Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slap on the Wrist

Click here for an article from the New York Law Journal on the use of "slipshod search terms" to retrieve electronically stored information. In a case decided March 19, 2009, William A. Gross Construction Associates v. American Manufacturers Mutual Insurance Company, U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck of the Southern District of New York "issued a self-styled 'wake-up call' to members of the bar in the Southern District. Instead of attorneys designing keywords without adequate information 'by the seat of their pants,' Peck appealed for keyword formulations based on careful thought, quality control, testing and cooperation." The article goes into the terms that the parties used to search through email, which proved to be unhelpful; the judge was "therefore placed in the 'uncomfortable position' of having to construct a search term methodology without sufficient input from the parties or the relevant custodian." Peck complained that the case was "'just the latest example of lawyers designing keyword searches in the dark,'" without adequate consultation with the custodian of the information. He urged "in a footnote that what is required is more than a lawyer's guesses, without any quality control testing to ensure the search results are minimally overinclusive or underinclusive for responsive e-mails. Accordingly, care should be taken from the outset of disclosure to ensure proper selection and execution of a search methodology. Without appropriate care, a court cannot be confident that the producing party has disclosed all the required responsive material." The article concludes with the following observation: "Ironically, lawyers well-acquainted with computers may be more susceptible to thinking that keywords viable for a Google search should also suffice for ESI production. Peck has sounded the alarm that such haphazard searches will not pass muster any longer."

We spend a good deal of time in my Advanced Legal Research class on search terms that will work in print indexes as well as in online databases. I introduce students to the thesaurus feature on Lexis and Westlaw, and also to Burton's Legal Thesaurus. In the research guides they produce for the course, I require a "Getting Started" section which should include keywords that are relevant for the subject of the guide. Two of the reference librarians at the Pace Law Library, Vicky Gannon and Lucie Olejenikova, have produced a podcast on Generating Search Terms, which is designed to help students understand why this is a skill they need to master and to give them tools they can use in formulating terms for online and print searches.

Thanks to Cynthia Pittson for pointing out this article to me.

Nice Article on Twitter

Hiawatha Bray, the Globe's excellent tech reporter, has a wonderful article on Twitter with a review of a number of Twitter Tools, here. Bray admits to originally finding Twitter boring and pretty lame. Interestingly, he says the Nielsen ratings service says 60% of new Twitter users have the same reaction. But he figured it out and is here to tell you some of the things it's good for. In Bray's words,

Twitter accesses the wisdom of crowds.
That's rather a high-flown way of saying what I find good about Twitter, I guess. The folks I follow on Twitter have introduced me to wonderful new tools, interesting books, cool music and websites I never would have found on my own. I have gotten news items vastly quicker than I would have otherwise (gee -- blogging anybody?). And sometimes, I get links to some really inspiring, entertaining or snarky blog posts that I would never have gotten to otherwise.

Bray goes on to explain and review TweetDeck, Twitterfall (which I had never seen), Tweetbeep, Tweetcube, and Linksocial. Read the Bray article! He finishes up noting that a research firm shows that Twitter is most popular among users between the ages of 45 to 54. Oh Noes! I thought I was being young and hip; instead I am in the heart of the demographic. Ah well... Bray's always worth reading.

Twitter logo theme from

New Hampshire Gay Marriage Update

The Boston Globe offers this update to the story of the bill legalizing gay marriage in New Hampshire.

The New Hampshire Senate voted yesterday to allow same-sex couples to marry, setting the state in motion to become the fifth in the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

New Hampshire's House of Representatives has already approved the bill, but the Senate amended the language slightly before passing it on a 13-to-11 vote, meaning the House must approve the changes, reject them, or confer with the Senate before sending the bill to the governor.

With House approval expected, supporters and opponents are closely watching Governor John Lynch, a Democrat who has opposed same-sex marriage in the past and has not indicated whether he would sign or veto the latest measure.
Author Eric Moskowitz reports that opponents of the bill are lobbying the Republican governor hard to veto the bill. Meanwhile, Governor Lynch has not said what he will do.
After Vermont legalized same-sex civil unions in 2000, Massachusetts followed with a 2003 Supreme Judicial Court decision that paved the way for same-sex marriage.

Similar legal decisions followed in Connecticut and Iowa. This month, Vermont became the first state to guarantee same-sex marriage through a legislative act. Earlier this week, Maine lawmakers recommended that their state do the same. (snip)

New Hampshire's House had approved the same-sex marriage bill last month on a 186-to-179 vote, but the Senate Judiciary Committee recommended killing the measure. Yesterday, a floor amendment designed as a compromise enabled the bill to win majority support, with 13 of 14 Democrats but none of the 10 Republicans.

The amendment distinguished between "civil marriage" and weddings sanctioned by religious groups, spelling out that the state would not force those groups to marry same-sex couples. It also clarified that the bill would not eliminate the option to select "husband" or "wife" when applying for a marriage license, even as it would add the gender-neutral term "spouse."

The Senate version "recognizes the sanctity of religious marriages and the diversity of beliefs in our culture" while also addressing a form of state discrimination, Senate President Sylvia Larsen said in an interview after the vote.

State Representative James Splaine, the bill's primary sponsor in the House, said the amendment improved the bill. Splaine, who is gay, expects the House to endorse the changes.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on Google Books Project

Click here for an entertaining blog entry at the Fiction Circus from Miracle Jones who interviews Prof. Grimmelman at New York Law about the Google Books Project. The interview covers wide ranging issues including orphan books & a proposed rights auction (proposed by Fiction Circus, that is). Read it and see!

During the course of the interview, we also discovered several other troubling facts that makes an auction seem absolutely necessary: Google will have the right to manage the content of its scans in the same way that it manages YouTube videos, deleting content that it deems "inappropriate" without any clear editorial guidelines. Since no one else has the right to put this literature up without being sued, the literature that Google deems "inappropriate" will effectively be banned from the internet for decades until it becomes public domain.
Miracle also notes that Brewster Kahle's petition that the Internet Archive be included in the settlement has been denied. There are several other interesting notes with helpful links, and a transcript of the interview with Prof. Grimmelman. For a site with such a circus look, it actually has very serious content, along with some very entertaining illustrations.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kudos to Steve Matthews' Twitter How To

Steve Matthews in his SLAW post, Lawyer Twitter Practices: 29 Dos and Don'ts, lays out the How To for using Twitter to build a law firm practice. Steve does not want to call them "best practices," but offers pointers based on his own experiences of what works and does not work.

So Twitter gets your foot in the door? A great tool for business development, right? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a very lawyeresque ‘it depends’. While deriving business value from of Twitter is indeed possible, that value is often indirect in nature and depends greatly on personal approach. Similar to all forms of the online participation, there’s no room for the Injured? Call now! lawyer. Those that can’t drop the advertising and solicitation approach are inviting failure.
It’s these types of lessons that I hope to address in the list below - which tactics will put you offside, and which will add value. The following practices (I’m hesitant to call them ‘best practices’) are tips that either work for me, or methods that seem to consistently work for others.
I recommend following the link if you would like to see how Twitter can build a professional business network. Steve knows what he's doing! In looking over the comments to Steve's post, I found and followed a link to another blogger's post on the topic, which I can also recommend:, Figuring out Twitter. Good pair of posts.

Twitter Job Search?

Twitter job search - click on the title to this post to go -- claims that it has posted 159,602 new jobs in the last 30 days. In their "about us" section, they explain the site as a new search engine for social media websites:

Until now, search engines for social media sites merely looked for words.
We're looking at context.

We use semantic tools to look at what was said.
We then look at what they've said before.
We then look at who was saying it.

If we do this right, we can figure out why they're saying anything at all.
They are certainly building their own buzz. If you click on their "buzz" tab, you see that Twitterers are talking about, and they are harvesting the tweets. If you go to their "browse" tabs, you go to the real search section. They have categories of jobs you can look under (that's the browse! doh!). Legal is one of the categories with ten sub-categories listed beneath. Of those, three are different types of solicitors (Twitter is international), one is a legal secretary category, one is paralegal, one is senior partner, but none are librarians. In fact, I could not find any category that included librarians in them. Ah, well.

They have an interesting job map in beta. It shows a world map with T pins showing where jobs have popped up in the social media world they have been harvesting, I suppose. The sweep covers the last 72 hours. Pretty interesting tool, though this part does not tell you what the job is. Fun, though.

Students with some firms paid to defer jobs

The Boston Globe today runs a story by Rich Barlow about a number of luckier law graduates at large firms being paid a decent salary to defer their job a year to perform public service.

With his degree from Harvard Law School due in June, Juan Valdivieso makes an attractive prospective hire, and last summer, he scooped up a postgraduation job offer from the white-shoe firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius in his native Washington, D.C.

But as the recession deepens, budgets tighten - even at top-notch law firms. Morgan, Lewis & Bockius e-mailed Valdivieso last month that it would have to defer his employment for a year, until the fall of 2010. But the company threw him a lifeline: It would pay him a $60,000 stipend if he spent the year after graduation at an unpaid public service job. The 28-year-old is looking for work in an organization that will indulge his interest either in civil rights or consumer protection.

Paying people to offer help to public service groups may be a noble endeavor, but it also reaps a practical payoff.

The stipend system saves a bundle for such firms as Morgan, Lewis, where starting salaries average around $160,000, according to Harvard's assistant dean for career services, Mark Weber. It also allows them to hold onto promising future lawyers until a possible economic turnaround next year.

Meanwhile, students add a year of real-life work.

"Clients are, from what I understand, not so excited about having first-year associates without any actual experience working on their case," said Valdivieso.

Alyssa Minsky, who is graduating next month from Suffolk University Law School, has had her employment deferred with a stipend by Ropes & Gray. A psychology major in college with an interest in healthcare, she is interviewing for jobs in that field.

"I really do think it's a great opportunity," she said. "I hope to do healthcare law at the firm, so I think I'll have real exposure to healthcare issues."

Law firms have postponed hires in previous recessions, but the public-service stipends are unique, say Weber and James Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement, a career counseling, recruitment, and development group based in Washington, D.C.
I love the fact that Barlow includes a Suffolk student who got a similar deal in the article following his lead with the Harvard student! I am pretty sure there are more Harvard students getting these deals than Suffolk students. The article is excellent and goes on to discuss how common this is becoming for the lucky few students and firms. There is some discussion of the various options offered to students, as some firms provide a list of approved public service placements. What I found truly fascinating was the comments that follow. These range from frankly envious, to depressed as some students seeking public service placements in the first place see the few jobs they might have had dry up as the financially strapped legal services see opportunities for free placements. There is irony, pathos, and wit in the comments, along with a dollop of self-pity. This is a very tough time to be graduating from law school if you are not already employed or independently wealthy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Pirate Bay

I had been following the Pirate Bay story for a while. My son had clued me in, and made their story rather entertaining. This Swedish file sharing site was quite in-your-face about their battle with the copy-right police. They have a pirate ship as their logo, and of course, their name flaunts the piracy theme as well. When they received letters from copyright holders' attorneys ordering them to remove files from the site, they would post the letter to their site, along with their smart-ass replies, often instructing the attorney to perform painful sexual acts upon him- or herself. They had been taken to court a number of times, and always won. When they won a suit brought by Hollywood movie-makers and RIAA, Pirate Bay changed their logo temporarily to show the pirate ship shooting cannon balls at the Hollywood sign. This was a colorful bunch of Swedes!

All that sass came to a crashing halt with a trial brought in Sweden. The verdict, as reported at Cnet here and analyzed here was harsh. Peter Sunde, Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundström--were found guilty of having made 33 copyright-protected files accessible for illegal file sharing via the Web site. The defendants were sentenced to a year in prison and ordered to pay 30 million Swedish kronor ($3.6 million) in damages to the copyright holders. Although no files are stored on the website, and the decision recognizes that the file-sharing was actually done by the clients who visited the site, the defendants were found guilty of assisting the clients in violating copyright. While the Wired Blog has a rather snarky editorial pillorying the Pirate Bay guys as "backpedaling" on the stand from their loud and proud anti-copyright statements outside of intimidating prosecutorial face-offs ("all hat and no rum," reads the editorial title), Cnet ran a report here of Sunde holding a press conference holding up a joke IOU for 31 million Swedish kroner, and then stating that he would rather burn everything he owns than pay up. They plan to appeal and keep fighting. Pirate Bay's BitTorrent site is still up and available.

So many people in Europe were outraged over the harsh penalties that they joined a political party, the Swedish Pirate Party. The party was very tiny. After a police raid on the Pirate Bay offices in 2006, the party membership tripled, from 2,000 to 6,000. Following the harsh sentencing of the four owners of Pirate Bay, membership again grew so fast (see post here to Wired blog, that they really seem likely to be able to win a seat in the European Parliament. At the time of the blog post, they listed 37,000 members, and it would take an estimated 100,000 votes to win a seat.

The judge who delivered the opinion turns out to be a member of pro-copyright groups. See Wired blog post here.

Stockholm district court judge, Tomas Norström told a Swedish newspaper that his previously-undisclosed entanglements with the copyright groups did not constitute a conflict of interest.

The groups include the Swedish Association of Copyright, a discussion forum. Henrik Pontén of the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau, Monique Wadsted, a motion picture industry lawyer, and Peter Danowsky from the recording industry's IFPI are members of the organizations, and were largely responsible for pressing the case against The Pirate Bay before the judge.

Norström also sits on the board of the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property, and the Internet Infrastructure Foundation, which oversees the dot-se country code and advises on domain name disputes. Monique Wadsted is one of his colleagues at the foundation.

The judge's links to the groups were reported by Swedish National Radio.

Peter Althin, the lawyer who represents Pirate Bay spokesperson Peter Sunde, announced Thursday that he plans to demand a retrial.
Apparently, it's a close call whether such a conflict of interest would be enough to throw out the verdicts. I don't know that I believe that copyright holders should have no rights at all, but I certainly believe that copyright has become so distorted, and that the megacorporations that assert copyright in the movies and music that are muc of what is being traded are over-reaching. They did not create the beauty -- they are not musicians or artists, and often, in fact, take advantage of the artists who do the actual creating. But they also overreach by lobbying Congress to extend copyright, arguing - falsely, I believe, that in order to motivate further creativity, intellectual property rights must be extended further. In fact, I believe the opposite is true. A balance, as originally envisioned in the U.S. Constitution, where perhaps, 17 years of protection for a new idea, in copyright or patent, would be adequate. Then, the idea enters the public domain, and enriches the thinking of others, sparking more creativity.

The image is, of course, the Pirate Bay logo. Whatever else you can say about them, they have a certain panache and style.

"Flow" and Creativity: Links to the "baby mind" in us all

A few years ago, I wrote a post here about happiness at work, and the concept of "flow" in your work. When you lose yourself in the moment, lose your sense of self-consciousness, you can become more creative and more effective in many types of work. It's also very enjoyable. This is part of what happens when we become immersed in a movie, or meditation, or possibly, in reading a great book. It's what happens with an athlete getting into the zone, or an artist being one with the canvas, the poem or the audience. It's magic.

In the Boston Globe Ideas section today, Jonah Lehrer writes, "Inside the Baby Mind," which looks at the newest understanding of researchers of how babies learn. Their brains are actually much more connected, and have vastly more neurons than adult brains. And it shows in the ways they are open to all the world. While adults "pay attention" with a spot light of attention, babies and toddlers attend to the world with a 360 degree lantern, soaking up everything equally. It makes sense, because they don't know what will be important, so they have to look at every thing. This actually matches the experiences I've had with my own kids and with other small children I've hung around with. When you go to the park or the zoo with a toddler, it's a whole different experience than going with an older child or adults. The article has a wonderful quote:

[Psychologist Alison] Gopnik argues that, in many respects, babies are more conscious than adults. She compares the experience of being a baby with that of watching a riveting movie, or being a tourist in a foreign city, where even the most mundane activities seem new and exciting. "For a baby, every day is like going to Paris for the first time," Gopnik says. "Just go for a walk with a 2-year-old. You'll quickly realize that they're seeing things you don't even notice."
Apparently, our brains begin pruning unnecessary neurons almost from birth. It makes us more efficient, as we begin to learn what we really need to focus on. But while we are really young and don't yet know, we can easily learn multiple languages at once. The world pours in on little babies and toddlers, unfiltered. Those of us who have a few memories left from earliest days, may remember the world as a much more intensely colored, more emotionally rich, more everything-ful place. Apparently children feel and sense things more intensely, which makes it seem particularly outrageous that doctors until the 1970's performed surgery on babies and toddlers without anesthesia under the mistaken impression that they were not really sensing things.

There are many times when it's a good thing to be able to tune out extraneous or overwhelming sensations, and that is what we learn to do as adults. We learn to focus our attention, and to "pay attention," which turns out to mean narrow our focus of attention.
While thinking like an adult is necessary when we need to focus, or when we already know which information is relevant, many situations aren't so clear-cut. In these instances, paying strict attention is actually a liability, since it leads us to neglect potentially important pieces of the puzzle. That's when it helps to think like a baby.

This new understanding of baby cognition, and the peculiar ways in which babies pay attention, is also giving scientists insights into improving the mental functioning of adults. The ability to direct attention, it turns out, doesn't merely inhibit irrelevant facts and perceptions - it can also stifle the imagination. Sometimes, the mind performs best when we don't try to control it.

A recent brain scanning experiment by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that jazz musicians in the midst of improvisation - they were playing a specially designed keyboard in a brain scanner - showed dramatically reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex. It was only by "deactivating" this brain area that the musicians were able to spontaneously invent new melodies. The scientists compare this unwound state of mind with that of dreaming during REM sleep, meditation, and other creative pursuits, such as the composition of poetry. But it also resembles the thought process of a young child, albeit one with musical talent. Baudelaire was right: "Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will."

The immaturity of the baby brain comes with another advantage: utter absorption in the moment. The best evidence for this comes from brain scans of adult subjects as they watched an engrossing Clint Eastwood movie. The experiment, led by Rafael Malach at Hebrew University, found that when adults were watching the film their brains showed a peculiar pattern of activity, as their prefrontal areas were suppressed. At the same time, areas in the back of the brain associated with visual perception were turned on. As Gopnik notes, this mental state - the experience of being captivated by entertainment - is, in many respects, a fleeting reminder of what it feels like to be a young child. "You are incredibly aware of what's happening - your experiences are very vivid - and yet you're not self-conscious at all," she says. "You're not thinking about anything but what's on the screen."

But it's not just the movie theater that transports us back to a newborn state of mind, in which we're fully immersed in the moment. Gopnik notes that a number of other situations, from Zen meditation to the experience of natural beauty, can also lead to states of awareness so intense that the self seems to disappear. "This is the same ecstatic feeling that the Romantic poets were always writing about," she says. "It's seeing the world in a grain of sand."
There is more in the article, and I urge you to read it in full. But I have pulled out portions here to focus (hah! how adult of me) on the portions that are looking at how letting go of the prefrontal cortex, relaxing that adult portion of the brain in some way, brings us to a more creative, "flow" state.

The image is the same I used in the first post on "flow," a photo of Sweet Creek, from

Saturday, April 25, 2009

CIA & MilitaryTorture in Afghanistan & Iraq - It's back & it's worse

A stellar investigative report in the Washington Post today by Peter Finn and Joby Warrick details:

* Warnings in 2002 from the Pentagon against the use of torture to extract confessions; Besides obtaining unreliable information, such methods of interrogation would justify other nations in torturing captured U.S. military;

* Patterns of squelching dissent, and suppressing memos that expressed warnings of the downside of whatever the former administration wished to proceed with;

* Failing to present the cons as well as the pros of torture, and presenting torture as the only option for interrogating under the circumstances;

* Presenting the methods as safe and effective, and re-defining methods such as waterboarding as not constituting actual torture;

* Presenting the methods as a way to extract reliable information from known terrorists and thereby saving lives;

* Failing to recognize or mention that the same methods had been used by Communist Chinese operatives on U.S. personnel and certainly deemed torture in those cases;

* Failing to recognize or mention that torture victims are very likely to offer any information, true or not, in order to make the pain stop, thus resulting in very unreliable information.

The article mentions and offers a link to a PDF from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency here.

There is a related Post article by Dan Eggen about former Vice-President Dick Cheney requesting President Obama to release 2 CIA reports that are still classified in order to prove that the torture techniques resulted in useful information.

And finally, the entire stirring of this has been because the ACLU requested release of information under the Freedom of Information Act. See here for their website with very helpful links to full text of:

* Press release (original link)
* Department of Defense Letter
* Links for more than 100,000 pages of torture documents ACLU has managed to get released, from 2005-2009, and will probably be adding more.
* Link for a book, Admission of Torture, which compiles the documents and adds analysis.
* Don't overlook links on the right-hand side of the page, which include related torture links, including legal and legislative documents. A very helpful collection for the researcher.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Visit to Justice Ginsburg

Illustrator Maira Kalman has created an inspiring graphic representation of her recent visit to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that appears in today's New York Times. I found both the illustrations and the text to be enchanting. It turns out that Justice Ginsburg loves the painter Henri Matisse, as do I, and her illustrations evoke his style and use of color. One of Kalman's illustrations depicts her hotel room, which has a French feel to it. Later we learn that Justice Ginsburg has purchased some of her signature lacy collars in Paris. Kalman decides that Ginsburg has supplanted Jane Austen as her imaginary best friend forever. This feature is a lovely treat for a beautiful spring day.

New Blog: Suffolk Media Law

Hooray! A new student group at Suffolk is posting very actively at an interesting new blog, The Suffolk Media and Communications Law Society has wide ranging interests. They have posts ranging from Supreme Court cases on First Amendment cases on dog fighting videos, to Congressional Tweeters, to issues with Facebook abuse among jurors and fair use rights for news aggregators. I don’t know how much the blog will fall off over the summer – this may be a problem. But right now, even as exams loom, this brand new blog is running very hot. Take a look... It’s full of exciting new stories about the sorts of things OOTJ is always interested in!

One of the better posts is about major corporations' use of claims of trademark to intimidate bloggers who criticize them. The post has a good links and reports on several examples of the matter. The post picks up on an unusual example where a blogger fights back against the intimidation tactics. And then the writer offers a brief but trenchant analysis of the issues involved. Nice work! We hope to see more.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Legal Workshop

From Robert Ambrogi at Legal Blog Watch (and with a tip of the OOTJ hat to my colleague Irene Good!),

Is legal scholarship on its death bed? The current and former editors of several law reviews suggest it is and they believe they have a way to revitalize it. In what they are calling an unprecedented online collaboration, seven of the most influential U.S. law reviews are collaborating to launch The Legal Workshop, an online magazine featuring plain-English articles based on scholarly counterparts published in traditional law journals. Here is how they describe it:

The Legal Workshop features short, plain-English articles about legal issues and ideas, written by an author whose related, full-length work of scholarship is forthcoming in one of the participating law reviews. But The Legal Workshop does not house a collection of abstracts. Instead, it offers an engaging alternative to traditional academic articles that run 30,000 words with footnotes, enabling scholars to present their well-formulated opinions and their research to a wider audience. In addition to making legal ideas understandable, The Legal Workshop seeks to house the best of legal scholarship in one place—making it easier for readers to find the best writing about all areas of law.

The seven participating law reviews are Stanford Law Review, New York University Law Review, Cornell Law Review, Duke Law Journal, Georgetown Law Journal, Northwestern Law Review and University of Chicago Law Review.

In announcing their non-profit venture, the editors say that law reviews have been losing influence and readership in recent years. "The problem is that most law reviews make little effort to reach non-academic audiences," said Michael Montaño, a Stanford Law Review editor and one of the developers of the new magazine. "And because they still effectively help professors gain tenure -- 'publish or perish' is here to stay -- there is little incentive to innovate. But as a profession we owe it to the public to produce work that is relevant to society as a whole."

The announcement includes praise for the venture from Slate legal columnist Dahlia Lithwick. "It's really the best of both worlds," Lithwick says. "The general public can be better engaged with the latest thinking about the law while knowing that what they’re reading is serious scholarship; not just fad or opinion."
Ambrogi goes on to express skepticism that the site will actually engage the general public, but thinks it may make legal scholarship more palatable to practicing lawyers. To me, it looks like a mash-up of SSRN or the BEPress abstract feeds and traditional law reviews -- linking the online sound-bite come-on with the "read more" link that takes you to the "lite" article with a link to the full article. You get there with baby steps. Probably a good way to do it.

The "baby steps" image is from, and the caption explains it is a photo of a toddler climbing steep steps to his home in Amman, Jordan, and reminds readers of the displaced Iraqi children living there, many malnourished, waiting to return to Iraq.

Employment Issues & the Specter of a Permanent Underclass

The ABA has a book, Fair Measure: Toward Effective Attorney Evaluations. The book actually came out last August, but they featured it on their blog today, with an eye-catching come-on, asking, "Do Women Lawyers Receive Fair Treatment in Their Performance Evaluations?"

Most gender bias is subtle rather than overt, however. What appears to be a facially neutral, objective, job-related evaluation process may in application lead to lower scores for female lawyers that are not justified by on-the-job performance. As a result, many talented female lawyers receive lower compensation, lower bonuses, fewer opportunities, a delay in or removal from partnership track, or outright termination.
I was actually reminded by this of something I heard or read, but cannot find now, to the effect that unemployment claims heard by magistrates were found to be awarded very unevenly between claims by women and men. The disparity was only recognized and corrected when the claim process was transferred to telephones and an automatic system. Without conscious intent, apparently, magistrates tended to feel that women did not need the unemployment benefits and should not receive them for any number of reasons. The magistrates had enough discretion to make such findings. The system, once automated, removed the gender issue from the table, and suddenly, it was discovered that women were receiving far more benefits than they had before. (I simply cannot recall or locate where I heard or read this -- what kind of librarian am I?!)

But in the search for that info, I stumbled across something else. That's what kind of librarian I am! I'm a distractible one. This Newsweek article from April 11, 2009, about job cuts, "We Are Not In This Together." Author Zachary Karabell writes that the job cuts have not struck evenly across the demographic spectrum. Despite the screaming headlines in the ABA Journal and on this blog and others in legal areas, white collar jobs are not really the core areas where job cuts are happening. And in fact, that is why we are all so shocked by the job cuts at firms, and stunned when they even cut partner jobs, isn't it? We aren't used to having folks like us pink slipped.
The unemployment rate, now 8.5 percent, is likely to hit double digits over the coming months. (snip)

But there is a dirty secret about unemployment. We may feel united by a common anxiety about losing our jobs, but we are not all in this together. Unemployment is not a scythe that cuts equally through different sectors of society, felling white collar and blue collar, African-American and Hispanic, male and female, in equal measure. Young, minority men working in jobs that didn't pay much to begin with are suffering more than their white-collar counterparts. The unemployment rate for those over 25 with a college degree was 4.3 percent—half the national rate, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. For those college-educated and white, the number was 2.3 percent at the end of 2008, the most recent available for that demographic. On the other end of the spectrum, the unemployment rate for African-Americans over the age of 16 was 13.3 percent, and for Hispanics, 11.4 percent. For anyone without a high-school diploma, the rate was 13.3 percent. Minorities and the less educated have always suffered more during downturns, but the disparity has become more stark.

The job ax is falling hard on men in general. For men over 20, the unemployment rate is 8.8 percent; for women, it is 7 percent. In the mid-1970s, by way of comparison, the figures were nearly opposite. In today's market, the sectors that are shedding employees—construction, manufacturing, industry—have a higher proportion of male workers, many of whom do not need advanced degrees for their jobs. These industries are being hit not simply by the current crisis but by the combined effects of technology and globalization.

The unemployment statistics raise uncomfortable questions about race and economic inequities. Failure to recognize the implications of the data has serious ramifications not just for social policy, but also for economic forecasting. Such a failure can lead to faulty predictions about consumer spending, credit-card defaults, commercial real-estate prices and retail-business bankruptcies. When we portray job loss as indiscriminate, we are in danger of overestimating its economic consequences while downplaying its social costs.

This is where the discussion enters politically treacherous waters. When you consider information from the Census Bureau along with unemployment numbers, another division becomes clear: many of those who have lost their jobs weren't earning much money to begin with. As of 2008, the highest quintile of income earners in the United States accounted for 50 percent of all income in the country, while the bottom 40 percent of the population accounted for 12 percent. Unemployment is predominantly affecting those who were struggling long before the current crisis. While loss of an income can be a tragedy for those families, they were never the primary source of consumer spending, small-business creation or any other crucial aspect of economic activity.

As companies continue their move away from industrial and manual-labor jobs, and accelerate the migration to a service-based, global economy, we may find a permanent pool of millions of unemployed in the midst of an economy that is otherwise doing well. The massive spending plans may succeed in preserving better jobs, yet do little to bring back the jobs that have been lost. Obama and Congress could face millions of angry and disillusioned, unemployed men—men who are young but still old enough to vote. For now, they are placing their hopes and their faith in a visionary leader. But if they see none of the benefits of those actions, they may turn elsewhere, and the dirty little secret of unemployment will be a secret no more.
This really is not about law librarianship, is it? Except that we will see these people as they come to ask questions about law. And that we are part of the world, and interested in justice, I suppose. This permanent underclass actually has roots back at least 20 years, in my humble opinion, in the Reagan "morning in America" trickle down economic bunkum. Then, of course, it got a big push with NATO and the off-shoring of factory jobs across the country as industries found they could set up maquiladoras in Mexico and pay a fraction of what they paid in Flint or Toledo, and skip all those annoying regulations at the same time! You might be able to make arguments about it having origins before the 1980's, too. But it certainly is accelerating in the current economic crisis. I don't know about where you live, but beggars are a regular part of Boston street life. They were pretty normal around St. Louis U. when I worked there 1986-1996, too. (I found the image at, Nov. 19, 2008, but it's not attributed).

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Elizabeth Warren

When I worked at the University of Pennsylvania Law Library, I had the pleasure of knowing Professor Elizabeth Warren, a leading bankruptcy scholar, who has since left and now teaches at Harvard Law School. She is the subject of a recent Newsweek article, entitled "The Debt Crusader," describing her new post as head of the "Congressional Oversight Panel, the group that's critiquing the government's bank bailout and advising legislators on how to reform the financial system. For years Warren has been an outspoken critic of banks, and in this new job she's got her best chance yet to see her views turned into law. That's a prospect that pains financial lobbyists, who basically despise her." Why do these lobbyists hate Professor Warren? She has been an outspoken critic of the consumer credit industry for many years, believing that easy credit is at least part of the cause of the increase in personal bankruptcy. The article describes the Panel's work to date, and speculates about the direction in which the Panel might go in the future. Not everyone believes that Professor Warren is the right person to head up this group. For instance, a very critical article about the initial work of the Panel and Professor Warren was published yesterday.

U.N. opens it Digital Library

The Chronicle of Higher Education online has a brief but eye-catching note that the United Nations has opened a World Digital Library. Well, when you get there, it turns out to be more like a digital archive. It's pretty cool. It has lots of map images and photo images, a few scanned pages. It is really international. But it's not a library as I understand it, and it's not the answer to Google Book Project or any other digital library project. hmmm.

And speaking of Google Books Project, the same issue of the Chronicle has an article stating that Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive project has petitioned the judge in the Google Books Project Settlement case to be part of the settlement. I don't find the update at, but it may just be too soon for it to have been entered there.

Ephemeral Digital Archives

Most librarians are following the Google Book Settlement carefully, wondering what it will mean for long-term access to a large part of the scholarly record. This article from Inside Higher Ed will do nothing to quiet their concerns. It describes the "fate of 'Paper of Record,' a digital archive of early newspapers with a particularly strong collection of Mexican newspapers ..." Paper of Record was bought secretly by Google in 2006, and some time last year, the site disappeared. "After weeks in which historians have complained to Google and others about the loss of their abiilty to work, the previous owner of the archive has received permission to bring the archive back for some period of time, and resumption of service could start as early [as] next week." The article describes the blog posts of historians "worried about what the incident says about the availability and accessibility of key resources" and the "'fragility of evidence in the digital era.'"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hungary's Horse

The New York Times' story 4/20 about Overdose the racehorse who is carrying Hungary's heart in every race, caught my attention. My sister sent me the link, and I'm a sucker for stories like this. Tip of the OOTJ hat to Barrett Hansen.

A racehorse bought for a pittance has turned into a national hero in crisis-stricken Hungary.

The thoroughbred known as Overdose pounded down the stretch here at Kincsem Park on Sunday to extend his record to 12 wins in 12 races, his jockey clad in the red, white and green of the Hungarian flag.

And for an afternoon at least, the crowd of more than 20,000 in the grandstand and lining the rail, along with all the Hungarians watching at home, could forget about the resignation of the prime minister and their currency’s nosedive.

As times have gotten tougher here, the 4-year-old Overdose has become the Hungarian Seabiscuit, a symbol of hope for Americans during the Great Depression. He appears to remind Hungarians of themselves: undervalued and underestimated.
The tough, undervalued little horse stands for the possibility of hope, and of miracles. The image is from the Times article, of Overdose and his exuberant Belgian jockey Christophe Soumillion, celebrating a victory at Kincsem Park on Sunday. The racetrack is named for a famous Hungarian filly of the 19th century, according to the Times article, Kincsem, who retired after 54 races, without losing a single one.

Get Ready for Earth Day! 4/22/2009

Earth Day is easier than ever to link up with; you can use the Earth Day Network to look for Earth Day events near you, or by interesting keyword. They have a blog, with entries from around the world --including a cool one from Tokyo. There is a GreenPeace YouTube video call to arms. There are educational packets, and items to buy to help support programs, and links to help call Congress or your national legislative body to press them to move away from coal power. There is a strong (are you surprised?) political bent here, but it is a very informative and useful site. It's interestingly international; if you follow the link to their Ning location, you can find groups in Hungary, Bulgaria, "Greater China," and Jordan as well as locations across the U.S.

There is also the official U.S. government portal, at, which is less ax-grinding. It has lists of ideas to "Take Action on Your Own." But these are less about confronting whaling ships or calling Congress, and more about carpooling and taking public transit, recycling, learning about the issues, and volunteering. It's an interesting list. It's also all American, all the time. It's a group effort across government agencies (it says so, at the bottom of the page!).

There is a separate Earth Day page from the EPA, an agency looking for redemption in the new administration, if ever there was one. This page offers a history of Earth Day, and options in Español. There is a nice map of the U.S., with regions so you can select your area to locate Earth Day events and volunteer opportunities near you. This site also offers lists of simple things to do to to help the environment at home, work and school. It does not include things like calling Congress. But it DOES teach you how to be informed on proposed regulations and how to comment on them. I thought this was very interesting. It's not at the top of of a page. You have to click down several levels to reach it, but I applaud the EPA for educating the citizenry.

Then, there are the "usual suspects" of the environmental movement:

World Wildlife Foundation

National Wildlife Federation

Sierra Club

Greenpeace (which is referencing Twitter feeds) Cheers, Earthday, which is tomorrow!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Hybrid approach to saving newspapers?

Follow this link to an editorial in today's Boston Globe by Donald Kimelman, "A Hybrid Path for Saving Newspapers." Having been appalled by recent threats to shut down the Globe, I have contemplated a future in a large American city without newspapers. (There is a second newspaper in Boston, the Boston Herald, and it's a pretty good paper, actually. It's on the financial ropes, too, though.)

As Benjamin Franklin recognized, newspapers of some sort are important in a democracy, to keep the government honest, and to keep the citizens informed. Some kind of news outlet that is independent enough that it can't be intimidated by government pressure, and can't be bought or swayed by dollars is essential, I believe. And it needs to have enough financial backing of its own that it can underwrite some investigative reporting. The British press baron, the late Lord Northcliff once declared that, "News is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; anything else is just advertising."

A Challenge to the Goddess Test

When I last took the Godddess test, I was pleased to find that I am inspired by the spirit of Athena. I should have taken the exam discussed in John Loy's review and linked in the title to this post. I do think that I would prefer a personality test to a job interview. One of my job interviews opened with, "This is a boring job and we want a highly skilled person to supervise the copying crew." A personality test would have weeded me out from a wasted afternoon.

Access to Justice should become Access to Government

Courts, especially in New York, are the last public arena for resolving disputes. Working the reference desk, I have often wondered why I get so many questions from non-attorneys that struck me as administrative agency questions: labor law enforcement, credit collections, and housing law enforcement . Until a recent series of articles in the New York Times exposing how underfunded and understaffed labor agencies had dropped complaints and told poorly paid and unsophisticated workers to go to court by themselves, I hadn't known that government agencies viewed me and other public access law librarians as their over-flow centers. The access to justice movement, which I have criticized in other posts, might better direct its efforts to pressuring government to uphold the rule of law. AALL has done excellent work in access to government resources; we might have to start thinking about access to government.
As a librarian, I have to point out that the rule of law is more than arresting people for property crimes. When government selectively enforces laws, arresting bank robbers while neglecting mortgage fraud, it loses its legitimacy. Law librarians need to discuss how to respond to these issues.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

FBI Expanding DNA Database to Include Suspects

The New York Times article today by Solomon Moore reports on a plan by the FBI to expand their shared DNA database by including DNA samples from people arrested or detained as suspects but not yet convicted. Currently 15 states collect DNA from that class of people as well as from immigrants who have been detained. Up until now, the federal agency has been reluctant to expand collection due to concerns about Fourth Amendment "Search and Seizure" issues, and privacy concerns.

Law enforcement officials say that expanding the DNA databanks to include legally innocent people will help solve more violent crimes. They point out that DNA has helped convict thousands of criminals and has exonerated more than 200 wrongfully convicted people.

But criminal justice experts cite Fourth Amendment privacy concerns and worry that the nation is becoming a genetic surveillance society.

“DNA databases were built initially to deal with violent sexual crimes and homicides — a very limited number of crimes,” said Harry Levine, a professor of sociology at City University of New York who studies policing trends. “Over time more and more crimes of decreasing severity have been added to the database. Cops and prosecutors like it because it gives everybody more information and creates a new suspect pool.”

Courts have generally upheld laws authorizing compulsory collection of DNA from convicts and ex-convicts under supervised release, on the grounds that criminal acts diminish privacy rights.

DNA extraction upon arrest potentially erodes that argument, a recent Congressional study found. “Courts have not fully considered legal implications of recent extensions of DNA-collection to people whom the government has arrested but not tried or convicted,” the report said.

Minors are required to provide DNA samples in 35 states upon conviction, and in some states upon arrest. Three juvenile suspects in November filed the only current constitutional challenge against taking DNA at the time of arrest. The judge temporarily stopped DNA collection from the three youths, and the case is continuing.
Read the complete article, which is excellent, and has good links online. This should be an interesting controversy to follow.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

If you use Nokia cell phone for e-mail, you should know...

Thanks to Slash-dot, I ran across several pieces of information about Nokia cell phones that ought to be more widely known:

1. If you set up your newer Nokia phone for e-mail access, you have to use a wizard that demands you input your e-mail address, user name and password. The information can then leak. Yes. Read posts here at the blog, Mobilitics by Harri Salminen. Be sure to read the follow-up posts Harri has linked to there, which include a statement from Nokia.

2. Because the post about this on Slashdot included a reference and link about the "infamous Lex Nokia," I was educated after the fact about this through links and web searches. Probably the best article is one in The Register, a British online IT newspaper. There were several scandals, in 2000/2001 and 2005 about Nokia snooping in employee e-mails, looking for leaks, which I suppose means, industrial espionage. Then, in 2008, with huge support by Nokia, the Finnish parliament passed the new law, which many experts seemed to feel is unconstitutional under the Finnish constitution.

There is some controversy about whether Nokia, a Finnish company, threatened to leave the country if the law were not passed. Apparently, somebody said Nokia said they would leave Finland if they didn't get their law, but then afterward says, they never said such a thing. At any rate, the Helsingin Sanomat International edition reports here that the Constitutional Law Committee has examined the so-called Lex Nokia, officially, an amendment to the Act on Data Protection of Electronic Communications, is okey dokey. It is worth noting, that companies in the U.S. and the U.K., already have more power to look at employee e-mails than what is granted in this amendment. What is unnerving is the apparent power to push through a law in the company's own interest that is outside the constitution of the country. (of course, we can contemplate the RIAA group here, and Disney and other Copyright enlargers, can't we? and I'm sure we could come up with a few more corporations who have shaped the nation's laws to suit their corporate agenda)

Just for fun: Spring Migration Tracker once again!

It's spring migration time and for folks like me who are so hungry for spring they are walking up perfect strangers' driveways to pay homage to daffodils and crocuses, the Spring Migration Tracker at is perfect! No more worries about trespassing issues, for instance! And I can glory in spring even in bad rainstorms! You can click on the region of the country that interests you, and see what birds are migrating by the date. You can see the sweep of the rough map of the migration routes, and hear recordings of each bird. The image is a hummingbird picture from the e-nature site.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Profs sue over sham treatise has an article here about two law professors suing West publishing company for putting their names on a supplement that they said was a) not necessary and b) so poorly researched that it will harm their reputations.

An ugly dispute has erupted between West Publishing and two law professors who claim they were falsely identified as the authors of an annual supplement to a treatise on Pennsylvania criminal law even though they had nothing to do with writing it.

In a federal lawsuit, professors David Rudovsky of the University of Pennsylvania and Leonard Sosnov of Widener Law School claim that the December 2008 supplement, or "pocket part," to their book, "Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure -- Law, Commentary and Forms," was so poorly researched that it will harm their reputations if allowed to remain on library shelves.

In an injunction hearing Tuesday, the professors' lawyer, Richard L. Bazelon of Bazelon Less & Feldman, argued that West should be ordered to notify all recipients of the supplement that Rudovsky and Sosnov were not the authors and that any unhappy customers may demand a refund.

Bazelon argued that the supplement was a "sham" that offered almost nothing new to subscribers and that users of the book would mistakenly connect the poor quality to Rudovsky and Sosnov.

Over the two decades since the treatise was written, Bazelon said, the professors have routinely added about 150 new cases each year in annual updates. But the supplement published in December 2008, he said, added just three new cases and failed to take note of any of the cases that had been reversed in the past year by the state Supreme Court.

But a lawyer for West insisted that although West was not "proud" of the first version of the supplement, it has recently mailed out a new version that cures those defects and includes a revised cover page that clearly explains that Rudovsky and Sosnov ended their work on the updates in 2007.

Attorney James Rittinger of Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke in New York conceded that the December 2008 version of the supplement "didn't measure up to what our standards are," but also said that it "was not a sham."

Rittinger urged Senior U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam to reject the injunction request, saying West has already done everything the professors are demanding and that an injunction is "extraordinary" relief.

The professors have no valid claims to press, Rittinger argued, because their agreements with West clearly provide that a supplement to their book may be prepared by others.
The article goes on (it's pretty hot stuff!) about the judge taking West's lawyer to task for his tone in an earlier case, and seeming to take the same snide tone in this case -- WOW! At any rate, as a librarian who has often wondered about those supplements, it's interesting to watch from the sidelines as even the authors fall out with the publishers over their practices! Now, I have to go see if we have processed the damn' thing!

Tip of the OOTJ hat to Linda Ryan at St. John's, who posted this to a listserve!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Judith Krug, ALA's First Amendment Leader, Dies

Click here for the New York Times obituary for Judith Krug. She was the woman who helped found Banned Books week. She also led the ALA in its struggle against forcing public libraries to filter the internet for youth. And she was one of the leaders in the fight against provisions of the USA Patriot Act that would require libraries to give circulation records to the FBI.

In 1967, Ms. Krug became director of the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which promotes intellectual freedom in libraries. In 1969, she was appointed executive director of its Freedom to Read Foundation, which raises money to further First Amendment issues in court cases.

The issues have changed over time. In December 1980, Ms. Krug’s observation that complaints about the content of books in public libraries had increased fivefold in the month since Ronald Reagan was elected president was widely reported. In an interview with The Times, she said that many of the complainants identified themselves as members of Moral Majority, a strongly conservative group, but the Rev. George A. Zarris, chairman of Moral Majority in Illinois, denied there was any organized effort.

But the situation illustrated a frequent conflict in issues over library censorship. Ms. Krug pushed what she often described as a pure view of the First Amendment against what her opponents often said was the democratic will.

“What the library associations are trying to do is make the voice of the people null and void,” said Nancy Czerwiec, a former primary school teacher who led the fight to ban a sex education book from the Oak Lawn Library in Illinois.

That controversy was settled when the library agreed to lend the book only to adults.

Ms. Krug later became a leader in fighting censorship on the Internet, an issue taken up by libraries because many people with no computers at home use library computers. The question involved not just a limited number of books for a particular library’s shelves, but efforts to keep theoretically unlimited amounts of indecent material from children by means of technological filters.

In 1997, an alliance of civil liberties groups, with Ms. Krug a principal organizer, persuaded the Supreme Court to strike down the indecency provisions of the Communications Decency Act of 1996.

Jerry Berman, founder and chairman of the Center for Democracy & Technology, which promotes free speech on the Internet, said in a statement, “Her legacy rests in the constitutional challenge that secured the free speech rights for the Internet that we exercise today.”

More recently, Ms. Krug fiercely fought a provision in the USA Patriot Act that allows federal investigators to peruse library records of who has read what. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft dismissed protests about the law as “baseless hysteria.”
From the Los Angeles Times,
Director of the American Library Assn.'s Office for Intellectual Freedom since it was founded in 1967, Krug started Banned Books Week in 1982 to promote the right to read stories and express opinions without interference from censors.

"She was a force of nature, fiercely determined to make sure that censorship wouldn't triumph in the library or the larger world," said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom.

Krug worked directly with librarians across the country who were engaged in censorship battles. She enlisted allies from fields that are affected by 1st Amendment attacks, such as publishers and journalists, said Robert Doyle, executive director of the Illinois Library Assn.

"She was concerned about the gamut of expression, so that people could go to the library and encounter the full marketplace of ideas," Doyle said. (snip)

In 1992, Madonna's ode to kinky intimacy, "Sex," led to an outcry from those who felt it was too racy for libraries. A 1st Amendment absolutist who felt libraries should be allowed to carry any material that was legal, Krug defended the entertainer's book -- or at least the right of libraries to stock it.

"The book is sleazy trash, but it should be in every medium-sized library in the United States," Krug told the Chicago Tribune.(snip)

Krug once told Caldwell-Stone that the importance of her work was made clear when she read "And Tango Makes Three" to her granddaughter's class.

The book is often the target of censors because it's about two male penguins that "adopt" an unclaimed egg. When she was finished, a girl she later learned was being raised by two women stood and applauded.
Jessamyn West at has a great obit post here, with links to articles, video clips and an interview. From the John Berry editorial link there, in Library Journal, dated June 15, 2005,
She's been director of the American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) since its founding in 1967. Her service to intellectual freedom, without doubt ALA's most important cause or, if you like, core value, has been tremendous. Under Krug, OIF became one of the nation's most important agencies engaged in the fundamental work of protecting the rights of Americans to free expression, freedom of inquiry, and privacy in their pursuit of information. More than any other activity, ALA's work on intellectual freedom—including that of the sibling Freedom To Read Foundation, also headed by Krug—has captured national attention and given ALA and librarianship huge prestige throughout the world.

While that effort is laudable enough, my own respect and admiration for Krug was magnified and deepened by two encounters with her. Krug is one of the few leaders in ALA and the library profession who has been able to convince the association that it should put its money—lots of money—where its mouth is. The old ALA has always found it easy to dish out lip service to a host of causes, but when it came time to spend money—especially endowment money guarded by its Endowment Trustees as if it were their own—forget it. That money has always been next to impossible to get at or to spend. Until Krug, ALA had never before come through at such a price or for a cause as crucial to the profession's values.

It cost millions, and the victories have been sometimes simply moral ones, but ALA has fought multiple cases of Internet censorship in state and federal courts. ALA even achieved a partial victory in the June 2003 Supreme Court decisions regarding the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA). Proponents of filtering wanted total filtering on library computers, except for "bona fide research," a term that would engender endless debate. The court said CIPA was constitutional, but, in a crucial concurrence, two justices said that libraries should turn off the filter if an adult requested it. Most of the credit for getting ALA to put up more than a million dollars to take that case to the nation's highest court must go to Krug. She fought that battle with her usual vigor, despite many critics who said it was too expensive for a case we couldn't win. The legal triumph was small, but the victory for principle was huge.
So, in many ways, Judith Krug is the mother of the modern librarian's reputation. Both as a trouble-maker, and as a guardian of the public good. They are two sides of the same coin.

Tax Day Tea Party

This should be interesting. The right wing is pushing a nation-wide protest today. I don't know how well-attended it will be. I suppose I will know by the end of the day since my office is at the base of Boston Common, just below the Massachusetts State House, and I suppose I will hear the protests, as I usually do. See here for a web site about the planning.

On February 19th, Rick Santelli, via national news television, said what millions of Americans wanted to say, and he said it in a way that represented a rally call. Whether or not Rick really meant what he said is not relevant, what IS relevant is that fact that so many of us heard it, and were ready to react.

So here we are… just under two months later and looking at a Historic day ahead of us. Today we’ll be protesting nationwide in almost 800 cities. Many of these protests will see thousands of Americans pour into the streets, some will see tens of thousands.

Our estimates show that we’ll easily be in the six figures when all is said and done.

Tomorrow, April 16th, will represent a new day for the freedom movement. New leaders will come into play, new coalitions will form, new tax groups will be born, and a new energy will surround us all across the country. Tomorrow, a completely new face will be put on a movement that has suffered at the hands of attempted top down control and old school political hacks over the years. The individuals and groups that have attempted to control the freedom movement have literally been shoved out of the way by tens of thousands of Americans, and it happened in just nine weeks.

This is all because of you. People from all walks of life joined in on this effort, and the collaboration that occurred over the past month was ground breaking. There is no doubt in my mind that we would not be where we are today had it not been for 800 or so local organizers, the graphics designers, the coders, the server admins, the data volunteers, etc.

The work that went into this has been nothing short of remarkable. In fact, for me, it’s been rather awe inspiring.

So, with that said, I want to personally thank everyone for the work put in. It’s extremely encouraging to see this all unfold, and I believe that at the end of today, we’ll all look back in shock at the results of our labor.
From the Houston Chronicle,
a national movement in which thousands of people in cities across the country plan to stage Tax Day Tea Parties on Wednesday to protest the federal government’s billion-dollar economic stimulus packages and bailouts for the banking and auto industries. (snip)

The rallies take their names from the Boston Tea Party, the 1773 event in which colonists dumped tea into the Boston Harbor to protest taxes imposed by the British monarchy.

That is how many people today feel about government spending policies that have racked up trillions of dollars in debt, local organizers said.
“The message to the politicians is, we want them to repeal the ridiculous spending and the out-of -control financial shenanigans or we’re going to retire them,” said Cravens, a Katy resident and part-time teacher.

Cravens said she got the idea to organize a Houston tea party while chatting on social networks with other conservatives energized by CNBC reporter Rick Santelli’s televised rant on the Chicago Trading Floor on Feb. 17. Santelli was cheered on by traders as he railed against the government for subsidizing bad mortgages for people who could not afford to buy the homes.
And a skeptical report from Agence France-Presse yesterday:
Critics of President Barack Obama's handling of the economy are planning nationwide "tea parties" Wednesday -- and not for the sake of polite conversation.
Coast-to-coast demonstrations against Obama's big-spending economic stimulus package are promised for the day that is also the deadline for filing federal income tax returns.
Whether Republicans -- in disarray since losing the presidential election last year -- can deliver is open to question.
Pro-Republican organizers say they are plugging into widespread popular anger at Democrat-led Washington.
An even bigger claim is that the catchy "tea party" idea and heavy use of Internet tools like Facebook, YouTube and blogs signals a historic first attempt by Republicans to rival Obama's renowned e-network.
"Conservatives may be catching up with their liberal counterparts in building a Web-driven, grassroots campaign to push their agenda," the Fox News television network said on its website.
Skeptics point to Republican disunity in the wake of last year's electoral defeats and pan the protests as a skillful fake.
"The tea parties don't represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They're AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects," liberal economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman said Monday.
The protests are named after the 1773 Boston Tea Party in which disgruntled Americans rebelled against British colonial taxes, an iconic moment in the path to US independence.
This time, ire is directed at Obama's 787-billion-dollar anti-recession stimulus package and the projected ballooning of the budget deficit.
The man credited with sparking the idea is CNBC television's spectacularly loud-mouthed commentator Rick Santelli, who called on air from the Chicago Board of Trade for a "Chicago tea party."
Santelli's earlier tirade in February against government bailouts for mortgage defaulters, which he said encouraged "bad behavior," has been viewed on YouTube more than a million times.
But what makes the tea party protests stand out is the use of Web-savvy marketing, something barely seen in John McCain's unsuccessful battle for the White House against Democrat Obama.
Online sellers report a roaring trade in tea party T-shirts, bumper stickers and, of course, tea mugs. boasts a YouTube video that ends with a shot of a blonde girl wearing a T-shirt with the slogan: "Obama, get your hands out of my piggy bank!"
There's an eye-catching initiative to deliver a million tea bags to officials in Washington.
We'll see. Watch in your neighborhoods. I would not have even heard about this -- I don't have a T.V., guys, if my friendly, conservative Westlaw rep had not mentioned it. Tip of the OOTJ hat to Mark Jackson! The image is, of course, the original Boston Tea Party.

Feds warning on Foreclosure Rescue Scams

The Treasury Department's Office of Thrift Services has a great web page here warning consumers against scammers who offer "rescues" if the homeowner is facing mortgage foreclosure. DON"T PANIC! Just because you are behind on your mortgage payments, you may not be actually facing foreclosure yet. The lender will send you letters about your delinquency and offer you chances to work out payments before actually foreclosing.

It's important that you don't accept advice from a "mortgage rescue service" that contacts you. All too often, these are scam artists who will make a bad situation worse. I encourage you to read the Warning linked above. Instead:
* visit HUD's listing of approved housing counselors, by state, at

* check these recommended websites for foreclosure prevention assistance:

HOPE NOW is an alliance of HUD-approved
counseling agencies, mortgage companies,
investors and other mortgage market participants
that provides free foreclosure prevention
assistance. The site features information
about the HOPE hotline, 1-888-995-HOPE,
which is staffed by HUD-approved credit
counselors who can guide homeowners to
foreclosure options.
NeighborWorks® America at
NeighborWorks® America administers the
federally appropriated National Foreclosure
Mitigation Counseling (NFMC) program,
which was created to significantly increase
the availability of housing counseling geared
to homeowners at risk of foreclosure.
Most of all, don't ignore the problem, or avoid it. You have to deal with it. Chances are, you can do something to save your house, or at least salvage some of your equity. But don't rely on the people who call you out of the blue! Don't be one of the people we've been blogging about having to represent themselves in court or ending up in "debtors' prison!" Check out the warning page!

The new administration has launched an effort to make housing more affordable, by lowering mortgage payments:
The Obama Administration has launched a
comprehensive Financial Stability Plan to
address key problems in the current housing
crisis. A major initiative of that effort is
“Making Home Affordable,” a plan to stabilize
the housing market and help up to 7 to 9 million
Americans reduce their monthly mortgage
payments to more affordable levels.
Check the Web site at http://www.making
for further information

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This Just In: It's National Be Kind to Lawyers Day!

Did you know there WAS a National Be Kind To Lawyers Day? Kudos to Above the Law for bringing this to our attention! According to Above the Law's blog post, the day was actually lobbied for by a non-lawyer, Steve Hughes, in St. Louis. He created the day by registering it with Chase's Calendar of Events, a McGraw-Hill publication. He evidently had to fill out forms and make several efforts to convince the Chase's people that he was in earnest. You can read the interview Mr. Hughes gave to Above the Law at their blog post.

Then, he created a website devoted to the holiday.

Steve Hughes, a mild-mannered non-lawyer from St. Louis had been working with attorneys for several years in the presentation skills arena. He liked his job and the clients who hired him.

However, whenever Steve mentioned to friends and neighbors that he worked with lawyers he was met with crinkled up faces, snide remarks and sarcastic sighs. They would say things like, "Lawyers? I bet that's a treat." Or, "Lawyers? You poor thing." (Can't you just feel the animosity?) Suddenly he found himself playing defense counsel for an entire profession.

Then one day as Steve was putting away the decorations from National Bubble Wrap Day (late January) his thoughts drifted to National Ice Cream Day (late July) and then it struck him. Why not a special day for lawyers? Lawyers are just as good as bubble wrap and ice cream, in fact, they're better. Thus, the idea for NATIONAL BE KIND TO LAWYERS DAY was hatched.

After extensive planning, detailed research and countless reviews by a team of legal experts, NATIONAL BE KIND TO LAWYERS DAY was established as an annual holiday celebrated on the second Tuesday in April. This date was chosen because it is strategically sandwiched between April Fool's Day and Tax Day April 15th.

So now lawyers of every stripe can be honored and treated like regular people for at least one 24-hour period every April.

Thank you for taking the time celebrate.
The website has a number of ideas for celebrating (it's almost too late this year unless you go for belated celebrations... and they also list a number of "cool lawyer facts." It's a fun website, with a totally unexpected -- and very refreshing take on one of our favorite professions here at OOTJ! Yay, Steve Hughes!

Can you find me that red book I used before?

Librarians are used to being asked for help like this (at least we USED to be asked for help like that). Now, apparently, computer researchers are finding that people interact with webpages the same way. Technology Review reports in an April 10 story by Erica Naone that searchers are more successful looking for web pages when they combine a search with information culled from their search history information with thumbnail images. Most people find colors and images much easier to recall than words or numbers, apparently. The new tool improves the search speed for retrieving pages from web history pages and web searching generally.

Jing Jin, a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University, has developed a new browser-history tool, which she and her colleagues developed after studying how people use their browser history. They demonstrated the prototype in a presentation this week at the Computer-Human Interaction (CHI 2009) Conference, in Boston. (snip)

The researchers tested users' ability to recall Web pages and found that URLs and textual descriptions (by which most browsers organize their history) weren't as easy to remember as colors or images collected from the Web pages themselves. So the researchers' tool--currently a plug-in for the Firefox browser--lets users browse images of websites that they have visited in the past, or type in search queries that find previously visited pages.

The researchers also used the new history tool to improve Web search, by adding thumbnails from browser history at the top of Google search results. The thumbnails were selected according to the search terms that the user entered into the search engine.

In testing, the researchers discovered that people could find the page they were looking for within about a minute on average using the prototype add-on, compared with an average of three minutes using the standard browser history. The user tests also showed that people were able to actually find a given old page more often with the prototype.
The article goes on to discuss other researchers who argue over whether search history pages need to be redesigned to improve usability. Some FireFox browser versions currently cull information from search history to guess at completing the URL a user is typing, for instance. And Google's Chrome now offers a "speed dial" option with thumbnail images of favorite webpages. All steps toward improving location techniques for those troublesome humans who have always based their personal recall systems on the color of the book or the look of the webpage. That's me, by the way, library training and all!

Monday, April 13, 2009

True "Confessions"

Reading this article today from Inside Higher Ed about the "confessions" undergraduates make to reference librarians, I was struck by how similar they are to what we hear at the reference desk of an academic law library. They are also similar to the issues that the students in my Advanced Legal Research find confusing. What parts of the research process do undergraduates and law students have questions about?

1.) Students start research projects without having enough background about the topic to be able to identify keywords and terms associated with it. This makes searching both print and online sources difficult.

2.) Students can't find a periodical article in the online catalog. We hear this all the time. Many students come to law school without ever having used a periodical index. I spend a lot of time in my class teaching students how to use indexes. This seems strange to me and other librarians of my generation who used Reader's Guide in middle and high school, and then "graduated" to more specialized indexes in college. Indexes are a foreign concept to many students today.

3.) Students don't know how to find journals that aren't available digitally. We find that if an article isn't on Lexis, Westlaw, or HeinOnline, students assume we don't have it and can't get it. This is despite our efforts to promote interlibrary loan, especially to journal students. It seems that resources don't exist unless they are digital.

4.) Students fail to find enough material on their topics, so they give up and switch to another topic. Use of appropriate keywords would facilitate finding relevant materials through the online catalog or index. See number 1 above.

5.) Students can't tell why one article is considered "scholarly," and they can't tell what makes a book a "monograph." This may be easier in the law, where it's easy to tell students that most articles published in academic law review, although not all, are "scholarly." Law students are mystified by the concept of the "treatise," however. The author of the article suggests that both faculty and librarians need to introduce students to the concept of "peer-reviewed, refereed, academic, or juried articles."

6.) Students have trouble finding materials about recent events. I find this observation not entirely credible as most students read news stories online. However, as the author points out, there is a time lag "between an insight or discoery and its formal communication to others in the field," and maybe this is the stumbling block.

7.) Students don't understand the difference between a primary and secondary source. This may be a problem for undergraduates, but I think most 1Ls get this distinction, at least for legal materials, pretty early on. In my experience, it's harder for our foreign LL.M. students to understand the distinction.

8.) Students worry that they may cheat if they take references from a bibliography, highlighting "how uncertain students can be about the boundary between plagiarism and scholarly practice."

I wonder how many colleges still have formal bibliographic literacy programs in place. It seems that they are badly needed since students are graduating from high school today without strong research skills. Once they get to law school, they don't have good skills to draw on, which makes it more challenging to work with them. Stuudents and librarians seem to lack a common vocabulary with which to approach research projects. Faculty members have to be part of the solution to this problem, perhaps by requiring students to attend bibliographic literacy programs at their colleges, perhaps by having librarians come into their classrooms and making presentations at the point of the semester when students are working on their papers. We have a few faculty members who do invite the librarians in, and the quality of the papers (and the research) in those classes tends to be higher than in those classes where there is no attention paid to research skills.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Another Sign of the Times

I blogged earlier this week about the phenomenon of people being imprisoned for not being able to pay court costs and other fees. Now in another sign of the bad economic times, more people are opting not to hire attorneys and to represent themselves. The New York Times reports that as more individuals choose to handle their cases pro se, "judges, lawyers and courthouse officials across the country [are] raising questions of how just the outcomes are and clogging courthouses already facing their own budget woes as clerks spend more time helping people unfamiliar with forms, filings and fees." I assume that law libraries, especially those charged with serving the public, are also seeing more pro se litigants, but the article doesn't address that issue. Statistics are provided, although it is difficult to get reliable figures as each state's court system does things differently. Having pro se litigants before them puts judges in a difficult position. "The judge is supposed to be neutral but also has an interest in moving things along." One judge, John T. Broderick, the chief justice of New Hampshire, believes that "courts must do more to help people navigate the courts" in order to "ensure fair outcomes."

FCC Seeking to Improve US Broadband Access & Affordability

Yay! The FCC has issued a document seeking comment to "inform the development of a national broadband plan for our country."

...infrastructure barely hints at the importance of what we are undertaking. High speed ubiquitous broadband can help to restore America's economic well-being and open the doors of opportunity for more Americans, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their lives. It is technology that intersects with just about every great challenge facing our nation. [snip, snip: they survey the development of the internet and communications networks]

While all of these developments are encouraging, we have not yet met the challenge of bringing broadband to everyone. Nor have we managed to keep up with the growing demand for faster and more reliable connections for those who only have basic access now. (snip)Our goal must be for every American citizen and every American business to have access to robust broadband services. Our goal must be for the United States to be a model for the world in creating a partnership between government and industry to ensure that all citizens have access to broadband. But a goal without a plan is just a wish.

6. In the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the "stimulus" legislation, Congress charged the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration with making grants and loans to expand broadband deployment and for other important broadband projects. Congress provided $7.2 billion for this effort -- no small sum. But even this level of funding is insufficient to support nationwide broadband deployment. With this realization, the Recovery Act charges the Commission to create a national broadband plan. By February 17, 2010, the Commission must and will deliver to Congress a national broadband plan that seeks to ensure that every American has access to broadband capability and establishes clear benchmarks for meeting that goal.
There are 60 days to comment. Read the entire Notice by linking above. You may also be interested in a Pew Internet Survey showing that many people who have access to high speed broadband connections do not link to it because of the cost. Access, and quality are only two legs of the necessary plan. Affordability is the third piece. That is one reason that many people are turning to their public libraries in these tough economic times -- access to the Internet through public libraries has been sky-rocketing (See MSNBC video on skyrocketing library use, including internet and computers posted at the American Library Association website here)