Category Archives: Uncategorized

CRS Reports Now Available to the Public

By Eric Taylor, Evening & Weekend Reference Librarian

Once the exclusive province of Congress, the CRS Reports are now available to everyone.  Thoroughly researched and produced by the Congressional Research Service, the CRS Reports are nonpartisan briefing papers about current and emerging affairs of interest to members of Congress and their staffs.

The core mission of the Congressional Research Service, a legislative branch agency, is to provide “timely, objective, and authoritative research and analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate.”  Their reports support “Congress in its legislative, oversight, and representational duties.”  The wide range of topic areas for which CRS Reports have been produced include: constitutional questions, foreign affairs, agriculture and economic policy, science and technology, intelligence and national security, health care, education, immigration, transportation, and many others.

The year was 1914 when Senator Robert La Follette Sr. and Representative John M. Nelson, both of Wisconsin, championed a provision in the appropriations act establishing a special reference unit within the Library of Congress.  The new reference unit was based on Progressive Era ideas which promoted “the importance of the acquisition of knowledge for an informed and independent legislature.”  The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Library, established in 1901, was built on the same concept that informed knowledge could serve the best interests of the state.

At various times in its history, reports such as the Public Affairs Bulletins (in the late 1940s) and Congressional Research Service Review (1980s) were made available to the public, but until very recently the vast majority of reports produced by the Congressional Research Service were available only to Congress.  The public, researchers, and advocates alike have long asked for these reports be made freely available.  The passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 last March did just that by directing the Library of Congress to make CRS Reports publicly available online.

“The publication directive specifically mandates that the public website is to be “updated contemporaneously, automatically, and electronically, to include each new or updated CRS report released on or after” the date on which the Library makes the website available for public access.”  The complete inventory of CRS Reports will be made available sometime in 2019.

Just click on the “Search” button to see what is available now.

Wisconsin Ethics Opinions now freely available online

 

The State Bar has recently made the Wisconsin Ethics Opinions freely available on their website. The ethics opinions can be reached in two ways:

    1. Use the direct link to search the opinions by keyword or by type (such as Formal, Informal , Withdrawn or Memorandum Opinions): https://www.wisbar.org/formembers/ethics/pages/opinions.aspx
    2. If you are used to navigating the WisBar site -Go to the State Bar’s homepage: https://www.wisbar.org/Pages/default.aspx then place your cursor on “for Members”. Finally, click on “Ethics” in the first column of the choices.

Previously, the ethics opinions were only available to State Bar members or by request. Now, legal scholars from across the US can access the opinions.

More information about the ethics opinions, rules and committee can be found on the Wisbar ethics homepage: https://www.wisbar.org/forMembers/Ethics/Pages/Ethics.aspx

What if There Were TurboTax, but for Appellate Briefs? (Guess What- There Is!)

Formatting appellate briefs is tough- there’s no getting around it. Brief-writers, be they attorneys or pro se litigants, have to pay very close attention to specific formatting details like margins, font, citations, headings, etc. If briefs are submitted to the court of appeals clerk’s office and they do not meet the stringent requirements, they are rejected.

Luckily, the State Bar of Wisconsin Appellate Practice Section recently created a tool called the Brief Assistant to help out. The Brief Assistant is an app which “allows the user to draft a correctly formatted initial brief, response brief, or reply brief that can be downloaded, saved, edited, and then filed in an appeal.”

In order to use Brief Assistant, the user simply creates a free account, selects which type of brief to create, then answers basic questions asked by the app (similar to how TurboTax works), which populates the brief. Brief Assistant will also provide users with tips for writing the required sections of the brief.

Brief Assistant can be a useful tool for lawyers, paralegals, legal secretaries, and pro se litigants- it even has two different tracks- one for legal professionals, and one for pro se litigants- the one for pro se litigants provides sample model briefs so that the user can see what the finished project should look like.

You can read more about Brief Assistant here.

Welcome to Emma Babler, UW Law Library’s newest librarian!

The UW Law Library is pleased to announce our newest law librarian: Emma Babler. Emma will be our new Reference and Technology Librarian, where she will be tasked with assisting students, staff, and anyone who asks a question! Emma comes to us from the UNLV Law Library but received both her MLS and JD from the University of Wisconsin.

Welcome, Emma! We’re excited to be working with you!

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.

Recent UW Law School Faculty Scholarship

Here is the latest faculty scholarship appearing in the University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies Research Papers series found on SSRN.

The University of Wisconsin Law School Legal Studies journal contains abstracts and papers from this institution focused on this area of scholarly research. To access all the papers in this series, please use the following URL: http://www.ssrn.com/link/u-wisconsin-legal-studies.html

Dane County Court Converts to E-records

Beginning in January, the Dane County Clerk of Court’s office will convert to electronic record-keeping.  All records must be filed electronically or scanned in on receipt.  However, print copies may be obtained at the usual statutory rate of $1.25 per page using the office’s public terminals.

According to the Isthmus, Dane County had already been keeping probate court records electronically as a test and the new system has worked well.  Other counties are also gradually phasing in the use of electronic records.

“I think Carlo [Esqueda, Dane Co. clerk of circuit court] sees the writing on the wall,” says John Barrett, clerk of circuit court for Milwaukee County. “E-filing is going to be mandatory.” Milwaukee is currently scanning in whole categories of filed documents, including criminal complaints and judgments, and receiving other filings in electronic form, as will Dane County.

Barrett notes that going electronic is “a culture shock” for some judges and others who still crave records in paper form. “I don’t think you will ever have a paperless court system,” he says. “I prefer to refer to it as paper on demand.” He believes electronic records are better for everyone involved. “You don’t have lost documents. The file itself will be chronologically in order every time you look at it.”

James Madison Likely Revised His Notes from Constitutional Convention to Distance Himself from Controversial Statements

According to research conducted by Boston College Law professor Mary Sarah Bilder,* “James Madison likely replaced several sheets of his notes chronicling the constitutional convention to distance himself from his own statements that later became controversial,” notes the ABA Journal.

In her book, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention, Bilder compares Madison original 1787 handwritten notes with the later revised notes published after his death in 1840.

“Along the way,” Bilder writes for the History News network, “he converted himself into a different Madison. In the original Notes, Madison was annoyed and frustrated. Slowly by altering a word here, a phrase there, he became a moderate, dispassionate observer and intellectual founder of the Constitution.”

He also likely replaced several sheets containing his own speeches in the years immediately after the convention to distance himself from statements that became controversial, Bilder writes.

One revision concerned slavery, Bilder told the Washington Post in an interview. As the slave trade fell into disfavor after the convention, Madison added language that suggested he had condemned it during the convention as “dishonorable to the national character.”

Madison had never spoken against slavery or used the words, while others at the conviction did, Bilder said. The words Madison claims to have spoken bore “an uncomfortable resemblance to the same comment” made by a delegate from Maryland as recorded in Madison’s original notes, she said.

Although the revisions differ, at times strongly, with Madison’s original notes, Bilder contends these differences enhance rather than detract from Madison’s later manuscript which reflects a more evolved “understanding about the convention, the Constitution, and his own role.”

*Mary Sarah Bilder is the daughter of UW Law School professor, Richard Bilder.

Availability of Westlaw at UW Law Library

Please be advised that public access to Westlaw will no longer be available at the UW Law Library after August 30th.  We have cancelled our subscription to Westlaw Patron Access.  Access to Westlaw is now limited to UW Law School students, faculty, and staff.

However, LexisNexis Academic is still available at the UW Law Library as well as all of the other UW Madison campus libraries.

We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may cause.