Thursday, August 31, 2006

Legislative Drafting Conference in Ottawa

The Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice is holding a national conference on Drafting for Diversity: A Singular Challenge on September 14 & 15, 2006, in the Library and Archives Canada Auditorium in Ottawa.

The conference will look at the challenges of drafting statutes in a bilingual environment, communicating law to non-native speakers, the emergence of aboriginal lawmaking institutions and the linguistic and cultural dimensions of aboriginal laws, as well as the drafting process for private member’s bills.

The Institute organizes and conducts conferences and specialized seminars for judges, administrative tribunal personnel, and legislative drafters. It also prepares comprehensive background papers on many subjects dealing with the administration of justice.

The full text of earlier legislative drafting conference papers (from more than 10 conferences) is available.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

U.S. State Supreme Court Elections - The Role of Big Money, Lobbies, and TV Air Wars

We Canadians thought that allowing a parliamentary committee to very briefly and very, very politely interview a nominee for the Supreme Court of Canada last winter was a big deal. And they even did it on TV! Wow, that sure made us feel innovative. Maybe even a little too radical for Canada.

Many expressed worries that this could lead to an overpoliticization of the judicial appointment process in Canada.

Well, our friends in the great Republic to the South seem to have an even bigger problem: the rapidly growing influence of big money in judicial elections for state supreme courts.

Our neighbours elect many of their judges, up to the highest courts at the state level. And whenever there is talk of elections U.S.-style, that means dumptrucks full of money, powerful lobbying interests and TV campaigns.

The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has been tracking the role of television "ad wars" in these elections since the year 2000. This 2006 U.S. election season is no different.

"During the 2006 election season, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will be releasing weekly, real-time reports on television advertising in state Supreme Court elections. The reports, to be released after Labor Day through November 16, will analyze campaign advertising by candidates, political parties, and interest groups".

Early indications so far show that judicial races this year are on pace, dollar-wise, with the record-breaking 2004 elections.

The Center believes that the growing influence of money on judicial elections and pressure on candidates to make commitments about how they will rule if elected to the bench threaten public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.

Earlier Library Boy posts about judicial selection include:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:37 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 28, 2006

Government Accountability Resources

In yesterday's post Government of Canada Information Management Conference I wrote that one of the presentations at the upcoming IM - Taking Care of Business conference in Ottawa on October 2-3, 2006 would be about the experience of the United States Government Accountability Office or GAO. The GAO is in charge of independently auditing all U.S. federal government agencies.

That got me thinking about the kinds of performance and accountability reporting requirements different governments have.

Of course, we all know the Office of the Auditor-General of Canada that regularly provides detailed information on the financial administration of the government of Canada. This includes assessments of the efficiency and effectiveness of government policy. The revelations of policy gaffes and misspent public monies contained in the regular reports by our very popular Auditor-General, Sheila Fraser, fill the pages of Canadian newspapers for days on end and provide lots of ammunition for opposition attacks against whoever happens to be in government.
In the Canadian federal sector, departments and agencies also have to submit Departmental Performance Reports to the Treasury Board Secretariat. They of course also file annual reports to Parliament.

The U.K. National Audit Office in the United Kingdom scrutinizes British public spending on behalf of parliament. Its website offers detailed information on its role and activities. It includes access to its annual report and press notices and the full text of all its reports for the past few years. This includes audits of the accounts of specific government departments, commentary on government budgets and public expenditure and financial reports.

The U.S. Australian National Audit Office provides audit services to the Australian Parliament and to public sector agencies. Audit New Zealand does the same in New Zealand and the Auditor-General South Africa handles audits of government expenditures and management in that country.

Recently, I also came across a post on the Paris-based Servicedoc.info blog about new public sector audits in France. It referred to the website of the French Ministry of the Economy which provides a list of completed audits as well as one of proposed audits. The French agency "La documentation française" also provides access to the Bibliothèque des rapports publics (Library of Public Reports): an online collection of more than 4,000 official reports, studies, evaluations and performance audits of government institutions, ministries, agencies, courts, etc.

France, as well as Belgium, have what are called a Cour des comptes. The French Cour des comptes, or quasi-judicial Court of Accounts, is responsible for auditing central government departments, ministries and agencies; semi-independent public bodies; social security bodies; public corporations and nationalised industries. The Belgian Cour des comptes or Court of Audit is a "collateral body of Parliament" and exerts control on the budgetary, accounting and financial operations of the Federal State, the Communities (institutional bodies for the French-speaking, Flemish-speaking, German-speaking groups), the Regions (Flanders, Wallonia, Brussels-Capital), the public service institutions depending upon them, and the 9 provinces.

The European Union also has a European Court of Auditors which is on a par with the other institutions of the Union: the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Communities. The Court ensures the reliability of the EU accounts and the legality of the transactions underlying the EU budget.

Finally, there is an International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions with member states ranging from Albania to Zambia.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:20 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Government of Canada Information Management Conference

Registration is open for IM - Taking Care of Business, the 2006 Government of Canada Information Management Conference, October 2 and 3, 2006, at the Ottawa Congress Centre.

The 2-day conference is hosted by the Treasury Board Secretariat, the management oversight agency of the federal government of Canada.

Among the topics to be covered are:
  • Information Management for Corporate Administrative Shared Services: delivery of finance, materiel and human resources services supported by common information, data, business processes and applications
  • Leveraging Web 2.0 in the Government of Canada: panel on how RSS, wikis and blogs can be exploited in the federal government sector
  • Desktop Access to Electronic Information: discussion of consortial sharing of electronic resources across the Government of Canada
  • Breaking Down Barriers - Information Sharing During Pandemics and Emergencies
  • The Gomery Inquiry - The Information Challenge: researchers for the Gomery Commission into the federal sponsorship scandal had to sift through millions of pages of documents to help the Commission prepare for public hearings; the presentation describes how government staff organized, catalogued and developed a comprehensive database in an amazingly short time
  • An Enterprise Content Management Strategy for the Government of Canada: discussion of how Public Works and Government Services Canada can provide practical tools in supporting greater ease of management of the Government of Canada's information assets
  • The United States Experience with Duty to Document: presentation by the Managing Director for Knowledge Services, United States Government Accountability Office on that agency's implementation of an integrated electronic document/records management system
  • Experiences with Information Architecture in the Government of Canada: presentations from the Canada Revenue Agency and Environment Canada
  • Sharing Information: Copyright Issues and Creative Commons: exploration of how Creative Commons licenses could help federal public servants who share information with the public
  • Small Agencies and Information Management: exploration of how IM in small agencies compares to IM in larger departments
  • Technology for IM: Proprietary and Open Source Software Options: discussion of proprietary solutions and open-source solutions in the context of governmental use
Registration ends September 22, 2006.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:22 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Update on Science and Law Resources

This is a follow-up to the August 21 Library Boy post entitled Science and Law Resources.

A recent article from LLRX.com - It’s Not Rocket Science: Making Sense of Scientific Evidence - explains how common web search engines as well as specialized engines that explore the "Deep Web" can be used to find material on the reliability of scientific evidence in the legal context. The articles uses the example of toxic substances.

"The purpose of this article is to review a search process using advanced search query features in Google, Yahoo, and other search tools to find publicly accessible Web-based information on toxic substances and the law and, more specifically, the reliability of scientific evidence about toxic substances. Search tools that perform better with specific topics are searched using queries related to 'sick building syndrome.' Although Google and Yahoo are used in Surface Web searches, researchers must understand that no search engine indexes more than 20 percent of the Web. Additional search engines must be used to thoroughly search the Surface Web’s content... The Deep Web is searched using the Scirus science-specific search engine, the OAIster academically-oriented digital resources search engine, and MEDLINE... The information gathered from the two Web sections will supplement more in-depth research conducted in print resources and proprietary databases such as Lexis-Nexis".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:38 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Report on TV Cameras in Ontario Courtrooms

A report released today by Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant recommends that cameras be allowed in some courts in the province. This would include TV cameras.

The list of Courts would cover the Ontario Court of Appeal and lower courts where no witnesses would be examined.

Recommendation #3 reads:

"The Courts of Justice Act should be amended to permit cameras for proceedings in the Court of Appeal and Divisional Court, and for applications or motions in the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice, where no witnesses will be examined at the hearing, subject to the discretion of the panel or judge, which discretion should be exercised recognizing the primacy of openness".

"Further, on those unusual occasions where witnesses are called to testify in any of the above appeals, applications or motions, cameras for such proceedings would be permitted where the presiding judge, the parties and witnesses agree".

The report explains that:

  • More than 80 Canadian public inquiries have been televised
  • British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Manitoba allow cameras in some courtrooms with prior permission
  • Courtroom proceedings of the Supreme Court of Canada are televised by the Canadian Parliamentary Affairs Channel
  • All American states had some provision for live or taped media coverage of court proceedings
  • Supreme courts in eleven U.S. states regularly broadcast or webcast their hearings

The report also proposes that reporters be allowed to bring tape recorders into court.

The full text of the report includes a useful bibliography on the issue of media and the court system.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:10 pm 1 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

New Compendium of U.S. Gun Laws

A group called Legal Community Against Violence, a San Francisco- based public interest law centre dedicated to preventing gun violence, has just released a comprehensive overview of U.S. federal and state laws on gun control.

The report looks at gun laws in a number of broad areas: classes of weapons, restrictions on sales and transfers, gun dealers, gun ownership, consumer and child safety, crime detection (ballistic identification, retention of sales records, background checks).

Related Library Boy posts on gun control:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:28 pm 0 comments links to this post

Law Commission of Canada 2006 Annual Report

The Law Commission of Canada released its annual report for 2006 this week.

It is short (30 pages) and provides brief summaries of the research and consultation work done in areas such as globalization and the law, international informal banking, indigenous legal traditions, the definition of "crime", the future of policing, secured financing on reserves, the protection of vulnerable workers, age and intergenerational relationships, and immigrant settlement.

Related Library Boy posts about law commissions include:
  • New Legal Research Report on Immigrant Settlement (July 12, 2006): "Yesterday, the Law Commission of Canada released a report entitled Unsettled: Legal and Policy Barriers for Newcomers to Canada (...) Much has been written about the challenges of immigration in Canada in recent years and this report and its companion literature review draw heavily on the existing body of research. This report’s particular contribution is its focus on the legal and policy barriers to the successful settlement of immigrants and refugees, and how these can be overcome."
  • New Report on Private Policing in Canada (July 28, 2006): The Law Commission of Canada, a federal advisory body, just released a new report entitled In Search of Security: The Future of Policing in Canada that discusses the rise of private security and police forces in Canada (...) Canada ... is in the midst of a transformation in how policing services are delivered and understood. Today, it is more accurate to suggest that policing is carried out by a complex mix of public police and private security. In many cases these networks of policing are overlapping, complimentary and mutually supportive. This new era of pluralized policing raises questions concerning the existing legal and regulatory environment and whether it continues to be relevant. This Report provides an opportunity to reflect on these important issues."
  • Grey Literature Week at Slaw.ca (August 9, 2006): "Slaw.ca, the co-operative weblog about Canadian legal research and IT, has been holding a theme week with posts from numerous contributors on the identification, collection and dissemination of grey literature in the field of law (...) In my view, this should include one major source of research about the law, namely the reports of law reform institutes."
  • 7th Annual Justicia Awards for Legal Reporting (August 14, 2006): Société Radio-Canada’s TV show Enjeux and the Vancouver Sun's Peter McKnight are this year's recipients of the Justicia Awards for Legal Reporting. The Awards are sponsored by the Law Commission of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association and the Department of Justice Canada and are given for 'outstanding journalism that fosters public awareness and understanding of any aspect of the Canadian justice system and the roles played by institutions and participants in the legal system'."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:13 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

UN World Drug Report 2006

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime just released its World Drug Report 2006.

"It provides one of the most comprehensive overviews of illicit drug trends at the international level. In addition, it presents a special thematic chapter on cannabis, by far the most widely produced, trafficked and used drug in the world. The analysis of trends, some going back 10 years or more, is presented in Volume 1. Detailed statistics are presented in Volume 2. "

The Office produces many other publications in areas such as alternate development, corruption, human trafficking by organized crime, demand reduction strategies, drug testing, etc.

It also offers an online Legislation/Legal Library with the full text of laws and regulations promulgated by many States.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:18 pm 0 comments links to this post

Canadian Series on Digital Rights Management

University of Ottawa professor Michael Geist has started a series called 30 days of DRM.

As Geist explained in his first post:

"Many people are still in summer mode, but the Canadian copyright rumour mill suggests that there is a lot happening behind the scenes with a copyright bill quite possibly a top priority once the fall session begins in 31 days. While there was much to criticize about Bill C-60 (the last attempt at copyright reform), given the continuing pressure from the copyright lobby and the U.S. government, I fear that the Conservatives' bill may be far more extreme in its approach. Despite the negative experiences with the U.S. DMCA as well as the recent calls against anti-circumvention legislation from musicians, artists, security companies, librarians, and the privacy community, within the next couple of months Canada may be facing its own DMCA..."

"... I plan to spend the thirty days before the House of Commons reconvenes to highlight some of the exceptions and limitations that should be included in the event that a Canadian DMCA is introduced. Each day, I will post a new provision, focusing broadly on marketplace concerns, public protection, and fair circumvention. The postings will be collected on a single page to form a compilation of DRM policy issues. Moreover, I'm launching a wiki that will start with the postings and will hopefully grow as interested readers add examples and additional perspectives."

Earlier Library Boy posts on digital rights management include:
  • Digital Rights Management Guide (January 18, 2006): this post presents 3 recent resources on the topic of DRM, one from Australia, one from the United States and another one from Canada
  • Libraries and Privacy Groups Speak Out on Copyright and DRM Threats to Privacy (May 17, 2006): "The Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic at the University of Ottawa has made public a series of open letters to the Ministers of Canadian Heritage and Industry expressing the concerns of library associations, privacy experts and civil libertarians over 'dangers to privacy posed by the extension of legal protection to 'digital rights management' (DRM) technology'. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:04 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 21, 2006

Science and Law Resources

Last week, the Science & Law Blog was launched.

In the introductory post, the authors, all law professors, explained that their blog is devoted to "the single question of how does, and how should, courts and policy makers use the more or less certain findings (or lack of findings) from science when making decisions. On the law side, therefore, not only are evidentiary matters of concern, but this question implicates substantive areas of law, including, but not limited to, torts, criminal, administrative, and constitutional. On the science side, subjects of interest will include, but are not limited to, psychology, sociology, political science, economics, toxicology, and epidemiology."

This is a welcome initiative as lawyers and judges - many of whom are in the profession because of an aversion to math and science - find themselves increasingly at a disadvantage where scientific evidence is at the heart of a case.

Among some of the existing resources on the subject of "science for lawyers" are:
  • Daubert on the Web: this U.S. web site tries to track every American Federal appellate decision and many major state appellate decisions on the admissibility of scientific expert testimony in the U.S. courts. "Daubert" refers to the key Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals (92-102), 509 U.S. 579 (1993) ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States on the admissibility of expert evidence
  • Expert Evidence in Criminal Law: The Scientific Approach (book by Alan B. Gold, Irwin Law, 2003): "The explosion of expert evidence in our courtrooms in the last several decades has been accompanied by increasing concerns about 'junk science' and 'pseudo-science'. After many years of debate within the legal and scientific communities regarding the nature and extent of junk science, the US Supreme Court, in the 1993 landmark case, Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc. articulated an entirely new set of criteria based on the scientific method for the admissibility of expert testimony. In 2000 the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. J.-L. J. referenced Daubert as a relevant authority and expressly adopted the same elements of analysis. Expert evidence in both countries must now obey the rules of science to be admissible. Science lessons for lawyers and judges have now been mandated by the highest courts in both Canada and the United States. Expert Evidence in Criminal Law: The Scientific Approach by Alan D. Gold is the first and only Canadian book on expert evidence entirely from a scientific perspective."
  • Modern scientific evidence : the law and science of expert testimony (by David L. Faigman et al., Thomson West, 2005, annual): "Detailed guide for judges and lawyers following the scientific evidence issues raised by the Daubert ruling, helps assess the validity of an expert’s scientific methodology. Challenges the use of "generally accepted" scientific ideas when ruling on admissibility or managing expert witnesses in state and federal courts. Prepares trial attorneys to explain scientific concepts during admissibility arguments, and confidently elicit or challenge expert testimony during trial. This post-Daubert guide discusses fundamental legal and scientific principles, scientific research methods, statistical proof, and multiple regression".
  • Laws of Men and Laws of Nature: The History of Scientific Expert Testimony in England and America (by Tal Golan, Harvard University Press, 2004): "With deep learning and wry humor, Tal Golan tells stories of courtroom drama and confusion and media jeering on both sides of the Atlantic, until the start of the twenty-first century, as the courts still search for ways that will allow them to distinguish between good and bad science".
  • Center for the Study of Law, Science and Technology (Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, Arizona State University): "Since its founding, the Center for the Study of Law, Science, and Technology has sought to contribute to the legal system's response to the pervasive and increasing challenges posed by new scientific discoveries and their technological applications. Largely lay decision makers -- judges, juries, legislators, and public administrators -- must often resolve important technical disputes, or establish new policies grounded on complex, often contested, scientific matters, relatively quickly and on the basis of imperfect information. The Center seeks to improve the quality of law and public policy affecting science and technology and supports work in an important reciprocal vein: the scientific study and understanding of law, legal institutions and legal process". The Center edits Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science, and Technology, an influential refereed journal, considered one of the oldest journals in the field of law and science. The site links to dozens of other journals dealing with science and technology issues and the law

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:14 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Quebec Environmental Pioneers Threatened With Being SLAPPed Into Oblivion

One of Quebec's oldest environmental organizations, the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA) may soon have to close shop because of a multi-million dollar lawsuit from a scrap metal operator in what many observers believe is a SLAPP or "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation".

AQLPA was instrumental in getting Canada and the United States to sign a treaty to combat acid rain during the Reagan-Mulroney years. It is considered one of the major environmental groups in the province of Quebec and its president André Bélisle is a frequent commentator on the news.

SLAPPs originated in the United States and are usually defamation actions brought by large corporate actors to shut down criticism by non-governmental organizations or citizens.

In a front page article on Friday, August 18, 2006, the Montreal daily Le Devoir reported AQLPA's insurance company informed the association that its contract protecting it against defamation (director and officer liability coverage) has been retroactively cancelled to a point in time predating the launch of the defamation suit. AQLPA's attempts to find another insurer have all been turned down, according to the newspaper.

Without insurance, AQLPA may be forced into silence on any controversial issues (and which environmental issue is not controversial?) and may have to abandon all its educational and outreach activities.

The lawsuit against AQLPA and another local environmental group in a Quebec City suburb was brought by American Iron & Metal (AIM). The two environmental groups had previously obtained an injunction against the scrap metal dealer to stop a major project that it had undertaken illegally - as confirmed by a recent Superior Court decision.

The newspaper explains that AIM had begun work to install a giant shredder without having obtained a construction permit from the City, provided an environmental impact assessment to the provincial government or even applied for a certificate of authorization. As well, suspicious runoff originating on the site of the AIM facility was being discharged directly into a part of the Etchemin River. The environmentalists were given permission to have the soil of the AIM facility analyzed; a study conducted by independent experts confirmed the presence of biogases that could represent a serious threat to the health and safety of residents in the neighbouring communities.

According to Le Devoir, AIM claims that AQLPA is secretly being financed by a competitor and that the association's actions and statements have damaged its reputation.

The concept of SLAPP derives from work by George Pring and Penelope Canan, who co-authored the book SLAPPs: Getting Sued for Speaking Out after investigating a range of behaviour that led to legal action against activists, including peaceful demonstrators, seeking signatures for petitions, and even reporting corporate breaches of environmental regulation. Pring and Canan characterised these actions as SLAPPs and distinguished them from commonplace lawsuits because they arose in response to participation in the political process by individuals. They suggest that SLAPPs are not intended to reach the courts (where they typically lose) but are designed to silence criticism through legal intimidation. The goal is to limit public debate and to allow corporations to continue their activities without restriction.

Typical targets of SLAPPs are local residents, neighbourhood associations, municipal governments, and peaceful protesters, who might be sued for reporting bylaw violations, speaking at municipal meetings or even for picketing and circulating petitions.

In Canada, anti-SLAPP legislation had been in force for a brief period in British Columbia under the New Democratic Party; however, it was abolished in 2001 by the current Liberal government. The law extended the defence of qualified privilege to political expression. It not only protected communications to government but also lawful attempts to influence public opinion (including various forms of consumer action such as petitions and boycotts). It also better equipped courts to identify and dismiss SLAPP suits early in the litigation process.
  • Defamation and SLAPPs (Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic, University of Ottawa): "The plaintiff's goal in a SLAPP is not to win the lawsuit, but is rather to silence a critic by instilling fear of large legal costs and the spectre of large damage awards. Despite their right to free speech, critics may be frightened into silence..."
  • Corporate Retaliation Against Consumers: The Status of Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) in Canada (Public Interest Advocacy Centre): "The report describes a number of lawsuits or threats of a lawsuit in Canada that fit the definition of a SLAPP. This evidence suggests that SLAPPs are very much a Canadian phenomenon and have been initiated against consumers for public criticism of products or services as well as against individuals for advocating on environmental issues. The report briefly analyses the constitutional questions raised by SLAPPs and draws comparisons to the constitutional and judicial treatment of SLAPPs in the United States."
  • California Anti-SLAPP Project: the Project is a public interest law firm that provides assistance to people on the receiving end of SLAPPs. About half the states in the United States have enacted anti-SLAPP legislation and the website provides links to case law and statutes for California and other states. As well, the site offers other resources, including a bibliography on the issue (updated to 2003)
  • SLAPP's in Australia (Center for Media and Democracy Sourcewatch): "The following is the beginning of a list of Australian cases where civil litigation has transformed public debate into legal cases. There are all sorts of definitions of SLAPP suits, but the fundamental issue is the chilling effect on free speech. Thus, the primary definition used in compiling the list is that the cases have had, or could reasonably be assumed to have had a chilling effect on the rights and ability of people to participate in public debate and political protest". The Center describes itself as a "non-profit, public interest organization that strengthens participatory democracy by investigating and exposing public relations spin and propaganda, and by promoting media literacy and citizen journalism". Its most well-known project is perhaps the quarterly PR Watch which investigates the public relations or "spin" industry

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:36 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Criminal Intelligence Service 2006 Annual Report on Organized Crime

Canada's Criminal Intelligence Service has just released its latest annual report on the activities of organized crime in Canada.

The Service coordinates the criminal intelligence units of Canadian law enforcement agencies at the federal and provincial levels of government. It is chaired by the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

This year's report underlines the geographic expansion of organized crime. Traditionally based in our large cities such as Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, the report explains that it is now actively recruiting members in rural and small-town Canada.

Organized crime activities involve production and distribution of narcotics, firearms smuggling, vehicle theft, financial fraud, identity theft, counterfeiting, human trafficking and money laundering.

The report also features a major section on the structure and activities of violent street gangs.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:54 pm 1 comments links to this post

Law Reviews Citing Legal Blogs

The blog 3L Epiphany has been tracking citations of legal blogs in law review articles.

So far, according to 3L Epiphany's calculations, there appear to have been 489 article citations of legal blogs from 75 legal blogs.

The full updated list is available in Word format.

Related Library Boy posts on the growing credibility of legal blogs:
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:41 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New Acquisitions at the Supreme Court of Canada Library

I keep forgetting to post about this. Every month, my library publishes its list of new acquisitions on the Supreme Court of Canada website.

Here is the most recent list for the period of July 1st to 31st, 2006. The page does say: "The Supreme Court of Canada Library does not lend materials from this list, which is provided for information only." But, once the material goes into the general collection, after about a month, the works do become available for inter-library loans to authorized libraries.

People can subscribe via e-mail to receive updates. An RSS feed does not yet exist but it is on our "to do list".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

New U.S. Government Manual and Its Canadian Equivalent

Quite a number of blogs I monitor (beSpacific, Resourceshelf, Peter Scott, etc.) mentioned the release of the 2006-2007 online edition of the U.S. Government Manual:

"As the official handbook of the Federal Government, the United States Government Manual provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. It also includes information on quasi-official agencies, international organizations in which the United States participates, and boards, commissions, and committees."

I was just using it the other day, before the new edition was announced. Quite useful for a quick overview of the mandate and structure of American government departments and agencies.

There is no direct or perfect Canadian equivalent. The closest one would be the Sources of Federal Government Information 2005-2006 section on Info-Source, most of which was updated in early June 2006.

Infosource describes Government of Canada agencies, their organization, and their information holdings and as such it is mainly used as a reference tool to help Canadian citizens in exercising their rights under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act by informing them of who in the government bureaucracy has compiled what kinds of files and maintains what types of document systems.

But it does also serve as a manual describing the structure of the Canadian government: take the chapter for the Department of Justice for example. In the navigation bar along the lefthand side is a section called "General Information" with links to Background (history), Responsibilities (mandate), Legislation (statutes for which the department is responsible) and Organization (internal structure). There can be quite a lot of descriptive detail.

Here is an excerpt from the Organization section describing the Federal Prosecution Service:

"The Federal Prosecution Service (FPS) is a national entity within the Department of Justice. It encompasses all staff counsel and prosecution agents engaged in the delivery of prosecution and criminal law advisory services at the federal level across Canada. Headed by the Assistant Deputy Attorney General (Criminal Law), the FPS consists of a central component (FPS-Headquarters), a regional component (prosecutors working in the Department's twelve regional offices and sub-offices and the legal agents working under their supervision), and the prosecutors with the Competition and Consumer Law Division within the Departmental Legal Services Unit at Industry Canada."

"Headquarters is comprised of the Criminal Law Section, which includes the Federal Prosecution Service / Ottawa-Gatineau and the International Assistance Group; the e-prosecutions Secretariat; the Executive Services Office; the Renewal Secretariat; and the Strategic Prosecution Policy Section, which includes the Agent Affairs Unit and the National Security Group."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Potential of Law Wikis

Stephane Cottin, head of IT and of the registry service with France's Constitutional Council, has created the tag "wikidroit" (wikilaw) on the del.icio.us social tagging website to compile a list of online collaborative sites (or wikis) on the topic of law.

By creating an account on del.icio.us, people can assign tags or keywords to websites they wish to bookmark and then share those bookmarks with others.

One of the sites Cottin references is LawLibWik created by Deborah Ginsberg (Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology) and Bonnie Shucha (University of Wisconsin). Ginsberg and Shucha gave a presentation on wikis and their potential application in the law context at the 2005 conference of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL). Ginsberg updated the presentation at the association's 2006 conference.

Ginsberg also published an article entitled Practicing Law Librarianship: A Wiki Wiki (Quick) Introduction to the Wide World of Wikis in the July 2006 issue of the AALL Spectrum.

The article examines a number of ambitious law-related wikis, including WikiLaw, Jurispedia and Wex. These sites claim to want to build online legal encyclopedias. While this is an interesting concept, it is hard to evaluate how feasible this really is. As well, since those projects are quite open to anyone, there is the problem of credibility and authority.

But the article also examines how libraries, including law libraries, have started using wikis to provide services to users by organizing electronic resources or to organize and exchange notes and documents about internal projects. Proprietary or confidential information for work-related documents can be kept behind a password-protected login.

Ginsberg concludes: "Legal research wikis ... would be of great uses to our patrons. They could be used in academic libraries to teach research concepts. They could be used in law firm libraries to showcase underused resources. Some day, we should all share our collective knowledge of legal research and law librarianship in a Wikipedia-like resource, each of us contributing with our particular area of expertise."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:50 pm 1 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Time Magazine's 50 Coolest Websites - No More Law or Government Content

The U.S. magazine Time has just released its annual list of the 50 Coolest Websites: "Many of this year's choices are shining examples of Web 2.0: next-generation sites offering dynamic new ways to inform and entertain, sites with cutting-edge tools to create, consume, share or discuss all manners of media, from blog posts to video clips."

Among the categories used by the newsmagazine are:

Time started making the list in 2003: the lists for 2003, 2004, and 2005 are still online.

Interestingly, previous years' "best of" compilations seem to have had some significant legal and government content, which has completely disappeared from the 2006 list:

  • Thesmokinggun.com, a site that publishes embarrassing documents about celebrities using material obtained from government and law enforcement sources via Freedom of Information requests and from court files, was included in 2003. Example: the transcripts from Michael Jackson’s child sex abuse case. Can you say "Schadenfreude"?
  • Factcheck.org, a site based out of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania that monitors the factual accuracy (or that documents the depths of stupidity) of what is said by major U.S. political players in TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases; Fedstats.gov, a gateway to statistics from over 100 U.S. Federal agencies; and SEC.gov, the website of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission were all among the sites chosen in 2004
  • FindLaw was among the crop of 2005 selectees

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:10 pm 1 comments links to this post

Monday, August 14, 2006

7th Annual Justicia Awards for Legal Reporting

Société Radio-Canada’s TV show Enjeux and the Vancouver Sun's Peter McKnight are this year's recipients of the Justicia Awards for Legal Reporting.

The Awards are sponsored by the Law Commission of Canada, the Canadian Bar Association and the Department of Justice Canada and are given for "outstanding journalism that fosters public awareness and understanding of any aspect of the Canadian justice system and the roles played by institutions and participants in the legal system".

Enjeux won an Award for its March 2006 program "Tribunal des Toxicomanes" that dealt with Vancouver's groundbreaking Drug Treatment Court. McKnight won his Award in the print category for his column that showed how hard it is to come up with any clear definition of what "judicial activism" really is, if it even exists at all.

The winners were honoured over the weekend at the Canadian Bar Association's annual conference in St. John’s, the capital of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Other awards handed out by the Association at this year's annual meeting included:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:54 pm 0 comments links to this post

CCH Canada Now Provides RSS Feeds

CCH Canada, part of the global Wolters Kluwer publishing group, announced last week that it has started offering RSS feeds to help users keep track of its new offerings as well as updates to existing information products.

One can subscribe to feeds for all CCH Canada products or for particular categories: tax & accounting, legal, business or financial planning.

CCH Canada joins other Canadian legal content providers using RSS technology, as earlier Library Boy posts show:
  • Alberta Queen's Printer Launches RSS Feeds (July 27, 2005): "People can choose to track legislation updates from all government sources or from individual ministries."
  • Law Journals - Staying Current (August 1, 2005) : "The (Washington and Lee University Law) School covers more than 1000 law journals from around the world. Scans of journal content pages are supplied by the University of Texas Tarlton Law Library, Washington and Lee, other libraries, or are received electronically via e-mail, web-sites, or RSS feeds." There are many Canadian law journals available from the service and one can set up a feed to get the e-mail updates via an RSS reader
  • Government RSS Feeds in Canada and the U.S. (September 24, 2005): "The Canadian government website has organized its RSS feeds by department, audience and province/territory."
  • Federal Bill Tracking With RSS (May 5, 2006): "LEGISinfo, the Library of Parliament's legislative research website, has started offering RSS feeds since the beginning of this parliamentary session to help people track bills before the House of Commons and the Senate."
  • RSS News Feeds from Lexis Nexis Canada (May 16, 2006): "The Lexis Nexis Canada feeds include: New Butterworths Titles; Quicklaw Announcements (new sources added); The Lawyers Weekly (headlines from the weekly legal newspaper) ; Supreme Court of Canada Service (case digests) ; LAW/NET Legal Update Service (digests of major cases from other court levels in Canada) ; What’s New at LexisNexis..."

As well, there are a number of publications from the publisher Canada Law Book that provide RSS feeds:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:21 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Librarians Without Borders Recruiting Directors

The humanitarian organization Librarians Without Borders, founded in 2005 by Master of Library and Information students at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, is looking for volunteer members to sit on its board of directors. Membership in the organization is worldwide and is not restricted to students.

Applications for the board of directors positions must be received by September 15, 2006.

"We are looking for individuals who share LWB’s values and can offer their passion or expertise to the benefit of the organization, in areas such as financial management, non-profit governance, strategic planning, policy development, fundraising, international development, world libraries, communications, and human resources / volunteer management."

The organization's first international project is Biblioteca Tutangi, a library for the post-secondary students in the community of Huambo, Angola. As part of the project, Library Without Border members helped collect nursing and medical textbooks, create a library development plan, find bookshelves, and secure an energy source for the library.

A related Library Boy post: Librarians Without Borders (Sept. 15, 2005).
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:50 pm 0 comments links to this post

Upcoming Continuing Education Webcasts From The Partnership

The Partnership is Canada's national network of provincial and territorial library associations, offering many services including online learning opportunities.

The new 2006-2007 course calendar includes many webcasts (as well as teleconferences).

Among the offerings coming very soon are:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:40 pm 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Materials from the International AIDS Conference in Toronto

The 16th International AIDS Conference which begins this weekend in Toronto is expected to attract more than 20,000 delegates. It is one of the world's largest scientific congresses, though its scope goes way beyond science to touch upon social and legal policy.

There will thousands of presentations on potential new drugs, the emergence of resistance to the existing selection of antiretroviral drugs, and the legal dimensions of the worldwide eipdemic.

According to Resourceshelf, the Kaiser Family Foundation is making session webcasts, podcasts, and interviews freely available online.

As well, presentation abstracts are also being made available online from the official conference website. One of the presentation categories, or "tracks", concerns policy and legal issues:

"This track will highlight progress, lessons learned, and challenges in HIV/AIDS-related policy and advocacy. It will examine how policies and programmes are developed, debated, implemented, and evaluated, addressing the roles and responsibilities of all parties. Among the topics to be debated are the role of advocacy in shaping policy, the central role of human rights and ethics in the policy and programmatic response to HIV/AIDS, and the role of law, regulation, and codes of practice. Sessions will focus on policy development and decision-making; analysis and evaluation of successful policies; human rights and legal and ethical issues; capacity development; commitment and accountability; meaningful involvement of people living with HIV/AIDS and vulnerable populations in policy development and implementation; and interactions between HIV/AIDS and other policy areas, such as gender, race, development and poverty alleviation, security/conflicts, education, social welfare, substance use, incarceration, globalisation, public health, sex work and sexual minorities, migrant workers, and violence."

One the legal front, a prominent Canadian player is the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network which will be making many presentations during the conference.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, August 11, 2006

International Directory of ADR Blogs

Diane Levin, a Boston-based lawyer and mediator, has created the World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs.

There is an alphabetical listing, as well as lists by country (as well as Canada and US, there are blogs from Brazil, Chile, Poland, Sri Lanka, etc. - wow!) and by topic (ADR, ADR marketing, conflict resolution, negotiation, restorative justice...)

[Thanks to the blog Inter Alia]

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:56 pm 0 comments links to this post

New Issue of Global Legal Monitor from Law Library of Congress

The Law Library of Congress has just released the June/July 2006 issue of the Global Legal Monitor.

This is the 2nd issue so far of this new publication launched in May 2006.

The Monitor summarizes legal developments from around the world, with selections made based on official national legal publications, and various press sources. The June/July issue has news from countries ranging from Bahrain to Zimbabwe, in areas such as criminal law, elections and politics, family law, human rights, taxation and trade law.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:48 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Grey Literature Week at Slaw.ca

Slaw.ca, the co-operative weblog about Canadian legal research and IT, has been holding a theme week with posts from numerous contributors on the identification, collection and dissemination of grey literature in the field of law.

One of the posts provides a standard international definition of grey literature:

"Information produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in electronic and print formats not controlled by commercial publishing, i.e. where publishing is not the primary activity of the producing body."

In my view, this should include one major source of research about the law, namely the reports of law reform institutes.

The Diana M. Priestly Law Library at the University of Victoria in British Columbia has a page of links to law reform commissions in various countries. The University of Calgary Law Library provides a slightly different list.

Among the finding tools are:
  • The British Columbia Law Institute has created a searchable law reform database that indexes over 7000 law reform materials from common law jurisdictions around the world
  • The WorldLII Law Reform Project "aims to make searchable from one location all of the databases specialising in Law Reform available on any of the Legal Information Institutes (LIIs) that are part of WorldLII". The databases currently included are the law commissions of Australia, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and England
  • The World Law Reform Collection Jurisdiction and Subject Index from Manas Media is an index to law reform commission publications searchable by keywords, jurisdiction and date. This collection contains references to thousands of titles from 37 jurisdictions indexed by 6 major categories and 61 subcategories. Full text of most titles published after 1999 is available in PDF format to subscribing libraries. Earlier titles are on microfiche
For historical background, Justice Canada's International Cooperation Group published a study on law reform agencies a few years ago. The study comes with an extensive bibliography.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:51 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

RSS Feeds for UK Legislative Tracking

The Office for Public Sector Information in the United Kingdom has started offering legislative tracking via RSS feeds.

One can also track bills using RSS at the federal level in Canada, the federal level in the United States and at the level of various American states. The province of Alberta also offers legislative RSS feeds.
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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:11 pm 0 comments links to this post

Monday, August 07, 2006

Legal Blogs Cited in U.S. Cases

The blog 3L Epiphany has published an updated list of U.S. court cases that cite legal blogs.

As of August 6, 2006, there were 32 citations with 8 legal blogs being cited.

Related Library Boy posts:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:37 pm 0 comments links to this post

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More E-Government Rankings from Brown University Study

This is a follow-up to the Library Boy post of August 4, 2006 entitled Brown University 6th International Ranking of E-Government.

The Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, Rhode Island, have released their 7th annual e-government ranking for the United States. Researchers looked at more than 1,500 U.S. state government sites, plus 48 federal government legislative and executive sites and 13 federal court sites.

Sites were evaluated for the presence of online publications, databases, audio clips, video clips, foreign language content or language translation services, advertisements, premium fees, user payments or fees, disability access, privacy policy, security policy, the number of online services, digital signatures, credit card payments, e-mail addresses, comment forms, automatic email updates, website personalization, PDA accessibility, and readability level.

According to the study, Texas and New Jersey are the best American states for e-government initiatives. The U.S. federal portal FirstGov.gov and the Department of Agriculture are the most highly rated federal sites.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:21 pm 0 comments links to this post

Friday, August 04, 2006

Brown University 6th International Ranking of E-Government

This is a follow-up to yesterday's post International Conference on E-Government.

The Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in Rhode Island has just released its 6th annual ranking of e-government initiatives.

Asian countries take three of the top five spots in the global e-government study. South Korea came in first, followed by Taiwan, Singapore, the United States, and Canada.

"Websites are evaluated for the presence of various features dealing with information availability, service delivery, and public access. Features assessed included the name of the nation, region of the world, and having the following features: online publications, online database, audio clips, video clips, non-native languages or foreign language translation, commercial advertising, premium fees, user payments, disability access, privacy policy, security features, presence of online services, number of different services, digital signatures, credit card payments, email address, comment form, automatic email updates, website personalization, personal digital assistant (PDA) access, and an English version of the website. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:19 pm 0 comments links to this post

Thursday, August 03, 2006

International Conference on E-Government

UNPAN, the United Nations Online Network in Public Administration and Finance, recently held a conference in Budapest on the topic of E-Government.

Among the more significant papers presented are:
  • Understanding and Measuring eGovernment: International Benchmarking Studies by Richard Heeks, University of Manchester: "This paper is aimed at those involved – in planning, in undertaking, in using or in evaluating – the benchmarking or measurement of e-government. It draws on models of e-government and experience of benchmarking to answer four questions: why benchmark e-government? what to benchmark? how to benchmark? how to report? It provides a series of recommendations based on good practice or innovative practice, backed up by a set of conceptual frameworks and statistical findings."
  • Overview of E-Participation Models by Nahleen Ahmed, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: "This paper will undertake to review reports, studies, websites and evaluations of e-government initiatives with a view to highlighting good practices and lessons learned for the express purpose of making suggestions and recommendations for the future direction of [United Nations] e-Readiness Reports, particularly focusing on e-participation. Based on the research, the paper will attempt to identify issues for the future direction of the UN’s review of e-government and eparticipation models, as well as draw upon lessons learned for governments contemplating e-participation endeavors."
  • eGovernance and eParticipation: lessons from Europe in promoting inclusion and empowerment by Jeremy Millard, Danish Technological Institute: "This paper examines the relationship between eGovernance and eParticipation from a European perspective in terms of promoting inclusion and empowerment. This will include an examination of current and future challenges, especially the socalled democratic deficit and the need to create a future around a new understanding of citizen inclusion, empowerment, openness, transparency and trust. How does and can ICT support these developments, and how can we understand and measure them?"

When it comes to initiatives on e-government, various studies give Canada very high marks.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:54 pm 0 comments links to this post

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

University of Washington Information School Podcasts

The students at the University of Washington's Information School have been producing a podcast program known as Infospeak.

"It showcases outstanding leaders in various areas of information access and awareness, speaking from authoritative vantage points about many interesting and relevant information issues of our day."

So far, they have had 4 shows:
  • Michael Gorman, President Emeritus of the American Library Association: "His reservations about the value of Google's plan to digitize the world's books, his doubts about the quality of online blogging, his insistence that the human mind needs the enrichment of libraries filled with books, spark howls of indignant and vitriolic condemnation."
  • Dr. Michael B. Eisenberg, Dean Emeritus, University of Washington Information School: "How should library education meet the new century? Can library schools find their way?"
  • 3 guests - Ulla Brohed, Malmö Library, Sweden; Nancy Huling, University of Washington Libraries; and Deborah Jacobs, Seattle Public Library: "At the public library in southern Sweden's third largest city, Malmö, a patron can check out a human being for a 45 minute chat. Is this nuts?... Ulla and her colleague Catharina Norèn read in a paper about the project Living Library which had taken place in a Danish library and were thrilled by the idea. A Muslim woman, a lesbian, a homeless, an ex-convict, an animal activist, an imam and five others - all of them were borrowed by interested visitors and the project was a great success."
  • Joseph Janes, Associate Dean for Academics at the Information School of the University of Washington: "We are deeply curious, compelled to understand each other and the times we live in. We possess a relentless drive to know everything going on in the world, all the time. And so we turn voraciously to our computers, and Google. We search (...) Search is many things: from a vulgar information brothel to the most sublime ideals shared by humanity. I wonder how our expanding use of search technology will influence the particular direction into which our society will plunge. "

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:14 pm 1 comments links to this post

The "Patron Saints" of Our Profession

The founder of OCLC, Frederick G. Kilgour, died Monday, age 92.

We don’t often celebrate the "patron saints" of our profession, the people who laid the intellectual foundations of what we do everyday. Panizzi, Dewey, Cutter, Lubetzky, Ranganathan, Garfield, Vannevar Bush, Vincent Cerf. And Kilgour.

When you stop to think of it, we would be drowning in one huge mess had it not been for our predecessors who came up with the rules for cataloguing, the field of citation analysis, the logic of hypertext or the structure for OCLC.

My favourite pioneer was a British working-class misfit named George Boole for whom Boolean operators are named. He published "The Laws of Thought" some 150 years ago, in which he outlined concepts that form the underpinnings of the modern computer and of online searching.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:56 pm 0 comments links to this post

Best Government Documents Titles Ever!

The good people over at Free Government Information consulted members on the govdoc-l listserv on what they thought were the best government document titles they had come across. Many of the selections come with cover photos (the photos are from the Web2.0 application Flickr)

Among the picks:
  • Everything you always wanted to know about shipping high-level nuclear wastes
  • Index of blank forms
  • Know your 8-inch Howitzer
  • National Money Laundering Strategy
  • A winning combination: wild horses and prison inmates

The list includes a Canadian document entitled "Who Are the Zombie Masters and What Do They Want?" (a document about health user fees).

It might be fun to come up with an entirely Canadian list of, shall we say, "interesting" or ambiguous govdoc titles. In my Government Documents class during the MLIS programme at McGill University, I remember the prof showing us a government cookbook full of recipes from the Maritime provinces. I can't recall the name but it had something to do with fish and seals (it included a Newfoundland recipe for seal flipper pie! Um, um, good).

N.B. Also posted over at Slaw.ca

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:47 pm 0 comments links to this post

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Law Blog Credibility

2 items dealing with the impact and credibility of law blogs recently caught my attention:

1) The SCOTUSblog points to an upcoming article in the Chapman Law Journal entitled Legal Blogs: The Search for Legitimacy: "The hallmark of true influence – citation as authoritative in case law or legal briefs – is beginning to develop, but so far can hardly be called frequent, or common. Lawyers though, are increasingly becoming regular readers of blogs, and take full advantage of the 'Comment' sections of legal blogs. Even if they are not yet in the habit of citing to blog posts, attorneys’ views are no doubt being shaped, some of the time, by what they read. And many attorneys get the first word of legal developments from blogs, well in advance of official notification from courts. It is far too soon, however, to draw any meaningful conclusions suggesting that the substance of American law is being altered because of the legal blogosphere’s impact. But legal blogs (...) are expanding rapidly, and blog-surfing is bound to grow as well. The problem for legal blogs, then, may be the difficulty in getting noticed amid all of the blog noise."

2) And Shaun Martin, a University of San Diego law professor, points to a U.S. Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit (California) ruling where a prominent blawger is quoted (the blawg in question is The Volokh Conspiracy)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:28 pm 0 comments links to this post