This item about a new California Office of Legislative Counsel white paper is from the most recent issue:
Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options
“The recent passage of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has brought to the forefront the issue of costs of authenticating primary legal materials in electronic format. This white paper briefly reviews five methods of electronic authentication. These methods are based on trustworthiness, file types, effort to implement, and volume of electronic documents to be authenticated. Six sample solutions are described and their relative costs are compared. The white paper also frames the legal landscape and background of authentication for primary legal materials in electronic format, and provides context and points to applicable resources. The aim of this collective effort is to promote the understanding of costs related to authentication and invite further discussion on the issue.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council, a nonprofit based in Washington, brings together state legislators, companies, and advocacy groups to shape “model legislation.” The legislators then take these models back to their own states. About 1,000 times a year, according to ALEC, a state legislator introduces a bill from its library of more than 800 models. About 200 times a year, one of them becomes law. The council, in essence, makes national policy, state by state.
Taking a cue from the Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s Corpus Juris Civilis, Argentina is in the final stages of creating a compilation of national legislation known as the “Primer Diegsto Jurídico Argentino” This is a project to analyze, systematize and harmonize all national laws since the 1850s. Redundant and obsolete laws will be identified and removed from the statute books.
Over 200 academics, judges, attorneys and legislators have been working on this monumental project since 2005. They have analyzed around 30,000 laws since 1853.
In July, the Argentine executive branch presented an initial draft to the congress. On Thursday and Friday of this week, a major conference will convene in Buenos Aires to discuss how specific areas of law will be impacted by the Digesto Jurídico Argentino.
Here’s a very useful article from the January/February 2011 issue of FORUM, the magazine of the Consumer Attorneys of California. It is useful, in particular, for pointing out that offline research is often needed, even for new laws.
Budget-Minded Research: California Legislative History
By Carolina Rose
. . . unfortunately, some researchers make the mistake of thinking that if the legislative history is not available on the free website or from Westlaw or LexisNexis, that the records simply do not exist. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many other records that are not included in these databases that can be obtained from other offline sources and that the courts routinely rely on. For example, in one case . . . the court relied on two records to support its plain meaning of the statute: 1) An unpublished letter from Pacific Gas and Electric Company dated March 8, 1974, found in Assemblyman Charles Warren’s author’s bill file, and 2) a subsequent bill version apparently incorporating the amendment that had been pro[posed and explained in the letter.”
Citing 2 Cal. App. 4th 206, 222-23
. . .
In short, free online California legislative history research from 1993 to current can be a boon to the budget-minded researcher, but it can also give a false sense of security. . . . the absence of valuable legislative history materials from the free online website or the costly, subscription-based online services does not mean that they do not exist. . . .
The author of the article is co-founder and president of Legislative Research Inc. (LRI) (and a SLS alumna); in the article she summarizes the steps involved in compiling a legislative history and explains the added research a company such as hers can accomplish with feet on the ground — offline — in Sacramento. You’ll want to know about such offline documents so as, as she puts it, to not be “blind-sided by opposing counsel’s use of them.”
This legal research guide is meant to provide instruction on how to find casesthat are relevant to an issue in the law of statutes and statutory interpretation. This guide does notprovide instruction on how to find statutes or regulations.
Table of Contents
1. The language of statutes – common terms defined
2. Operation and effect of statutes
3. Operation and effect, on earlier statutes
4. Interpretation of Statutes
5. Remedial Statutes
6. Penal Statutes
Hat tip: Ted Tjaden. One of many nuggets in his excellent book “Legal Research and Writing,” 3rd Edition.
Wikipedia is often a boon for quick legal research about well-publicized matters. It’s a great way to find where a statute is codified, or the background of a famous case. When it comes to legislative history, though, sometimes Wikipedia’s a bust. For anyone looking for a good example of why one must follow up with proper research into legislative history, please see Wikipedia’s entry on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which passed in July 2010. As of Nov. 16, 2010, Wikipedia has the following to say about the changes implemented by Title XI of Dodd-Frank:
“The Federal Reserve Act is amended to change the New York Federal Reserve President to a Presidential appointment, with the advice and consent of the Senate.”
In support of this assertion, Wikipedia cites and links to the Enrolled Final Version of HR 4173, available on the LOC’s Thomas page. Unfortunately, Wikipedia gets it wrong: The version of the bill that passed Congress removed that language (which had been proposed by the Senate but rejected by the House). The Senate’s proposal in this regard was snipped on June 17, 2010, weeks before the final bill passed. Legislative history research–including review of committee meeting transcripts–coupled with news and secondary source coverage bore out the truth.
We always offer cautions when it comes to Wikipedia, and now there’s a handy example to which we can refer.
UPDATE: Thanks to our helpful reader, Wikipedia has been policed. . .while its lesson remains!
In preparation for the Law.gov event held at Stanford Law School in January of this year, I started to put together a list of how each state treats its legal publications for copyright purposes. Specifically, I looked at the web versions of state codes to locate any claims in copyright over the code text. This led to searching in the print editions held in our library to see what copyright was claimed in these series. Finally I searched the codes themselves (aided by the indexes provided on Westlaw) to find any claim that had been codified. Along the way, the search expanded to how states treat any copyright claims in their court opinions (either online or in their code) as well.
My method was not scientific. I looked for clear statements on each website directly related to the code or opinions themselves. Small copyright notices at the bottom of pages that seem to claim copyright in the pages themselves were not considered claims over the code text or opinions. I understand that an argument can be made that those symbols of copyright could extend to the entirety of the material posted by that entity.
A very rough draft of the results is posted here. I obviously have a lot of work left to do, including cleaning up some of the questions marks that have been left unanswered. Official print versions for the state codes and reporters will also need to be consulted to fill out these charts. And administrative law is just a glint in my eye at the moment.
I hope this document can be expanded and that it may prove useful in the current discussion on access to state and federal primary sources of law.
Perspectives, Vol. 18, No. 2, Winter 2010
University of Maryland Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-52
SUSAN J. HANKIN, University of Maryland – School of Law
This article uses an unpublished case interpreting New York’s animal cruelty law as an object lesson to teach why grammar matters. In People v. Walsh, 2008 WL 724724 (N.Y. Crim. Ct. Jan. 3, 2008), the court’s interpretation of the statute turned, in part, on the serial comma rule (sometimes called the “Oxford comma” rule). The court followed a mandatory approach to interpret the statute’s meaning, even though most contemporary grammar and style books make such use of a comma optional. One of the many benefits of using a case example to teach why grammar matters is that it focuses students on the expectations of an important legal reader: the judge who may be using her own understanding of grammar rules to interpret language in a statute. The article explores what can happen when the legislators drafting statutes and the courts interpreting them may be operating on different sets of rules – in this case, rules of grammar. It then uses this exploration to recommend ways of using the case and statute as a teaching tool to impress upon students, among other lessons, the importance of avoiding ambiguity in legal writing.
Source: LSN Law & Rhetoric Vol. 3 No. 1, 01/04/2010