skip navigation
search

burger.jpeg

Concepts of justice must have hands and feet or they remain sterile abstractions. The hands and feet we need are efficient means and methods to carry out justice in every case in the shortest possible time and the lowest possible cost. That is the challenge to every lawyer and judge in America. Warren E. Burger (1907-1995) US Supreme Court Justice, Address to the American Bar Association, 12 Feb 1978

Malum in se is a Latin phrase meaning wrong in itself. It is an innately immoral act, regardless of whether it is forbidden by law. Examples include adultery, theft, and murder. See, e.g. United States v. Bajakajian, 524 U.S. 321 (1998).

katsh coverReadings about legal information — especially electronic legal information — are oddly scattered across a bunch of different literatures. There’s some material in law reviews, some in the communications literature, some in sociology, library science, computer science, auto repair…. Maybe not auto repair, so much. Though there are some things about running a large legal web site that remind us of doing body work on a 1967 Impala .

One of these days, we tell ourselves, we’ll put together a Scuttle site that will act as a place to collect these resources, all in one spot. But we thought it might be good to put some attention on legal-information classics. No doubt the first one we encountered was Ethan Katsh‘s Electronic Media and the Transformation of Law — published a few years before anybody came up with this thing called the Web, probably the first thing we ever read that considered the subject, and still a very fresh look at how mass media change law. Like everything else mentioned here, we recommend it highly.

Teacher's+Pet+Boutique+Tissue.jpgOur collections are popular with public-school teachers; around 554 public schools have links to the LII (there are surely more; we searched for linkers with “k12″ in the domain name). The most prolific is the Kentridge High School Library in Kent, WA (a Seattle suburb), whose site for commercial law is better than some graduate law libraries we’ve seen. Most popular things to link to? Supreme Court decisions, and the WEX legal encyclopedia. Surprisingly, not many are yet teaching from the LIIBULLETIN writeups of upcoming Supreme Court cases, but give ‘em time….

Law that is derived from judicial decisions instead of from statutes. Early American common law was taken from English common law. See, e.g. Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996).

Apr 012008

kilded-it-now-wut.jpgSara Frug, one of LII’s editors, wrote a little bit about what she’s been up to recently:

“Every so often, when we’ve been very, very, good, we get to play with some new software. On the editorial side of the LII operation, the latest shiny things have been WordPress, the software that runs this blog, and Drupal, a web content management system which we’re adapting to run the rest of our editorially-generated content.

Drupal is an extremely flexible system: it comes very minimally configured, and it lets you customize user roles, content type definitions, categories; and when that’s not enough, it lets you install more pieces of software to extend the system. All of this flexibility, however, means that it takes a while to figure out how best to set things up.

Eager to commiserate trade notes with other Drupal folk, I met up with LII programmer Brian Hughes at Drupalcon Boston 2008. We took in some panel presentations, met a bunch of great folks, and in the process of learning a bunch of new tricks, re-discovered how unusual our little operation really is.

My favorite part of the conference was the “Birds of a Feather” track — basically a space for people doing similar things to meet each other and talk about the work they do, the problems they’ve run into, and the solutions they’ve found. Some of the highlights: a demo from Penn State for a complete course management system; a discussion about interfaces for search; and a meetup that I stumbled into on legal issues around open source projects. It was a great pleasure to meet so many others so kindred in so many different ways.

So why did I say that all of this reminded us of how unusual the LII is? It’s because we’re such an odd hybrid: a research group and an outreach operation; a site with heavy editorial workflow and an automation-based text-processing shop; a university project with the culture of a tech startup. We might sometimes wonder whether we are impossibly chimeric, but ultimately we have the same challenge as everyone else: remembering that all of these new toys are really just to help us do useful things with information.”