Under a provision of the 2018 omnibus appropriations act that was passed by Congress and signed by the President earlier this month, all non-confidential Congressional Research Service reports must be made publicly available online within 90 to 270 days.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress. They produce analytical, non-partisan reports on topics of interest to members of Congress. Because of their high quality, CRS reports are excellent resources for legislative or public policy research.
Until now, there had been no comprehensive, official public online source that provided access to this government information. Under the new policy, approximately 3,000 non-classified reports will be released annually.
For more information, see these articles from Demand Progress, Federation of American Scientists, and Government Executive.
Earlier this month, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel tweeted that every Wisconsin Attorney General opinion is now available on the DOJ website. The opinions are browsable by year since 1912 and available in PDF.
Hat tip to the Government Information Round Table (GIRT) Blog
Here in law library-land, we’re all familiar with the concept of “citation chasing”- i.e., finding one good on-point article and then mining its citations, footnotes, and citing sources for other relevant articles. But what if there were a way to let an algorithm look at the relevant article you’d already found and mine it for keywords, ultimately generating you a list of other relevant articles?
Sound like science fiction? It’s not- this is a basic description of JSTOR’s new tool, “Text Analyzer.”
This tool allows you to place large chunks of text (or even the entire text of an article!) into its search box, which will then analyze the text and return other relevant JSTOR articles. If you’ve ever used the “related articles” link on Google Scholar (another great way to citation chase), it’s a similar algorithm. EBSCO also has a similar tool.
However, JSTOR’s Text Analyzer does several things these tools do not. Text Analyzer will also provide a list of what it has identified as relevant keywords in the article, along with importance/prominence. After you’ve run your search, though, you can play with these keywords and elevate their importance, or add or delete keywords in order to re-run your search. Therein lies the true strength of this new tool- not assuming that the search or algorithm gives perfect results right away, but allowing the user to tweak and re-tweak in order to find what they are looking for. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction as far as search engines go, and I’m hoping this pushes other search engines to develop similar and even better tools for searching.
LLMC Digital is a searchable archive of historical primary legal sources for Wisconsin, the United States, and other jurisdictions. Wisconsin materials included in LLMC’s collections include historical Wisconsin reports, session laws, and statutes. A large number of secondary sources including federal government periodicals and treatises are also searchable via LLMC.
The Wisconsin State Law Library has recently announced that with your Wisconsin State Law Library card, you can now log into LLMC Digital from outside the library.
Wisconsin State Law Library cardholders also have off-site access to HeinOnline, the Index to Legal Periodicals and Books, and Legal Trac.
Established in 1949, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) is the United States’ primary source for criminal justice statistics. BJS publishes many reports such as the seminal Crime in the United States as well as several data analysis tools. The Arrest Data Analysis Tool, for example, allows users to generate tables and graphs of national arrest data from 1980 onward. The results can be customized either by age and sex or by age group and race for more than 25 offenses.
Users can also view data on local arrests because the arrest data is compiled from the reporting of individual law enforcement agencies. The FBI has collected arrest counts for several decades now through its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program which forms the backbone of the underlying statistics. Over 18,000 city, university/college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies voluntarily participate in the program covering about 80% of the U.S resident population. The output from this dynamic tool can be downloaded to Excel format.
This User’s Guide will help you get started.
This post was authored by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian at the UW Law Library
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.
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.
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 Society. The 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.
It’s the end of an era as Lexis.com, the long-running and highly regarded database says its final goodbyes to the Law School community.
With 100% of Lexis content now migrated to Lexis Advance, the small amount of loyal Lexis.com users will have to prepare for the switch to Lexis Advance, which has slowly been becoming the primary Lexis database over the past several years.
Both Lexis and Westlaw have transitioned to their new platforms and retired their flagship databases in recent years.
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.