Ineffective Assistance of Library: The Failings and the Future of Prison Law Libraries

By Jonathan Abel, in Volume 101, Issue #5 of The Georgetown Law Journal (June 2013).  Here’s the abstract:

The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate’s right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. This Article takes up that challenge by providing a novel historical account of the prison law library’s development.

This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates’ behavior. By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century–half a century earlier than typical accounts–this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine. The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts’ attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts. As prisons look to update their law libraries in light of sweeping technological changes, it is all the more important to understand the history of the law library system so that authorities can plan for its future.

 

 

A plea to scholars

Dear scholars,

Please pay attention to where you place your scholarship.   Are you aware of the cost of some journal subscriptions?  One example, of many, is the Journal of Law & Society.  The Stanford Law Library used to get this print subscription with discounted rate and paid $161 for the current 2013 print subscription. We just received word from Hein (who handles the subscription for us) that the publisher will begin to charge us the full price with an additional payment of $851.00.

What made me think of this was the receipt yesterday of a new publication from my hero Carl Malamud.  Carl has become quite the pamphleteer and his most recent is On Crime and Access to Knowledge.    I urge you all to read it.

In the pamphlet, Carl tells the story of the late Aaron Swartz and discusses JSTOR, PACER, and broader information access issues such as Carl’s heroic efforts to make public safety documents, such as building codes, available to the public.

But on the issue of what Aaron did with JSTOR, Carl makes this important point:

. . . One must remember that JSTOR is a messenger, an intermediary, and if there is fault here, that fault is ultimately the fault of the scholars who wrote those articles and allowed them to be locked up.  It was a corruption of scholarship when the academy handed over copyright to knowledge so that it could be rationed in order to extract rents.

Please think twice before you place a piece of your scholarship with a particular journal.  Find out what it costs to subscribe to the journal; find out what databases include its text (your librarian can help with this); ask the journal if you can retain ownership and publication rights.  And ask yourself:  Do you really want your scholarship tightly locked up behind expensive pay walls?

 

Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact or Fiction?

Ken Strutin, director of legal information services at the New York State Defenders Association, has an article in the September 27th issue of the New York Law Journal, “Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact of Fiction?,” calling for a need to create “forensic bibliometrics” tools, similar to law citators.

The author points out that “In the scientific publishing lexicon, three levels of caution, which resemble Shepard’s signals, are the most salient: Retraction, Expression of Concern and Correction.”

From the article:

   It was Frank Shepard’s methology that paved the way for Eugene Garfield’s creation of the Science Citation Index (SCI), and ultimately, the page ranking protocols used by Internet search engines. [footnote omitted]  Most legal opinions can be Shepardized, and along with a full court press of bibliometric analysis in multiple sources, this tool can provide a high level of quality assurance.  The same is not easily accomplished in the scientific disciplines.

   Aside from the tools already noted, quality control of scholarly literature would benefit from something resembling a Shepard’s for scientific research.  It would be a universal mechanism that flags retracted articles in peer review journals and treatises, in all formats and at all access points, clearing indicating which ones should not be cited or relied upon.

The article clearly sets out the reasons why “. . . an expert in the citation analysis of scientific literature can play a crucial role in litigation.”

Save the Tweets: Library Acquisition of Online Materials

The latest issue of AIPLA Quarterly Journal (Volume 39, Issue Number 2, Spring 2011) just landed upon my desk, and at page 269 I found this article calling for “digital acquisition rights”:

Save the Tweets: Library Acquisition of Online Materials, by Jodie C. Graham

Its abstract from the AIPLA webpage:

As the Internet becomes an increasingly pervasive communications technology in society, public discussions and other born-digital documents of social and political importance frequently exist solely on various websites.  To fulfill their missions of preserving public knowledge, libraries seek to acquire and make accessible web documents to scholars, students, and other library patrons.  However, section 108 of the Copyright Act, which previously provided sufficient protection from liability for libraries’ acquisition and reproduction activities, does not adequately map onto the technological realities of acquiring digital documents over the Internet.  As a result, libraries must accept the risk of copyright infringement liability or forgo preserving historically important online documents.  This Note proposes a set of amendments that would update section 108 to extend libraries’ current limited protections from copyright liability to the acquisition, preservation, and making available of online documents.​

Codifying Commonsense – the Law.gov Principles

I am very pleased and proud to add my signature to the LAW.GOV PRINCIPLES AND DECLARATION just posted at public.resource.org.  These principles coalesced during the fifteen Law.gov workshops and have received the unanimous consent of the co-covenors of these Law.gov workshops.  The principles include items that we librarians have discussed for years, even decades, like vendor-neutral citation.  And these principles are consistent with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform States Laws (NCCUSL) draft of a new “Authentication and Preservation of State Electronic Legal Materials Act.”

Here are the principles:

The primary legal materials of the United States are the raw materials of our democracy. They should be made more broadly available to enable an informed citizenry.

Primary legal materials include documents of primary authority issued by governmental bodies, such as court opinions, statutes, and regulations. They also include the supporting documents and other media issued and maintained by those bodies, such as dockets, hearings, forms, oral arguments, and legislative histories. These materials can be found in every branch, at every level, national, tribal, state and local, and should be available to anyone with the will and the heart to obtain them.

The following principles should govern the dissemination of primary legal materials in the United States:

1. Direct fees for dissemination of primary legal materials should be avoided.

2. Limitations on access through terms of use or the assertion of copyright on primary legal materials is contrary to long-standing public policy and core democratic principles and is misleading to citizens.

3. Primary legal materials should be made available using bulk access mechanisms so they may be downloaded by anyone.

4. The primary legal materials, and the methods used to access them, should be authenticated so people can trust in the integrity of these materials.

5. Historical archives should be made available online and in a static location to the extent possible.

6. Vendor- and media-neutral citation mechanisms should be employed.

7. Technical standards for document structure, identifiers, and metadata should be developed and applied as extensively as possible.

8. Data should be distributed in a computer-processable, non-proprietary form in a manner that meets best current practices for the distribution of open government data. That data should represent the definitive documents, not just aggregate, preliminary, or modified forms.

9. An active program of research and development should be sponsored by governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials to develop new standards and solutions to challenges presented by the electronic distribution of definitive primary legal materials. Examples include the automated detection and redaction of private personal information in documents.

10. An active program of education, training, and documentation should be undertaken to help governmental bodies that issue primary legal materials learn and use best current practices.

Adherence to these principles by governmental bodies is not just good for democracy and justice, it will spur innovation and will encourage:

1. Broader use of legal materials in all parts of our education system, including our law schools.

2. Researchers in law schools, universities, and other research institutions to have broader access to bulk data, spurring important research on the functioning of our government.

3. Innovation in the legal information market by reducing barriers to entry.

4. Savings in the government’s own cost of providing these materials through adherence to best current practices.

5. Small businesses to understand rules and regulations they must deal with, reducing their costs and increasing their effectiveness.

6. Increased foreign trade by making it easier for our foreign partners to understand our laws.

7. Better access to justice by making legal information more broadly available to citizens.

How we distribute the raw materials of our democracy is a foundational issue in our system of government. Access to the raw materials of our democracy is a prerequisite for the rule of law and access to justice and makes real the principles of equal protection and due process.

and here are the signatories:

Jack M. Balkin
Knight Professor of Constitutional Law and the First Amendment
 Yale Law School 

Robert C. Berring, Jr.
Walter Perry Johnson Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California 

James Boyle
William Neal Reynolds Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Nicholas Bramble
Postdoctoral Associate in Law
 Yale Law School 

Tom R. Bruce
Director, Legal Information Institute
 Cornell Law School 

Richard A. Danner
Archibald C. & Frances Fulk Rufty Research Professor of Law
 Duke Law School 

Laura E. DeNardis
Executive Director, Information Society Project
 Yale Law School 

Edward W. Felten
Professor of Computer Science & Public Affairs
 Princeton University 

Jerry Goldman
Professor & Director, Oyez Project
 Northwestern University 

Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Visiting Postdoctoral Research Associate
UC Berkeley and Princeton University

  Jennifer Jenkins
Director, Center for the Study of the Public Domain
 Duke Law School 

Mitchell Kapor
Trustee
 Mitchell Kapor Foundation 

S. Blair Kauffman
Law Librarian and Professor of Law
 Yale Law School 

Mark A. Lemley
William H. Neukom Professor of Law
 Stanford Law School 

Lawrence Lessig
Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Paul Lomio
Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Carl Malamud
President
 Public.Resource.Org 

Harry S. Martin III
Librarian & Professor of Law Emeritus
 Harvard Law School 

Peter W. Martin
Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law
 Cornell Law School 

John Mayer
Executive Director
Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction

  Judy Meadows
State Law Librarian
 State Law Library of Montana 

Paul Ohm
Associate Professor of Law and Telecommunications
University of Colorado Law School

  Tim O’Reilly
Chief Executive Officer
 O’Reilly Media 

John G. Palfrey
Henry N. Ess III Librarian & Professor of Law
 Harvard Law School 

Pamela Samuelson
Richard M. Sherman Distinguished Professor of Law
Berkeley Law, University of California

  Stuart Sierra
Assistant Director, Program on Law and Technology
 Columbia Law School 

Stephen Schultze
Associate Director, Center for Information Technology Policy
 Princeton University 

Tim Stanley
Chief Executive Officer
 Justia 

Erika V. Wayne
Deputy Director, Robert Crown Law Library
 Stanford Law School 

Christopher Wong
Postgraduate Fellow
 New York Law School 

Tim Wu
Professor of Law
 Columbia Law School 

Harlan Yu
Doctoral Student in Computer Science
 Princeton University 

Jonathan Zittrain
Professor of Law & Computer Science
 Harvard Law School

The Eggplant That Ate the Spokane County Law Library

 

You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
For he may eat your city soon.
You’d better watch out for the eggplant that ate Chicago,
If he’s still hungry, the whole country’s doomed.

 

The 3 Geeks and a Law Blog pointed me to a story in the Spokane, Washington newspaper Spokesman-Review.  I won’t rehash what he 3 Geeks blog item “Spokane County Law Library Needs Bailout for Westlaw Bills” opines, but the Spokesman-Review story by reporter John Craig, “Spokane County law library falls behind on bills,”  is disturbing to me on several levels.

The story quotes the librarian as saying that her Westlaw fees “are three times as much as the company was charging Pierce County . . . for the ‘exact same’ service.”  I do not know the details, but I can see how a reader might be led to believe that this poor county law library is being gouged by a huge monopolistic corporation. 

What is also disturbing to me is the report that the library is averaging $ 12,000 a month for Westlaw service, while its annual budget is only $ 220,000.  The library’s total labor costs are reported to be $ 78,236, which means that the county is paying Westlaw roughly twice what it’s paying its staff.   At the Stanford Law Library the total we spend for our staff is roughly twice what we spend for all materials (online and print), and that seems right to me — it’s the staff that is our most valuable resource.

The third disturbing element to the story is the suggestion that perhaps the county law library is a “relic” and should be shuttered for more “cost effective approaches” such as having public libraries (and not specialized law libraries) serve the legal information needs of the public.  To me this is short-sighted on so many levels that I could go on and on for pages about why this is a bad direction.

If this story does not help build a case for Law.gov, I don’t know what would.

Many states have discontinued publishing official state reports and rely upon West instead.  Appendix D of Fundamentals of Legal Research, 9th Edition, by Steven M. Barkan, Roy M. Mersky and Donald J. Dunn, includes a table “States That Have Discontinued Publishing Official State Reports” (excerpted below) showing what states have adopted West’s National Reporter System as the official publisher.

Washington is not one of these states.   It appears that Washington is one of the more progressive states in providing decisional law to the public for free.  The Washington State Court website contains free opinions from the last 90 days, and then links to www.legalWA.org ; the LegalWA site links directly to the Municipal Research Services Center of Washington, a nonprofit dedicated to providing free legal resources for Washington where case law from 1854 forward can be found.

There is definitely a place for expensive LexisNexis and Westlaw bills — in the high stakes world of Biglaw litigation (with clients to bill back) for certain, but in a county public law library?  There has got to be a better way.

Here’s an excerpt from that table I mentioned above:

B. STATES THAT HAVE DISCONTINUED PUBLISHING OFFICIAL STATE REPORTS.

Except for Louisiana, all states have discontinued their official reports have adopted West’s National Reporter System, or an offprint of the National Reporter System, as official.  Alaska has used the Pacific Reporter as its official reporter since it became a state.

[Copied below are the states listed in this table, next to the “Year of Last Case”]

Alabama                            1976

Ala. App.                           1976

Colorado                           1980

Colo. App.                        1980

Delaware                           1966

Florida                               1948

Indiana                              1981

Ind. App.                          1979

Iowa                                   1968

Kentucky                         1951

Louisiana                        1972

Maine                               1965

Minnesota                      1977

Mississippi                    1966

Missouri                        1956

Mo. App.                       1952

North Dakota              1953

Oklahoma                    1953

Okla. Crim.                  1953

Rhode Island             1980

South Dakota             1976

Tennessee                   1971

Tenn. App.                  1972

Tenn. Crim. App.      1970

Texas                            1962

Tex. Crim. App.       1963

Utah 2d                        1974

Wyoming                    1959

John Palfrey on libraries in the age of “Digital-Plus”

John Palfrey is a most gifted writer.  I admired his book (with Urs Gasser) Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives as much for its artful use of language and clear writing style as its fascinating content.   Read it and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean.

John just posted an equally well-written article to the Legal Scholarship Network, an article that should be of great interest to all librarians.  It is:  “Cornerstones of Law Libraries for an Era of Digital-Plus.”  Here’s the brief abstract:

Law librarians would be well served by sharing a vision for the future of legal information, one that is informed by the methods of multiple disciplines and that will promote democratic ideals.  This shared vision could guide us as we continue to lay the cornerstones for law libraries in a “digital-plus” era.

The One-Way Mirror: Enhancing Participation and Securing Privacy for Government 2.0

“The One-Way Mirror: Enhancing Participation and Securing Privacy for Government 2.0”

Danielle Keats Citron
University of Maryland School of Law

Maryland Legal Scholarship Network RPS
University of Maryland – School of Law

George Washington Law Review, Vol. 78, 2010
University of Maryland Legal Studies Research, 2009-41

Abstract:     
The public can now “friend” the White House and scores of agencies on social networks, virtual worlds, and video-sharing sites. The Obama Administration sees this trend as crucial to enhancing governmental transparency, public participation, and collaboration. As the President has underscored, government needs to tap into the public’s expertise because it doesn’t have all of the answers. To be sure, Government 2.0 might improve civic engagement. But it also might produce privacy vulnerabilities because agencies often gain access to individuals’ social network profiles, photographs, videos, and contact lists when interacting with individuals online. Little would prevent agencies from using and sharing individuals’ social media data for more than policymaking, including law enforcement, immigration, tax, and benefits matters. Although people may be prepared to share their views on health care and the environment with agencies and executive departments, they may be dismayed to learn that such policy collaborations carry a risk of government surveillance. This essay argues that government should refrain from accessing individuals’ social media data on Government 2.0 sites. Agencies should treat these sites as one-way mirrors, where individuals can see government’s activities and engage in policy discussions but where government cannot use, collect, or distribute individuals’ social media information. A “one-way mirror” policy would facilitate democratic discourse, enhance government accountability, and protect privacy.

Source:  LSN Information Privacy Law Vol. 2 No. 41,  11/09/2009

Brief Fight Likely to End in Compromise

From tomorrow’s (Friday’s) San Francisco Recorder:

Brief Fight Likely to End in Compromise
The Recorder

By Mike McKee

October 30, 2009

The [California] Supreme Court sounds willing to end its practice of shipping briefs from all the state’s appellate cases to Westlaw and LexisNexis, which charge for them. An Irvine lawyer [Edmond Connor] saw a copyright problem…

Some more from the article:

‘Connor, who claims court briefs are lawyers’ copyrighted property, wrote again last Friday, urging the court to at least amend Rule of Court 8.212 — which requires lawyers to file either one electronic copy or four hard copies of their briefs with the high court — to instead require only one paper copy.

“Litigants will not have to incur the needless time and expense,” he wrote, “of providing the court with extra copies of briefs that the court simply discards — or gives away to vendors.”

Judicial Information Management in an Electronic Age: Old Standards, New Challenges

“Judicial Information Management in an Electronic Age: Old Standards, New Challenges”

Federal Courts Law Review, Forthcoming

PETER A. WINN, University of Washington School of Law

Under well established law, information in court records is open to the public, but it may be sealed upon a fact-based showing either that the information is not a matter of legitimate public concern or is sufficiently sensitive to need such protection. Under the former paper-based court record system, however, routine violations of these publcity standards were widely tolerated. At the same time, the practical obscurity of paper provided a default privacy benefit for negligently unsealed sensitive information. With the introduction of electonic filing, old improper sealing practices are now increasingly being exposed and criticised; while the dealth of practical obscurity has caused individuals with sensitive information in court files, to be increasingly exposed to harm. This article argues that restoring an appropriate homeostasis to the judicial information eco-system, where legitimate privacy and publicity interests are both protected, does not require replacing established common law standards; but it will require the adoption of new legal procedures, better use of information technologies, and more careful training of judges and lawyers. Ultimately, to properly achieve this goal, the existing common law adversarial system of information mangement will need to be supplemented by a new administrative model.

Source:  LSN Information Privacy Law Vol. 2 No. 34,  10/07/2009