From the abstract for Charlotte Alexander and Mohammed Javad Feizollahi On Dragons, Caves, Teeth, and Claws: Legal Analytics and the Problem of Court Data Access, (Computational Legal Studies: The Promise and Challenge of Data-Driven Legal Research (Ryan Whalen, ed., Edward Elgar, 2019, Forthcoming).

This chapter provides a case study of data access challenges in a legal analytics project that attempted to study all U.S. district court judges’ decisions in employee misclassification disputes over a ten-year period. The chapter details the data assembly process, problems, and workarounds, and considers the implications for legal analytics and computational law.

From the introduction to Freedom of Information Act Fees for Government Information (IF11272, July 17, 2019):

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a presumption that information in the possession of executive branch agencies and departments of the U.S. federal government is accessible to the public. Under FOIA, the burden of proof to access government information shifted from a requester’s “need to know” to a “right to know” doctrine, where the federal government has to show a need to keep the information secret (H.Rept. 109-226). However, federal agencies may recoup the costs of providing information to the public by assessing FOIA fees (hereinafter, fees). This piece discusses what fees are used for, how fees are assessed, fee waivers, and payment of fees.

Kudos to the 2019 Fastcase 50 awardees including

  • Darla Jackson, Research and Electronic Resources Librarian, The University of Oklahoma College of Law
  • Sukesh Kamra, National Director, Knowledge Management, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada
  • Craig Newton, Co-Director, Cornell Legal Information Institute
  • Jim Shelar, Former Chief Law Librarian, Arnold & Porter (In Memoriam)

The award recognizes “the year’s smartest, most courageous, innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James announced a multistate settlement with LexisNexis Risk Solutions and several of its affiliates for defrauding state law enforcement agencies out of more than $2.8 million. LexisNexis deliberately failed to pay those agencies agreed-upon fees for the resale of car crash reports. The press release explains how LN Risk violated its contract for this data:

“LexisNexis defrauded law enforcement agencies in New York and other states by paying law enforcement agencies for only the first crash report sold, and not for each subsequent report resold, as their contracts required. In particular, the investigation found that from June 2012 through May 2019, LexisNexis fulfilled customer crash report requests by searching its database and — if it had previously sold the requested report to another customer — would resell the report without paying the contracted agency its agreed-upon fee for the new sale. LexisNexis would then omit the new sale from reports of sales it was contractually obliged to provide to the agencies. As a result, LexisNexis generated monthly reports for the agencies that falsely understated total crash report sales, and deprived New York State law enforcement agencies of sales fees they were entitled to receive.”

Just joking!

Last summer, there were some very visible signs that AALL was ratcheting up its consumer advocacy efforts for the benefit of AALL law firm members because LN was tying ancillary products to the sale of a Lexis Advance contract in the law firm market. Go here for a summary of the tying controversy written about six months ago. Since then, nothing. The controversy is not on the Executive Board’s summer meeting agenda this year and the June 17, 2019 CRIV liaison call notes do not mention it directly. So much for AALL taking “legal or commercial action” against LexisNexis for its anticompetitive tying sales strategy.

Since September 1, 2016, Thomson Reuters Special Services has been providing “mission critical” access to their databases for ICE Enforcement and Removal Services. On July 8, 2019, Tom Boone announced that he was boycotting Thomson Reuters at AALL’s annual meeting this year because of the Company’s on-going involvement with ICE. Boone writes  “While it is unlikely that anyone from TR who is attending the AALL Annual Meeting has anything to do with the company’s work with ICE, I’ve decided as a matter of personal conscience that I will not participate in any specific events at the conference in which TR is involved.”

He adds: “However, other than attend the conference itself, I decline to:

  • “Set foot in any Thomson Reuters booths in the AALL Exhibit Hall;
  • “Attend any AALL program or other event run by or sponsored by Thomson Reuters; or
  • “Attend any educational program session with a Thomson Reuters speaker.”

If you are interested in joining Boone, he lists the following events sponsored by TR. They are:

  • Leadership Training for SISs (by invitation) (sponsored by Thomson Reuters)
  • Leadership Training for Chapters (by invitation) (sponsored by Thomson Reuters)
  • CONELL: Check-in & Breakfast (sponsored by Thomson Reuters)
  • Leadership Luncheon for Committees, Award Juries, SISs, and Chapters (by invitation) (sponsored by Thomson Reuters)
  • Thomson Reuters Litigation Analytics: Data-driven Insights for Winning Strategies (members only)
  • Thomson Reuters Customer Appreciation Party (aka “The West Party”)

Boone also adds the following educational program sessions feature TR representatives as speakers that he will not attend:

  • D6: Fostering the NextGen Library Professional: How the Changing Legal Market Shapes Our Roles
  • D7: Deep Dive: The Federal and State Court Analytics Market — Should the Buyer Beware? What’s on the Horizon?
  • H3: Artificial Intelligence and Implicit Bias

From the abstract for Stacy Hawkins, Trump’s Dangerous Judicial Legacy, UCLA Law Review Discourse, Vol. 67, 2019:

Reviewing statistical data on the composition of the federal judiciary over the last forty plus years, this paper describes what appears to be President Trump’s deliberate effort to reverse a decades-long trend by his presidential predecessors to diversify the federal judiciary. It then imagines both the motivations for and consequences of this effort. The longstanding commitment to increasing judicial diversity that preceded President Trump reflects a tacit, and at times even explicit, acknowledgement by his presidential predecessors that the legitimacy of our justice system depends on a diverse judiciary. By contrast, Trump’s judicial appointments reveal an increasingly evident ambition to “whitewash” America that has emerged from his larger rhetorical commitment to “Make America Great Again.” Combining the statistical data on the rapidly shifting demography of the federal judiciary under President Trump with insights from the scholarly literature on theories of procedural justice and representative bureaucracy, which posit that the diversity of judges matters to citizens’ perceptions of justice as well as to judicial accountability to minority citizens’ interests, this paper suggests that President Trump’s “whitewashing” of the federal judiciary will have grave consequences for the legitimacy and effective functioning of our courts on behalf of an increasingly diverse citizenry.

From the abstract for Nathan Cortez, Information Mischief Under the Trump Administration, Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 94, No. 2, 2019:

The Trump administration has used government information in more cynical ways than its predecessors. For example, it has removed certain information from the public domain, scrubbed certain terminology from government web sites, censored scientists, manipulated public data, and used “transparency” initiatives as a pretext for anti-regulatory policies, particularly environmental policy. This article attempts to tease out an emerging “information policy” for the Trump administration, explain how it departs from the information policies of predecessors, and evaluate the extent to which both legal and non-legal mechanisms might constrain executive discretion.

“The 11th state to defy federal marijuana prohibition ranks first in social equity ideas to actually address the War on Drugs,” writes Alan Pyke for ThinkProgress. He adds:

“Low-income communities of color that have borne disproportionate shares of the social and fiscal costs of the War on Drugs will have a dramatic leg up in the race for dispensary and grow-shop licenses in Illinois ahead of the law’s primary implementation date of January 1, 2020.

“Those same communities will be first in line for direct investment from the new tax revenues cannabis will generate for Illinois. A full 25 percent of that new money is required to be set aside for the new “Restore, Reinvest, and Renew Program,” colloquially known as ‘R3.'”

Here’s the text of the Illinois legislation.

The George Washington University Law School, Jacob Burns Law Library, located in Washington, DC, seeks a qualified librarian for its reference/business & finance librarian position to begin as early as September 3, 2019. The librarian in this position will provide research and reference services to members of the GW Law community and other library patrons.  Basic qualifications for this position are MLS (or equivalent) from an ALA-accredited institution or completion of degree requirements by the time of appointment; and JD, LLB, or LLM from an ABA-accredited institution or completion of degree requirements by the time of appointment.

APPLICATION PROCEDURE:  Review of applications will begin August 1, 2019, and continue until the position is filled.  For complete information and to apply for this position, please view the posting at http://www.gwu.jobs/postings/68250. Please upload a resume, cover letter, and include contact information for three professional references. Only complete applications will be considered.

Employment offers are contingent on the satisfactory outcome of a standard background screening.

The university is an Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer that does not unlawfully discriminate in any of its programs or activities on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or on any other basis prohibited by applicable law.

From the blurb for Kim Wehle, How to Read the Constitution–and Why (Harper, June 25, 2019):

The Constitution is the most significant document in America. But do you fully understand what this valuable document means to you? In How to Read the Constitution and Why, legal expert and educator Kimberly Wehle spells out in clear, simple, and common sense terms what is in the Constitution, and most importantly, what it means. In compelling terms, she describes how the Constitution’s protections are eroding—not only in express terms but by virtue of the many legal and social norms that no longer shore up its legitimacy—and why every American needs to heed to this “red flag” moment in our democracy.

This invaluable—and timely—resource covers nearly every significant aspect of the Constitution, from the powers of the President and how the three branches of government are designed to hold each other accountable, to what it means to have individual rights—including free speech, the right to bear arms, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to an abortion. Finally, the book explains why it has never been more important than now for all Americans to know how our Constitution works—and why, if we don’t step in to protect it now, we could lose its protections forever.

How to Read the Constitution and Why is essential reading for anyone who cares about maintaining an accountable government and the individual freedoms that the Constitution enshrines for everyone in America—regardless of political party.

From the introduction to China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States (RL33534, updated June 25, 2019):

China’s growing global economic influence and the economic and trade policies it maintains have significant implications for the United States and hence are of major interest to Congress. While China is a large and growing market for U.S. firms, its incomplete transition to a free-market economy has resulted in economic policies deemed harmful to U.S. economic interests, such as industrial policies and theft of U.S. intellectual property. This report provides background on China’s economic rise; describes its current economic structure; identifies the challenges China faces to maintain economic growth; and discusses the challenges, opportunities, and implications of China’s economic rise for the United States.

Over the next two days, 20 Democrats will take the stage for the first debates of the 2020 presidential race. Here are three articles that profile the candidates in the context of the Democratic debates:

From the update for When Does the Government Have to Disclose Private Business Information in its Possession? (LSB10294, updated June 25, 2019):

“On June 24, 2019, the Supreme Court issued its decision in FMI v. Argus Leader Media concerning when commercial and financial information may be withheld from disclosure by the government as confidential under Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (FIOA). The Court, in an opinion authored by Justice Gorsuch (and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Alito, Kagan, Kavanaugh, and Thomas), held that information is “confidential” under Exemption 4 “[a]t least” when it is (1) “customarily and actually treated as private by its owner” and (2) “provided to the government under an assurance of privacy.” The Supreme Court did not, however, define the precise boundaries of its new test.”

During this year’s annual ALA meeting, a group of librarians from Librarians for Democracy staged a protest against the CIA’s presence in the exhibit hall. LJ reports that in a statement handed out during the protest, the organizers explain —

“The Central Intelligence Agency stands in direct opposition to our core values…. That is why today, we join those librarians who came before us as we stand up to oppose CIA recruitment at the ALA Annual Conference….The CIA has participated for decades in the violent overthrow of governments while propping up dictators all over the world. The CIA believes in absolute secrecy for itself, but total surveillance for all others. The CIA makes use of ultra-secretive ‘black sites’ to conduct torture and extrajudicial detention. We need not list their entire history to show that library workers should not be associated with them, that the CIA’s actions are incompatible with the values of librarianship. In an era where democracy is in jeopardy, where the government and its agencies are under the control of a dangerous white supremacist regime, library workers must take a stand against undemocratic forces — particularly those as powerful as the CIA.”

More on LJ.

Nearly 100 internal Trump transition vetting documents were leaked to “Axios on HBO,” identifying a host of “red flags” about officials who went on to get Trump administration jobs and others who never had an administration materialize. Axios redacted personal details that weren’t newsworthy, information from spurious sources, and material the vetting team described as rumors about contenders’ personal lives, and contact and identification information. All the unredacted information is from public sources. Read the documents here.

Early results from 25% of the AmLaw 200 participating so far in a Feit Consulting survey indicate that the adoption rate of Westlaw Edge and Context by LN is roughly the same, trending at 15%. “Context seems to be getting much more consideration, however, because of its much lower cost. At this point 40% of firms with Lexis are actively considering Context,” according to Feit Consulting’s blog post.

My primary concern is that comparing Westlaw Edge and Context because both offer litigation analytics may only be part of the story. Westlaw Edge offers much more than just the litigation analytics offered by Context; Westlaw Edge includes WestSearch Plus, KeyCite Overruling Risk, Statutes Compare and Regulations Compare. And Westlaw Edge will eventually replace Westlaw whereas Context will not replace Lexis Advance.