Monday, October 31, 2005

Open CRS Network - Congressional Research Reports for the People

The Congressional Research Service (CRS), in the Library of Congress, provides research support to the United States Congress. As a source of in-depth, timely, and accurate information, CRS reports are intended to clearly define an issue for Congress. CRS reports are produced at the request of and for the use of members of Congress, and they can include policy, economic, statistical and/or legal analyses.

Because of their high quality, CRS reports are excellent resources for legislative or public policy research. CRS reports are not made available directly to the public, but members of Congress can share them with the public. Since the mid-1990s, libraries and interested organizations have made concerted efforts to obtain and make CRS reports available on the web.

This past summer, a fabulous new source for these reports debuted, Open CRS. Open CRS is a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology. Through the cooperation of several organizations and collectors of CRS Reports, Open CRS provides access to CRS Reports already in the public domain. There are currently close to 10,000 reports. You can search all reports or browse by collection or current issue. RSS feeds are available for recent reports and recently added reports.

There is a "Take Action" box on the front page asking the public to request a specific report from one of their members of Congress and submit it to Open CRS. The FAQ provides instructions for requesting reports and for adding them to the Open CRS database. Since this summer, almost 2,000 reports have been added to the database.

The site also has information on the campaign to convince Congress to provide public access to all CRS Reports.

Archive of Research Tips.

President Bush Nominates Samuel Alito to Supreme Court

From MSNBC: "Stung by the rejection of his first choice, President Bush on Monday nominated appeals court judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court — mollifying his conservative base but angering Democrats who said Alito could divide the country over abortion and gun rights."

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Have you heard about BlawgThink 2005? It is a two-day event, November 10 & 11, put on by the creative thinkers at LexThink! Day 1 will include structured presentations on a wide range of topics, in beginning and advanced tracks. There will be time for questions, demos, and hands-on practice in the sessions and – more importantly – between each session. Day 2 will be mostly attendee-driven, with collaborative brainstorming and group discussions on topics we choose.

The speaker list includes many of your favorite legal bloggers. Check out the details at LexThink! – BlawgThink 2005 and at the LexThink! Blog. (Yes, I was honored to be asked to do a presentation on RSS feeds and news aggregators with Bonnie Shucha of WisBlawg fame, but I thought this was a fabulous idea even before that invitation.)

There are still a few invitations left. If you are interested, email Matt Homann. Still not convinced? Did I mention that as part of the $595.00 registration fee, every attendee will get a full license to MindJet's MindManager Pro 6, which retails for $349?

Update: Gyronix has added a full license of its productivity plug-in for MindManager, Results Manager Pro, valued at $285, to the registration package.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Miers's Responses to Judiciary Committee Questions has published the written responses of U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers to the questions of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

SOURCE: BarclayBlog

Guide to Journalist Shield Laws

"A Guide to Journalist Shield Laws" is available from the Poynter Institute. This compendium provides information for each state on the protections it offers to journalists working within its borders through shield laws and other legal protections. Citations and links to shield law statutes are provided, as well as citations to related cases.

SOURCE: BarclayBlog

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Finding and Printing a Uniform Act in Illinois

Uniform laws and model acts are proposed statutes drafted by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, which consists of representatives of every state. Uniform laws adopted by the NCCUSL at its annual meetings may then be introduced as bills in the individual state legislatures, which can adopt them as proposed in whole or in part, modify them, or reject them. Once uniform laws are adopted, at least in part, by a state's legislature, they are included within that state's statutory code.

When courts or commentators refer to a uniform law or act adopted by a specific state, they typically include the state in the name to distinguish it from the versions adopted by other states. For example, a court opinion or law journal article discussing the version of the Uniform Commercial Code that was adopted by the Illinois General Assembly and codified in the Illinois Compiled Statutes at 810 ILCS 5/1-101 – 5/13-103 would refer to it as the Illinois Uniform Commercial Code. However, the title of the act as it appears in the the Illinois Compiled Statutes is simply the Uniform Commercial Code. It is important to keep this distinction in mind when you are searching for a uniform act in the state's statutes.

For step-by-step instructions for finding and printing the Illinois version of a uniform act on the web, in books, on LexisNexis, or on Westlaw, check out the SIU Law Library's Research Guide on Finding and Printing a Uniform Act in Illinois.

Archive of Research Tips.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Comparing KeyCite to Shepard's

We recently compared KeyCite to Shepard's online as part of a Lawyering Skills exercise. We found that both services listed the same cases and most of the same law review and journal articles as citing references for cases. Although they both list treatises, they only list the treatises owned by their respective companies – Shepard's lists LexisNexis treatises and KeyCite lists West treatises.

KeyCite lists court documents, which Shepard's does not. Although briefs and other court documents may be helpful as examples for writing assignments, and they may cite to primary and secondary authorities relevant to your research, their usefulness is otherwise very limited. Documents filed by parties to litigation are not primary authority (the law itself), and they are rarely persuasive outside the case in which they were filed. Furthermore, unlike treatises, journal articles, ALR annotations and other secondary authorities we covered this semester, court documents have not been subjected to independent editorial review. It is up to the researcher to determine whether the documents are current, accurate and reliable.

Shepard's includes statutes in its Citing References. No, of course, statutes do not cite to cases, so a statute cannot literally be a citing reference. Shepard's lists a LexisNexis annotated statute as a citing reference for cases that have cited the statute and are listed in its annotations. Here's an example. If you Shepardize Totz v. Continental Du Page Acura, 236 Ill. App. 3d 891, 602 N.E.2d 1374 (1992), one of the citing references will be 815 ILCS 505/2, the current version of a section of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, to which Totz cited.

You may be wondering about the value of the inclusion in a Shepard's report of annotated statutes to which a case has cited. Would it not be easier for a researcher to find the statutory citation in the case and go directly to the statute? In most cases, probably yes. However, Totz is a good example of how the Shepard's listing can be helpful. Totz did not cite to 815 ILCS 505/2, but to its predecessor, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1989, ch. 121 1/2, par. 262. Although there are translation tables in print that would allow a researcher to convert Ill. Rev. Stat. citations to ILCS citations, on LexisNexis the Shepard's report appears to be the most direct link from Totz to the statute.

Although KeyCite does not include annotated statutes in its citing reference lists, citations to previous versions of statutes in cases on Westlaw are linked to the current versions of the statutes, even when the statutes have been renumbered.

Archive of Research Tips.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Research Tip: LLRX is one of the premiere legal research web resources. Since 1996, it has provided up-to-date information on internet research, law and technology to legal professionals. The monthly web journal includes columns, feature articles, research guides, reviews, and news. The archives from 1996 to the present are available on the website. Both the monthly journal and the archives are free.

At, you can also search the database of links to court rules, forms and dockets; link to other legal and library-related sites and resources; and explore Resource Centers on topics such as International Law, Comparative and Foreign Law, Intranets/Knowledge Management, Marketing, and Search Engines. The September issue included Identity Theft: Outline of Federal Statutes and Bibliography of Select Resources, Free and Fee Based Appellate Court Briefs Online, and FOIA Facts: The Importance of FOIA, Part 2, on the integral role that FOIA will play in evaluating FEMA's response to the Katrina disaster.

LLRX offers an RSS feed and an email list of updates.

Archive of Research Tips.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Inspiration for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers

Are you thinking of starting your own law practice but not sure that it is the right step for you at this time? Check out, a blog for solo and small firm lawyers. Carolyn Elefant posts several times a week, making this an invaluable source for tips, advice, and links on the practice of law, whether solo, small firm, or other. Recent entries include Some FAQ on Solo Practice, Can You Recognize When A Court Opines, Asserts or Declares? and How to Succeed as A Lawyer – A Great Read.

Click Online Guide in the left column of MyShingle for an excellent OnLine Guide to Starting a Law Firm.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Research Tip: Searching Is Just the Beginning

With the wealth of information on the internet today, some researchers are tempted to type a word or two into a well-known search engine and rely on the top few items retrieved. But running a search, even assuming you have run a perfect search using the correct tools, is only the beginning. You have to read and analyze what you found. And before you spend much of your limited time reading what you find, you need to evaluate the quality of the information, so you don't waste valuable time reading something that is not current, accurate, and reliable.

If you are doing legal research, you must use a citator such as Shepard's or KeyCite to be sure that your cases, statutes, and other authorities are still good law. Evaluating information that you found on the internet may be trickier. The Virtual Chase's section on Evaluating the Quality of Information on the Internet can help you to evaluate online information. The site includes easy-to-use checklists on quality criteria, evaluation strategies, and anecdotal evidence of bad information found on the internet.

For other helpful sites, visit the SIU Law Library's page on Evaluating and Rating Web Sites and Other Information Resources.

Archive of Research Tips.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Bonus Research Tip - English Cases

Several students have asked if it is possible to find English cases on LexisNexis or Westlaw. The answer is: "Yes, English cases are available on both systems."

On the LexisNexis Sources page and Legal tab (this is the default when you log on and click on Research System), click on "Legal (excluding U.S.)" in the lower right corner, then United Kingdom, then Case Law and choose "England and Wales Reported and Unreported Cases" or "The Law Reports of England and Wales." Since English cases can have several parallel citations, you may want to try a case name search such as:

name(Smythe and Regina) or
name(Smythe) and date is 1558

From the Westlaw Directory (blue link in the gray bar near the top), click on International/Worldwide Materials, then Europe and the United Kingdom, then Individual Country Materials, then United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland), then Cases and choose "United Kingdom Reports All - Non-UK Academic Access (Multi) (UK-RPTS-ALL-ACAD)" or "All Reports - Non-UK Academic Access (Multi) (ALL-RPTS-ACAD)." On Westlaw, case name searches look like this:

ti(Smythe and Regina) or
ti(Smythe) and da(1558)

Ask a reference librarian if you need any help.

Archive of Research Tips.

Research Tip of the Week - Customer Service

Our research tip in Lawyering Skills last week was Customer Service. Both Westlaw and LexisNexis make research and technical support available 24/7. Their representatives are highly trained, and those providing research assistance are attorneys and librarians. Take advantage of their expertise if you are doing research in an unfamiliar area, or if you are having problems. They are very helpful.

Call one of the toll-free numbers that you were given in your training, or use the live chat help services. On Westlaw click on Help; on LexisNexis click on Live Support.

Archive of Research Tips.