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law_2line_red.gifOur friends and colleagues here at Cornell have just announced publication of these working papers in Cornell's Research Papers Series at SSRN :

The Anti-Network: Global Private Law, Legal Knowledge, and the Legitimacy of the State
American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 56, No. 3, 2008, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-025
Annelise Riles *

Plaintiphobia in State Courts? An Empirical Study of State Court Trials on Appeal
Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-006
Theodore Eisenberg * and Michael Heise *

Daniel Defoe and the Written Constitution
Bernadette A. Meyler *

The State Attorney General and Preemption
PREEMPTION CHOICE: THE THEORY, LAW, AND REALITY OF FEDERALISM'S CORE QUESTION, William Buzbee, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2008, Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-001
Trevor W. Morrison *

Reversal, Dissent, and Variability in State Supreme Courts: The Centrality of Jurisdictional Source
NYU School of Law, Public Law & Legal Theory Research Paper No. 08-01, NYU School of Law, Law and Economics Research Paper No. 08-01, Cornell Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series
Theodore Eisenberg * and Geoffrey P. Miller *

D73F1522-EB79-4009-BFF2-0641D74EDD41.jpgQuestions are in regular supply here at the LII. And we have a lot of smart people in our audience, so we thought we'd see if we could get your help in answering a few of them.

So....every Thursday we're going to throw a few out and see what you have to say about them. Sometimes they'll be straightforward reference-desk stuff. Sometimes they'll be quirks and oddities of life in the legal infosphere that we're trying to explain. Sometimes neither you nor we will be able to imagine why we're asking.

Good answers will get a tip of the hat from us the next week (and in any case will be on display in the comments).

Here are three to get you started. Answers can be submitted as comments.

1) What are your five favorite web pages for legal-research novices (how-tos, not information resources per se)?

2) Can you think of a reason why, on February 8, the New York State Thruway Authority would have had a sudden need to do research in the US Code? A lot of research?

3) Are government works in Argentina protected by copyright?

Yeah, I know, it's not exactly the Car Talk Puzzler. But then, we're not exactly Click 'n' Clack, either....

6F745A48-618A-4D83-B929-CF2C6888CEAE.jpgPotential plaintiffs sometimes take the risk of injury onto themselves and absolve potential defendants from any liability. Formerly, this was an affirmative defense available to defendants, but has since been subsumed by contributory and comparative negligence in most jurisdictions. see, e.g. Justice Ginsburg's dissent in Honda Motor Co. v. Oberg, 512 US 415 (1994).

371D0EAD-DC93-4AE8-8D98-E19FBC308D02.jpgOn February 26, the Supreme Court hears arguments in Allison Engine Co. v. United States.

In 1985, the U.S. Navy contracted with two shipyards for the production of a new fleet of destroyers. Each destroyer required an electrical generator set to provide electricity. Several companies became involved in the project to build the generator sets. None of these companies billed the federal government, but rather billed the company directly above them in the chain of production. The company directly above them did not include these bills when submitting for payment from the government. This case began when two whistleblowers sued their former employer and other government subcontractors under the False Claims Act. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio dismissed their claim after holding that no FCA violation could occur without evidence that the federal government actually relied on a fraudulent bill. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the case should continue because the False Claims Act does not categorically require proof that the fraudulent bill was actually presented to the federal government. The ultimate decision by the Supreme Court could have important economic consequences for taxpayers, government contractors, and any party who seeks to file suit under the False Claims Act. Continues...

DC620F4D-9C22-4882-923E-BA5D65839732.jpgOn Thursday, February 27, the Supreme Court hears arguments in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker, a case at the intersection of maritime law, environmental regulation, and tort law.

In 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on Bligh Reef, off the Alaska coast, spilling millions of gallons of oil into Prince William Sound. In the years following the spill, Exxon would pay millions of dollars in private claims and over a billion dollars to settle government suits under environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). An additional class action suit by private parties sought compensatory damages for economic harm, as well as punitive damages (a civil penalty for particularly egregious conduct). In the final suit, an Alaska district court awarded roughly $20 million in compensatory damages against Exxon—and $5 billion in punitive damages. The Ninth Circuit eventually reduced the punitive damages award to $2.5 billion but upheld the decision to award such damages. Exxon now asks the United States Supreme Court to strike down the award of punitive damages or reduce its amount. In addressing Exxon’s petition, the Court must set maritime law standards for punitive damage awards against a ship’s owner for acts of the ship’s master. The Court will also consider whether Congress meant penalties under the CWA to be the full punishment for a spill, excluding punitive damages under maritime law. Continues...


BA9D57E8-68F5-4436-8BCF-096724E1076B.jpg(Law) usually works not by exercise of force but by information transfer, by communication of what's expected, what forbidden, what allowable, what are the consequences of acting in certain ways."

Marc Galanter, "The Legal Malaise: Or, Justice Observed," 19 Law and Society Review 537, 545 (1985).

ripe.jpegBecause Federal Courts only have constitutional authority to resolve actual disputes (see Case or Controversy) legal actions cannot be brought before the challenged law or government action has produced a direct threat to the party suing. Before then, the matter is said to be not yet "ripe" for judicial resolution. For Supreme Court decisions focusing on the "ripeness" issue, see, e.g., Reno v. Catholic Social Servs., 509 U.S. 43 (1993) and Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003 (1992). From Wex.

orc.jpgWe've always thought of a link to our site as a kind of vote. It means something when somebody refers their readers to you. And Google Webmaster Tools does a good job of filtering out the link-farmers and telling us what we want to know about the 675,000 or more links that come into the LII. It's a good starting point for figuring out who our audience is and what they want.

Some have an obvious meaning (the more than 100,000 from our friends at Justia, for example, or the 2475 from Jurist). But there are some that...well, they take a little figuring out. 24676 from www.theonering.net, a Lord of the Rings fan site, for example, or the 3792 from www.elflady.com. What could this possibly mean? We were even more worried when we went to the ElfLady site and found something called the Orlando Love Forum Board (shudder).

Turns out every last one of the hobbit-links is to Title 17 of the US Code (copyright, for non-Code-heads). This is part of a trend we've noticed, in which people make declarations about a legal position by linking to us. In this case, the hobbits seem to be protecting themselves from orcish rights-holders.... and asserting that they are making fair use of copyrighted material from films and books.

Oh, and we got 50 more links from the hobbits than we did from the law professors at Blawg Emperor Paul Caron's lawprofessors.typepad.com . Comparisons are meaningless, but we figure that either the law professors have less to protect or the hobbits are just that little bit cuter.

5792C417-8D58-4F4F-B24F-CE4259AB296D.jpgWhen the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) needs help with tax law, it turns to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII).

Everyone has to pay income tax. It says so in Title 26, the section of the U.S. Code that governs tax law.

Title 26 has been available on the LII Web site for more than ten years. But now, LII's Tax Code will be included in the IRS Tax Products CD/DVD package -- a tax preparer’s main resource for all things taxable that includes tax publications and forms, research tools, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Paul Showalter, the IRS staffer who produces the Tax Products, called LII Director Thomas R. Bruce on February 7 to ask permission to use the LII material. With the nimbleness that makes the Web different from print, the LII closed the deal and transmitted their version of Title 26 to Showalter the same day.

“I decided to use the LII Tax Code primarily because it is the site that www.IRS.gov refers people to,” Showalter says.

The Government Printing Office (GPO) also makes the U.S. Code available online—but it’s slow and hard to read. The LII version is not only more readable; it also provides a table of recent updates to the law, a link to the GPO site, and the opportunity to easily download or print the material.

The IRS produces 26,000 of its Tax Product CD/DVD package, which is sent, free of charge, to thousands of tax preparers and other interested parties. They go to each member of Congress; to free tax clinics (such as those run by the AARP); to members of the IRS Corporate Partnership (companies who make tax information freely available on company intranets); to libraries; and to IRS employees and IRS walk-in offices.

“We work in a disconnected environment, and employees like easy access to products,” Showalter explains. “The Tax Products package is a great off-line research tool, and that’s why it was created.”

An earlier version of the IRS Tax Products shipped in December. At the end of February, the IRS will ship their final release, this time incorporating the LII’s contribution.

LII’s user-friendly version of Title 26 is now available online. The LII also makes general tax information accessible.