Monday, June 29, 2009

July 4th Holiday Schedule

The Law Library will be closed on Friday and Saturday, July 3 and 4. The regular summer schedule resumes on Sunday, July 5.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Supreme Court Super Nerd in 3 Easy Steps

A lawyer offers tips on how to follow the Supreme Court. Lawffice Space: Supreme Court Super Nerd in 3 Easy Steps, June 28, 2009.

One tip: subscribe to Willamette Law Online's US Supreme Court service:
This service provides same-day summaries of certiorari granted, oral arguments, and decisions published by the United States Supreme Court. The certiorari summaries focus on the facts and decision from the lower court. The week prior to oral arguments we provide an outline of the issues presented to the Court as argued in the briefs. The decision summaries provide the holding from the United States Supreme Court and a brief overview of the Court's reasoning.
Willamette also offers updates for Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Oregon Courts, Intellectual Property, Conflict of Laws, and Dispute Resolution.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Looking for Obama administration reports on health care reform? In March, the administration launched HealthReform. gov. The site currently includes White House reports, Health & Human Services Department reports, and an online series with titles such as “Hidden costs of Health Care: Why Americans are Paying More but Getting Less.”

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Why Twitter Is a Big Deal for Iran Coverage

Andy Carvin explains why Twitter has made a difference in the outside world's awareness of the protests in Iran even though comparatively few Iranians are tweeting. It's all about the tagging that makes information easy to follow and retrieve. In Iran, The Revolution Will Be Tagged : NPR, June 19, 2009.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Immigration Courts Backlog Increased

A new study of immigration court statistics show the backlog has increased by 19 percent, and the wait time has increased by 23 percent, due to a shortage of judges. The report was issued June 17, by TRAC, the Transaction Records Access Clearinghouse, a research center at Syracuse University. For further reporting, see the New York Times story.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Global Climate Change Report

The first climate change report from the Obama Administration was released June 16th. Global Climate Change: Impacts in the United States is close to 200 pages, and

summarizes the science of climate change and the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future. It is largely based on results of the U.S. Global Change Research Program USGCRP),a and integrates those results with related research from around the world. This report discusses climate-related impacts for various societal and environmental sectors and regions across the nation. It is an authoritative scientific report written in plain language, with the goal of better informing public and private decision making at all levels.

The key findings are:

1. Global warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.
2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.
3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.
4. Climate change will stress water resources.
5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.
6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.
7. Threats to human health will increase.
8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses.
9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New Look for CIA's World Factbook

For more than 30 years, the CIA's World Factbook has been a reliable source of information on countries around the world. The online home of the Factbook was recently redesigned, the first significant upgrade since the web version appeared in 1997.
Among the major enhancements are downloadable and printable photos for nearly 100 countries, a "Did You Know?" section explaining the impact of the Factbook around the world, and built-in world rankings for many of the Factbook information fields.
Those information fields include:
  • communications
  • economy
  • geography
  • government
  • history
  • military
  • people
  • transnational issues
  • transportation

Due Process and Recusal by Judges

In most states, unlike the federal system, judges are elected. Proponents of election of judges point out that elections keep judges accountable to the public. Opponents worry about the election process itself and its requirement for judicial candidates to raise funds for the campaigns. See, for example, the January issue of volume 34 of the Fordham Urban Law Journal, which contains the "Symposium on Rethinking Judicial Selection: A Critical Appraisal of Appointive Selection for State Court Judges" (2007).

On Monday, 6/8/2009, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co, Inc., (08-22). The issue involved whether a West Virginia Supreme Court Justice should have recused himself in a case involving the financial interests of a major contributor to his election campaign. The Court held, in a 5-4 decision written by Justice Kennedy, that, under the particular circumstances of this case, its "extraordinary situation," due process required that the Judge recuse himself.

Blankenship, CEO of Massey Coal Co., spent $3 million dollars in the campaign to elect West Virginia Justice Benjamin. Justice Kennedy stated that Blankenship's "contributions eclipsed the total amount spent by all other Benjamin supporters and exceeded by 300% the amount spent by Benjamin's campaign committee." Kennedy also found significant when the campaign occurred: "The temporal relationship between the campaign contributions, the justice's election, and the pendency of the case is also critical. It was reasonably foreseeable, when the campaign contributions were made, that the pending case would be before the newly elected justice. The $50 million adverse jury verdict had been entered before the election, and the Supreme Court of Appeals was the next step once the state trial court dealt with post-trial motions. So it became at once apparent that, absent recusal, Justice Benjamin would review a judgment that cost his biggest donor's company $50 million."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

New Legal Research Guides

Two new legal research guides by reference librarian Lori Fossum have been posted on the Law Library website. Both guides are in PDF.

The Education Law Research Guide covers treatises, casebooks, and other secondary sources available in the Gallagher Law Library and other UW libraries. Current awareness sources such as email newsletters, blawgs, and newspapers are identified. Periodical indexes, full-text journal articles, reports from government agencies and think tanks, federal and state laws and regulations, statistics, and websites round out the guide.

The Foreign, Comparative & International Law: Selected Resources is a new addition to our collection of globally focused guides. Books, databases, definitions, journals, organizations, treaties, websites, and related materials are described.

You can check out the complete inventory of Gallagher legal research guides on the Guides page.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Federal Justice Statistics

Statistical tables on criminal case processing in the federal justice system appear in Federal Justice Statistics 2006. Included are:
  • appeals
  • arrest and booking
  • characteristics of federal prisoners and offenders under federal supervision
  • investigations and prosecutions by U.S. attorneys
  • pretrial adjudication
  • probation and parole
  • sentencing and corrections
  • warrants.
PDF and spreadsheet versions are available.

MetaJuris -- New Tool for Searching Free Law Sites

MetaJuris is a new service for searching for cases, statutes, and other legal materials. It was developed by a collaboration at the University of Kansas between the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center and the School of Law. KU News - New online search tool developed for legal researchers, press release, April 28, 2009.
Users enter search words from which MetaJuris creates and submits queries to targeted legal databases, she explained. Version 2.0 searches six databases: PreCYdent, which contains U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals cases; PLoL (Public Library of Law), which includes those cases plus cases from all 50 states since 1997 and other law, codes and regulations; kscourts, which searches state cases; Legalbitstream, for its capacity to search both tax cases and Internal Revenue Service rulings; and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings Web site. MetaJuris then parses and integrates the hits, sorting them in reverse chronological order. For each result, the case name, its date, a synopsis and a link to the relevant citation are given.
results from search for "dying declaration"

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pringles Dispute Gives Lesson in Statutory Construction

In Britain, most foods are exempt from the value-added tax, but potato chips — known as crisps — and “similar products made from the potato, or from potato flour,” are taxable. Procter & Gamble, in what could be considered a plea for strict construction, argued that Pringles — which are about 40 percent potato flour, but also contain corn, rice and wheat — should not be considered potato chips or “similar products.” Rather, they are “savory snacks.”
The dispute went from an administrative tribunal to an appellate court and finally to the Supreme Court of Judicature. Adam Cohen, Editorial Observer - The Lord Justice Hath Ruled - Pringles Are Potato Chips -, May 31, 2009 (print: June 1, 2009).

Adam Cohen recounts the dispute, which has some good, fun legal silliness (Procter & Gamble’s argued that to be taxable a product must contain enough potato to have the quality of "potatoness"). But he also uses it to make a point:
Conservatives like to insist that their judges are strict constructionists, giving the Constitution and statutes their precise meaning and no more, while judges like Ms. Sotomayor are activists. But there is no magic right way to interpret terms like "free speech" or "due process" — or potato chip. Nor is either ideological camp wholly strict or wholly activist. Liberal judges tend to be expansive about things like equal protection, while conservatives read more into ones like "the right to bear arms."

In the end, as Lord Justice Jacob noted, a judge can only look at the relevant factors and draw an overall impression. His common-sense approach was a rebuke not only to Procter & Gamble, but to everyone out there who insists that the only way to read laws correctly is to read them strictly.

(The case is Procter & Gamble UK v Revenue and Customs Commissioners, Court of Appeal, Civil Division, [2009] All ER (D) 177 (May); [2009] EWCA Civ 407, decided 20 May 2009, available here. More comments at Law and Magic blog.)

Graphic: USDA Agricultural Research Service.

Law-Related Blogs in Washington State

Our list of Law-Related Blogs in Washington State keeps growing. Local bloggers are writing about a wide range of legal topics, including family law, intellectual property, construction law, and food law. Recent additions to the list:
Send me a note if you have a blog you'd like added to the list.