Don’t Mess With Texas State Court Documents

State court case files are rife with personal and community histories that often cannot be found anywhere else.  These documents also reflect developments in the language of the law, and the procedures of our court systems.  Preserving these historical gems is increasingly important as many records face destruction due to court space and budget constraints, and the ill effects of time or the elements.  We hope to provide periodic updates here about states’ efforts to preserve such records and, on that note, want to spread the word about developments today in Texas.

Just shy of two years ago, the Texas Supreme Court established a volunteer task force of attorneys, judges, historians, document preservationists, and county and statewide officials to “develop a report that discusses statewide county preservation needs, the importance of protecting the records, and providing assistance to counties to do that.”  (See this Texas state bar blog.)  After extensive studies, the Task Force issued this report on August 31, 2011.  In addition to containing practical information for other jurisdictions similarly seeking to preserve state court files, the report contains anecdotes that scratch the surface of the kind of information at risk of being lost.

Here is an excerpt from its “Overview”:

In his classic song, Hardin Wouldn’t Run, Johnny Cash sang that outlaw John Wesley Hardin was a steadfast man. Truth is, Hardin was not so firmly fixed. After shooting Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb in Comanche County in 1874, Hardin fled Texas and headed east. Texas Ranger John B. Armstrong pursued Hardin and found him on a train outside Pensacola, Florida several years later. Armstrong overtook Hardin after Hardin got his pistols tangled up in his suspenders when he tried to draw. He was brought back to Comanche County, Texas, and put on trial before a jury of twelve citizens of the county. Bob Dylan, in his Hardin song, sang that “no crime held against him could they prove.” That is also incorrect. Unlike Jesse James and Billy the Kid, who were both gunned down, John Wesley Hardin, who killed many people in multiple states, was convicted of murder in 1878 and sentenced to prison in Huntsville, Texas.  The historical documents that record the true story about the trial and sentencing of Hardin are at risk of being stolen, destroyed, or lost . . .  The Hardin records are not unique. Thousands of other Records are stored in hundreds of Texas district and county clerk archives. Some of these facilities are excellent; some of these Records are preserved, or in the process of being preserved. But many of the oldest Records – especially those that date back to the Republic of Texas, early statehood, or the Civil War – are at risk of being lost forever, unless measures are soon taken to help district and county clerks protect them.

Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security

Homeland Security Affairs, the website of the Journal of the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security in Monterey, California has recently posted:

Balancing the Risks, Benefits, and Costs of Homeland Security
By John Mueller and Mark G. Stewart
Abstract:

The cumulative increase in expenditures on U.S. domestic homeland security over the decade since 9/11 exceeds one trillion dollars. It is clearly time to examine these massive expenditures applying risk assessment and cost-benefit approaches that have been standard for decades. Thus far, officials do not seem to have done so and have engaged in various forms of probability neglect by focusing on worst case scenarios; adding, rather than multiplying, the probabilities; assessing relative, rather than absolute, risk; and inflating terrorist capacities and the importance of potential terrorist targets. We find that enhanced expenditures have been excessive. To be deemed cost-effective in analyses that substantially bias the consideration toward the opposite conclusion, the security measures would have to deter, prevent, foil, or protect each year against 1,667 otherwise successful attacks that each inflicted some $100 million in damage (more than four per day) or 167 attacks inflicting $1 billion in damage (nearly one every two days). This is in the range of destruction of what might have happened had the Times-Square bomber of 2010 been successful. Although there are emotional and political pressures on the terrorism issue, this does not relieve politicians and bureaucrats of the fundamental responsibility of informing the public of the limited risk that terrorism presents, of seeking to expend funds wisely, and of bearing in mind opportunity costs. Moreover, political concerns may be over-wrought: restrained reaction has often proved to be entirely acceptable politically. And avoiding overreaction is by far the most cost-effective counterterrorism measure.

Hat tip to DocuTicker.com.

Additional Stakeholders Functional Requirements Group (ASFRG) for Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF)

The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (E.D.N.C.) has posted a number of interesting materials regarding the Additional Stakeholders Functional Requirements Group (ASFRG) for Case Management/Electronic Case Files (CM/ECF) and the project for the “CM/ECF Next Generation.”

Please see here.

The materials include two presentations as well as three different surveys.

Please see:

PACER Training Pilot Project Begins in July

PACER Training Pilot Project Begins in July
June 17, 2011

A pilot project aimed at having public libraries enhance the public’s knowledge and use of the federal judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) service begins July 1, 2011.

Two libraries – the Library of Congress in the District of Columbia and the Law Library for San Bernadino, California – will kick off the pilot, but up to 50 additional public libraries may join them in future months.

PACER allows users to obtain case information from federal courts without having to visit the courthouse. The service allows an Internet user to request information about a particular case or party, and makes the data immediately available for printing or downloading at a cost of 8 cents per page.

In the pilot project, libraries will conduct at least one training class for the general public every three months, and offer training or refresher opportunities for library staff at least one a year. Those staff members, in turn, may assist library patrons in the use of PACER. For participating libraries, the first $50 of PACER use fees each quarter will be waived.

The pilot is a joint undertaking of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts, the Government Printing Office, and the American Association of Law Libraries.

Illinois Supreme Court Announces New Public Domain Citation System

The Supreme Court of Illinois has announced a new public domain citation system — see the online Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA) story:

Illinois Supreme Court ends era of printed volumes with new public domain citation system

The new method eliminates the need to contract with publishers to have official opinions produced in bound volumes (which must then be purchased), reportedly saving Illinois taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

As stated in the ISBA story:

The public domain citation system was first recommended by the American Association of Law Libraries in 1994 and was endorsed by the American Bar Association in 1995. Since then, about a dozen states have adopted it.

Cross-posted in Law Library Blog.

G-20 Materials

Each G-20 meeting has created its own Web site of documents, with varying degrees of comprehensiveness.  No central repository exists of G-20 documentation, but some recent initiatives might help.

Bloomberg Law has started a G-20 Declarations library under the “Global Law” tab.  It includes declarations from the G-20 summits since 2008.
http://www.bloomberglaw.com
Search > Global Law > World Organizations > Group of 20 > Declarations

An open access repository is being created at Archive-It. In addition to final proclamations, it should include preliminary documents and reports from experts and working groups.
http://www.archive-it.org/public/collection.html?id=2592

New Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions

The U.S. Courts website has just announced a new project to enhance public access to U.S. federal court opinions:

New Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions

The full announcement reads:

New Pilot Project Will Enhance Public Access to Federal Court Opinions

May 04, 2011

A dozen federal courts have been selected to participate in a pilot program in which the federal judiciary and the Government Printing Office are partnering to provide free public access to court opinions through the GPO’s FDSys system.

The one-year pilot project was approved by the Judicial Conference in March 2010, and the GPO received approval from the Joint Committee on Printing – often referred to as the oldest joint committee of the Congress – in February 2011.

When fully implemented later this year, the pilot will include two courts of appeals, seven district courts, and three bankruptcy courts. In March, the Judicial Conference approved expansion of the pilot to include up to 30 additional courts.

The judiciary continually has sought ways to enhance public access to court opinions. Free access to opinions in all federal courts is currently available via the judiciary’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records service (PACER).

Building on that success, staff from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts met with GPO management to explore making opinions even more accessible. Fdsys can provide the public with a robust search engine that can search common threads across opinions and courts.

The initial 12 participating courts are the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second and Eighth Circuits; the U.S. district courts for the Districts of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Maryland, Idaho, and Kansas, the Northern District of New York, and the Northern District of Alabama; and the U.S. bankruptcy courts for the District of Maine, the Southern District of Florida, and the Southern District of New York.

Cross-posted on Law Library Blog.

An Analysis by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) of the President’s Budgetary Proposals for Fiscal Year 2012

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued an analysis of President Barack Obama’s budgetary proposals for fiscal year 2012.

Please see here.

From the abstract:

At the request of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has prepared an analysis of the President’s budgetary proposals for fiscal year 2012, which were released on February 14, 2011. The analysis uses CBO’s economic assumptions and estimating techniques, rather than the Administration’s, to project how the proposals in the President’s budget would affect federal revenues and outlays and the U.S. economy. For tax provisions, the analysis incorporates estimates prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation.

This analysis follows and supplements CBO’sPreliminary Analysis of the President’s Budget for 2012,” which was released on March 18, 2011, as an attachment to a letter to the Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. CBO has not changed its estimates from the ones presented there. Chapter 1 of this report reiterates that document, with additional figures and details about the differences between CBO’s and the Administration’s budget estimates. Chapter 2 presents CBO’s analysis of how the President’s proposals would affect the overall economy (relative to what would occur under current law) and, in turn, indirectly affect the budget.

Hat tip to Docuticker.com.

Accessing and Reusing Copyright Government Records

Accessing and Reusing Copyright Government Records

John Gilchrist

10 Law and Justice Journal 213 (2010)

Full text available at:

http://www.law.qut.edu.au/files/4.Access_and_Reuse_GILCHRIST_3.pdf

Abstract

The common policy objectives in modern liberal democracies of promoting open and accountable government and of preserving national culture and heritage are reflected in the provision of access to, and the preservation of unpublished and published works held by government. A wide spectrum of social enquiry is in whole or in part dependent on these government preserved holdings.

The policy objectives in Australia are manifested in two ways. One is in government archival practices and laws. The other is in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 facilitating access to, and the preservation of, unpublished and published works held by archives and libraries. While preservation of these works and the costs associated with it are in themselves a recognition of the public interest in accessing works held by archives and libraries, existing laws and practices facilitating access should be reviewed in light of technological changes in way we access, create and communicate works and in light of further moves towards openness in government.

This article outlines present archival practices and laws in Australia, and the scope of Copyright Act provisions,  before turning to reform. The focus will be on the Australian federal sphere.

2010 Lobbying Disclosure: Observations on Lobbyists’ Compliance with Disclosure Requirements

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has new report out on 2010 lobbying disclosure:

2010_Lobbying_Disclosure_(US_GAO_Apr_2011)

From the report (see page 2):

Lobbyists were generally able to provide documentation to support the amount of income and expenses reported; however, less documentation was provided to support other items in their disclosure reports. This finding is similar to GAO’s results from prior reviews. There are no specific requirements for lobbyists to create or maintain documentation related to disclosure reports they file under the LDA. For income and expenses, two key elements of the reports, GAO estimates that lobbyists could provide documentation for approximately 97 percent of the disclosure reports for the fourth quarter 2009 and the first three quarters of 2010. According to the documentation lobbyists provided for income and expenses, we estimate the amount disclosed was supported for 68 percent of disclosure reports. After GAO’s review, 21 lobbyists stated that they planned to amend their disclosure reports to make corrections on one or more data elements. As of March 2011, 12 of the 21 amended their disclosure reports.

For political contributions reports, GAO estimates that a minimum of 2 percent of reports failed to disclose political contributions that were documented in the Federal Election Commission database.

The majority of lobbyists who newly registered with the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House of Representatives in the last quarter of 2009 and first three quarters of 2010 filed required disclosure reports for that period. GAO could identify corresponding reports on file for lobbying activity for 90 percent of registrants.

The majority of lobbyists felt that the terms associated with disclosure reporting were clear and understandable. For the few lobbyists who stated that disclosure reporting terminology remained a challenge, areas of potential inconsistency and confusion in applying the terms associated with disclosure reporting requirements have been highlighted. Some lobbyists reported a lack of clarity in determining lobbying activities versus non-lobbying activities. A few lobbyists stated that they misreported on their disclosure reports because they carried information from old reports to new reports without properly updating information.

Hat tip to DocuTicker.com.

Cross-posted on Law Library Blog.