"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.
N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Law Library of Congress Provides Online Access to Older US Treaties


The Law Library of Congress now provides free, online access to Treaties and Other International Agreements of The United States of America, a publication compiled by Charles Bevans.  The 13 volumes in this set include bilateral and multilateral treaties signed by the United States from 1776 to 1949. The set also includes a general index to help in locating relevant treaties.  

The Law Library of Congress is also currently working to digitize treaties from 1950 to 1984, while newer treaties can be found on the US Department of State website.

To access the treaties, visit the Law Library of Congress website. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Fall 2016-Brown Bag Presentation Series

Each semester the law library presents a series of presentations covering legal research topics. These presentations are held at 12 noon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and will take place in Room 115 BLB (except for Federal Administrative Law Research on Wednesday, October 12, which will be held in 113 BLB). We will be offering the following sessions for the Fall 2016 semester (click here for more details):

1. Federal Legislative Research
Tuesday, 9/27, Wednesday, 9/28
Robert Clark, Reference and Research Librarian

2. Power Searching on Westlaw, Lexis, and Bloomberg Law
Tuesday, 10/4, Wednesday, 10/5
Katy Badeaux, Reference and Research Librarian

3. Federal Administrative Law Research
Tuesday, 10/11, Wednesday, 10/12
Dan Donahue, International and Foreign Law Librarian

4. Empirical Legal Research
Tuesday, 10/18, Wednesday, 10/19
Mon Yin Lung, Associate Director of the Law Library

5. Advanced Databases Search Strategies
Tuesday, 10/25, Wednesday, 10/26
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

Friday, September 9, 2016

Finding Information on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement

You may have read in the news that the United States and China recently ratified the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But what exactly does the agreement say, and how many nations must ratify it before it goes into effect? The United Nations provides answers to these questions online, along with the full text of the agreement itself (available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian).

For some historical context, as well as a helpful summary that isn’t written in legalese, you might also want to check out this report from the Congressional Research Service: Climate Change: Frequently Asked Questions about the 2015 Paris Agreement. The report explains the agreement’s requirements and recommendations, the ratification process, and the relationship of the agreement to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol.   

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued lots of useful reports on climate change. Here are links to a few of them:
To find more, see our previous blog post entitled Finding CRS Reports.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Fundamentals of Government Information

Neal-Schuman has recently published the second edition of Fundamentals of Government Information: Mining, Finding, Evaluating, and Using Government Resources (ZA5055.U6 F67 2016) by Cassandra J. Hartnett, Andrea L. Sevetson, and Eric J. Forte. The authors begin with an overview of government information resources, discussing the history of government history, depository libraries before the existence of the web, classification of government documents, and government information in the era of the internet. This title also covers congressional publications, statutes, regulations, case law, and presidential and executive branch documents. There are specialized topics such as statistical, patents, health, environment and energy, and archival information. This source, now available on the law library's new titles shelf, is beneficial for anyone interested in an overview of researching government information.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Pokémon Go in the Law Library

As of the date of this posting, the Pokémon Go augmented reality game app is one of the most successful mobile games in history.  As is the case with most suddenly popular phenomena, there is no shortage of legal concerns surrounding Pokémon Go; issues touching on consumer rights, attractive nuisance and criminal law have been raised in connection with the game on a fairly regular basis since it was first launched.

Legal scholars interested in learning about or researching these topics may find useful general legal research guides on consumer rights from the Library of Congress or HG; a brief introduction to the concept of attractive nuisance is offered by FindLaw for those who have not yet encountered it in the study of property or tort law; and the Harvard Law School Library and NYU Law's LibGuides are excellent places to begin researching criminal law.

As a side note, for any Pokémon Go players who reached this page looking for game information rather than legal information, I regret to inform you that O'Quinn Law Library is not a Pokéstop.  Anyone interested in hunting Pokémon elsewhere on the University of Houston campus may find the university's visitor information website a useful resource for getting additional value out of any campus visit.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Finding Information on Sales Tax Holidays

This weekend (August 5-7) is a sales tax holiday for purchases of school supplies in Texas. Did you know that there are also sales tax holidays for emergency preparation supplies, water-efficient products, and energy-efficient products, including air conditioners, refrigerators, and dishwashers? You can find the dates of these holidays, as well as information on eligible products, on the website of the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts.

For sales tax holidays in other states, see this handy list compiled by the Federation of Tax Administrators. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Finding Texas Laws by Date

Many times patrons at the Law Library request assistance in finding what statute (or version of a statute) was in effect on a specific date. At times, these inquiries can become quite complex, requiring the researcher to follow a trail of session laws to find the law as at existed at that date. Thanks to some new resources from the Texas Legislative Council, Texas State Law Library, researching the history of a Texas Statute has never been easier.

The Texas Legislative Council, who makes available to citizens the Texas Constitutions and Statutes online, has added a tool for finding what version of a law was in effect on a specific date. The Statutes by Date feature allows users to (1) enter a date from the present back to 2004 and then (2)choose the code, chapter (or article), and section number. The text of the statute as it read at the date selected will be displayed, along with the legislative history annotation as it read on that date. Though this method only reaches back to 2004, it is extremely useful.

If you need to look back further than 2004, you will need to read the legislative history credits notated below the statute text. This information appears both in print volumes and statutes accessed through commercial legal research systems like Westlaw and LexisAdvance. After determining what version of the law controlled on the date you are searching, you may find it useful to look at the Texas State Law Library’s Historical Texas Statutes. The state law library has digitized versions of codified Texas law spanning the years 1879-1960. The website helpfully notes which legislative sessions are covered in a specific printing of the statutes or the supplements, and the text is searchable through PDF.

For the interim period of 1960-2004, there is not an official, reliable source currently available online. In these cases, you can use the legislative history credits following the statute text to find the year and chapter number for the session law that marked the latest change in the law before the date you are researching. Then, using the Texas Legislative Reference Library’s Legislative Archive System enter the session number (beware of called vs. regular sessions in the same year) and chapter number. The results will provide a link to a PDF image of the official Texas session laws, The General and Special Laws of Texas. The session law will tell you what was amended, added, or deleted in that action.

While accessing legislative history and older code volumes has become much easier, it can still be a very complex process. Reference librarians are available to help guide you through the process and save you time and frustration.