Friday, May 17, 2013
Could ATL's Law School Ranking Unseat US News?
Not gonna happen. IMHO, the only way to reduce the impact the annual ritual known as the US News Law School Rankings is if the entire legal academy starts ignoring US News in law school marketing fodder. You think that is ever going to happen?
Here's an excerpt from the YouTube description of a BLaw interview titled "Could This Law School Ranking Unseat US News?":
Elie Mystal, editor at Above the Law, tells Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia that his blog's new law school rankings sought to list the top 50 American law schools by relying on an "outcome based" methodology. Mystal says that focusing on the costs and rewards of a legal education allows this ranking to determine which law schools yield "the most bang for this extreme buck."
Friday Fun: How Many Times Has Star Trek's Mister Spock Been Quoted in Court Opinions?
Don't know but this could make a good research project for those law librarians looking to write something for possible tenure-recognition publication during their summer break. For starting purposes, Jacob Gershman cites a couple of instances at From Sacrifice to Rhetorical Device, the Spirit of Spock Lives On (WSJ Law Blog).
What the heck, not all law librarianship scholarly research has to be a grind. This one could be fun and might be publishable for CV purposes in The Green Bag. NB: I didn't check to see if/when the topic might have be covered in a publication.
On a related note, Ilya Somin reports on Matthew Yglesias' Slate article, I Boldly Went Where Every Star Trek Movie and TV Show Has Gone Before, observing in this The Volokh Conspiracy post that "Matthew Yglesias has an interesting article reviewing all of the Star Trek and many of the movies from the original 1960s series to the present. He especially focuses on the series’ ideology and politics, and its 'utopian' vision of the future." [JH]
Thursday, May 16, 2013
India Publisher Threatens $1B Lawsuit Against Colorado Librarian
Here we go again. This time it’s a publisher out of India that is threatening to sue Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado over characterizations he’s made on his Scholarly Open Access Blog. That blog identifies, in Beall’s opinion, publishers that take advantage of academics needing a publisher for their papers. Beall recently received a letter from representatives of OMICS Publishing Group threatening a lawsuit seeking $1 billion (not a mistake) in damages and possibly up to 3 years of prison time in India for violations of Section 66A of India’s Information Technology Act. The Act makes it a crime by its terms to use a computer to publish any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character.
An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (this one is not behind a pay wall) offers some details of the letter:
The rambling, six-page letter argues that Mr. Beall's blog is "ridiculous, baseless, impertinent," and "smacks of literal unprofessionalism and arrogance." The letter also accuses Mr. Beall of racial discrimination and attempting to "strangle the culture of open access publications."
"All the allegation that you have mentioned in your blog are nothing more than fantastic figment of your imagination by you and the purpose of writing this blog seems to be a deliberate attempt to defame our client," the letter reads. "Our client perceive the blog as mindless rattle of a incoherent person and please be assured that our client has taken a very serious note of the language, tone, and tenure adopted by you as well as the criminal acts of putting the same on the Internet."
I did a search in WorldCat on OMICS as a publisher. There were 334 records in the database. 305 of these were Internet links, 10 were serials, and only 2 were books. The Edwin Mellen Press in contrast was better represented in worldwide library holdings. Readers may remember that the EMP was one of the first publishers to take legal offense at how its business model was characterized by a librarian. See LLB posts here, here, here, and here for coverage.
The CHE article also posits potential results of any lawsuit based on whether a suit is brought in India or the United States. A favorable outcome for Beall is likely in U.S. courts and uncertain in India’s courts. There are issues as to whether a judgment in India against Beall could be enforced in the United States. The numerous comments to the article speculate on that.
I have to believe these kinds of threats will do little to change any impression of OMICS and more likely draw attention to their publications and practices. I can’t comment on whether or not they are respectable publisher. As with the Mellen Press, I had never heard of the publisher until it threatened suit. I know who OMNICS is now. I’ll be following this one as the situation develops. [MG]
11 Key Takeaways from Pew Internet's Research on the Changing Role of Public Libraries and Library Users in the Digital Age
News to me but then I rely upon AALL's Washington Blawg for legislative lobbying info (NB, perhaps I missed it) but apparently May 7th was National Library Legislative Day (ALA). Anyway, on that day, Lee Rainie, Director of Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project presented to ALA The Power and Relevance of Libraries: Takeaways from Pew Internet research based on Pew's research activities which have been focusing on the changing role of public libraries and library users in the digital age for several years now.
Unlike many Powerpoint stacks, Rainie's takeway points are well documented and highly recommended. Public sector law librarians whose institutions are represented by AALL, meaning public law school and federal, state and county law libraries that are open to the public, may find Pew Internet's research takeways relevant.
A big hat tip to beSpacific's May 6, 2013 post. [JH]
For the "New Normal": Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy
Hat tip to Gary Price for calling attention on LJ InfoDocket to the recently released National Research Council's Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy (National Academy Press, 2013). From the Report's blurb:
Copyright in the Digital Era: Building Evidence for Policy examines a range of questions regarding copyright policy by using a variety of methods, such as case studies, international and sectoral comparisons, and experiments and surveys. This report is especially critical in light of digital age developments that may, for example, change the incentive calculus for various actors in the copyright system, impact the costs of voluntary copyright transactions, pose new enforcement challenges, and change the optimal balance between copyright protection and exceptions.
You can download a free copy in PDF format for personal use from the link embedded in the Report's title (above). Thanks Gary! [JH]
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
DOJ Files New Details In Apple e-Book Case
The Justice Department filed multiple documents on Tuesday in the Apple e-book case. The most interesting of these are the Plaintiffs’ Proposed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and Plaintiffs' Pretrial Memorandum of Law. The documents are dated April 26, 2013 on the Department’s web site but were made public yesterday. The lengthy documents describe the back and forth between Apple and the publishers where Apple acted as a conduit for information between each publisher in addition to the direct contacts the publishers made with each other over how to manage e-book pricing in the market. It’s pretty substantial stuff. Here’s an example from the Proposed Finding of Facts:
54. Publisher Defendants communicated to one another their plans to window specific titles, which they believed would pressure Amazon to raise its retail e-book prices. For example, in an August 14, 2009 e-mail to Hachette Livre CEO Arnaud Nourry, Hachette Book Group CEO David Young writes: “Completely confidentially, [Simon & Schuster CEO] Carolyn [Reidy] has told me that they are delaying the new Stephen King, with his full support, but will not be announcing this until after Labor Day . . . .” PX-0274.
55. In the same e-mail, Mr. Young criticized Random House CEO Markus Dohle as an “appeaser” for his refusal to window Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol: “You should know that I have been told by a reliable source that the [internal Random House] publishers voted for the Dan Brown to be delayed but they were over-ruled by Markus who is apparently ‘obsessed’ by his desire to meet Jeff Bezos: why this should matter to him and what he thinks he would gain from such a meeting is beyond me. He appears to be an appeaser which is not good with them being the market leader. . . .” Id. Mr. Young’s “reliable source” was a senior Random House executive who subsequently joined Macmillan in the fall of 2009.
56. Mr. Young concluded this e-mail containing confidential information about Hachette’s competitors’ business plans by advising Mr. Nourry that he should permanently destroy the message: “I think it would be prudent for you to double delete this from your email files when you return to your office.” Id.
The document would be a good basis for a book or a movie. The publishers were pretty open with each other about their antipathy to Amazon and its pricing practices. They tried various strategies such as windowing titles to get Amazon to raise its prices, but mostly failed. Apple came along and expressed a desire to not compete on price (Proposed Finding of Facts par. 107) with Apple pushing the agency model as a way to accomplish everyone’s goals. It’s not merely a quote from Steve Jobs’ biography at issue here.These are interesting documents chock full of direct quotes from emails and depositions. I’m sure Apple’s attorneys are smart enough to create a context that challenges the inferences from the filings. One lesson stands out, and it’s an old one: if one’s conduct is going to be legally questioned, one should try and minimize the documentation for that conduct. Redundant back-up systems for email and other corporate documents sometimes may be our friend and sometimes be our enemy. There’s a lot of electronic evidence in this case. I hope we might see more of the documents at issue than merely those quoted by the Justice Department. [MG]
Should Legal Vendors Provide More Information on How They Protect End User Privacy?
Jean O'Grady reports that Bloomberg reporters have had no access to BLaw usage data. This was confirmed on the heels of the news about long-term monitoring of subscribers Bloomberg Financial Services access. She added:
Law firm research queries are a treasure trove of leads... pretty innocuous standing alone - but probably an interesting "data map" of law firm client support activity if viewed in the aggregate. In 30 years I have never ever heard of a breach or misuse of this kind of data at LexisNexis Westlaw, Wolters Kluwer or Bloomberg but I think it is time that these companies provide more information to customers about how they protect law firms and their clients from the threats of a "big data" hack.
We know that usage data is monitored internally by WEXIS and presumably BLaw. In some cases, it has to be for out-of-plan charges. However, each time one logs into a online search service, usage data is being recorded. We have even heard that Classic Westlaw use data was used to develop West Search for WLN. And what about our vendors' online news, analysis, commentary and research practice-centric services, workflow productivity and matter applications?
I think O'Grady has a point about our vendors providing us with information about how our user populations privacy is protected. I doubt Daniel L. Doctoroff's, CEO and President, Bloomberg L.P., Safeguarding Customer Data statement and/or Holding Ourselves Accountable by Matthew Winkler, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg News, is sufficient. Both statements were reactions to the public disclosures about Bloomberg reporters past practices.
For much more, see O'Grady's Dewey B Strategic post, Bloomberg Law Not Impacted By Bloomberg Terminal Privacy Breach. But Can We Ever Stop Worrying About a "Big Data" Hack of a Legal Research Provider? [JH]
Got to "Spend" Money to Make Money: Extending Law Student WEXIS User Accounts Over the Summer and Beyond
Graduates who extend their password will receive access to WestlawNext and Westlaw Classic through November 2013 instead of just through July. The exact number of monthly access hours is not available, but is at least 40 hours per month. -- Quoting from Extended Westlaw Access for May 2013 Grads published by USF's Dorraine Zief Law Library.
"I'm wonder[ing] who will be the first grad to put on his or her resume that 'if you hire me, I'll have 40 hours of free Westlaw searching I can bring with me'??" wrote 3 Geekster Greg Lambert at Even Westlaw Knows It's a Tough Market – Law Graduates Can Keep Access Through November. He added "Please, don't be that person!!"
Hell, since the USF Law Library announcement doesn't say being an unemployed Class of 2013 grad is a requirement, I'm wondering if the extension does not also benefit Thomson Reuters by exposing Class of 2013 grad employers to its research platforms, etc. Who knows. However, it is unclear to me that Class of 2013 grads really can use their school's Westlaw account in all employment settings. Usually that is not the case. See Cleveland-Marshall's announcement at Bloomberg Law, Lexis, & Westlaw: Student Summer 2013 Access.
BLaw does allow all law school students to use their school user accounts for performing research during summer employment with no restrictions on for-profit work-related use. I'm thinking WEXIS should follow that example. It's a good idea for marketing purposes. Got to "spend" money to make money in today's market for online legal search. [JH]
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Supreme Court Action: State Consumer Protection Laws Not Pre-empted for Towed Cars
Anyone who ever had their car towed would appreciate the third Supreme Court opinion from yesterday. That case is Dan’s City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey (12-52). Dan’s City Used Cars towed Pelkey’s care from his apartment building’s parking lot at the direction of his landlord to clear the lot for plowing after a snowstorm. Pelkey was seriously ill at the time and was unaware the car was towed. Dan’s City Used Cars ultimately disposed of Pelkey’s car after attempting to notify him of the impending sale. Pelkey ultimately found out about the circumstances and attempted to recover his car.
The New Hampshire consumer protection laws give rise to potential claims against Dan’s City Used Cars by Pelkey. He sued in state court under these laws but the trial court dismissed his case holding that a federal statute pre-empts state law. The Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 1994 (FAAAA or Act) codified at 49 U. S. C. §14501(c)(1), reads:
[A] State . . . may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of any motor carrier . . . with respect to the transportation of property.
The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the trial court holding that the consumer protection claims have nothing to do with the transportation of property. The Supreme Court took the case because of a split within the state Supreme Courts on the pre-emption issue. It largely agreed that the pre-emption did not take place for similar reasons. The provisions of the statute reasonably read do not encompass storage and sale of a previously towed car. That state, the Court said, is not reasonably related to the transportation of property. Temporary storage of an item in transit en route to its final destination can qualify as transportation, but permanent storage and disposal does not, even if the car had originally been towed.
Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court. [MG]
The Big Whoop-de-do of Current Services: Why vendors should not forget that the Google Generation is also the YouTube Generation
"In a presentation to advertisers this week Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt declined to forecast that Internet video would replace television, Schmidt said, 'That’s already happened, the future is now for YouTube,'" wrote Kevin O'Keefe in his May 4th, 2013 post titled Google’s Schmidt: YouTube has replaced TV. What’s it mean for law firms?
Referring to YouTube both as a specific delivery platform as well as a metaphor for electronic video content generally, I believe the interesting question is what does that mean for our commercial legal publishers, professional legal services, legal solutions (whatever) vendor? If the focused user population is the so-called Google generation and it certainly is, this user population is also the "YouTube" generation now. This applies not only to webinars but to vendor search platforms, productivity platforms, specific practice-centric offerings, "news and developments" coverage, and enhanced eBooks' current status quo.
BLaw's video productions -- easily do-able because the tech infrastructure was already in place -- has resulted in other vendors scrambling to catch up in some areas. Any vendor which might be resistant to the idea that multimedia is not going to be an essential add-on component in all their law-related inventory of e-content is in denial.
But I am not refering to training webinars! Nor am I merely referring to just enhancing legal research and eBook platforms. Today's Google-YouTube generation will also want to incorporate official video proceedings (problematic due to the source's encoding formats) and their own in-house produced videos in work product using licensed "legal solutions."
The big whoop-de-do of "shared folders," etc. is so last century to our vendor's targeted demographic market that it borders on absurdity. I can hear our vendors say "but our focus groups aren't asking for that!" Well, the grim reaper of innovation is making decisions based on focus groups. [JH]
Monday, May 13, 2013
Supreme Court Action: Genetically Modified Soybean Patents and Defalcation Under the Bankruptcy Code
The United States Supreme Court issued two three opinions (see the update at the end of this post) this morning, one of them being highly anticipated by Court-watchers. That case is Bowman v. Monsanto Co. (11-796). The case involves patent rights and licensing restrictions in the use of genetically modified soybeans. Monsanto genetically modified soybeans to resist certain pesticides and sold it under the brand Roundup Ready. The genetic modifications were given two patents. Monsanto licensed the use of the modified soybean for one crop planting only, thus requiring successive purchases of the seed over time.
Bowman, an Indiana farmer, used Roundup Ready for one planting. He subsequently bought seed from a local grain elevator which contained soybeans grown from Roundup Ready and planted them. He did this knowing that there would be a strong likelihood these beans would contain the same genetic modification from seeds originally sold by Monsanto. In fact, grain elevators sell soybeans for human or animal consumption rather than for replanting. Farmers typically do not buy seeds for planting from grain elevators.
Monsanto sued Bowman when it discovered Bowman was evading the licensing terms and won a judgment against him. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed. Bowman, as petitioner in this case argued that the doctrine of patent exhaustion allowed him to use the resulting seeds without restriction. The Court rejected that argument stating that the doctrine does not allow a purchaser of a patented item to reproduce it; otherwise the patent in this case would be of no value. The Court rejected Bowman’s other arguments, such as seeds are meant to be planted, and that he didn’t create the copies as the seeds themselves sprouted. Justice Kagan delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
The second case involves the definition of the term “defalcation.” That case is Bullock v. Bankchampaign, N.A. (11-1518). Bullock was the nonprofessional trustee of a trust established by his father for the benefit of his siblings. The sole asset was his father’s life insurance policy. Bullock borrowed against the policy three times as permitted by the trust instrument. The first time was at the direction of his father where the funds were paid to his mother and used to repay a debt to his father’s business. The other two instances were used to buy an interest in a business and to purchase real property, both with his mother. All loans were repaid at a predetermined 6% rate of interest.
Bullock’s siblings sued in state court for breach of fiduciary duty and won a judgment against him, though the court found no apparent malicious motive on behalf of Bullock. The court imposed constructive trusts on some of Bullock’s assets, including his personal interest in the trust in order to secure payment on the judgment. Bullock filed for bankruptcy. The bank in this case opposed the discharge of the court-imposed debts and the Bankruptcy Court agreed, granting summary judgment because of the wording of the Bankruptcy Code. 11 U.S.C. §523(a)(4) provides that an individual cannot obtain a bankruptcy discharge from a debt “for fraud or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity, embezzlement, or larceny.” The Federal District Court and the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed.
The generic term “defalcation” means one that is a defaulter or behind in debts. The Court acknowledged that dictionaries are all over the place on the meaning, including where the term imputes fraud or other deliberate breaches of trusts. The various examples cited by the Court are inconclusive. The Court resolved the state of mind issue by looking at precedent that distinguished debts created by embezzlement or other scienter compared with fraud in law which does not require imputation of bad faith or moral turpitude.
Methods of statutory construction allow the Court to treat the words of the statute similarly. “Embezzlement,” “larceny,” and “fraud” require a showing of felonious or wrongful intent. Interpretation of defalcation based on precedent does not require wrongful intent or any type of falsity. These principles along with an explanation of how Congress expresses the language of the Code and other lower court interpretations of the statute argue for an interpretation of defalcation that does not require scienter. Defalcation may include nonfraudulent breaches of fiduciary duty. The Court reversed the grant of summary judgment and remanded for additional proceedings. Justice Breyer delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
As a side bit of entertainment inspired by the Monsanto case, here is Ry Cooder’s version of Taxes On The Farmer Feeds Us All.
Update: There was a third opinion out today, Dan's City Used Cars, Inc. v. Pelkey (12-52). I'll report on that case tomorrow.
Bloomberg News Reporters Have Been Snooping on Subscribers' Use of Bloomberg Financial Services for Years
With the "Terminal" found in most every banking and trading company as well as industry regulators, shock waves rippled through the financial services industry on May 10th when the New York Post's Mark DeCambre broke the story that Bloomberg's financial journalists were extracting subscribers' private usage data at Goldman Sachs employees concerned Bloomberg news reporters are using terminals to snoop. The New York Times' Amy Chozick and Ben Protess reported on how widespread the monitoring activity was within the industry by Bloomberg News reporters at Privacy Breach on Bloomberg’s Data Terminals.
Reportedly Bloomberg News staff could not see trading activities but the available extracted information about when and how the Company's terminals were used by subscribers provided enough clues to aid its financial journalists for news reports. See also Zachary M. Seward's What Bloomberg employees can see when they snoop on customers.
Bloomberg confirmed that several hundred reporters have been monitoring subscriber usage of various Bloomberg financial services functions for years. The Company also announced that the system functions its reporters had been using were disabled.
First question: Et tu BLaw? [JH]
Half-assed B2B Electronic Transactions: Just make up a PIN for eSigning a Thomson Reuters transaction
As reported earlier, based on the initial response CRIV received from Thomson Reuters about requiring the last four digits of a SSN number to execute an electronic B2B transaction, CRIV decided to make a follow-up request "to see if a more concrete explanation on this topic is available." And here is Thomson Reuters "solution":
Should individuals placing orders prefer not to enter the last four digits of their Social Security number, they are encouraged to create a unique, four-digit personal identification number (PIN) to serve as part of their electronic signature. This PIN will serve as a method of verification for the individual placing an order. Customers can make this change when placing an order.
Ah, OK. Let's just be clear that WestMart is targeting the individual consumer for eCommerce transactions, not institutional buyers, by following Amazon's example. LexisNexis hasn't gone quite as far yet but there is no doubt in my mind that the forthcoming closure and mass layoff of sales and customer support employees in Albany indicates that LN will be more fully institutionalizing the Amazon eCommerce model for "efficiency" (read reducing labor costs) purposes.
If WEXIS wants to conduct B2B electronic commerce, both vendors also should mimic the Amazon model for B2B eTransactions. WEXIS should follow what Amazon does by way of establishing an institutional buyer's credit line for eTransactions. Of course, WEXIS also should follow Amazon's very easy online method for returning stuff ordered with credits made to the institutional buyer's credit line account.
If our major vendors are going to follow Amazon's example, don't just do it half-assed for B2B eCommerce. Is that too much to ask? [JH]
Friday, May 10, 2013
Institutionalizing Academic Mobbing at Brooklyn Law School?
The Brooklyn Law School Board of Trustees has adopted a "adequate cause" definition for termination of tenured law faculty. It reads:
For purposes of the Law School’s regulations, “ Adequate Cause” shall be defined as follows:
“Demonstrated incompetence, including but not limited to, multiple unsatisfactory performance reviews or complaints from supervisors; multiple complaints from students or multiple unsatisfactory student evaluations; sub-standard academic performance; lack of collegiality.”
Does this protect academic freedom? Due process? "There is certainly an important need for American law schools to undertake a review of both their tenure standards and their standards for post-tenure review, given the dereliction of duties that are, alas, widespread (but not only in law schools, of course)," writes Brian Leiter. "But these standards are very alarming, and suggest the dangers associated with post-tenure review." For more, see Leiter's Academic freedom (and due process) under threat at Brooklyn Law School?. See also this follow-up post on Leiter's Law School Reports, Brooklyn Law's Dean Allard Replies to Concerns about Academic Freedom. [JH]
Friday Fun: Time for the Class of 2013 to Dance
For job-seeking 2013 law school grads, here's The Beatles performing I'm Happy Just To Dance With You. [JH]
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Microsoft To Buy Nook Business From B&N?
Various reports out on the web tell that Microsoft is about to buy the Nook tablet from Barnes & Noble and other investors for about $1 billion. The Nook is an Android-based tablet/reader and has not been considered a particularly successful product. paidContent pegs its market share at 25% compared to the Kindle. Microsoft invested about $600 million in the device last spring. Most recent news was that Barnes & Noble was adding the Google Play store and other Google services to the tablet. That raised a few eyebrows given Microsoft’s investment. I can imagine this probably pushed Microsoft into action, not so much to protect its investment as much as to ultimately fulfill its purpose. That would be to acquire a bookstore and customer base for its Surface tablet ecosystem.
Windows 8, whatever one thinks of it on a tablet or PC, does not have an app store that is ready to compete with the other big players. E-Books are popular and much underrepresented from a Microsoft source where the company makes money from a sale. This transaction makes sense for Microsoft as it picks up a customer base for content. I don’t know about consumers who bought a Nook. I would think this is going to be dead tablet walking as I can’t imagine Microsoft supporting Android in any form in the long run. If Amazon is smart it would immediately offer a Kindle for Nook promotion in one form or another to pick off part of the Nook customer base. And if Microsoft is smart, it would do the same with the Surface. From what I understand, there are a ton of the Surface RT product still sitting in warehouses.Publishers might be happy there is another deep-pocketed challenger to Amazon (and Apple). I wouldn’t rejoice myself. Publishers and authors are still at the mercy of large technology companies as exclusive distributors of their product. I’d be more concerned about that down the line. [MG]
The Most Common Criticisms of the ATL Top 50 Law School Rankings
As reported by ATL's Brian Dalton at The ATL Top 50 Law Schools: A Roundup of Criticism. [JH]
Statistical Analysis of Federal Court Judicial Nominations Since the Reagan Administration
It's not like partisan politics in the presidential nomination and Senate confirmation of federal judical candidates is a late 20th century development. It's been around since the days our founding fathers split into Federalists and Democratic-Republicans camps based on fundamental ideological differences over the role of the federal government. That, however, doesn't mean an analysis of the last 30 or so years of federal judicial appointments isn't warranted. In a recent CRS report, one of the takeaways is the following:
President Obama is the only one of the five most recent Presidents for whom, during his first term, both the average and median waiting time from nomination to confirmation for circuit and district court nominees was greater than half a calendar year (i.e., more than 182 days).
Of course, the Democratic Party is just as guilty of playing Beltway politics as the Republician Party. Here's an excerpt from the summary of the May 3, 2013 CRS Report, President Obama’s First-Term U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: An Analysis and Comparison with Presidents Since Reagan:
The process by which lower federal court judges are nominated by the President and considered by the Senate is of continuing interest to Congress. Recent Senate debates in Congress over judicial nominations have focused on issues such as the relative degree of success of President Barack Obama’s nominees in gaining Senate confirmation (compared with other recent Presidents) as well as the number and percentage of vacant judgeships in the federal judiciary and the effect of delayed judicial appointments on judicial vacancy levels. This report addresses these issues, and others, by providing a statistical analysis of nominations to U.S. circuit and district court judgeships during the first terms of President Obama and his four most recent predecessors.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
CRS on Marijuana Legalization by the States
The Congressional Research Service has weighed in on the apparent conflict between federal and state drug laws in light of legalization in Colorado and Washington for small amounts of recreational marijuana. Here is part of the Summary that lays out the issues:
The Colorado and Washington laws that legalize, regulate, and tax an activity the federal government expressly prohibits appear to be logically inconsistent with established federal policy toward marijuana, and are therefore likely subject to a legal challenge under the constitutional doctrine of preemption. This doctrine generally prevents states from enacting laws that are inconsistent with federal law. Under the Supremacy Clause, state laws that conflict with federal law are generally preempted and therefore void and without effect. Yet Congress intended that the CSA would not displace all state laws associated with controlled substances, as it wanted to preserve a role for the states in regulating controlled substances. States thus remain free to pass laws relating to marijuana, or any other controlled substance, so long as they do not create a “positive conflict” with federal law, such that the two laws “cannot consistently stand together.”
This report summarizes the Washington and Colorado marijuana legalization laws and evaluates whether, or the extent to which, they may be preempted by the CSA or by international agreements. It also highlights potential responses to these recent legalization initiatives by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and identifies other noncriminal consequences that marijuana users may face under federal law. Finally, the report closes with a description of legislative proposals introduced in the 113th Congress relating to the treatment of marijuana under federal law, including H.R. 499 (Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2013); H.R. 501 (Marijuana Tax Equity Act of 2013); H.R. 689 (States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act); H.R. 710 (Truth in Trials Act); H.R. 784 (States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act); and H.R. 964 (Respect States’ and Citizens’ Rights Act of 2013).
The report is State Legalization of Recreational Marijuana: Selected Legal Issues. It was issued on April 5, 2013. The order code is R43034. [MG]
Predators of Freedom of Information
On World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2013, Reporters Without Borders released its annual Press Freedom Index.
After the “Arab springs” and other protest movements that prompted many rises and falls in last year’s index, the 2013 Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index marks a return to a more usual configuration.
The ranking of most countries is no longer attributable to dramatic political developments. This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term.
Quoting from the Introduction to the 2013 Press Freedom Index.
Reporters Without Borders also released an updated list of Predators of Freedom of Information The list identifies 39 "presidents, politicians, religious leaders, militias and criminal organizations that censor, imprison, kidnap, torture and kill journalists and other news providers. Powerful, dangerous and violent, these predators consider themselves above the law." [JH]