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Thank you — all of you — for your generosity during our June fundraising appeal. hattip
Your exceptional generosity made this the most successful June campaign in the LII’s history by a very wide margin ( a 15% increase over its next nearest competitor, in June of 2014).
Your donations make it possible for us to do what we do in important, innovative ways.  The LII is, and always has been, more than an online service offering the raw text of American statutes and regulations.  We spend a lot of time thinking about how to make legal information easier to use and understand, and it’s your contributions that let us put those ideas into action.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be quietly rolling out two important improvements to our Code of Federal Regulations collection.  It will now use the e-CFR as its base text, making it the most up-to-date and usable version of CFR available online.  Experiments with the eCFR text have been underway for a few months, and we now think it’s reliable and full-featured enough to put in the “top spot”.  And — after three years of experimentation and development work with natural-language processing techniques — we’ve extracted and linked all of the defined terms in the text of CFR to the definitions that apply to them.  This is a very basic — but very important — step in helping people to understand the law.  Definitions are, after all, the first step for most people in figuring out whether a reg applies to them or not.
It’s your donations that make all this possible.  Thank you, once again.

In 2008, more than 70 judges from around the world attended the
Senior Roundtable for Women’s Justice in Women & JusticeWashington, D.C. They expressed a desire for a permanent place where they could continue their fight to improve the status of women and girls around the world. Cornell answered the call, lined up funding from the Avon Foundation for Women, and opened the Avon Global Center for Women and Justice at Cornell Law School.

For most of the last decade, the Avon Center pursued four major initiatives in support of its mission: holding events, undertaking clinical projects; providing legal research assistance for judges; and developing an online database of relevant case law from around the globe.

Unfortunately, outside funding has come to an end, and the Center is closing.  This is where the Avon Center’s story becomes an LII story.

At the request of the outgoing Executive Director and with the approval of Law School Dean Eduardo Penalver, we will take over the operation of the Women & Justice caselaw collection.  

“We do a lot at the LII, but this one is special” says Associate Director Craig Newton.  “One of my best friends during law school was the first Avon Center Fellow, and I called her right away when I learned we might have a role in keeping the Center’s work alive.”  But, the mission is more than personal: “this is a unique and valuable collection of case law, and we are perfectly positioned not just to host it but to grow it.”

Newton plans to leverage the LII’s network of volunteers to help find and summarize additional cases for the database.  To help, please email us at

Once we have the database ported over to LII’s servers, we’ll begin organizing our work to make this important database downright essential to those in pursuing justice for girls and women on a global scale.  

If you can’t contribute your time and expertise to this project, please consider making a financial contribution that will enable and enhance our abilities to manage this and other projects in the future.  

The Power of the Hyperlink, May 2016 Edition

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Jun 072016

add_link-512Each month, we plan to share with you a cross-section of the websites that have referred traffic to our collections–collections that you help maintain and grow with your support of the LII.  These are actual examples of how journalists, bloggers, and scads of folks on social media all amplify our efforts to provide free legal reference information by sharing our materials on the Internet.  In turn, they magnify your support of those efforts.

In May, visitors from 16,392 different websites around the world followed links to our content.  At the top of the list are the usual suspects like major social media sites and Wikipedia.  While we love those sites–and their traffic, of course–we thought this sampling of other websites who sent traffic our way might interest you. Our focus this month: News outlets.

There’s the “fourth estate” folks:

Baltimore Sun

  • Linking to Federal Rules of Evidence 413 & 414


  • Linking to a section of the Affordable Care Act

Los Angeles Times

  • Linking to a section of the Communications Decency Act

NY TImes (here, here, here, here, here, here & here)

  • Linking mostly to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Washington Post  

  • Quoting and linking to our Wex definition of defamation

Then, there’s the little guys:

Bangor Daily News

  • Linking to a section of federal labor law

Picayune Item

  • Quoting the federal definition of an “open alcoholic beverage container”

Rome (Ga) News Tribune

  • Linking to our Bulletin Preview of Foster v. Chatman

And, of course, there’s plenty of “new media” too:

Ars Technica (here & here)

  • Quoting the four-factor test for fair use in federal copyright law

Huffington Post (here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here & here)

  • Linking mostly to U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

Slate (there were 130 from, this one sent us the most traffic)

  • A little bit of everything….


These were just some of our favorites.   Feel free to let us know when you see the LII quoted by your favorite websites.

cfr-logo-final-3.0.2015-07-13-104248No, it’s not a logo and tagline for the Code of Federal Regulations we all know and love (it actually belongs to an IT firm in Kuala Lumpur).  But it got us thinking:  what tagline should be on the CFR?  So we thought we’d run a caption contest and see what you come up with.

We can’t offer prizes beyond bragging rights, but the first, second, and third-place winners will be reported in our next newsletter, and if you’re ever in the same town as Tom Bruce, Craig Newton, or Sara Frug, they’ll buy you a beverage of your choice.   

Have fun!



The Full Value of Our Donors

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Jun 072016

moreOK, I’ll come right out and say it:  I’m an amateurish and awkward spokesman for the LII, and I often look around to see how other organizations talk about themselves and their donors.   

Yesterday, I ran a Google search with that in mind. The first page of 10 search results contained 8 mentions of money and two of blood (before you worry about what that means, exactly, recall that the Red Cross is a big presence on the Web).  It was a little frightening, in the age of Wikipedia, crowdsourcing, and contributed content,  to see how many organizations see the communities that share their mission and beliefs exclusively as a source of financial support.

It’s true: your support often comes to us as money. We’re very grateful for that. But it means much, much more.  In ways both large and small, you help us to bring law to millions of people for free.  And you remind us that there are people out there, like you,  who care about the same things we do.  That’s a very, very good thing for us — we meet so few of the people we serve, and there are things that analytics and usage data just don’t give us.

Thank you for every bit of that.

The LII is, more than anything else, a creative space — somewhere where it’s possible to try new things.  24 years ago, we started out as a couple of guys who were thinking differently about how legal information could be communicated, and even more differently about who needs legal information and why.   You help us protect and maintain that space, in more ways than one.

You’re one of the few ways we have of finding out what our impact really is.  We can look at logfiles and statistics all day, and while we do learn something from that, it mostly takes the form of dry if impressive statistics — 30 million people used the site last year, but why?  To find out more, we ask you to complete surveys, or answer questions, and a surprising number of you do.   A good few of you have sent us stories over the years that describe in detail what you use the LII for and what sort of impact it has on your life, or on the lives of those that you help in turn.  We’ve talked to a few others (too few) in person, and every time we do we learn something interesting about the effect that open access to law has on real people with real problems. We’d like to hear more about that.

(of course, those stories are also a reminder that your donations are changing things for hundreds or thousands of people)

Others help us out with expertise — and that expertise comes in every size and shape that you can possibly imagine.  Some of our users pay very careful attention to changes in the statutes and regulations — and tip us off when we need to correct something. Others have suggested features; three of our users more or less simultaneously suggested that we link the IRS written determinations to the sections of the tax code that they interpret (one of them was the tax expert for our parent University). Margaret Felts, a long-time LII donor, donated her expertise in environmental law to a fracking-law visualization project we did a couple of years ago.  Frank Wagner, a long-time LII supporter who just happens to have been the longest-serving Reporter of Decisions for the Supreme Court, mentors the students who write the LII Supreme Court Bulletin.  And many of you have written materials for WEX. As Craig writes elsewhere in this newsletter, we just received 10,000 hours of audio recordings of Supreme Court oral arguments (and the website that publishes them) as a charitable gift — that’s really big.  But every single one of you who sends us even the smallest correction or question or suggestion improves the site for everyone.

2017 will mark our 25th year of operation — that’s at least a sesquicentennial in Internet time. We’re thinking about what it means to have been around for so long, and where we want to go next.  You have been a big part of shaping that history and you’ll be a big part of shaping our future.  We’d like to know more about what you value about us, what you can imagine us doing, where you would like us to go.  Let us know by writing me.  I promise you it’s going to be interesting.

And once again, thank you for all you’ve done for the cause of open access to law, and for the 30 million people who benefit from the LII’s services every year.

Cornell Saves the Oyez Project

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Jun 072016

logoThat was the headline of a recent post at Southern California Appellate News reacting to an article earlier that day by Tony Mauro in the online National Law Journal detailing an arrangement between the LII and Justia Inc. to assume operations of Oyez, the online home of Supreme Court oral argument transcripts and audio files.

Since we’ve never been very good at talking about ourselves, we thought we’d let the others do it for us this time.  When he broke the story in a May 25th article titled “‘Oyez Project’ New Home Will Keep Supreme Court Audio Free to Public,” Mr. Mauro aptly noted that the United States Supreme Court “has taped oral arguments for the last 60 years and deposited them with the National Archives. Oyez makes the audio available on its website with additional information, including searchable transcripts that are synchronized to the audio.”

Several other bloggers picked up the National Law Journal story, such as Friend of the LII Paul Caron in his popular TaxProf Blog, and Jamie Baker blogging as The Ginger (Law) Librarian.  James R. Jacobs at Free Government Info ( called the NLJ story “great news.”  Mr. Jacobs wrote he was “afraid that some for-profit publisher like Westlaw or LexisNexis was going to scoop it up.”  He concluded, “Public domain crisis averted!”

In addition to the NLJ story, LII Director Tom Bruce along with Justia CEO Tim Stanley and Oyez founder Jerry Goldman also sat for an interview with Legal Tech blogger and LII friend Bob Ambrogi.  Bob’s story succinctly describes the new arrangement as such: “Oyez will move to the LII as its new home, with infrastructure and technical support from Justia, which had already been quietly supporting the Oyez site for several years.”

        Bob’s story goes on to quote both of LII’s partners in this project:

“I couldn’t be more pleased to know that Tom and his folks at LII will be the stewards and curators of Oyez,” Goldman told me yesterday during a phone call that also included LII Director Thomas R. Bruce and Justia cofounder Tim Stanley. Both Goldman and Bruce gave Stanley credit for his role in orchestrating the move.

“I think this will be good for Oyez,” said Stanley. “The LII has lots of good tech and editorial people. I also personally like that it’s going over to an academic nonprofit group. I think that to keep it open and available is really important.”

But, as usual, the last word belongs to LII Director Tom Bruce.  As he told Bob Ambrogi, “Are there a million things that we can do? Yes. Are there ways that we can use it to up our game in terms of our own Supreme Court resources? Absolutely.”

We look forward to “upping our game” with Oyez; and, when we do, you’ll read about it here.

New Supreme Court Bulletin Student Leadership

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May 062016

Jenna & Nicole

We recently selected new leadership for our Supreme Court Bulletin Previews.  Jenna Howarth is the new Editor in Chief, and the new Executive Editor is Nicole Greenstein.   

Jenna graduated magna cum laude from Boston College in 2014 with a degree in English and a minor in Economics.  While an undergraduate, she interned at a Boston courthouse, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts’ Justice Initiative, and a Boston law firm.  After her first year at Cornell Law School, she spent the summer working in the Child Protection Unit of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.  Add to that the time she spent at a publishing company, and it’s easy to see the intellect, experience, and passion she brings to the Supreme Court Bulletin.  

Jenna is excited to lead the Bulletin during the Court’s 2016-17 term.  She says, “I have really enjoyed the work I have done for the Bulletin this past year, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be able to contribute even more in this new role going forward. We have already begun implementing some of our new ideas for the Bulletin and have selected a very strong Editorial Board and associate class to create more great previews next year.”

Nicole is a self-professed “grammar geek” who graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014 with degrees in English and Political Science.  With minors in both Journalism and Consumer Psychology, she spent two summers working at TIME Magazine.  During those stints, she saw her reporting featured as the #1 “Most Popular” story on TIME Politics and #3 on  Reporting on politically charged issues such as the 2012 elections, US foreign relations, and revelations about the National Security Agency, Nicole decided that law school was the next step for her.  

Nicole balances her interest in politics with the Bulletin’s decidedly apolitical editorial policies.  She says, “I have always admired LII’s mission to inform the public about important legal issues in an accessible manner. It is an honor to be a part of such a wonderful organization, and I look forward to another great year for the Bulletin.”

Traditionally, the EIC is responsible for setting and enforcing standards and deadlines, as well as training and overseeing the work of the Managing Editors who work directly with the Bulletin’s Associates to create each Preview.  The EE manages the Bulletin’s relationship with the Federal Lawyer magazine and works with LII volunteer Frank Wagner to ensure the pieces we send to the Federal Bar Association for their publication have an additional layer of polish.

LII Donor Profile: S. Blair Kauffman, Law Librarian and Professor at Yale Law School

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May 062016

kauffman_blairBlair Kauffman is a law librarian’s law librarian. He first became director of an academic law library in 1981.  Since 1994, he has headed the law library at Yale, consistently ranked by US News and World Report as the top law school in the United States.  He is a longtime friend and contributor to the LII.  Tom Bruce caught up with him recently during a professional visit to Cornell, and asked him a few questions.

TB:  I understand that your first act as a law librarian was shelving the stone tablets Moses brought down off the mountain…

BK:  The problem was that they were really heavy.  It actually took more than just me to do it — I really can’t claim all the credit.  And, you know, things have gotten steadily better.

TB:  Seriously, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen during your time in law librarianship? It’s easy to point at digitization, but if you look a little deeper, what do you see?

BK:  I think that the quality of people who have entered librarianship has steadily improved.  We attract better and better students and as a result we have had more and more competent library professionals.  That’s a big part of it.

And it’s not just the digitization of legal information, it’s also the automation of library processes. All the back-room functions that used to be paper-based are heavily automated.  There’s a lot less work at the low end and much more at the high end.  That’s made a lot more time for specialty work.

TB:  We typically talk about digitization of content, particularly for preservation of print materials, but of course there’s also digitization of metadata, Linked Data techniques, and so on.  Is that included in the specialty work?

BK:  Our leadership in technical services here has transformed dramatically.  We have much more integration of technical and public services than ever before.  We have tech services people who are brilliant, who really understand the technology from a very high level. They’re thinking very much about ideas that are outside traditional law library approaches to cataloging and organizing materials. We’ve added a lot of other talents to the mix, particularly Web services for information access and digitization.  And they’re all involved in teaching, too. These guys are all deeply integrated with all our front-line stuff.  It’s been really healthy for the institution.

TB:  How do you see what the LII and other open-access providers complementing what you do in academic law libraries?

BK:  I think they fit together brilliantly.  We don’t duplicate, we intersect at certain points — providing low-cost access to critical legal information that you can trust, from a trusted source. It’s essential for students who are going into budget-conscious practice settings where they won’t be able to afford the commercial services. The LII is an ever-expanding source of up-to-date, easy-to-find legal information they can get access to. It’s important in a library setting to know about that, especially if you’re serving people who don’t have access to the for-pay services.  In the international setting it’s especially important — not just the LII, but all the other LIIs that you’ve helped spawn internationally, in Australia, Canada… it seems like it’s an ever-expanding organism.  I’ve worked in Indonesia, Afghanistan, and other out of the way places, and it’s important to point them to your resources, because they can’t afford to get access to American law in any other way.

TB:  You mentioned reliability.  Where do you think that perception comes from?

BK:  I’ve known you guys from Day One, and you really care about reliability.  I’m sure you guys are more conscious of the warts because you really do care about it. If I see “Legal Information Institute”, I think, well, the source has been vetted, and these guys aren’t going to put it up unless it’s the real deal.

TB:  Why did you send us a donation?

BK:  I’ve been an admirer of the LII from the time you started it up. I just thought, “This is such an altruistic enterprise”.  It’s been an incredible, wonderful thing for so many people.  If you care about access to legal information, and I think that as a law librarian, well, obviously, you do, then the LII is more than worthy of support.

TB:  You got a lot of attention, some of it pretty snarky, for introducing “therapy dogs” as an innovative library service for students stressed out by exams. How many things can I check out of the Yale Law Library that aren’t books?

BK:  If our user community wants it, and you can bar-code it, you can check it out. No giraffes.  But you can check out games, umbrellas, bicycles, snow shovels, and and air mattresses.  I suppose that because it’s so different it’s seen as not quite serious, but we meant it to respond to mental health concerns that the legal profession has.  The law is a very stressful profession and students need to learn healthful ways to deal with that.  And because we have a non-hierarchical relationship with the students, we are uniquely positioned to provide that kind of service.

[You can read more about Blair here, and about Monty, the therapy dog, here.]

A Note From our Director: Thank You

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May 062016

bonobo-berlin-dustin-main-15Thanks to all of you, and most of all to those who:

  • …gave a little so others could have access to the law;
  • …used the LII as part of an innovative model for your own legal practice;
  • …took our materials and gave them to your students;
  • …found us to be a reliable bargain;
  • …let us help with your legal education, formal or informal;
  • …think we’re just a good thing for everyone to have around.

You were exceptionally generous during our last campaign.  We raised over $138,000 during the year-end campaign, nearly half again as much during any December campaign in the LII’s history.  Best of all, our community of support grew by an astounding 2,200 new supporters, further confirmation that we help to meet an ever-growing demand for access to legal information.

I’m especially grateful to those who took the time to fill out our donor survey —  you were generous with your time and thoughts as well as with your money.  What you tell us about yourselves and what you value about our efforts helps us better understand the details of our mission.  Like us, you believe that helping people find and understand the law is important, and we need you to help us understand how that happens and how to make it happen better.

Together, you make it possible for more than 30 million people to get free access to American statutes and regulations each year. We multiply your impact by sharing our technical and business expertise with more than 30 namesakes worldwide, and with colleagues engaged in everything from helping American veterans claim their benefits, to opening access to law in Liberia, to building new constitutions in Chile, Morocco, and elsewhere around the globe.  Most of all, your donations are a vote of confidence that energizes us.  

On behalf of the eight of us here, thanks again. Do let me know if you have thoughts or suggestions for us — just write to me at

Tom Bruce

Up-To-Date Code of Federal Regulations and a Look Under Our Hood

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Nov 062015

LII Under the HoodBack in September, we started a new technical blog, LII Under the Hood, to give you a peek at how the engine driving this web machine works. There, we show you how our team of engineers develops new features, tackles challenges and maintains its sanity in the process. Our publicly documented foray into feature development begins with a pretty exciting project: a new, regularly up-to-date eCFR.

One of the LII’s most-used collections is the Code of Federal Regulations, which is an online version of the official compilation of the regulations published in the Federal Register. Our edition has lots of useful features, but we’ve regularly gotten one big complaint: it’s out of date (our online text is based on the published book, which can be up to a full year behind).

The Office of the Federal Register and the GPO have made available, in bulk, a machine-readable (XML) text of the eCFR, the Electronic Code of Federal Regulations. We’re currently incorporating enhanced indentation, standard enumerator formatting and hyperlinks from each regulation to the point in the U.S. Code which provides the basis for its rule-making authority. With the help of beta-testers, we’ll be adding other useful features to the new data format over the coming months. Rest assured: while we’re renovating, “CFR Classic” will continue to be available.

Until then, enjoy unprecedented access to the most current version of the eCFR, and follow its development at LII Under the Hood. Let us know what you think!