Dissents from the Bench – More from the New York Times

In today’s New York Times, Adam Liptak writes about dissents from the bench.  “In a Polarized Court, Getting the Last Word,” Liptak  describes a new study that is soon to appear in the Justice System Journal.

The Brooding Spirit of the Law: Supreme Court Justices Reading Dissents from the Bench” by William Blake and Hans Hacker states that dissenting from the bench  “may indicate that bargaining and accommodation have broken down irreparably.”

Liptak writes:

“There are no comprehensive records of oral dissents, and researchers reviewed audio recordings — many available on the indispensable Oyez Web site — newspaper accounts and other resources to track them down. Jill Duffy, a research librarian at the Supreme Court, and Elizabeth Lambert, a staff lawyer with a Federal District Court in New York, seem to have assembled a complete list going back to 1969 in the winter issue of the Law Library Journal.”

[And, blogged about here some time ago.]

Ending Copyright Claims in State Primary Legal Materials

Katie Fortney —  a recent San Jose State University (SJSU) School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) graduate (MLIS) and Librarian and Docketing Clerk at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP in Palo Alto, California, as well as a former intern at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford Law School — has contributed “Ending Copyright Claims in State Primary Legal Materials: Toward an Open Source Legal System” in the latest issue of Law Library Journal, vol. 102(1), pages 59-68.

As stated — importantly — in the abstract to her article:

An informed democratic society needs open access to the law, but states’ attempts to protect copyright interests in their laws are a major roadblock [boldface added].

She considers, among other things, the complexity of copyright law for state and local government works, plus how that law could be changed (by 3 main avenues: legislation, litigation, and persuasion).

The History of CALR, Part 1: More on Thomson West and FLITE Takes Flight



First in an occasional series

More on Thomson West Merger and FLITE Takes Flight


This is the first in an occasional and somewhat random look back at the early days of computer-assisted legal research (CALR).  It stems from a post here earlier in the week about a terrific new book by noted antitrust lawyer (and Stanford Law School alumnus) Gary L. Reback, Free the Market!: Why Only Government Can Keep the Marketplace Competitive (catalog record copied below). The very readable book gives an insider look at the merger (Mr. Reback represented LexisNexis) and as Jonathan Zittrain notes on the jacket, “Gary Reback offers a powerful defense for government’s role in protecting market competition. He draws from rich historical examples and his own extraordinary personal vantage point: his victories and defeats at the front lines of the most high-profile antitrust cases of the past two decades.”

Thomson West Merger

In 1997, Mr. Reback took a vacation to Hawaii after he had “spent a year of futility . . . trying to convince the Justice Department to block an anticompetitive merger that would raise the price of hiring a lawyer for just about every consumer of legal services anywhere in America.”

Storytelling for Lawyers and Monopolizing the Law

Chapters 14 (“Storytelling for Lawyers”) and 15 (“Monopolizing the Law”) tell the story of the 1996 merger of Thomson and West, “. . . the largest publishers of court opinions, treatises, and other materials used to do legal research. No other company was even close in terms of market share or customer usage.” And, as an earlier post here suggests, the end result of this merger created a wrecking ball for academic law library budgets. In my opinion absurd and obscene annual price increases was indeed an effect of this merger.

These two chapters trace through some of the very interesting history of legal publishing, electronic and otherwise, from the 1870s to present.

At one point in chapter 15 Mr. Reback states “. . . both Thomson and LexisNexis started charging law schools for online legal research, originally provided free of charge.” I shared this information on the law library directors listserv.

A few directors contested that statement and commented that, to their knowledge, neither Lexis nor Westlaw was ever free; a couple of other directors weren’t so sure and thought that perhaps there were some free installations.  But this comment also elicited a small flood of memories and reminiscences from directors about the very early days of CALR.

Stanford Law Library’s First CALR Terminal (Lexis only)

I myself came to stanford in 1982.  At the time the library had one Lexis terminal, and no Westlaw terminal.  The terminal was the so-called “DeLuxe” terminal, which was a large sit-down consol, reminiscent of the “con” of an early Star Trek starship.  It was located in a room shared with our photocopiers and microforms, both of which were used far more than the Lexis terminal.  For one thing, there was a daily blackout period and we could not access the database between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. There was no downloading of documents, and printing was done laboriously, one screen shot at a time.  Connection was via an internal modem and a phone line paid for, I think, by Lexis.

Dick Danner, from the Duke Law Library noted on the listserv that “the early history of Lexis from an insider’s perspective, with a bit about Westlaw, can be found in: William G. Harrington, ‘A Brief History of Computer-Assisted Legal Research,’ 77 Law Library Journal 543 (1984-85).”

The Air Force Starts Digitizing the Law – FLITE (Federal Legal Information Through Electronics) Database

And then J. Denny Haythorn, Associate Dean of Library and Information Services & Professor of Law at Whittier College School of Law shared this very interesting story about FLITE (reproduced with permission):

In the Law Library Journal article the author refers to the system the Air Force had developed by the late 1960s. The Air Force system was called Federal Legal Information Through Electronics (FLITE) and was operated from the basement of the Air Force finance center in Denver at Lowery Air Force Base.  FLITE had a large staff inputting federal court reports, administrative court reports (e.g., Comp Gen, Board of Contracts Appeals, etc.), US Code sections, CFR sections, and military regulations into databases. There was a staff of research attorneys who received calls from government lawyers for research and they would help formulate searches in the database.  The Finance Center did not use their computer mainframe at night so the searcher would run overnight and be printed.  The research attorneys would call back with the results the next day and sometimes mail the printouts to the requesting attorney.

More powerful minicomputers and the internet simplified the search process to ultimately be more like the commercial services thought FLITE kept the research attorneys for assistance with searches.  The office also continues to maintain unique databases of information use by military lawyers.  FLITE purchased the first PC computers for Air Force legal offices and began a program of law office automation using shareware software (PC Write for example), commercial software, and software specifically written by the office.

FLITE also was an early adopter of CD and DVD technology.  The goal was to have Judge Advocate General attorneys in the field with legal resources for a standalone law office.

The office still exists and is now located with the Air Force Judge Advocate School at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Alabama.  In the 1980s I was one of the research attorneys as they made the transition from batch, overnight searching to real time searches and then user searching directly on the internet.  I also worked on the manuals for some of the software.

Denny will be contibuting more about his experiences as a CALR pioneer, so please stay tuned for later installments of this series.

And here’s the catalog record for Free the Market!

Author: Reback, Gary L., Stanford Law School graduate, J.D.(1974)
Title: Free the market! : why only government can keep the marketplace competitive / Gary L. Reback.
Related e-resource: Publisher description
Imprint: New York : Portfolio, 2009.
Physical Description: x, 416 p. ; 24 cm.
Note: Signed by the author. CSt-Law

Note: Includes bibliographical references (p. [397]-403) and index.

Contents: Protecting competition — Product distribution –Patent and coypright limitations on competition —
Monopolies and market exclusion — Mergers and acquisitions.Subject (LC): Trade regulation–United States.
Subject (LC): Competition–United States.
ISBN: 9781591842460
ISBN: 1591842468

HD3616 .U47 R136 2009

Law Library Journal (Fall 2008): “Schoolhouse Rock is No Longer Enough”

The latest issue of Law Library Journal [vol. 100, no. 4, Fall 2008] has an interesting piece by I-Wei Wang, Reference Librarian, University of California Berkeley, School of Law Library titled “Schoolhouse Rock is No Longer Enough: The Presidential Signing Statements Controversy and Its Implications for Library Professionals.” The particularly aggressive use by President George W. Bush of  signing statements as a form of “don’t veto, don’t obey” action (dubbed by some, including the article’s author, as OPSS or “objecting presidential signing statements”) certainly — among other things — casts some doubt on the continued use of the simple and direct Schoolhouse Rock musical cartoon video “I’m Just a Bill” to accurately convey the federal lawmaking process as concluding when the President either vetoes or signs a bill into law.

“In Defense of Wikipedia” by Diane Murley

Last but not least today from the latest issue of Law Library Journal [vol. 100, no. 3, Summer 2008] is “In Defense of Wikipedia” by Diane Murley, Web Services Coordinator and Reference Librarian, Ross-Blakley Law Library, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University.

The abstract reads:

Ms. Murley explains how Wikipedia articles are created and edited and how to use Wikipedia’s tools to evaluate articles. She argues that research instructors should teach students to use Wikipedia properly, rather than trying to convince them not to use it. Finally, she suggests ways in which Wikipedia can be used to help teach the importance of evaluating sources.

“Unanswerable Questions” by Mary Whisner

Another interesting piece — University of Washington Marian Gould Gallagher Law Library reference librarian Mary Whisner — in the latest Law Library Journal issue [vol. 100, no. 3, Summer 2008] is: Unanswerable Questions.

The abstract reads:

What can librarians do when a patron asks an “unanswerable” question? Ms. Whisner addresses various types of questions that can’t be answered, ways to deal with them, and how to know when a questions truly is unanswerable.

“By the Book” by Rita Reusch: Thinking about the Future of Law Library Print Collections

University of Utah Quinney College of Law professor and law library director Rita T. Reusch has a considered article in the latest Law Library Journal issue [vol. 100, no. 3, Summer 2008]: By the Book: Thoughts on the Future of Our Print Collections.

The abstract reads:

Academic law libraries are increasingly confronting issues relating to the future of their print collections. The decline in use of print materials and the financial pressures of trying to maintain duplicative print and electronic collections force difficult choices. This article discusses these and other issues — philosophical and practical — that come into play in this changing environment.