Thursday, March 31, 2011

New App for Shelfreading

Shelfreading is like dusting--no one wants to do it, but it has to be done. Now, however, a new Android app may make shelfreading a breeze. The brainchild of the Miami University Augmented Reality Research Group, the app "'reads' a bookshelf, and with an AR overlay, quickly flags those books that are misplaced. It will also point to the correct place on the bookshelf so the book can easily be re-shelved correctly." This description comes from Audrey Watters' post on the ReadWriteWeb blog. The post includes a video of Professor William "Bo" Brinkman demonstrating how shelfreading would work using the app. Professor Brinkman makes the point that the app won't work well for thin books as they would be difficult to tag. In addition, at the moment the "prototype only uses 16 bits on the tag, but Brinkman says the group is working on a version that would allow them to put around 72 bits on a tag, allowing the system to scale up to work with any library collection." Professor Brinkman says the app would also facilitate doing inventories of library collections. The app will be demonstrated at the ACRL conference on Saturday, April 2.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Criminal Justice System Gone Awry

Professor Brandon L. Garrett's sobering article, "Getting guilty right," published in the Boston Globe on March 28, presents the results of his study of 250 erroneous convictions using court records and archives housed at the Innocence Project. Garrett's book, Convicting the Innocent: Where Criminal Prosecutions Go Wrong, will be published in April, and expands on the conclusions he reaches in his Globe article.

Garrett uses the example of Neil Miller, wrongly convicted of a 1989 rape, to draw attention to the shortcomings of the criminal-justice system. By the time a new DNA test was performed thanks to the work of attorneys from the Innocence Project, Miller had served almost ten years in prison for a crime he did not commit. What went wrong in Miller's case? The DNA evidence in his case was not conclusive, and the "photo arrays" shown to the victim were handled in a "suggestive way." The victim did not positively identify Miller as her attacker until she saw him in the courtroom where it "was obvious that he was the suspect in her case." What did the jury see? "A victim pointing confidently to Neil Miller in the courtroom and declaring that he had attacked her." Conviction was a foregone conclusion.

Garrett discusses the methodology of his study:

In each case, the trial record can be read like a kind of airline accident report, a set of clues that points to what sent an innocent person to jail and let the real culprit go free. To amass the first systematic record of how these false guilty verdicts were reached, I located more than 200 trial transcripts, together with plea hearings, police reports, and judicial decisions in the cases of the first 250 convicts freed by DNA tests from 1989 through early 2010. With the help of law student research assistants, I then combed through the voluminous records. The results suggest real cause for concern about the accuracy of types of evidence that our courts routinely rely upon. Time and again, certain things went wrong, starting in the early stages of a case and later shaping what happened in the courtroom: the way eyewitness testimony was elicited, the reliability of forensic evidence, the handling of interrogations, and the way the investigations themselves were conducted.

He urges the American law-enforcement system to "learn from its mistakes ... to make things better." Garrett makes specific suggestions on how police can ensure the accuracy of eyewitness testimony and avoid false confessions, some of which come after the individual endured "high-pressure interrogation tactics over many hours." Garrett urges police to record entire interrogations and cautions against reliance on forensic evidence that may "sound scientific but actually depend on subjective judgment." Until the science has been improved, "judges need to carefully scrutinize forensics in their courtrooms." He ends on a hopeful note:
The costs of these wrongful convictions are now clear, as are the benefits of adopting reforms. A decade ago, only a handful of states had relaxed the strict rules that limited convicts’ ability to reopen their cases for new DNA testing, and now all but two states have done so. A decade ago, few police departments videotaped interrogations, and now over 750 do so. It took years to exonerate these innocent people and to understand what these cases can teach us about how to make our criminal justice system more accurate. Slowly but surely in reaction to these troubling cases, we are beginning to see the stirrings of a criminal procedure revolution.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bentham Project Revisited

In a blog post last December, I discussed the University College London's Transcribe Bentham Project, an experiment in crowdsourcing whose goal was transcription of the unpublished manuscripts of Jeremy Bentham. All the work was going to be done by volunteers, with their submissions being vetted by paid research associates. Now it looks as if the future of the project is in doubt. According to a post in the Wired Campus blog of the Chronicle of Higher Education, lack of funding is going to cause "scholars to scale back [the] groundbreaking project ..." The government grant that paid for computer programmers, photography, and research associates is coming to an end, and private money needs to be found to keep the project going. The research associates were a vital link between the project and the volunteers, and once they are gone, the links will begin to break down. The director of the project, Philip Schofield, acknowledged that relying on volunteers was risky; some were put off by the difficulty of the undertaking, and bailed out after transcribing one or two documents. Mr. Schofield thinks that "one way to overcome that problem might be to use the crowdsourcing model in an entity like a museum ... which would already have an established community interested in its work."

Darnton on Digital Libraries

The New York Times Opinion pages of March 23, 2011 carried an essay from Robert Darnton, the Harvard Librarian, "A Digital Library Better Than Google's." In response to Judge Denny Chin's rejection of the Google Book Settlement, Darnton revisits the dream of Google Books - a vast digital library, which makes available freely to anyone with a computer and internet connection, the literature of the world.

Darnton gives a nice precis of the action up til now: The Authors' Guild, representing a mere 8,000 members, proposed to sue Google for infringement of copyright. Google, which could have defended its actions as fair use, elected instead to negotiate a settlement agreement. This was what eventually went before Judge Chin, in a much-amended version, which...

divided up the pie. Google would sell access to its digitized database, and it would share the profits with the plaintiffs, who would now become its partners. The company would take 37 percent; the authors would get 63 percent. That solution amounted to changing copyright by means of a private lawsuit, and it gave Google legal protection that would be denied to its competitors. This was what Judge Chin found most objectionable.
Other objections were that other authors (and illustrators as well), who were not represented by the Author's Guild, did not like the agreement's terms, and wished to negotiate their own terms. But the Agreement covered everybody, unless they specifically contacted Google to opt out. Instead of correcting past problems, the Agreement set into stone the development of digital books in the future, according to many critics. For example,
the question of orphan books — that is, copyrighted books whose rightsholders have not been identified. The settlement gives Google the exclusive right to digitize and sell access to those books without being subject to suits for infringement of copyright. According to Judge Chin, that provision would give Google “a de facto monopoly over unclaimed works,” raising serious antitrust concerns.
Judge Chin invited the parties to rewrite the Settlement Agreement. Darnton, at Harvard, is part of a group that is thinking of ways to create a noncommercial alternative to the Google commercial model that is currently proposed. How to fund such a thing is a puzzle, but Darnton suggests, for example, a coalition of foundations working with a coalition of research libraries. He hopes that Congress would pass a bill exempting orphan works from copyrights for noncommercial purposes in a truly public library.

As examples of public digitization efforts that have succeeded, Darnton offers the Knowledge Commons and the Internet Archive which between them have digitized several million books. He also cites efforts in several countries to digitize completely the national library. This includes France, the Netherlands, Australia, Finland and Norway. He hopes that Google itself might donate its digitized trove to such an effort. It cannot hurt to ask, and the idea is an exciting one. While the current management at Google is good-hearted and public-spirited, there is certainly no guarantee that this will always be the case.

Who Owns Sunlight?

I had never thought about who owns sunlight until I read an interview with Professor Stuart Banner of UCLA Law School. Professor Banner has recently published a book, American Property: A History of How, Why, and What We Own, which, according to the publisher's blurb, is the "first comprehensive history of property in the United States." Banner's central thesis is that the nature of property has changed over time, and was once linked to ownership of tangible things. This is not so today, when ownership of intangibles such as ideas, HTML code, genetic material, artistic styles, and methods of making traditional medicinal remedies is accepted. Banner asserts that notions about what is property have been changing for centuries.

The nature of property, he argues, has been shifting for centuries, as society and technology change. Some types of property have vanished, like commons laws that stretch back to the first North American Colonies, while new ones have emerged, like ownership of the airwaves.

Banner is careful to point out that, through all those shifts, the real constant hasn't been what property is or how you can prove ownership, but what our property does for us. Our modern social definition of property ... took shape around the turn of the 20th century as a "bundle of rights." It has since evolved into a "set of relationships" among people, businesses, the state, and the land.

Banner uses sunlight to illustrate the notion of property as a bundle of rights. Elevated train lines that were built in some cities blocked the sun from buildings that abutted the lines. The buildings' "owners ... stated that it was an infringement of their property rights" to have the sunlight taken away, and they sued, in many cases successfully. The idea that the owners had a property interest in the right to receive sunlight would have been unthinkable a generation earlier.

Asked about the "burgeoning issues in property law," Banner pointed to the "use of aspects of traditional culture, art forms, medicine." Specifically, "Australian Aboriginal art with the lines and dots" is "traditional artistic style that groups came up with over long periods of time, so now groups are litigating for that style to be property of that people."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Alternative to Google Books: Hathi Trust signs Summon as search engine -

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that HathiTrust has made its large library of digital texts searchable by signing an agreement with Summon, a library-specific search engine produced by Serials Solutions. Indeed, if you click on the HathiTrust link, you will see that they now offer catalog and full text searches, as well as browsing on their site.

Looking at the Search tips, they offer phrase searches in both the catalog and full text searches. They offer wild card searches, for both single and multiple characters, ONLY in the catalog search. They allow Boolean searching, with AND, OR, and NOT searches in both catalog and full text searches. You can also search subsets of books in full text searching. So you can select to search a private collection of books, for instance, in the full text search. There is advanced searching in the catalog search only, so far. They say they are "exploring" advanced search for the full text option. You cannot search non-text material, such as graphs or illustrations. There are much more details on searching, especially surrounding foreign language works.

If you are affiliated with a library that is part of the HathiTrust, you can get the entire text of a book that is in the public domain by searching HathiTrust. If you are not affiliated with such a library, what you get is a single page with your terms. If, however, the book is in the Google Books collection, you can go from the HathiTrust search on into GoogleBooks, and get it there. This information is provided at the HathiTrust Search Tips site under Printing/Downloading. They also remind users that they can locate many of the items in physical form in the libraries near them or by inter-library loan through those libraries. HathiTrust would like feedback from users who find problem pages, or otherwise have comments on the service.

The GoogleBooks Settlement which recently was rejected by the judge in the case, would have allowed the HathiTrust to post snippets of text along with search results, according to the Chronicle article. But the HathiTrust search results now will only display the page or pages of the document on which the search term appears. You can select the result, and retrieve the page or pages, and the term will be highlighted in a certain format. You can see either a "page view" which is like a PDF of the page, or a text view, where they will add the highlighting. (from HathiTrust SearchTips, under Search Tips. Readers who use screen readers and OCR software will want the text view, of course.

The decoration is the Hathi logo, an elephant, from their own website.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Google Book Settlement decision handed down

The Court has handed down its final order, and here is the short answer:

Before the Court is plaintiffs' motion pursuant, to Rule
23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for final approval of
the proposed settlement of this class action on the terms set
forth in the Amended Settlement Agreement (the "ASA"). The
question presented is whether the ASA is fair, adequate, and
reasonable. I conclude that it is not.

While the digitization of books and the creation of a
universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would
simply go too far. It would permit this class action -- which
was brought against defendant Google Inc. ("Google") to challenge
its scanning of books and display of "snippets" for on-line
searching -- to implement a forward-looking business arrangement
that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire
books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the
ASA would give Google a significant advantage over competitors,
rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted
works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond
those presented in the case.

Accordingly, and for the reasons more fully discussed
below, the motion for final approval of the ASA is denied. The
accompanying motion for attorneys' fees and costs is denied,
without prejudice.
Tip of the OOTJ hat to Judith Wright for passing the tip along.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Law School Applications Down

I guess potential law students have gotten the message that going to law school might not be the best career path right now. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that law-school applications have declined 11.5% since last year. In fact, the total number of applicants "is the lowest since 2001 at this stage of the process." Students know that the job market for attorneys continues to be weak, and that they would almost certainly graduate with significant debt that would be difficult to pay back in a reasonable timeframe. It is undoubtedly a good thing for students to be more realistic about the costs and benefits of a legal education, but as someone who works at a law school that is tuition dependent, the drop in applications is also a cause for concern.

The Times Paywall Finally Goes Up

The New York Times announced today that its new paywall has gone up for readers in Canada, and that the paywall for the United States and the rest of the world will go up on March 28. According to the email I got, the rollout in Canada will allow the company "to fine-tune the customer experience before [the] global launch." Does this mean that if our experience is bad, we can blame Canada?

Readers will be able to view twenty articles per month, and after that level is reached, will not be able to view anything more unless they are digital subscribers. I was happy to see that "Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit." That seems like a reasonable approach to me, and one that should help to keep Times stories in wide circulation. Here's New York magazine's take on the paywall. The Times is gambling that regular visitors to the website will be willing to pay to access it. The question really boils down to whether the Times and other newspapers can "reverse 15 years of consumer behavior and build a business around online subscriptions?" It's safe to say that newspapers, both in the United States and around the world, will be watching.

Dog Law

Yale Law School Library has announced a three-day pilot program beginning March 28 which will enable students to check out a "certified library therapy dog." The dog's name is Monty, and he will be available for thirty-minute sessions with stressed-out students. To allay the concerns of those who aren't big fans of dogs, Monty is hypoallergenic and his "visits will be confined to a 'dedicated non-public space in the library.'" According to Therapy Dogs International, an organization quoted in the Yale Daily News feature about the program, "studies have indicated that visit with therapy dogs help decrease blood pressure and stress levels, while providing a nice break from daily routine." This might not work for everyone.

I am crazy about cats, but somewhat neutral about dogs, probably because I grew up with cats but never had a dog as a child. As an adult, I was once attacked by a Russian Wolfhound who was taller than me when he stood on his hind legs to lunge at my throat; he managed to bite my arm through several layers of heavy winter clothes. When I had surgery a few years ago and was kept overnight, a woman brought two rather boisterous therapy dogs into my room the morning after the surgery; she alleged that they would speed my healing, but all I could see was dirt and germs and I ordered her and the dogs out of my room. I treated the chaplain pretty much the same way when he tried to visit me shortly thereafter.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The New York Times: Too Little, Too Late?

Like many other people, I have been waiting for The New York Times to announce when it would begin charging for access to its website. The silence has been deafening since the initial announcement fourteen months ago. Every so often, I would see news (sometimes no more than informed speculation) about the Times's plans on other news organizations' websites, but there was nothing from the Times itself. On Sunday, the silence was finally broken, but in a mea culpa op-ed piece that acknowledged the paper's failures in implementing the new plan, but neglected to provide any details whatsoever about the plan itself. I understand that the management of the company wants to have everything in place before making the announcement and cutting over to the new website, but they have had months to figure out the details. Shouldn't a plan have been in the works before the Times announced such a significant change in its business model? While the Times has been dithering, its readers have grown more accustomed to getting their news for free, and may well see paying to read the Times as a luxury they can do without if they can get their news for free from other sites.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Students and Being There

A challenging article from The Chronicle of Higher Education: Actually Going to Class: How 20th Century, by Jeffrey R. Young, dated February 27, 2011. The first (and so far only) time I had students ask me about whether they actually had to attend class, it was not, thank heavens, in my own class. I was attending a reception for potential law students. Two of the guys interested in the Intellectual Property concentration were the ones who brought this up. They had jobs in the real world, like most of the students in our evening division, so there is, I suppose, some justification. But most of our students are serious about attending class. So far, any way.

But this article is about undergraduates, and so it’s a look at our future students. And it’s not so much an indictment of the students’ attitudes, as of the classes. The article cites research that shows that most of the students interviewed pointed to experiences outside of classrooms as the most important learning moments of the college careers.

Professors talking for 16 weeks or so, assigning readings, and then testing students often appears to yield a bunch of quickly memorized facts that are soon forgotten. In an era when students can easily grab material online, including lectures by gifted speakers in every field, a learning environment that avoids courses completely—or seriously reshapes them—might produce a very effective new form of college.

That was the provocative notion posed here recently by Randy Bass, executive director of Georgetown University's Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship, during the annual meeting of the Educause Learning Initiative.

He pointed out that much of what students rate as the most valuable part of their learning experience at college these days takes place outside the traditional classroom, citing data from the National Survey of Student Engagement, an annual study based at Indiana University at Bloomington. Four of the eight "high-impact" learning activities identified by survey participants required no classroom time at all: internships, study-abroad programs, senior thesis or other "capstone" projects, or the mundane-sounding "undergraduate research," meaning working with faculty members on original research, much as graduate students do.
This is not to say that traditional courses cannot engage students and result in long-lasting learning. If courses include discussion, hands-on activities or other challenges, rather than all passive listening, students will learn. One recurring lament that came up in the comments following the article online was lack of preparation for class (this is sometimes too familiar, alas!). But one of the teachers mentioned in the article had an interesting activity that addressed this. At the start of every class, he gave an anonymous, ungraded pop quiz. It addressed only how much and how well each student had prepared for class that day. Each student graded his or her own quiz and assigned a grade of between 0 - 10, with 0 being no preparation and 10 being the most. The professor would then average all the grades for the small class, and announce the result as the “collective intellectual health” of the class. At the beginning of the semester, the score was 4 or 5. But by the end, it had risen to 8. I was very impressed by this, but when I read it to my recently graduated son, he immediately said, “The students started lying.” Ahh, aww, shucks. I hope it was more than that. I suspect the professor could tell the difference.

Among other comments posted at the Chronicle’s website following the article, was a comment by Jmorrison: Several responders referred to "engagement" and "authentic learning", attributes that are essential to "deep learning." It is clear that project-based, inquiry-based, problem-based approaches are far more effective in inducing student interest, motivation, and engagement than is the traditional lecture/discussion approach. A major question is why so few faculty members use these "authentic" approaches. There is an active discussion of this issue in LinkedIn's Ideagora group at

Ideagora is an open group, having been switched by the Manager, so now, if you are a member of LinkedIn, you do not have to wait for membership. There are archives of earlier discussions of the matter at One of the discussion leaders is James L. Morrison (Jmorrison, I presume), who has posted several presentations at his website, , and the most recent on the topic is, “ Faculty Resistance to Technology-Enhanced Active Learning: What Can E-Leaders Do?” (January 7, 2011). (Scroll down the page to this title, where he has posted slides and a video in 2 parts).

Prof. Morrison uses a phrase, Technology-Enhanced Active Learning, which makes it clear that he envisions the use of technology to lift the students out of the lecture doldrums. I think most of the folks in the discussion group seem to have the same idea. It’s not a bad idea, it’s just not the only way to get students to engage. There was an interesting interchange between the IP candidate students at the Suffolk reception for potential students that I mentioned, who asked about whether class attendance was really necessary at law school, and the director of the IP program. This man is a former practicing engineer, as well as a former practicing IP lawyer. He is a very practical man, and one who uses technology intensely in his classes. He posts his lectures to his website, and uses shorter podcasts of talks by himself and by visitors to market the IP program. He also uses PowerPoint, clickers and other technology in his classroom. But he made no bones about the necessity of classroom attendance when he spoke to these potential students. Law school is not like undergraduate school. You have to be there live in person, he said, and interact with the professor and with your fellow students. The classes run differently, with a lot of question and answer going on every day. And it’s the participation in that give and take that is the core of the teaching and learning that you are paying for in law school, not any lecture or PowerPoint. If you are not there, live in person, you might as well save your tuition.

Occasionally, we have conversations at our school where a professor will raise the question of whether we can turn off the Internet connections to a classroom. This is not really very feasible with the way that wireless is available in the building now. Students would be able to pick up wireless Internet access pretty much whatever we tried to do about interdicting access to most rooms in the building. The reason the faculty wish to shut it off, though, even technology-friendly faculty, is always interesting to me. They want the students to close the laptops, to stop taking dictation, and to engage with the professor in actually working through the intellectual exercise of classroom hypotheticals. They want all of the students to engage, mentally, whether they are “on deck” or not.

I have to say, this would have been a tall order, even before the advent of that convenient student shield, the laptop lid. But with the lids up, keys clicking away and the students operating as court reporters, professors feel very detached from the class, indeed. But at least, the students are mostly there, live, in person!

The decoration is the movie poster for the 1979 movie, Being There, directed by Hal Ashby, starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine. Peter Sellers was the simple-minded gardener, Chance, who had never left his employer's estate until the owner died. Then, he was thrust into the outer world, where his only guide was his exposure to television. He appears to have a zen-like wisdom. The movie is actually based on a 1971 book of the same title by Jerzy Kosinsky, which has a very different tone from the movie.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Establishing Torture

According to an article in today's New York Times, the human rights program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York is playing a key role in establishing that asylum seekers were tortured in their home countries. Proof that individuals were tortured in the past can help establish that they have a well-founded fear of persecution should they return, which is the legal standard for being granted asylum in the United States. This standard comes from the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951, Article I, which the United States adopted with some modifications in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(42)(a). Dr. Ramin Asgary is the director of the Mount Sinai program. He

and his students have examined about 130 refugees ... sifting through stories of baton blows, glass slashes and cigarette burns for evidence of abuse--or signs of fraud. "Every story is a new story ... It never gets routine."

If, after examining the asylum seeker, Dr. Asgary finds evidence of past torture, he provides affidavits and testifies without charge at the hearing before an immigration judge. I was not surprised to learn that most of the individuals examined by Dr. Asgary are "young, educated men from Africa," of whom 87 percent "have been victims of more than one kind of torture." The torture described in the article is horrific, and the type of torture an individual suffers depends on where he is from:
[V]ictims from Liberia and Sierra Leone often have been branded with a red-hot rod; those from Cameroon or Chad are more likely to have been beaten with a baton.

The students are sometimes skeptical about whether someone was tortured, and part of Dr. Asgary's job is to winnow out fradulent claims. Pychological torture can be difficult to establish but is nonetheless real and can be used to justify granting asylum.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

New Clinic at Yale Law School

Thanks to Pace Law Library colleague Vicky Gannon for sending me this article from the Yale Daily News about a new clinic that has recently opened at the Yale Law School. According to the press release that announced the founding of the clinic,

The Ethics Bureau at Yale will be open for business in the spring of 2011. It will provide pro bono ethics counseling and opinions as well as advice on asserting ineffective assistance of counsel claims when counsel engaged in ethical misconduct.

“The course is the first of its kind. ... It will provide a valuable service not otherwise available and an opportunity for our students to understand the real-life dimensions to the professional responsibility obligations of lawyers.”

The Ethics Bureau is under the direction of Lawrence Fox, former chair of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility of the American Bar Association and a Visiting Lecturer at Yale. The cases that the Bureau takes on come from around the United States, and according to the Yale Daily News, "Most of the clinic's clients are lawyers working pro bono for clients who cannot pay." Seven students are enrolled in the clinic this inaugural semester, and continuation of the clinic depends on steady enrollment and funding. It sounds to me as if this clinic gives students a chance to confront and ponder the real-life ethical dilemmas they will face when they begin the practice of law.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Vendor Neutral Citation is getting some traction

Well, besides Judge Posner's poison valentine, The Bluebook Blues, 120 Yale L.J. 850 (2011), there have been a number of blog posts recently reacting to the article. Judge Posner is a long-time Bluebook antagonist (see Posner, Goodbye to the Bluebook, 53 U.Chi.L.Rev. 1343 (1986)), but his solution is not a vendor-neutral citation system. In his recent article, he supplies an example of his own citation system that he teaches to his law clerks. It is not really format or vendor neutral.

Many support his reaction against the Bluebook's traditional-style citation requirements, while struggling towards a different ideal. The Bluebook citation styles, which have been bound to print format, favor not only the old print reporters but also Lexis and Westlaw which provide "star numbering." This means that if you want to provide a pinpoint citation within the decision, you can get the print reporter page number from the "star number" on Westlaw or Lexis, as well as looking at the print reporter. It will provide you with the page numbers for the official reporter as well as the unofficial reporter from the National Reporter series. This pagination is what is required by the Bluebook.

Among the blogs:

UGA Law Library blog (A Library With A View): "Citation Madness" dated Feb. 8, 2011. Provides a nice link to the Yale article, and a link to LII, Peter W. Martin's newly updated Introduction to Basic Legal Citation (2010) explaining the general philosophy, and comparing Bluebook and ALWD citation. "The Dangers of Bluebook Infatuation" by Courtney Minick (a staffer I believe), dated Feb. 18, 2011. This reviews and links to Posner's article, as well as the earlier article by Ian Gallacher, Cite Unseen: How Neutral Citation and America's Law Schools Can Cure Our Strange Devotion to Bibliographical Orthodoxy and the Constriction of Open and Equal Access to the Law, 70 Alb. L. Rev. 491 (2007), which Judge Posner cites with great admiration in his own article. Minick's blog post is useful, not least because she does a nice job of pulling together other links on the topic, including an earlier blog post she wrote on the topic of "Public Domain Legal Citations" (at, dated Dec. 17, 2010), and a page by Alan Sugarman at regarding struggles of an alternative database vendor. Scroll down for entries about his appearance at AALL, with lots of information and links on the metadata for vendor neutral citations of case law, and several other posts may be of interest here as well. Apparently in the text of the post (somewhere I don't see) Sugarman transmits letters from way back in 1997 on the matter of vendor neutral citation, in which Judge Posner, among others, gave their opinions to the Chairman of the Automation & Technology Committee Judicial Conference of the United States, who was preparing a rule on the matter of citation formats. I am certain that there were a variety of opinions, but Judge Posner at that date, was against a vendor neutral citation format, stating (in support of another's comments)

that the numbering of paragraphs in judicial opinions would be a mistake. It would disfigure and bureaucratize the opinion-writing process, and, as he explains, is quite unnecessary. I hope that you will give the most serious consideration to his suggestion.

I also wish to raise with you the question of the NECESSITY of a universal citation form, as anyone with the West citation can readily locate the opinion on-line if he prefers that to the book version.


Richard A. Posner
Chief Judge, Appellate Court and Circuit Administration Division
Well, time and experience can change anybody's mind and I suppose it is a bit much to ask a person with the judicial temperament to eat crow publicly. Judge Posner may not even recall his comments on the matter. And not everybody agreed (see this post by James Love). But it matters a GREAT deal to the entrepreneurs who are trying to make a go of competing against Westlaw and Lexis with alternative databases. Having a rule that allows for a vendor neutral citation, or even that recognizes and supports the fact that most courts DON'T CARE about Bluebook uniformity would go a great deal of the way to helping the competition achieve a more even playing field. There are other problems with modern legal practice that even the Bluebook's newest edition does not begin to deal with, such as how to cite to e-mails (see an excellent review of Bluebook, 16th edition from the AALL Spectrum, Singing the Bluebook Blues, by Warren D. Rees for a good discussion of issues, though it was written in 1997.)

Readers will want to know about the various types of universal citation or public domain citation, medium neutral or format neutral as it may sometimes be called. Universal Citation, an excellent page at Third, states that it was originally a class project on the future of online legal publishing at Harvard in a class on the Future of Business and the Internet in 1997. That dates it, but it pulls together the history of the efforts to achieve a neutral system to that date, with links to support it. It includes links to:

AALL Uniform Citation format, (v.2.1) (and a guide to it, including the economic issues, from attorney Robert Scofield, the Economic Importance of Universal Citation)
the ABA Uniform Citation format, (the page they and others cite,, has disappeared, and seems not to have been moved anywhere. I wish the ABA would re-post it or that I could locate it elsewhere on a mirror site or in archives. I do find "In February 2003 the American Bar Association House of Delegates adopted the following resolution, the Universal Citation Facilitation...")This MAY be the text, but I am not sure!
the ALWD Citation Manual
Various states and Canada as well have citations and links in this history.
Interesting history also includes the opposition to a universal system of citation, largely from West Publishing, now Thomson-Reuters/Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. The essay includes links to bills introduced unsuccessfully in Congress, along with efforts by various entrepreneurs of alternative databases, such as Alan Sugarman of The essay is balanced, presenting the problems with neutral citation systems as well.

Reviews of ALWD:(compared with the Bluebook in a 2000 article, Bast and Harrell, Has the Bluebook Met its Match? 92 Law Lib.J. 337 (2000). Review of ALWD Citation Manual, comparing with Bluebook, online, Stephen Jamar (2000); compare this review critcizing the newer edition for becoming so large and "bluebooky" at Law Librarian Blog, "Is the New Edition of the ALWD Citation Manual Too Bluebooky?" (Joe Hodnicki posted May, 2010).

Citations in Cyberspace: the universal citation system by Marcia Koslov, at National Center for State Courts Digital Archive, dated 1997. There are many state court and bar association documents floating out there dealing with universal citation formats or public domain citation formats, and even the new edition of the Bluebook recognizes this new trend.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011 - What Non-partisan Congressional Redistricting Looks Like

Tip of the OOTJ hat to colleague Kent McKeever at Columbia. He passes along news of Columbia Law Professor Nathaniel Persily, who teaches a class in "Redistricting and Gerrymandering." His class project just came out with a website, The students are working on an Internet depository of non-partisan maps of possible Congressional redistricting lines for every state in the Union. Prof. Persily says, and asks for feedback:

This website and associated project have three goals.

First, the project seeks to educate both the students involved and the general public about the redistricting process. We hope that the maps and redistricting plans contained there depict what is possible in the current round of redistricting and what nonpartisan plans might look like.

Second, we hope that these plans serve as a benchmark against which incumbent-drawn plans can be assessed. While not passing judgment on the plans states adopt this redistricting cycle, we hope that the plans contained there illustrate alternative paths not taken and, therefore, both the promise and potential pitfalls of nonpartisan redistricting.

Finally, for those states that fail to craft redistricting plans, this website provides ready-made legally defensible congressional plans.

Thus far, we have plans up for Virginia, New Jersey, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Oklahoma, Iowa, and Arkansas. Each posted plan includes a statewide map, individual district maps, plan statistics and reports, and a block equivalency file that can be downloaded and placed into any mapping program.

Take a look and tell me what you think......

Nathaniel Persily
Charles Keller Beekman Professor of Law and
Political Science
Columbia Law School
Jerome Greene Hall
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
(917) 570-3223
I went and looked at the site. For various states, you get more than one offered redistricting plan. They are offered with notations, like
"Least Change,"
"Goo Goo" (which stands for Good Government, oddly, "that attempts to draw compact districts based on political subdivision lines, such as counties and cities," or
"Max Com" for maximum competition, creating as many districts as possible evenly split between parties,
"PR, for proportional representation, and
"Portfolio, which is a catch-all category for "a plan that attempts to harmonize two or more of the principles described above or that adheres to principles insufficiently captured by the previous categories."

The name of the student, or other author of the plan is attached to each map, which you can reach by first clicking on a "pushpin" in the U.S. map to choose a state. So far, there are only a few states finished. I can only imagine the work that goes into one of these maps. There is an explanation of the software used on the homepage, and a credit for the source of the political data, to the Harvard Election Data Archive. Cool project. Now, we'll have to see if ANY state uses it!

The image decorating this blog post is the 1812 political cartoon of the original Gerrymander, named for Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, who was attempting to re-draw voting districts to favor his own Democratic-Republican Party candidates over the Federalist party. There is some controversy over where the word first was used, but it is a portmanteau word conflating Governor Gerry's last name with "salamander," which some observers said the new district resembled. This was not the last time (and probably not the first) such shenanigans occurred trying to benefit one party over another by drawing voting district lines!

Sold out! AALL sells us down the river

Well, thanks to Joe Hodnicki at the Law Librarian Blog, Sarah Glassmeyer at SarahGlassmeyerDotCom, and Greg Lambert, of 3 Geeks and a Blog, we know that AALL has requested that nobody blog live during the AALL Vendor Colloquium. So, not only is it not Webcast for us members who are footing the bill, it is not blogged or Tweeted.

Wonder why not?

Greg says at his blog...

I don't think you'll be seeing a lot of #AALLVC tweets today, as many of us were asked to wait and sit through the entire discussion before we start pushing information out. I looked at this the same way that I looked at when I got to look at WestlawNext last year when I went up to Eagan, MN. Many of you may not agree with me on this, but that's what I agreed to, and I will make sure that I keep lots of notes on what is said and will blog about it on Wednesday, along with my own personal commentary.

Mark Estes will be pushing out recaps (live blogging) at the AALL Spectrum Blog later today and on through tomorrow. I'll be talking with as many vendors, librarians and stakeholders as I can to get a feel for where I think we are heading as an industry of legal information professionals and legal information providers over the next few years. Like I said earlier... it should be interesting. Stay tuned for more...
Perhaps I am too cynical.

What do you think?