Saturday, May 30, 2009

More News from the US China Conference

[Posted for Betsy McKenzie by Jim Milles.]

On the first day of the conference, a half-day, the visiting Americans sat with some of the Chinese librarians. The bulk of the Chinese librarians did not arrive until the next day, Friday. But on that first day, we had a welcoming address from Dr. Jiang Bo, Secretary General of the China Education Association for International Exchange. In that speech, Dr. Bo essentially told the attending librarians how the Chinese librarians could go about setting up their library association. It is apparent that the government is strongly in favor of such a library organization, and desires librarians to begin the work of building a cooperative profession in China.

On the second day of the conference, many more Chinese librarians came. This is a three day national holiday, the first time it’s been celebrated nation-wide. So the librarians and their families are sacrificing a good deal to attend the conference. I sat in an afternoon session in which Chinese librarians and one American librarian, Virginia Wise, participated in a series of reports on librarianship, issues, and comparisons between China, and the U.S.

One of the most interesting reports was an older librarian who told how he had visited Berkeley in the 1980's and seen open shelving. He had brought that concept back to China, where they still practiced closed shelving. At that time, library users had to look up the book they desired in the catalog, order it from the librarians, and wait for delivery. This gentleman fought hard to implement open shelving in his Chinese university, where he encountered great resistance. People argued that books would be lost or stolen or even thrown from windows. He replied that it would be better for that to happen and the books to at least be read once than sit on the shelves forever, never used! He eventually carried the day and Chinese libraries today have open shelves. Now the fight is to improve customer service. We heard a wonderful Service Manifesto that included the translated phrase urging warm hearted careness for the users.

China is engaged in reforming legal education. Since 1978, when there were only 9 law schools in the country, there have grown to be 630 schools that teach law at some level. Law is taught as an undergraduate major, as a master’s level course, at the PhD level and at the post-doctoral level. In total, there are about 500,000 students in China studying law at some level. But there is deep dissatisfaction with the preparation of these students for the demands real world practice, as litigators, legislators, judges, and prosecutors. Speakers questioned whether undergraduate law students had adequate time to achieve true professional level training before graduation. Other speakers desired more practical training. The type and rules for what amounts to the bar exam recently changed. There is evidently a very low passage rate.

As the law schools grapple with sweeping changes in education, the law libraries also confront change. Many deans and other speakers or questioners at the programs commented on the inadequate nature of the law libraries at their schools. They referred to a lack of adequate books and a lack of adequate service. Several times deans asked that American law schools seeking partners for collaboration look beyond the Beijing schools. Conference organizers are preparing a list of participants with e-mail addresses so that contacts can be made and kept up beyond the time of this meeting. People are exchanging business cards like mad, as well. There is a real hunger for collaboration and a dissatisfaction with the status quo.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blogging from the Miracle Conference

[posted by Jim Milles for Betsy McKenzie]

The China-US Conference on Legal Information and Law Libraries here in Beijing, opening today, is a miracle conference. First, the mere fact of it is a miracle. That librarians from the U.S. and China, (in fact, there are librarians here from other countries, too!), should put together a jointly planned conference, and gain support from China’s central education ministry for it is quite amazing. With the blessing of the ministry, not only most of China’s law schools’ librarians, but also their deans are attending! And many western librarians are attending – not only directors, but also reference and cataloging librarians. This is a wonderful development.

It took three years to plan the conference. Huge amounts of work by lots of people, in China, and around the U.S. went into this project. Frank Liu and Janice Johnston are the co-chairs for the U.S. side of the conference planning. Frank was working on the plans from the very inception, and Janice was on board after the first planning meeting. Janice’s work went to the key portion of fund raising. She spearheaded efforts that raised support from various publishers and vendors in the amount of about $34,000, which is astonishing in the recent economy. Another miracle!

We heard tonight about the team of translators who worked tirelessly to translate the brief biographies of the speakers and moderators, and the speakers’ handouts and papers into Chinese. This was accomplished under extreme time pressure as the speakers had to put together their notes and hand them in before the translation team could begin to work. There will be a book produced with everything both in English and in Chinese, and word is that it will look great.

And then, as time for the conference grew closer, there has been the growing threat of the swine flu pandemic. Many of us participants watched the news with trepidation, worrying that the Chinese government would shut down the conference in fear of inviting so many North Americans into their country right now. But the conference is on! We all had our temperatures taken on arrival, and filled out health cards certifying that we are healthy and haven’t been exposed to swine flu.

Registration today took off after the announced time... It was scheduled officially for 9 AM to noon, but actually occurred this afternoon. I think many of the folks running registration are student volunteers, so this probably explains the timing – after classes are over, I am guessing. These students, I believe, are the same who are providing the simultaneous translation services later. We were introduced to them at the banquet tonight for the planning committee members from both sides of the ocean.

The Americans are not worrying about irregular registration, largely because Frank Liu, the official godfather of the conference, says he’ll make everything right. And he will, as we all know. The conference has largely come about because Frank has made everything right. He has had huge amounts of help from lots and lots of people in China and the U.S., as well as AALL’s support, but I do believe that this conference is taking place because of the passion and vision of Frank Liu and Robert Hu. Without them, this would certainly not be happening. (Note: On Friday, May 28, we heard more about the counterparts in China, Dr. Zhang Baosheng of the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL) and Dr. Jiang Bo, Secretary General of the China Education Association for International Exchange. These two men, representing the university and the government interests, pushed hard to help bring the conference to fruition, and without their leadership and vision, here in China, there would not have been any success)

So, on the eve of this truly historic conference, we wait to see the next miracle unfold. We are very excited to meet our Chinese counterparts, and learn more about Chinese law schools and law libraries. From the Chinese perspective, this conference is another piece of celebrating the 30th anniversary of the entente between the U.S. and China, when Nixon came to China and the two countries established diplomatic relations.

I look forward to being able to blog and perhaps Twitter throughout this miracle conference! Right now, it is as if we are at the theater, and the curtain is just rising. The orchestra is playing the very opening notes, as the audience is rustling into quiet anticipation. The actual workshop sessions begin tomorrow afternoon. This should be the first of a series of China-US Conferences, held every two years. We are at the very beginning now.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I am waiting to see exactly how AALL2Go will work. It sounds like it might be a very nice thing for those whose travel budgets have been slashed. I had hoped it might include simultaneous access to AALL programming, but it actually sounds like it's more of a way to get the recordings quickly, maybe as MP3 files (for a fee, which is only fair). The most recent AALL Newsletter says:

AALL2go Coming to a Computer Near You

AALL's new online learning center, AALL2go, is under development and on its way. The new site will feature valuable downloadable educational content 24/7, offering you ultimate flexibility and freedom to get professional education on your schedule. Features of the learning center include:

* Online access to the AALL Annual Meeting program recordings, as well as archived Webinars, audio recordings, and video recordings, along with accompanying program handouts
* Advanced search capabilities so you can focus on key areas of interest and find materials where and when you need them
* Online profiles so you can track your individual continuing education progress

AALL2go will be available in early July with the 2009 AALL Annual Meeting program handouts. Be the first in line to take advantage of this new benefit; pre-order your downloadable Annual Meeting program recordings today.

New Hampshire Gay Marriage Stumble & Regroup

The Boston Globe reports today that the New Hampshire House rejected the bill Wednesday that would have legalized same-sex marriage, and met the condition set by Governor Lynch, that religious groups may opt out of performing services if they object. Both supporters and critics of gay marriage were stunned by the outcome. Supporters are regrouping and feel confident that they can bring a new bill quickly that will successfully pass. The article, by Brian MacQuarrie, contains speculation by Granite State lawmakers that they were missing some key votes in the chamber when the bill came to the vote.

Yesterday, Norma Love, from the Associated Press, had this article in the Globe.

Mo Baxley, executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, said gay marriage advocates are confident they have the votes to ultimately pass a bill that satisfies Gov. John Lynch's demand for expanded religious protections.

The House rejected language Lynch demanded by two votes Wednesday, but defeated efforts to kill it in hopes Lynch would then veto gay marriage. Instead, the House asked the Senate to negotiate a compromise.

Democratic legislative leaders hope to bring a compromise to a vote as early as June 3. If it passes, the bill and two already passed bills needed to implement gay marriage would be sent to Lynch for signature.

Rep. Jim Splaine, prime sponsor of the main gay marriage bill, said Thursday that advocates will use the next two weeks to educate lawmakers about the religious protections Lynch wants.

"The governor's made it clear he wants to stick to the core principles he's offered," said Splaine, D-Portsmouth. "We can do this."

Opponents pointed to the House's failure to adopt his language as reason for Lynch to veto gay marriage now. (snip)

Lynch said after Wednesday's vote he would continue discussing gay marriage with lawmakers, but the principles he outlined must be part of the final legislation to get his signature.

"He's given the Legislature language that articulates clear and strong principles," Manning reiterated Thursday

Key Republicans who switched sides indicated Thursday they're open to supporting a compromise.

"I think the votes are there to pass it and put it on Governor Lynch's desk," said Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, a Windham Republican who lead the fight for negotiations.

Amherst Republican Cynthia Dokmo, who also voted against passage, said she would like to see the bill tweaked.

"I would like to see this bill pass," she said. "It just seems to me it really doesn't hurt anyone and it helps some people. It's not going to affect my marriage."

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who also switched, argued Lynch's proposed language provides churches broader ability to discriminate than do laws in Connecticut and Vermont.

"I need something that does not send a signal to the rest of the country that New Hampshire has gone farther than any other state," said Vaillancourt.

The language the House defeated is almost identical to language in the gay marriage law approved by Connecticut on April 23 and similar to Vermont's law. Lynch proposes expanding protections for religious institutions in both laws to include their employees. He also would include an exemption for religious counseling, programs, courses, retreats and housing for married individuals.

"I think what our language does is just spell out in greater detail and clarity the religious protections," said Baxley.

Meanwhile in Maine, gay marriage supporters gathered in a park across the street from the Capitol to thank lawmakers and Gov. John Baldacci for passing a gay marriage law earlier this month.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Downturn in the legal market: temporary blip or end of an era?

An article in last week's Wall Street Journal Blog featured an interview with legal consultant Peter Zeughauser, who predicted a grim outlook for law firm hiring for the next few years:

It’s not going to be over before the end of the year. I think you’re going to see dramatically reduced offers to summer associates at the end of this summer, and dramatically reduced offers for people to come in as summers in 2010. These cuts could be very dramatic, as much as slashed by 90 percent.
This is just one of many recent blog posts and articles sounding the same note. The Fulton County Daily Report (via says "It's Time to Face It: The Big Law Bubble Has Burst":
The Big Law bubble seemed like such a safe place. What better job security than working for a giant law firm with a diverse slate of clients, a reputation as a power house and enough billable hours for a willing Cog to propel herself via a series of 18-hour days straight through her youth and into the golden years? How could a firm with such lavish offices, premium pro-sports seating and historic origins be anything but a success through even the roughest of economic times?
Major law firms across the country are laying off staff--including partners, rescinding offers to law graduates, or paying as much as $60,000 to put them on furlough for a year. However, there is still no consensus on what all this means for the future: is this just a temporary downturn, and will the law firm market be "back to normal" in a couple of years, or is this a major structural shift such that the good times will never return?

A few law schools are tentatively responding. Some schools are strengthening their practical skills programs to make their students more competitive in a tight market; a few are experimenting with co-op or internship programs in the third year. In general, though, law schools seem to be tightening their belts for the short term but assuming that things will get all better before long.

On the other hand, some of those legal consultants arguing that the law firm market is undergoing a permanent realignment or paradigm shift, like many consultants, have a financial interest in promoting a crisis mentality--all the better to convince law firms to pay for their insight and guidance.

So what do we do? Plan to ride out a temporary downturn, or begin (if it's not already too late) intensive self-study and radical restructuring for a radically different law market for the next generation or two?

So, have I missed anything?

Jim Milles here--founder and absentee landlord of this blog. Marie and Betsy are travelling over the next week, so this is as good a time as any for me to suit up and start blogging here again.

When I started this blog, I was Director of the Law Library and Professor of Law at University at Buffalo Law School. My friends already know that last December I resigned my administrative position as Law Librarian to focus on teaching and scholarship.

This semester I taught my first real law course: Law of Internet Speech. It was a small class, and only two credit hours. (UB Law has a unique "block" scheduling option: courses can be built in one-month blocks in addition to the traditional semester-long class. My course ran March and April, Blocks 6 and 7.) I was scrambling all semester to stay ahead of the students, and I'm grateful to my students for their forbearance and flexibility. For me, it gave me the opportunity to discover which areas held the most interest for me and to refine my course plans for the future.

This summer I'm studying--and preparing for four new courses next year. In the Fall I'm teaching Electronic Discovery. For the Spring, I'll be teaching a course on Information Privacy Law and a seminar on Cultural and Legal Issues in Cyberspace Law. In future Springs, I plan to replace the Cyberspace seminar with seminar on Journalism, Democracy and Law. I expect to do blog posts in each of these areas as my study and research continues.

The odd course out in the Fall semester is one I'm co-teaching with my colleague Stephanie Phillips: Religion, Spirituality, and Cognitive Science: Contemporary Establishment Clause Issues. This should be a fun change from the cyberspace and technology focus of my other courses.

It's good to be back. Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

White House Office of Administration not subject to FOIA

The best news story I could find, in the Philadelphia Inquirer, here about the Appeals Court in the D.C. Circuit ruling that the White House Office of Administration is not subject to FOIA requests, means that White House e-mails from the Bush administration are not required to be made public. (what a nasty sentence I made! sorry)

Here is a link to the opinion from the court, in the case, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Office of Administration. I had never been to the CREW website before, and it's a good one. It is full of helpful links and documents. They twitter, so you can follow them and keep up with their activities if you are interested in their projects. Twitter is excellent for this, by the way. I am following the Massachusetts Attorney General's office, and this is a super way to get early news of actions with links to their blog for more details. A very good way to get the word out.

The CREW link to their documents and reports on their project on the missing White House e-mails is here, and contains very interesting documents. There are GAO reports with details on the mail system malfunctions and losses. CNN and other news reports, letters and memos and some redacted e-mails (remember Jack Abramoff?) are there. It does not seem to include the pleadings from the case. And there is not an index or table of contents. They scanned all these documents and separated them with Appendix letters and that's all. It's a bit daunting to scroll through. Still, it's a rich resource.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

More on the Mother's Day Rant!

Well, I have gone on thinking about why I and so many other women I know have spent our married lives buying cards, flowers and other presents for our mothers in law. Despite all the talks we have with our husbands about equal sharing in the marriage, and rational-sounding statements while dating about equal rights for women, guys really are BAD about getting mother's day gifts (and Christmas, and birthday, and Hanukkah, and whatever other gifts) for their mothers. (And their fathers, too, I guess)

Little boys seem to have a special relationship to their moms. So often, it's a really close, really sweet connection. My son was not your average little boy. He is on the Asperger's spectrum. When he was little, this was not a well-known syndrome, and nobody could talk to me about my son, but he was different. But we still had this real close relationship. When he was really little, if he fell asleep, it was as if he had a chain and could pull me down into sleep with him. And he had a Mom alarm, and knew (KNEW!) if I left the room or the house. He would wake from a sound sleep immediately and begin crying. There were months and months between birth and about 14 or 15 months old when nobody else could hold him without tears and screams. That is not exactly closeness - it's dependency, I guess. But it was the foundation for a very, and continuing close relationship later on.

So how come, this Mother's Day, and all the Mother's Days since he was too old for school to involve making a gift, it's my daughter that gives me a gift or card? We are close, too.... which I treasure. But I think I need to stop giving him a pass on this. And maybe we all need to not give passes to the guys. I had a long conversation with my husband (who also fails the Mother's Day gift or card test -- both for his now-deceased mother and for me) about this. He says, it seems so false and forced. He detests being forced into giving a gift or card on time because the calendar says it's time. OK, I say, but you need to do a gift or card at some other time -- we need to pick a time.

But also, everything feels forced and false when you start doing it. Being a grown up, driving a card, buying alcohol -- it all seems forced and false when you start. You just keep faking it 'til it seems OK and real and second nature. And birthdays are non-negotiable and so are anniversaries. It does not have to be expensive. It can be a piece of paper with a heart drawn on it -- even shaky & uneven. It can be flowers from the supermarket or the yard. (BUT not the neighbor's yard!) It can be an origami bird -- my son folds origami very beautifully. Or a computer card. It can be going to a movie we both like or a baseball game, or a bottle of wine, (but not a six pack of beer!).

So, when my son comes back to town from the visit he's been having with a bunch of friends -- he left on Mother's Day (hmmf), he is in for a talking to. Part of my thinking on this is getting things ready for if he ever meets an interesting girl. The way he can get ready for how to court a girl is doing thoughtful little things for the people at home. It's all practice anyway, isn't it? But I think if we Moms don't talk to our sons about taking some responsibility, we cannot expect any change in the future. Who else is going to do it?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Sotomayor Video

The Pace Law Library has posted on YouTube a video of Judge Sonia Sotomayor speaking at the Law School's commencement in 2003. Click here to access it. Because of the size of the file, it had to be posted in two parts. Also, it was impossible to synchronize the audio and the video. I remember that particular commencement very well because Judge Sotomayor was extremely gracious in her remarks to our graduates, and also because she was accompanied by her mother, whose pride in her daughter was obvious.

Copyright Bullies

Singer songwriter Billy Bragg, writes in the that he and other musical artists doubt that the big recording companies are representing the best interests of the artists when they try to persuade governments to pass legislation requiring ISPs to shut off users who persistently download unauthorized copyrighted material. In a thoughtful essay dated May 18, 2009, titled "
Do we want ISPs to penalise our fans? The record industry wants ISPs to take action against unauthorised downloaders – but fans are the wrong target," Bragg writes

Not for the first time, we at the Featured Artist Coalition are forced to question whether the record industry is representing the best interests of artists in calling for such measures.

Stating that a "write and sue" policy will not work is an admission that the current copyright law is no longer fit for purpose in a digital age. The government has pointed out to the BPI that if it wants to crack down on unauthorised file-sharing, the law is already on its side. Fearful of the prospect of dragging their customers though the courts, with all the attendant costs and bad publicity, members of the record industry have come up with a simple, cost-free solution to their problem: get the ISPs to do their dirty work for them. They are asking the government to force the ISPs to cut off the broadband connection of customers who persistently download unauthorised material, without any recourse to appeal in the courts.

Never mind that this is a shameful attempt to pass responsibility on to another sector of industry, the question remains whether or not such measures will have the desired effect. Technology has so far stayed ahead of enforcement. Any unauthorised filesharers who fear being caught out can simply encrypt their exchanges.

Even if this proposal should become law, as recording artists we question the wisdom of pursuing and penalising our potential audience. The people who are doing the most damage to our industry are not the music fans swapping files for no commercial gain – it's the sites that are making money without paying for content that are really ripping us off.

The Pirate Bay had to be closed down, but what about the fans who use such sites to find music they cannot get legally or DRM-free elsewhere? The Featured Artist Coalition is opposed to copyright infringement, but we recognise that, if technology allows people to access music for free, they will take advantage. The next generation of music fans may no longer want to pay for music, but they are still hungry to hear it. The challenge to the industry is to find ways to monetise their behaviour.

The question is, are the major labels too wedded to their old business model to be capable of leading the next generation? It is all very well to claim that they have already transformed their business models online. Evidence suggests otherwise.

Earlier this year, British cable ISP Virgin Media was set to launch a peer-to-peer filesharing service, paid for by subscription. Research had shown that over 80% of the users of Pirate Bay were willing to pay for a similar service. At the 11th hour, the two biggest labels in the UK, Universal and Sony, sank the project by demanding stringent "anti-piracy" controls.

Clearly, some form of P2P subscription service is the way forward, if only because it provides the most convenient way for consumers to access music. Yet for the major labels, the success of such an initiative would mean the end of their control over the distribution of music. Is this the real reason why they seem determined to do everything they can to clip the wings of the fledgling digital industry before it can fly?
I urge you to follow the link to the Guardian, where you can read the entire essay and benefit from links to helpful related articles not included here.

I was particularly intrigued by the article since it was an artist calling the RIAA tactics into question. Just today, I was speaking with a surgeon who mentioned he had written a book that had been translated into Chinese -- a huge market. As I was congratulating him, though, he told me, he had been told by his publisher that there would be no royalties for the Chinese language book. It was presented to him as though it were something to do with the Chinese government, perhaps. So, I assumed that the book was produced and printed in cooperation or by the Chinese government. But when he showed it to me, it was certainly printed and produced entirely by the publisher, Springer-Verlag. Unless there is something I don't understand, I suspect that his publisher is docking the author for the costs of translation.... I told him he might want to talk to a lawyer about the arrangement. After all, don't the copyright police always tell Congress & other legislative bodies that IP is all about incentivizing creativity? Oh, maybe they were referring to accountants!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Charming Story

I found this article from the Amherst Bulletin to be charming. Sarah McKee, a newly-elected trustee of the Jones Library in Amherst, Massachusetts, recently discovered a book on her shelves, Alvin M. Josephy's The Patriot Chiefs, that she had borrowed from a public library in Arlington, Virginia in 1978. McKee, who is "plagued by a poor memory," mailed the book back to the lending library along with a check for $25. A "lifelong bibliophile," McKee worked as an attorney at the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy, and retired to Amherst with her large collection of books. She has been a trustee of the Jones Library since March, and has developed a "heightened awareness of the financial tightrope on which public libraries walk during tough economic times." The Jones Library is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area. It contains special collections of two authors who lived in Amherst, Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, and has a lovely garden in the back of the library.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Gay Marriage Updates: NewHampshire, Wisconsin

The Boston Globe's Eric Moskowitz reports that New Hampshire governor John Lynch announced that he would sign the bill making same-sex marriage legal in the state providing that religious groups objecting to such unions would not be forced to perform ceremonies.

Lynch's announcement sets New Hampshire, once viewed as a conservative enclave in a liberal region, on course to become the sixth state in the country - and the fourth in the last six weeks - to allow same-sex couples to marry. It would leave Rhode Island as the sole New England state to prohibit gay marriage. (snip)

While Lynch warned he would veto the bill if lawmakers do not add his language to the legislation, activists and politicians on both sides of the issue said they viewed Lynch's proposed language as a subtle, technical adjustment, making legalization of same-sex marriage in New Hampshire all but a done deal. The Senate president and House speaker announced quickly that they thought the changes would be made.

"I applaud the governor for keeping an open mind," Senate president Sylvia Larsen said in an interview last night. "The language that we will be addressing only improves the protections for religious organizations and individuals."

Representative James Splaine, the primary sponsor of the same-sex marriage legislation, said: "We can find a way to do that in the next week or two, and then we'll have marriage equality." (snip)

Lynch made his announcement amid a flurry of gains for same-sex marriage in the region. Last month, Vermont lawmakers overrode a governor's veto to legalize gay marriage; last week, Governor John E. Baldacci of Maine signed a similar bill after it passed his state's Legislature.

The laws take effect Sept. 1 in Vermont and in mid-September in Maine, though conservative groups there are trying to collect 55,000 signatures in three months to challenge the law at the polls.

Beyond New England, Iowa is the only state in which gay couples are allowed to marry, the result of a court ruling there last month. California previously issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples but ceased doing so after voters passed Proposition 8 last year.

Opponents of gay marriages say that their hopes for preserving marriage as the domain of heterosexual couples only lie with voters.

"Every time the citizens are allowed to vote, even in California, citizens vote for marriage to mean the union between one man and one woman," said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. A majority of the public recognizes "that the primary role of marriage is children," he said. "It takes a father and mother to create a child, and every child has an inalienable right to be raised by a father and mother."

Splaine said New Hampshire's politicians have reflected the public will. Politicians, he said, have been driven by personal stories and a critical mass of openness, acceptance, and demystification.

"Harvey Milk's advice in 1978 - 'Come out, come out, wherever you are' - was an important message," said Splaine, who came out as a gay lawmaker in 1980. "When people see that we're their friends, their co-workers, their family members, it becomes much more difficult for people to discriminate."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Bathroom Breaks at Syracuse Law

In order to crack down on cheating during exams, Syracuse Law School has instituted a new policy that limits the number of visits to the restroom that students can make during finals. According to the article in The Post-Standard, Syracuse Law School now limits first-year students to one bathroom break during exams, even during exams lasting as long as four hours. The reason for the new policy is that some students "are suspected of using cell phones or looking at papers in the bathrooms." Even more disheartening for Syracuse's administration, I suspect, is that there has been "a significant number of reports from (first-year) students alleging academic dishonesty" during this particular exam period. In addition to limiting bathroom breaks, the school has also hired more proctors; is inspecting bathrooms before and during exams; and is "reviewing computer logs to see if students have altered their answers after the exams."

Reading this story made me think of my experience during the New York bar exam, which I took in 1983 when I was around seven months' pregnant. Because of my "delicate condition," the bar examiners decided that I should take the bar at Cardozo Law School instead of at the pier, which is where it was given in Manhattan in those days. The space at Cardozo was set aside for the physically challenged, which I certainly was by that point in my pregnancy. The only problem was that the room I was in had fixed seating which could not accommodate my swollen abdomen, and I had to write in a contorted position for the two days of the exam. Nonetheless, being assigned to Cardozo was a gift because Cardozo had real bathrooms, and I was spending a lot of time in the bathroom in those days. Every time I needed to leave the room, I had to ask permission from the proctor who had to accompany me to the restroom; she then checked the restroom to make sure I hadn't secreted notes or something there. The two of us went through this drill at least eight times each day, with her apologizing to me every time for the inconvenience. It was nothing short of a miracle that I passed given the amount of time I lost to bathroom breaks. With the luxury of hindsight, I now wonder if I could have gotten extended testing time under the circumstances. It wouldn't have changed the result, but it might have made the exam less stressful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lexis-Nexis offering passwords to deferred students

There has been a lot in the listserves lately about Lexis-Nexis offering passwords to law students who have had the employment offers deferred. The deal with deferral is that the students do public service work on a volunteer basis, while the employer pays the student a much-reduced stipend (but still a pretty nice deal and certainly better than zippo!). I was offered a question & answer with one of the executives at Lexis-Nexis about this very public-spirited offer. Here is the result of the e-mail interview:

(Answers from Robert Romeo, SVP & GM Research & Litigation Solutions of LexisNexis)

OOTJ: What organizations, for instance, are the students working for that have currently signed up?

RR: We have already received several registrations from graduates as well as a number of inquires from law firms. Some of the organizations so far represented among our registered graduates include:

Exoneration Project

National Center for Refugee and Immigrant Children

Natural Resources Defense Council

Legal Aid Society of New York

UN Environmental Programme

Duke Law Guantanamo Defense Clinic

HIV law project

Michigan Human Trafficking Taskforce


OOTJ: Are the organizations always from a required list from the law firms or does it vary?

RR: We are not aware if any law firms are providing a required list or organizations. However, we are not limiting this beyond the requirement that it is an organization serving public interest.


OOTJ: Is there a time limit? Are you just doing this for a year at this point?

RR: We have heard that some law firms are deferring their associates' start dates as far out as September 2010. While the deferred associates' IDs will be extended according to the start and end dates of their engagement with the public interest organization they will be working with, we envision the time frame to be as long as September 2010 at this point.


OOTJ: Is there a limit to the amount of research the deferred student can do for the public interest organization?

RR: No, the ID can be used by the deferred associate as frequently as needed to support the needs of the public interest organization. The menu of content available includes federal and state caselaw, statutes, regulations, and law reviews.


OOTJ: Is this like extending the law school password? Same databases, printing, flat rate deal?

RR: The databases available under this program are limited to those described above. However, access is similar to law school subscriptions in that printing is free and no search charges are incurred.


OOTJ: What prompted Lexis-Nexis to do this?

RR: We are glad to be in a position to assist our law school and law firm customers during this uniquely challenging economic time. We're pleased to be able to say that Corporate Responsibility has long been a part of our culture here at LN, and this program is just one of the ways that we support the legal community's public service goals. For example, we regularly provide our law firms with a no-charge grant of research hours for pro bono service, and we support public service organizations directly with grants via our LexisNexis Cares program. LexisNexis believes that community giving is both an opportunity to play a positive role in our local and global communities and our responsibility as a good corporate citizen.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Gun Control?

A local library here in Westchester County, the Pelham Public Library, made news this week by calling the local high school when an 11th-grade student visited the library and asked for a book on gun carry and concealment laws. The student was interviewed by the police, who concluded that the student posed no danger and had broken no laws. The library refuses to explain the incident or its policies on notifying authorities about "questionable book choices."

This incident seems to me to violate American Library Association standards, including the "Library Bill of Rights," which calls on libraries to resist "abridgement of free expression and free access to ideas" and to "challenge censorship." It also violates the "Free Access to Libraries for Minors," which interprets the Library Bill of Rights to mean that minors should have "equal and equitable access to all library resources and services available to other users," and "The Freedom to Read Statement," which decries the fact that "[p]rivate groups and public authorities in various parts of the country are working to remove or limit access to reading materials, to censor content in schools, to label 'controversial' views, to distribute lists of 'objectionable' books or authors, and to purge libraries." I find it alarming that such an incident could occur in my own back yard.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Version of Kindle

Inside Higher Ed reports today on the new version of the Kindle reader that is "specifically designed to be friendlier to books and newspapers than other digital devices are." The new Kindle is larger and PDF enabled, making it more textbook friendly. Amazon is partnering with three textbook publishers (Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley) and six colleges (Pace University [at whose downtown campus the announcement was made], Reed College, Princeton University, University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, Arizona State University, and Case Western Reserve University) with the goal of incorporating Kindle into their curricula "in pilot experiments designed to test how students use e-textbooks and whether using them improves learning (or not)." I am affiliated with Pace Law School, and have to confess that I didn't know about this initiative until I read about it in Inside Higher Ed. Suffice it to say that the Law School isn't involved with the pilot, at least so far as I know. Here is a recent article from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the new Kindle reader that expresses skepticism that students will be take to it as a substitute for traditional print textbooks.

I certainly would have liked to have had e-textbooks in law school. I grew so tired of carrying around heavy casebooks that I began cutting them up and bringing to school only those sections I needed for each day's classes. I was a librarian before I went to law school, and the librarian in me hated cutting apart books. Frankly, I still don't understand what authors need publishers for anymore except marketing. If authors have access to a server, there is no practical reason why a text cannot be made available to readers either for free or for a fee. Students would have access to texts on their laptops and wouldn't need a Kindle device as well.

The Language of the Court

Our colleague Fred Shapiro, editor of The Oxford Dictionary of American Legal Quotations, is quoted in Adam Liptak's article in The New York Times on possible picks to replace retiring Justice David Souter. Mr. Shapiro "asked constitutional law scholars for memorable quotations from ... Souter. ... [and] got only four responses. One was about television coverage of the court ... [a]nother concerned the limited pleasures of reading legal briefs." Some commentators believe that Justice Souter's less than compelling writing style might be one of the factors that has contributed to his limited influence on the Court.

Legal scholars have praised Justice Souter's care, candor and curiosity. But they have said that he was, by temperament and design, a low-impact justice devoted to deciding one case at a time, sifting through the facts and making incremental adjustments in legal doctrine to take account of them. Other justices have had more impact, gaining influence through personal and intellectual persuasion.

According to Mr. Shapiro, today's Supreme Court will not be remembered for the eloquence of its justices. He goes so far as to call it "eloquence challenged," and says that Justice Souter is far from unique.

New York Law School's Google Book Settlement Web Site

Publisher's Weekly writes that New York Law School is planning a web site both to cover changes to and to affect the Google Book Settlement. Interestingly, it is funded by Microsoft.

will include discussion forums, a comprehensive archive of settlement documents and related commentary, and a tool for users to insert their own analyses and commentary on individual paragraphs of the proposed settlement. The project, dubbed “the Public Index,” is part of the Public Interest Book Search Initiative overseen by NYLS professor James Grimmelmann, an expert who has written extensively about the deal. The effort will be staffed by NYLS students and is being underwritten with a grant from Google competitor Microsoft.

A major part of the project’s goal is to solicit and display broad input on the deal directly from the public. Public interest thus far has been channeled through various groups, including the library community, who earlier this week filed comments on the deal, penned by another expert, Washington-based attorney Jonathan Band, author of A Guide for the Perplexed: Libraries and the Google Library Project Settlement.

Grimmelmann said the Public Index will respond to “the enormous public interest in the lawsuit,” offering both authoritative information and analysis as well as “a forum for the public to make their own voices heard.” That effort will include “open source amicus brief,” a wiki that will give users the opportunity to "edit and discuss" a draft of the NYLS’s comments on the deal, to be submitted to the court by September 4.

In addition, the law school will host a conference on "the law and policy of book scanning," from Thursday, October 8, to Saturday, October 10, 2009. The conference will coincide with the rescheduled fairness hearing in the Google Book Search case, now set for Wednesday, October 7, in New York City. The conference will feature a range of speakers who will discuss the public policy issues raised by the proposed settlement and its long-term implications for publishing and for copyright law, including “a series of tutorial sessions that will explain the provisions of the proposed settlement and their associated legal issues in detail.” The New York Law School Law Review will also publish a volume of essays from the panelists at the conference.
Here is a press release from New York Law School's web page, dated 5/5/2009. So far, there is no link for Public Index; the release says "later this May."

Maine OK's Gay Marriage

The Globe article here (by Jenna Russell and Eric Moskowitz) has a nice, in-depth coverage not only of Maine's governor signing same sex marriage into law there, but also the status of New Hampshire's bill (voted through the legislature and nobody knows what the gov. will do), and update from D.C.: Pelosi says Congress won't meddle.

Governor John E. Baldacci of Maine yesterday became the first governor in the country to sign a same-sex marriage bill into law without being spurred to action by a court decision. Also yesterday, New Hampshire legislators approved a gay marriage law, raising to five the number of New England states that have legalized marriage between same-sex couples and bringing the region closer to uniform acceptance.

Both states face more hurdles before couples may wed there. In Maine, where the law will not take effect for 90 days, conservative groups have pledged to bring the measure to a statewide vote. They are expected to collect 55,000 signatures in the next three months to challenge the law on the ballot in November.

In New Hampshire, Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, will have five days from when he receives the bill to veto it, sign it, or let it become law without his signature. If he does not block it, it would take effect in January 2010. Lynch has not signaled his intentions, but has opposed same-sex marriage in the past.
The Maine governor was formerly an opponent of same-sex marriage (he preferred civil unions), but said his views had evolved over time -- he no longer sees civil unions as equal to marriage. Proponents had been working on moving gay rights forward in Maine for a number of years. In 1998 and again in 2000, the legislature had voted to include sexual orientation among the classes which it would be illegal to discriminate against. In both legislative years, the effort failed in a state-wide referendum. Finally, in 2005, the law was changed to include a ban on discriminating against people based on sexual orientation.
The success of the 2005 campaign - as well as the swift recent progress of the gay marriage bill, which was introduced for the first time four months ago - followed a change in the strategy of equal rights proponents, said Amy Fried, a political science professor at the University of Maine in Orono.

"They showed real families, in real situations, so instead of a theoretical argument, it was about real people," she said.

The recent referendum battles in the state forced more gay people to identify themselves and talk about the issue, said Mary Bonauto, the civil rights project director for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, the Boston-based group that campaigned for the change. The debate made more Mainers aware of their gay friends and relatives, a powerful tool in shifting public opinion, according to specialists.

"Once people know somebody who's out, they can't have the same stereotypes," Fried said.

Supporters also traced the sea change to Massachusetts, the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, in 2004.

"Once there was marriage in Massachusetts, people could see what it looked like, and the truth emerged, that these families were not taking anything away from anyone else," Bonauto said. "Massachusetts obviously moved the conversation forward."
I was very much struck by these last paragraphs in the article. I believe that this is the key to both moving forward with gay rights, but also with all civil rights. When people know that they have a friend, a sibling, uncle, aunt or cousin who is gay, it is much harder to demonize or stereotype gays. The same also works with getting to know people of other races and ethnicities, I believe. This was one of the important achievements of busing. When children went to school with children of other races, classes, ethnicities, they (at least a bit) got to know (and sometimes befriend) them. It's much harder to stereotype, demonize and degrade a group when you know and care about somebody who turns out to be a member.


The other important change is seeing that Massachusetts has not fallen apart any faster than the rest of the nation, after instituting gay marriage. Instead, we actually got something of a tourism boost. And then things settled down, pretty much to normal. It's not a big deal any more. And now, more states are getting used to the idea and starting to agree to "live and let live." That's more like America.

GLAD (mentioned above in the article) has a very nice link on their page about the Maine success here. Their home page, linked in the article, above, has lots of other useful links. Always a helpful site.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Washington, D.C. City Council Votes to Recognize Gay Marriages

The Washington Post has an in-depth article about the D.C. city council voting to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. This is both a little step (they are not authorizing gay marriage in the district), and a big step, because now Congress and the President have to deal with the issue. It also may be a precursor to actually voting on legalizing gay marriage in D.C.

The article is an interesting read as it lays out the battle ground, with the black community largely in opposition.

"All hell is going to break lose," [civil rights leader and Council member Marion] Barry said. "We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this."

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) has said he will sign the bill recognizing same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. The council's action puts the matter before Congress, which under the Home Rule Charter has 30 days to review District legislation. The bill could present the House and Senate with their biggest test on the same-sex marriage issue since Congress approved the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

At least one GOP member said yesterday that he will try to block the bill from becoming law.

"Some things are worth fighting for, and this is one of them," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), the ranking Republican on a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that oversees the District. "It's not something I can let go softly into the night. . . . I recognize the Democrats are in the majority, but I represent the majority of Americans on this issue."

Several council members and gay rights advocates are hopeful that the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will be able to stop congressional intervention.

"I do not believe that a serious attempt to overturn the council bill will be made or will be successful," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who praised the council's decision.

But the emotional debate that took place yesterday at the Wilson Building suggests that the issue could be divisive in a city with a long history of racial tension in politics.
The article is worth a read, in part because it brings out the tensions between the civil rights aspects of the struggle and the church-based opposition (not all churches oppose gay marriage, though!). Poor Marion Barry is torn in the middle of all this, and you can see, he is nearly ripped in half between representing the majority of his constituents, who do oppose gay marriage, and hewing to his civil rights roots. Because he does, apparently recognize the issue of gay marriage as a civil rights issue. Very interesting. And now, folks, it is a hot potato into the hands of Congress. Yee, haw.

Nice timing, too, since our swans, Romeo and Juliet just returned to Boston's Public Gardens yesterday, from the Franklin Park Zoo, where they spend the winter.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Feminist Broodings as Mother's Day Approaches

How come it is that all the most progressive and stand-up women I know still have to go out in the rain to buy cards to send to their mothers in law? After how many decades of working on equal rights and making progress for women in the workplace and equal sharing in home duties, we still end up guilt-tripped into buying the cards and flowers for our husband's mother.


We know

That if we don't

She won't get anything

For Mother's Day.

And nobody should have that

Even if we don't like her very much.

The pink camellias are courtesy of

Check out the new look at GPO

The U.S. Government Printing Office has launched its new website with a slick new look. I have not explored it thoroughly yet, but it looks very nice. At a quick glance, though, it appears that it's no longer the one stop for government documents online that it once was. I guess it hasn't been that for a while. There are still a number of useful documents there, but it's not the place to go for Congressional materials, for instance. See

New Search Engines: Wolfram Alpha & Google Public Data

The Boston Globe today has a story by Hiawatha Bray, "A hungry little number cruncher," featuring mainly Wolfram Alpha.

Computers can't think, but they can count.

That's the idea behind Wolfram Alpha, a new search service that could be as much of a game-changer as Wikipedia or Google. Alpha, created by renowned mathematician, author, and entrepreneur Stephen Wolfram, uses fast computers and vast statistical databases to answer questions just as a human would - a human with advanced degrees in math.

"The goal is to see just how much of the world's knowledge can be made computable," Wolfram said.

Quite a lot, it seems. At lightning speed, Alpha serves up detailed, number-based answers about everything from algebra problems to poker odds.

"It's a compelling new service," said search engine industry analyst Danny Sullivan. "It's very much one to watch."

A few Internet mavens have even suggested Alpha could threaten Google's dominance in Internet search.

Wolfram scoffs at such talk, saying that Alpha is a supplement to traditional search, not a substitute. He's interested in partnering with other search companies, though he wouldn't name names.

Google is exploring similar ideas. On the same day last week that Wolfram demonstrated Alpha at Harvard Law School, Google launched its new Public Data service, which automatically responds to questions about US unemployment or population with graphs generated from the government's statistical databases.

Google Public Data isn't nearly as versatile or powerful as Wolfram Alpha. And unlike Alpha, it didn't grow out of a theoretical quest to make machines think. Google project manager Ola Rosling had a much simpler goal: "Democratizing the access and usefulness of public data, by making it easy to find and use."

Rosling said Google's launch wasn't an attempt to step on Wolfram Alpha's debut. But he said Google plans to make Public Data more like Alpha, enabling it to crunch numbers into practical information for everyday use. "We're definitely on the same side of the street," Rosling said. "But the street is pretty long and pretty broad."

For now, Google Public Search is rudimentary. Users who type queries like "unemployment in Massachusetts" see a graph at the top of the page. Clicking on it provides a more detailed view of the data, as well as links to let you compare Massachusetts to other states and break out the numbers by county.

But Wolfram Alpha, which will be available for public use later this month at, offers detailed, math-based responses to a huge variety of questions. To Wolfram, anything that can be expressed as a set of numbers is a computable problem. So he and his colleagues have filed away vast amounts of numerical data on a host of subjects. Alpha uses these numbers to generate practical information for scientists, business people, or anybody else.

Type "International Space Station" into Google, and you will be directed to millions of pages of information about the orbiting science lab. Type the same query into Wolfram Alpha, and you will get a map of the station's precise location over Earth at the moment you typed your query. It will also tell you the next time the station will pass over Boston. It's all calculated instantly from statistics provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Apart from Alpha's knack with numbers, the service is good at analyzing a user's questions and surmising what he is looking for. (snip)

But Alpha is a long way from perfect. Vast amounts of useful data are nowhere to be found. (snip)

Wolfram admits Alpha is still relatively ignorant. His team of developers is constantly adding statistical databases to expand the range of the service.

He's also still trying to figure out how to make money from Alpha.

Wolfram said a basic version of the service will always be free, perhaps with advertising support or a corporate sponsor.

In addition, he's planning a paid subscription version that will offer advanced features, such as the ability to download statistical data directly into a desktop spreadsheet program.

Wolfram has no interest in selling the business to Google or any other company that might use Alpha technology to enhance its own search offerings.

"My goal is to make this an authoritative source for knowledge on the Web," he said. "I fully expect to be working on developing this for decades to come."

The Wolfram Alpha search engine should definitely be on librarians's bookmarks as a tool when it becomes available to the public. And here is a nice video and blog post explaining how to use the Google Public Data feature in the Google search engine.
We just launched a new search feature that makes it easy to find and compare public data. So for example, when comparing Santa Clara county data to the national unemployment rate, it becomes clear not only that Santa Clara's peak during 2002-2003 was really dramatic, but also that the recent increase is a bit more drastic than the national rate. (there are images on the page -- go and see it; I'm extracting some text to make it clearer that this is a widget on a regular Google search)

If you go to and type in [unemployment rate] or [population] followed by a U.S. state or county, you will see the most recent estimates.

Once you click the link, you'll go to an interactive chart that lets you add and remove data for different geographical areas.
In both search engines, they plan to keep adding more. They are searching existing data sets that have been gathered over decades (or longer) by lots of organizations, government agencies and more. These are tools to make the mountains of data more easily accessible to searchers on the web and more easily digestible through visual aids such as graphs and charts. Pretty wonderful aids!

Monday, May 04, 2009

A Different Take on Supreme Court Appointments

Rumors are swirling about possible picks for the Supreme Court seat about to be vacated by Justice David Souter. Conventional wisdom says that the pick will probably be a woman, given the Court's blatant lack of gender diversity. The pick will probably also have served as a federal appellate judge since that has been the career path of most recent appointees. University of Maryland School of Law Professor Sherrilynn Ifill, however, advocates a different approach. In her article, Professor Ifill argues that the current justices are "representative of a very narrow slice of the [legal] profession." Missing from the ranks of possible appointees are "[s]tate court judges, full-time law professors, former criminal defense attorneys, even civil practice trial lawyers ..." She believes that the unique perspective of those who understand what it takes to prepare and put on a case are lacking among those who sit on the Court today. While racial and gender diversity is important, so is professional diversity. Professor Ifill makes an interesting argument that I have not heard anyone else make. It is useful to remember that some of our greatest justices had not been federal appellate court judges before their appointment to the Supreme Court. For example, Justice William Brennan was serving on the New Jersey Supreme Court at the time of his appointment, and Justice Felix Frankfurter was teaching at Harvard Law School.

Google Book Settlement - A terrific analysis

Tip of the OOTJ hat to Kathleen Vanden Heuvel for pointing us to a wonderful and powerful analysis of what is wrong with the Google Book Settlement. Professor Pamela Samuelson (the Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law and Information at the University of California, Berkeley, as well as a Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology and an advisor to the Samuelson High Technology Law & Public Policy Clinic at Boalt Hall), writes as a guest blogger at Radar O' today, "Legally Speaking: The Dead Souls of the Google Book Settlement."

I love the literary twist she gives her title, playing off the similarity of the name, Google, to the Russian author Gogol. And she ties in the plot line of Gogol's novel, Dead Souls, wherein a schemer tries to leverage the value of dead serf's titles which he bought up since the last census to make himself a wealthy man. Serfs were called souls, hence the title. The character's plot comes apart as word gets out that all his stock of souls are dead... But Prof. Samuelson sees a parallel between Gogol's story and Google's scheme.

A huge component of the Google Book Settlement is the orphan books component. Where the author is dead or cannot be located, and no current owner of the copyrights can be identified, the book in question is an "orphan work." The Settlement creates a Book Rights Registry to collect money from ads viewed for each use of any work, and to distribute the money according to the Settlement agreement. Google keeps some, the BRR keeps some for overhead, and then a bit goes to the copyright owner if they can be identified. In the case of orphan works, however, things get, well, strange. Furthermore, Prof. Samuelson raises the question, how was the Settlement negotiated? There were only a handful of authors or their representatives involved. And those tended not to be the academic sorts who were largely on the shelves of the research libraries scanned for the Google Book Project. These were mystery writers, for instance, and publishers of textbooks. Hmm.

Even more upsetting is the fact that the folks running the Book Rights Registry are Copyright extremists. The head of the Authors Guild, as Prof. Samuelson points out, was the one who led the charge to prevent Amazon from leaving the Kindle set so it would read books aloud. This would have let visually impaired users use the Kindle to access books in a simpler way. But the Authors Guild claimed that it impaired authors rights in their secondary market of books on tape (now on CDs I guess, but I think it may be a Trademarked name). You can see the mindset at work.

I recommend you read this short and accessible article in full. It is terrific and thought provoking. Here is a snippet to lure you in:

If asked, the authors of orphan books in major research libraries might well prefer for their books to be available under Creative Commons licenses or put in the public domain so that fellow researchers could have greater access to them. The BRR will have an institutional bias against encouraging this or considering what terms of access most authors of books in the corpus would want.

In reviewing the settlement, the judge who is supposed to consider whether the settlement is “fair” to the classes on whose behalf the lawsuits were brought. He may assume the settlement is fair because money will flow to authors and publishers. But importantly absent from the courtroom will be the orphan book authors who might have qualms about the Authors Guild and AAP as their representatives.


In the short run, the Google Book Search settlement will unquestionably bring about greater access to books collected by major research libraries over the years. But it is very worrisome that this agreement, which was negotiated in secret by Google and a few lawyers working for the Authors Guild and AAP (who will, by the way, get up to $45.5 million in fees for their work on the settlement—more than all of the authors combined!), will create two complementary monopolies with exclusive rights over a research corpus of this magnitude. Monopolies are prone to engage in many abuses.

The Book Search agreement is not really a settlement of a dispute over whether scanning books to index them is fair use. It is a major restructuring of the book industry’s future without meaningful government oversight. The market for digitized orphan books could be competitive, but will not be if this settlement is approved as is.
I only hope Judge Denny Chin reads the post!

RSS Feeds from the Library Congress: Thomas & More

You can now keep up with federal legislation through the Congressional Record Daily Digest on an RSS feed from Thomas! See the Library of Congress list of RSS feeds available here. Besides the Thomas feed here are some that will probably be faves for the OOTJ crowd:

Copyright Office:

Legislative Developments
Federal Register Notices
NewsNet (deadlines for comments, hearings, etc.)
What's New (alerts on Copyright Office website postings)

Law Library of Congress:
Global Legal Monitor
Legal Research Reports

For Librarians
L.O.C. Classification Weekly Lists
L.O.C.S.H. Weekly Lists

But scroll around the site, too. There are lots of fun things, as always at the Library of Congress! There is Poetry and Science and History and Folklife and Photographs. So visit the RSS list and stroll around for yourself. Even if you don't want the RSS feed, at least feast your eyes on all the cool stuff at our national library!

Handy Bookmarklet!

Just a cool little tool to make the web nicer and more readable:

Readability from Arc90 Lab.

A bookmarklet is a little piece of script that tells the computer how to do something additional. In this case, you can control how the font appears and how large; you control the size of the margins as well. These functions add a huge amount to the readability of the web pages you visit.

The name, bookmarklet, tells you how you make it work. You either save it as a bookmark, or drag it into your web browser's toolbar. Then, when you visit a web page where you want to use it, click on the Readability bookmark up there, and choose how you want to force to page to appear. Yay!

For other bookmarklets of extreme usefulness, visit You can browse through their ever-growing list, for Windows, Mac, Unix, and more. More than 150 are available. One of my favorites:

Page Freshness (there is a version for frames and without)- shows how recently the page was updated. This is very useful since the major browsers no longer have a function that displays this information.

Pay attention to the browser information. If you use Firefox, Bookmarklets may not be so helpful as I did not find any that were compatible with the current Firefox version.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Google Maps' Historic Maps of Japan Stir Up Trouble

The Boston Globe has an A.P. story by Jay Alabaster here about Google Maps. They posted a set of wood cut maps of feudal Japan, already available on other websites. But somehow, being on Google maps, as a layer feature, seems different.

The maps date back to the country's feudal era, when shoguns ruled and a strict caste system was in place. At the bottom of the hierarchy was a class called the "burakumin," ethnically identical to other Japanese but forced to live in isolation because they did jobs associated with death, such as working with leather, butchering animals, and digging graves.

Castes have long since been abolished, and the old buraku villages have largely faded away or been swallowed by Japan's sprawling metropolises. Today, rights groups say the descendants of burakumin make up about 3 million of the country's 127 million people.

But they still face prejudice, based almost entirely on where they live or their ancestors lived. Moving is little help because employers or parents of potential spouses can hire agencies to check for buraku ancestry through Japan's elaborate family records, which can span 100 years.

An employee at a large, well-known Japanese company who works in personnel and has direct knowledge of its hiring practices, said the company actively screens out burakumin job seekers. "If we suspect that an applicant is a burakumin, we always do a background check to find out," she said. She agreed to discuss the practice only on the condition that neither she nor her company be identified.

Lists of "dirty" addresses circulate on Internet bulletin boards. Some surveys have shown that such neighborhoods have lower property values than surrounding areas, and residents have been the target of racial taunts and graffiti. But the modern locations of the old villages are largely unknown to the general public, and many burakumin prefer it that way.

Google Earth's maps pinpointed several such areas. One village in Tokyo was clearly labeled "eta," a now strongly derogatory word for burakumin that literally means "filthy mass." A single click showed the streets and buildings that are currently in the same area.

Google posted the maps as one of many "layers" available via its mapping software, each of which can be easily matched up with modern satellite imagery. The company provided no explanation or historical context, as is common practice in Japan. Its basic stance is that its actions are acceptable because they are legal, one that has angered burakumin leaders. (snip)

Printing such maps is legal in Japan. But it is an area where publishers and museums tread carefully, as the burakumin leadership is highly organized and has offices throughout the country. Public showings or publications are nearly always accompanied by a historical explanation, a step Google did not take.

Matsuoka, whose Osaka office borders one of the areas shown, also serves as secretary general of the Buraku Liberation League, Japan's largest such group. After discovering the maps last month, he raised the issue to Justice Minister Eisuke Mori at a public legal affairs meeting on March 17.

Two weeks later, after the public comments and at least one reporter contacted Google, the old Japanese maps were suddenly changed, wiped clean of any references to the buraku villages. There was no note made of the changes, and they were seen by some as an attempt to dodge the issue quietly.

"This is like saying those people didn't exist. There are people for whom this is their hometown, who are still living there now," said Takashi Uchino from Buraku Liberation League headquarters in Tokyo.
However, erasing the burakumin designations of the neighborhoods disturbs me as well. It is not my fight, but it smacks of the New Speak in George Orwell's dystopian novel, 1984, in which the government simply changes history to match its current needs. I wrote earlier about my discomfort over my home state of Kentucky and its beautiful state song, "My Old Kentucky Home." This song by Stephen Foster, was published in 1853, when slavery was legal, and Kentucky was a slave-holding state, at least in the central portion where plantations made economic sense. It was made the state song of Kentucky in 1928, many years before our sense of racial equality began to be more widely held, or at least reflected in public speech. The song is sort of cemented as the state song because it is so tradition-bound to the Kentucky Derby (which just ran). But, some of the lyrics make modern people cringe, so many people have changed some of the more politically incorrect verses. We may be removing the discomfort today, but we are also whitewashing the evidence of our racist past. We should not try to erase our history or re-write it to suit our convenience or sensibilities. This seems to me a very dangerous course, whether in Kentucky racial politics or in Japan caste history.

However, it seems that Google missed a major step that is taken by museums an others in exhibiting the historic maps by including some explanatory text along with the label. It is, I suppose, a bit like saying, "no offense intended," or holding up a sign that says, "for educational purposes" when you display Huckleberry Finn. This is an interesting thing to remember when any entity ventures into foreign territory -- we develop a tone deafness when we are operating in an unfamiliar culture. It would be wise to check carefully with some local consultants who work with similar material!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Scalia and Privacy

Wow! Justice Scalia does not do humor, does he? Or irony, either. See a delicious collection of links and dish at Above the Law here. Justice Scalia had spoken at a privacy conference hosted by the Institute of American and Talmudic Law, and reported at Concurring Opinions here. The justice was reported as being untroubled by privacy issues:

Scalia said he was largely untroubled by such Internet tracking. "I don't find that particularly offensive," he said. "I don't find it a secret what I buy, unless it's shameful."

He added there's some information that's private, "but it doesn't include what groceries I buy."

Data such as drug prescriptions probably should be protected, he said, suggesting areas off-limits to data gatherers could simply be listed for legal purposes.
And that is why, according to Above the Law, Fordham Law Professor Joel Reidenberg assigned his class on information privacy to create a dossier on private information about Justice Scalia and his family. The students were amazingly resourceful and managed to produce quite a dossier (online, but password protected -- that's what university counsel are good for!).

Prof. Reidenberg, like any proud teacher, sent Justice Scalia a copy of the dossier (or maybe the interfering busybodies at Above the Law clued Scalia in on the dossier -- the post is not clear!). At any rate, the justice was not amused.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Justice Souter announces retirement

The A.P. article, The Best Job in the Worst City, by Michelle Salcedo, is a nice, short profile, and was one of the earliest filed reports on Justice Souter's announcement that he is retiring. From, Political Intelligence column, a nice bit of speculation on the replacement by Foon Rhee here. A bonus, if you follow the link, is a video of NECN's (New England Cable News Network) report on Justic Souter's retirement.

What kind of jurist will President Obama look for to replace David Souter on the Supreme Court?

Based on what he said as a candidate, perhaps someone very much like Souter, at least in a more moderate, restrained judicial philosophy.

While the president was rather circumspect during the campaign, he did suggest he would like those with real world experience and empathy for the vulnerable, possibly expanding the pool of candidates beyond the usual farm team of federal appeals court justices. (All nine justices now are former federal appeals court judges.)

In an interview with the Detroit Free Press editorial board last October, he praised Souter and Justice Stephen Breyer as "very sensible judges. They take a look at the facts and they try to figure out: How does the Constitution apply to these facts? They believe in fidelity to the text of the Constitution, but they also think you have to look at what is going on around you and not just ignore real life.

"That's the kind of justice that I'm looking for," he continued on. "Somebody who respects the law, doesn't think that they should be making the law, but also has a sense of what's happening in the real world and recognizes that one of the roles of the courts is to protect people who don't have a voice."

He added that the "special role" of the court is to protect "the vulnerable, the minority, the outcast, the person with the unpopular idea."

"We need somebody who's got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it's like to be a young teenage mom," Obama said at a Planned Parenthood conference in 2007. "The empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that's the criterion by which I'm going to be selecting my judges."

In the Detroit interview, while he also praised the more liberal Earl Warren, William Brennan, and Thurgood Marshall as "heroes of mine," he added, "that doesn't necessarily mean that I think their judicial philosophy is appropriate for today."

Obama went on to say that while activist judges were needed to "break that logjam" on racial discrimination, he wasn't sure the same was needed today. "In fact, I would be troubled if you had that same kind of activism in circumstances today."
This UPI report speculates that Obama may select Judge Sonia Sotomayor, an experienced Hispanic judge from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Another possibility is Diane Wood, a federal judge in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and former colleague of the President from Chicago. The UPI article also mentions former Harvard Law dean Elena Kagan as a possible Justice, but discounts her chances because she is doing such a good job where she is, as solicitor general (isn't that the way of the world?).

I will miss having Justice Souter at the Court. Despite being nominated by Republican President George H.W. Bush, he was a very solid, sensible voice and to me, seemed middle of the road (does that tell you something about my politics?) Good luck, Mr. Souter! I hope you don't have to wait too long.

This nice photo of Justice Souter is from where they include a very nice brief c.v. of the justice as well.

Google Books Settlement May be Hitting Trouble

The New York Times reported here yesterday that the Google Books settlement has attracted interest from the Justice Department, who are starting to wonder whether it violates antitrust principles. (you think?)

It also reports that the judge, Denny Chin, has ordered the settlement will be delayed another four months at the request of authors, who want more time to consider the terms of the settlement. The original deadline of May 5 will now be extended into September.

Library Journal has a brief statement about it here, with a very helpful and wide-ranging set of links here.