Thursday, September 29, 2005

EverNote - Electronic Tool for Notetaking & More

Bonnie Shucha of WisBlawg offers an enthusiastic review (she calls it awesome!) of EverNote, a free electronic tool on which "you can easily store and quickly access typed and handwritten memos, webpage excerpts, emails, phone messages, addresses, passwords, brainstorms, sketches, documents and more!" [from the EverNote website]

According to Bonnie:

You take notes on what appears to be an endless digital roll of paper, thereby keeping all your notes in one place. You can create plain text notes or hand (actually mouse) written notes/drawings. Plus, you can clip Web content (either the whole page or just a highlighted portion) and Evernote automatically inserts a link back to the original content. Or drag and drop other documents into EverNote thereby creating a link to the document on your computer.

Each note can be assigned multiple categories (of your choosing) which you can use to filter the notes. Keyword searching the full text of notes is also available. Additional features include encryption, printing & emailing notes, import/export, locking notes and more.

Federal Tort Trials Drop by 80%

Robert Ambrogi's Lawsites blog summarizes the findings of a Bureau of Justice Statistics report, "Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-03" (August 2005):
[T]he number of tort trials concluded in U.S. district courts declined by nearly 80 percent from 1985 to 2003—from 3,600 trials in 1985 to fewer than 800 trials in 2003. The percentage of tort cases concluded by trial in U.S. district courts has also declined, the report found, from 10 percent in the early 1970s to 2 percent in 2003.

From the BJS website: "Federal Tort Trials and Verdicts, 2002-03
[p]resents findings on jury and bench tort trials concluded in Federal district courts during fiscal years 2002-03. . . . Information includes the types of tort cases that proceed to trial, plaintiff win rates, case processing times, and estimated median damage awards. . . . The overall trends in tort trial litigation from 1970 to 2003 are also examined."

Roberts Confirmed

From "Judge John Roberts was easily confirmed Thursday to be the 17th chief justice of the United States, winning Senate approval with a solid majority." The vote was 78-22: "All 55 Republicans were united in their support. They were joined by 22 Democrats and one independent senator. Twenty-two Democrats voted no."

Illinois Imposes Mandatory CLE

On September 29, 2005, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order adding rules that impose mandatory continuing legal education requirements on Illinois attorneys. Its provisions are effective immediately.

Newly adopted Rule 794 of Art. VII, Part C (Minimum Continuing Legal Education) of the Illinois Supreme Court Rules reads in part as follows:

Except as provided by Rules 791 or 793, every Illinois attorney subject to these Rules shall be required to complete 20 hours of CLE activity during the initial two-year reporting period (as determined on the basis of the lawyer’s last name pursuant to paragraph (b), below) ending on June 30 of either 2008 or 2009, 24 hours of CLE activity during the two-year reporting period ending on June 30 of either 2010 or 2011, and 30 hours of CLE activity during all subsequent two-year reporting periods.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Guide to Free and Fee Based Appellate Court Briefs Online

Michael Whiteman, Associate Dean for Law Library Services & Information Technology, Chase College of Law, Northern Kentucky University, has just published on a comprehensive guide to free and fee-based appellate court briefs that are available online. According to the author, the "guide is an attempt to provide researchers with the ability to quickly find appellate court briefs. Part one lists sites where free copies can be obtained of federal and state appellate court briefs. Part two lists sites where briefs can be obtained for a price."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Help for Keeping Track of Internet Research

Keeping track of research conducted on the Internet (and useful Internet research sources) has become a challenging task in itself. A recent article in the September 2005 issue of the Texas Bar Journal by Tom Mighell (proprietor of Inter Alia, self-styled as "an Internet legal research weblog, among other things") provides many helpful suggestions and solutions.

In introducing "Taking Control of Your Internet Research: New Tools Help Manage the Chaos," Mighell writes:
Although the bookmarks or favorites features of your Web browser are able
to save and categorize the valuable sites you find, albeit in a somewhat
primitive way, it’s often hard to remember where you filed that site, or that
you filed it at all. Fortunately, we now have several interesting tools that
can help lawyers and other legal professionals make sense of the overwhelming
volume of great information found on the Web. Before you suffer from a bookmark avalanche, check out these solutions

SOURCE: WisBlawg

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Research Tip: Start Small

One of the most important steps you take in any research project is deciding where to start. To save time and money, you should start with the smallest or most specific resource available. For example, if you are looking for Illinois statutes, search a LexisNexis source or Westlaw database of the Illinois Compiled Statutes; use one of the Illinois statutory codes, which only include Illinois statutes, in print; or search the Illinois Compiled Statutes on the Illinois General Assembly website. If you start in a more general resource, you will waste time going through search results that include a lot of information you don't need.

Choosing the right place to start your research is especially important if you are using an online service like Westlaw or LexisNexis, because starting in the wrong place can waste your client's money as well as your time. Larger databases, such as combination databases that include statutes from many jurisdictions, are frequently billed at a much higher rate than smaller databases.

Finally, there are special considerations when doing research on the web. Using a general search engine to search the web for statutes would likely retrieve hundreds or even thousands of documents, and most of them would not even be statutes. More importantly, before you rely upon legal information you find on the web, you need to be sure that it is accurate and reliable. One way to save time retrieving statutes on the web, and to be sure they are accurate and reliable, is to retrieve them from an authoritative site such as a government web site.

Archive of Research Tips.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Judicial Conference Supports Rule Favoring Citation of Unpublished Decisions

As reported by Tony Mauro in Legal Times, on Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Judicial Conference, "[t]he policy-making body of the federal judiciary, endorsed a sweeping rule change that will allow lawyers to cite unpublished opinions in federal appeals courts nationwide beginning in 2007. . . . The citation rule change, if ratified by the Supreme Court and untouched by Congress, would end a practice that brought charges of a hidden, unaccountable system of justice against some of the nation's largest and most important appellate courts. The 2nd, 7th, 9th and federal circuits ban citation of unpublished opinions outright, while six other circuits discourage it."

In a news conference after the meeting, Judge Carolyn Dineen King, chair of the executive committee, "said passage was eased by an amendment [to proposed new Rule 32.1 of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure] introduced at the meeting that would make the change prospective only, meaning that lawyers will be able to cite only those unpublished opinions issued after Jan. 1, 2007. King also stressed that individual circuit courts will be able to set their own rules about the precedential value unpublished opinions can be given."

SOURCE: beSpacific

Friday, September 16, 2005

Research Tip: Legal Information Institute

Our research tip in Lawyering Skills this week was Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute. It is a great starting place for legal research, especially if you want to save money.

The Legal Information Institute (LII) has been providing reliable, free access to legal information since 1992. It publishes electronic versions of the U.S. Constitution, United States Code, Code of Federal Regulations, Rules of the United States Supreme Court, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Federal Rules of Evidence, and Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure.

LII's U.S. Supreme Court Collection includes all opinions of the United States Supreme Court since 1990, over 600 selected earlier decisions, and links to other historic decisions. There is a searchable index to U.S. Courts of Appeals decisions, and links to U.S. District and Bankruptcy Courts, U.S. Courts of Special Jurisdiction, federal agencies, and foreign and international legal materials.

At the state level, LII publishes all New York Court of Appeals decisions since 1990, the Uniform Commercial Code, and other uniform law locators. Links to constitutions, codes, judicial opinions, regulations, and other agency materials for the fifty states, D.C., and the U.S. territories and affiliated jurisdictions, are organized by topic and by jurisdiction.

The "Law about ..." section provides information and commentary about broad areas of law, with links to online resources. "Law About ..." pages provide brief summaries of legal topics with links to key primary source material, other Internet resources, and useful offnet references. Access is provided through broad topic categories, an alphabetical listing of topics, and a searchable index.

LII also maintains two Topical Libraries, the American Legal Ethics Library and the Social Security Library, as well as Introduction to Legal Citation by Peter Martin.

This summer LII released a new edition of the CRS Annotated Constitution. The content of the CRS Annotated Constitution was prepared by the Congressional Research Service and published electronically in plaintext and PDF by the Government Printing Office. The LII edition adds hypertext links to Supreme Court opinions, the U.S. Code, and the Code of Federal Regulations, as well as linked footnotes and tables of contents.

Archive of Research Tips.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Blogging the Roberts Hearing

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog is liveblogging the John Roberts Supreme Court Nomination hearing. Check out his coverage of DAY TWO. Coverage of DAY ONE is also available.

Goldstein & Howe, the firm which produces SCOTUSblog, also is maintaining a companion blog, The Supreme Court Nomination Blog.

SOURCE: Law Librarian Blog

PC "Secrets" Vendors Don't Want You to Know

The October 2005 issue of PC World contains an intriguing article for PC users and buyers titled "20 Things They Don't Want You to Know." The provocative tag line says it all:

We reveal some of what vendors are keeping mum, such as: You never have to pay full price, extended warranties rarely pay for themselves, and the big sites do have customer service numbers.
To further whet your appetite, here are the subjects of some of the other "secrets" revealed by author Eric Dahl:

■ Faster Shipping Isn’t Always Faster
■ You Can Save Big Money on Big-Name Software Packages
■ That Dead Pixel on Your LCD May Not Be Covered
■ High-End Manufacturers Don’t Always Make Their Products
■ Game Consoles Are Hackable
■ You Can Get a Human on the Phone
■ MP3 Players Run Down Too Fast

SOURCE: Virtual Chase Alert

Monday, September 12, 2005

LexisNexis History and Westlaw Research Trails

Our research tip in Lawyering Skills last week was using Westlaw's Research Trail and LexisNexis's History to save time (and maybe some money).

To get to the Westlaw Research Trails, click on "Research Trail" in the upper right corner of the screen. The first screen you see will be the trail for your current research session. If you have just logged on, it will be empty. Click on "List of All Research Trails" to go to a previous trail. (Trails originally appear in the list with a date and time designation, but you can rename them to something more memorable.) In general, you can access a previous search at no additional charge until 2:00 a.m. the following morning. Once you have displayed the research trail you want, you can print with your browser's print function, download or email the trail.

To get to your LexisNexis History, click on History in the upper right corner of the screen. The first screen will display your research results for the current day. If you want to see a previous day's research results, click on "Archived Activity." You can view today's results until 2 a.m. ET tomorrow. Before printing, click on "View Printable History;" then use your browser's print function.

Besides saving money by going to today's searches through research trails or archived activity, you can save time by using the trails and history to review your previous searches. By keeping track of what worked and didn't work in your previous research sessions – whether you use a commercial online service, a print source, or a free website – you can save yourself unnecessary repetition and build on your previous research efforts.

Archive of Research Tips.

Improvments to Thomas, Federal Legislative Website

Thomas, "Legislative Information on the Internet" from the Library of Congress, will begin receiving an update later this month that will, among other things, add the following new features:

■ Improved visual appearance.
■ Headers, footers and other links for easy navigation.
■ A left-side menu for quick access to main content sections.
■ Ability to browse legislation by sponsor.
■ Links to Senate hearings for nominations.
■ Links to legislative resources and learning activities.
■ A new help section.
■ Links to the full text of treaties.

According to an article on FCW.COM, the expanded features will allow Thomas users "to easily search records from previous congressional sessions and browse legislation by sponsor."

SOURCE: Law Librarian Blog

Development in Challenge to Patriot Act Provision

There has been a development in a case brought by the ACLU in August 2005, after the FBI invoked a section of the Patriot Act to demand library records from a Connecticut member of the American Library Association through the use of what is known as a national security letter.

As reported by the New York Times, on Friday, Sept. 9., 2005, a federal district court judge in Connecticut granted an emergency request by the American Civil Liberties Union for a preliminary injunction that "would lift the federally imposed order that is keeping the nonprofit organization from identifying itself as the recipient of a recent request for patron information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation." However, the judge also granted a stay with the ruling, giving the U.S. attorney's office until Sept. 20 to persuade the federal Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit to overturn the ruling. "In siding with the organization, Judge Hall said she was convinced that it had unique firsthand experience about the Patriot Act that it ought to be able to share publicly and would have greater authority in the debate if it spoke for itself, rather than had others speak for it."

For the ACLU view of this development, see "Federal Judge Orders FBI to Lift Patriot Act Gag on Librarian."

SOURCE: beSpacific

IRS Guide on Charitable Giving & Tax Relief Issues for Katrina

The Internal Revenue Service has created Hurricane Katrina: Information on Charitable Giving, Tax-Relief Issues to help "provide appropriate relief and assistance to the victims of Hurricane Katrina and information to their fellow citizens who want to help." in addition to providing links to other Katrina-related government websites (e.g., FEMA, Dep't of Homeland Security, FirstGov), the IRS page offers advice and information divided among the following general topics:

*Make Your Hurricane Relief Donations Count

*Tax Relief and Other Assistance for Hurricane Victims

*Legal Guidance
*Information for IRS Employees Living in Affected Areas

SOURCE: beSpacific

Friday, September 09, 2005

House Unanimously Approves Hurricane Katrina Emergency Courts Legislation

A news advisory from the House Committee on the Judiciary indicates that "The House [has]approved by a 409-to-0 margin Hurricane Katrina emergency courts legislation that authorizes federal courts to conduct business outside of their statutorily-defined geographic domains during times of emergencies." Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) commented that "[t]his modest and noncontroversial legislation would permit the circuit courts, district courts, magistrates, and bankruptcy courts to conduct proceedings outside their normal territorial jurisdictions in times of emergency." H.R. 3650 now heads to the Senate for prompt consideration.

SOURCE: beSpacific

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Federal Register on HeinOnline is Complete

According to the Law Librarian Blog, "As of August 26, HeinOnline has completed its retrospective conversion of the Federal Register from volume 1 (1936) through volume 70 (June 2005)." This is good news for SIU Law Library users who heretofore had to use microform to access older issues of the Federal Register. HeinOnline is a subscription-based electronic resource available to SIU law library patrons through the library's website; while known primarily for its extensive law journal collection, it also provides PDF versions of U.S. Supreme Court opinions (1754 to date), U.S. Attorney General opinions, treaties and other international agreements, and the Federal Register.

Can Blogging Hinder Your Job Search?

In two pieces appearing in the "First-Person" column of the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ivan Trimble (the pseudonym of a humanities professor at a small liberal-arts college in the Midwest) warns that blogs can hurt a candidate's chances in a job search, especially one in the academic market. He bases his view "on how I saw blogs detract from some candidates in a recent search at my college. A blog was not the only negative in any of their cases, but it was usually a negative." The latest column, "They Shoot Messengers, Don't They?" (Sept. 2, 2005), is a follow-up to "Bloggers Need Not Apply" (July 8, 2005), particularly the negative response it received from the blogger community. He concludes with the following:

As my original column made clear (and many amid the outcry reiterated) when it comes to blogging, I just don't "get it." That's right, I don't. Many in the tenured generation don't, and they'll be sitting on hiring committees for years to come.

If that's bad news, I'm sorry. But would it really be better if no one bothered to mention it? Shooting the messenger may make some feel better, but heeding the warning might help them get jobs.

SOURCE: Virtual Chase Alert

Future Trends in State Courts

The National Center for State Courts annually publishes Future Trends in State Courts, a report "intended to support courts in their strategic planning efforts and stimulate thought and discussion about important current issues in the courts. . . . Each Trends report is comprised of a series of individual articles by experts in the field."

The 2005 report will be published in print in October, but many of its articles are available now on the NCSC website. Among the articles featured are:

• Beyond the Vanishing Trial: A Look at the Composition of State Court Disposition
• Digitization of Library Collections: The Future Is Now
• Elder Abuse and Neglect
• Immigration and Its Impact on the State Courts
• The Future of Court Security and Judicial Safety
• Trends in Appellate Court Technology
• Trends in Identity Theft
• Verification, Validation, and Authentication of Electronic Documents in Courts: How Digital Rights Management Technology Will Change the Way We Work
• Webcasting: It’s Not Just About Oral Arguments Anymore

SOURCE: Barclay Blog

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another Source for John G. Roberts Materials

Several days ago Law Dawg Blawg alerted readers to the University of Michigan Law Library's page with links to information about Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts. Today, with Roberts' nomination elevated to that of Chief Justice, we point out an additional web-based source, this one offered by the Law Library of Congress. Supreme Court Nominations - John G. Roberts: Selected Resources in the Law Library Reading Room includes links organized by articles/books, cases--opinions by, cases--argued, cases--deputy solicitor general, nomination hearings, nominations in generall--secondary sources, and web resources.

Reminder: SIU Law Library Selected List of Recent Acquisitions

Each month the SIU Law Library staff prepares and posts to its website a selected list of recent acquisitions that provides a listing by subject of the items purchased by or given to the Law Library over the course of the previous month. Titles added to the browsing collection, faculty authors, and an occasional book review are included when available. The lists for the past 12 months, in PDF format, are provided. The most recent month is indicated by bolded font.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Research Tip of the Week

Last week's tip was "Use more than one search engine." As researchers – especially legal researchers – you should not fall into the trap of relying on only one search engine. Different engines perform different searches better. Even the biggest search engine database covers only about one-third of all the information available on the web. And you never know when your favorite search engine might be down for a couple of days, or get sold and disappear forever.

We looked at Clusty as an example of an alternate search engine. There are two things that set Clusty apart from most of the better-known search engines. First, it is a meta-search engine. That means that rather than just searching its own Vivísimo database, Clusty runs your search through several other search engines and compiles the results, ranking them based on an average of the relevance rankings from the search engines used.

But what really sets Clusy apart is clustering. Besides combining your search results into a single ranked list, which is the initial display in the right frame, Clusty also organizes the results into topical folders and subfolders called clusters. (Use the dropdown menu to cluster by source or URL instead.) These clusters are displayed as folders in the left frame, giving researchers a quick overview of the types of information retrieved. Click on the folders to focus on topics that are more relevant to your research.

In addition to its default Web+ search, Clusty has tabs for searching News, Images, Shopping, Wikipedia, Gossip, eBay, Blogs, Gov, or Jobs, and allows the researcher to create customized tabs. Legal researchers will find the Gov tab especially helpful for finding government information. If the Gov tab does not show up on the first Clusty screen, click on the Customize tab and check the Gov box, then click the Save button. You can also customize Clusty by clicking on Advanced to choose which search engines to use for each search.

Archive of Research Tips.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Helping Out After Hurricane Katrina

On Tuesday, September 6, 9:00 am – 2:30 pm, in the Formal Lounge, Phi Delta Phi will hold a Hurricane Katrina Fundraiser. Bring your change and bills to donate, compete, and have fun! All proceeds will go the American Red Cross.

We have compiled a list of opportunities to contribute and other sources of information. See also FTC Urges Wise Giving for Katrina Relief.

Donate Money:

The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) has posted this Contribute to Voluntary Organizations information:

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has recommended that people who want to help, should make monetary contributions to the following agencies to assist hurricane victims:

American Red Cross
1-800-HELP NOW (435-7669) English,
1-800-257-7575 Spanish

Operation Blessing

America 's Second Harvest

Donate Cash to and Volunteer:

Adventist Community Services

Catholic Charities, USA

Christian Disaster Response
941-956-5183 or 941-551-9554

Christian Reformed World Relief Committee

Church World Service

Convoy of Hope

Lutheran Disaster Response

Mennonite Disaster Service

Nazarene Disaster Response

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

Salvation Army
1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)

Southern Baptist Convention -- Disaster Relief
1-800-462-8657, ext. 6440

United Methodist Committee on Relief

For further information: visit the website for the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).

Donate Housing :: Find Shelter is hosting, where you can offer free housing to hurricane evacuees, and where evacuees can find free housing.

Other Information

The American Bar Association has created this portal for Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief, which has information on volunteering, donating, and accessing legal services.

The ABA Section of Legal Education had this Information for Law Students Affected by Hurricane Katrina.

AALS also has this Update on New Orleans Law Schools and Help for New Orleans Law Students.

Loyola University New Orleans Emergency Updates page.

Loyola University New Orleans blog where employees can post contact information, look for colleagues, and families can seek out Loyola personnel.

Temporary Tulane Law School Official site.

Two blogs set up by Eric Muller (UNC Law) for post-Katrina announcements, important information, requests, shout-outs ... whatever:

Friday, September 02, 2005

FTC Urges Wise Giving for Katrina Relief

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a Consumer Alert, Helping Victims of Hurricane Katrina: Your Guide to Giving Wisely, in which it suggests that "the best way to provide immediate assistance [to Katrina victims] is to donate money directly to established national relief organizations with the experience and means to deliver aid." The alert contains several specific tips on giving wisely, including

• Give directly to the charity, not the solicitors for the charity. That’s because solicitors take a portion of the proceeds to cover their costs, which leaves less for victim assistance.

• Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card. Write the official name of the charity on your check. You can contribute safely online through national charities like

SOURCE: beSpacific

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Recovery Website on FirstGov

FirstGov, the U.S. Government's Official Web Portal, has launched a "Hurricane Katrina Recovery" website that includes sections devoted to the following topics: Finding Loved Ones; What To Do If You Are a Victim; How to Help Victims; Health and Safety; and Disaster Cleanup and Agency Resources. Each section of the website provides links to helpful sources (e.g., Persons Missing in New Orleans site, Louisiana Hurricane Assistance, Disaster Help gateway).

SOURCE: beSpacific