Thursday, November 16, 2017

Wolters Kluwer’s Cheetah

Anyone in our Elder Law LLM program is probably familiar with the Wolters Kluwer’s Intelliconnect platform. Wolter’s Kluwer has created a new platform called Cheetah and we have obtained access to this product. This post will discuss the differences between the two platforms.

The Western New England University School of Law community can access a trial version of Cheetah the same way you currently access Intelliconnect. The link to Intelliconnect will now offer you a choice between accessing Intelliconnect and Cheetah. This includes a checkbox to make one or the other your default. One launch a new window for Intelliconnect from Cheetah and vice versa. Our Cheetah access does not currently include all of the content from Intelliconnect but Wolters Kluwer assures me this will be rectified soon.

The first difference you will notice is the look and feel of the front page. The Intelliconnect interface looks like it was designed for screens with lower resolution (the text is very small). It includes the available content in an expandable browse list on the left side of the screen. If you know the path to take you can drill down to any document on the system. Once you find the document you want it is displayed in a different frame on the same page.



On Cheetah the text is bigger. The Home screen on Cheetah replaces the top layer of the expanding lists we saw on Intelliconnect with a series of Practice Areas.



Clicking on one of those (we’ll use Human Resources) brings you to a page which has the next level of the expanding list we saw on Intelliconnect.



Clicking into one of these will bring you to another screen which looks remarkably like Intelliconnect with an expandable list on the left and a selected document on the right.




To retrieve documents in Cheetah, one can quick print the current document. One can also select multiple documents to print, email, or download. Cheetah no longer has the document tray however if one obtains an individual account you can save items within that account and view your history to retrieve documents. 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Using a Research Log

A research log is essential for tracking your legal research process. I use an Excel spreadsheet. This image is of the current headings of my research log template:


Here are what the headings are for:

Date: the current date when I examine a resource or perform a search
Database/Source Citation: This is either the database I used to perform a search (including filters applied to the search) or the Resource I examined (including reference to section, chapter, or page). 
URL/Physical Location: URL means Uniform Resource Locator, which most people think of as a web address.  This can be cut and paste from the address line of a browser. Keeping these will allow you to quickly get back to a resource you need to use and keeps your history all in one place. Physical location is for referring to print resources. It most often is a call number from the library I use most often.
Search or Scan Terms / Method: Search Terms means the terms or search string I use in a database. Scan terms means words I look for within a research (like using control-f in a document). Method means if I do something else like reading a whole book chapter.
Findings: For a search, findings are the resources I found which I intend to look at. For a secondary source this is a summary of what I learned and the primary sources which are cited for each element of the cause of action. For primary sources could be another summary of what I learned from the secondary source but it could also be the supporting language within the primary source for the relevant point of law.    
Good Law: For secondary sources this means when the source was last updated, the further in the past the more care one needs to take making sure the referenced primary law is still good. For primary sources this means using a citator like Keycite or Shepard’s.
Subsequent Steps Indicated: This is the key to a working research log. When looking at a secondary source, subsequent steps should include checking any primary law referenced by the secondary source for currency. When looking at a statute or regulation, this means using a citator to ensure the statute or regulation has not been found by the courts to be unconstitutional, vague, or in the case of regulations, ultra vires. When looking at cases one needs to check each negative signals to see if the point of law you want to use from a case is still good law and applicable to the facts of your case (i.e. not distinguished).  Each subsequent step indicated for a given resource should immediately be put on a new line in the source column.

Hypothetical:

Your supervising attorney, is representing a man who was dropped by two EMTs while being carried on a stretcher out of a restaurant in Holyoke, MA.  She thinks the case meets the elements of negligence under the res ipsa loquitur doctrine. She has asked you to find out if there are any other reasons the EMTs or their employer would not be liable for negligence.
Since this is a tort case, you start by looking at the MCLE Tort Law Manual on Westlaw. Since you’re not sure where in the resource you need to look you decide to search within the resource for the term EMT. The second item on the list is a chapter about Tort Immunities and it discusses the immunity of an EMT under a statute. Your log should now look something like this:


In the chapter on Tort Immunities you find the resource was last updated in 2017 and that under General Laws Chapter 111C, § 21 the EMTs are immune from liability.  You also find that under the case Taplin v. Chatham, 390 Mass. 1 (1983), the EMT’s immunity under the statute does not extend to their employer.  Here are the next few lines of your log:



In following up the primary laws you find that the statute is yellow flagged due to a proposed change to the statute and is good law for your purpose. Taplin has three cases under negative treatment, Pletan v. Gaines. Walsh v. Comprehensive Addiction Programs, and Doe v. Town of Blanford. These cases need to be checked to see if your usage of the point of law in Taplin is affected.  Pletan is a Minnesota case and is not binding on Massachusetts courts. The Walsh case is limits the holding in Taplin to employers of EMTs covered by the statute. The Doe is discussing a different point of law within Taplin than the one on which you are relying. Thus all of the cases which negatively treat Taplin are irrelevant to your problem.  Thus you are done! The last few lined of your log should look something like this:


Friday, September 1, 2017

Millions of New Federal Court Documents Available on CourtListener Free of Charge



The Free Law Project, a California-based non-profit, has gathered and made available every free written opinion and order available on PACER, the federal courts’ document portal. This collection now provides access to 3.4 million documents from 1.5 million federal district and bankruptcy cases dating back to 1960.

Over the last year, the Free Law Project crawled PACER and used optical character recognition to "read" scanned documents in order to obtain the text. These new documents were added to the expanding RECAP archive operated by the Free Law Project, which now provides access to more than 20 million documents from 1.8 million cases on its website.



This project was supported by a grant from the Department of Labor and two professors studying employment law at Georgia State University. The materials now make judges' opinions available to the public free of charge.

Monday, August 28, 2017

United Nations Treaty Series

The United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) is the world’s largest collection of treaties. It has become so popular partially through the action of Article 102 of the U.N Charter which states:
1. Every treaty and every international agreement entered into by any Member of the United Nations after the present Charter comes into force shall as soon as possible be registered with the Secretariat and published by it.
2. No party to any such treaty or international agreement which has not been registered in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article may invoke that treaty or agreement before any organ of the United Nations.
Article 102 provides the impetus for member states and international organizations to register their treaties and agreements since it would also provide the judicial organ of the United Nations, Court of International Justice, jurisdiction to resolve disputes which arise concerning the interpretation of such treaties.* Since Article 102 was adopted in 1945 the Secretariat of the United Nations has been publishing the UNTS in print. The UN now provides access to the UNTS in a searchable online format.  This page provides four ways to search the UNTS: Advanced, Title, Participant, Full-Text.

Advanced Search

The UNTS Online Advanced search feature is rather strange for anyone who has an expectation for what Advanced Search means. For this post we’re looking only at treaties, for which one can look at all treaties or limit to Original, Subsequent, or League of Nations treaties. After selecting a group of treaties to search than utilizing Boolean or proximity searching the user is presented with a group of filters which one can apply one at a time. Filters include Authentic Text (which is a language filter), various dates, parties, subject terms (which one can select from a list), and many others. Most strange to me is that with the exception of the English or French document title search there is no place to enter a user-defined search of the text to use in conjunction with the other filters.

Title Search

Here one can enter words to match within treaty titles and limit the results to an exact match, any, or all words entered. Example: entering “optional protocol” and selecting “Match this phrase” returns 20 documents.

Participant Search

This search presents the user with a list of nations and international organizations along with a checkbox for each. One can also select to search for all or any of the checked participants. A search for Kiribati, Laos, and Namibia with “Match all of these participants” selected returns 57 documents.

Full-Text Search

The Full-Text search feature offers a user defined search of the UNTS online database. One can enter a text into the search box and then select whether to search for an exact match, any, or all words. For instance, entering “illegal ivory trade” in the search box and selecting “All” returns 67 documents.
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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Legislative History Without Research?

Occasionally an attorney may find herself with a unique problem. She is litigating a matter which involves the interpretation of an ambiguous statute and there is not a case on point which has resolved this issue. This may be the time to engage in legislative history research. This type of research attempts to resolve statutory ambiguities by investigating the documents produced during the legislative process such as bill versions, committee reports, floor debates, and others. The Law Library has prepared a guide about how to do legislative history research.

But what if you didn’t have to do the research? If you find yourself in a situation where legislative history research might be beneficial and you could just have the results of such a search without having to go through the process? Well, that might be a possibility.

Precompiled legislative histories are exactly what they sound like. Someone has gone through the legislative history process with certain laws and recorded the results. The Law Library has a few sources which have precompiled legislative histories so checking these should be your first steps in doing this kind of research. Note, both resources discussed below cover federal legislative histories.

HeinOnline


To navigate to these resources, from the School of Law front page go to Law Library, then Databases, then HeinOnline Databases, then the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library.
From this page, one can search through the alphabetical title list, public law numbers, or popular names. One could also click on “Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories.  This will give you a search function as well as the Browse by Congress option.
HeinOnline’s legislative history of the USA PATRIOT Act contains 106 documents which are compiled in five volumes as PDFs. By selecting one of the volumes one can navigate the document through the table of contents on the left of this screen. One can also search within the documents contained in the title by clicking on the search icon. For instance, searching “Osama” in “this title” results in 33 hits.


ProQuest Legislative Insight


ProQuest is different than HeinOnline for legislative histories.  This is because ProQuest Legislative Insight is a dedicated place to find legislative histories. Also, ProQuest produces the legislative histories itself rather than republishing the work of others as HeinOnline does. Thus, ProQuest is probably the best source for precompiled legislative histories. To navigate to ProQuest Legislative Insight from the School of Law front page go to Law Library, then Databases, then P, then ProQuest Legislative Insight.

Legislative Insight provides several access points to help you find a legislative history. First, you can search popular names or alternatively select a popular name from a drop down menu. Using the citation checker allows you to enter a Public Law number, Statutes at Large Citation, or a Bill Number and it will return the other two items and tell you whether the item you entered has a precompiled legislative history. You can also browse by Congress or search by subject.

By searching for “USA PATRIOT Act” in the popular names list I was able to get a list of seventeen possible legislative histories. I further limited this list to the 107th Congress because I knew the PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001.  Here we see the legislative history we seek, for Pub. Law 107-56.
This legislative history contains 184 documents. One can use the search box pictured to search for terms in all of the documents in the legislative history. Searching for “Osama” results in 26 hits. Like HeinOnline, ProQuest provides its content through downloadable pdfs.

Conclusion


Should you find yourself in need of the legislative history related to a federal statute, do yourself a favor and see if there is a precompiled legislative history either on HeinOnline or ProQuest Legislative Insight. You could save yourself a lot of effort.