Government Information • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Introducing the Beta Version of

Today the Library of Congress, the Government Printing Office, the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives came together to announce the launch of the beta version of This new site, which will eventually replace THOMAS, already offers access to information on the status and language of bills, video of the House and Senate floors, biographical information about individual members of Congress and videos explaining the legislative process, and more features from THOMAS will be added to the site over time. It is designed to be user-friendly, with a focus on improved search functionality, including the ability to narrow results with facets. The site also works on mobile devices so that you can continue your search on the go without installing a separate app. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Introducing CongressDotGov

More Open Access to Law from Justia

New daily opinion summary alerts service

In March, Justia launched a fabulous daily opinion summary service where you can receive alerts by jurisdiction or legal practice area.    Recently,  it announced that along with the United State Supreme Court and all Federal Appellate Courts, the service now includes all 50 states and over 60 legal practice areas/subjects.   You can have them delivered by Facebook, Twitter, or subscribe to a blog/RSS feed.

Eventually, they hope to include summary blogs with RSS feeds for all [U.S.] state supreme courts, the US Supreme Court and all Federal appellate courts.

According to Cicely Wilson at Justia, summaries are written by a team of 4 writers (lawyers), all of whom are bar-certified.

You can read the original announcement about the service and  its update when it added its 50th state at


New website for legal commentary

Justia also recently launched Verdict, a great new website dedicated to legal analysis and commentary about a variety of issues from an interesting array of contributors including Marci Hamilton and Michael Dorf.  It even includes a section with book reviews. Read more about its launch on the Justia website and check out Robert Ambrogi’s Justia launches site for legal commentary for a great description of the service.

Watch the Sunlight Foundation Forum on C-SPAN

As an update to our earlier post on the Sunlight Foundation, C-SPAN has now posted video of a forum hosted by the Sunlight Foundation on May 9, 2011 to discuss the Congressional Research Service.  Participants discussed the CRS analysts, the reports they prepare, and the agency’s future.  The discussion also focused on the likelihood of improving public access to non-confidential publications prepared by CRS and included information on a bill that will be introduced to make these reports publicly available.

Advocating Greater Access to Government Information

Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to harness the internet to increase access to government information and governmental transparency, testified before House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Legislative Branch about the importance of increasing access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports and THOMAS data.  The full written testimony is available on the Sunlight Foundation blog.  For more information on the issues relating to access to the CRS report, check out our earlier blog post on this topic, Paying for CRS reports twice? or the UNT Digital Library.

Librarians, technologists and law students join forces to provide open access to California law

Our colleagues at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford Law School and Justia (with some help from the folks at Fastcase and Stanford Law students) recently teamed up for SCOCAL, an exciting project to provide open access to California law. From a description on its fabulous Legal Research Plus blog, the website

“provides free access to the full text California Supreme Court opinions from 1934 to the present, along with detailed annotations of selected cases written and edited by students in our Advanced Legal Research class here at Stanford. For selected cases related California Supreme Court briefs, other documents and news items are also available, all free of charge. Users may subscribe to separate RSS feeds of new opinions, annotations, Court news and follow the site on Twitter.”

We had a chance to ask Erika Wayne and Paul Lomio some questions about the project:

MP: How did this project evolve?
PL and EW: Tim Stanley (Justia) came to our Advanced Legal Research class a few years ago and mentioned that lawyer driven annotations were the next big thing. Paul, while biking home, thought let us annotate something….California Supreme Court seemed like a great starting point (model after SCOTUS sites, and local, manageable).

MP: Are students continuing to contribute to the project even after they are done with your class?
PL and EW: We encourage them to do so and I think it is too soon to say….

MP: What happens when your class is not in session (e.g. summer)?
PL and EW: We collect cases for the next quarter. It is based on the Law Review case note model. Alacrity is not critical. Over the course of the year, most of the major cases are covered.

MP: What are the average number of cases each student is covering?
PL and EW: Right now it is 2; it might go to 1 in the future (TBD).

MP: Is participation mandatory for your class?
PL and EW: Yes.

MP: What have been the pedagogical outcomes of having students participate in such a project?
PL and EW: The students all have a deeper appreciation of indexing, court reporting, and computer assisted information retrieval. The students are also learning valuable lessons about search terms and synonyms. In gathering related materials, they understand how difficult it can be to acquire court documents and compile the complete record of the case since it may not all be online (which so many of them expect). We also encourage them to link to free sources so they have a greater awareness of what resources are freely available and what still remains proprietary or unpublished.

MP: Any further enhancements/developments planned for the project (that you may share)?
PL and EW: We are exploring some expansion possibilities, but it is too early to discuss these…..stay tuned!

For more information about this project, check out this posting by Cicely Wilson at Justia.

Readers of the World Unite or GPO Partners with Google to Offer Federal E-books


“The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and Google have entered a partnership to offer the public, for the first time, Federal Government titles in an e-book format. The titles will appear on Google’s recently launched Google ebookstore ,” which can be accessed on most e-readers or on your computer. Some of the books are free, but it looks like most books will cost you several Washingtons and Lincolns.

To learn more click here.

Being positive about the law

When teaching students about federal statutes, one of the most confusing concepts can be that of positive law. If there is a discrepancy between the Statutes at Large and the United States Code, the Statutes at Large trumps unless the title has been enacted into positive law, which has not happened with the majority of titles. Peter LeFevre of the Office of the Law Revision Counsel recently blogged about pending legislation that would solve many of the problems that now exist in the United States Code in Positive law codification will modernize U.S. code.

For some interesting reading about intricacies of the United States code and the problem of positive law see The United States Code, Prima Facie Evience, and Positive Law, Are You Positive About Positive Law?, The U.S. Code, the Statutes at Large, and Some Peculiarities of Codification and Positive Law Codification in the United States and other sources listed on the Law Librarians Society of D.C. website.

Federal Register Re-launch

Today, in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Federal Register Act, the Office of the Federal Register has launched its new Federal Register site.

The new Federal Register organizes agency issuances into six sections: Money, Environment, World, Science & Technology, Business & Industry, and Health & Public Welfare. In addition to search, the site provides browsing by agency and by topic.

Harvard Law School Library Joins the Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive

–As National Preservation Week Begins, the Chesapeake Project, the First Collaborative Digital Archive of Its Kind in the Law Library Community, Expands with the Addition of a New Library Partner–

As the first annual National Preservation Week begins, the Chesapeake Project Legal Information Archive is pleased to announce that its digital preservation efforts are expanding with the addition of a new partner library, the Harvard Law School Library.

By joining the project, the Harvard Law School Library is taking part in the first collaborative digital preservation program of its kind in the law library community. Libraries participating in the project share costs, resources, and expertise to preserve important Web-published, born-digital legal materials within a shared digital archive.

“We are thrilled to become part of this project addressing the crucially important issue of preserving born-digital materials,” said John Palfrey, Vice Dean of Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School. “We feel fortunate to be participating in such a very relevant, collaborative project, harnessing the economies of scale and benefitting from the training and expertise of our new partners who have already been working in this area.”

The Harvard Law School Library is currently prioritizing content for preservation and will be developing its digital archive collections in the coming months.

The Chesapeake Project was launched by the Georgetown, Maryland State, and Virginia State Law Libraries in 2007 as a collaborative digital archive. Today, as the project expands with a new partner library, it is also working with the Legal Information Preservation Alliance (LIPA) in the formation of the new Legal Information Archive, a collaborative digital preservation program for the law library community modeled after the Chesapeake Project.

For more information, visit the Chesapeake Project at or the LIPA Web site at Additional information about the first annual National Preservation Week is available at

Digitizing Haitian Law

Our colleagues Roberta Shaffer and Mark Strattner at the Library of Congress were recently on Federal News Radio discussing their project to digitize Haitian law.

Check out their library’s guides to legal sources in Haiti. You might also want to visit LC’s collection in the Internet Archive where you can already find some Haitian legal material.

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