Archive for the ‘Law – Sources’ Category

State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump [Press Resource]

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump 9th Circuit Court of Appeals webpage on case: 17-35105.

The clerk of the Ninth Circuit has created a listing of all the pleading, hearings, etc., in date order (most recent at the top of the list) for your research and reading pleasure.

I won’t repeat the listing here as it would be quickly out of date.

Please include: State of Washington & State of Minnesota v. Trump, as a hyperlink in all your postings on this case.

Your readers deserve the opportunity to read, hear and see the arguments and briefs in this case for themselves.

PS: It appears to be updated after the close of business for the clerk’s office so filings today aren’t reflected on the page.

Court: Posting Standards Online Violates Copyright Law [+ solution]

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

Court: Posting Standards Online Violates Copyright Law by Trey Barrineau.

From the post:

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that public-records activist Carl Malamud’s organization, Public.Resource.Org, violated copyright law by publicly sharing standards that are used in laws such as building codes. It also said organizations that develop these standards, including those used in the fenestration industry, have the right to charge reasonable fees to access them. Malamud told DWM in an e-mail that he’ll appeal the ruling.
… (emphasis in original)

I was working on a colorful rant, invoking Mr. Bumble in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist:

“If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass- a idiot.

based on the report of the decision when I ran across the full court opinion:

AMERICAN SOCIETY FOR TESTING AND MATERIALS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. PUBLIC.RESOURCE.ORG, INC., Defendant. Case No. 13-cv-1215 (TSC)

The preservation of copyright despite being referenced in a law and/or regulation (pages 19-24) is one of the stronger parts of the decision.

In part it reads:

Congress was well aware of the potential copyright issue posed by materials incorporated by reference when it crafted Section 105 in 1976. Ten years earlier, Congress had extended to federal agencies the authority to incorporate private works by reference into federal regulations. See Pub. L. No. 90-23, § 552, 81 Stat. 54 (1967) (codified at 5 U.S.C. § 552) (providing that “matter reasonably available to the class of persons affected thereby is deemed published in the Federal Register when incorporated by reference therein with the approval of the Director of the Federal Register”). However, in the Copyright Act of 1976, Congress made no mention of these incorporated works in § 105 (no copyright for “any work of the United States Government”) or any other section. As the House Report quoted above indicates, Congress already carefully weighed the competing policy goals of making incorporated works publicly available while also preserving the incentives and protections granted by copyright, and it weighed in favor of preserving the copyright system. See H.R. Rep. No. 94-1476, at 60 (1976) (stating that under § 105 “use by the Government of a private work would not affect its copyright protection in any way”); see also M.B. Schnapper v. Foley, 667 F.2d 102, 109 (D.C. Cir. 1981) (analyzing Copyright Act and holding that “we are reluctant to cabin the discretion of government agencies to arrange ownership and publication rights with private contractors absent some reasonable showing of a congressional desire to do so”).

However, recognizing the importance of public access to works incorporated by reference into federal regulations, Congress still requires that such works be “reasonably available.” 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1). Under current federal regulations issued by the Office of the Federal Register in 1982, a privately authored work may be incorporated by reference into an agency’s regulation if it is “reasonably available,” including availability in hard copy at the OFR and/or the incorporating agency. 1 C.F.R. § 51.7(a)(3). Thirteen years later, Congress passed the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (“NTTAA”) which directed all federal agencies to use privately developed technical voluntary consensus standards. See Pub. L. No. 104-113, 110 Stat. 775 (1996). Thus, Congress initially authorized agencies to incorporate works by reference, then excluded these incorporated works from § 105 of the Copyright Act, and, nearly twenty years later, specifically directed agencies to incorporate private works by reference. From 1966 through the present, Congress has remained silent on the question of whether privately authored standards and other works would lose copyright protection upon incorporation by reference. If Congress intended to revoke the copyrights of such standards when it passed the NTTAA, or any time before or since, it surely would have done so expressly. See Whitman v. Am. Trucking Ass’ns, Inc., 531 U.S. 457, 468 (2001) (“Congress . . . does not alter the fundamental details of a regulatory scheme in vague terms or ancillary provisions—it does not . . . hide elephants in mouseholes.”); United States v. Fausto, 484 U.S. 439, 453 (1988) (“[It] can be strongly presumed that Congress will specifically address language on the statute books that it wishes to change.”). Instead, Congress has chosen to maintain the scheme it created in 1966: that such standards must simply be made reasonably available. See 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1).
… (emphasis in original, pages 21-23)

Finding to the contrary, that is referencing a privately authored standard as terminating the rights of a copyright holder, creates obvious due process problems.

Some copyright holders, ASTM for example, report sales as a substantial portion of their yearly income. ASTM International 2015 Annual Report gives an annual operating income of $72,543,549, of which, $48,659,345 was from publications. (page 24)

Congress could improve both the “reasonable access” for citizens and the lot of standard developers by requiring:

  • for works incorporated by reference into federal regulations, agencies must secure a license renewable without time limit for unlimited digital reproduction of that work by anyone
  • digital reproductions of such works, whether by the licensing agency or others, must reference the work’s publisher for obtaining a print copy

That gives standard developing organizations a new source of revenue, increases the “reasonable access” of citizens, and if past experience is any guide, digital copies may drive print sales.

Any takers?

State Legislatures For Bloggers and Reporters (Do You Enable Readers or Troll for Donations?)

Friday, January 27th, 2017

The Law Librarians of Congress produce a number of remarkable legal resources for use by member of Congress and the general public.

While not new, their State Legislatures Websites was new to me and merits mentioning.

Presented both as a map image and a more traditional table listing, the webpage offers a curated set of links to state legislatures.

If that doesn’t sound important, consider my comparison of nearly linkless reporting in Actionable Reporting – An Example with my expanded account that included links to pending (or expired) legislation, along with links to the authors of news worthy legislation.

Vague, hand-waving reports of some bill somewhere are good for fund raising but they don’t enable your readers to take effective action.

That’s your call, enabling your readers or trolling for donations.

Bookmark State Legislatures Websites or if you need it fairly often, copy the table into a local page of legal resources for quick reference.

ODI – Access To Legal Data News

Friday, January 13th, 2017

Strengthening our legal data infrastructure by Amanda Smith.

Amanda recounts an effort between the Open Data Institute (ODI) and Thomas Reuters to improve access to legal data.

From the post:

Paving the way for a more open legal sector: discovery workshop

In September 2016, Thomson Reuters and the ODI gathered publishers of legal data, policy makers, law firms, researchers, startups and others working in the sector for a discovery workshop. Its aims were to explore important data types that exist within the sector, and map where they sit on the data spectrum, discuss how they flow between users and explore the opportunities that taking a more open approach could bring.

The notes from the workshop explore current mechanisms for collecting, managing and publishing data, benefits of wider access and barriers to use. There are certain questions that remain unanswered – for example, who owns the copyright for data collected in court. The notes are open for comments, and we invite the community to share their thoughts on these questions, the data types discussed, how to make them more open and what we might have missed.

Strengthening data infrastructure in the legal sector: next steps

Following this workshop we are working in partnership with Thomson Reuters to explore data infrastructure – datasets, technologies and processes and organisations that maintain them – in the legal sector, to inform a paper to be published later in the year. The paper will focus on case law, legislation and existing open data that could be better used by the sector.

The Ministry of Justice have also started their own data discovery project, which the ODI have been contributing to. You can keep up to date on their progress by following the MOJ Digital and Technology blog and we recommend reading their data principles.

Get involved

We are looking to the legal and data communities to contribute opinion pieces and case studies to the paper on data infrastructure for the legal sector. If you would like to get involved, contact us.
…(emphasis in original)

Encouraging news, especially for those interested in building value-added tools on top of data that is made available publicly. At least they can avoid the cost of collecting data already collected by others.

Take the opportunity to comment on the notes and participate as you are able.

If you think you have seen use cases for topic maps before, consider that the Code of Federal Regulations (US), as of December 12, 2016, has 54938 separate but not unique, definitions of “person.” The impact of each regulation depending upon its definition of that term.

Other terms have similar semantic difficulties both in the Code of Federal Regulations as well as the US Code.

British and Irish Legal Information Institute

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

British and Irish Legal Information Institute

From the webpage:

Welcome to BAILII, where you can find British and Irish case law & legislation, European Union case law, Law Commission reports, and other law-related British and Irish material. BAILII thanks The Scottish Council of Law Reporting for their assistance in establishing the Historic Scottish Law Reports project. BAILII also thanks Sentral for provision of servers. For more information, see About BAILII.

I ran across this wonderful legal resource while researching a legal issue in another post.

Obviously a great resource for legal research and scholars but also I suspect a great source of leisure reading, well, if you like that sort of thing.

The site also offered this handy list of world law resources:

When I said “leisure reading,” I was only partially joking. What we accept now as “the law,” wasn’t always so.

The history of how rights and obligations have evolved over centuries of human interaction are recorded in legislation and case law.

It is a history with all the mis-steps, failures, betrayals and intrigue that are commonplace in any human enterprise.


United States Treaties [Library of Congress] – Incomplete – Missing Native American Treaties

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

United States Treaties Added to the Law Library Website by Jennifer González.

From the webpage:

We have added the United States Treaty Series, compiled by Charles I. Bevans, to our online digital collection. This collection includes treaties that the United States signed with other countries from 1776 to 1949. The collection consists of 13 volumes: four volumes of multilateral treaties, eight volumes of bilateral treaties and one volume of an index.

Multilateral Treaties

Bilateral Treaties

Charles I. Bevans did not include the treaties with native Americans listed at Treaties Between the United States and Native Americans, part of the Avalon project at Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library.

The Avalon project lists thirty treaties from 1778 – 1868, along with links to their full texts.

For your reading convenience, the list follows:

  • Treaty With the Delawares
  • 1782
  • Chickasaw Peace Treaty Feeler
  • 1784
  • Treaty With the Six Nations
  • 1785
  • Treaty With the Wyandot, etc.

  • Treaty With The Cherokee
  • 1786
  • Treaty With the Chocktaw

  • Treaty With the Chickasaw

  • Treaty With the Shawnee
  • 1789
  • Treaty With the Wyandot, etc.

  • Treaty With the Six Nations
  • 1790
  • Treaty With the Creeks
  • 1791
  • Treaty With the Cherokee
  • 1794
  • Treaty With the Cherokee

  • Treaty With the Six Nations

  • Treaty With the Oneida, etc.
  • 1795
  • Treaty of Greenville
  • 1805
  • Chickasaw Treaty
  • 1816
  • Treaty With the Chickasaw
  • 1818
  • “Secret” Journal on Negotiations of the Chickasaw Treaty of 1818

  • Treaty With the Chickasaw : 1818
  • 1826
  • Refusal of the Chickasaws and Choctaws to Cede Their Lands in Mississippi : 1826
  • 1828
  • Treaty With The Potawatami, 1828.
  • 1830
  • Treaty With the Chickasaw : 1830, Unratified
  • 1832
  • Treaty With the Potawatami, 1832.
  • 1852
  • Treaty with the Apache, July 1, 1852.
  • 1853
  • Treaty with the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache; July 27, 1853
  • 1865
  • Treaty with the Cheyenne and Arapaho; October 14, 1865

  • Treaty with the Apache, Cheyenne, and Arapaho; October 17, 1865.
  • 1867
  • Treaty With the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache; October 21, 1867.
  • 1868
  • Fort Laramie Treaty : 1868
  • You should draw your own conclusions about why these treaties were omitted from the Bevans edition. Their omission isn’t mentioned or explained in its preface.

    What’s the “CFR” and Why Is It So Important to Me?

    Wednesday, July 20th, 2016

    What’s the “CFR” and Why Is It So Important to Me? Government Printing Office (GPO) blog, GovernmentBookTalk.

    From the post:

    If you’re a GPO Online Bookstore regular or public official you probably know we’re speaking about the “Code of Federal Regulations.” CFRs are produced routinely by all federal departments and agencies to inform the public and government officials of regulatory changes and updates for literally every subject that the federal government has jurisdiction to manage.

    For the general public these constantly updated federal regulations can spell fantastic opportunity. Farmer, lawyer, construction owner, environmentalist, it makes no difference. Within the 50 codes are a wide variety of regulations that impact citizens from all walks of life. Federal Rules, Regulations, Processes, or Procedures on the surface can appear daunting, confusing, and even may seem to impede progress. In fact, the opposite is true. By codifying critical steps to anyone who operates within the framework of any of these sectors, the CFR focused on a particular issue can clarify what’s legal, how to move forward, and how to ultimately successfully translate one’s projects or ideas into reality.

    Without CFR documentation the path could be strewn with uncertainty, unknown liabilities, and lost opportunities, especially regarding federal development programs, simply because an interested party wouldn’t know where or how to find what’s available within their area of interest.

    The authors of CFRs are immersed in the technical and substantive issues associated within their areas of expertise. For a private sector employer or entrepreneur who becomes familiar with the content of CFRs relative to their field of work, it’s like having an expert staff on board.

    I like the CFRs but I stumbled on:

    For a private sector employer or entrepreneur who becomes familiar with the content of CFRs relative to their field of work, it’s like having an expert staff on board.

    I don’t doubt the expertise of the CFR authors, but their writing often requires an expert for accurate interpretation. If you doubt that statement, test your reading skills on any section of CFR Title 26, Internal Revenue.

    Try your favorite NLP parser out on any of the CFRs.

    The post lists a number of ways to acquire the CFRs but personally I would use the free Electronic Code of Federal Regulations unless you need to impress clients with the paper version.


    How to Read a Legal Opinion:… (Attn: Bloggers, Posters, Reporters)

    Monday, June 13th, 2016

    How to Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students by Orin S. Kerr.

    If I would require one rule for reporting on courts and legislatures it would be: No story will be published without links to the bill, law or decision being reported.

    How hard is that?

    Yet every day posting appear where you must guess to find an opinion or legislative material.

    Links won’t keep you mis-reporting laws and opinions but it will enable your readers to spot such mistakes more easily. (Is that the reason links are so often omitted?)

    If you want to improve your skills at reading opinions, take a look at Kerr’s How to Read a Legal Opinion: A Guide for New Law Students.

    Black’s Law Dictionary is a great help, but don’t use an “original” or out-dated version. The law is stable, but not that stable. There is an iPhone version.

    Bear in mind that Black’s doesn’t record every nuance for every term defined by a statute or used by a court. It is a general guide only.

    Accurate Reporting on the UK Parliament

    Thursday, June 9th, 2016

    When you read: British lawmakers pass new digital surveillance law by Elizabeth Piper and William Schomberg, do you think:

    1. The UK has a new surveillance law?
    2. Debate on a proposed surveillance law has ended in the House of Commons?
    3. A proposed surveillance law is about to be debated in the House of Lords?
    4. Princess Kate’s life will be streamed real-time 24×7 on BBC 4?

    If you said #2 and/or #3, your right!

    Answers #1 and #4 are false.

    I’m completely innocent of any experience with procedure in the UK Parliament but discovering the Reuters headline was false, wasn’t all that hard.

    If you don’t know UK parliamentary procedure, check before reporting:

    For the Investigatory Powers Bill, you could start at: About Parliament to get an overview of the process and some rather imaginative terminology used to describe the process.

    Quick tip: Look for Bills before Parliment if the bill has just been in the news. Easiest place to look for the latest information.

    Scroll down and you will find the Investigatory Powers Bill is now in the House of Lords.

    The Investigatory Powers Bill link takes you to a very well-organized page that summarizes the current bill status (not a law) along with the full text and links to other useful resources.

    The page also offers RSS and email alerts of further action on this bill. You will be accurately informed despite repeated AP reports of its passage.

    If you do report on the Investigatory Powers Bill include its status page. That will assist voters in knowing who is responsible for this travesty, should misfortune prevail and it become law.

    Advice on Reading Academic Papers [Comments on Reading Case Law/Statutes]

    Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

    Advice on Reading Academic Papers by Aaron Massey.

    From the post:

    Graduate students must learn to read academic papers, but in virtually all cases, these same students are not formally taught how to best read academic papers. It is not the same process used to read a newspaper, magazine, or novel. The process of learning how to read academic papers properly can not only be painful, but also waste quite a bit of time. Here are my quick tips on reading papers of all stripes:

    Less detailed than How to read and understand a scientific paper…., which includes a worked example, and not as oriented to CS as Now to Read a Paper.

    In addition to four other guides, Aaron includes this link which returns (as of today), some 384,000,000 “hits” on the search string: “how to read a scientific paper.”

    There appears to be no shortage of advice on “how to read a scientific paper.” 😉

    Just for grins, a popular search engine returns these results:

    “how to read case law” returns 2,070 “hits,” which dwindles down to 80 when similar materials are removed.

    Isn’t that interesting? Case law, which in many cases determines who pays, who goes to jail, who wins, has such poor coverage in reading helps?

    “how to read statutes” returns 2,500 “hits,” which dwindles down to 97 when similar materials are omitted.

    Beyond the barriers of legal “jargon,” be aware that even ordinary words may not have expected meanings in both case law and statutes.

    For best and safest results, always consult licensed legal counsel.

    That perpetuates the legal guild but its protective mechanisms are harsh and pitiless. Consider yourself forewarned.

    Legislative Data Demo Day [24 February 2016]

    Thursday, February 11th, 2016

    Legislative Data Demo Day Hosted by Rep. Seth Moulton and Rep. David Brat.

    From the post:

    February 24, 2016, Washington, D.C. 4:00pm – 5:00pm, location TBD

    Congress is poised to transform its legislative information from outdated documents into open, searchable data. If the House and Senate adopted a consistent data format for all bills, amendments, passed laws, and legal compilations, then new software could bring better transparency and more efficient lawmaking. The bipartisan Statutes at Large Modernization Act, introduced by Reps. Brat and Moulton, takes a giant step toward a data-driven future by setting up a structured data format for the Statutes at Large. Together with similar reforms for other legislative materials, the Statutes at Large Modernization Act will enable automatic redlining between bills and the laws they amend; electronic crosswalks from appropriations to the final disbursement of taxpayer funds; and cheaper, easier legal research.

    At the Legislative Data Demo Day, Reps. Moulton and Brat will preview demonstrations of the technologies that can modernize laws and lawmaking – if Congress embraces the transformation from documents into data.

    Heads up for what could be a very good event!

    The event is free but it looks like physical attendance is required.

    Collecting Case Data (law)

    Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

    If you do any amount of legal research, a form for briefing cases can save you from forgetting the citation to a case with the perfect quote.

    Everyone has a different style for case briefs but Mr. K– (@kirschsubjudice), has created one at Google Forms, called imaginatively enough: Case Brief.

    It will seem like a lot of work at first but reviewing your case briefs will save lots of time over re-reading photocopies of decisions and/or pulling all the volumes, again, when fact checking your story.

    Cybersecurity Act of 2015 – Text

    Friday, December 18th, 2015

    Coverage of the “omnibus” bill and the Cybersecurity Act of 2015 has been everywhere on the Web but nary a pointer to the text passed by Congress.

    Wouldn’t you rather read the text for yourself than have it summarized?

    At this point, the only text I can point you to is in the Congressional Record for December 17, 2015.

    The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 is in subsection N, which begins on page H9631, last column on your right and continues to the top of the last column to your right on page H9645.

    Please ask media outlets, bloggers and others to include pointers to court decisions, legislation, etc. with their stories.

    It’s a small thing but a big step towards an interconnected web of information, as opposed to the current disconnected web.

    US Court Opinion Links!

    Thursday, December 17th, 2015

    I was reading an account the opinion in Authors Guild vs. Google this morning, but the link pointed to a pay wall site. Sigh, court opinions are in the public domain so why not point to a public copy?

    Let me make that easier for members of the media, at least for the Supreme Court and the Circuit Courts of Appeal:

    You can get a more complete list, includes District and Bankruptcy courts, from Court Website Links.

    The only value-add that I offer is a direct link to finding opinions.

    One-click on “opinions” plus search gives you a public link to the public opinion.

    Is that too much to ask?

    PS: Websites of the Circuit Courts vary widely. District judges consider themselves just short of demi-gods so you can imagine the conversations with Circuit Courts judges on web options. Not quite fire by night and clouds by day but almost.

    Congress: More XQuery Fodder

    Tuesday, December 8th, 2015

    Congress Poised for Leap to Open Up Legislative Data by Daniel Schuman.

    From the post:

    Following bills in Congress requires three major pieces of information: the text of the bill, a summary of what the bill is about, and the status information associated with the bill. For the last few years, Congress has been publishing the text and summaries for all legislation moving in Congress, but has not published bill status information. This key information is necessary to identify the bill author, where the bill is in the legislative process, who introduced the legislation, and so on.

    While it has been in the works for a while, this week Congress confirmed it will make “Bill Statuses in XML format available through the GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) Bulk Data repository starting with the 113th Congress,” (i.e. January 2013). In “early 2016,” bill status information will be published online in bulk– here. This should mean that people who wish to use the legislative information published on and THOMAS will no longer need to scrape those websites for current legislative information, but instead should be able to access it automatically.

    Congress isn’t just going to pull the plug without notice, however. Through the good offices of the Bulk Data Task Force, Congress will hold a public meeting with power users of legislative information to review how this will work. Eight sample bill status XML files and draft XML User Guides were published on GPO’s GitHub page this past Monday. Based on past positive experiences with the Task Force, the meeting is a tremendous opportunity for public feedback to make sure the XML files serve their intended purposes. It will take place next Tuesday, Dec. 15, from 1-2:30. RSVP details below.

    If all goes as planned, this milestone has great significance.

    • It marks the publication of essential legislative information in a format that supports unlimited public reuse, analysis, and republication. It will be possible to see much of a bill’s life cycle.
    • It illustrates the positive relationship that has grown between Congress and the public on access to legislative information, where there is growing open dialog and conversation about how to best meet our collective needs.
    • It is an example of how different components within the legislative branch are engaging with one another on a range of data-related issues, sometimes for the first time ever, under the aegis of the Bulk Data Task Force.
    • It means the Library of Congress and GPO will no longer be tied to the antiquated THOMAS website and can focus on more rapid technological advancement.
    • It shows how a diverse community of outside organizations and interests came together and built a community to work with Congress for the common good.

    To be sure, this is not the end of the story. There is much that Congress needs to do to address its antiquated technological infrastructure. But considering where things were a decade ago, the bulk publication of information about legislation is a real achievement, the culmination of a process that overcame high political barriers and significant inertia to support better public engagement with democracy and smarter congressional processes.

    Much credit is due in particular to leadership in both parties in the House who have partnered together to push for public access to legislative information, as well as the staff who worked tireless to make it happen.

    If you look at the sample XML files, pay close attention to the <bioguideID> element and its contents. Is is the same value as you will find for roll-call votes, but there the value appears in the name-id attribute of the <legislator> element. See: and do view source.

    Oddly, the <bioguideID> element does not appear in the documentation on GitHub, you just have to know the correspondence to the name-id attribute of the <legislator> element

    As I said in the title, this is going to be XQuery fodder.

    Locating a Compiled Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide

    Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

    Locating a Compiled Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide by Robert Brammer.

    From the post:

    Compiling a federal legislative history may seem daunting, but it does not have to be. We hope, through our last few Beginner’s Guides, that we have made this process easier for researchers. There is another, possibly less complicated, option for finding legislative history documents that we wanted to be sure to highlight — determining whether someone has already done the work for you and created a legislative history report! There are many sources of pre-compiled legislative histories available that you will want to check before compiling your own. These compilations range from finding aids that help you locate a compiled legislative history to monographs that contain the legislative history for one act.

    If you want less friction when researching federal legislative history, Robert has a number of suggestions to help with just that task.

    On the other hand, if you want to have a sense of frustration, despair and ultimately joy at persevering, then compile a legislative history on your own. 😉

    Seriously, government documents, to say nothing of legislative history, is a world unto itself. There are librarians who don’t do anything but government documents. They are a god-send if you do have to use a depository library.

    Of course, legislative histories are for those who take the surface of legislation at face value. For all of the surface action, there are deeper currents of benefit and personalities that are being played out in the legislative dance.

    By and large, official legislative histories don’t give you that view.

    Harvard Law Library Readies Trove of Decisions for Digital Age

    Thursday, October 29th, 2015

    Harvard Law Library Readies Trove of Decisions for Digital Age by Erik Eckholm.

    From the post:

    Shelves of law books are an august symbol of legal practice, and no place, save the Library of Congress, can match the collection at Harvard’s Law School Library. Its trove includes nearly every state, federal, territorial and tribal judicial decision since colonial times — a priceless potential resource for everyone from legal scholars to defense lawyers trying to challenge a criminal conviction.

    Now, in a digital-age sacrifice intended to serve grand intentions, the Harvard librarians are slicing off the spines of all but the rarest volumes and feeding some 40 million pages through a high-speed scanner. They are taking this once unthinkable step to create a complete, searchable database of American case law that will be offered free on the Internet, allowing instant retrieval of vital records that usually must be paid for.

    “Improving access to justice is a priority,” said Martha Minow, dean of Harvard Law School, explaining why Harvard has embarked on the project. “We feel an obligation and an opportunity here to open up our resources to the public.”

    While Harvard’s “Free the Law” project cannot put the lone defense lawyer or citizen on an equal footing with a deep-pocketed law firm, legal experts say, it can at least guarantee a floor of essential information. The project will also offer some sophisticated techniques for visualizing relations among cases and searching for themes.

    Complete state results will become publicly available this fall for California and New York, and the entire library will be online in 2017, said Daniel Lewis, chief executive and co-founder of Ravel Law, a commercial start-up in California that has teamed up with Harvard Law for the project. The cases will be available at Ravel is paying millions of dollars to support the scanning. The cases will be accessible in a searchable format and, along with the texts, they will be presented with visual maps developed by the company, which graphically show the evolution through cases of a judicial concept and how each key decision is cited in others.

    A very challenging dataset for capturing and mapping semantics!

    If you think current legal language is confusing, strap on a couple of centuries of decisions plus legislation as the meaning of words and concepts morph.

    Some people will search it as flatly as they do Google Ngrams and that will be reflected in the quality of their results.

    Yet another dataset where sharing search trails with commentary would enrich the data with every visit. Less experienced searchers could follow the trails of more accomplished searchers.

    Whether capturing and annotating search trails and other non-WestLaw/LexisNexis features will make it into user facing interfaces remains to be seen.

    There is some truth to the Westlaw claim that “Core primary law is only the beginning…” but the more court data becomes available, the greater the chance for innovative tools.

    Now over 1,000,000 Items to Search on [Cause to Celebrate?]

    Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

    Now over 1,000,000 Items to Search on Communications and More Added by Andrew Weber.

    From the post:

    This has been a great year as we continue our push to develop and refine  There were email alerts added in February, treaties and better default text in March, the Federalist Papers and more browse options in May, and accessibility and user requested features in July.  With this October update, Senate Executive Communications from THOMAS have migrated to  There is an About Executive Communications page that provides more detail about the scope of coverage, searching, viewing, and obtaining copies.

    Not to mention a new video “help” series, Legislative Subject Terms and Popular and Short Titles.

    All good and from one of the few government institutions that merits respect, the Library of Congress.

    Why the “Cause to Celebrate?”

    This is an excellent start and certainly has shown itself to be far more responsive to user requests than vendors are to reports of software vulnerabilities.

    But we are still at the higher level of data, legislation, regulations, etc.

    Where needs to follow is a dive downward to identify who obtains the benefits of legislation/regulations? Who obtains permits, for what and at what market value? Who obtains benefits, credits, allowances? Who wins contracts and where does that money go as it tracks down the prime contractor -> sub-prime contractor -> etc. pipeline?

    It is ironic that when candidates for president talk about tax reform they tend to focus on the tax tables. Which are two (2) pages out of the current 6,455 pages of the IRC (in pdf,

    Knowing who benefits and by how much for the rest of the pages of the IRC isn’t going to make government any cleaner.

    But, when paired with campaign contributions, it will give everyone an even footing on buying favors from the government.

    Not unlike public disclosure enables a relatively fair stock exchange, in the case of government it will enable relative fairness in corruption.

    Attention Law Students: You Can Change the Way People Interact with the Law…

    Friday, September 25th, 2015

    Attention Law Students: You Can Change the Way People Interact with the Law…Even Without a J.D. by Katherine Anton.

    From the post:

    A lot of people go to law school hoping to change the world and make their mark on the legal field. What if we told you that you could accomplish that, even as a 1L?

    Today we’re launching the WeCite contest: an opportunity for law students to become major trailblazers in the legal field. WeCite is a community effort to explain the relationship between judicial cases, and will be a driving force behind making the law free and understandable.

    To get involved, all you have to do is go to and choose the treatment that best describes a newer case’s relationship with an older case. Law student contributors, as well as the top contributing schools, will be recognized and rewarded for their contributions to WeCite.

    Read on to learn why WeCite will quickly become your new favorite pastime and how to get started!

    Shepard’s Citations began publication in 1873 and by modern times, had such an insurmountable lead, that the cost of creating a competing service were a barrier to anyone else entering the field.

    To be useful to lawyers, a citation index can’t index some of the citations but all of the citations.

    The WeCite project, based on crowd-sourcing, is poised to demonstrate creation of a public law citation index is doable.

    While the present project is focused on law students, I am hopeful that the project opens up for contributions from more senior survivors of law school, practicing or not.

    Constitution Day – The Annotated Constitution Celebrated

    Thursday, September 17th, 2015

    Constitution Day – The Annotated Constitution Celebrated by Margaret Wood.

    From the post:

    Thursday, September 17th is Constitution Day and on this date we commemorate the signing of the Constitution. This day also recognizes those who have become citizens of the United States by coming of age or by naturalization. The Law Library frequently celebrates this auspicious day with a lecture or scholarly debate. Over the years we have written about different aspects of the Constitution, its history and various Constitutional amendments. This year I thought it would be helpful to highlight one of our most important resources in answering questions about the Constitution and its history. What is this invaluable resource? It is The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation.

    This publication, which celebrated its centennial in 2013, is available both in print and online. At the direction of the Librarian of Congress, this publication is prepared by staff from the Congressional Research Service and, since at least 1964, it has been published as a Senate document. Many of the staff here at the Law Library have an older edition of the print publication in our offices, and there are always two or three current editions available in the Law Library Reading Room.

    Despite my antipathy for some government departments and activities, I have a weakness for the Library of Congress in general and the Congressional Research Service in particular.

    The 1972 edition of the The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation was my first exposure to the first of many Congressional Research Service publications.

    You won’t have to spend long with a current edition to discover that “interpreting” the Constitution isn’t as nearly straight forward and unambiguous as many claim.

    The 2014 edition runs 2814 pages long. A bit unwieldy in print so I will be reading my next copy on an e-reader.

    Introducing LegalPad [free editor]

    Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

    Introducing LegalPad by Jake Heller.

    From the webpage:

    I’m thrilled to officially announce something we’ve been working on behind the scenes here at Casetext: LegalPad. It’s live on the site right now: you can use it, for free, and without registering. So before reading about it from me, I recommend checking it out for yourself!

    A rethought writing experience

    LegalPad is designed to be the best way to write commentary about the law.

    This means a few things. First, we created a clean writing experience, easier to use than traditional blogging platforms. Editing is done through a simplified editor bar that is there only when you need it so you can stay focused on your writing.

    Second, the writing experience is especially tailored towards legal writing in particular. Legal writing is hard. Because law is based on precedent and authority, you need to juggle dozens of primary sources and documents. And as you write, you’re constantly formatting, cite-checking, BlueBooking, editing, emailing versions for comments, and researching. All of this overhead distracts from the one thing you really want to focus on: perfecting your argument.

    LegalPad was designed to help you focus on what matters and avoid unnecessary distractions. A sidebar enables you to quickly pull up bookmarks collected while doing research on Casetext. You can add a reference to the cases, statutes, regulations, or other posts you bookmarked, which are added with the correct citation and a hyperlink to the original source.

    You can also pull up the full text of the items you’ve bookmarked in what we are calling the PocketCase. Not only does the PocketCase enable you to read the full text of the case you are writing about while you’re writing, you can also drop in quotes directly into the text. They’ll be correctly formatted, have the right citation, and even include the pincite to the page you’ve copied from.

    LegalPad also has one final, very special feature. If your post cites to legal authority, it will be connected to the case, statute, or regulation you referenced such that next time someone reads the authority, they’ll be alerted to your commentary. This makes the world’s best free legal research platform an even better resource. It also helps you reach an audience of over 350,000 attorneys, in-house counsel, professors, law students, other legal professionals, and business leaders who use Casetext as a resource every month.

    LegalPad and CaseNote are free so I signed up.

    I am working on an annotation of Lamont v. Postmaster General 381 U.S. 301 (1965) to demonstrate it relevancy to FBI Director James Comey’s plan to track contacts with ISIS over social media.

    A great deal of thought and effort has gone into this editing interface! I was particularly pleased by the quote insert with link back to the original material feature.

    At first blush and with about fifteen (15) minutes of experience with the interface, I suspect that enhancing it with entity recognition and stock associations would not be that much of a leap. Could be very interesting.

    More after I have written more text with it.

    Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports (Law Library of Congress)

    Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

    Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports (Law Library of Congress)

    From the announcement that came via email:

    In an effort to highlight the legal reports produced by the Law Library of Congress, we have revamped our display of the reports on our website.

    The new Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports will house all reports available on our website. This will also be the exclusive location to find reports written before 2011.

    The reports listed on the Comprehensive Index page are divided into specific topics designed to point you to the reports of greatest interest and relevance. Each report listed is under only one topic and several topics are not yet filled (“forthcoming”). We plan to add many reports from our archives to this page over the next few months, filling in all of the topics.

    The Current Legal Topics page ( will now only contain the most current reports. The list of reports by topic also includes a short description explaining what you will find in each report.

    No links will be harmed in this change, so any links you have created to individual reports will continue to work. Just remember to add as a place to find research, especially of a historical nature, and to find recently written reports.

    There are US entities that rival the British Library and the British Museum. The Library of Congress is one of those, as is the Law Library of Congress (the law library is a part of the Library of Congress but merits separate mention).

    Every greedy, I would like to see something similar for the Congressional Research Service.

    From the webpage:

    The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for more than a century.

    CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.

    Imagine US voters being given “…analysis that is authoritative, …, objective and nonpartisan,” analysis that they are paying for today and have for more than the last century.

    I leave it to your imagination why Congress would prefer to have “confidential” reports that aren’t available to ordinary citizens. Do you prefer incompetence or malice? Webinar 11 June 2015 2PM-3PM

    Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 Webinar

    The Law Library of Congress is putting on a webinar about this coming Thursday, 11 June 2015, 2PM-3PM.

    Whether you believe laws really matter or you just need to find laws/action for rhetoric, this is likely to be a very good webinar!

    See you there!

    Foreign Intelligence Gathering Laws

    Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

    Foreign Intelligence Gathering Laws by Peter Roudik, Director of Legal Research, Law Library of Congress.

    From the description:

    This report contains information on laws regulating the collection of intelligence in the European Union, United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, and Sweden. The report details how EU Members States control activities of their intelligence agencies and what restrictions are imposed on information collection. All EU Member States follow EU legislation on personal data protection, which is a part of the common European Union responsibility.

    To the extent that you think intelligence services obey laws or if you need statute and case citations for rhetorical purposes, for the countries covered this report will be quite handy.

    Whether you are in the United States or one of the countries listed in this report or elsewhere, your default assumption should be that you are under surveillance and the record light is on.

    Lex Machina – Legal Analytics for Intellectual Property Litigation

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

    Lex Machina – Legal Analytics for Intellectual Property Litigation by David R. Hansen.

    From the post:

    Lex Machina—Latin that translates to “law machine”—is an interesting name for a legal analytics platform that focuses not on the law itself but on providing insights into the human aspects of the practice of law. While traditional legal research platforms—Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg, etc.—help guide attorneys to information about where the law is and how it is developing, Lex Machina focuses on providing information about how attorneys, judges, and other involved parties act in the high-stakes world of IP litigation.

    Leveraging databases from PACER, the USPTO, and the ITC, Lex Machina cleans and codes millions of data elements from IP-related legal filings to cull information about how judges, attorneys, law firms, and particular patents are treated in various cases. Using that information, Lex Machina is able to offer insights into, for example, how long a particular judge typically takes to decide on summary judgment motions, or how frequently a particular judge grants early motions in favor of defendants. Law firms use the service to create client pitches—highlighting with hard data, for example, how many times they have litigated and won particular types of cases before particular judges or courts as compared to competing law firms. And companies can use the service to assess the historical effectiveness of their counsel and to judge the reasonableness of proposed litigation strategies.

    For academic uses, the possibilities for engaging in empirical research with the covered dataset are great. A quick search of law reviews articles in Westlaw shows Lex Machina used in seventy-five articles published since 2009, covering empirical research into everything from the prevalence of assertions of state sovereign immunity for cases involving state-owned patents to effect of patent monetization entities on U.S. patent litigation.

    If you are interested in gaining access to Lex Machina and are university and college faculty, staff or students directly engaged in research on, or study of, IP law and policy, you can request a free public-interest account here (Lex Machina notes, however, “to enable public interest users to make best use of Lex Machina, we require prospective new users to attend an online training prior to receiving a user account.”)

    When I first wrote about Lex Machina (2013), I don’t recall there being a public interest option. Amusing to see its use as a form of verified advertising for attorneys.

    Now, if judicial oversight boards had the same type of information across the board for all judges.

    Not that legal outcomes can or should be uniform, but they shouldn’t be freakish as well.

    I first saw this in a tweet by Aaron Kirschenfeld.

    Barkan, Bintliff, and Whisner’s Fundamentals of Legal Research, 10th

    Monday, April 6th, 2015

    Barkan, Bintliff, and Whisner’s Fundamentals of Legal Research, 10th by Steven M Barkan; Barbara Bintliff; Mary Whisner. (ISBN-13: 9781609300562)


    This classic textbook has been updated to include the latest methods and resources. Fundamentals of Legal Research provides an authoritative introduction and guide to all aspects of legal research, integrating electronic and print sources. The Tenth Edition includes chapters on the true basics (case reporting, statutes, and so on) as well as more specialized chapters on legislative history, tax law, international law, and the law of the United Kingdom. A new chapter addresses Native American tribal law. Chapters on the research process, legal writing, and citation format help integrate legal research into the larger process of solving legal problems and communicating the solutions. This edition includes an updated glossary of research terms and revised tables and appendixes. Because of its depth and breadth, this text is well suited for advanced legal research classes; it is a book that students will want to retain for future use. Moreover, it has a place on librarians’ and attorneys’ ready reference shelves. Barkan, Bintliff and Whisner’s Assignments to Fundamentals of Legal Research complements the text.

    I haven’t seen this volume in hard copy but if you are interested in learning what connections researchers are looking for with search tools, law is a great place to start.

    The purpose of legal research, isn’t to find the most popular “fact” (Google), or to find every term for a “fact” ever tweeted (Twitter), but rather to find facts and their relationships to other facts, which flesh out to a legal view of a situation in context.

    If you think about it, putting legislation, legislative history, court records and decisions, along with non-primary sources online, is barely a start towards making that information “accessible.” A necessary first step but not sufficient for meaningful access.

    United States Code (from Office of the Law Revision Counsel)

    Friday, March 27th, 2015

    United States Code (from Office of the Law Revision Counsel)

    The download page says:

    Current Release Point

    Public Law 113-296 Except 113-287

    Each update of the United States Code is a release point. This page provides downloadable files for the current release point. All files are current through Public Law 113-296 except for 113-287. Titles in bold have been changed since the last release point.

    A User Guide and the USLM Schema and stylesheet are provided for the United States Code in XML. A stylesheet is provided for the XHTML. PCC files are text files containing GPO photocomposition codes (i.e., locators).

    Information about the currency of United States Code titles is available on the Currency page. Files for prior release points are available on the Prior Release Points page. Older materials are available on the Annual Historical Archives page.

    You can download as much or as little of the United States Code in XML, XHTML, PCC or PDF format.

    Oh, yeah, the 113-287 reference does seem rather cryptic. What? You don’t keep up with Public Law numbers? 😉

    The short story is that Congress passed a bill to move material on national parks to volume 54 and that hasn’t happened, yet. If you need more details, see: Title 54 of the U.S. Code: Background and Guidance by the National Park Service.

    You can think of this as the outcome of the sausage making process. Interesting in its own right but not terribly helpful in divining the process that produced it.


    PS: On Ubuntu, the site displays great on Chrome, don’t know about IE*, and poorly on FireFox.

    Detecting Text Reuse in Nineteenth-Century Legal Documents:…

    Thursday, March 12th, 2015

    Detecting Text Reuse in Nineteenth-Century Legal Documents: Methods and Preliminary Results by Lincoln Mullen.

    From the post:

    How can you track changes in the law of nearly every state in the United States over the course of half a century? How can you figure out which states borrowed laws from one another, and how can you visualize the connections among the legal system as a whole?

    Kellen Funk, a historian of American law, is writing a dissertation on how codes of civil procedure spread across the United States in the second half of the nineteenth century. He and I have been collaborating on the digital part of this project, which involves identifying and visualizing the borrowings between these codes. The problem of text reuse is a common one in digital history/humanities projects. In this post I want to describe our methods and lay out some of our preliminary results. To get a fuller picture of this project, you should read the four posts that Kellen has written about his project:

    Quite a remarkable project with many aspects that will be relevant to other projects.

    Lincoln doesn’t use the term but this would be called textual criticism, if it were being applied to the New Testament. Of course here, Lincoln and Kellen have the original source document and the date of its adoption. New Testament scholars have copies of copies in no particular order and no undisputed evidence of the original text.

    Did I mention that all the source code for this project is on Github?

    Big data: too much information

    Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

    Big data: too much information by Joanna Goodman.

    Joanna’s post was the source I used for part of the post Enhanced Access to UK Legislation. I wanted to call attention to her post because it covered more than just the site and offered several insights into the role of big data in law.

    Consider Joanna’s list of ways big data can help with litigation:

    Big data analysis – nine ways it can help

    1 Big data analytics use algorithms to interrogate large volumes of unstructured, anonymised data to identify correlations, patterns and trends.

    2 Has the potential to uncover patterns – and opportunities – that are not immediately obvious.

    3 Graphics are key – visual representation is the only clear and comprehensive way to present the outcomes of big data analysis.

    4 E-discovery is an obvious practical application of big data to legal practice, reducing the time and cost of trawling through massive volumes of structured and unstructured data held in different places.

    5 Can identify patterns and trends, using client and case data, in dispute resolution to predict the probability of case outcomes. This facilitates decision-making – for example whether a claimant should pursue a case or to settle.

    6 In the UK, the Big Data for Law project is digitising the entire statute book so that all UK legislation can be analysed, together with publicly available data from legal publishers. This will create the most comprehensive record of all UK legislation ever created together with analytical tools.

    7 A law firm can use big data analytics to offer its insurance clients a service that identifies potentially fraudulent claims.

    8 Big data will be usable as a design tool, to identify design patterns within statutes – combinations of rules that are used repeatedly to meet policy goals.

    9 Can include transactional data and data from external sources, which can be cut in different ways.

    Just as a teaser because the rest of her post is as interesting as what I quoted above, how would you use big data to shape debt collection practices?

    See Joanna’s post to find out!

    Enhanced Access to UK Legislation

    Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

    The site appears to be a standard legal access site, albeit from 1267 CE to present.

    Its Changes made by legislation enacted from 2002 – present is useful but suffers from presenting changes to texts with tables.

    Next year will be the 30th anniversary of the publication of ISO 8879, the SGML standard and texts are still aligned with tables to show changes. There have been better ways to present changes, HyTime, XML with XLink/Xpointer, and more recent additions to the XML family such as XPath and XQuery.

    Inline presentation of changes with a navigation aid to choose the source of changes would be far more intuitive. Perhaps in a future version of this resource.

    I say in a future version of this site because of the following description of the hopes for this site:

    In 2014 big data moved centre stage, with the Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded Data for Law project, which was launched to facilitate socio-economic research and identify patterns in the way we legislate. This involves digitising the entire statute book and presenting the data so that all UK legislation can be analysed, together with publicly available data from legal publishers such as LexisNexis and Westlaw.

    ‘It’s better to count than to guess,’ observes David Howarth, a legal academic and former MP who co-leads the project. ‘Big Data for Law will provide the most comprehensive record of all UK legislation ever created, together with analytical tools. Although these will be most useful for the public sector, government, researchers and policy-makers, it is also useful to law firms, particularly those with public policy practices who will be able to gain insights into the changing regulatory environment.’

    Firms and lawyers will be able to use the Big Data for Law resources to identify patterns and trends in particular areas of legislation. An important consideration is to publish the data in a form that will enable researchers to work with it effectively – and present their findings clearly.

    Another part of the project uses big data as a design tool, to identify patterns within statutes – combinations of rules that are used repeatedly to meet policy goals. This is effectively extracting the structure of legislation and thinking about how it can be reused. Howarth suggests that law firms could also apply this approach to legal documents.

    John Sheridan, head of legislation services for the National Archives and senior investigator for the Big Data for Law project, highlights the importance of creating tools and methods that are accessible to those without deep statistical knowledge as well as developing pre-packaged analysis that researchers and others can use and cite in documents: ‘For example, we can plot fluctuations in the number of laws made year on year, and in the length of the text.

    ‘We can discover how modular legislation is in particular areas and frequency of legislative change. We can also examine the language of law which uncovers the topics of the day and reflects major global events and political and economic trends.’

    Mapping the statute book identifies commonly recurring themes and language patterns. Sheridan and his team have identified patterns for licensing, prohibition, regulators, tax and so on, with the purpose of enabling interested parties to quickly gain an understanding of a particular legislative development and identify commonly occurring solutions to particular issues.

    The ability to search the entirety of UK legislation using time-based parameters and particular words and phrases makes it straightforward to find relevant laws pertaining to a specific issue, which is particularly useful to parties involved in litigation. Sheridan underlines the importance of visual presentation to plot patterns and trends, and the ability to drill down into the detail.

    Isn’t that an extraordinary description of the potential for a public access to legislation site?

    Patterns in legislation? Policy goals linked to external events? Language analysis?

    I didn’t see any of those features, yet, but assume that they will be forthcoming.