Government Information •

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 http://www.legalinfoarchive.org or the LIPA Web site at http://www.aallnet.org/committee/lipa. Additional information about the first annual National Preservation Week is available at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alcts/confevents/preswk/index.cfm.

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 HouseLive.gov offers live streaming video

The United States House of Representatives now offers live streaming video on the new HouseLive.gov 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 http://tracfed.syr.edu/notices/whatsnew.html and has an About the Law tool (link to http://trac.syr.edu/laws/) 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.

Some Government Info. News for Sunshine Week

During this Sunshine Week (a national effort to spur discussion of the importance of open government and freedom of information), we are seeing a lot of interesting developments in access to U.S. government information.

Representative Steve Israel recently filed the Public Online Information Act, which would require Executive Branch agencies to publish all publicly available information on the Internet in a timely fashion and in easy to use formats. The Sunlight Foundation provides information about the bill including a one-page summary, the full bill text and a short video. (Hat tip, Erin Miller of the Sunlight Foundation.)

Also, the U.S. courts issued a press release that the Judicial Conference has decided to make some modest changes to PACER, including increasing the amount of free documents users can get from $10 per year to $10 per quarter, extending the pilot offering audio of court proceedings (along witha cut in costs from $26 to $2.40) and approval of a pilot publish federal district and bankruptcy court opinions via the government’s FDsys system so the public can search decisions more easily across courts. For an interesting commentary on what these changes really mean, see former Berkman fellow (and RECAP co-author) Steve Schultze’s blog commentary.

This announcement about PACER comes on the heels of its announcement of a new Case Locator to replace its U.S. Party/Case Index.

Paying for CRS reports twice?

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports provide useful information on a variety of topics, including analyses of key federal statutes or significant legislative proposals under consideration by Congress and compilations of legislative histories. Drafted by staff members at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress for the use of members of Congress, these reports have been the subject of much attention in the government documents community because they are not routinely made accessible to the public online like other types of government information. Although the Congressional Research Service is taxpayer-funded, commercial vendors actually sell access to these reports. For example, the libraries at Harvard have actually paid for online access through LexisNexis Congressional. (There is a also a competing product produced by Gallery Watch/Penny Hill Press.) Members of the public may ask their representatives in Congress to provide them with copies, and various projects have developed over the years to open up these reports and place them on the Internet, including Open CRS and University of North Texas Libraries. See LLRX and our own Legislative History Research Guide for a list of other projects and more information about the reports in general.

Two bills are currently pending in Congress seeking to make CRS reports open to the public, S. Res. 118 and H.R. 3762.
(Senator Lieberman, sponsor of S. Res. 118 is actually making some CRS document available on his website.) There have been other attempts to pass similar legislation in the past. Hopefully, this time will be the charm!

image

Emergence of Law.Gov

Carl Malamud recently announced the creation of Law.Gov (“a proposed registry and repository of all primary legal materials of the United States”). Co-convenors in the project include Harvard Law School’s own Lawrence Lessig and Jonathan Zittrain, former Harvard Law School Library Director Terry Martin and the Robert Crown Law Library of Stanford Law School. See Law.Gov: America’s Operating System, Open Source for Carl’s announcement on O’Reilly Radar.

More government information news

We recently blogged about the submission of the Improve PACER petition to the Administrative Office of the Courts. On Thursday, the FDLP blog stated that the American Association of Law Libraries has been contacted to discuss reviving a pilot program which made PACER available for free at selected depository libraries, but was suspened abruptly pending evaluation. See the press release for the original program and the announcement of the pilot’s suspension.

In other government documents news, there is an interesting (and ironic!) story about Oregon trying to claim copyright in its Guide to Oregon Public Records Law. Hat tip to the Free Government Information blog (a great source for keeping up with government information and open access issues) for the story!