All posts by Bonnie Shucha

WI DOJ Launches Attorney General Opinion Archive

The Wisconsin Department of Justice has recently launched an archive of formal Attorney General opinions.  The opinions, in PDF, are available from the first bound volume of opinions in 1912 to the present.

Note that the bound opinion volumes were published between 1912 and 1994.  From 1900-1912, opinions were printed in the Biennial report of the Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin.  Since 1994, individual opinions have been made available on the DOJ website.

Kudos to Amy Thornton, senior librarian, DOJ Division of Legal Services for making this collection available.

UW Law Library Celebrates a Decade of Faculty & Staff READ Posters

For the last fifteen years, the University of Wisconsin Law Library has encouraged research and learning through our National Library Week celebration.  Over the years, we’ve organized numerous events, including trivia and research contests, displays, book giveaways, and reading recommendations.  But the most popular and long lived of all our National Library Week events has been our “celebrity” READ posters featuring UW Law School faculty and staff.

Since we unveiled our first READ poster in 2006, over twenty Law School faculty and staff have been featured, each holding a book that has sparked their interest or that has had an influence in their lives.  Book subjects have varied broadly, ranging from contract law to Muslim jurisprudence, from science fiction to shoes, and from mathematical proofs to metaphysical motorcycle journeys.

In commemoration of our ten years of UW Law School faculty and staff READ posters, we’ve put together a photo book featuring all seventeen posters.  See Deputy Director, Bonnie Shucha if you’d like to view or order a copy.

All of our “celebrity” posters are permanently on display throughout the UW Law Library.  You can also see them in our Pinterest READ Posters collection.

National Library Week Events at the UW Law Library

It’s National Library Week!  Check out this year’s celebrations at the University of Wisconsin Law Library.

Monday – Law Student Book Giveaway
Watch out – free books for law students!  They go pretty quickly but there may be a few good ones left.

Tuesday – Law Library Open House for Faculty and Staff
Yesterday, we welcomed about seventy Law School faculty and staff to our first NLW Open House.  This amazing cake from Lane’s Bakery really set the theme.  How many of these classic books have you read?

NLW cake

Wednesday – Trivia Contest for Law Students
Tonight Head of Reference and Trivia Master, Kris Turner will put our law students to the test.  We’ll see how they fare against our Law Library team.

Thursday – READ Posters
Tomorrow is a great day for a Make-Your-Own READ poster at the Law Library.  Grab your favorite book and say cheese!  Stop by the Circulation Desk anytime this week to have your photo taken.
While you’re here, check out our latest faculty READ poster.  This year’s “celebrity” is Professor Larry Church – five time winner of the UW Law School Teacher of the Year Award.  For our previous posters, see our Pinterest READ Posters collection.

Larry Church

Friday – Bluebooking Tips for the Write-on and Beyond
We’ll round out the week with our ever popular Bluebooking workshop for law students preparing to write-on to one of the UW Law School’s three journals – the Wisconsin Law Review, the Wisconsin International Law Journal, and the  Wisconsin Journal of Law, Gender & Society.

But Wait, There’s More! – What Are Our Faculty & Staff Reading?
Looking for some great book recommendations?  See our LibGuide of titles recommended by UW Law School faculty and staff.

Dept of Ed Rescinding Some Public Service Loan Forgiveness Certifications

Are you one of the 550,000+ people who have registered for Public Service Loan Forgiveness?  This is the federal program that forgives the remaining balance on qualifying student loans after 10 years of payments while working full-time for a qualifying public service employer.

If so, you’ll likely want to read the article in yesterday’s New York Times which reports that “thousands of approval letters that have been sent by the administrator, FedLoan Servicing, are not binding and can be rescinded at any time,” per the Department of Education.

From the article:

Four borrowers and the American Bar Association have filed a suit in United States District Court in Washington against the department.

The plaintiffs held jobs that they initially were told qualified them for debt forgiveness, only to later have that decision reversed — with no evident way to appeal, they say. The suit seeks to have their eligibility for the forgiveness program restored….

The idea that approvals can be reversed at any time, with no explanation, is chilling for borrowers. Mr. Rudert [an attorney at a non profit legal aid group and one of the plaintiffs], who graduated from law school owing nearly $135,000 on student loans, said he would have picked a different employer if he had known that his work… would not qualify.

Although no explanation was given for the denial, it appears that the questions generally center around whether certain nonprofit organizations qualify as public service employers.

Hat tip to my colleague, Kris Turner, for alerting me to this story.

WI Historical Society Preserves Text from Scrubbed DNR & other Government Websites

Last month the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “the state Department of Natural Resources recently scrubbed language from an agency web page on the Great Lakes that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate.”

The web page in question is http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/greatlakes/climatechange.html.  The article gives links to both the current and old text as archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a digital archive of web contact back to 1996.

What the Journal Sentinel article didn’t mention is that the archived site is also available through an archive of websites curated by Wisconsin Historical SocietyThe archive contains sites from “state agencies and local governments, political campaigns for gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races and related social media, topical issues such as mining and organic agriculture and selected online publications.”

According to the Historical Society,

This effort aims to provide permanent access to websites and other digital materials for researchers and the general public. By harvesting the content of these websites through the “Archive-It” subscription service, the Wisconsin Historical Society collects, preserves, and makes accessible these electronic publications and records for public use.

What’s the difference between the Wayback Machine and sites collected by the Historical Society you might ask?  Thoughtful curation and searchability.  From the Historical Society FAQ:

The primary difference between the general Wayback Machine web portal and Archive-It websites collected by institutions such as the WHS (which are also viewed through the Wayback portal) is that Archive-It collections are full-text searchable. WHS staff selects websites to preserve in various collections and can capture websites at strategic times, while the general Wayback Machine may or may not have an archived version of the website for which a user is searching.

So – if you’re looking for an archived version for a particular URL, stick with the Wayback machine which will include any sites archived by the Historical Society.  However, if you want to determine if particular text ever appeared on those sites, then give the Historical Society web archives a try.

Study Suggests that Law Clerks Influence Voting on the Supreme Court

A new study on SSRN examines whether law clerks exert any influence on voting by Supreme Court justices.  According to authors Adam Bonica, Adam Chilton, Jacob Goldin, Kyle Rozema, & Maya Sen, there is indeed “strong evidence that clerk ideology does affect judicial voting behavior.”

The authors examined political donations made by Supreme Court clerks and found that:

on average, a justice would cast approximately 4% more conservative votes in a term when employing his or her most conservative clerks, as compared to a term in which the justice employs his or her most liberal clerks.

We find larger effects in cases that are higher profile (17%), cases that are legally significant (22%), and cases in which the justices are more evenly divided (12%). We interpret these findings to provide suggestive evidence that clerk influence operates through clerks persuading their justice to follow the clerk’s preferred outcome, rather than through justices delegating decision-making to clerks.

Very interesting study.  See the full text on SSRN.  Hat tip to beSpacific.

Study Examines How Academic Law Libraries Use Blogs to Engage with Users

A new study in the latest edition of The Reference Librarian explores the use of blogs by academic law librarians.  In “An Exploratory Examination and Critique of Academic Law Librarian Blogs: A Look into an Evolving Reference Communication Practice,” author Grace Jackson-Brown of Missouri State University “demonstrates how academic law librarians use blogs as a communication tool and become proactive in their Reference/Research roles.”

Jackson-Brown identified 227 law library blogs (using the list maintained by CS-SIS).  Of these, 67 were academic blogs.  A small random sample of seven blogs was selected.  WisBlawg was one of the blogs included in the study.  A full list appears below:

Jackson-Brown examined posts from the 2014-15 academic year and placed them into categories based on the primary content of the post.  The largest category (30+%) was “Reference/Research.”  These were further subdivided into the following:

  • Texts about reference and/or research resources or services
  • Embedded media about reference and/or research
  • Links to or attachments of Research Guides (LibGuides or other bibliographies)
  • Promotions about instructional workshops, research forums, or other reference/research formal instruction

Jackson-Brown found that the blogs in the study were mainly targeted toward internal audiences (primarily law students) but that the blogs also had wider appeal to general audiences.  WisBlawg is an outlier among the group as our primarily target audience is external as noted in the study.

In her conclusion, Jackson-Brown states that

The study shows how a sample group of law librarians through the social media of blogs engage with their libraries’ users and wider audiences or communities. The law librarian bloggers “push out” important information content based on what they anticipate will be of interest or need to their users and audiences in an effort to connect and interact with communities of researchers and library users.

Book Review: My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

My Own Words by Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Law Library Stacks: KF8745 .G56 A3 2016
Book Review by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian

My Own Words is a delightful read.  The words and stories are hers.  A woman ahead of her time.  Lucky in love to have met life partner, Marty, who was her champion in all things.  The strong work ethic and independent streak she got from her mom.  A mother herself juggling work-life balance.  An avid reader from early on who also happens to love opera.  These are some of the pictures her stories paint.

Arranged in five Parts, the book includes editorials, speeches, tributes, remarks on some of the major cases of our era, and essays on the work of a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States.  Each Part, and their attending chapters are set up with short introductions by Justice Ginsburg’s official biographers, Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams.

The collection begins with an editorial she wrote for her school newspaper in 8th grade.  The year is 1946, just after WWII, and she writes: “Since the beginning of time, the world has known four great documents, great because of all the benefits to humanity which came about as a result of their fine ideals and principles.”  She is speaking about the Ten Commandments, Magna Carta, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.  “And now we have a fifth great document, the Charter of the United Nations.”

One piece not written by Ruth, but rather her husband, Marty, comes in the form of remarks he made as he introduced the Honorable Ruth Ginsburg on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center in 2003.  A man full of wit and good humor, and as you can tell by his comments, lots of love and admiration for his wife.

The legal profession was not populated by many women when she graduated from Columbia Law School in 1959.  She was a trailblazer, but by no means alone.  In Part Two, she offers tribute to other women who have led the way.  These include historical figures such as Belva Ann Lockwood, the first woman to argue a case before the nine Justices, and the brave Anne Frank, as well as, contemporaries like Sandra Day O’Connor, and Gloria Steinem.  Ginsburg writes of Justice O’Connor’s approach to all things: “Waste no time on anger, regret or resentment, just get the job done.”

The 1970s saw Ruth Bader Ginsburg use her legal skills to advocate and advance the cause of women as equals before the law.  The decade was very productive for her, and many other women, as gains were made legally and socially.  The chapters in Part Three speak to her role in this movement, one of which, “The Frontiero Reply Brief” marked her first oral argument before the Supreme Court in 1973.  That same year she wrote in the ABA Journal “The Need for the Equal Rights Amendment.”  Despite the ERA’s failure in 1982 three states short of ratification, the cause of gender equality had moved forward.

President Jimmy Carter appointed Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 1980.  President Bill Clinton then appointed her to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993.  The selections in Part Four include her Rose Garden Nomination Acceptance Speech, and Opening Statement before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Part Five – The Justice on Judging and Justice – is by far the longest in the book and begins with “Workways of the Supreme Court” in which Justice Ginsburg describes the “procedures at my workplace.”  She explains “one cannot get a firm grasp on the substance of our decisions without some grounding in the rules, practices, and traditions that frame our decisionmaking.”  The next two chapters speak to “Judicial Independence” and the work of the Chief Justice in her “Tribute to Chief Justice Rehnquist.”

The chapters that follow return to two themes so very central to this book: human rights and the administration of justice.  In “Human Dignity and Equal Justice Under Law,” Justice Ginsburg speaks about Brown v. Board, and Loving v. Virginia to reflect on the pivotal role these decisions have had in advancing the cause of freedom and equal protection under law for all.  Loving was decided by unanimous decision, but many others are not.  Part Five also includes a section on the role of dissenting opinions, and the bench dissent.  In her own words, you can read seven of her recent bench dissents in cases such as Ledbetter, Sebelius, and Hobby Lobby.

No review would be complete without a story about Ruth’s love for the opera.  It is well known she and Justice Antonin Scalia shared this passion.  Composer Derrick Wang penned “Scalia/Ginsburg: A (Gentle) Parody of Operatic Proportions” a comedy in one act inspired by the two Justices’ opinions and the operatic precedent of Handel, Mozart, Verdi, Bizet, Sullivan, Puccini, Strauss, et al. (see 38 Columbia Journal of Law and Arts 237 (2015)).  She writes in preface “If I could choose the talent I would most like to have, it would be a glorious voice.”

This collection of short stories shine a light on the arc of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life and career.  Each one is unique, special, and enjoyable to read in their place.  Together they form a much fuller picture of one of the most intelligent, worldwise, and thought-provoking jurists of our time.  Readers can delight in the fact there is a full-length biography underway to be published when the time is ripe.

2016 WI State Capitol Ornament Features Supreme Court Hearing Room

Looking for a holiday gift for the attorney on your list?  This year’s Wisconsin State Capitol Ornament features the beautiful State Supreme Court Hearing Room.

ornament

According to The Third Branch, newsletter of the Wisconsin Judiciary,  the ornament “is a replica design of the most prominent
features of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Hearing Room,
including The Signing of the Constitution, the carved
mahogany judicial bench, and pilasters of Italian Breche
Coraline marble.”

Since 2004, the proceeds from ornament sales have
supported over $70,000 in restoration projects around the
Capitol building. Previous ornament sales have helped to
fund the visitor’s bird’s-eye view from the glass perch inside
the dome of the State Capitol.

The State Capitol Ornament is presented by the Wisconsin Historical Foundation and is available for purchase from the Wisconsin Historical Society.

New Site Aims to Make Every CRS Report Publicly Available Online

If you’ve ever tried looking for a CRS Report, you know that they can be very difficult to track down.  A new site called everyCRSreport.com is hoping to make them more publicly accessible online.

Currently the site includes 8,260 CRS reports, although that number will change regularly.  It’s unclear what date range is covered by the site, although it does say that “if you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at CRSReports.com may have them.”

[update 10/27: Per @danielschuman at Demand Progress “the @EveryCRSReport website has all the reports currently available to congress. They can go back to the 90s, but not usually.”]

If you’re not familiar with CRS Reports, they are reports issued by the Congressional Research Service which is a legislative branch agency housed inside the Library of Congress.  These reports contain analytical, non-partisan information on topics of interest to members of Congress. 

Although the reports are works of the United States Government and not subject to copyright protection, the federal government has, thus far, not made them publicly available.  Numerous non profits and commercial vendors have been working to fill the gap.

According to the website, EveryCRSReport.com is a project of Demand Progress in collaboration with the Congressional Data Coalition — a bipartisan coalition founded by Demand Progress and the R Street Institute to promote open legislative information.