All posts by Bonnie Shucha

New Tool Compares County Criminal Justice Statistics for Wisconsin and Other States

Earlier this week, the nonprofit Measures for Justice launched an amazing new data portal “to assess and compare the criminal justice process from arrest to post-conviction on a county-by-county basis. The data set comprises measures that address three broad categories: Fiscal Responsibility, Fair Process, and Public Safety.”

According to The Marshall Project:

The project, which has as its motto “you can’t change what you can’t see,” centers on 32 “core measures”: yardsticks to determine how well local criminal justice systems are working. How often do people plead guilty without a lawyer? How often do prosecutors dismiss charges? How long do people have to wait for a court hearing? Users can also slice the answers to these questions in different ways, using “companion measures” such as race and political affiliation.

Just six states are included so far, but fortunately for us, Wisconsin is one of them.  The others are Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

The site is really incredible.  It allows you to zero in and compare data for measures including bail payments, diversion, dismissals, case resolution, type and length of sentence, and more.  Data is then presented by county with the option to further limit and compare by race/ethnicity, sex, age, offense severity, and offense type.

For example, here’s a screen shot from the tool comparing non violent felonies sentenced to prison by Wisconsin county further filtered by race/ethnicity.  Note that you can select specific counties to more deeply explore and compare data as shown below.

Kudos to Measures for Justice for creating this remarkable and easy-to-use tool.

New ABA Guidance on Protecting Client Confidentiality in E-communications

Yesterday, the American Bar Association issued new guidance on  protecting client confidentiality in electronic communications (Formal Opinion 477, Securing Communication of Protected Client Information).  This guidance updates a 1999 ABA opinion.

According to the new opinion,

A lawyer generally may transmit information relating to the representation of a client over the Internet without violating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct where the lawyer has undertaken reasonable efforts to prevent inadvertent or unauthorized access.

However, a lawyer may be required to take special security precautions to protect against the inadvertent or unauthorized disclosure of client information when required by an agreement with the client or by law, or when the nature of the information requires a higher degree of security.

Bob Ambrogi’s LawSites has an excellent run-down of the opinion and its importance to legal professionals.

Guide to Grant & Publishing Resources

Have you ever thought of applying for a grant to support your research or a special project but weren’t sure how to get started?  How about publishing an article in a professional or scholarly journal?

The American Association of Law Librarians Academic Law Libraries Special Interest Section Committee on Research & Scholarship has created a very useful guide to grant and publishing resources.  It’s specifically targeted toward law librarians, but the sources that it recommends are useful much more broadly.

The grants section contains sources with tips on how to apply for grants and sources of grant funding.  The publishing sections, covering both law reviews and library journals, offers lists of potential journals in which to  seek publication and tips on getting your writing accepted for publication.

One type of publication that’s not listed in the guide but should be is state bar publications.  In Wisconsin, both the Wisconsin Lawyer and InsideTrack are excellent venues for publication for legal professionals – including law librarians.  See the submission information and writing guidelines for the Wisconsin Lawyer and InsideTrack for more information.  Full disclosure: I’m on the State Bar of Wisconsin Communications Committee which serves as the editorial board for the Wisconsin Lawyer and have authored a number of articles for that publication myself.

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.