Category Archives: Web

Arrest Data Analysis Tool Available from Bureau of Justice Statistics

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

A small but critical change on Congress.gov

 

Congress.Gov announced yesterday that with their new version of searching, users will now get slightly different results. The reason? The default operator is now AND and not OR. So, as Congress.Gov’s post points out, a search for National Park will yield results that include National AND Park instead of National OR Park. A nice improvement, if I do say so myself!

Read more about Congress.Gov’s change here.

A stopgap measure for eliminating Supreme Court Link Rot

 

Link Rot is a pervasive problem in the legal community – so much so that Supreme Court opinions are sometimes riddled with cites to websites that no longer exist, which undermines the entire concept of a citation.

Many in the legal academic world are aware of Perma.CC, which is a long-term solution to link rot. Perma.CC allows authors and judges and anyone to preserve the websites they are citing by archiving the page, therefore preserving it as they were citing it.

However, Perma.CC is still in the process of being adopted, and some cites may fall through the cracks. So in the meantime, the University of California Berkeley Law School Library has created a citation program that catches the websites that are cited in Supreme Court opinions and archives them as soon as possible. With this program serving as a stop-gap and the growing adoption of Perma.CC and other web archiving programs, link rot will become extinct, or at least endangered!

Kudos to the UC Berkeley School of Law Library for a great tool.  Be sure to check out their site and review the data from cases and citations!

CourtListener Frees the Law

The following blog post was written by Eric Taylor, Evening Reference Librarian at the University of Wisconsin Law School Library

CourtListener is a powerful new free legal research website sponsored by the non-profit Free Law Project.  The Court Listener platform is composed of four searchable databases containing judicial opinions, an audio collection of oral arguments, judge profiles, and documents from the Federal PACER system.  The repository’s numbers are impressive and growing daily.

  • Almost 4 million legal opinions from federal and state courts.
  • Real-time coverage of oral arguments from SCOTUS and 11 of the 13 Federal Judicial Circuits.
  • A database of over 8500 judge profiles.
  • 2.4 million plus PACER documents.

The search engine is easy to use and offers an “Advanced Search” option to refine searches in a number of ways including citation, judge, and docket number.  Case law searches are powered by their CiteGeist Relevancy Engine to provide the most relevant and important cases at the top of the results.  CourtListener downloads opinions from many jurisdictions on an ongoing basis thereby allowing users to set up alerts using customized search and citation feeds.  RSS feeds may also be set up by jurisdiction.

The oral arguments database is also continually updated, making it the biggest such collection on the Internet.  At present, CourtListener provides oral arguments to over 1500 cases originating from the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  A count of available oral arguments from SCOTUS and 11 of the 13 Federal Judicial Circuits totals over 19,000.  The judge profile search now also links up to the oral arguments database meaning when you look up the profile page for a judge, you may see a list of oral argument recordings for cases that judge has heard.

What really makes CourtListener special is the free access to PACER documents it provides through the RECAP Archive.  Users of the PACER system can contribute to the building of the archive by downloading the RECAP Extensions for Firefox and Chrome.  As you browse PACER, the RECAP extension automatically uploads docket files and PACER-downloaded PDFs to the Internet Archive for others to download later.  The net effect is kind of like paying it forward, allowing the documents (and legal benefits) to flow to everyone.  This newfound access to PACER documents is truly groundbreaking.

CourtListener joins a growing list of other free legal research sites as Google Scholar, FindLaw, Justia, Ravel Law, and Casetext.  You owe it to yourself to take the newest of these for a test drive.  CourtListener rightly joins the UW Law Library’s list of free legal resources available on our Databases and Electronic Resources page.

Making case law accessible to all

There have been some very exciting advances in the fight to make court documents more freely accessible to everyone. As many legal researchers and law librarians are aware, many legal materials can be relatively rare or sheltered behind a paywall. Movements are afoot to change this, at least in part, and there has been progress over the past several months.

Harvard’s Case Law Access Project, which involves scanning scanning in Harvard’s entire collection of case law books, recently scanned it’s last volume. That may sound blase, but that means that nearly 44,000 volumes with roughly 40 million pages of case law have been digitized. This case law will be made freely available to anyone who needs to review it.

In addition to finishing their scanning, Harvard also recommended providing bulk digital data of future case law to make it easier to add to the currently scanned collection.  The director of Cornell’s LII and a Professor of Law from Indiana University also testified on behalf of the continued digitally accessible case law.

Lastly, and potentially most exciting, was the announcement by the Internet Archive of their desire to store PACER records from Federal Courts and make them freely available.  While it remains to be seen if this proposal will come to fruition, it is another indication of legal material becoming more easily available to anybody. For now, many PACER documents can be found via RECAP, a free website that is co-run by the Internet Archive and Princeton’s Center for Information Technology Policy.

As you search for case law and other legal materials, imagine how that process may become easier as it all migrates to the open web!

Lexis.com retiring from Law Schools on December 31

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.

The University of Wisconsin Law School announces the Bhopal Digital Repository

Last week, the UW Law School hosted a symposium on the Bhopal Disaster, which killed thousands of people in the Bhopal region of India, left a long legal trail, and is still controversial to this day.

As a part of that symposium, the UW Law Library, in conjunction with faculty members Mitra Sharafi, Sumudu Atapattu and Marc Galanter, launched “Bhopal: Law Accidents and Disasters in India: A Digital Archive initiated by Marc Galanter“.  This digital archive, housing nearly 3,500 scanned items related to Bhopal, is freely available for anyone to use.  The resources range from court documents and newspaper clippings to embedded video and other secondary resources. The court documents can be downloaded as full-text PDFs from anywhere in the world, while the newspaper clippings can be downloaded at the Law School.

Professor Marc Galanter, who was involved in the Bhopal legal case in the United States, provides pertinent background history and context for new researchers, and his collection is what both inspired and formed the foundation for the digital archive.

Researchers can quickly do a full-text search across the entire collection or narrow down to search only newspaper clippings or court documents. A bibliography of related Bhopal resources is also included.

Potentially the most exciting part of the Bhopal archive is that it will continue to grow. As other Bhopal scholars volunteer their unique material, it will be reviewed and added to the collection, thereby strengthening the usefulness of the collection itself.

The Bhopal collection is the first special collection of the UW Law School Digital Repository.  If there are any questions about the Bhopal collection or the repository itself, please feel free to contact Kris Turner, or more information can be found at the UW Law School Library website.

Hein Online adds an email delivery option

 

Good news for all you Hein-heads out there (I am certainly one of them). Hein Online recently added a great new feature to their interface where you can email a link to a Hein PDF…and anybody can access it, whether they are authenticated by Hein or not.

Granted the link will expire after 7 days (if the user isn’t authenticated…if they are it will never expire), but that is still more than enough time to share research or a great article with a colleague or student that may not know how to access Hein or not have access at all.

For full directions on how to email these PDFs straight from your Hein search, check out Hein’s blog post. Happy Hein-ing!

Lenz v. Universal ruling: Fair Use must be considered…even with a dancing baby.

 

Today the Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of Stephanie Lenz in a Fair Use case that may have long-reaching consequences.

In 2007, Lenz posted a 29 second video to Youtube of her baby dancing and bouncing to the Prince song “Let’s Go Crazy”. Universal, at the time the owner of the copyright on that song, sent Youtube a request to have it removed since they claimed it violated copyright.

Now, after an extended legal tussle, the 9th circuit has come down with a pro-fair use decision,  with Circuit Judge Richard Tallman writing (for the 3-0 panel) that:

“Copyright holders cannot shirk their duty to consider in good faith and prior to sending a takedown notification – whether allegedly infringing material constitutes fair use,”

Copyright holders, following this ruling, may be held much more accountable (and perhaps legally liable) if they do not take fair use into account when issuing take-down orders. It seems that there may be a smaller amount of these orders sent out in the future if this decision holds up.

For more on the ruling and it’s potential implications, read Thomson Reuters review of the case and decision.

Click here to read or download the decision itself.

 

A Zotero Update and work-around for the UW Catalog

2015 has been a whirlwind year of change for UW Libraries, even though most of it is not obvious to users. The campus (and entire UW system!) recently switched our library catalog platform and modified several of our web discovery tools.

Zotero, a free and very helpful citation manager used by many Law School faculty and staff, was also recently updated and changed in Firefox. Instead of seeing a book icon (or folder, journal article, etc.) in your address bar, the Zotero translator tool is now located to the far right in your Firefox browser, as indicated in the screenshot below:

zotero

To save your item (book, article, website, etc.), click on the drop-down menu and select how you want the resource to be saved. It’s an easy-to-use upgrade, but one that was rolled out somewhat quietly.

All these changes, however, have caused one part of Zotero to go on the fritz. If you try to save a book, etc. from the UW library catalog, Zotero currently cannot detect all of the information about the item and so doesn’t know that it is saving information for a book or journal. It will simply try to save them item as a webpage…which leaves a lot of useful information behind.

The UW team is aware of the problem, but it may take some time to fix it as there are so many other changes to work through at this time. In the meantime, a helpful workaround is to go to Worldcat.org, a catalog of library materials worldwide, and locate your book, etc. there. You will be able to save your item with all of the important data and information quickly and easily.

If you have any problems or questions, feel free to contact either Kris or Bonnie and we’ll figure out a solution.