Government Information •

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.

New offers live streaming video

The United States House of Representatives now offers live streaming video on the new back to the 111th Congress (January 6, 2009). Users can search House Floor Proceedings by keyword or date and create custom RSS feeds.

Hat tip, Sunlight Foundation blog.

Just in time for the tax season…

“The IRS turns away from auditing big business.” How do we know? TRACfed! Associated with Syracuse University, this service provides comprehensive information about federal enforcement activities, as well as detailed information about federal staffing, federal funds, and the diverse characteristics of counties, federal districts, and states. It also generates free reports based on its data which are highlighted at and has an About the Law tool (link to which allows users to get data about specific statutes used in federal prosecutions and convictions. Off-campus access is controlled by HLS Account username and password.

For even more information about the IRS, see TRACFed’s recently released annual report on IRS operations.

Kenya’s Constitution

Kenya’s Parliament recently passed a new draft Constitution. (Hat tip, Jurist and the Comparative Constitutions blog which has been commenting about the progress of the constitution in Parliament for the past week.)

This development comes on the heels of judges at the International Criminal Court approving an investigation into the violence that erupted following Kenya’s 2007 election, with trials expected to start in 2012. (See our International Courts and Tribunals research guide for more information about researching international courts and tribunals.)

The New York Times also has a good article discussing these recent events in Kenya.