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Oct 092013

Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments about (1) tax law and the jurisdiction of federal district courts; and (2) the intersection of contracts and the rules governing proper venue for resolving disputes:

(1)  US v. Woods  [see our preview at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-562]

  • Does a district court have jurisdiction to determine whether an overstatement penalty should be applied in a partnership-level proceeding?
  • Does the overstatement penalty apply to an underpayment in federal income tax where the transaction lacks economic substance because the sole purpose of the transaction was to inflate the taxpayer’s basis in property?

(2)  Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. US Dist. Court for the Western Dist. of TX  [see our preview at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-929]

  • Can forum-selection clauses render statutorily proper venue improper?
  • How much weight should courts give forum-selection clauses under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)?
Oct 082013

Today at SCOTUS:

(1)  How should a court adjudicate a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel when the defendant accepted a plea deal?

- See our preview of Burt v. Titlow at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-414

(2)  Do aggregate limits on individual political campaign contributions violate the First Amendment?

- See our preview McCutcheon v. FEC at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/oral_arg_previews.php

Oct 072013

Today at SCOTUS:

(1) When is a misrepresentation “material” enough to satisfy the “in connection with” requirement for SLUSA’s preclusion?

- See our preview of  Chabourne & Parke LLP v. TroiceWillis of Colo Inc. v. Troice; Proskauer Rose LLP v. Troice at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-79 

(2) Age discrimination and the Equal Protection Clause.

- See our preview of Madigan v. Levin a http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/cert/12-872

 

Sep 162013


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The LII is hiring a new systems administrator.  We’re looking for a combination of old-school configuration-management, maintenance and troubleshooting skills alongside creativity and newfangled notions about building a sophisticated infrastructure to support Semantic Web publishing and Linked Data.  The environment is fast-paced, demanding, infested with smart people, and very much about learning to fly planes while flying planes.  It’s also whatever the opposite of “impersonal” is, and usually fun.

Come join us in Ithaca.  The formal job description and application are here.

Aug 012013

Today, we will be (re)joined by Craig NewtonCraig Newton ‘07, who will be the LII’s new Associate Director for Content Development.   While a student at the Law School, Craig was the Editor-in-Chief of the LII Supreme Court Bulletin.  He has spent the last several years working as an IP litigator for Cooley LLP in San Diego.  An Annapolis graduate, Craig had a first career as a naval officer before attending law school.  He will coordinate and supervise all editorial activities at the LII,  working with us on a series of projects to improve and expand our offerings, including the WEX legal encyclopedia/dictionary,  the constellation of materials surrounding the US Constitution, and our ever-more capable editions of the US Code and the Code of Federal Regulations.  He and  Associate Director for Technology Sara Frug will be working together at the intersection of legal content and engineering to improve search and navigation features, as well as on a number of experiments intended to make our content more discoverable and more usable.

With the addition of Craig — and of consulting designer Manolo Bevia – the LII crew now numbers 9 1/4, delivering services to over 20 million unique visitors each year.

 

supremeleft1.jpgThis week the Supreme court hears 6 cases, some of which involve criminal law and the Hobbs Act. Also being heard are cases of civil rights, employment discrimination, and harassment. The First Amendment and prostitution and sex trafficking are on the agenda as well.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

This week the Supreme Court hears 6 cases.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

supremeleft1.jpg

This week the Supreme  Court hears 4 cases with topics including the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act, Patent Infringement, the Federal Arbitration Act, Same-sex marriage and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

 

 

supremeleft1.jpgThe Supreme Court hears 6 cases next week. Topics include bankruptcy, just compensation, the Food and Drug law, the Vaccine Act, and voter registration.

 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Feb 282013

pulling hairLII Associate Director Sara Frug is having a bad day. It’s twelve in the afternoon, East Coast time, and the LII web site has slowed to a crawl. It’s taking 16 seconds to get a page of legal information that you could normally get in 6. The LII’s West Coast audience is just getting to the office. Between now and 5 o’clock both East and West Coast people will make heavy use of the site. Things are going from bad to worse, and they will get even worse than that before they get better.

How bad is bad? The typical load average on the LII’s production server is supposed to hover somewhere around 4; that’s what you see on a fully-utilized machine that isn’t straining. Dan Nagy, the LII’s systems administrator, is seeing 39. Dan is not eager to tell you how he knows, but a bad decision made in the course of a tune-up could take it to 300 in about 45 seconds. If that happens, the LII is about as useful as a wet brick. And the LII crew knows: the slow get slower. Anybody who has ever driven on the Boston freeways during the morning rush can see how that works. I-93’s running at capacity, some bozo drops a soda can out the window, and hey-presto, traffic jams solid all the way south to New Bedford.

Sara runs the LII’s crew of engineers. Right now, she is talking to Dan and to Wayne Weibel, the LII’s Drupal developer. They’re looking at the output from WebPageTest.org, a free service that gives a lot of web-performance diagnostics (see below). A couple of things are obvious. The server isn’t clearing connections fast enough. They try a couple of quick alterations to the server configuration. The first shoots the load numbers through the roof, and locks up the server. Oops. Definitely not an improvement. A second is successful. Now the server’s clearing connections fast enough to not bog down completely, so the site’s visitors are getting what they want. But it’s still slow. Time to go under the hood.

A single web page at the LII is made up of a lot of pieces. The home page has 65 separate components. Around 20 of them come from the LII, and the remainder are things like that little Facebook logo with the number of “likes” on the page, which has to be fetched from Facebook every time a visitor shows up. Each LII component can involve multiple database queries that look up text, provide additional links to related information, and so on. Every component comes with a “set-up charge” — the cost in time of setting up a connection from the user’s browser so that the component can be retrieved. There are a lot of moving parts. The LII uses a variety of strategies that reduce the need to regenerate pages, either holding preassembled pages in a cache to be served up directly, or telling the user’s browser that it’s OK to hang on to pieces that get used repetitively and not reload them. Either approach cuts down on the work the server has to do. Right now, it’s not enough.

Over the next three days, Sara, Wayne, and Dan will spend a lot of time staring at complex “waterfall” diagrams that give a timeline for the loading of each component that goes into the page. The waterfall also shows them what’s waiting for what; some components need others before they can load. They’ll identify bottlenecks and either eliminate them or find a way to make the component smaller so it takes less time to load. The server will be tweaked so that it doesn’t clog up as quickly. Components will be combined so that they can be loaded from a single file, reducing the number of data connections needed and the setup time involved. They’ll get the average page loading time from 7 seconds down to under 4, even during the afternoon rush. Three seconds doesn’t sound like much, but for users, it’s an eternity. During the rush, it’s critical. An average load time of 7 seconds quickly ramps up to 16 seconds or more, because, well, the slow get slower. An average load time of 4 seconds is stable at 4 seconds. The crew think they can get it down to 3. The Director wants 2. The LII audience wants something instantaneous, or even better, telepathy. Sara and the crew will turn this crisis into an opportunity. Suddenly, everybody’s got a lot of good ideas about how to make things even faster and they’re starting to compete with the clock. The team is drag-racing now.

There’s more to all this than speed. Because the server is now on the right side of the loading curve, it can serve around 150 more simultaneous users during rush hour, when there are typically around 1350 simultaneous visitors on the site. That’s an 11% increase. There are also implications for our donors. Throwing hardware at a problem like this can be expensive. None of the changes they’ve made involved upgrading hardware or buying more computing cycles. That’s a good thing; the next biggest server ( a “double extra large”, in cloud-computing-speak) would cost about twice what we’re paying now.

So, more people in the LII audience getting more legal information twice as fast at no increase in cost. What’s not to like about that?

 

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