Monday, October 19, 2009

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

SCOTUSBlog v. US Law Week – Throwdown

This is the culmination of a week’s worth of blog posts comparing various ways of staying current with the USSC and focusing in on the two big contenders: BNA’s United State Law Week and SCOTUSBlog.

Although we took a fairly close look at the official USSC website itself there is no way that it can be in the running for the best source of current information. It is simply too clunky, too old-fashioned, with no Web 2.0 features, and no analysis or commentary.

So how do the two real contenders stack up in the four most relevant categories for staying current?

US Law Week – Supreme Court Today -
Fee: yes
Access to Documents: limited to opinions, orders, docket, calendar, merits briefs
Updates: by email
Analysis: post-decision

SCOTUSBlog and Wiki -
Fee: none
Access to Documents: everything in the file including petitions and amicus briefs
Updates: RSS feed, as often as they post (daily)
Analysis: both pre- and post-decision

So, despite the fact that US Law Week is probably the most reliable source (after all, as Tom Goldstein would say, a blog is just a blog) the features on SCOTUSBlog make it the best choice for staying current. The pre-argument analysis is on point and access to all of the documents is priceless. When you factor in the cost – well, there really is no contest.

But, since we are all lawyers here, consider these caveats and disclaimers. SCOTUSBlog has only been in existence a short time; US Law Week has been in it for the long haul. Does reliability count? You bet. And, for overall research of past USSC decisions Law Week absolutely beats SCOTUSBlog. Law Week’s backfile of decisions, bolstered with a human-generated index makes Law Week a legitimate research source.

Smart researchers will continue to use both because they are both worth watching. Not unlike these two guys in rubber suits slugging it out for world dominance:

Keeping Current with the USSC - Part Four

In Part Three we examined BNA United States Law Week and its well-regarded Supreme Court Today feature. This is a wonderful source but it comes with a price tag. What if you can’t or don’t want to pay?

The free alternative to US Law Week is the SCOTUS Blog and SCOTUS Wiki. This is the brainchild of Tom Goldstein, a partner at Akin Gump. Like Law Week, SCOTUS Blog offers national legal news. But, as serious blog, this news can be delivered by RSS feed on a daily basis. SCOTUS does not have the same size of reporting staff as BNA but they do a great job. Since the Akin Gump name is on the line you can see that they would be careful about the kinds of stories they would post.

There are several user friendly features in the tabs across the top of the main page: Orders and Opinions, New Filings, and Term Tracker. There are two additional features that will make your job of following the Court much easier. Petitions to Watch highlights interesting cases up for consideration at the Justice’s conferences throughout the term. You should also follow Commentary and Analysis that gives insight into issues and cases facing the Court. Look for the daily Today at the Court feature (this is the one for October 9th) that recaps the day’s activities and the Round-up feature (this is the one for the whole week) that does the same.

But for serious Court watchers the best feature is the link to the SCOTUS Wiki. On the Wiki you can find a complete review of the cases pending or recently heard by the Court. If we follow the link to Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission you will see links to the Docket, the original Circuit Court opinion, the Merit Briefs, and the Amicus Briefs. In an appropriate case there is a link to the Petition for Certiorari. These are scanned copies of the original documents actually on file with the Court. Scroll down the page to find Pre-Argument Articles, Argument Preview, and, when the case has been heard, Oral Argument Recap, Opinion Analysis and links to other online sources such as the Oral Argument Transcript. These features are closely edited by the Wiki editorial staff.

In the history of the world there have been many titanic battles for dominance: King Kong v. Godzilla, Red Sox v. Yankees, Alien v. Predator. And now: US Law Week v. SCOTUS Blog. In the Throwdown, one person’s opinion about which one wins.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Keeping Current with the USSC - Part Three

In Part Two we looked at staying current by using the USSC official website. Is there an easier way to stay current? Yes. And the first way to answer that question is to use the traditional, reliable source, Supreme Court Today. This is a part of BNA U.S. Law Week. How to get there? Here's the breadcrumb trail for UConn law students...
Library Main Page > Research Databases > BNA Electronic Publications > browse the list to United States Law Week. You can access this directly on campus; from off-campus be ready with your UConn netid and password.
You will land on the US Law Week page. This page is a prime source for national legal news. BNA takes pride in source-checking its stories. They have a regular staff of reporters.

For the USSC page, use the hyperlink in the left column - Supreme Court Today Home Page. Your landing page (Most Recent Action) will be deceptively simple and spare but quite functional. Browse down it to find links to summaries of recently argued cases and recently entered orders (granting or denying certiorari) . There is a search function that will allow you to find previous cases.

Use the navigational links in the left hand column to get to the Court's Journal, the Argument Schedule, and the Status of cases. You can search for the text of Opinions by case name, court term and topic. And, use the Argument & Review Stories to get the summary of all of the important activity in the case including an analysis of what happened at oral argument and the issues raised by the briefs.

Back at the U.S. Law Week site there is more than just current news: the Research Tools function that includes human generated indexing; a From The Editors feature that puts the past term in perspective: the Circuit Splits feature where federal Circuit courts of appeal splits are noted.

So, is this the best answer on how to stay current with the USSC? Just remember that this is a fee service. All of this great, reliable information comes with a price tag. And, unless you are a paid subscriber (like UConn Law is) you can't get updates delivered automatically by email.

If you want free, you might want to try the newcomer - SCOTUSBlog.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Metanoia: Online Databases for Women Studies Research at UConn

Those attending Metanoia may be interested in these cross-disciplinary research databases available to the entire University of Connecticut community.

Women Writers Project

The Brown University Women Writers Project is a long-term research project devoted to early modern women's writing and electronic text encoding. The goal is to bring texts by pre-Victorian women writers out of the archive and make them accessible to a wide audience of teachers, students, scholars, and the general reader.

Women and Social Movements in the United States

Collection of primary materials on the history of women in social movements in the United States between 1600 and 2000. Includes a Dictionary of Social Movements.

Women’s Studies International

Core topics in women's studies as well as current topics in feminist research. Includes sociology, history, political science, public policy, business, and education. Indexes journals, newspapers, newsletters, books, proceedings, and dissertations.

Defining Gender

Coverage from 1450 – 1910, contains complete scanned books, pamphlets, periodicals, collections of letters, biographies, short stories, novels, and poetry, as well as recent thematic essays by leading scholars in the field of Gender Studies which place the documents within a broad historical, literary and cultural context. Currently containing sections on Conduct and Politeness and Domesticity and the Family, Defining Gender includes some of the seminal texts used in Gender studies from authors such as Christine De Pisan, Daniel Defoe, Delarivier Manley, Margery Kempe, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Some key areas of behavior of men and women addressed include cookery, health, courtship, marriage and role of husband and wife, sexuality, courtly behavior, children, education, class, and religion and morality.

LGBT Life with Full Text

Covers traditional academic, lifestyle and regional publications. Includes the full text of significant GLBT journals, magazines and newspapers as well as some books. Full-text journals include The Advocate, Gay Parent Magazine, Girlfriends, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies, James White Review, ISNA News, Ladder, Lesbian Tide, New York Blade, ONE, Tangents, Washington Blade, and many more.

Sociological Abstracts

Scholarly journal articles about sociology and other social and behavioral sciences including women’s studies.

Alternative Press Index

Index to articles from alternative, radical, and left periodicals, covering cultural, economic, political, and social change, with coverage from 1991 to the present.

Alternative Press Index Archive

Index to articles from alternative, radical, and left periodicals, covering cultural, economic, political, and social change, with coverage from 1969 to 1990.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Metanoia: Research Resources on Feminist Legal Research

Those attending Metanoia events may be interested in these recent publications available at the law library:

"Trivial complaints": the role of privacy in domestic violence law and activism in the U.S., by Kirsten S. Rambo (2009).

Call number K3263 .R37 2009 (4th floor)

Race to injustice: lessons learned from the Duke lacrosse rape case, edited by Michael L. Seigel (2009).

Call number KFN7977 .R33 2009 (2nd floor)

Equal : women reshape American law, by Fred Strebeigh (2009).

Call number KF226 .S87 2009 (5th floor)

The rights of women : the authoritative ACLU guide to women's rights, by Lenora M. Lapidus, Emily J. Martin, and Namita Luthra (2009).

Call number KF478 .L37 2009 (5th floor)

Sharing our stories of survival : native women surviving violence, edited by Sarah Deer (2008).

Call number E98.W8 S43 2008 (4th floor)

Rape as a weapon of war: accountability for sexual violence in conflict: hearing before the Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, One Hundred Tenth Congress, second session, April 1, 2008.

Available online here

Are women human? and other international dialogues, by Catharine A. MacKinnon (2006).

Call number HQ1236 .M33 2006 (4th floor)

Feminist legal theory : a primer, by Nancy Levit and Robert R.M. Verchick ; foreword by Martha Minow (2006).

Call number KF478 .L49 2006 (5th floor)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Keeping Current with the USSC - Part Two

The USSC website is the obvious first stop for anyone who wants to keep current with the Supreme Court. In fact, this is one of the first places to look for recently issued opinions. The website design is simple and clean but unintuitive. The Sunlight Foundation has proposed a complete website redesign. You can find mock-ups of the proposed new pages here. According to the SCOTUS Blog, the Sunlight Foundation made the mock-ups after the Supreme Court asked for the power to control its own website.

From the current site you can do keep track of what's happening at the Court. You will be able to find 2009 Term opinions here and archived opinions back to the 2006 Term here. You can even find the (almost) official bound volumes - we have the official paper copies in the federal room at the Library.

Argument calendars are here, transcripts of oral arguments are here. Transcripts are now being posted very quickly. Monday's arguments are already available. There is a link to the ABA site that provides access to merits briefs. There is even a link to an Orders and Journal page where you can keep track of the Court's routine business of granting or denying certiorari.

So what's missing? (1) There are no RSS feeds, no way to be notified about events as they happen. (2) There is no real news and analysis. To be sure, there is a way to access the Questions Presented by cases accepted for hearing by the Court (just try it). But this is a long way from news and analysis. (3) There is no way to access any documents other than the merits briefs. No way to look at a petition for certiorari, no way to see the amicus briefs.

In short, the current site is functional, but only with practice, patience and perserverance. It will make you say - there has to be a better way. There is. In the next installment - BNA US Law Week...