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The Indiana Law Library Blog

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Improving USA.gov

We have often touted the utility of state and federal government websites for information.  www.IN.gov is a repository for lots of useful information, including a lot of the basics of Indiana law.  We are also heavy users of the federal government’s website, www.USA.gov. Though a source of lots of helpful information, USA.gov, like many websites, could use a little sprucing up, and its administrators are asking for your help in deciding what needs updating.  Your Voice Matters is a website created to ask for feedback about USA.gov. They are asking for suggestions, they want to know what are the services that you use most, and they are also asking for opinions on ideas like offering a personal account you could log into.  Some commentators like the idea, others are worried that it is a way to harvest information about users.  Go take a look!  You have to provide an e-mail address to become part of the discussion, but if there is something that you find lacking, or difficult find on the site this is a good opportunity to let them know. The discussion lasts until January 15.

Listening to the Health Care Bill

Last Saturday the House passed H.R. 3962, the highly controversial health care bill, by a very slim margin of 220-215.  The House added one amendment to the bill, concerning coverage of abortion procedures, but declined to include an amendment dealing with insurance. The bill as introduced is sizable—nearly two thousand pages, and if you are interested in reading it you can.  It is available in several places including FDsys, the new website from the Government Printing Office.  There is another alternative, though, for people reluctant to wade through the paper version.  Hear the Bill is a website where voice actors have volunteered their time to read aloud the text of the health care bill.  The later divisions of H.R. 3962 are not yet complete, but all of Division A and the majority of Division B are.  You can also listen to older versions of the House Bill, or a draft version of the Senate Bill.  Go take a look!

New Lexis iPhone App

A while ago we mentioned that West made Black’s Law Dictionary available as an application for the iPhone.  Now Lexis is making materials available through the iPhone.  LexisNexis Get Cases and Shepardize lets you do just that the name suggests. You can pull up a case, or run a Shepard’s search, although you will only get the Shepard’s summary, and not the full report.  The app is free, but it does require that you have a valid Lexis password, so for those out of law school, you will probably have to pay standard charges.

An Archive of Blawgs

Legal blogs have taken on a life of their own.  They provide news and current events, and also a look into the minds of some of the best legal scholars.  With that in mind, the Law Library of Congress has been archiving blawgs since 2007.  This database includes more than 100 items and covers a large variety of legal issues.  You can search by keyword, or just browse by subject.  Go take a look!

New United Kingdom Supreme Court Now At Work

On October 1, the United Kingdom implemented a potentially far-reaching constitutional change, with the coming into force of Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005.  This statute establishes the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom as an autonomous court of highest appeal, with jurisdiction to hear civil and criminal appeals from courts in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as civil appeals from Scotland.  (Scottish criminal law is insulated from review by English courts under the Act of Union.)  The new Supreme Court thus replaces the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords (Law Lords), which itself was formally created by the Appellate Jurisdiction Act of 1876.  However, the exclusive power of the House of Lords to function as a court of highest appeal actually dates back to 1399, when the House of Commons ceased hearing petitions to overrule judgments of lower courts, and the power of Parliament generally to act as a court of appeal can be traced back over 600 years to the work of the royal court, or Curia Regis.  In purely institutional terms, the creation of the new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is therefore a major innovation. Full Story »

Digitized Serial Set Expanded

The Wells Library has purchased a campus-wide subscription to the LexisNexis Serial Set Digital Collection, 1970-2003.  This module expands our previous (1789-1969) digitized Serial Set coverage.

The modern Serial Set includes House and Senate documents and reports, Senate executive reports, and Senate treaty documents.  Historically, the Serial Set included special publications, unusual historical data, exhibits of congressional and executive branch commissions, executive branch publications, and investigations and inquiries.

When complete, the LexisNexis Serial Set Digital Collection, 1970-2003 will provide comprehensive, full-text access to over 50,000 Congressional documents and reports published in over 2,600 volumes of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set from 1970-present. The Serial Set Digital Collection also provides full text access to all Senate Executive Documents and Reports, 1817-1979.

Features include:

  • Controlled vocabulary indexing
  • Full-text searchable PDFs
  • Durable URLs, which you can place into your own bibliographies and syllabi

Search by:

  • Keyword
  • Committee
  • Legislative numbers (report and document numbers and even citations to bills, public laws, and Statutes at Large)

LexisNexis is digitizing this collection incrementally on a chronological basis, so right now there will be data only from the early 1970s. LexisNexis should have roughly 60% of the pages from 1970-2003 online by the end of 2009, with the remainder going online in 2010.

The Serial Set Digital Collection is fully integrated into LexisNexis Congressional, which is accessible from the Law Library’s Online Resources page (find it alphabetically or under the Government Resources category).

Economic Research

Here’s an update from, Katrina Stierholz, Director of Library and Research Information Services at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, on what’s new in FRASER  (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research).

Federal Banking Laws and Reports

  • A compilation of major Federal banking documents from 1780 to 1912. It includes founding documents for the Bank of North America (1781), ordinances for the First and Second Bank of the United States (1791, 1816) as well as reports and proceedings. It was published for the 50th anniversary of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency in 1963.

Penn Central Failure and the Role of Financial Institutions

  • Five staff reports of the U.S. House Committee on Banking and Currency examine the collapse of the Penn Central Transportation Company, the single largest bankruptcy declaration in U.S. history at the time.

Operation of the National and Federal Reserve Banking Systems

  • A seven-part hearing from 1931, before a subcommittee of the Committee on Banking and Currency, U.S. Senate, to “inquire into the banking situation of the country.”  Hearing is pursuant to Senate Resolution 71: to make a complete survey of the administration of National and Federal Reserve banking systems.

Shadow Open Market Committee Policy Statements (1973-1997)

  • The Shadow Open Market Committee (SOMC), an independent organization with members from academic institutions and private organizations, was founded by Professors Karl Brunner of the University of Rochester and Allan Meltzer of Carnegie-Mellon.  Its first semi-annual meeting was held on September 14, 1973.  The objective was to evaluate the policy choices and actions of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (FOMC).  Since 1973, the SOMC has met semi-annually to discuss economic policy.

Public Statements of Marriner S. Eccles, Chairman of the Board of Governors (1934-1948)

Public Statements of the Members of the Board of Governors.  Eccles (1948-1951)

Federal Reserve Bulletin, Now available from 1915-2003.

Finding Newspapers

As many of the cite-checkers on our journals can attest to, it is not always easy to find old newspapers.  The Law Library has current issues, and maybe a week back for several papers, but older materials can be quite difficult to find.  Some papers keep wonderful archives—if you want the New York Times, for example, they have a nice archive on their own website—you can get from 1981 for free (not in PDF), from 1922-1980 in PDF for a price, and from 1851-1922 in PDF for free.  If you really need a PDF you may need to go looking through microfiche at the Wells Library, or it is possible that it is part of the ProQuest Historical Newspapers database. 

For really old materials, though, the Library of Congress has a website called “Chronicling America.”  The site includes information about US newspapers back to 1690, and PDFs of newspapers from select states from 1880-1922.  You may not often need a newspaper article from 1899, but even if you are not looking for a specific piece it is a very interesting website to browse.  Even the advertisements in these newspapers are a little slice of history.  Go take a look!

FDsys

For many years one of the best places to go for government documents has been the Government Printing Office website, GPO Access.  But recently GPO has been in the process of rolling out a new website, FDsys. At the moment both sites are up, so many legal researchers have simply continued to use GPO Access.  It sounds like once the transition is completed, though, GPO Access will no longer be updated.  So how does the new FDsys stack up?  You can read a short review by Peggy Garvin in LLRX.  We here at the law library have our own reviewing to do, but this is a good start.  Thanks to the Law Librarian Blog for passing this along.

Top State Government Websites

One of the best places to go when you are doing basic, state-level research, are state government websites.  Usually government websites are pretty good, but they all have their strengths and weaknesses.  Recently, Marc Holzer, Aroon Manoharan, Robert Shick, and Genie Stowers took stock of those strengths and weaknesses in the U.S. States E-Governance Report (2008)—An Assessment of State Government Websites. The report evaluates state government websites based on content, security, and usability.  The Indiana State website is a very useful resource, and in fact it ranks fifth on the list of overall best (After Maine, Oregon, Utah, and South Carolina).  We are first in the Midwest.  Take a look!  If you ever find yourself needing to look for state information, it’s good to know what kind of resources you have available to you.

Thanks to the beSpacific blog for posting this.

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