homeHeaderLogoImage_en_USThe Journal of Open Access to Law is making its official debut this week. The journal describes itself as “an open-access, peer-reviewed academic journal of international scope. Its purpose is to promote international research on the topic of open access to law.”

The inaugural issue features articles discussing “the governance of new models of legal publishing, projects in open access to law, technical challenges and economic opportunities created by open access to law as well as trends and changes suggested by the globalization of access.”

For a more detailed description of the journal and its aims head over to Legal Information Institute Director and journal co-editor Tom Bruce’s blog B-Screeds.

The Law Library is pleased to welcome Priya Rai, Deputy Librarian in Charge at the Justice T.P.S. Chawla Library, National Law University in Delhi, to Cornell Law School.

Ms. Rai’s visit is made possible through the Bitner Research Fellows Fund.  This endowment is designed to provide foreign law librarians with exposure to Cornell Law Library’s excellent resources and the expertise of its professional librarians, while learning about advanced legal research in a global context.

Ms. Rai will present at the faculty workshop on Wednesday, July 25, 12:00 Noon, in the Weiss Faculty Lounge.  Entitled “Access to Legal Information in the Digital Age: A Comparative Study of Electronic Commercial Databases and Public Domain Resource in Law,” her presentation will include the results of her research involving law students and faculty from leading law schools in India. In addition to comparing open access and commercial legal databases, she will discuss initiatives to promote access to legal information to all Indian citizens.

Ms. Rai is the 2012 recipient of the FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant.   This grant provides financial assistance for a foreign law librarian to attend the American Association of Law Libraries Annual Meeting, which she will do immediately prior to visiting Cornell.

This past spring two free services for searching and following bills in the fifty states and the U.S. Congress have appeared.  LegiNation, Inc. launched BillTrack50 in April.  BillTrack50 has a free component and a subscription component.  (More about the differences in a minute.)  GovTrack, provided as a free service by Civic Impulse, LLC, has been around awhile as a source of information about Congress.  In June, Civic Impulse rolled out state legislation tracking in beta.  It draws its data from LegiNation and LegiScan, Inc., with some additional data from Open States.

It turns out that having both is a good thing, as each provides free tools that the other does not.

BillTrack50’s free product is called Quick Search.  It allows the registered user to search simultaneously the bills of any or all of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Congress.  The user can also choose to search a selection of states at the same time.  The search engine searches the entire text of the chosen jurisdiction’s bills, and it allows the user to specify terms that the bill text must include, terms that it may include, and terms that it cannot include.  Bills can also be filtered by sponsor and by bill number.  The search results include state, bill number, bill name, a summary if available, latest action, and latest action date.  A link by each result takes the user to details about the bill, including sponsor (with a link to a page with significant information about the sponsor), full bill text, action history, vote history, and associated documents.  Full bill text includes previous versions, which can be compared red-line style.  Bill text can be exported to HTML, RTF, or Legix (*.slim).

BillTrack50’s free product does not offer saved searches or alerts of bill action; however, subscribers can create Custom Bill Sheets, which includes saved searches and saved bills.  They can also create custom alerts, stakeholder pages, and widgets (see Custom Bill Sheets for more information).

GovTrack’s state legislation offerings have less extensive search capabilities.  From its State Legislation menu, GovTrack offers the user a choice between searching a specific state’s bills and searching the bills of all 50 states (the District of Columbia is not included).  If all 50 states are chosen, the only search tool is keyword searching.  If one specific state is chosen, the user may specify the session and the chamber as well (although chamber information is not always available).  In all instances only the bill title and summary are searched, not the full bill text.  The length of the summary depends upon the state.  The results list includes state, session, bill number, and bill title.  Clicking on the bill’s link takes the user to a page giving the history of the bill, link(s) to the full bill text and sometimes related bill text, and links to other available documents (such as voting records).

GovTrack50 also offers free bill-tracking capability. It allows the user to set up e-mail, RSS, and onsite feeds for each state, either for every legislative action or for individually selected bills.  Moreover, the user may set up multiple feeds containing the user’s choice of state(s) or bill(s), and for each feed choose whether to receive e-mail updates daily, weekly, or not at all.  The user’s feeds, which the user can name, can be viewed on GovTrack’s site as well.  Thus, for example, a user could have three feeds: one that updates the user weekly by e-mail about all California legislative activity, one that updates the user by RSS about three specific New York bills, and one that updates the user about five specific bills from five different states, when the user chooses to log in to GovTrack’s site.

In sum, BillTrack50’s free search capabilities paired with GovTrack’s options for e-mail and RSS updates make both services well worth exploring for those interested in tracking state legislative activity.

Bloomberg:  Your academic account remains active during the summer and there are no restrictions on its use.  It can be used for both academic and commercial purposes.  For graduates, your BLAW account remains active through December 2012.


Lexis:  You will have full access to Lexis Advance during the summer without special registration.  If you do not have a Lexis Advance account, contact our Lexis rep, Aaron Eberle, aaron.eberle@lexisnexis.com Academic use only, commercial use is prohibited.

Academic use includes:

  • Summer course preparation and assignments
  • Journal and Moot Court research
  • Research associated with pursuing a grant or scholarship
  • Working as a faculty research assistant
  • An internship, externship, or clinic position for school credit or graduation requirement
  • Bar exam preparation
  • Research skill improvement

For summer access to Lexis.com, you will need to register at www.lexisnexis.com/lawschool/ at which a registration form will be available by the end of April.  Register before the end of May.  Same restrictions on academic use apply as above.


Westlaw:  You will have full access to both Westlaw.com and Westlaw Next for the summer without special registration.  NOTE: West is placing a per month limit on the use of each; however, the hour limit is significantly higher than the maximum number of hours used by any student during the school year.  If you exceed the limitation, you will be able to register for additional hours at https://lawschool.westlaw.com Academic use only, commercial use is prohibited.

Academic use includes:

  • Law school coursework
  • Journal or Moot Court research
  • Working as a faculty research assistant
  • Unpaid, non-profit public interest positions, excluding government and court positions
  • Pro bono work for academic credit
  • Bar exam preparation

If you have questions, contact Matt Morrison.

You gave the Law Library an outstanding return rate on the recent Student Survey, and we are pouring over the results now.  For those of you who commented that you wish the library had a certain book or other items, we don’t want you to be bereft any longer.  These were here all along:

New York Times and Wall St. Journal – How could we all live without these daily newspapers?  The current issues are on the Circulation Desk counter and then available behind the desk for one month.

Israeli Human Rights Yearbook – Computers are so literal.  You have to type in the Title correctly, or they will be contrary.  The title is Israel Yearbook on Human Rights, and the Law Library has all volumes 1-41, from 1971-2011, on the new ground floor at K3236.3 .I87.

Model Penal Code Online –That’s available on your friends Westlaw (ULS-MPC) and Lexis (MODPEN).

Tribal Codes and Cases – Check out HeinOnline.  It’s not just for journals any more!  Go to the American Indian Law Collection. “With nearly 800 unique titles and more than 765,000 pages dedicated to American Indian Law, this collection includes an expansive archive of treaties, federal statutes and regulations, federal case law, tribal codes, constitutions, and jurisprudence.”

Chinese Law Dictionary – Two good ones are in the reference collection in the Reading Room, alcove 3.  英汉-汉英双向法律词典 = An English-Chinese and Chinese-English Two-Way Law Dictionary at K52.C5 Y59x.7 and Ying Han fa lü ci dian = English-Chinese Dictionary of Law at K52.C5 Y566x.

Terry Pratchett and dogs – Olin Library has all of this author’s books and will send them to the Law Library for you to pick up.  Just find the title you want in the online catalog and click the REQUESTS button at the top.  Then select BOOK DELIVERY SYSTEM from the drop-down menu at the bottom; click OK.  Select Law Circulation for where you will pick it up.

Be sure and check with a reference librarian if you aren’t finding what you need.  We’ll be happy to help!

The National Assembly Library of the Republic of Korea hosted the joint GLIN/International Legal Information Conference from September 6-10, 2010 in Seoul, Korea.  The theme of the conference was “The Future of Legal Information Service: Promoting the Global Open Access.”  Some 22 countries presented reports on how they post laws and court decisions (and sometimes legal literature) online as part of the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN), the infrastructure run by the Library of Congress, but with decentralized local workstations.  The process is government to government, transferring authenticated official legal information.  GLIN has been particularly useful in using technology and a common platform/search engine/thesaurus to help emerging countries in Latin America and Africa make their laws available online.  Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Kuwait, and others are major contributors to GLIN.  The slides from my presentation at the conference on “Digitizing the World’s Laws: Evolution and Revolution” are available here.  For more on the conference, click here.

At the recent International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden, access to information was reaffirmed as a basic human right.  Many countries now provide online access to legal information such as statutes, codes, regulations, court decisions, and international agreements.  The big question is whether the digital version of this information is official like the print version, and whether the digital version has been authenticated through a secure server or digital signature to ensure that the content has not been altered.  Another issue that has emerged is the fragility and obsolescence of the digital medium and the need for preservation and long-term access, particularly for born-digital legal information which has no paper equivalent.  Why does it matter?  In an environment where online sources are replacing official print versions of legal information, citizens need to be able to trust the “official word of the law.”  More information at http://www.ifla.org/files/hq/papers/ifla76/96-germain-en.pdf, and in French at http://ifla2010ulaval.wordpress.com/2010/08/12/seance-1-sur-les-bibliotheques-de-droit-et-les-publications-officielles-ou-gouvernementales/.

IFLA World Report Country MapThe International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) just released its new World Report which analyzes freedom of information and freedom of expression in 122 countries, in the form of a country-by-country fully searchable database, complete with graphical map interface.  The report includes questions of:

  • Internet access in libraries and freedom of access to information;
  • Copyright; and
  • The role of libraries in universal primary education and environmental sustainability.

The report was developed by a team at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, led by Professor Theo Bothma and contains details of the library environment in 122 countries.  The analysis of the data shows that, on the one hand, there are still many countries where violations of intellectual freedom occur — such incidents were reported in 109 of the 122 countries — while on the other hand, many individual libraries have implemented innovative projects to improve access to information.

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