January 10, 2009
Obama's Supreme Court Nominations
President-elect Obama may nominate at least two justices to the Supreme Court during his presidency. NPR asks how might Barack Obama's experience as a constitutional law professor contribute to his choices for judicial nominations? [JH]
January 9, 2009
When Will You Start Using Windows 7?
Microsoft is releasing a fully featured beta version of Windows 7 to up to 3 million members of the public today. The Company claims the Vista replacement will run faster on everything from high-end PCs to Netbooks. Haven't we heard this before?
The Company says the final version of Windows 7 will be released in January 2010. If so, won't that be the first time Microsoft has hit its release date for an operating system? So you can start testing Windows 7 today, wait until next January for the commercial version, or wait until 2012-2013 for the new operating system's SP2. [JH]
2008 LSSSE Report Finds Student Use of Laptops in the Classroom Productive Except for Those Bored 3Ls
Perhaps the 2008 LSSSE Report should be subtitled "Preparing Law Profs for the 21st Century" instead of "Student Engagement in Law Schools: Preparing 21st Century Lawyers" because one of the survey findings is that use of laptops in and outside the classroom is linked to higher levels of student engagement. Students who frequently used their laptop to take notes, review ideas from past lectures, or read a self-prepared case brief were more likely to come to class prepared, contribute to class discussions, and synthesize material across courses. They were also more likely to work hard to meet faculty expectations.
The survey also found that 3Ls were more likely to use their laptops in the classroom to surf the web, email, or instant message than other students but 3Ls devote less time to their studies anyway because by the third year of law school they are "bored to death." (Not an official conclusion of the LSSSE report). So instead of banning laptops in the classroom, perhaps law profs need to work harder to make their lectures stimulating.
Other findings from the 2008 Report include:
- Half of full-time law students reported that their law school experience substantially contributed to developing a personal code of values and ethics.
- Students pointed to clinics and professional responsibility courses as the most effective settings for learning legal ethics.
- More than a third of all law students wanted more opportunities to do practice-based legal writing during law school.
- Students who entered law school immediately after earning a bachelor's degree spent less time studying and more time socializing than other students.
- Students who reported higher law school grades also spent more time participating in co-curricular activities.
- Third-year students devoted less time to their studies but were more involved than other law students in such co-curricular activities as law journal, internships, pro bono work and research projects.
- Third-year students at smaller law schools and private law schools with religious affiliations were more likely to say that their law school experience contributed substantially to acting with integrity, strengthening their commitment to serving the public good, and to working effectively with future clients.
Friday Fun: The Red Lending Menace
Stephen Colbert finds a new Commie threat to America, our public libraries because they don't try to make a profit. [JH]
A Little Transparency for Obama's Stimulus Legislation
The not yet in office Obama administration plans to create a Google-like search function to show every program funded by the pending, yet-to-be-drafted multibillion dollar stimulus package, "whether it comes in under or over-budget, whether it is meeting its intended purpose, and how many jobs it is creating" according to ABC News. This appears to be in response to criticism of how the financial industry bailout legislation was shoved through Congress with little time for public review and comment.
Sam Taylor on Washington Policy Center's Blog writes "this is a fantastic idea and should be expanded to the full federal budget. In fact, it's not a bad idea for the state budget[s] either." See Washington State's searchable budget website which went live on Dec. 3, 2008.
ARL Statistics 2006-2007 Now Available
From the press release: "The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has published the ARL Statistics 2006–2007, the latest in a series of annual publications that describe the collections, staffing, expenditures, and service activities of ARL’s 123 member libraries. Of these member libraries, 113 are university libraries (14 in Canada, 99 in the US); the remaining 10 are public, governmental, and private research libraries (2 in Canada, 8 in the US)."
City of Boston's Website Updated by City Employees
Instead of relying on IT staff to update the the City of Boston website, public employees can update the site themselves using an SDL Tridion content management system. "This is a great example of why employees should be given more control over content on government websites. They are the ones that know what people are looking for and are knowledgable about what is happening in the city," writes Nisha Thompson, in More Content More Traffic. Details at CMS Gives Boston More Portal Traffic. [JH]
January 8, 2009
Joe Downloader Catches a Break
Since 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America has sued 35,000 people for sharing copyright-protected songs. More often than not the defendants have been the Joe Downloaders of the Internet, nothing more than casual file-sharers. The RIAA has announced that it is abandoning this litigation program. Why? Because the legal costs of the lawsuits are now exceeding the settlement money they bring in. No profit, no future suits. But the RIAA plans to continue pressing on with existing cases. Details on The First Amendment Center. [JH]
Economic Challenges of Digital Preservation
As the amount of digital data continues to grow exponentially, there's a general consensus that we need a plan in place for preservation and dissemination. However, determining "who is responsible" and "who should pay for it" is another story. In Sustaining the Digital Investment: Issues and Challenges of Economically Sustainable Digital Preservation, the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Sustainable Digital Preservation and Access attempts to create a working and sustainable economic model for digital access and preservation. "Decision makers must make access and preservation a strategic and actionable priority, incorporating it into their planning, economic models, and interactions with constituent communities. Without their participation, it will be difficult to build on the critical foundation of digital information required for leadership and competitiveness in the information age." [RJ]
Cornell Law Library's InSITE Website Reviews
Reviews published in the December 1, 2008 issue of InSITE:
- Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania
- Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
- Federal Evidence Blog
- UNPO: Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization
Founded in 1993, the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) at the University of Pennsylvania bills itself as “the premier communication policy center in the country.” APPC scholars consider the role of communication in shaping politics, civics, adolescent behavior, and other areas. The Center has played a role in various policy debates, including debates over Internet privacy, campaign finance, and tobacco advertising. The website provides details of APPC’s five major research areas: political communication, information and society, media and children, health communication, and adolescent risk. For each area, the site links to relevant news, while featuring related publications. The Library section of the site provides access to reports and other materials, but of great interest are the datasets. The sets are organized according to the five major research areas and brief descriptions of the sets are provided. Examples of datasets include election surveys and national health behavior surveys. To access the datasets, users must register with the site. [MM]
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) was established as a nonprofit organization in 1988 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to provide legal and non-legal immigration support services to its member agencies, of which there are now 173. Most of the member agencies are Catholic diocesan immigration programs, serving “low-income immigrants seeking family reunification, citizenship, and protection from persecution and violence.” CLINIC now has 260 field offices in 48 states, and employs approximately 1,200 attorneys who serve 400,000 immigrants each year. CLINIC’s member services are performed through divisions, including the Division of National Programs, the Division of Legalization, the Division of Advocacy, the Division of Religious Immigration Services, the Division of Administration and Development, and the Division of Training and Technical Support. The site is loosely structured around these divisions, each of which may be accessed through a tab located in the page heading. The site is kept very current and is extremely dense with important and relevant information which unfortunately is not well organized; however, the website does provide a basic search engine which functions well. From the home page, a good publications link provides access to practitioner guides and handbooks, immigration reports, articles by CLINIC, and newsletters from CLINIC. Most these publications are available in PDF format, although some are available in html. There are fees ranging from $25 to $199 to access some of the handbooks, and readers must subscribe to view the newsletter. Most of the reports, written by “some of the nation’s leading experts,” were not readily available, although this seemed to be a technical glitch rather than a service issue. Also on the home page, a news link provides access to substantial news coverage of CLINIC from various news sources and CLINIC’s own press releases. The site additionally provides links to US government office websites that deal with immigration issues, such as US Citizenship and Immigration Services, Department of Homeland Security, and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The intended audience of CLINIC’s site is clearly their member agencies, but there is some information to be obtained by others in the field of nonprofit immigration work who are willing dig for it, and in some circumstances, pay for it. [AE]
The Federal Evidence Blog is a free component of the Federal Evidence Review, a fee-based electronic legal journal. The blog focuses specifically on recent cases and issues involving the Federal Rules of Evidence, together with various other cutting edge matters in evidence. Geared toward legal practitioners, each blog entry highlights one case daily by providing an in-depth summary and thorough review of the procedural history, facts, issues, applicable rules, and outcomes of each case. The blog is current to the day, and entries are organized in descending order from most recent to last. In addition to a well-functioning basic search tool, the site provides a topical list of evidence issues cited in the blog, a list of rules recently cited within the blog, and a monthly archive extending back to June, 2008. One of the blog’s best features is that it provides not only cites to the cases being reviewed, but also hyperlinks to pdf copies of the cases and to html copies of the federal rules of evidence at issue within the cases. Occasionally other words in the article are hyperlinked as well to transport the reader to previous relevant blog articles or websites such as PACER. Another helpful feature is a list provided at the end of every article that serves to link the reader to previous articles about related issues. Readers may sign up for the “Evidence Alert!” service which provides free periodic emails with updates on blog postings and developments in evidence. In typical fashion, readers may also post comments or forward articles by email to other readers. Overall the blog provides the busy litigator with an excellent resource with which to stay current on developments in the rules of evidence. [AE]
The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is a democratic, international membership organization comprised of indigenous peoples, occupied nations, minorities, and independent states or territories who have joined together to protect their human and cultural rights, preserve their environments, and to find non-violent solutions to conflicts which affect them. Members share the one condition of not being represented in major international fora, such as the United Nations, which results in limited representation in the areas of human rights and related arenas. Visitors to the UNPO website may browse for territories and groups that are UNPO members. Each entry covers facts regarding that group, tribe or territory such as population density, language, culture, and religion. Historic backgrounds are often provided, as well as fact-finding reports. The UNPO also provides information about its activities with the UN, including with the UN Commission on Human Rights, the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations, and the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.[BWK,JPC]
InSITE contributors: J.P. Cusker, A. Emerson, B.W. Kreisler, M. Morrison, J. Pajerek (editor)
InSITE highlights selected law-related Web sites in two ways: as an annotated publication issued electronically and in print; and, as a keyword-searchable database. The law librarians at Cornell evaluate potentially useful Web sites, select the most valuable ones, and provide commentary and subject access to them. This information can be accessed via the channels below, in addition to this mailing list:
- Searchable database or by browsing current and archived issues on the web: InSITE home page (http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/insiteasp/)
- RSS feed (http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/lawlibrary/insiteasp/public/rss.asp)
- Print format for the Cornell Law School community.
Berring Reflects on the Berring-Wrens Legal Research Teaching Debate
In Twenty Years On: The Debate Over Legal Research Instruction, Perspectives (Fall 2008), Bob Berring reflects on the debate over legal research teaching models that arose with the publication of Christopher G. Wren and Jill Robinson Wren's 1988 LLJ article The Teaching of Legal Research, 80 Law Libr. J. 7 and their book, The Legal Research Manual: A Game Plan for Legal Research and Analysis (1983) (2d. ed. 1986).
The debate between Berring and his colleague Kathleen Vanden Heuvel and the Wrens can be found in the following articles: (1) Robert C. Berring & Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, Legal Research: Should Students Learn It or Wing It?, 81 Law Libr. J. 431 (1989) and (2) Christopher G. Wren & Jill Robinson Wren, Reviving Legal Research: A Reply to Berring and Vanden Heuvel, 82 Law Libr. J.463 (1990).
Berring's Perspectives article is a personal reflection on the matter and an interesting one. [JH]
Sunlight Foundation Blog's Top Ten Posts of 2008
Most of the Sunlight Foundation Blog's top ten posts based on page views relate to the financial industry bailout but Bill Allison’s post Holes in Disclosure helped to highlight the failure of Congress to require the disclosure of personal residences on personal financial disclosure forms and Gabriela Schneider's Open Letter to the Obama Administration focused on how to undo the culture of secrecy and transform the presidential administration into a transparent operation. Check out the complete list. [JH]
January 7, 2009
The Top 10 Events of 2008 in the Legal Academy
Several of the events listed in Brian Leiter's (Chicago) ranking pertain to the reputations of law schools. Here's a sample:
- The law school at Berkeley won the 2008 "Thank God U.S. News never audits the data schools self-report" award.
- U.S. News failed to respond to the fact that its 'method' for ranking law schools was now totally, and quite publicly discredited.
- Meanwhile, law school reputations in the real world remained unchanged.
- But in the world of "insiders", Harvard Law School clearly re-established itself as the top law school in the country (at least in terms of scholarly distinction of the faculty) for the first time since the 1970s, while Yale faculty and alumni lobbied furiously for Dean Kagan to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
For the complete list, visit Brian Leiter's Law School Reports. [JH]
MacHEADS Premieres at MacWorld Today
MacHEADS, a feature length documentary which explores the loyalty of Apple Fanatics and their obsession, has its world-premiere today with a screening at MacWorld 2009. [Film's website] The film examines what makes the Mac, the iPhone, and Apple's other products seem like "cultural phenomena" rather than just consumer electronics. Like wow, man. After viewing the below trailer, I wish I had a joint to smoke. (Note to DEA, I don't as in don't have a joint or smoke dope anymore.)
OK, I spent a small fortune in 1992 to buy a Mac to replace my DOS-driven laptop after one too many instances of taking two days to load programs. Got to hate the command line circa early 1990s. My IIci running System 6 (image above left) was a great machine and Apple remains a consumer electronics innovator but there's no need to pay the premium the company charges for its hardware anymore. It's the marketing, stupid.
Check out Cnet's review of the documentary. [JH]
Search Engine Competition, Chinese Style
China's no. 1 search engine provider, Baidu, has been accused of rigging search rankings. Apparently, a site's ranking will fall if it doesn't buy Baidu's sponsored links. Even uber-capitalist Google doesn't do that. Business Week has the story. [JH]
Who Performs Legal Research These Days?
It's not my question, it's Kim Nayyer's. She wants to know "in what settings and by whom is legal research done today, and whether the answers to these questions call for any action by legal research professionals." Check out her blog post to see what she is getting at and add your comments to this very interesting topic. I hope she pursues the issue in greater detail someday. [JH]
A Fantasy Law Profs League?
Jay Wexler (BU) is reviving a project he started several years ago, a fantasy law profs league, by soliciting input on what the key stats should be and what would constitute a team of law profs. Check out his PrawfsBlawg post and its comment trail. [JH]
On Being On, Always On
Statistics show that we are interrupted every three minutes during the course of the work day. Multitasking between email, cell-phone, text messages, and review Internet search results forces the brain to process more and more information at greater and greater speeds. Are all these high-tech advances overtaxing our Stone Age brains or is the constant flood of information giving our brains the daily exercise they seem to crave?
In The Overflowing Brain: Information Overload and the Limits of Working Memory (Oxford UP, 2008), cognitive scientist Torkel Klingberg takes us on a journey into the limits and possibilities of the brain. He suggests that we should acknowledge and embrace our desire for information and mental challenges, but try to find a balance between demand and capacity. Klingberg explores the cognitive demands, or "complexity," of everyday life and how the brain tries to meet them. He focuses chiefly on "working memory," our capacity to keep information in mind for short periods of time. Dr Klingberg asserts that working memory capacity, long thought to be static and hardwired in the brain, can be improved by training, and that the increasing demands on working memory may actually have a constructive effect: as demands on the human brain increase, so does its capacity.
The key might be finding that balance between demand and capacity. One way, of course, is to limit interruptions. However, Naomi S. Baron finds the increase in screening interruptions by filtering contacts the most significant but troubling trend in people's use of electronic communications. In her award-winning book, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World (Oxford, 2008), she argues that our ability to decide who to talk to is likely to be among the most lasting influences that information technology has upon the ways we communicate with one another. Moreover, as more people are "always on" one technology or another, Baron is concerned about what kind of people we become, as individuals and as family members or friends, if the relationships we form must increasingly compete for our attention with digital media.
January 6, 2009
Chinese Government to Stamp Out Internet Smut
While politically-themed Internet censorship in China has received most of the attention, news sites and human rights sites are frequently restricted too. Now China's State Council Information Office has intensified its campaign against sexually-explicit Internet material by instructing companies including Google to curb the availability of pornography in China's filtered version of the Web. Decian McCullahn, CNET News' chief political correspondent, writes "If this were simply political speech, no doubt members of the U.S. Congress would be tempted to convene ritual hearings where China, Google, and various other companies could be ceremoniously denounced in front of the cameras. But because we're talking about porn, a Senate resolution applauding China's censorial policies is probably more likely." [JH]
Westlaw's New FormFinder Intented to Eliminate Scouring the Service for Forms
You no longer have to remember the identifier of a forms database or select a tabbed page containing a link to forms in Westlaw. Instead, click FormFinder, a bright yellow link visible at the top of any Westlaw page for a search template. This widget is not available for law school subscribers. Details. [JH]