December 15, 2007
Audio Podcast: Science and Security in a Post 9-11 World
From the blurb: The tragedy of September 11, 2001, the subsequent anthrax attacks, and ongoing terror threats internationally have markedly changed national and international security and information sharing. While, the success of U.S. science and engineering has been built on a system of information sharing and open communication, not only among U.S. institutions, but also with the international science and technology communities. This podcast (mp3), a National Academies production, explores how these two important endeavors must be balanced for the future of our country. [JH]
Some Colleges Cut, Eliminate Student Debt
"Colleges are moving to eliminate -- or at least ease -- student debt as pressure builds in Washington for them to spend more from their endowments to help families afford the rising cost of school.
This month, Williams College announced that it will eliminate loans from all financial-aid packages beginning next school year and replace them with grants. Amherst College recently announced a similar initiative. And Davidson College in Davidson, N.C., began this fall replacing loans with grants and student employment."
See also: Harvard Sweetens Financial Aid for Middle Class, Wall Street Journal [RJ]
December 14, 2007
Law Librarians and Electronic Discovery
EDD (electronic data discovery or e-discovery) is all over the news these days as law firms and corporations struggle with internal information management and discovery, and learn the ropes of the new FRCP rules. Law.com has three articles in just the last day or two here, here, and here. It seems to me an it's area ripe for lawyer-librarian or corporation-information specialist collaboration and increasing the value of librarianship to the parent institution. Who knows how to mine data better than librarians? Who can better organize information than librarians? Who knows the ins and outs of metadata better than librarians? Just wondering, and also wondering if any librairans are doing this already. If you know of any, let me know! [JJ]
Friday Fun: Librarians Gone Wild!
Just in time for holiday staff parties! [JH]
Some Holiday Gift Ideas for Law Librarians
Here's some products really generous library employers should provide because they are all work-related. If you're not in that kind of situation, you may want to give some as holiday gifts to your colleagues or ask your significant other to give them to you. My wife has already vetoed the LCD monitor listed below. Apparently I don't need a monitor that costs more than my desktop.
Dictionary of Legal Bullshit (2007) by Randall Young, is a humorous resource into law's archaic and convoluted language and is sure to make anyone you know in the legal profession laugh out loud at its accurate absurdity. [Recommended by a blog reader who would get credit for this suggestion if I find her email. Sorry, email me here.]
Control + Alt + Delete: A Dictionary of Cyberslang (2007) by Wired magazine's "Jargon Watch" columnist, Jonathon Keats. "Not since Dr. Johnson explained the English language to the people of his time has there been a lexicon so witty, deep and indispensable. For any citizen of either the analog or digital space who wishes to live in this century instead of the last, this is required reading." --Stanley Bing, author and columnist for Fortune magazine.
When all else fails, comic book software is a great tool for creating guides for the technophobic (e.g., "How to use a DVD player in the classroom"), part-time staff (e.g., "Loose-leaf filing 101"), etc. Plus, personalized comics are fantastic attention-getting additions to law library blogs. If you don't have the graphic artist chops that the creators of Shelf Check or Unshelved have, check out the Marvel Heroes Comic Book Creator app. It provides 300+ Marvel backgrounds, characters, action words, and more. But it you do, I recommend Comic Book Creator 2.0.
New Monitor. Forget the tablet PC, the Wacom Cintiq 21UX is an interactive, pressure-sensitive pen-driven display that will "wow" your colleagues after their hearts has stopped racing just from the sight of this 21.3 inch beautiful high resolution (1,600-by-1,200) LCD monitor on your desk. At $2,500, your boss may not ante up the cash for it right away but once you've demonstrated how much better your comics are, that will change, Keep the receipt!
New Mouse. Replace the campus map or text instructions to the courthouse with 3Dconnexion's SpacePilot 3D Mouse. There's no better tool for navigating the virtual 3D space of Google Earth. In our Web 2.0 world, shouldn't this be the way we give directions? It's the Law Librarian Blog's Reference Desk Tool of the Year -- "50% fewer mouse clicks, 30% greater productivity" according to the product description. And it is a must-have for your library's Second Life site.
New Clock. "Time is money" in the law firm world so the Kinetic Motion Clock (image left; click to enlarge) is the ideal present for the law firm librarian who is billing his or her time. The product description says, "you’ll be amused every minute as a chrome ball is added to the track and travels to the minute tray on this time machine. Then on the hour when the tray becomes full, it automatically empties, sending one ball to the hour tray and the remaining balls cascading back to the hopper for the next hour’s use." More likely, you will be driven to distraction.
Portable PA System. Plug the Griffin iKaraoke microphone into your iPod and, voilà, you have your own personal karaoke machine...or...a portable PA system for your library. "The library is closing ... because the night belongs to lovers.." Patti Smith on YouTube
Interactive Circ Desk Assistant. Using voice recognition technology, The Interactive Parrot can record and repeat phrases spoken to it. The Interactive Parrot has amazing potential if it can be trained to answer in classic parrot squawk common Circulation Desk questions. It could replace untrainable student assistants. "Squawk, no. that book can't be checked out, squawk."
Some Gadgets for the Traveling Law Librarian
- The Skype Travel Mouse is a mouse with an integrated phone. Details.
- The Spy Pen detects Wireless and RF Signals. Details.
One gizmo to put on next year's list: The Cell Phone Pen (better order two so you have a back-up after losing the first one). Details.
Happy Holidays to All! [JH]
First Book-Length History of Vanderbilt Law School
According to the press release, Vanderbilt University Press has released Vanderbilt Law School: Aspirations and Realities but it looks to me like it is only at the pre-order stage. [JH]
Vanderbilt Law School: Aspirations and Realities
D. Don Welch
List Price: $49.95 (according to Amazon.com)
Hardcover: 264 pages
Publisher: Vanderbilt University Press (February 2008)
Book Description: The Law Department was one of two departments that opened for classes in the fall of 1874 in the newly-founded Vanderbilt University. The operation of the institution in the nineteenth century was governed by a quasi-proprietary model, which was abandoned in 1900, when the University made the school a more integral part of the academic enterprise. The first half of the twentieth century was a struggle for survival. The School faced a number of obstacles, including the educational and cultural headwinds that all Southern educational institutions faced, limited resources, and a University hesitant to embrace national trends in legal education. These realities resulted in the School's expulsion from the Association of American Law Schools in 1926. A renaissance of sorts began under Dean Earl C. Arnold a few years later, but was ultimately snuffed out by the Great Depression and then the onset of World War II. The Law School's doors were closed in 1944. Vanderbilt Law School reopened in 1946, and John W. Wade's twenty-year deanship, beginning in 1952, set the School on a new path. While the institution's continued existence was no longer in doubt, the School encountered new tensions and conflicts. Vanderbilt became the first integrated Southern private law school in 1956, as part of a broader movement to diversify its faculty and student body. The movement from regional to national aspirations created new fault-lines among the School's constituencies, as did the debate among the faculty over the relative priorities of teaching and research. Throughout the century, developments in the academic program reflected and contributed to the new, modern understandings of legal education. This history is based on interviews and extensive archival research in personal papers, reports, Board of Trust and faculty meeting minutes.
Bankruptcy Filings Down for Fiscal Year 2007, Up for Quarter
"Bankruptcy cases filed in federal courts totaled 801,269 for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2007, down 28 percent when compared to the 1,112,542 filings in Fiscal Year 2006. However, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the September 2007 filings are the highest of any previous 12-month period since September 2006. [Click on image to expand view of the table.]
Bankruptcy filings dropped precipitously in 2006 after implementation of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Now, in fiscal year 2007—although filings remain well below pre-BAPCPA levels—total filings continue to increase.
The federal Judiciary's fiscal year is the 12-month period ending September 30. The bankruptcies reported are for October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2007.
Additional statistics released today include business and non-business filings for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2007 (Table F-2, 12-month); a comparison of September 2006 and 2007 filings (Table F), 3rd quarter filings (Table F-2, 3-month); monthly filings for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2007 (Table F-2, Monthly); and filings per capita."
See also: Bankruptcy Filings Through First Three Quarters of 2007 Eclipse Last Year’s Totals, American Bankruptcty Institute.[RJ]
Accountability Under No Child Left Behind: Progress Toward Implementation
Abstract: "Drawing on findings from two federally funded studies, researchers assessed progress in implementing the accountability provisions of NCLB through 2004–2005. They found that most schools were engaged in multiple efforts to improve performance and that states, districts, and schools had met most of the NCLB accountability requirements. About three-quarters of schools were making adequate yearly progress. Those not doing so were more likely to be high-poverty, high-minority, and urban schools. Many schools reported needing technical assistance to serve students with special needs, such as those with disabilities or limited English proficiency."
The Pendulum Swings on Accreditation
Interesting story from Inside Higher Ed: "Regional agencies and college groups spar over Higher Education Act provision on learning outcomes. Does the rift open the door to increased federal role?" [RJ]
The Bluebook Comes to China
Donald Clarke (Geo. Washington), Chinese Law Prof Blog, has the story. [JH]
December 13, 2007
Report: Baseball steroid use widespread
"Illegal steroids have been widely used in Major League Baseball for more than a decade, former Sen. George Mitchell said in releasing a report today. "Those who have illegally used these substances range from players whose major league careers were brief to potential members of the Baseball Hall of Fame," Mitchell said."
Shocking Developments! [RJ]
CDT Critique of Searchability of Federal Websites
The Center for Democracy & Technology reports that many important information sources within the federal government are essentially hidden from the very search engines that the public is most likely to use in the Center's Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found Through Commercial Search Engines.
CDT Recommendations to Help Agencies Ensure Their Content Is Accessible to Search
- Congress should pass the E-Government reauthorization act, which would require OMB to create best practices to encourage searchability of federal Web sites.
- OMB should officially recognize the importance of commercial search to Internet users and work with the CIO Council to adopt policies to help users find information.
- Agencies should adopt an information policy that makes public accessibility of online content and resources a priority.
- Agencies should create Sitemaps of content on their sites, with special attention given to materials stored in databases and accessible only through drop-down menus. For example, many agencies have FAQ databases that are not accessible to search crawlers but contain very succinct and useful answers to common questions.
- Agencies should review their use of robots.txt files in order to ensure they are used in the least restrictive way possible. Every effort should be made to include, rather than exclude, materials from the website, whether materials were excluded purposefully or accidentally in the past.
Hat tip to Mark Giangrande (DePaul Law Library), Tech Law Prof Blog, who writes, "This is just shocking news, except possibly to reference librarians who regularly use government web sites." Yup. [JH]
Privacy and Self-Disclosure Online
"With public concern over online fraud, new research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, has revealed that internet users will reveal more personal information online if they believe they can trust the organisation that requests the information. 'Even people who have previously demonstrated a high level of caution regarding online privacy will accept losses to their privacy if they trust the recipient of their personal information' says Dr Adam Joinson, who led the study.
The findings of the study are vital for those aiming to create online services that pose a potential privacy threat, such as Government agencies involved in developing ID cards. The project found that even those people who declared themselves unconcerned about privacy would soon become opposed to ID cards if the way that they were asked for information made them feel that their privacy was threatened.
The 'Privacy and Self-Disclosure Online' project is the first of its kind, in that rigorous methods were used to measure internet users actual behaviour." [RJ]
Reflections on Computer-Mediated Instant Conversaton
The age of computer-mediated instant conversation is upon us. Will the economy of ideas implode under its own weight, now rapidly increasing because of the popularity of social media? Not according Heaton and McLellan, editors of The Age of Conversation, a compilation of articles about "conversation" by 103 bloggers. Read more about it. See also Snippets from the Digital Age. [JH]
Professional Reading: Emergency Lawmaking After 9/11 and 7/7
Harvard law prof Adrian Vermeule has deposited Emergency Lawmaking After 9/11 and 7/7 in SSRN. Here's the abstract:
"This essay offers case studies of three emergency statutes, all dealing with terrorism and all enacted within less than a year after a major terrorist attack: the September 14, 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force; the USA PATRIOT Act; and the U.K. Terrorism Act 2006. A standard worry about such cases is that the circumstances of emergency lawmaking produce blank-check delegations to the executive. The fog of uncertainty, emotions such as urgency and visceral fear, and the tendency of legislators and the public to rally 'round the flag, all cause legislators to vote the executive massive new powers, regardless of whether those powers are rationally justifiable. This view is descriptively and theoretically flawed. Descriptively, executives in all three episodes lost control of the political dynamics, faced bipartisan resistance or rebellion in the legislature, and ended up obtaining far less than they asked for or desired. Theoretically, emergency conditions have cross-cutting political effects on legislators. The mechanisms and forces operative during emergency lawmaking cut both ways, constraining as well as empowering the executive, with unpredictable net results in particular cases. Although executives usually receive new powers in emergencies, there is no reason to think that they systematically tend to receive more new authority than a rational legislature would provide." [RJ]
Lawyers and Law Profs Working for Presidential Contenders
ABA Journal blogger Molly McDonough has compiled a list of lawyers and law profs working for presidential contenders. This list is interesting but hardly comprehensive. For example, ImmigrationProf Blog editors and UC Davis law professors Kevin Johnson and Bill Hing are not listed but serve as members of Barack Obama's Immigration Policy Group. See their Exclusive Interview With Senator Barack Obama.
Hat tip to Mitchell Rubenstein, Adjunct Law Prof Blog. [JH]
Pretrial Release of Felony Defendants in State Courts
Presents findings on the pretrial release phase of the criminal justice process using data collected from a representative sample of felony cases filed in the 75 largest U.S. counties in May during even-numbered years from 1990 to 2004. It includes trends on pretrial release rates and the types of release used. Pretrial release rates are compared by arrest offense, demographic characteristics, and criminal history. Characteristics of released and detained defendants are also presented. Rates of pretrial misconduct including failure to appear and rearrest are presented by type of release, demographic characteristics, and criminal history.
Highlights include the following:
- About 3 in 5 felony defendants in the 75 largest counties were released prior to the disposition of their case.
- Surety bond surpassed release on recognizance in 1998 as the most common type of pretrial release.
- Defendants on financial release were more likely to make all scheduled court appearances.
December 12, 2007
Sentencing, Sentencing, Sentencing
Once again OSU law professor Douglas Berman is illustrating how blogging can be "scholarship in action." On his blog, Sentencing Law & Policy, Berman is providing comprehensive coverage of the Supreme Court's Kimbrough and Gall rulings, and the US Sentencing Commission's decision to give retroactive effect to the Commission's recent amendment to the Federal Sentencing Guidelines that reduces penalties for crack cocaine offenses. In addition to providing source materials and media reaction, including law blog coverage, Berman's analytical posts on these very important developments in sentencing law and policy are must-reads.
Sentencing Law & Policy is the web destination for this area of criminal law. It's the place to go to for research and reference questions. [JH]
Professional Reading: Surfin' Safari: Why Competent Lawyers Should Research on the Web
Ellie Margolis (Temple) Surfin' Safari - Why Competent Lawyers Should Research on the Web, 10 Yale Journal of Law & Technology __ (2007), reviews the various ways in which the adequacy of a lawyer's research can be measured. If you are interested in the possiblity that legal research may become a bar exam component, check out this article. Here's the abstract from SSRN:
The easy availability of information on the internet has drastically changed the way that lawyers conduct legal research, but has it affected the standards for competency to which lawyers are held? This article explores the ways in which judges' and lawyers' expectations have been shaped by technological changes in the last two decades.
The article reviews the various ways in which the adequacy of a lawyer's research can be measured - the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, court rules such as Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and malpractice claims. All of these approaches reveal that competence is measured both by what techniques are standard in practice and by what sources judges look to in supporting their decisions. By both of these measures, a competent lawyer today must go beyond Lexis and Westlaw and conduct legal research directly on the internet.
Because many legal materials are increasingly available only online, and because judges are showing a greater willingness to rely on non-legal information available on the web, the article concludes that a lawyer cannot competently represent a client without conducting research on the internet. The conclusion urges law schools and the practicing bar to be aware of this development and instruct law students and new lawyers accordingly.
Who Should Teach CALR to 1Ls?
Who should teach CALR? Vendors, legal writing profs, law librarians.
This question has been debated for almost three decades now. In the early 80s, I banned Lexis reps from offering training at my law firm because their corporate-mandated approach was more designed to generate high search charges than produce efficient research skills. (Not so from Westlaw reps.) Those days are over. This isn't an either/or proposition anymore. Vendor reps, legal writing profs, and law librarians each have something to contribute to teaching CALR to 1Ls (2Ls, 3Ls, law clerks, young associates...) and no group is bias-free, so I am not persuaded by Shawn Nevers' argument in Candy, Points, and Highlighters: Why Librarians, Not Vendors, Should Teach CALR to First-Year Students [SSRN]. [JH]
Here's the LLJ article's abstract:
Computer-assisted legal research (CALR) is an essential legal research tool. Despite that fact, most first-year law students are still being trained to conduct CALR by the representatives of commercial vendors. This article contends that in the legal research environment of 2007, first-year students need the guidance of law librarians to effectively learn CALR. Among other benefits, law librarians can provide first-years with unbiased guidance in evaluating CALR systems, can teach CALR within a comprehensive research approach, and will not perpetuate the idea that CALR is a quick and easy solution to legal research.