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Soon we’ll start seeing opinions trickle out of the Court that include the vote of the newest Justice, Neil Gorsuch.  Before you read his words, read some lesser-known facts about him:

1:  His mother was the first female Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency.

2:  He was nominated to his prior position on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals after a recommendation from billionaire Philip Anschutz.

3:  His wife is English.  He met her while studying at Oxford.

4:  He has opted out of the “cert pool.” He is only the second Justice on the current Court not to participate.  (The other is Justice Alito.)

Right now, we’re reworking all of the pages on the website that tell you about what we do.  And we’re settling into an approach to this newsletter that makes some assumptions about what you want to know about the LII and what it does. Assumptions are dangerous, of course, and so we thought we’d ask you to tell us what you think.

The result is the very short survey.  Go ahead and fill it out right now if you want —  the rest of this story just explains it a little. How many of these topics are interesting to you, and which ones are the most interesting?

Information about what we do with your money.  We try to be as transparent as possible about our projects and expenses.  Oddly, that’s harder for a small organization to do than it is for a larger one.  Well over 80% of our expenses are in salaries for our very small staff, all of whom work on multiple projects simultaneously, and many of the projects apply to more than one collection.  It’s hard to say exactly which dollar goes where, but we can surely try.  What would you like to know?

Information about impact. This is a hard story to tell clearly; there’s a lot that we ourselves don’t know about the 32 million people who come here each year.  But (for example) we could tell you that traffic on the site is up more than 25% this calendar year, apparently as the result of public curiosity about controversial areas of Federal law.   There’s a lot more hidden in those numbers; what would you most like to know?

Information about technical innovation.  We ran a survey a couple of years back and discovered an interesting thing about you folks:  almost none of you claim to be interested in innovation in legal information per se.  And almost every one of you loves the features that that innovation has produced. We’re trying to figure out how to tell a more interesting story about how one leads to the other, and it would help us to know what you want to know.

Information about the people who work here.  LII people tend to be very, very interesting, and very, very shy.  On the staff here we have people who have developed nanotechnology-based pathogen detectors, been favorably reviewed in the New York Times for modern-dance performance, been captains on good-sized sailing vessels, staged professional opera productions in Eagle Pass, Texas, flown drug-interdiction missions for the Navy,  edited case-study materials for the Harvard Business School, and been production manager for an offset-printing business.   Want to know anything more about them?

Information about open access to law worldwide. We regularly work with organizations like ours all over the world.  We’ve advised LIIs in Africa, consulted for the Hague Conference on Private International Law and the European Commission, taught courses and given presentations in Australia,  and hosted visiting scholars from Spain, Finland, and Serbia among many other places.  More than 20 organizations worldwide have “LII” in their names somewhere.  What would you like to know about them?

Last and very far from least, information about you. LII donors are varied, interesting, committed and motivated to help us by a very, very wide variety of concerns and interests.   It’s a diverse and exciting community; what would you like to know about it?

Please take a minute and fill out the survey (it’s really short).  If surveys aren’t your thing, just write to me at  I’m eager to hear what you think.

When looking for the next LII donor to interview, we thought: who better than a Thomas Jefferson interpreter during the birthday month of our third president? Meet Steve Edenbo, historian and impersonator of Thomas Jefferson for the last 18 years. Upon finding out that the Legal Information Institute has helped Edenbo in his career, we wanted to ask him a few questions.

Can you tell us how your role as Thomas Jefferson first began?

In 1999[,] American Historical Theatre, based in Philadelphia, saw me performing in unrelated theatrical productions. After observing my acting work and learning that my other favorite undertakings were reading and writing, they approached me for the role. I was surprised when they told me that I looked like Thomas Jefferson. I was even more surprised (and delighted) when I began to realize how fulfilling this work could be. The rest is history.

How many different scenes do you reenact as Thomas Jefferson? What is your favorite?

Technically, I don’t really reenact any scenes. My presentations —both monologue and dialogue— are interpretations of Jefferson’s life & philosophy. They’re based on careful research and study, but they’re less like a reenactment and more like a theatrical thesis. That being said, my favorites are the debates, which I think are usually more entertaining for the audiences too. As Jefferson, I regularly debate Chief Justice John Marshall and President John Adams for CLE seminars, judges retreats, etc. One of my most popular debates is with Alexander Hamilton. I’ve also debated Abigail Adams (a debate that really ought to be more popular), Patrick Henry, George Washington, Thomas Paine, John Dickinson, and others.

Are there personality traits that you would say you and Thomas Jefferson share?

Sure. Like him, I enjoy my privacy, which of course is an ironic thing to say while participating in an interview. Unlike him, I like speaking to audiences. After the show, however, I turn to solitude for replenishment. Early in my study of Jefferson, I connected with his universal curiosity. He loved learning and wanted to know about everything. Admittedly, his intellectual tools for gathering and processing information were exponentially greater than my own are, but I nonetheless feel a kinship of curiosity with him.

If you could have lunch with Thomas Jefferson, what is one thing you would ask him?

I’ve often thought about that kind of scenario. What I’ve determined is that he’d never answer the most nettling questions about him. He’d be an utterly charming lunch companion, but he wouldn’t hesitate to use his sparkling conversation and kaleidoscopic knowledge to mask anything he didn’t want to reveal. That’s part of where my interpretation of him parts from what he’d really be like if you met him; I work hard to engage directly with the most difficult questions that he would evade. Fortunately, it’s not my job to be Thomas Jefferson; it’s my job to tell his story.

Can you give a few examples of different events you have performed for?

Every July 4th for the last 16 years I have participated in a public reading of the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives in Washington D.C., followed by a day of interactions and discussions with the thousands of people who attend the event. This year at Monticello, on June 3d & 4th, we’re doing our second annual event centered on the story of how Jefferson was almost captured by the British at his home. Every year at Hamilton Grange National Memorial we invite the public to attend Hamilton v. Jefferson debates —one for younger audiences and one for adults (This year it will be on June 17th). I’ve appeared in a few episodes of the historical cooking documentary series “A Taste of History” with Walter Staib.  I perform regularly for Independence National Historical Park. Those are some highlights. I also give motivational speeches at corporate events, more traditional presentations at libraries, schools, colleges & universities, and other community events, and in-character “meet & greets” at cocktail hours, among other event categories. Sometimes I sit to lunch or dinner with very small gatherings of as few as two or three people. I send as much of my work as possible through American Historical Theatre, because they continue to be a wonderful organization serving a great purpose.

Is there a place you have not traveled yet, that you would like to for a performance?

Well, I’ll be checking a big one off of my “Jefferson Bucket List” this year when I speak at Mount Rushmore on October 6th. I’ve received inquiries from them before, but the scheduling never worked-out until now. Beyond that, I’d like to expand into the international schools market. I gave a series of presentations at the American School in London a number of years ago, and I loved everything about the experience. There are American schools all over the world, and I’d love to visit them.

You also play William Clark. How did that role begin?

It began in 2003/04 for the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, with a series of appearances at Philadelphia’s Academy of Natural Sciences. They were hosting the traveling exhibit on the Journey of Discovery. Clark is a fun role; his stories are much more exciting than Jefferson’s.

How did you first find the LII?

I found you while doing research. I do most of my research on the computer. I’m always looking for online sources of primary documents, partially because I footnote my scripts for later reference, and partially because I like to accompany my in-character social media posts with links to primary documents. LII has been especially helpful in researching and preparing the scripts and social media posts associated with the scripts I’ve been writing for the CLE Marshall v. Jefferson debates.

For those who don’t know, can you explain what the American Bar Association’s CLE programs are and how you’re involved with them?

Continuing Legal Education seminars (“CLE’s”) are accredited courses designed to maintain or sharpen the skills of licensed attorneys and judges. They are primarily operated and developed on a state-by-state bar association basis. My actor-historian colleagues and I join with attorneys, who serve as moderators in the debate programs, to present the 3&1/2-hour seminars. My favorite moderator to work with in this capacity is Donald Scarinci of Scarinci-Hollenbeck. Not only does he know his Constitutional law history, but he also gets the spirit of what our in-character presentations are trying to achieve. He helps bridge the gap between the “cut-off” dates of the historical figures (Jefferson can’t comment beyond July 4th, 1826, for instance) and modern day. The debate structure allows us to present complicated and often dense Constitutional history in an entertaining format. Personal conflict, and personality, of the founding fathers helps us to make the educational experience an enjoyable one. For instance, John Marshall and Thomas Jefferson hated each other, and the hatred was personal. Their families hated each other, and that intensely personal quarrel fed the political fire while it currently increases the theatrical tension of the CLE presentations.

What parts of the LII do you use the most?

I suppose I’ve already hinted at it, but your online SCOTUS opinions have been tremendously useful for me.

How would you describe the process of finding information on our website?

I’ve come to your resources by Googling specific court cases. When your name comes up in the search (which is basically always), I go to LII because I know that I can trust the resources and that they’re easily accessed.

You recently made a gift to support the LII’s work. Can you tell us why you decided to give?

LII’s free online resources played a key role in my research and writing of the new scripts for our Marshall v. Jefferson debates, which debuted for the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education in December. They were a big success, and will continue with the Pennsylvania Bar Institute in May and the Pennsylvania Conference of State Trial Judges in July. It’s become clear to me that LII is a valuable resource, and I wanted to help you continue to make it available to all.

What is one thing you like doing outside of your work?

When my work schedule allows, I add sightseeing to my Jeffersonian travel. National Parks are my favorites. I camped in Joshua Tree in January, and I’ll camp in Yosemite in May. Last week in Texas I visited Mission San José in San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. Another place I’d love to check off of my “Jefferson Bucket List” is Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, so if anybody in the Florida Keys is interested in a visit by Mr. Jefferson, do give me a call.

Last summer, we announced our plans to take over the operation of the Women & Justice caselaw collection, which has been created by Cornell Law’s Avon Center prior to its closure. We thought it was time for an update.

Under the leadership of Jocelyn Hackett, Cornell Law School Class of 2012, the collection continues to grow. Jocelyn was able to maintain and build upon earlier pro bono relationships between the former Avon Center and two major American law firms: White & Case and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.  Attorneys from those firms are researching and writing about important cases affecting women’s rights in areas from employment to property to domestic violence and other criminal law in various jurisdictions across five continents. The list of jurisdictions is so long that just alphabetizing it seems like work:  Algeria,  Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium,  Belize,  Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, China, Costa Rica,  Cuba, Dominican Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Estonia,  Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana,  Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Malaysia,  Mali, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Suriname, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Vietnam, and Zambia.

In addition to national courts, researchers are considering materials from such bodies as the African Commission and Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights; The Committee Against Torture; The Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Human Rights Committee); European Committee on Social Rights; European Court of Human Rights; European Court of Justice; and the Inter-American Commission and Court on Human Rights.

All involved are committed to exploring ways to improve and grow the database. These include revamping the technical aspects of the database as we port it over to the LII domain, teaming law students with the volunteer attorneys who do the research and writing, creating complete resource guides for several of the countries featured in the collection, and potentially someday offering searchable native language and English version of the collection’s various resources.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress with this exciting and important project!


On February 14, LII Director Thomas R. Bruce was asked to testify before a hearing at the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet.  The subject of his testimony was the future direction of PACER, the recordkeeping system that is used by the Federal courts to keep track of their work, to publish the resulting Federal court decisions, and to allow efficient submission of documents needed for that process.  He was the sole expert testifying before the committee on that matter.

PACER has long been controversial for a number of reasons.  The biggest is the system of fees associated with it.  Established in order to cover the cost of operating and maintaining the system, PACER fees now generate millions of dollars in excess revenue each year, becoming, in effect, a general fund for court technology projects. Second, it is very hard to find things in PACER.  PACER’s search-and-retrieval technology for judicial opinions is severely outdated, but attempts at change have been strongly resisted out of fear of change. Finally, there are a number of more technical problems involving the apparatus of citation and metadata in use in the system.

Unsurprisingly, Tom’s testimony argued for major changes in the system, most importantly that fees be removed and the publication process be handed off to the Government Publishing Office, which already has a useful pilot program in place. Removing PACER fees, and thus bringing about fairer and more open access to all Federal judicial opinions, would be a major victory for open access to law.   Let’s hope it happens soon.

Tom’s full written testimony is here.  Other reports on the hearing are here (FreeLaw Project), and here (SLAW).

It’s a cruel reality that the busiest time for the leadership of our student-run Supreme Court Bulletin Previews is the very first month of their tenure.  In the weeks immediately following their appointment, the new Editor-in-Chief and Executive Editor have to recruit, vet, and select 24 new associates from the class behind them.  They must choose a real case from the Court’s final docket of the term with adequate briefing already on file to support a writing competition, then they have to grade the applicants’ submissions and schedule interviews.  At the same time, they must learn their jobs from the outgoing leadership before those students graduate and join the working world as new lawyers. While it’s a daunting amount of work, we’re confident the new team is equal to the challenge.  

The new Editor-in-Chief of the Bulletin is Laurel Hopkins.  Laurel graduated summa cum laude from Columbia College in 2014 with a degree in psychology.   She is a Charles Evan Hughes Scholar at Cornell Law and has already won three awards for her writing. Equally impressive is her resume as a volunteer, which contains activities ranging from coaching high school debate to spending summers working at an orphanage in Haiti.  “My favorite part of working for the Bulletin” Laurel explains, “is the opportunity to learn about Supreme Court cases while making information accessible to a broader audience. The transition process has been exciting because we get to both take a larger role in the Bulletin’s work and select new associates who are just as enthusiastic about carrying out the Bulletin’s mission.”

The new Executive Editor is Jaeeun Shin.  A native of South Korea, Jaeeun received her degree in International Studies from Yonsei University in Seoul but also studied as an exchange student at the University of California, Berkeley.  Jaeeun is active within Cornell Law School as a member of the Briggs Society of International Law, the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society and an associate on the Cornell International Law Journal.   “I thought writing previews as an associate was fun and challenging, but being part of the editorial board has already proven to be much more so,” Jaeeun says. “It’s been a busy few weeks so far but I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity to be involved. We’re confident that we can look forward to another year of great previews.”

Laurel and Jaeeun have already selected a number of their classmates to serve as Managing Editors.  These MEs will work with pairs of new Associates to create Previews when the Supreme Court begins its 2017 – 18 docket in October.  Those new Associates will be selected by Laurel, Jaeeun and their team in the coming weeks.  That process consists of a writing competition and then interviews with each candidate.  They are looking to find students with both the skills and the desire to communicate to the public a clear, unbiased explanation of the issues and arguments for each case the Court hears. Your donations help us pay them as graduate research assistants.

Click here to access our Supreme Court Bulletin Previews, and find our students on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Dan Dwyer is a senior attorney with 17 years of experience, currently serving as the in-house lawyer for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).  He is another great example of a donor who contributes to our work for the good of others–a large part of his job is to provide legal advice to people making decisions that affect how commuters get to work every day. We were intrigued by Mr. Dwyer’s role and wanted to learn more.

Can you describe your occupation and what a typical day is like for you at Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA)?

I am a corporate and real estate attorney for the fifth largest transportation authority in the United States.  Although we work in all mass transit modalities except ferries, most of my work is focused on commuter rail. There are all manner of agreements, be they ground leases, equipment leases, licenses, development agreements, construction contracts and services contracts, letters of intent and memorandums of understanding that must be agreed upon with other railroads, developers, adjacent property owners and services providers. I also do a fair amount of state and federal legislative and regulatory analysis with an eye to giving my clients very succinct advice about what they can and can’t do.

Since you have experience in both, what would you say are some differences between working at a firm and working as an in-house attorney?

In a law firm, the lawyers is a revenue center whose primary job is to do legal work and her legal work product is the end goal. An in-house is a cost center and part of a bigger organization whose goals must be achieved. I tell the younger lawyers that they must balance three roles. The first is an attorney with all the professional and ethical obligations that entails. The second is an employee of an engineering organization who must function as a part of engineering project teams. The third role is that of a public servant. This is a broader set of obligations than those that I faced in private practice.

What do you find most challenging about your job? Most rewarding?

The most challenging aspect of my job is the aspect that is also most rewarding. I have to get-up every morning and do everything I can as a lawyer to help keep the trains running. There is no better feeling than looking at the trains during a service crisis and knowing what I did to assure that there was service. I ride to work in the morning and see people riding in cars that I leased over lines and through signals whose maintenance contracts I negotiated. It is challenging to keep everything moving but worth it.    

Thanks for your recent gift to the LII. In what ways has the LII been helpful to you in your work?

Commuter rail has been heavily regulated and legislated over the last 40 years. Sometimes it is not enough to know what the current legislation requires. You need to know how we got here and why things were done differently 10 or 20 or 30 or 50 years ago. Railroads are all about history and LII helps me access the legislative history that I need.     

How did you first come across our site?

I was directed to it by my dear friend and brother-in-law, John Joergensen, of Rutgers Law Library.

You mentioned that John Joergensen, our friend at Rutgers Law School, convinced you to support the LII. What did he say that inspired you to give?

He said two things. The first was to stop being a free-riding deadbeat. He also told me that, although information – particularly legal information – should flow freely, there is a cost to that flow.  If you don’t pay that cost, it won’t be available. It is the old “problem of the commons.”  If everyone shares a benefit, but can free ride on its upkeep, you eventually lose the benefit.

When visiting our site, do you always find what you need? If not, do you have suggestions for how we might improve access to certain parts of the law?

It is a great site. I wouldn’t presume to tell you your business.

If you were to tell others about the LII and why it’s worth supporting, what would you say?

The law should be readily available to everyone because if ignorance of the law is never an excuse than knowledge of the law is a necessity. In an internet-driven society, the access to the law must be on the internet and not behind a pay-wall for most people. LII takes the law from behind that pay wall.

What is one interesting fact about yourself?

I read about the history and development of administrative law for fun. The administrative state is a big part of our everyday lives  and to know what to do with it next, we have to know what we have been trying to do with it all along. I have little time for the highfalutin big idea political discussions we so often hear.  I want to think and talk about using law to fix big problems in, perhaps, little ways. My friends are getting sick of talking to me because of this.

Three weeks ago, a faculty workshop caught our eye. Professor Wendy Wagner of the University of Texas School of Law visited Cornell Law School, bringing with her 70-degree weather and a working draft of her article, “Dynamic Rulemaking”.

The article was the result of a collaborative empirical study of the rulemaking process in three federal agencies: the Federal Communications Commission, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency. It traced the lineage of a set of regulations to find revisions to rules and found that 73% of the rules they traced were revised at least once after promulgation. Many of the revisions did not undergo the standard notice-and-comment process.

The workshop also surfaced some questions for us about how our work is consumed by researchers. Alongside our enhanced copy of the eCFR we publish information about rulemaking activity. This semester, our M.Eng. team is working on a project which includes software to help compare regulatory language (we’ll be saying more about that project in future newsletters). We hope that as the new offerings become available, academics will be able to take advantage of the data we’re enriching.

It’s a little technical, but a new report from the European Union’s BO-ECLI project may well interest a fairly broad swath of our information-policy, librarian, and legal-information-retrieval friends, as well as those of you who are interested generally in questions of citation.  The report surveys and compares online publication practice throughout Europe. That would be valuable enough in itself.   But it is more broadly useful than that, in that it also looks at anonymization (privacy) policies, metadata inclusion, and other more generally applicable practices.  It can, and should, provide additional valuable information to other resource listings/catalogs, such as GlobaLex ; for comparative research on caselaw publication practices; and for information-policy specialists interested in such subjects as public records privacy.

At 178 pages, it is extremely detailed, but many will get a good deal of value from reading the more manageable and exceedingly well-written executive summary.  We’ve been watching the development of ECLI for a couple of years now with great interest.  This report represents only one aspect of this valuable activity, and we look forward to more.  

For more information on ECLI, see the project website here.

While it’s not a statistic we actively track, none of us here can remember a time that individual statutes and regulations dominated the list of our most visited pages like they have for the past few weeks. Since January 20th, 8 USC 1182, 1187 & 1152 (all immigration statutes), 50 USC 3021 (National Security Council), and 5 CFR 2635.702 (“Use of public office for private gain”) have all been among our most-visited individual pages. Over the same three weeks of 2016, for example, there were no individual statutes or regs among the thirty most-viewed pages, while all five listed above cracked the top twenty this year.   

This is our starting point for an article meant to be the next installment in our occasional series spotlighting how traffic arrives to our site. In May of 2016, for example, we wrote about hyperlinks from news websites. In October, we put the spotlight on social media. So, what’s new this time?

Whether it’s presenting the statutes and regs, explaining legal concepts in Wex, or writing about the Supreme Court in our Bulletin Previews or over on our Oyez website, we always strive to be viewpoint neutral above all else. We want to be the place where folks of any political stripe–or with no stripes whatsoever–can come and read what the law actually says for themselves. And for the past few weeks, that is exactly what’s been happening.  

On these sections of primary law in particular, we’ve seen on balance a lower percentage of traffic coming to us from search engines and a higher percentage from social media and other web traffic. Sure, there’s the New York Times, the Washington Post, Business Insider, and US News in the normal spots as high-volume referrers of traffic. And we always see a lot of links (and traffic) from and  But, in those same materials during the same time, there is an awful lot of traffic from Fox News, The National Review,, and For folks who are unfamiliar with and unlikely to visit some of those sites, we’re also seeing traffic from,, and  

We see that and we think we’re doing something right. (A lot of things, actually, but we’re trying to stay humble.) People (A LOT of people)–regardless of how they think or how they vote–are reading about laws discussed on their favorite news websites and coming straight from there to our website to read those law for themselves. We think that’s good. We think that’s important. We love that you do, too, and that you support us in our efforts.   

Lastly, no discussion of recent hyperlinks is complete without noting that some of our Bulletin Preview students were particularly excited to see this snarky shout-out to us as a “super untrustworthy source” on GQ’s website. On one hand, the 181 referred users coming from that link would otherwise be insufficient to warrant mention in this article. On the other hand, we feel we should mention it because we always assumed our Dean would make Gentleman’s Quarterly before we did.  🙂