"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, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Work Begins on Consolidated FOIA Request Portal

Yesterday the Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) announced the completion of the discovery phase of its development of a National FOIA Portal. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was enacted in 1966 and created a presumptive right of public access to government documents. In practice, however, obtaining those documents has not always been easy. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 sought to streamline the process by directing the Department of Justice and the Office of Management and Budget to create an online portal that would allow members of the public to submit FOIA requests to any agency from a single website. In other words, a one-stop shop for FOIA. 

The OIP has issued a report on its findings and recommendations for the project. The portal will be developed on GitHub with opportunities for feedback from the public.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Research Recess!

During the 2017 Fall Semester, the O'Quinn Law Library reference librarians will offer a series of lunchtime talks on legal research topics. The sessions will be given at 5:00 p.m. Mondays and 12:00 p.m. Tuesdays from September 25 through October 24.


Please visit the following link for more information: http://www.law.uh.edu/libraries/publications/brownbags.htm.

1. Federal Legislative Research

Monday, 9/25, 5:00-5:45 (room 1 BLB)
Tuesday, 9/26, 12:00-12:45 (room 1 BLB)
Robert Clark, Reference and Research Librarian

2. Resources for Legal Practice

Monday, 10/2, 5:00-5:45 (room 109 BLB)
Tuesday, 10/3, 12:00-12:45 (room 1 BLB)
Katy Badeaux, Reference and Research Librarian

3. Legal Technology for Lawyers

Monday, 10/9, 5:00-5:45 (room 1 BLB)
Tuesday, 10/10, 12:00-12:45 (room 1 BLB)
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

4. Power Searching on Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law

Monday, 10/16, 5:00-5:45 (room 1 BLB)
Tuesday, 10/17, 12:00-12:45 (room 1 BLB)
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

5. Advanced Databases Search Strategies

Monday, 10/23, 5:00-5:45 (room 1 BLB)
Tuesday, 10/24, 12:00-12:45 (room 1 BLB)
Dan Donahue, International and Foreign Law Librarian

Friday, August 25, 2017

SEC Publishes New Edgar Filer Manual

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently published the second volume of its EDGAR Filer Manual, which describes the process for submitting a filing with the SEC. EDGAR stands for Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval. It is a publicly accessible database that provides investors with information on SEC-registered companies. For more information on EDGAR, click here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Free Law Project Now Hosts Searchable Opinions and Orders (free!)

The Free Law Project has announced that they have collected every free written order and opinion that is available in PACER, the online hosting source of federal court opinions and case documents. They are now available at free.law and are completely searchable. 

The Free Law Project reports that this collection contains  "approximately 3.4 million orders and opinions from approximately 1.5 million federal district and bankruptcy court cases dating back to 1960." The project required the scanning and implementing OCR for more than  "four hundred thousand of these documents . . .  amounting to nearly two million pages of text extraction."

This archive of opinions and orders is available for search here. In addition to common search categories (judge, nature of suit, etc.) it also has advanced search capabilities including field search, as well as proximity and fuzzy search capabilities. 

The Free Law Project estimates that the cost of obtaining that same content on a single user account would cost around $1 billion. More information about the costs of PACER, and the methodology used to recoup costs by the Administrative Office of the Courts, the federal organization that runs PACER is detailed in this fascinating blog post

It is worthwhile to note, however, that this amazing collection does not include all documents available through PACER. The Free Law Project has collected what have been designated by the courts as "opinions or orders," but this does not include pleadings, motions, responses, and briefs. Orders and opinions are defined to judges and clerks by the E-Government Act as "any document issued by a judge or judges of the court, sitting in that capacity, that sets forth a reasoned explanation for a court’s decision." Yet opinions may be misidentified as documents, and may be unintentionally excluded. 

Members of the Law Center community enjoy free access to all of PACER's documents through their Bloomberg Law subscriptions. Users may obtain any PACER document at no additional charge through the platform, which includes dockets and documents for many state courts as well.

If you are interested in learning more about PACER, the Free Law Project, or Bloomberg Law, stop by and visit our Reference Desk, where our reference librarians are available seven days a week. Hats off to the amazing work of the Free Law Project and all who work to provide us with better access to government information!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Drones Across America

The ABA has recently published Drones Across America: Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Regulation and State Laws (KF2406.N55 2017) by Dr. Sarah Nilsson. This book begins with a discussion of the definition of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) as well as the different categories. Chapter 2 analyzes regulation at the federal level with a discussion of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA), proposed legislation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulatory action and relevant court cases. Chapter 3 explores commercial UAS rules, in particular focusing on relevant FMRA provisions, federal regulations such as 14 CFR Part 107 dealing with small unmanned aircraft, and state laws throughout the country. Rules pertaining to public aircraft operations as well as model aircraft are also covered. This is now available on the law library's new titles shelf (across from the reference desk).

Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Features Added to Govinfo Website

In February of last year, the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO) launched the beta version of govinfo.gov, which will eventually replace the Federal Digital System (FDSys) as the GPO’s free, searchable repository of government documents. Last week the GPO announced the addition of several new features to govinfo. Here are some of the highlights:
  • New links allow you to click through from Congressional Records details pages directly to related bills. 
  • Thumbnails are now displayed in the search results for applicable documents (which is very helpful if you are searching for photos). 
  • RSS feeds are now available for bills and statutes, budget and presidential materials, congressional committee materials, judicial publications, and several other types of government publications.
To learn more about these and other recently added features, see the latest release notes.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Mastering Negotiation

Carolina Academic Press has recently published, Mastering Negotiation, by Michael R. Fowler. The author discusses choosing the best approach to negotiation including the positional bargaining and interest based negotiations. Pre-negotiation issues such as preparing for the negotiation, organizing preparation, and identifying goals are covered in Chapter 2. This book also looks at matters related to initiating talks such as setting an agenda and an constructive tone for the negotiation. There are other chapters that focus on working with interests, ethical negotiations, problem solving, closing the deal, and analyzing alternatives, leverage, and power, among other topics. This book is now on the law library's new titles shelf (located across from the reference desk) (K2390.F69 2017).