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Multiply your Giving Tuesday impact

We have a lot to be thankful for. With the help of supporters like you, we have weathered difficult times of the pandemic and emerged with a sense of wonder and excitement, ready to use the dizzying array of new tools we can now bring to bear on the challenge of making the law accessible and understandable for the public. Although circumstances have changed dramatically – and often chaotically – for many of our supporters, those who are able to pitch in have continued to come together and help ensure not only our continued operation but also a future we can envision with optimism. And for today, Giving Tuesday, a generous group of donors have agreed to multiply the impact of your gift by matching all donations up to $20,000.   

Thanksgiving is well known as a time of year when everyone comes together. For us, it is also the start of one of those magical seasons when everything comes together. The U.S. Constitution Annotated is fully updated and will remain so for a while; the annual federal rules update is teed up to be published as soon as the new rules go into effect; the law and engineering students we work with are bringing their fall semester projects to their respective conclusions, yielding new content and features for our ever-growing collections. 

“I reference LII almost daily for work. I find the cross-references and organizational structure intuitive and easy to navigate.”

Most importantly, it is the season when we get to hear from people for whom the website makes a difference: people from all walks of life – and all corners of the globe – who are empowered by the information you help us provide day in, day out, for free. 

“The LII is invaluable, especially to laypeople, to whom it allows easy access to the law, and to law students (I teach them) whom it frees from the need to buy expensive statutory supplements. Thank you!”

“I am a freelance English to Chinese translator and use your site often. Thank you for providing great and valuable legal information on this site!”

“I have used this resource for 20 years. Thank you!!”

I can’t say it often enough: we could not do any of this without the support you offer us. Thank you for your help. 

With gratitude from all of us at LII.

What Birthday is Complete Without Presents?

We got ourselves a little something for our birthday.  And it was, admittedly, some time in the making.  

Just before our former Director and LII co-founder Tom Bruce retired in the summer of 2019, we sat him down along with LII’s other co-founder, Peter Martin, for an interview about LII’s founding and its early days. Fastcase CEO and Cornell Law School Adjunct Professor (and all-around great guy and friend to Free Law) Ed Walters generously agreed to conduct the interview.  

We spent that year’s budget just getting the interview filmed, and before we could spend the next year’s allocated funds to edit the video, COVID-19 changed the game. So we’ve been saving our pennies and holding on to the raw footage all through the pandemic. We decided to splurge a little bit for our birthday, and we went ahead and hired a vendor to edit the raw footage and produce a finished product.

We hope you’ll take some time to learn a little bit more about the humble origins of this service that now helps more than 40 million people each year find and understand the law. 

Watch the video here.

Pictures from Our 30th Birthday Party

On October 25th, we went ahead and threw ourselves and the students, staff, and faculty of the Cornell Law School a 30th birthday party.  In less than 45 minutes, we’d handed out close to a hundred (tiny) slices of a (giant) sheet cake as well as all 72 cupcakes we’d prepared for the occasion (and also all 144 cans of various flavored sparkling waters we bought “just in case” folks wanted something to drink, too). It was waaay more food than the school’s event planner had recommended for a “typical” event, and it was gone.  Maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, providing for free the good stuff that people value and breaking traffic records in the process is just what we do!  
Anyway, we hope you enjoy these photos from the event.  

A Birthday Glow-Up

We know we look our age–and there’s nothing wrong with that.  But everyone can use a little glow up on occasion.  So, we’ve taken some time over the last year to think through what we want the LII “brand” to convey to everyone from those of you who are on our site almost every day to others who arrive for the very first time from a search engine and don’t know what they’re looking at.  

While we are far from finished, we are ready to show the world some small changes–starting with the new logo on the birthday cake photo in the first article.  You may have already noticed the new template of our newsletter or this blog post.  You’ll see similar changes on our social media accounts.  Bulletin subscribers will also see a new design on the Previews that arrive in their inbox next month.  There are even some small changes to the website itself.  There’s more to come in the long term, but in the meantime we’ll spare you the press release lingo and simply say we hope you like the new look. 

Over 30, but Still Trustworthy

The phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” has its roots in the student activism of the 1960s. LII turned 30 years old last month but we very much hope that you’ll continue to trust us as an unbiased source for statutes, regulations, Supreme Court content, and everything else we publish. The original sentiment behind that phrase – don’t trust anyone over 30 – was, according to the person who uttered it, meant to dismiss a reporter who implied that there must be some “sinister” group behind the student activism that was sweeping across many college campuses. In other words, the Establishment is old, new ideas are young, and the two don’t mix.

As LII contemplates its own future, we feel aspects of this paradox acutely.  For us, the question usually presents itself as how do we continue to experiment and innovate while maintaining a service that more than 40 million people rely on each year? Processing the latest quarterly update to our State Regulations collection or updating old Wex entries usually doesn’t feel like pushing the envelope, but it’s what a mature organization must do in order to keep the goodwill we’ve earned over the past three decades.  

So, we choose new projects carefully. We collaborate with other organizations enthusiastically. We employ students liberally to explore new ideas and technologies. And we constantly strive to strike that balance between stoking the flame of enthusiastic innovation on one hand and maintaining reliable resources on the other.  

And you can trust us on that.  

New Addition to the LII Team

We’re pleased to announce Eric Gullufsen has joined LII’s engineering team as an application developer. A self-taught technologist, Eric began his coding adventures at college in Northern California, where he earned a B.A. in Mathematics. Eric is adept in many coding environments and has contributed to several large open-source projects (LLVM, FreeBSD). Prior to working for LII, Eric was a senior software developer at the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development. Thus far at LII, his work has focused on Continuous Integration/Testing systems and server-side/backend code.

International Open Access Week Talk: What does “open access” look like for the incarcerated?

LII’s Original Content Collections Manager (and resident librarian) Nichole McCarthy moderated a talk as part of Cornell University’s line up of events for International Open Access Week. 

What does “open access” look like for the incarcerated? The short answer is, there is no such thing as “open access” in a correctional facility. However, access to information and education in correctional facilities is still essential. Instead of talking specifically about “open access” efforts, the panel discussed the ways in which The Cornell Prison Education Program and Cornell Library work together to provide access to information to those receiving an education while incarcerated.

Watch a recording of the talk here.

2022 Frank Wagner Prize for Best Supreme Court Bulletin Preview

As we start the new Supreme Court Term, we’d like to announce the winners of our annual Frank Wagner Prize contest for outstanding work during the prior term. The Frank Wagner Prize is funded by an anonymous donor and named for Frank Wagner, the longest-tenured Reporter of Decisions at the Court and a friend of the LII until his passing in 2016.

The runner up from the 2021-22 term was the Preview of Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta, written by Danielle Dominguez (‘23) and Jennifer Seidman (‘23) and edited by Alyssa Ertel.  

The winner of the Wagner Prize for the 2021-22 was the Preview of Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, written by Arisa Herman (‘23) and Amaris Cuchanksi (‘23) and edited by Marisa Pagan-Figueroa (‘22).

A special thank you to Adjunct Professor Michael Sliger, whom the students consulted for Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta and Professors Nelson Tebbe & Michael Heise who lent their expertise to the winning Preview, as well as to all the faculty at Cornell Law School who graciously share their time and their knowledge with LII students as they seek to understand the issues, arguments, and ramifications of each case argued before the Supreme Court and then share those insights with readers of our Supreme Court Bulletin service.