"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



Monday, February 20, 2017

IP and Incorporation into Law


The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia recently granted summary judgment to plaintiffs in a copyright and trademark infringement case involving technical standards that were incorporated by reference into law.  The case, American Society for Testing and Materials, d/b/a ASTM International v. Public.Resource.Org, Inc., is of possible interest to legal researchers given its implications for the accessibility of legal documents.

In this case, the defendant was a website dedicated to providing the public with access to free copies of federal, state and local government codes.  Some of the federal codes hosted by the defendant incorporated voluntary industry standards and best practices into federal law by reference, as is permitted under 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(1)(E).  The defendant hosted free copies of these standards on its website along with the federal codes, and was sued by the organizations that drafted and published the standards. The district court granted summary judgment to the plaintiffs, holding that copyrighted material does not lose its protection when incorporated by reference into law.

This case does not result in the complete unavailability of free legal materials, as the plaintiffs in this case also provide their respective standards to the public online, and at no charge. However, the free versions of these materials lack the search functionality of the paid versions, and the precedent of preserving intellectual property rights in materials incorporated into law may become a concern in the future.

For further reading, interested parties might be interested in this Government Technology article discussing the case.  For a more general introduction to the topic, researchers may want to consider the law review article cited by the court, Incorporation by Reference in an Open-Government Age by Emily Bremer.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

CRS Reports on the Supreme Court Appointment Process


President Trump recently nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. For those interested in learning more about the appointment process, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has published a new report, Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee. It includes information on the criteria for selecting a nominee, the advice and consent role of the Senate, the political aspects of the process, and the use of recess appointments to temporarily bypass Senate confirmation. For a more detailed account of the Senate’s role, the following CRS reports may also be of interest:
For more information on finding CRS reports online, see our blog post on the subject.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Congressional Report on the Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens Released Days Before Immigration Ban


On January 27 President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. Four days earlier, on January 24, the Congressional Research Service released its own report:  Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens: In Brief.

To those unfamiliar, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a federal legislative branch agency, housed inside the Library of Congress, charged with providing the United States Congress non-partisan advice on issues that may come before Congress, including immigration.

Included in the report are in-depth discussions on the operation of sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in the context of the executive power . Discussions of sections 212(f),  214(a)(1) and 215(a)(1) report on how the sections have been used by Presidents, along with relevant case law and precedents. Most interesting is the list of executive orders excluding some groups of aliens during past presidencies; the table allows readers to compare and contrast the limits of previous orders.

The report notes the large breadth of power the president holds in denying entry to aliens, “if [the president] finds that their entry would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, for such period as he shall deem necessary.” It also identifies potential challenges that could be made to such an order including: inconsistency with congressional intent, and the violation of international treaties or the First Amendment if the exclusion is based on religion. 

Anyone interested in learning the legal underpinnings of the recent immigration ban or is writing on the topic will find the report most useful.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

CIA Records Search Tool Now Online


The CIA recently announced that its CREST tool is now available online.  CREST is an electronic database of records that have been declassified under the CIA's 25 year program.  While the CREST tool only contains a subset of the declassified records, previously researchers were required to visit the National Archives in Maryland to search the database, so the online tool greatly increases the availability of these records. 

The records include information about topics such as the Berlin Tunnel, Project Stargate, and Secret Writing.  Users can browse the archive or use the website’s advanced search feature to search the records.  To learn more about CREST, visit the CIA website. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spring 2017-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 (see schedule below for the dates of the presentations). All presentations will take place in Room 4 BLB. We will be offering the following sessions for the Spring 2017 semester:

1. International and Foreign Law Research
Tuesday, 1/31, Wednesday, 2/1
Dan Donahue, International and Foreign Law Librarian

2. Researching Texas Agency Regulations
Tuesday, 2/7, Wednesday, 2/8
Emily Lawson, Reference and Research Librarian

3. Texas Legislative History Research
Wednesday, 2/15, Thursday, 2/16
Robert Clark, Reference and Research Librarian

4. Researching Oil & Gas Law
Tuesday, 2/21, Wednesday, 2/22
Chris Dykes, Reference and Research Librarian

5. Resources for Legal Practice
Tuesday, 2/28, Wednesday, 3/1
Katy Badeaux, Reference and Research Librarian

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Historic Federal Register Issues to be Digitized


The United States Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the Office of the Federal Register (OFR) are partnering to digitize and publish historic issues of the Federal Register.

Legal researchers interested in historic issues of the Federal Register may currently access scanned images from the Library of Congress website, but this new project will make those issues searchable using the GPO's online system.

As of the date of the date of this post, the GPO and OFR have already made issues of the Federal Register published from 1990 to 1994 available online through this new project.  The project plans to digitize all historic issues going back to the first issue of the Federal Register published in 1936.

Friday, January 6, 2017

White House Social Media Archives Announced


Yesterday the White House announced a series of archival projects related to “the first Social Media presidency.” These include a searchable archive of over 250,000 social media posts from the Obama White House, a comprehensive collection of Obama GIFs, an interactive tool that analyzes White House tweets, and complete archives of the White House’s Twitter, Facebook, and Vine accounts. The Internet Archive will also be making White House social media data available on its website. You can read more about these projects here

In related news, the Internet Archive recently launched its Trump Archive, an ongoing project that already includes over 520 hours of video related to President-elect Donald Trump.