Monday, March 30, 2009

DVD on the Border Wall

The Border Wall, JV6483 .B67 2008 at Classified Stacks, is a new DVD of interest to people interested in immigration policy or environmental law (or both!).
The Border Wall is a new documentary from filmmaker Wayne Ewing about the attempt by the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Michael Chertoff to erect 670 miles of walls along the 2000 mile southern border of the United States in the waning days of the Bush administration.

The Border Wall examines the effect of the Wall where it began as a double fence in San Diego in the 1990’s. Local activists argue that militarization of the border and the walls have simply driven undocumented aliens to cross through more dangerous terrain, causing the deaths of over 5000 people. However, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R., CA) – the author of the Secure Fence Act of 2006, claims that there was a 50% drop in crime in San Diego County after the walls went up along the border, and that the wall saves lives.

In Arizona, The Border Wall looks at the seven miles of wall recently built near Sasabe, and discovers a horde of illegal immigrants simply going around the end of the wall into mountainous terrain where the filmmakers find two Mexican ladies lost and terrified. Undocumented immigrants dying of thirst in the desert often find help from No More Deaths, an organization of volunteers dedicated to saving lives in the desert of Southern Arizona, and the film follows them patrolling the desert, and cleaning up the immense amounts of trash left behind by migrants.

Also in Arizona, The Border Wall examines a legal challenge by the Defenders of Wildlife to wall construction in the fragile San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area which was at first successful in the fall of 2006 in persuading a federal judge to halt all construction. But Secretary Chertoff invoked the extraordinary power given him by Congress with the Real ID Act of 2005 to waive any law that he determines stands in his way of building the wall. Chertoff waived 19 laws.
You can see a preview here.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Blogging the Stimulus

Steve Coll is "blogging the stimulus package" in his "Think Tank" blog at Blogging the Stimulus: March 2009: Think Tank: Online Only: The New Yorker. Here's how he began his project on March 2:
The great David Plotz coaxed me off the fence about blogging when he launched his “Blogging the Bible” feature on Slate, about three years ago. He proved over months that by blogging he could write something very worthwhile and even lasting in a way that could not be done as successfully in any other format. The fruits of his adventure will be published tomorrow in extended book form: “Good Book: The Bizarre, Hilarious, Disturbing, Marvelous, and Inspiring Things I Learned When I Read Every Single Word of the Bible.”

No inspired achievement of this kind will long go un-imitated. This morning, full of new-Monday vim, I printed out all 407 pages of the stimulus bill, thinking that I should commit an act of think-tank citizenship and read it. I was planning just to skim through it, educate myself, and find a blog post or two in it. Then I remembered Plotz. Actually, it was the Old Testament type face on the first page that reminded me of his earlier work.

I particularly like the turn from the setting to the main title: “Begun and held at the City of Washington on Tuesday, the sixth day of January, two thousand and nine…An Act.” It’s all very grand—and a long way from the aesthetics of Fox News or MSNBC, which is how we usually encounter this material, in a summary of a summary.

And so, herewith launches an irregular series about the stimulus bill. I will read all of it, carefully, so that you don’t have to, and every so often I will stop and try to write something useful. It seems doubtful that the full law will prove either as funny or as morally edifying as the Old Testament, but I will do what I can.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Legal Voice

Legal Voice might sound like a new legal organization in the Northwest, but it's a leading public interest group -- the Northwest Women's Law Center -- with a new name.

The name change was announced last night: it's now Legal Voice, with the tag line "Women's rights. Nothing less." Check out the redesigned website!

The name and the graphics are new, but the organization retains its mission and programs:
Legal Voice, founded in 1978 as the Northwest Women's Law Center, has been the vanguard organization bringing groundbreaking litigation and fighting for landmark legislation to ensure justice for women in the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years.

As an action-oriented, diverse organization, Legal Voice is committed to securing and protecting the rights of all women. We are a vital force in the community, making substantive, lasting changes through legislation and litigation designed to have a far-reaching public impact, and by empowering women with knowledge about their legal rights.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Avvo Looks at Law Schools, the lawyer directory and rating site, now takes a look at law schools.

The page is called Law School Rankings, but that might be a little misleading. It's not ranking the schools per se: it's taking all the lawyers in its database who list a law school and seeing how they're rated, what areas they practice in, and whether they have been disciplined. The quality of the law school is only one factor in attorneys' subsequent performance.

Avvo's database includes basic directory information for all lawyers in 30 states and the District of Columbia -- but it only has the law school attended and other biographical information if a lawyer chooses to post it.

It's interesting that there isn't all that much difference (in raw numbers) between the top-ranked school (Yale's attorneys average a 7.7 rating) and the lowest (Florida Coastal's average 6.1). So it appears that most lawyers score more than 5 out of a possible 10.

The schools with the highest average rating among their grads are the usual suspects in any list of top law schools: Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Chicago, Columbia.

Most of the schools with the lowest average attorney ratings are fairly new: It seems likely that the average ratings would be higher for schools with more attorneys in mid-career or later -- you don't get as many awards, press coverage, and recommendations when you're a rookie -- so Yale, Harvard, and so on have a big advantage over the newer schools. In particular, I'd expect Chapman and Florida Coastal lawyers to average higher ratings in five or ten years than they do now.

What about the University of Washington? Our 1,747 alumni who are listed average a rating of 7.36. Most are in Washington and California, but they are scattered throughout the states Avvo covers. Practice areas include
  • Business (29%)
  • Lawsuits / Disputes (13%)
  • Real Estate (10%)
  • Estate Planning (7%)
  • Employment / Labor (7%)
(Remember, these figures reflect only the lawyers who choose to post information.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Library: Where All the Cool Kids Hang Out

barack obama
see more Source: Pundit Kitchen, Political Pictures.

Oral History of Judge Carolyn Dimmick

Carolyn Dimmick: A Judge for All Seasons, has just been published by the Washington Secretary of State's office, as part of its oral history project. She is described as follows: "When she graduated from law school, Carolyn Dimmick made a splash as "a pretty blonde waterskier." She endured many more gender stereotypes since, but along the way earned enormous respect as a judge and made history as the first woman on the Washington Supreme Court." Judge Dimmick is a UW School of Law graduate ('53).
Like last month's oral history of Justice Charles Z. Smith, the library will print out a copy for the collection, as well as provide a link in the catalog.

Most Wanted Federal Documents

The Center for Democracy & Technology and have published a list of the Top Ten Most Wanted Federal Documents in Show Us the Data (March 2009).

Based on a survey posted on the web, the Top Ten documents are:

1. Public Access to All Congressional Research Service Reports
2. Information About the Use of TARP and Bailout Funds
3. Open and Accessible Federal Court Documents Through the PACER System
4. Current Contractor Projects
5. Court Settlements Involving Federal Agencies
6. Access to Comprehensive Information About Legislation and Congressional Actions via THOMAS or Public Access to Legislative Information Service
7. Online Access to Electronic Campaign Disclosures
8. Daily Schedules of the President and Cabinet Officials
9. Personal Financial Disclosures from Policymakers Across Government
10. State Medicaid Plans and Waivers

Read the report for more information about each of these items and about promising new government websites that provide greater transparency to government actions and policies.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Legal Documents in Bernie Madoff Case

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York has posted an excellent collection of legal documents in this high-profile case.

Among the posted documents are:
  • the criminal complaint
  • briefs
  • court orders
  • transcript of the guilty plea proceedings
This page also links to related information from the Madoff Trustee Site and the Securities Investor Protection Corporation.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Revised Code of Conduct for US Judges

Yesterday, the Judicial Conference of the United States revised the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges, the first major revision since 1992.
In voting to adopt the revised Code of Conduct, the Conference condensed what had been seven rules, or canons, to five, and reworded the language accompanying each canon into plainer, clearer English.
The revised Code is effective on July 1st, 2009.

Friday, March 13, 2009

LEARN to Reform Legal Education

A group of 10 US law schools has embarked on a program:
to promote thoughtful innovation in law school curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.
The Legal Education Analysis and Reform Network (LEARN) has issued a description of projects for the next two years. Three sub-groups are working on curricular and pedagogical reforms in law schools, educating law teachers, and student assessment.

Several of the specific sound very interesting. For example, one goal is the creation of a website with teaching resources. Another will deal with the use of small workshops and seminars. Others will address evaluation of of clickers, written assignments, and student postings to class listservs and wikis.

Participating law schools include:
  • CUNY Law School
  • Georgetown University Law Center
  • Harvard Law School
  • Indiana University School of Law (Bloomington)
  • New York University School of Law
  • Southwestern Law School
  • Stanford Law School
  • University of Dayton School of Law
  • University of New Mexico Law School
  • Vanderbilt University Law School

Interim Library Schedule

After School of Law exams end, the Law Library will move to its interim schedule:
  • Saturday - Monday, March 21-23: Closed
  • Tuesday - Friday, March 24-27: 8am - 5pm
  • Saturday - Sunday, March 28-29: Closed
During the interim week when the Library is open from 8am - 5pm, the Reference Office will be open from 9am - noon and 1 - 5pm.

Regular hours resume on Monday, March 30.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Web Directory Of Attorneys Upsets D.C. Bar

Web Directory Of Attorneys Upsets D.C. Bar, Wash. Post, March 9, 2009. (based in Seattle) is moving into new territory -- and the local lawyers don't always like it. This article reports on the DC Bar Association trying to restrict Avvo's use of information from its website. Is it an invasion of privacy or an important way to get information to consumers?

No matter where you come down on the policy question, as researchers it's a good idea to be aware of what resources are out there. When you're trying to get information about an attorney, Avvo can be a valuable source.

Is it always current and complete? No, but Martindale-Hubbell and West Legal Directory aren't either. Should you believe that a comment or rating is an accurate description of a lawyer's performance in all situations? No, of course not. But should you be aware of Avvo as a resource and use it for what you can learn? You bet. Sometimes it gives you a lot more information than other directories -- particularly for attorneys who choose to add information to their profiles and have their clients post comments.

For some ideas about how to find information about attorneys, see our guide, Sample Searches for Networking and Informational Interviews.

Open Government Event March 20

Interested in public access to government information?

Check out this free event: Opening Doors: Finding the Keys to Open Government, Friday, March 20, 2009 (10am-1pm), UW Odegaard Undergraduate Library, Room 220.

A national webcast will feature a discussion of what the Obama Administration is — or should be — doing to promote open government, what you can do to advance that goal, and what the news media are doing to make government information easily available in American communities. Following the webcast, Gary Robinson, the former Director of the Washington State Department of Information Services (WA state’s CIO), and Mike Fancher, former Executive Editor of The Seattle Times newspaper, will join us for a discussion of issues at the state level.

National webcast participants:
· Beth Noveck, professor of law and director of the Institute for Information Law and Policy at New York Law School and author of Wiki Government (Brookings 2009).

· Dan Chenok, a member of President Obama's “Technology, Innovation and Government Reform ” transition team, former branch chief for information policy and technology in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and currently senior vice president and general manager of Pragmatics.

· Katherine McFate, a Program Officer for Government Performance and Accountability in the Ford Foundation's Governance Unit.

Local speakers:
· Gary Robinson, former Director of Washington State Department of Information Services. As Washington State’s former Chief Information Officer, Mr. Robinson brings a wealth of expertise in state and local e-government issues. He will talk about current e-government issues in WA, other states, and the District of Columbia (President Obama’s model for federal reform) as well as the impact of the state budget crisis on e-government.

· Mike Fancher, former Executive Editor of the Seattle Times. In his 30 years at the newspaper he managed the newsroom and “shape[d] a vision for independent, public-service journalism”, authored the Sunday "Inside the Times" column and created the blog, “Press Here," which explored the "nexus between the press, the public and technology."

This event is FREE and open to the public.

Online registration will be available soon here.

Law Librarians of Puget Sound (LLOPS)
University of Washington Libraries
Washington State Library
Washington Coalition for Open Government

NYU Students on Laptops in Class

The students working on NYU's Law Revue created this:
Please Repeat the Question from Amanda Bakale on Vimeo.

(A Miami law professor comments on why he won't ban laptops in his class here.)

Monday, March 9, 2009

Professors Cobb & Kaltsounis On Teaching Collaboration in Legal Writing Classes

Two UW Law faculty members recently published an article in the Journal of the Association of Legal Writing Directors: Tom Cobb & Sarah Kaltsounis, Real Collaborative Context: Opinion Writing and the Appellate Process, 5 J. Ass’n Legal Writing Directors 156 (2008).

Cobb and Kaltsounis make the case for bringing real life context to the teaching of collaboration in legal writing classes by showcasing a recent classroom experience. They describe their implementation of a lesson plan that based the students’ assignments for the entire quarter on a case up on appeal to the Washington Supreme Court.

Using relevant case materials, the students followed the steps in the appellate judicial decision making process and played the various roles, including that of judicial law clerk drafting a bench memo, judge at an oral argument conference defending a position and determining whether a unanimous opinion could be reached, and judge drafting a final opinion. Throughout, the students were encouraged to work together, but they had to individually commit to one position and defend it. Eventually, they were able to see how their legal questions were resolved when the Supreme Court issued its ruling.

The students not only learned collaboration as a skill, but also about the interplay between advocacy and analysis in the judicial process and the merits of collaboration in this context. The authors note that other legal processes that involve group decision making can similarly be used in the classroom setting and urge classroom experimentation with collaboration in specific legal contexts. Ultimately, they suggest that:

" … the classroom can and should be a laboratory — or “collaboratory” — for the legal profession. The ultimate promise of collaborative work in and out of the classroom is to improve the legal process and lead to better reasoned and more just results."

Link to Cobb and Kaltsounis’ article on the JALWD website or on Westlaw and learn more about bringing real-life context to the teaching of collaboration in legal writing classes.
-- Tania Schriwer

Friday, March 6, 2009

FDSys: Free, Fast, and Even Fun Access to Federal Documents

You might already be familiar with GPO Access, the website of the U.S. Government Printing Office, which provides free electronic access to the official documents of all three branches of the federal government. Documents available on GPO Access include the U.S. Code, congressional bills, legislative history documents, Supreme Court decisions, budgets, and reports.

On January 19, 2009, the GPO publicly launched its next-generation digital information system, FDsys, and started moving the documents on GPO Access to FDsys. Currently, you can search FDsys for the following:
  • Compilation of Presidential Documents (1993 to Present)
  • Congressional Bills (103rd Congress to Present)
  • Congressional Documents (104th Congress to Present)
  • Congressional Hearings (105th Congress to Present)
  • Congressional Record (1994 to Present)
  • Congressional Reports (104th Congress to Present)
  • Federal Register (1994 to Present)
  • Public and Private Laws (104th Congress to Present)
The GPO is migrating documents by collection, and expects to complete the entire transition by mid-2009.

So why should you care?

For one thing, FDsys is still a completely free source of U.S. government documents. For those without access to Westlaw or Lexis, FDsys gives you the same official documents at no cost. Even for those with Westlaw or Lexis, FDsys is a great resource to know about because in these budget-conscious times, a lot of law firms are requiring their attorneys to exhaust or at least explore free options before moving on to the fee-based services.

More importantly, FDsys is so much more user-friendly that you might even find it fun!

The first thing you'll notice is that FDsys just looks so much better than GPO Access:

Appearances aside, the really exciting change is that FDsys offers great new features for both finding specific documents and easily browsing whole collections. FDsys has a Google-style box that lets you search by key terms, plus an advanced search feature that lets you further tailor your search by collection, date, type, and branch of government. You can also retrieve by citation, if you know which document you're looking for.

For example, if you’re interested in recent developments involving salmon fishing, a simple search for “salmon” retrieves Federal Register announcements of proposed rules on exempted fishing permits, appropriations bills affecting salmon recovery, and a multitude of other relevant documents.

The results of your search are automatically sorted by relevance, but can also be sorted by date or alphabetical order. A left-column tool bar lets you further narrow your results by government author, keyword, location, etc. FDsys even accounts for typos and near-misses by suggesting alternate search terms.

If you don't have a particular search in mind and just want to browse, FDsys lets you browse by collection, by date of publication, and even by congressional committee. If you want to see everything the GPO has published in the last 24 hours, or get all available documents from the Senate Judiciary Committee, FDsys makes it easy.

The GPO plans on rolling out even more features over the next three years, including saving searches and receiving notifications by email or RSS feed.

The next time you need federal documents, give FDsys a try. It might be a surprisingly pleasant experience!

State Dep't Video

Click on the Multimedia link on the U.S. Department of State's website to see videos of top stories, the Secretary of State, the daily press briefing, and other events.

For instance, watch Secretary Clinton introduce the 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices:

Avid State Dep't fans can get their daily dose of videos by signing up for an RSS feed.

UW Computer Vet Tames Wild Laptops

Who you gonna call when your laptop is plagued by worms and viruses?

Computer Vet!

The UW's Computer Vet is

a free, help-desk service offered to UW students, faculty and staff to assist with computing problems including operating system updates, anti-virus installation and update, and infected computers blocked from UW network access.

Like the Law School Computing Services staff, the Computer Vets will disinfect and immunize your laptop and restore your remote access to the many great databases subscribed to by the Library.

The Computer Vet operates at two locations: Mary Gates Hall and the Odegaard Undergraduate Library. For night owls, the Odegaard location has vet techs on duty Monday through Thursday until 2am! Good to know since Law School Computing and the Computer Vet at Mary Gates provide service during standard hours, 9am-5pm.

Note: UWLS faculty and staff must use Law School Computing Services for any and all technical support related to a Law School-issued computer.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

CRS Reports by the Thousands

Thousands of reports from the Congressional Research Service are now available at WikiLeaks. The total number is approximately 6,000.

What is the Congressional Research Service (CRS)?

CRS is a division of the Library of Congress that performs high-quality research for committees and members of Congress. Although the research is conducted at taxpayer expense, these valuable reports have not been generally provided to the public for free.

WikiLeaks has joined other organizations in changing that unfortunate situation. The Federation of American Scientists, OpenCRS, the University of North Texas Libraries, and others have been collecting and posting PDF images of selected CRS reports. The Gallagher Law Library guide on CRS reports links to these and other sources.

Hundreds of reports deal with legal issues. A very few timely examples suggest the range of topics addressed:
CRS reports will surface in Google and other search engines. Add "CRS" as a search term for maximum efficiency.

New Blog Covers Washington Supreme Court

The Evergreen Freedom Foundation has launched The Supreme Court of Washington Blog (its tag line is "Reading the opinions so you don't have to").
We are publishing this blog to assist citizens, practitioners, and journalists who want to follow the cases before our state’s high court.

Why a blog about a state Supreme Court? Over the last 30 years there has been a growing recognition of the importance of state courts. In fact, this is the genius of our nation’s federalist system. Very few cases make it to the U.S. Supreme Court, but thousands of cases reach their final resolution in state supreme courts. Among these courts, the Washington State Supreme Court was recently named one of the most influential in the country.

Careful analysis is especially relevant in a state where Supreme Court justices are elected. Voters usually face great difficulty deciphering a candidate’s record, qualifications, and judicial philosophy. The information we aggregate over time will allow voters to retrieve every opinion each justice has written from this point forward.

Readers can expect several regular features. We plan to review new cases the court accepts, preview oral arguments, and analyze opinions the court hands down. Special features will include a monthly audio podcast to discuss significant items, and the occasional “live-blog” to follow oral arguments in high-profile cases. Along the way, we’ll cover noteworthy news about the court and its members.
The Evergreen Freedom Foundation's mission
is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government. We have a vision of a day when opportunity, responsible self-governance and free markets flourish in Washington State because its citizens understand and cherish the principles from which freedom is derived.

Our primary research areas are budget and taxes, education, labor, elections, and citizenship and governance. Within those areas we publish studies, conduct seminars, and work to provide information for legislators, media and the general public.
EFF already has a blog on Washington law and policy called Liberty Live.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Jon Stewart Interviews Sandra Day O'Connor

Did you miss the Daily Show yesterday? Check out Jon Stewart interviewing Sandra Day O'Connor:

To friend or not to friend: social media for lawyers

To friend or not to friend: social media for lawyers, Legal Intelligencer (, March 4, 2009.

Do you use social media? Which ones? How?

This article explores some of the questions lawyers and firms consider (or should consider). One person suggests splitting identities -- a Facebook account that's for friends and family and a LinkedIn account for business contacts.

The borders blur, of course. I feel friendly toward many of my professional colleagues, students at the law school, and so on. And I'm happy to make professional connections with many of my friends.

Whatever you do, it's wise to remember how public your posts can be. Do you want business contacts to see you at your least dignified?