Thursday, December 31, 2009

State Court Statistics

Interested in what state courts are doing? After all, ninety-five percent of all cases initiated in the United States are filed in state courts! Check out the just released 2009 publication Examining the Work of State Courts: An Analysis of 2007 State Court Caseloads. This joint project of the Conference of State Court Administrators, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, and the National Center for State Courts analyzes state court filing and disposition data. The Foreword to the publication (p. 6) provides links to other state court statistical information and states:

The purpose of Examining the Work of State Courts is to provide a concise, graphically oriented volume that makes state court statistics highly accessible. Examining the Work of State Courts has been designed to be interactive, giving the reader on-line access in its interactive PDF version to information that cannot reasonably be included in the text of the document. The links provided in this format encourage the use of the Web and provide the reader with additional resources that help to facilitate the understanding of the work of state courts.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Zillions of Book Reviews!

Bookmarks Magazine's website is a great source for book reviews. It includes the magazine's own reviews and links to other online reviews. For instance, if you look up SuperFreakonomics, you'll find links to reviews in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Guardian (UK), the Independent (UK), the Los Angeles Times, the Telegraph (UK), the Times (UK), and the Washington Post.

I've heard law students say that they don't have time for leisure reading -- but I've also heard some say that they get a chance to read for pleasure when they're on the bus or winding down for the night. If you're among those students, this tip's for you.

And if you feel you have to read all law all the time, take a look at the books listed under the Legal Matters theme -- or maybe Government & Politics.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Library Hours for the End of the Year

The Gallagher Law Library will be closed:
  • Saturday, Dec. 19 through Tuesday, Dec. 22
  • Thursday, Dec. 24 through Sunday, Dec. 27
  • Friday, Jan. 1 through Saturday, Jan. 2
The Library will be open:
  • Wednesday, Dec. 24, 8am - 5pm
  • Monday, Dec. 28 through Thursday, Dec. 31, 8am - 5pm
  • Sunday, Jan. 3, 12 noon - 5pm
On the days that the Law Library is open from 8am - 5pm, the Reference Office is open from 9am - 12 noon and from 1 - 5pm.

Regular hours resume when Winter Quarter begins on Monday, January 4, 2010.

Happy Holidays!

Prof. Schnapper Testifies on Pleading Rules

Congress is considering legislation to undo the Supreme Court's holdings in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly (2007) and Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009). The Washington Independent reports:
Does a House bill about legal civil procedures provide a way to restore the protection of civil rights in America, or is it an unwarranted gift to trial lawyers that could be “paralyzing if not deadly” to the federal government?

* * *

As in the Senate, House lawmakers appear divided along party lines. Democrats and their witnesses say that the Supreme Court’s recent decisions in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly and Ashcroft v. Iqbal have gutted the civil rights and antitrust laws and imposed an unfair and often insurmountable burden that will doom many valid claims. Republicans and their witnesses, meanwhile, say the court did the right thing to help reduce frivolous lawsuits that destroy small businesses and drag busy government officials into court unnecessarily.

Has the Supreme Court Undermined Civil Rights Enforcement?, Washington Independent, Dec. 17, 2009.

One of the witnesses was Prof. Eric Schnapper of the University of Washington, who argued that Congress should act quickly to overturn Iqbal and Twombly. whose 39-page prepared statement is here. The bill being considered in the House is H.R. 4115, the Open Access to Courts Act of 2009.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Circuit Courts Archiving Cites to Online Sources

Citing to internet sources can be tricky: the content can change, the address can change, or the site could disappear altogether. Courts have particular difficulty becuase those citations ultimately get incorporated into the law. The federal judiciary has begun addressing the issue. As reported in The Third Branch, The Newsletter of the Federal Judiciary in July 2009:

The Judicial Conference has issued a series of “suggested practices” to assist courts in the use of Internet materials in opinions. [...] The guidelines suggest that, if a webpage is cited, chambers staff preserve the citation by downloading a copy of the site’s page and filing it as an attachment to the judicial opinion[.]>

At least two of the circuits' law libraries--the fifth and the ninth--make those pdfs available from their websites. Watch here for other courts making those resources readily available.

5th Circuit Opinion Archived URLS -
9th Circuit Opinion Archived URLS-

-- Patrick Flanagan

Monday, December 14, 2009

Searching Online Law Journals via ABA

The Law Librarian Blog points us to a good resource for searching online law journals. The American Bar Association Legal Technology Resource Center has put together a Google-powered portal to search over 300 online journals: ( But, as they note:

Coverage may vary; for more complete coverage visit your local law library and fee-based online legal research services.

This fast and free search of secondary sources can certainly jump start your legal research.

-- Patrick Flanagan

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Good Law School Exam Answers

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog has a great article just in time for this quarter’s exams: What Makes a Good Law School Exam Answer? Law Profs Weigh In. Author Ashby Jones presents comments from seven law professors across the country who were asked to complete the sentence “A good law exam answer is _______.” He does include this small caveat:
Of course, none of these responses will, alone, unlock the key to success. And an A exam to one might be a B plus to someone else. But taken collectively, they just might shed some light on what the Great Professoriate is looking for.
If you have a few minutes extra, check out the comments, reached by clicking the comments tab at the top of the article. Some are cynical, some are disgusted with the exam process, and some question the value of exams at all!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How Can You Compare Dollars (or Pounds or Yen) Over Time?

Measuring Worth is a website by two economic historians -- backed by an impressive advisory board -- to help us make sense of monetary amounts at different times. They introduce the topic like this:
Intrinsic things are priceless. The love of your life or a beautiful sunset. There is no objective way to measure these, nor should there be.

The worth of monetary transactions is also difficult to measure. While there is a price, wage, or other kind of transaction that can be recorded at a precise price, the worth of the amount must be interpreted.

The price of a hamburger is probably worth more to a starving homeless person than to a very wealthy one. An allowance of five pennies a week was worth more to a child in 1902 than it is to a child today.

It can be more difficult when the question is to determine the "historical" worth of something. The price, even deflated for inflation, is not enough. Was Andrew Carnegie richer than Bill Gates? Did Babe Ruth make more than David Beckham? Was the cost of a loaf of bread more then than now? These questions all depend on the context and the calculators on this web site enable users to make their own comparisons.
Suppose you're reading a case about a cow that was sold for $80 in 1886 (Sherwood v. Walker, 33 N.W. 919(Mich. 1887)). If you want to get a sense of what $80 meant in 1886, go to the Relative Values - US $ calculator. You find that there are different ways to look at it:
In 2008, $80.00 from 1886 is worth:

$1,888.62 using the Consumer Price Index
$1,775.84 using the GDP deflator, using the value of consumer bundle
$10,610.85 using the unskilled wage
$18,146.12 using the nominal GDP per capita
$94,854.54 using the relative share of GDP
No matter what, you see that $80 is not what it used to be.

By the way, if you'd like to learn the outside-the-casebook story of Sherwood v. Walker, see Norman Otto Stockmeyer, To Err Is Human, To Moo Bovine: The Rose of Aberlone Story, 24 T.M. Cooley L. Rev. 491 (2007), available at SSRN:

Friday, December 4, 2009

Faculty Publication on Open Source Software Licenses

Robert W. Gomulkiewicz, Open Source License Proliferation: Helpful Diversity or Hopeless Confusion?, 30 Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 261 (2009).

Licenses govern the usage and redistribution of software and are required whether the software is proprietary (like Microsoft’s Windows) or free and open source software, aka FOSS (like Mozilla Firefox). The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is a nonprofit organization that reviews licenses based on their compliance with the Open Source Definition, which sets standards to guarantee free access to software code and free redistribution rights. The OSI “certifies” licenses submitted to it that meet the Definition’s requirements and had approved about 60 different licenses at the time of the conference. This article explores those licenses granted to software developers in the FOSS world to determine whether the sheer number of different licenses is useful or causes unnecessary problems.

Professor Gomulkiewicz uses, as a vehicle for the discussion of license proliferation for FOSS, his own experience in submitting the Simple Public License to the OSI for certification. He then outlines the pros and cons of the present system based on what he found. In the final section of the article, he offers three steps that might be taken to ameliorate the problems created by the number and variety of certified licenses.

Professor Gomulkiewicz’s article is part of the tenth anniversary volume of the Washington University Journal of Law and Policy. All the articles are taken from papers presented at a 2008 conference held at Washington University that focused on open source and proprietary models of innovation in a number of technologies. Here is a description of the issue from its introduction:
Part I of the symposium consists of introductory articles on business, law, and engineering perspectives on open source innovation. Part II focuses on open source biotechnology, while Part III focuses on open source and proprietary software development. Part IV examines collaborative innovation, the economics of innovation, and two examples of constructed commons--namely universities and a multilateral system for plant innovation for food and agriculture.
Gomulkiewicz’s is one of three papers in Part III about software development issues.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

9th Circuit Case Summaries from the ABA

The American Bar Association Standing Committee on Federal Judicial Improvements has launched a new site called Media Alerts on Federal Courts of Appeals. In the pilot program stage, cases from three circuits are available: the 3d, 5th, and 9th Circuits.
This website is designed to provide reporters, lawyers, educators, and the public with prompt, accurate, unbiased information about newsworthy and legally significant cases pending in and decided by the Federal Courts of Appeals. Our goal is to assist the media’s efforts to provide timely and extensive reporting about federal court decisions.
ABA members and non-members are invited to subscribe.

US Government Manual

The new 2009-2010 United States Government Manual is now available through GPO Access. You may search or browse the current edition and search former editions, beginning with the 1995-1996 issue. Here is a description of the Manual from the GPO Access website:
As the official handbook of the Federal Government, the United States Government Manual provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. It also includes information on quasi-official agencies; international organizations in which the United States participates; and boards, commissions, and committees. The Manual begins with reprints of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
A typical agency description includes:
  • A list of officials heading major operating units.
  • A summary statement of the agency's purpose and role in the Federal Government.
  • A brief history of the agency, including its legislative or executive authority.
  • A description of its programs and activities.
  • Information, addresses, and phone numbers to help users locate detailed information on consumer activities, contracts and grants, employment, publications, and other matters of public interest.
The Manual is revised each year. The Gallagher Law Library typically receives its copies in the fall, though receipt this year is running a bit behind schedule. Check out the most recent edition in the Reference Area or Reference Office at JK421 .U57; earlier editions are in the classified stacks at the same call number.

New Missing Persons Database

The US Department of Justice has launched a free, new database, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

NamUs is "a clearinghouse for missing persons and unidentified decedent records."
The Missing Persons Database contains information about missing persons that can be entered by anyone; before it appears as a case on NamUs, the information is verified. NamUs provides the ability to print missing persons posters and even map out possible travel routes in a search for a missing person. Other resources include links to state clearinghouses, medical examiner and coroner offices, law enforcement agencies, victim assistance groups and pertinent legislation.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Directory of open access journals

The Directory of Open Access Journals lists thousands of journals (4475) that are available free on the Web. Over a third of them (1718) are searchable on the article level.

Go to Law and Political Science and you'll find 77 law journals, including some you've probably heard of (Duke Law Journal) and some you probably haven't (Forum Historiae Iuris).

You don't have to stop at law, of course -- the directory includes art, psychology, math, biology, and more.