The law firm of Bressler, Amery & Ross, P.C. published in 2018 a web-based 50 state survey of senior and vulnerable investor laws. The survey provides a summary of each state’s financial exploitation statute and includes links to key state agencies and to required forms where applicable. Bressler actively monitors legislative developments in this space and continuously updates the survey to reflect changes in the law.

Google Dataset Search is a search engine from Google that helps researchers locate online data that is freely available for use. The company launched the service on September 5, 2018 in beta, and the product is targeted at scientists and data journalists. Institutions that publish their data online, like universities and governments, will need to include metadata tags in their webpages that describe their data, including who created it, when it was published, how it was collected, and so on. This information will then be indexed by Dataset Search and combined with input from Google’s Knowledge Graph.

The initial release of Dataset Search will cover the environmental and social sciences, government data, and datasets from news organizations like ProPublica. However, if the service becomes popular, the amount of data it indexes should quickly snowball as institutions and scientists scramble to make their information accessible. Check out Dataset Search here.

From Lisa DeLuca, Where Do FOIA Responses Live? Electronic Reading Rooms and Web Sources, C&RL News (2019; 80.1):

The “Electronic Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 1996” required that agencies needed to make eligible records available electronically. As a result, there are dozens of FOIA Libraries and Electronic Reading Rooms that are repositories for responses to agency FOIA requests. These documents are also known as responsive documents. Documents are often posted by agencies with redactions to protect personal privacy, national security, and other FOIA exemptions and exclusions. It is important for researchers, journalists, and citizens to use the terms “FOIA Libraries” and “Electronic Reading Rooms” as part of their search terminology. This will ensure they can find documents that might not be findable through a regular Google search.

There is no shortage of literature analyzing the challenges and administrative components of FOIA, including response wait times, complaints about excessive redactions, and lawsuits over access to government files. The purpose of this article is to describe where FOIA responses can be located. Searchable government FOIA information varies by agency. This column includes descriptions of several agency Electronic Reading Rooms, government sources (including Presidential Libraries), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), as well as nongovernment sources, such as FOIA Mapper and MuckRock. The sources listed in this column are excellent starting points to locate current and historical FOIA content.

H/T Gary Price’s INFOdocket post.

The ABA’s Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic. Qualifying users post their civil legal question to their state’s website. Users will then be emailed when their question receives a response. Attorney volunteers, who must be authorized to provide pro bono assistance in their state, log in to the website, select questions to answer, and provide legal information and advice. Volunteer attorneys will not answer criminal law questions. Participating states have their own page where qualifying residents will post their question. Look at your state’s page, listed below, for more information.

Current list of Free Legal Answers websites








Idaho (coming online soon)












New Hampshire (coming online soon)

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina


South Carolina

South Dakota



U.S. Virgin Islands (coming online soon)




West Virginia



Paul Hellyer’s Evaluating Shepard’s, KeyCite, and BCite for Case Validation Accuracy, 110 LLJ 449 (2018)(paywalled), “evaluates and compares how accurately three legal citators (Shepard’s, KeyCite, and BCite) identify negative treatment of case law, based on a review of 357 citing relationships that at least one citator labeled as negative. In this sample, Shepard’s and KeyCite missed or mislabeled about one-third of negative citing relationships, while BCite missed or mislabeled over two-thirds. The citators’ relative performance is less clear when examining the most serious citator errors, examples of which can be found in all three citators.” Recommended.

From the abstract for Abbe Gluck & Richard Posner, Statutory Interpretation on the Bench: A Survey of Forty-Two Judges on the Federal Courts of Appeals (2018):

The vast majority of statutory interpretation cases are resolved by the federal courts of appeals, not by the Supreme Court, even though the Supreme Court’s practice has received nearly all of the attention from academics and practitioners. In part due to this myopia, the Court and many academics have been mired for decades in a by-now boring debate about “textualism” versus “purposivism.” That debate, while ostensibly about the judge’s relationship to Congress and its work, has centered in practice on little more than the most appropriate evidentiary tools of interpretation: text, statutory purpose, legislative history, interpretive presumptions, and so on. Many contend that these arguments have reached detente, with most Justices now unabashedly of the “textfirst” persuasion, opting for dictionaries, interpretive presumptions, and, only after those materials, a much stingier approach to legislative history. This shift is well captured by Justice Kagan’s penchant for proclaiming, like many academics, that “we’re all textualists now.”

From the abstract for Zachary Price, Precedent in a Polarized Era, 94 Notre Dame Law Review ___ (2019, Forthcoming):

Randy J. Kozel’s new book, Settled Versus Right: A Theory of Precedent, [Amazon] makes an important contribution to the age-old debate over stare decisis. Advocating an institutional rather than personal view of judicial authority, Kozel urges judges and justices operating in the present-day environment of “interpretive pluralism” to focus on non-merits factors such as workability, factual accuracy, and reliance in deciding whether to overrule most types of constitutional precedent. Increasingly polarized views of constitutional law make Kozel’s book exceptionally timely, but the same developments may well limit its influence, as evidenced by two cases overruling precedent in the Supreme Court’s most recent term.

This 50-state survey of U.S. e-cigarette regulation was prepared by the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium at the Public Health Law Center at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, and the Public Health and Tobacco Policy Center. The information is based on a survey of current state statutes (plus Washington, D.C.) pertaining to e-cigarettes in the following areas: definition of “tobacco product,” taxation, product packaging, youth access/other retail restrictions, and smoke-free air legislation. Some links go to legislative websites because the laws have not yet been codified or are not otherwise available. The survey is current to Sept. 15, 2018.

Published on LLRX, this guide by Marcus Zillman is a comprehensive listing of free privacy applications, tools and services that users may implement across multiple devices. These applications are from a range of sources that include small and large tech companies as well as subject matter specific websites, consumer industry groups and organizations. The focus of this article is on leveraging the latest technology and information that allows users to: (1) identify privacy issues and (2) implement privacy protections specific to their requirements, that span email, phone calls, chats, text messages, web browsing, computer drives and files, networks, collaboration spaces, and your photos.

Michael A. Livermore, et al. have posted Law Search as Prediction (Nov. 9, 2018). Here’s the abstract:

The process of searching for relevant legal materials is fundamental to legal reasoning. However, despite its enormous practical and theoretical importance, law search has been given inadequate attention by scholars. In this article, we define the problem of law search, examine its normative and empirical dimensions, and investigate one particularly promising computationally based approach. We implement a model of law search based on a notion of search space and search strategies and apply that model to the corpus of U.S. Supreme Court opinions. We test the success of the model against both citation information and hand-coded legal relevance determinations.


Here’s the abstract for William Baude & Jud Campbell, Early American Constitutional History: A Source Guide (Oct. 31, 2018): “This is a concise guide to source materials relevant to late 18th-century and early 19th-century constitutional history in the United States, often with accompanying reflections about using these sources in historical and legal scholarship. The guide aims to be useful to those who are just entering the field as well as to more established historians and lawyers who want to keep up with newly available sources.” Recommended.

Lawrence Solum’s Legal Theory Lexicon series has been a regular feature on his Legal Theory Blog. “Persuasive Authority” is a recent installment. “This time the Lexicon is focusing on the idea of persuasive authority. The basic idea is intuitive: the reasoning in a decision can persuade even if it does not bind. But what does that mean? How does the persuasion work? This Lexicon entry investigates those questions. As always, the Legal Theory Lexicon is aimed at law students, especially first year law students, with an interest in legal theory.” Recommended.

Compared to other search services, Westlaw and Westlaw Edge always produce more search output with prefiltering searches compared to executing the exact same searches in postfiltering mode. No other tested search services did that. Those services (Bloomberg Law and Lexis) always posted the same number of results regardless of search mode. So why does prefiltering Westlaw-Westlaw Edge searching produce more hits than postfiltering searching?

Kevin Rothenberg tested Westlaw’s search algorithm for answers after confirming this insight from Susan Nevelow Mart’s The Algorithm as a Human Artifact: Implications for Legal [Re]Search. The black box that is Westlaw defeated Rothenberg’s efforts: “clearly, I do not understand some important aspect of West’s search algorithm,” wrote Rothenberg in Prefiltering vs. Postfiltering: Which is the Best Method for Searching? AALL Spectrum Nov.-Dec. 2018 at 36 [recommended but paywalled].

I wonder if the West Search development team would shed some light on this unique phenomenon. Perhaps CRIV can ask. (I doubt Thomson Reuters would provide an illuminating look inside West Search’s black box.)

Randy J. Kozel has posted Special Justifications, 33 Constitutional Commentary 471 (2018), on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

The Supreme Court commonly asks whether there is a “special justification” for departing from precedent. In this Response, which is part of a Constitutional Commentary symposium on Settled Versus Right: A Theory of Precedent, I examine the existing law of special justifications and describe its areas of uncertainty. I also compare the Court’s current doctrine with a revised approach to special justifications designed to separate the question of overruling from deeper disagreements about legal interpretation. The aspiration is to establish precedent as a unifying force that enhances the impersonality of the Court and of the law, promoting values the Justices have described as fundamental.

Policy and Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: Finding Documents, Analysis, News, and Training (R43434, Mar. 28, 2018)  “is intended to serve as a finding aid for congressional documents, executive branch documents and information, news articles, policy analysis, contacts, and training, for use in policy and legislative research. … This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in the House and Senate in addition to select resources freely available to the public. This report is intended for use by congressional staff and will be updated as needed.”