Category Archives: Legislation in the News

Bipartisan support for The Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016

New federal legislation, if passed and signed into law, would provide open access to CRS reports. The Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016 (S 2639 and HR 4702) directs the GPO to establish and maintain a public website containing CRS Reports, and an index, that are searchable, sortable, and downloadable (including downloadable in bulk), for which no fee may be charged. Coverage includes CRS Authorization of Appropriations Products, Appropriations Products, and any other written CRS product containing CRS research or CRS analysis available for general congressional access on the CRS Congressional Intranet. Coverage excludes any custom product or service prepared in direct response to a request for custom analysis or research and not available for general congressional access on the CRS Congressional Intranet.

H/T Barbie Keiser, A New Focus on Transparency for the Congressional Research Service (Information Today). — Joe

Short Takes On The News: Public Defenders, Lawyer Ideology, and Faculty Pay

Short Takes on the News

The Governor of Maine is promoting legislation that would revise how representation for indigent criminal defendants is organized in that state.  Rather than organizing a public entity to perform the work, the State would contract with lawyers for individual cases.  The story in the Bangor Daily News doesn’t mention this directly, but this would likely save a cat box load of money that would go to government pensions for state employed Public Defenders otherwise.  I wonder if Maine would be willing to try this same approach with the Prosecutor’s Office.  Probably not.

Has anyone ever wondered about the political ideology of the legal academy?  I’d say the answer is no only because the bias anecdotally appears to be liberal.  Well, someone took the time and effort to measure that bias in multiple contexts.  A new paper called The Political Ideologies of the American Lawyer by Adam Bonica, Adam S. Chilton, and Maya Sen seems to confirm just where that bias lines up on a spectrum of left and right.  The legal profession collectively lines up somewhere center left close to where Bill Clinton would be (he’s a marker on the chart along with other well-known politicians).  Medical doctors and bankers tend to be more to the right.  Go figure.

Graduates of elite law schools tend to be more liberal:

The most striking result in Figure 6 is that all 14 top law schools have distributions that lean to the left. That is, there are more liberal alumni from those schools than there are conservative alumni. Not only do all of the schools lean to the left, the skew is fairly extreme in several of the schools. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the University of California, Berkeley has the most liberal leaning distribution of alumni of all the elite law schools. That said, although the ideology of Berkeley graduates skews the furthest to the left, it is obviously not the only school with a heavily left skewed distribution. In fact, all of the top six law schools—Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Chicago, and NYU—have a relatively small number of graduates with conservative CFscores.

There’s a joke in there somewhere but I’m not the one who is going to make it.

There is an in depth write-up of the paper in Quartz.  It can be downloaded here.

Finally, the EEOC has investigated pay discrepancies between male and female faculty members at the University of Denver and wouldn’t you know it, there is a pay gap.  Moreover, it’s been going on for at least four decades.  The story is in the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Denver Post.  I guess liberality stops at the paymaster window, at least at UD.

Mark

Georgia Sues Public.Resource.org Over Copyright In Published Annotations to the Georgia Code

The State of Georgia is suing Public.Resources .Org, Inc. and Carl Malamud in federal court for posting copies of the Official George Code Annotated on the Public.Resources.Org.  Georgia contracts with Lexis to create annotated copies of the Code where Lexis fills in the annotated material in what appears to be a work for hire as Georgia claims copyright in the annotations and value-added materials.  In some respects, it explains why Lexis wasn’t a co-plaintiff.  The State does not claim copyright in the text of the Code itself.  The complaint is seeking injunctive relief and requesting that all scanned copies be removed and destroyed, and yes, attorney fees.

I think it would have been much easier for the State of Georgia if copyright remained with Lexis.  The ownership would have been clearer.  It’s a murky situation otherwise.  I guess the question the Court is whether the State can actually claim a copyright in this case.  The United States government, as an example, disclaims copyright in most cases, but there are exceptions.  Two of these indicated at USA.gov are:

  • Works prepared for the U.S. government by independent contractors may be protected by copyright, which may be owned by the independent contractor or by the U.S. government.
  • The U.S. government work designation does not apply to works of U.S. state and local governments. Works of state and local governments may be protected by copyright.

The complaint his available through a link with a story at The Register, which is a U.K. based technology news site.  I’m a big fan of the site due to the somewhat snarky attitude the site takes at tech news.  The story in the Register about this case notes that Georgia effectively calls Malamud a “terrorist.”  Here are the excerpts from the complaint where Georgia makes that claim:

20.  On information and belief, Defendant is employing a deliberate strategy of copying and posting large document archives such as the O.C.G.A. (including the Copyrighted Annotations) in order to force the State of Georgia to provide the O.C.G.A., in an electronic format acceptable to Defendant. Defendant’s founder and president, Carl Malamud, has indicated that this type of strategy has been a successful form of “terrorism” that he has employed in the past to force government entities to publish documents on Malamud’s terms. See Exhibit 2.

21.  Consistent with its strategy of terrorism, Defendant freely admits to the copying and distribution of massive numbers of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations on at least its https://yeswescan.org website. See Exhibit 3. Defendant also announced on the https://yeswescan.org website that it has targeted the States of Mississippi, Georgia, and Idaho and the District of Columbia for its continued, deliberate and willful copying of copyrighted portions of the annotated codes of those jurisdictions. Defendant has further posted on the https://yeswescan.org website, and delivered to Plaintiffs, a “Proclamation of Promulgation,” indicating that its deliberate and willful copying and distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations would be “greatly expanded” in 2014. Defendant has further instituted public funding campaigns on a website http://www.indiegogo.com to support its continued copying and distribution of Plaintiff’s Copyrighted Annotations. Defendant has raised thousands of dollars to assist Defendant in infringing the O.C.G.A. Copyrighted Annotations.

Terrorism, seriously?  Someone explain to me how this adds to the substance of the complaint.  It’s not as if black helicopters will be circling Atlanta at the end of the trial, not over annotations at least.

Mark

AALL officially supports UELMA now

At its November 2013 board meeting, the AALL E-board acted! By that I mean our elected officers finally adopted a formal resolution supporting UELMA “to aid its passage at the state level.” Quoting in pertinent part:

WHEREAS, members of the American Association of Law Libraries participated in the drafting of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act and have been instrumental in advocating for its adoption; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the American Association of Law Libraries supports enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act in every state and the District of Columbia…

Better late than never. — Joe

What role did the Volokh Conspiracy play in the legal debate over Obamacare?

The Volokh Conspiracy played a large enough role to produce what most likely is the first ever published compilation of long-form essays about the influence a law prof blog’s collective postings by multiple legal scholars had on the debate over the merits of a piece of federal legislation which in the case of the Affordable Care Act reached SCOTUS for review. See A Conspiracy Against Obamacare: The Volokh Conspiracy and the Health Care Case (Palgrave Macmillan, Nov. 12, 2013) [Amazon]. Granted the essays are written by VC bloggers Randy Barnett, Jonathan Adler, David Bernstein, Orin Kerr, David Kopel and Illya Somin but this work is recommended for illustrating that law prof blogging can be viewed sometimes as “scholarship in action.”

Here’s the blurb:

The debate over the Affordable Care Act was one of the most important and public examinations of the Constitution in our history. At the forefront of that debate were the legal scholars blogging at the Volokh Conspiracy, who engaged in a spirited, erudite, and accessible discussion of the legal issues involved in the cases – beginning before the law was even passed. Several of the Volokh bloggers played key roles in developing the constitutional arguments against the ACA. Their blog posts and articles about the Act had a significant impact on both the public debate and the legal arguments in the case. It was perhaps the first time that a blog affected arguments submitted to the United States Supreme Court on a major issue. In the process, the bloggers helped legitimize a new type of legal discourse. This book compiles the discussion that unfolded at the Volokh Conspiracy blog into a readable narrative, enhanced with new context and analysis, as the contributors reflect on the Obamacare litigation with the advantage of hindsight. The different bloggers certainly did not always agree with each other, but the back-and-forth debates provide momentum as the reader follows the development of the arguments over time. A Conspiracy Against Obamacare exemplifies an important new form of legal discourse and public intellectualism.

Joe