Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Law Library of Congress Chatbot

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

We are Excited to Announce the Release of the Law Library of Congress Chatbot by Robert Brammer.

From the webpage:

We are excited to announce the release of a new chatbot that can connect you to primary sources of law, Law Library research guides and our foreign law reports. The chatbot has a clickable interface that will walk you through a basic reference interview. Just click “get started,” respond “yes” or “no” to its questions, and then click on the buttons that are relevant to your needs. If you would like to return to the main menu, you can always type “start over.”

(image omitted)

The chatbot can also respond to a limited number of text commands. Just type “list of commands” to view some examples. We plan to add to the chatbot’s vocabulary based on user interaction logs, particularly whenever a question triggers the default response, which directs the user to our Ask A Librarian service. To give the chatbot a try, head over to our Facebook page and click the blue “Send Message” button.

The response to “list of commands” returns in part this content:

This page provides examples of text commands that can be used with the Law Library of Congress chat bot. The chat bot should also understand variations of these commands and its vocabulary will increase over time as we add new responses. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

(I deleted the table of contents to the following commands)


Advance Healthcare Directives
-I want to make an advanced health care directive
-I want to make a living will

Caselaw
– I want to find a case

Civil Rights
My voting rights were violated
– I was turned away at the polling station
– I feel I have been a victim of sexual harassment

Constitutional Law
– I want to learn about the U.S. Constitution
– I want to locate a state constitution
-I want to learn about the history of the U.S. Constitution

Employment Law
-I would like to learn more about employment law
-I was not paid overtime

Family Law
– I have been sued for a divorce
– I want to sue for child custody
– I want to sue for child support
– My former spouse is not paying child support

Federal Statutes
– I want to find a federal statute

File a Lawsuit
– I want to file a lawsuit

Foreclosure
– My house is in foreclosure

Immigration
– I am interested in researching immigration law
-I am interested in researching asylum law

Landlord-Tenant Law
– My landlord is violating my lease
-My landlord does not maintain my property

Legal Drafting
Type “appeal”, “motion”, or “complaint”

Lemon Laws
– I bought a car that is a lemon

Municipal Law
– My neighbor is making loud noise
-My neighbor is letting their dog out without a leash
-My neighbor is not maintaining their property
-My neighbor’s property is overgrown

Real Estate
-I’m looking for a deed
– I’m looking for a real estate form

State Statutes
I want to find state statutes

Social Security Disability
– I want to apply for disability

Wills and Probate
– I want to draft a will
– I want to probate an estate

Unlike some projects, the Law Library of Congress chat bot doesn’t learn from its users, at least not automatically. Interactions are reviewed by librarians and content changed/updated.

Have you thought about a chat bot user interface to a topic map? The user might have no idea that results are merged and otherwise processed before presentation.

When I say “user interface,” I’m thinking of the consumer of a topic map, who may or may not be interested in how the information is being processed, but is interested in a useful answer.

If You Believe in Parliaments

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

If you believe in parliaments, other than as examples of how governments don’t “get it,” then the The Law Library of Congress, Global Legal Research Center has a treat for you!

Fifty (50) countries and seventy websites surveyed in: Features of (70)Parliamentary Websites in Selected Jurisdictions.

From the summary:

In recent years, parliaments around the world have enhanced their websites in order to improve access to legislative information and other parliamentary resources. Innovative features allow constituents and researchers to locate and utilize detailed information on laws and lawmaking in various ways. These include tracking tools and alerts, apps, the use of open data technology, and different search functions. In order to demonstrate some of the developments in this area, staff from the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress surveyed the official parliamentary websites of fifty countries from all regions of the world, plus the website of the European Parliament. In some cases, information on more than one website is provided where separate sites have been established for different chambers of the national parliament, bringing the total number of individual websites surveyed to seventy.

While the information on the parliamentary websites is primarily in the national language of the particular country, around forty of the individual websites surveyed were found to provide at least limited information in one or more other languages. The European Parliament website can be translated into any of the twenty-four official languages of the members of the European Union.

All of the parliamentary websites included in the survey have at least basic browse tools that allow users to view legislation in a list format, and that may allow for viewing in, for example, date or title order. All of the substantive websites also enable searching, often providing a general search box for the whole site at the top of each page as well as more advanced search options for different types of documents. Some sites provide various facets that can be used to further narrow searches.

Around thirty-nine of the individual websites surveyed provide users with some form of tracking or alert function to receive updates on certain documents (including proposed legislation), parliamentary news, committee activities, or other aspects of the website. This includes the ability to subscribe to different RSS feeds and/or email alerts.

The ability to watch live or recorded proceedings of different parliaments, including debates within the relevant chamber as well as committee hearings, is a common feature of the parliamentary websites surveyed. Fifty-eight of the websites surveyed featured some form of video, including links to dedicated YouTube channels, specific pages where users can browse and search for embedded videos, and separate video services or portals that are linked to or viewable from the main site. Some countries also make videos available on dedicated mobile-friendly sites or apps, including Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.

In total, apps containing parliamentary information are provided in just fourteen of the countries surveyed. In comparison, the parliamentary websites of thirty countries are available in mobile-friendly formats, enabling easy access to information and different functionalities using smartphones and tablets.

The table also provides information on some of the additional special features available on the surveyed websites. Examples include dedicated sites or pages that provide educational information about the parliament for children (Argentina, El Salvador, Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey); calendar functions, including those that allow users to save information to their personal calendars or otherwise view information about different types of proceedings or events (available on at least twenty websites); and open data portals or other features that allow information to be downloaded in bulk for reuse or analysis, including through the use of APIs (application programming interfaces) (at least six countries).

With differing legal vocabularies and local personification of multi-nationals, this is a starting point for transparency based upon topic maps.

I first saw this in a tweet by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN).

Fleeing the Country?

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Laws on Extradition of Citizens – Library of Congress Report.

Freedom/resistance fighters need to bookmark this report! A bit dated (2013) but still a serviceable guide to extradition laws in 157 countries.

The extradition map, reduced in scale here, is encouraging:

Always consult legal professionals for updated information and realize that governments make and choose the laws they will enforce. Your local safety in a “no extradition” country depends upon the whims and caprices of government officials.

Just like your cybersecurity, take multiple steps to secure yourself against unwanted government attention, both local and foreign.

Text Mining For Lawyers (The 55% Google Weaned Lawyers Are Missing)

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

Working the Mines: How Text Mining Can Help Create Value for Lawyers by Rees Morrison, Juris Datoris, Legaltech News.

From the post:

To most lawyers, text mining may sound like a magic wand or more hype regarding “artificial intelligence.” In fact, with the right input, text mining is a well-grounded genre of software that can find patterns and insights from large amounts of written material. So, if your law firm or law department has a sizable amount of text from various sources, it can extract value from that collection through powerful software tools.

To help lawyers recognize the potential of text mining and demystify it, this article digs through typical steps of a project. Terms of art related to this domain of software are in bold and, yes, there will be a quiz at the end.

Our example project assumes that your law firm (or law department) has gathered a raft of written comments through an internal survey of lawyers or from clients who have typed their views in a client satisfaction survey (perhaps in response to an open-ended question like “In what ways could we improve?”). All that writing is grist for the mill of text mining!

Great overview of the benefits and complexities of text mining!

I was recently assured by a Google weaned lawyer that natural language searching enabled him and his friends to do a few quick searches to find relevant authorities.

I could not help but point out my review of Blair and Maron’s work that demonstrated while attorneys estimated they recovered 75% of relevant documents, in fact they recovered barely 20%.

No solution returns 100% of the relevant documents for any non-trivial dataset, but leaving 55% on the floor doesn’t inspire confidence.

Especially when searchers consider a relevant result to be success. Depends.

Depends on how many relevant authorities existed and if any were closer to your facts than those found? Among other things.

Is a relevant result your test for research success or the best relevant research result, with a measure of confidence in it’s quality?

How To Avoid Lying to Government Agents (Memorize)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

How to Avoid Going to Jail under 18 U.S.C. Section 1001 for Lying to Government Agents by Solomon L. Wisenberg.

Great post but Wisenberg buries his best advice twelve paragraphs into the story. (Starts with: “Is there an intelligent alternative to lying….”)

Memorize this sentence:

I will not answer any questions without first consulting an attorney.

That’s it. Short, sweet and to the point. Make no statements at all other than that one. No “I have nothing to hide,” etc.

It’s like name, rank, serial number you see in the old war movies. Don’t say anything other than that sentence.

For every statement a government agent makes, simply repeat that sentence. Remember, you can’t lie if you don’t say anything other than that sentence.

See Wisenberg’s post for the details but the highlighted sentence is the only one you need.

Conclusive Reason To NOT Use Gmail

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

Using an email service, Gmail for example, that tracks (and presumably reads) your incoming and outgoing mail is poor security judgement.

Following a California magistrate ruling on 19 April 2017, it’s suicidal.

Shaun Nichols covers the details in Nuh-un, Google, you WILL hand over emails stored on foreign servers, says US judge.

But the only part of the decision that should interest you reads:


The court denies Google’s motion to quash the warrant for content that it stores outside the United States and orders it to produce all content responsive to the search warrant that is retrievable from the United States, regardless of the data’s actual location.

Beeler takes heart from the dissents in In the Matter of a Warrant to Search a Certain E-Mail Account Controlled & Maintained by Microsoft Corp., 829 F.3d 197 (2d Cir. 2016), reh’g denied en banc, No. 14-2985, 2017 WL 362765 (2d Cir. Jan. 24, 2017), to find if data isn’t intentionally stored outside the US, and can be accessed from within the US, then its subject to a warrant under 18 U.S.C. § 2703(a), the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”).

I have a simpler perspective: Do you want to risk fortune and freedom on a how many angels can dance on the head of 18 U.S.C. § 2703(a), the Stored Communications Act (“SCA”) questions?

If your answer is no, don’t use Gmail. Or any other service where data can be accessed from United States for 18 U.S.C. § 2703(a), but similar statutes for other jurisdictions.

For that matter, prudent users restrict themselves to Tor based mail services and always use strong encryption.

Almost any communication can be taken as a crime or step in a conspiracy by a prosecutor inclined to do so.

The only partially safe haven is silence. (Where encryption and/or inability to link you to the encrypted communication = silence.)

How To Win Friends – The Malamud Strategy

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Last week, Judge Richard W. Story (Northern District of Georgia), ruled in favor of the State of Georgia and ordered Carl Malamud to remove the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) from public.resource.org.

There are a number of reports circulating:

The State of Georgia wins its suit against Carl Malamud for publishing official annotations to the law of the land by Simon Reichley.

If you publish Georgia’s state laws, you’ll get sued for copyright and lose by Joe Mullin.

Reprinting Georgia legal code violates copyright law, US judge rules in Ars Technica.

I think fees for FOIA requests serve to suppress inquiry so you can imagine where my sympathies lie in this case.

However, to promote greater public access to law, Malamud’s strategy with the State of Georgia is a lesson in how NOT to proceed (from Ars Technica):


In 2013, Malamud scanned all 186 volumes and supplements of the OCGA and posted copies on the website. He also sent flash drives with copies of the laws to Georgia speaker of the House, David Ralston, and other lawmakers, lawyers and policymakers.

Accompanying the flash drives, Malamud wrote a letter stating his intention to make the laws available so that “public servants, members of the bar, citizens, and members of the business community have ready access to the laws that govern them.”
… (emphasis in the original)

Whether the Code Revision Committee withholds the OCGA from the public out of spite, some deluded notion of competition between digital and print products, or for more nefarious reasons isn’t known to me.

But taking Code Revision Committee’s toy and waving it in front of them, isn’t going improve the situation.

Now we have have bad case law on law + annotation. Bad case law likely to be affirmed in this circuit. (Poor forum shopping.) Reversal requires Malamud to win the Supreme Court lottery. Way to go.

Here’s an alternative:

First, Judge Story lists contents of each O.C.G.A volume:

The Agreement requires the official Code to include not only the statutory provisions, but also “annotations, captions, catchlines, headings, history lines, editorial notes, cross-references, indices, title and chapter analyses, research references, amendment notes. Code Commission notes, and other material related to or included in such Code at the direction of the Commission” [Doc. No. 29-8, p. 2]. Each O.C.G.A. volume and supplement therefore contains statutory text and non-statutory annotation text, including judicial decision summaries, editor’s notes, research references, notes on law review articles, summaries of the opinions of the Attorney General of Georgia, indexes, and title, chapter, article, part, and subpart captions, which are all prepared by Lexis/Nexis under the requirements of the Agreement [Doc. No. 17, ¶¶ 3, 9, 18, and 26]. (Code Revision Commission, et
al. vs. Public.Resource.Org, Inc.
, page 3)

You will notice that court decisions, law review articles, opinions of Attorney General of Georgia are all “facts” and not subject to copyright. That is you could not use Lexis/Nexis summaries but you certainly could provide your own.

Some other “facts” in the annotations include:

The Official Code of Georgia’s copious annotations help you expand your research and include:

• Decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Supreme Court of Georgia, the Courts of Appeals of Georgia, and all federal cases arising in Georgia
• Opinions of the Georgia Attorney General
• State law reviews
ALR
American Jurisprudence
American Jurisprudence, Pleading and Practice
American Jurisprudence, Proof of Facts
American Jurisprudence, Trials
Corpus Juris Secundum
Uniform Laws Annotated
• Cross reference notes to statutes, rules, and regulations including the United States Code and the Official Compilation of the Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia
• All case citations are Shepardized® for accuracy and relevant subsequent history.

… (Official Code of Georgia Annotated)

The first step in production of a public access version of Georgia law would be the acquisition of LexisNexis CD – Georgia Primary Law as a comparison or proofing copy to be used against your OCR of the scanned volumes. Once that’s done, use XQuery to purge the non-factual material, leaving markers where new summaries need to be added.

The second step would be to crowd-source among law students the missing summaries. Proposed summaries are critiqued by other law students. Not every student makes law review but a killer annotation in the Unofficial Code of Georgia Annotated (U.C.G.A.) could provide some street cred.

A possible third step, taking the U.C.G.A. beyond the traditional product, is to use crowd-sourcing to annotate statutes with trial judge rulings, parties and their lawyers. Facts have some relationship to outcomes in court cases but not as much as you may think. Why do so many IP cases go to the Eastern District of Texas? I promise, it’s not the facts of the cases.

More complicated than scanning and posting images but public access, a value-add and a better product than is currently available.

PS: I would omit Code Revision Committee annotations as they are unlikely to grant permission and the U.C.G.A. will be valuable even without their participation. This means, of course, they would not be getting any royalties from the use of the U.C.G.A.

PPS: These principles apply to other legal publishing monopolists. I’m game if you are.

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, https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/content/view.php?pk_id=0000000860 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?

Neil M. Gorsuch (Library of Congress, Bibliography)

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

This bibliography created by the Library of Congress on Neil M. Gorsuch covers articles, books, cases written by Judge Gorsuch and others.

One of the few sane resource collections you will find on Judge Gorsuch.

Share it widely.

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.

Expiring Patents

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

Expatents returns a list of patents expiring that day and you can sign up for a weekly digest of expiring patents.

The site claims that over 80% of patents are never commercially exploited.

Are expired patents, that is without commercial exploitation, like articles that are never cited by anyone?

Potential shareholder litigation over the not-so-trivial cost of patents that never resulted in commercial exploitation?

Was it inside or outside counsel that handled the patent filings?

There’s an interesting area for tracing relationships (associations) and expenses.

Constitution Free Zone [The Only Advantage To Not Living In Hawaii]

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Know Your Rights: The Government’s 100-Mile “Border” Zone – Map

From the post:

Many people think that border-related policies impact only people living in border towns like El Paso or San Diego. The reality is that Border Patrol’s interior enforcement operations encroach deep into and across the United States, affecting the majority of Americans.

Roughly two-thirds of the United States’ population, about 200 million people, lives within the 100-mile zone that an outdated federal regulation defines as the border zone—that is, within 100 miles of a U.S. land or coastal border.

Although this zone is not literally “Constitution free”—constitutional protections do still apply—the Border Patrol frequently ignores those protections and runs roughshod over individuals’ civil liberties.

Learn more about the government’s 100-mile border zone.

Read the ACLU factsheet on Custom and Border Protection’s 100-mile zone

constitutionfreezonemap-460

The ACLU map demonstrates there are no locations in Hawaii where the border zone does not reach.

Now you can name the one advantage of living outside of Hawaii, just in case it comes up on Jeopardy.

😉

In some ways, this map is mis-leading.

The U.S. government runs roughshod over everyone within and without its borders.

Ask the people of Aleppo for tales of the American government. A city rumored to be founded in the 6th millennium BCE, may be about to become the largest graveyard in history.

Be sure to mention that on holiday cards to the Obama White House.

The GCHQ Puzzle Book

Friday, November 4th, 2016

The GCHQ Puzzle Book

The Amazon description:

If 3=T, 4=S, 5=P, 6=H, 7=H … what is 8?

What is the next letter in the sequence: M, V, E, M, J, S, U, ?

Which of the following words is the odd one out: CHAT, COMMENT, ELF, MANGER, PAIN, POUR?

GCHQ is a top-secret intelligence and security agency which recruits some of the very brightest minds. Over the years, their codebreakers have helped keep our country safe, from the Bletchley Park breakthroughs of WWII to the modern-day threat of cyberattack. So it comes as no surprise that, even in their time off, the staff at GCHQ love a good puzzle. Whether they’re recruiting new staff or challenging each other to the toughest Christmas quizzes and treasure hunts imaginable, puzzles are at the heart of what GCHQ does. Now they’re opening up their archives of decades’ worth of codes, puzzles and challenges for everyone to try.
(emphasis in original)

Hard to say if successful completion of the GCHQ Puzzle Book or hacking into GCHQ would be the better way to introduce yourself to the GCHQ.

Depends on which department within GCHQ captures your interest. 😉

Be aware that some pedestrian agencies and their personnel view intrusion into government computers to be crime and punishable as such.

More sophisticated agencies/personnel realize that “…in Jersey, anything is legal so long as you don’t get caught” and/or if you have something of sufficient value to trade.

The “rule of law,” and “letter of the law” stuff is for groundlings. Don’t be a groundling.

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.

Enjoy!

Bias in Data Collection: A UK Example

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Kelly Fiveash‘s story, UK’s chief troll hunter targets doxxing, virtual mobbing, and nasty images starts off:

Trolls who hurl abuse at others online using techniques such as doxxing, baiting, and virtual mobbing could face jail, the UK’s top prosecutor has warned.

New guidelines have been released by the Crown Prosecution Service to help cops in England and Wales determine whether charges—under part 2, section 44 of the 2007 Serious Crime Act—should be brought against people who use social media to encourage others to harass folk online.

It even includes “encouraging” statistics:


According to the most recent publicly available figures—which cite data between May 2013 and December 2014—1,850 people were found guilty in England and Wales of offences under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. But the numbers reveal a steady climb in charges against trolls. In 2007, there were a total of 498 defendants found guilty under section 127 in England and Wales, compared with 693 in 2008, 873 in 2009, 1,186 in 2010 and 1,286 in 2011.

But the “most recent publicly available figures,” doesn’t ring true does it?

Imagine that, 1850 trolls out of a total population of England and Wales of 57 million. (England 53.9 million, Wales 3.1 million, mid-2013)

Really?

Let’s look at the referenced government data, 25015 Table.xls.

For the months of May 2013 to December 2014, there are only monthly totals of convictions.

What data is not being collected?

Among other things:

  1. Offenses reported to law enforcement
  2. Offenses investigated by law enforcement (not the same as #1)
  3. Conduct in question
  4. Relationship, if any, between the alleged offender/victim
  5. Race, economic status, location, social connections of alleged offender/victim
  6. Law enforcement and/or prosecutors involved
  7. Disposition of cases without charges being brought
  8. Disposition of cases after charges brought but before trial
  9. Charges dismissed by courts and acquittals
  10. Judges who try and/or dismiss charges
  11. Penalties imposed upon guilty plea and/or conviction
  12. Appeals and results on appeal, judges, etc.

All that information exists for every reported case of “trolls,” and is recorded at some point in the criminal justice process or could be discerned from those records.

Can you guess who isn’t collecting that information?

The TheyWorkForYou site reports at: Communications Act 2003, Jeremy Wright, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, saying:


The Ministry of Justice Court Proceedings Database holds information on defendants proceeded against, found guilty and sentenced for criminal offences in England and Wales. This database holds information on offences provided by the statutes under which proceedings are brought but not the specific circumstances of each case. It is not possible to separately identify, in all cases brought under section 127 of the Communications Act 2003, whether a defendant sent or caused to send information to an individual or a small group of individuals or made the information widely available to the public. This detailed information may be held by the courts on individual case files which due to their size and complexity are not reported to Justice Analytical Services. As such this information can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.
… (emphasis added)

I was unaware that courts in England and Wales were still recording their proceedings on vellum. That would be expensive to manually gather that data together. (NOT!)

How difficult is it from any policy organization, whether seeking greater protection from trolls and/or opposing classes of prosecution based on discrimination and free speech to gather the same data?

Here is a map of the Crown Prosecution Service districts:

cps-460

Counting the sub-offices in each area, I get forty-three separate offices.

But that’s only cases that are considered for prosecution and that’s unlikely to be the same number as reported to the police.

Checking for police districts in England, I get thirty-nine.

england-police-460

Plus, another four areas for Wales:

wales-police-230

The Wikipedia article List of law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom, Crown dependencies and British Overseas Territories has links for all these police areas, which in the interest of space, I did not repeat here.

I wasn’t able to quickly find a map of English criminal courts, although you can locate them by postcode at: Find the right court or tribunal. My suspicion is that Crown Prosecution Service areas correspond to criminal courts. But verify that for yourself.

In order to collect the information already in the possession of the government, you would have to search records in 43 police districts, 43 Crown Prosecution Service offices, plus as many as 43 criminal courts in which defendants may be prosecuted. All over England and Wales. With unhelpful clerks all along the way.

All while the government offers the classic excuse:

As such this information can be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Disproportionate because:

Abuse of discretion, lax enforcement, favoritism, discrimination by police officers, Crown prosecutors, judges could be demonstrated as statistical facts?

Governments are old hands at not collecting evidence they prefer to not see thrown back in their faces.

For example: FBI director calls lack of data on police shootings ‘ridiculous,’ ‘embarrassing’.

Non-collection of data is a source of bias.

What bias is behind the failure to collect troll data in the UK?

Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed [Can Liability Be Far Behind?]

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed by Kevin Hartnett.

From the post:

In the summer of 2015 a team of hackers attempted to take control of an unmanned military helicopter known as Little Bird. The helicopter, which is similar to the piloted version long-favored for U.S. special operations missions, was stationed at a Boeing facility in Arizona. The hackers had a head start: At the time they began the operation, they already had access to one part of the drone’s computer system. From there, all they needed to do was hack into Little Bird’s onboard flight-control computer, and the drone was theirs.

When the project started, a “Red Team” of hackers could have taken over the helicopter almost as easily as it could break into your home Wi-Fi. But in the intervening months, engineers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had implemented a new kind of security mechanism — a software system that couldn’t be commandeered. Key parts of Little Bird’s computer system were unhackable with existing technology, its code as trustworthy as a mathematical proof. Even though the Red Team was given six weeks with the drone and more access to its computing network than genuine bad actors could ever expect to attain, they failed to crack Little Bird’s defenses.

“They were not able to break out and disrupt the operation in any way,” said Kathleen Fisher, a professor of computer science at Tufts University and the founding program manager of the High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) project. “That result made all of DARPA stand up and say, oh my goodness, we can actually use this technology in systems we care about.”

Reducing the verification requirement to a manageable size appears to be the key to DARPA’s success.

That is rather than verification of the entire program, only critical parts, such as excluding hackers, need to be verified.

If this spreads, failure to formally verify critical parts of software would be a natural place to begin imposing liability for poorly written code.

PS: Would formal proof of data integration be a value-add?

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:


1778
  • 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.

    The Court That Rules The World

    Sunday, August 28th, 2016

    The Court That Rules The World by Chris Hamby.

    If the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) don’t sound dangerous to you, this series will change your mind.

    Imagine a private, global super court that empowers corporations to bend countries to their will.

    Say a nation tries to prosecute a corrupt CEO or ban dangerous pollution. Imagine that a company could turn to this super court and sue the whole country for daring to interfere with its profits, demanding hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars as retribution.

    Imagine that this court is so powerful that nations often must heed its rulings as if they came from their own supreme courts, with no meaningful way to appeal. That it operates unconstrained by precedent or any significant public oversight, often keeping its proceedings and sometimes even its decisions secret. That the people who decide its cases are largely elite Western corporate attorneys who have a vested interest in expanding the court’s authority because they profit from it directly, arguing cases one day and then sitting in judgment another. That some of them half-jokingly refer to themselves as “The Club” or “The Mafia.”

    And imagine that the penalties this court has imposed have been so crushing — and its decisions so unpredictable — that some nations dare not risk a trial, responding to the mere threat of a lawsuit by offering vast concessions, such as rolling back their own laws or even wiping away the punishments of convicted criminals.

    This system is already in place, operating behind closed doors in office buildings and conference rooms in cities around the world. Known as investor-state dispute settlement, or ISDS, it is written into a vast network of treaties that govern international trade and investment, including NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Congress must soon decide whether to ratify.

    These trade pacts have become a flashpoint in the US presidential campaign. But an 18-month BuzzFeed News investigation, spanning three continents and involving more than 200 interviews and tens of thousands of documents, many of them previously confidential, has exposed an obscure but immensely consequential feature of these trade treaties, the secret operations of these tribunals, and the ways that business has co-opted them to bring sovereign nations to heel.

    The BuzzFeed News investigation explores four different aspects of ISDS. In coming days, it will show how the mere threat of an ISDS case can intimidate a nation into gutting its own laws, how some financial firms have transformed what was intended to be a system of justice into an engine of profit, and how America is surprisingly vulnerable to suits from foreign companies.

    (emphasis in original)

    Read carefully and take names.

    Few, if any, are beyond one degree of separation from the Internet.

    U.K. Parliament – U.S. Congress : Legislative Process Glossaries

    Monday, August 22nd, 2016

    I encountered the glossary for legislative activity for the U.S. Congress and remembered a post where I mentioned a similar resource for the U.K.

    Rather than having to dig for both of them in the future:

    U.K. Parliment – Glossary

    U.S. Congress – Glossary

    To be truly useful, applications displaying information from either source should automatically tag these terms for quick reference by readers.

    Enjoy!

    Is UC-San Diego Running A Military Commission?

    Friday, August 19th, 2016

    Will UC-San Diego keep hiding witnesses that could prove accused students innocent? by Greg Piper.

    From the post:

    The University of California-San Diego routinely hides the identity of witnesses that could help students accused of wrongdoing exonerate themselves, departing from its own rules on who is “relevant” to an investigation.

    This policy, which has been applied against accused students for at least the past five years, was not publicly known until 11 months ago. A state appeals court fleshed out its existence in a due-process lawsuit against the school by a student who was found responsible for cheating and expelled.

    That court struck down UCSD’s ruling against Jonathan Dorfman, saying it had no legal reason to withhold the identity of “Student X” – whose test answers Dorfman allegedly copied – from him.

    Arguing before the court, the UC System’s own lawyer admitted that the school had never bothered to ask Student X where he was sitting in class that day in 2011 – potentially preempting its case against Dorfman.

    UC-San Diego has copied the government’s use of “secret” evidence in U.S. military commissions.

    Here UC-San Diego decided who or what was “relevant” to its inquiry, saying:

    When a female judge suggests that UCSD decided “this was enough and we’re not going to give the information to the defense to try to poke holes in it,” Goldstein responds with apparent earnestness: “That is the procedure here.”

    If U.S. prosecutors were so honest, they would echo:

    we’re not going to give the information to the defense to try to poke holes in it,

    That works, only if you have a presumption of guilt. So far as I know, lip service is still payed to the presumption of innocence.

    If prosecutors want a presumption of guilt, they should argue for it openly, and not conceal that as well.

    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.

    Enjoy!

    Slouching Towards Total Surveillance – Investigatory Powers Bill Update

    Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

    Investigatory Powers Bill 2015-16 to 2016-17.

    Bill Summary:

    A Bill to make provision about the interception of communications, equipment interference and the acquisition and retention of communications data, bulk personal datasets and other information; to make provision about the treatment of material held as a result of such interception, equipment interference or acquisition or retention; to establish the Investigatory Powers Commissioner and other Judicial Commissioners and make provision about them and other oversight arrangements; to make further provision about investigatory powers and national security; to amend sections 3 and 5 of the Intelligence Services Act 1994; and for connected purposes.

    Whatever criticisms you may have of the UK Parliment, you must admit its delivery of legislative information is quite nice.

    Via email today I received notice of “sitting” and “provisional sitting” on the Investigatory Powers Bill. A quick check of their glossary reveals that “sitting” is another term for committee meeting.

    The first “sitting” or committee meeting on this bill will be 11.07.2016.

    A process described on the homepage of this bill as:

    Committee stage – line by line examination of the Bill – is scheduled to begin on 11 July.

    Considering its progress so far, I’m not expecting “line by line examination” to impede its progress.

    Still, it’s not, yet, a law so delay, diversion, dilution, remain possibilities.

    The privacy you protect could well be your own.

    Driving While Black (DWB) Stops Affirmed By Supreme Court [Hacker Tip]

    Tuesday, June 21st, 2016

    Justice Sotomayor captures the essence of Utah v. Strieff when she writes:

    The Court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights. Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants—even if you are doing nothing wrong. If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay, courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant. Because the Fourth Amendment should prohibit, not permit, such misconduct, I dissent.

    The facts are easy enough to summarize, Edward Strieff was seen visiting a home that had been reported (but not confirmed) as a site of drug sales. Officer Frackwell, with no suspicions that Strieff had committed a crime, detained Strieff, requested his identification and was advised of a traffic warrant for his arrest. Frackwell arrested Strieff and while searching him, discovered “a baggie of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.”

    Frackwell moved to suppress the “a baggie of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia” since Officer Frackwell lacked even a pretense for the original stop. The Utah Supreme Court correctly agreed but the Supreme Court in this decision, written by “Justice” Thomas, disagreed.

    The “exclusionary rule” has a long history but for our purposes, it suffices to say that it removes any incentive for police officers to stop people without reasonable suspicion and demand their ID, search them, etc.

    It does so by excluding any evidence of a crime they discover as a result of such a stop. Or at least it did prior to Utah v. Strieff. Police officers were forced to make up some pretext for a reasonable suspicion in order to stop any given individual.

    No reasonable suspicion for stop = No evidence to be used in court.

    That was the theory, prior to Utah v. Strieff

    Sotomayor makes clear in her dissent, this was a suspicionless stop:


    This case involves a suspicionless stop, one in which the officer initiated this chain of events without justification. As the Justice Department notes, supra, at 8, many innocent people are subjected to the humiliations of these unconstitutional searches. The white defendant in this case shows that anyone’s dignity can be violated in this manner. See M. Gottschalk, Caught 119–138 (2015). But it is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny. See M. Alexander, The New Jim Crow 95–136 (2010). For generations, black and brown parents have given their children “the talk”— instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger—all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them. See, e.g., W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903); J. Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963); T. Coates, Between the World and Me (2015).

    By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights. It implies that you are not a citizen of a democracy but the subject of a carceral state, just waiting to be cataloged.

    We must not pretend that the countless people who are routinely targeted by police are “isolated.” They are the canaries in the coal mine whose deaths, civil and literal, warn us that no one can breathe in this atmosphere. See L. Guinier & G. Torres, The Miner’s Canary 274–283 (2002). They are the ones who recognize that unlawful police stops corrode all our civil liberties and threaten all our lives. Until their voices matter too, our justice system will continue to be anything but. (emphasis in original)

    New rule: Police can stop you at any time, for no reason, demand identification, check your legal status, if you are arrested as a result of that check, any evidence seized can be used against you in court.

    Police officers were very good at imagining reasonable cause for stopping people, but now even that tissue of protection has been torn away.

    You are subject to arbitrary and capricious stops with no disincentive for the police. They can go fishing for evidence and see what turns up.

    For all of that, I don’t see the police as our enemy. They are playing by rules as defined by others. If we want better play, such as Fourth Amendment rights, then we need enforcement of those rights.

    It isn’t hard to identify the enemies of the people in this decision.


    Hackers, you too can be stopped at anytime. Hackers should never carry incriminating USB drives, SIM cards, etc. If possible, everything even remotely questionable should not be in a location physically associated with you.

    Remote storage of your code, booty, etc., protects it from clumsy physical seizure of local hardware and, if you are very brave, enables rapid recovery from such seizures.

    Judicial Decision Making, Pulling Back the Curtain (Miranda v. Arizona)

    Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

    Miranda v. Arizona: Exploring Primary Sources Behind the Supreme Court Case by Stephen Wesson.

    From the post:

    You have the right to remain silent….” These words, and the rest of the legal warning that follows, are so well-known that they’ve almost become a synonym for “You’re under arrest.” They occupy such a familiar place in popular culture that it might seem as though they’d been part of U.S. law for centuries. However, the now-ubiquitous Miranda warning only came into being fifty years ago, when the Supreme Court ruled that the rights of a criminal suspect, Ernesto Miranda, had been violated because he had not been informed of his Constitutional protections against self-incrimination.

    The Library of Congress is marking this landmark anniversary with the launch of Miranda v. Arizona: The Rights to Justice, an online presentation of historical documents that shed light on the arguments around, and the reaction to, the Miranda ruling of 1966. These documents, which include papers written by and for several Supreme Court justices, allow students to explore the issues discussed by the justices as they considered the ramifications of the case. In addition, letters from law enforcement officers and members of the public illuminate the contentious public debate that erupted after the ruling.

    One particularly powerful document for students to analyze is a page from a memorandum that associate justice William Brennan sent to chief justice Earl Warren about the case. Acknowledging that his 21-page response is lengthy, Brennan explains, “this will be one of the the most important opinions of our time…”

    He then focuses on two words from Warren’s opinion that he says go “to the basic thrust of the approach to be taken.” He expounds,

    An important collection of documents, not only as background to Miranda v. Arizona but also as insight into decision making in the Supreme Court.

    Decisions are announced by the media in sound-bite sized chunks, which fail to portray the complexity of Court opinions, much less the process by which they are created.

    I can think of any number of cases that merit this sort of treatment or even deeper, inter-linked collections of documents.

    Enjoy!

    Microsoft Giveth, Microsoft Taketh Away

    Monday, June 13th, 2016

    Microsoft Revoking Free Fallout 4 Copies Grabbed Due to Xbox Store Error by Ron Witaker.

    From the post:

    Yesterday afternoon, Fallout 4‘s Deluxe Edition Bundle showed up on the Xbox Store for a very attractive price – $0.00. As you can imagine, word of the error spread quickly, and while no numbers are available, you can bet that many people took advantage of the deal to grab a copy for their Xbox One. That version of the game typically runs $109.99, and includes the Season Pass for all the DLC.

    Ron goes on to point out that Microsoft is revoking all licenses obtained due to this error.

    With some exceptions, a sale is a completed act and not subject to revocation by only one of the parties.

    Would be a stronger case if Fallout 4‘s Deluxe Edition Bundle had listed a price of at least $0.01. Can you say why?

    Would costing $0.01 when purchased with other games make a difference?

    Keep an eye out for litigation!

    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.

    Art and the Law: [UK Focused]

    Sunday, June 12th, 2016

    Art and the Law: Guides to the legal framework and its impact on artistic freedom of expression by Jodie Ginsberg, chief executive, Index on Censorship.

    From the post:

    Freedom of expression is essential to the arts. But the laws and practices that protect and nurture free expression are often poorly understood both by practitioners and by those enforcing the law.

    As part of Index on Censorship’s work on art and offence, Index has published a series of law packs intended to address questions about legal limits related to free expression and the arts.

    We intend them as “living” documents, to be enhanced and developed in partnership with arts groups so that artistic freedom is nurtured and nourished.

    This work builds on an earlier study by Index on Censorship, Taking the Offensive, which showed how self-censorship manifests itself in arts organisations and institutions.

    Descriptions of:

    Child Protection: PDF | web

    Counter Terrorism: PDF | web

    Obscene Publications: PDF | web

    Public Order: PDF | web

    Race and Religion: PDF | web

    along with numerous other resources appear on this page.

    Realize these are UK specific and the laws on such matters vary widely. That’s not a criticism but an observation for the safety of readers. Check your local laws with qualified legal advisers.

    Unlike Jonathan “I Want To Be A Twitter Censor” Weisman, my advice for when you find offensive content, is to look away.

    What other people choose to create, publish, perform, listen to, view, read, etc., is their business and certainly none of yours.

    Criminal acts against other people, children in particular, are already unlawful and censorship isn’t required outlaw them.

    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: http://www.parliament.uk/.

    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.