Fun Judicial Opinions

I read a fun article, Judicial opinions that entertain by Ryan S. Perlin,  in the Daily Record Generation J.D. : A blog for young lawyers  about entertaining judicial opinions yesterday.  Examples of judicial opinions as detective novel and as poetry include an opinion by Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court.  Of course, many quotes from movies and music lyrics are mentioned, too.

After reading the article above I tried a  Westlaw search of all state and federal cases for opinions mentioning Bob Dylan.  Some were actual cases involving Bob Dylan but many were quoting his song lyrics.

Most often quoted (13) is from Bob Dylan’s  Subterranean Homesick Blues (Columbia Records 1965): “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”.

Quoted only twice  was “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” Bob Dylan, Like A Rolling Stone, on Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia Records 1965).

Other Dylan songs mentioned were “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” “Hurricane,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “The Times they are A’Changin,” and “Gotta Serve Somebody”.

In  U.S. v. Bullock, 454 F.3d 637, a discussion of the length of a prison sentence is illustrated by a long list of song lyrics in footnote 1 of the opinion:

“One hundred years is a long time-one year longer, in fact, than the standard lyrical shorthand for an unimaginably long sentence. See, e.g., Bruce Springsteen, “Johnny 99” (“Well the evidence is clear, gonna let the sentence, son, fit the crime / Prison for 98 and a year and we’ll call it even, Johnny 99.”); Bob Dylan, “Percy’s Song” (“It may be true he’s got a sentence to serve / But ninety-nine years, he just don’t deserve.”); Johnny Cash, “Cocaine Blues” (“The judge he smiled as he picked up his pen / Ninety-nine years in the Folsom pen / Ninety-nine years underneath that ground / I can’t forget the day I shot that bad bitch down.”); Ed Bruce, “Ninety-Seven More To Go” (“Ninety-nine years go so slow / When you still got ninety-seven more to go.”); Bill Anderson, “Ninety-Nine” (“The picture’s still in front of my eyes, the echo in my ears / When the jury said he’s guilty and the judge said ninety-nine years.”); Chloe Bain, “Ninety-Nine Years” (“The sentence was sharp, folks, it cut like a knife / For ninety-nine years, folks, is almost for life.”); Guy Mitchell, “Ninety-Nine Years” (“Ninety-nine years in the penitentiary, baby, baby, wait for me, around twenty-fifty-five we’ll get together dead or alive.”)”.

I tried searches with other musical artists but although there would be lots of  hits, for example when searching The Beatles, most were cases involving the music business.  A search for mentions of the Grateful Dead also brought up cases in which the suspect or defendant was wearing a Grateful Dead t-shirt.


Maryland Library Day at the Legislature

Today was Maryland Library Day as proclaimed in the Maryland Senate chamber this morning.  Librarians came from across the state to participate in this Maryland Library Association event.  The message librarians hoped to get across was appreciation for the support Maryland public libraries have had through the years.

Issues of concern this year were that there not be a permanent freeze in state aid to libraries and that the state’s public library capital grant program be maintained at the full funding level.  Another issue raised by members of the Law Library Association of Maryland concerned bills in the House and Senate (HB111 and SB174) that proposed that counties whose codes were published on the Internet would not be required to furnish print copies to the Archives and the State Law Library and reduce the number from four to one for the Department of Legislative Services.  The House bill was amended to specify that printed copies be furnished to the Archives and State Law Library and restored the number to four for the Department of Legislative Services.  Members of the county delegation would receive notice of  a code published on the Internet instead of printed copies though.  The Senate bill was not similarly amended and so it was asked that the Committees accept the amendments as passed by the House

The day began here in the AACPLL where the Law Library Association of Maryland provided breakfast.  Joanne Colvin, Pat Behls and Janet Camillo were on hand to represent LLAM.  The breakfast program included a briefing by Gary Alexander of Alexander and Cleary of what is going on in the legislature this year.   After the information packets were assembled and candy distributed everyone headed to the State House Senate and House chambers where librarians were recognized.  From there the group spread out to meet with their delegates and senators armed with the information packets and candy.

The AACPLL acts as a central location where librarians can rest and recharge in between appointments throughout the day.   The day ended with a reception  held in the Miller Senate Office Building  which provided another opportunity for librarians to thank the legislators for past support and talk more about the value of  Maryland’s libraries.  The Maryland library quilt was on display. Photos of the many libraries built as a result of capital projects  hung about the room provided  evidence of funds well spent. A double screen slide show reinforced the value of funding libraries.

All in all it was a long but productive day.  The AACPLL looks forward to hosting Maryland Library Day again next year.


Social Media and the Courts : Information at the National Center for State Courts

In researching this topic further I found that the National Center for State Courts website contained a wealth of relevant information and links to actual examples.

Social Media and the Courts : Overview describes the issues from use by juries to use by the courts.

Social Media and the Courts : Resource Guide contains links to articles on such topics as the effects of jurors using social media during trials, use of social media by judges and attorneys, links to articles about court blogs as well as links to court blogs, and information on policy.

Social Media and the Courts : State Links examples of actual court use of social media such as Twitter and Facebook.

Legal Technology

Social Media Use by Government and Courts

This is just a short and selective list of articles, resources and sites that I have found helpful in explaining the use of social media by courts.

Background Information:

Newcombe, Tod.  “Social Networking Use Increases, But Has Yet to Transform Government.”  Public CIO 29 December 2009: n. pag. Web. 03/10/2010  Article discusses the increasing use of social media by government entities and policy issues involved.

“Twitter, Facebook Use Allowed on Military Non-classified Computer Network.” Washington Post 27 February 2010: n. pag. Web. 03/10/2010 Brief article describes how the pentagon is allowing the use of social media.

Shapiro, Ari “The Verdict on New Technologies.” Keynote Address at the NCSC Court Technology Conference 22 September 2009 Web. 03/10/2010 Video (registration required to view) This video provides a good discussion of the use of social media by the courts and how social media can affect the courts. Possible responses and guidelines are presented.

O”Clock, Christine and Olsen, Travis “Social Networking Tools for Courts.” Power point presentation, NCSC Court Technology Conference 22 September 2009. Web. 03/10/2010  Explains why social media should be important to the courts with descriptions of blogs, Twitter and Facebook and their use. The discussion includes pitfalls and navigation techniques. More information sources list of sources. “Social Media and Web2.0 in Government.” Web. 03/10/2010  An Official Website of the U.S. Government managed by the Federal Web Managers Council sponsored by the GSA’s Office of Citizen Services and Guidelines for use of social media by the federal government with good descriptions and how-tos for blogs, social networking, and other social media tools.

Bourdeaux, Chris. Social Media Governance. “Research Database.” Web. 03/10/2010  Additional background information includes 110 reports.

 Examples of actual policies:

Bourdeaux, Chris. Social Media Governance “Policy Database.” Web. 03/10/2010 Listing of policies for 118 different organizations.

Department of Technology Services. Utah Technical Wiki. “State of Utah Social Media Guidelines.” 12 October 2009 Web. 03/10/2010

South Carolina Department of Recreation Parks and Tourism has created an “Acceptable Use of SCPRT Social Media” Policy.

Links to actual examples of court and law library social media applications: 
Fulton County Georgia Superior Court Blog

Fulton County Georgia Superior Court on Facebook

Clark County Courts Nevada

American Association of Law Libraries Computing Services Special Interest Section Wiki. “Law Library Blogs.” 24 February 2010 Web. 03/10/2010 Links to 110 law library blogs.

King County Law Library Blog

Oregon Legal Research (Blog)

Sacramento County Public Law Library on Facebook

Sacramento County Public Law Library on Twitter

LA Law Library on Twitter

Anne Arundel County Public Law Library Wiki

Cornell University Law School Wex


Full text legal opinions on Google Scholar

The Official Google Blog reported today that “we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar.”

The Common Scold reported that “The Google database includes more than 80 years of federal case law, and 50+ years of state case law. Users can search full-text of the state and fed opinions, which are hyperlinked, so you can navigate from one opinion to the next.”   This blawg post includes the reactions of LexisNexis and West (Thomson Reuters) to the news.

A quick search revealed an easy to search result list with a brief synopsis of each case that included the official citations. There is even a “How Cited” citator service.


National Pro Bono Week in the AACPLL

This week, October 25 through October 31, 2009 is the  first annual National Pro Bono Celebration.  The  ABA Press Release of July 8, 2009 states that this Pro Bono Celebration will recognize the legal work done on behalf of the poor and underserved.’s “Celebrate Pro Bono” page describes this event, “sponsored by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service,”  as “a coordinated national effort to showcase the great difference pro bono lawyers make… The week is also dedicated to the quest for more pro bono volunteers to meet the ever-growing legal needs of this country’s most vulnerable citizens.”

The Anne Arundel County Public Law Library with the Anne Arundel Bar Association Pro Bono Committee will celebrate with the establishment of the “Ask a Lawyer in the Law Library” program.  On Wednesday, October 28, from 11:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m., two attorneys will be in the library for two-hour shifts to answer legal questions.   The program will continue on every third Wednesday of the month from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

In January the program will expand into the Anne Arundel County Public libraries for evening hours, beginning with the Maryland City Russet branch.  With more volunteers, the hours and dates can be increased at both locations.

There will be drop-in information sessions  on pro bono opportunities for Anne Arundel County attorneys everyday between 11:00 and 1:00 for Pro Bono week.  Cookies and coffee will be served   The AACPLL wiki, created to provide information on pro bono opportunities as well as resources to which attorneys can make referrals, will be highlighted during these sessions.  It is hoped that with this information, attorneys will find it easier to provide the pro bono service that is so needed.


Maryland Rule 9-206 amended

The Maryland Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure released a new rules order dated October 5, 2009 stating:

“This Court’s Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure having submitted to the Court a Letter Report dated September 23, 2009 recommending adoption on an emergency basis of proposed amendments to Rule 9-206”

The rule concerning child support guidelines was amended in order to add provisions concerning “cash medical support” to the worksheets.

The full text of the report can be found at the Rules Committee website.


Maryland Code receives updates

Most new Maryland laws go into effect October 1 so it is important that the 2009 pocket parts and supplements are received in time.  Both of the library’s sets, published by Thomson/West or LexisNexis/Michie have been received and filed.

For a review of what has gone into effect the 90 Day Report – A Review of the 2009 Legislative Session, published by the Department of Legislative Services, provides a comprehensive discussion of  the new laws.  The report is  broken into 12 subject areas.  Each section contains a discussion of the majority of related bills passed.  It includes a table of major issues and an index of new bills.

There have also been some news reports on the new laws with the no texting while driving law getting a lot of press.  Here are just two links.

From WJZ: New Laws in Maryland Focus on Road Safety and in the Baltimore Sun: New Laws take effect Thursday: Drivers, gun owners among those affected

Conferences CTC2009

Last day at CTC2009

This morning’s plenary session, Be Prepared: Ensuring the Continuity of Court Operations During an Emergency, began with a description of the effect of the flood in Cedar Rapids, Iowa had on the courts.  They learned it is best to plan before a disaster hits rather than during.  The panelists each discussed important elements of a plan including the special considerations that must be made for pandemics.  I would recommend viewing this on the NCSC website if only for the video about the Iowa flood.

The use of A2J, HotDocs, and online chat were the technologies discussed in the program Technology that Enables Self Help Centers: Solutions to Increasing Demands in a Time of Austerity.  The presentation of this program was unique as the presentation utilized A2J as a learning tool.  This program was reassuring in that public law libraries were listed as one of the locations where the New York DIY forms can be accessed and that LiveHelp web chat was based on the California Law Libraries AskNow Live Chat service.  The Live Chat was illustrated with a picture of the Sacramento Public Law Library webpage.  Good answers to that question: “why have a law library?”  This program will be available on the NCSC website soon.

Online access to CTC2009 video streams mentioned above at the NCSC website: (Registration is required.)

After lunch in the exhibit hall as I was trying to decide on the next program to attend I noticed that the sun was shining and decided to just go outside.  I could see the mountains, some with snow.  It is a really beautiful city.  I rode the 16th Street hybrid bus to the park along the river and stopped in the Tattered Cover bookstore.  On my return bus ride I ran into Madeline from the 10th Circuit Library.  It was fun to see someone I knew especially since I had been disappointed that I had no time to try and visit Denver law libraries while I was here.

I did return for a final program.  Simple (and  Cheap) Tips for Making Your Web Site User Friendly listed some basic principles of design:  think like your audience, people don’t read but scan and following convention is a good idea.  Conventions for web pages include logos go in the top left corner, search boxes in the right and important information goes above the scroll line.  Some of the tips for design were the “rule of seven” limiting the number of navigation buttons, having a header that shows for the information below the scroll line and use of bread crumb navigation.  The session ended with critiques of volunteer websites.

The speaker, Susan Finkelpearl of Free Range Studios, gave us this ink to more tips in their Technology White Papers:

The slides from this program and all of the CTC programs will soon be available on the NCSC website.  You can find a future link on the CTC blog: to the CTC conference site

Conferences CTC2009

CTC2009 Question: why have a law library?

The topic for this morning’s plenary session was Leading in State Courts: The Unique Challenges Facing Leaders of Loosely Coupled Systems. The moderator, Dr. Mal O’Connor,  began the program with the discussion of the differences between command and control systems and loosely coupled systems.  Many courts are the latter with many different entities working within the system to reach the same goal but with no clearly defined head in charge of the whole court.  All systems are social and technical with the loosely coupled system having its own set of challenges.  System wide change is understandably difficult for such a court system with tensions and contradictions seen in the relationship between the appointed and the elected,  judicial and legislative interests, trial and appellate courts, and between standardized practices versus localized practices.  The challenge to leadership involves the ability to protect and guide.  Fairness, collaboration and the sharing of information are key to success.

After the discussion of systems, there was a panel discussing change in terms of the introduction of technology projects in the courts.  What got my attention was the comment by Karl Heckart, Chief Information Officer for the Arizona Judicial Branch, that now technology drives the business and as such acts as an equalizer.  He stated that with the introduction of technology we have to ask ourselves questions such as: why do we have a law library or why do we have court reporters?  Needless to say that was all I could think about as the panel discussion turned to the implementation of court technology such as case management systems and e-ticket programs.  We were directed to discuss technology implementation projects in our own courts with those sitting next to us and then report those questions or problems to the panel.  No one took them up on the reporting request but now I wish I had been able to break away from my seat mate discussion group to answer that library question.

I could have at least said that libraries provide access to justice through access to information.  And, that although the nature of the source of some of that information may have changed, the role of the library with professional librarian remains the same: access to the information necessary to solve a legal problem or question.  Electronic information is not necessarily easier to access by nature of it being on the Internet, especially so for the ever increasing self represented litigants that law libraries serve every day. Librarians assist in the navigation and evaluation of  legal information no matter the format.  Law libraries are evolving as self-help center partners or even self-help centers in fact.  It should be clear that a court has a law library because of the valuable services provided there.

Later, at lunch I had to answer a deputy clerk’s question as to whether my library had any books any more.  Before I could answer, the clerk of that court stated that I should have gotten rid of them all.  (She was even older than I am.)  So, I had my chance to explain that we still have books even though we have Westlaw and Lexis and that no matter the format the librarian is necessary in the efficient use of any of those  tools.

It is important that I convey as much as possible the value of a law library to the court while I am here to everyone I meet.   All court law librarians should be on a constant campaign to make sure their courts are aware of that value.  Any court that does not have a law library should feel like they are really missing out on something.