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May 312008

battery.jpegThe crime of battery is the actual infliction of harm; combined with the crime of assault, it is the threat and action of inflicting harm. Battery is also a civil wrong for which a victim can file for damages.

See Assault, Criminal procedure, Tort, Damages

burke.jpegIn all forms of government the people is the true legislator.

Edmund Burke (1729–97): “Tract on the Popery Laws,” chapter 3, part 1, The Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, vol. 6, p. 320 (1899).

Elaine Svenonius’ Intellectual Foundations of Information Organization was the book that finally clued us in to what librarianship is really about. Highly recommended, especially for computer types trying to figure out the habits of this exotic life form.

May 282008

florence.jpegSome of us here at the LII are already looking forward to the 9th International Law via the Internet Conference in October 2008. Part of the reason — but only part of the reason, really! — is that the Conference will be held in Florence, Italy, the home town of its host, L’Istituto di Teoria e Tecniche dell’Informazione Giuridica (the Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques). We met the ITTIG folks for the first time last year at the conference in Montreal, and we found them to be fun and knowledgeable colleagues. We have much in common and much to learn from each other, and the conference will be a good chance to talk more about what we can work on together.

The International Law and the Internet Conference is an annual event of the Legal Information Institute network that explores progress and emerging problems related to new technologies and law. Cornell’s Legal Information Institute was the first LII, but since we began operation in 1992 the name has been widely adopted by other projects that also provide free online access to legal information. The meeting in Florence will focus on ways in which the use of new technologies can become an irreplaceable tool of democracy for the citizens of the e-society.

machiavelli.jpegBecause just as good morals, if they are to be maintained, have need of the laws, so the laws, if they are to be observed, have need of good morals.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527): Discourses on the First Decade of Titus Livius, trans. Allan Gilbert, book 1, chapter 18, p. 241 (1965).

Memorial Day

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May 262008

poppies.jpegCurrent federal law designates Memorial Day as the last Monday in May — in 2008 that’s today, May 26th. It was officially proclaimed as Decoration Day on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states, but the South did not observe Decoration Day, preferring to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I. In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and soldiers who had died in other wars were also honored.

140 years later, Memorial Day is still celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave and a wreath is laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. But today, there other, less historic, ways to pay your respects; there are picnics, parades and fireworks — or you can skin your phone with an American flag.

clemency.jpegThe power of the President of the United States or a state governor to pardon a criminal or to commute a sentence. The term itself means “leniency” or “mercy.” see, e.g. Herrera v. Collins, 506 US 390 (1993). See also Criminal law.

jeffersonsmall.jpegA strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.

Thomas Jefferson. Letter to John B. Colvin, September 20, 1810, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Paul L. Ford, vol. 9, p. 279 (1898).

womenfire.jpegGeorge Lakoff’s Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind is one of those books that breaks ground where nobody knew there was ground. Read it alongside some of Robert Berring’s work (for instance, Legal Research and the World of Thinkable Thoughts) and you’ll never look at West key numbers the same way again.

It’s probably just a sign that the general frivolity level here at the LII is way too high, but we are prone to confuse the Lakoff book with Ricky Jay’s Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, which is a fine book too, though not up to his Cards as Weapons.

Since he’s in town for the dg.o conference in Montreal this week, LII director Tom Bruce is taking the opportunity to visit old friends at CanLII. CanLII was the first “namesake” organization to adopt the LII name in the mid-90′s, and has grown into the definitive open-access national law resource for Canada. It’s relied on by all Canadian lawyers — who, incidentally, support the service through fees collected directly by their Bar Association.Bruce will be giving a small seminar for the CanLII staff. He plans to talk about the relationship between repositories that are relatively rich in subject-specific metadata — like the LII and CanLII — and search engines of general application, like Google. The trick is to figure out how to provide a seamless and enriched search process for people who first access our web sites via the large public search engines, but could then enjoy faster and more accurate searching using localized, specialized search. It is unlikely, however, that a sharp and curious crew like the CanLII folks will stick to the topic — an exploration that will be fun, educational, and productive for all involved.