to edit opinions after release. Earlier this month, an NYTimes article noted that SCOTUS is now disclosing after-the-fact changes to its opinions.

The move on editing is a major development. Though changes in the court’s opinions after they are issued are common, the court has only very seldom acknowledged them. Many of the changes fix spelling or factual errors. Others are more substantial, amending or withdrawing legal conclusions.

Starting this term, a court statement said, “post-release edits to slip opinions on the court’s website will be highlighted and the date they occur will be noted.” The court’s website includes sample opinions to show how all of this will work. “The location of a revision will be highlighted in the opinion,” the statement said. “When a cursor is placed over a highlighted section, a dialogue box will open to show both old and new text.”

And in other wonderful news, SCOTUS is also addressing the problem of link rot in opinions.

The Court said it would also address what it called “the problem of ‘link rot,’ where Internet material cited in court opinions may change or cease to exist.” The Court will now collect and post the materials it links to on a dedicated page on its site.