Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tracking Law Firm Newsletters With Linex Legal

Linex Legal, a service based in the United Kingdom, is offering access to articles, as well as to newsletter material produced by big law firms and organizations in jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada, France, the United States, the UK and others.

I registered for free and signed up for e-mail newsletters containing material from Canadian, UK, US and Australian law firms and organizations. It is also possible to sign up for RSS feeds.

Among the Canadian law firms whose newsletters are available are: Torys, Stikeman Elliott, McCarthy Tétrault, Gowling Lafleur Henderson, Goodmans, Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, Blake, Cassels & Graydon, Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh, McMillan Binch Mendelsohn and Heenan Blaikie.

Keeping track of law firm newsletters has never been easy.

On March 8, 2005, I wrote a post entitled We need a central repository for Canadian law firm newsletters and bulletins:

"Every major law firm publishes newsletters, news alerts, law updates, bulletins, commentaries. Right now, though, users have to make their way to each law firm web site to scan for new releases. Or users have to go through the trouble of signing up by e-mail with each firm that publishes in the area of law they want to track".
Hardly any major Canadian law firms offer RSS feeds. The Quebec government Crown agency SOQUIJ (Société québécoise d'information juridique) does offer the Bulletins juridiques service that lists law firm newsletter articles by subject category but it is not searchable and there is no way to sign up to receive notification of new newsletters published. It is only possible to subscribe to an RSS feed for commentary written specifically for SOQUIJ itself.

So Linex Legal appears to be a welcome addition to current awareness services.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:58 pm 1 comments

Monday, July 30, 2007

New Study on Impact of Judges' Gender and Political Affiliation

Law Times has published an article outlining the conclusions of a study of the impact of gender and political affiliation on judicial decision-making in Ontario.

Entitled Does a Judge's Party of Appointment or Gender Matter to Case Outcomes? An Empirical Study of the Court of Appeal for Ontario, the study by Osgoode Hall Law School associate professor James Stribopoulos and University of Alberta associate law professor Moin Yahya examined all reported decision from the Ontario Court of Appeal from 1991 to 2003 — over 4,000 judgments.

According to Law Times:

"(N)ot only was there a difference in the way judges voted depending on their political-party appointment, but also that there was a 'notable variation' in the way that male and female judges voted in certain cases (...) For example, the study notes that one area where a panel’s political composition seems to matter is in criminal cases involving Charter claims seeking either to exclude evidence or invalidate legislation".
Interestingly, the researchers found that in trials where Charter arguments were tossed out and the accused found guilty, Conservative-appointed judges were more lenient than judges appointed by the Liberals. There were also marked differences depending on the gender of the judge in family law cases and in criminal appeals involving sexual or domestic violence.

Yahya told Law Times that it is important not to exaggerate the differences:

"Even where there is a bit of a difference, they’re still affirming the conviction. It’s just, are they affirming it 60 per cent of the time versus 70 per cent of the time? It’s a 10-per-cent difference".
Overall, the authors stress the importance of promoting diversity in appeal court panels, as diversity was shown to eliminate any potential "distorting influence" based on gender or party.

The article, to be published in the upcoming issue of the Osgoode Hall Law Journal, won the 2007 Canadian Association of Law Teachers Scholarly Paper Award.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:40 pm 0 comments

Participants Sought For Biblioblogosphere Survey

Meredith Farkas, author of the Information Wants To Be Free blog and of the book Social Software in Libraries: Building Collaboration, Communication, and Community Online, want to know more about librarians who blog.

So, she has designed a survey "to gain useful demographic statistics about individuals in the library and information science field who blog".

She will share the results of the survey, just as she did with the results of an earlier survey she conducted in 2005.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:22 pm 0 comments

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Brown University 7th International Ranking of E-Government Initiatives

The Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University in Rhode Island has just released its 7th annual ranking of e-government initiatives.

The findings are based on the analysis of 1,687 government websites in 198 different nations. The types of websites analysed included executive offices (president, prime minister, ruler, party leader, or royalty), legislatures, major courts, and major agencies and ministries.

Among the major findings:

  • 28 percent of government websites offer services that are fully executable online, about the same as last year
  • 96 percent of websites this year provide access to publications and 80 percent have links to databases
  • 29 percent (up from 26 percent in 2006) show privacy policies, while 21 percent have security policies (up from 14 percent in 2006)
  • 23 percent of government websites have some form of disability access, meaning access for persons with disabilities, the same as last year

On a ranking scale of 0 to 100, the study concluded that South Korea offered the best e-government services of any country with a score of 74.9%.

"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. Where national government websites are not in English, our research team used foreign language readers to evaluate government websites. Among the languages assessed were English, Spanish, Arabic, Korean, German, Portuguese, Russian, French, Turkish, and Chinese".

Other countries in the top 10 were, in descending order: Singapore, Taiwan, United States, Great Britain, Canada (6th place with a score of 44.1%), Portugal, Australia, Turkey and Germany.

Earlier Library Boy posts about international e-government studies include:
  • Canada Keeps Top Spot in E-Government Survey (April 7, 2005): "For the 5th year in a row, Canada has earned the top international spot in consulting firm Accenture's annual survey of government initiatives in electronic service delivery. According to the article in the Globe and Mail, '(T)he overall average customer service maturity score — which measures four aspects of service delivery, including how well governments are delivering service across multiple channels — was just 39 per cent. Only Canada has an overall customer service maturity score of more than 50 per cent'."
  • International Conference on E-Government (August 3, 2006): "UNPAN, the United Nations Online Network in Public Administration and Finance, recently held a conference in Budapest on the topic of E-Government (...) When it comes to initiatives on e-government, various studies give Canada very high marks."
  • Brown University 6th International Ranking of E-Government (August 4, 2006): "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."
  • UN Compendium of Innovative E-Government Practices (June 11, 2007): "The Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat has just released a Compendium of Innovative E-Government Practices: (...) 'UNDESA has embarked on an ongoing initiative to compile cases of innovative e-government applications from all geographical regions of the world. This Compendium aims to promote knowledge sharing and exchange of proven e-government applications among countries to promote emulation and to reduce the costs involved in setting up completely new systems' (...) The document describes a number of justice-related projects..."


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:17 pm 0 comments

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Audit of UK Government Websites: Lots of Room for Improvement

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom's National Audit Office, the equivalent of our Office of the Auditor General, published its report on English government websites.

Entitled Government on the internet: progress in delivering information and services online, the report to the UK Parliament found that Internet users rated government websites reasonably well, but that the quality of those websites has improved only slightly since 2002.

Among the major weaknesses found:

  • many government websites were too text-heavy and off-putting to the user
  • information useful to users was often hard to find amongst large amounts of policy material
  • search engines on the sites often failed to work in a satisfactory manner
  • information was dispersed among hundreds of government service organizations
  • up to a third of the websites may not meet standards for disabled or visually impaired people
  • of the thousands of forms available to download, only 1 in 8 could be filled in and returned online

On the positive side of things:

  • websites run by local authorities provided a wide range of information on local services
  • the Foreign and Commonwealth Office allowed citizens to receive emails alerting them to changes including travel advice, press releases and job ads
  • the Jobcentre Plus website, including job information accessed through public Jobpoints, was the biggest of its kind in the UK
  • an online journey-planning service was provided by the Transport Direct website
  • NHS Direct offered online health advice, now used by almost twice as many online visitors as phone users

The government has announced that some 551 sites considered redundant or not useful will be closed and have their information reorganized and streamlined on 2 "supersites": www.directgov.gov.uk (for citizens) and www.businesslink.gov.uk (for businesses). Focus groups found these 2 existing megasites were "laid out clearly".

The study also compared the UK e-government experience with that of Canada, the United States and Sweden and made a series of recommendations such as:

  • developing criteria for helping departments and agencies to judge the correct level of investment in websites and transactional services
  • requiring departments to report annually on costs for online services online according to a common methodology
  • creating a framework to ensure regular, independent reviews
  • collecting and analyzing usage data and ensuring that such data feeds directly into the design of government websites
  • maximizing the visibility of government websites to search engines and carrying out usability testing to make sure users can find the information they need within sites once they find them
  • ensuring websites meet accessibility and usability criteria, with annual reports outlining what actions have been taken to make web services and online information as usable as possible for all customers

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:30 pm 0 comments

Friday, July 27, 2007

Guide to Law Journal Online Companions

As I have posted in the past (e.g. More Law Journals Adding Blog Companions, April 20, 2007; Gatekeeping in Legal Scholarship in an Online Age, July 24, 2007), an increasing number of law reviews are supplementing their traditional print edition with online blogs, additions, discussion forums, etc.

LLRX.com has just published an article entitled Guide to Short Form Open Access Legal Publications by Ken Strutin, Director of Legal Information Services at the New York State Defenders Association. It provides an overview of this emerging phenomenon in legal scholarship:

"The companion publications fit into a growing niche of multi-format interactive online journals. They usually seek responses to articles appearing in their main law reviews and solicit original scholarship or viewpoints on current topics. Many of the publishers invite responses or discussion, via site blogs, on subjects raised in their short form articles. Overall, they offer a new conduit for debate and discussion of legal issues, and a new research and current awareness tool".

"While blogs and Wikis are beginning to find their place, law review companions are building on an established path for disseminating and preserving legal scholarship. And they embrace the best of print and online traditions by adhering to the publishing standards of law reviews while taking advantage of the public square of the Internet (...) This article is a collection of these emerging short form journals".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:45 pm 0 comments

Law Reform Commission Annual Reports

Two of Canada's provincial Law Reform Commissions recently published their annual reports:
  • Annual Report of the Manitoba Law Reform Commission 2006-2007: over the past year, the Commission issued reports on development schemes (real estate law) and private title insurance; it undertook projects on franchise law, and powers of attorney; the annual report also provides updates about the Commission's work on the subject of end-of-life withholding of medical treatment
  • Annual Report of the Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia 2006-2007: the Report discusses the Commission's work relating to civil procedure rules revision, vexatious litigants, grandparents-grandchildren access issues, the workings of the province's Small Claims Court, and contaminated sites

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:28 pm 0 comments

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ontario E-Laws Site Revamped

The Ontario government has just released version 4 of its E-Laws website.

E-Laws contains the province's statutes and associated regulations as well as legislative history tables for amendments and repeals.

What's new:
  • Current Consolidated law given prominence to assist new and occasional users
  • More precise currency information for consolidated law
  • Direct link from home page to the most frequently accessed laws
  • Search and Browse functions available on a single web page for each 'category' of law
  • Basic and advanced search capacities combined for easier searching
  • Search and Browse functions available for Period in Time and Repealed, Revoked and Spent law
  • Detailed Legislative History tables available for regulations (formerly available only for statutes)
  • Updated, issue-specific "Help" text
  • Expanded FAQs and Glossary
As I reported in the July 8, 2007 Library Boy post entitled Ontario E-Laws Now Presumed Authentic for Court, E-Laws will (eventually) be considered an official statement of Ontario law, although an item in the FAQ on the E-Laws site adds that this will come into effect via a regulation that has not yet been passed.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:49 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pedagogic Value of Podcasts

The Law Library Blog links to a white paper by Ashley Deal at Carnegie Mellon University in which the author seeks to evaluate the pedagogic value and impact of podcasting.

The text looks at the use of podcasts as a mechanism for the archiving of classroom lectures, the delivery of supplemental course materials via podcasts, and assignments that require students to produce and submit their own podcasts as a means of developing presentation skills.

The paper concludes:
"Does podcasting enhance education? The answer to that question depends entirely on the educational context, including goals and appropriate learning activities, and on how the tool is implemented. Podcasting does not contain any inherent value. It is only valuable inasmuch as it helps the instructor and students reach their educational goals, by facilitating thoughtful, engaging learning activities that are designed to work in support of those goals."


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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:38 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Gatekeeping in Legal Scholarship in an Online Age

Paul Horwitz, a visiting professor at the Notre Dame Law School, has recently published a paper on the open access Social Science Research Network entitled 'Evaluate Me!': Conflicted Thoughts on Gatekeeping in Legal Scholarship's New Age:

"Bloggers, SSRN, and online law review supplements like this one have increasingly routed around and weakened, if not undermined, the traditional gatekeepers who certified legal scholars and their scholarship. Is this a good thing? "

"The paper proceeds by examining this question in light of a pair of opposing views and values. The first is Julius Getman's discussion of the eternal tension between elitism and egalitarianism in the life of the scholar. The second is a pair of comments on the role of blogs and other online media in legal scholarship - a positive and optimistic comment by Larry Solum, and a more pessimistic and critical view presented by Brian Leiter. Ultimately, I tend to agree with Solum's optimistic view: the online age has provided new thinkers and writers with multiple routes around the old gatekeepers, and this development should be welcomed. "
At the recent annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to hear Prof. Solum's optimistic take on how blogs and open access publishing ventures such as SSRN and bePress have "disintermediated" legal scholarship. See my post of July 19, 2007 entitled AALL 2007 Conference - Interesting Workshop Sessions. A description of Solum's comments is in the first section called "Blogging, Disintermediation and the Future of the Law Library".

Other Library Boy posts on the topic of changes in legal scholarship include:

  • Harvard Blog and Legal Scholarship Conference Update (May 11, 2006): "In the past few years, blogs have begun to affect the delivery of legal education, the production and dissemination of legal scholarship, and the practice of law. We are delighted that over twenty of the nation’s leading law professor bloggers have agreed to join with us for the first scholarly conference on the impact of blogs on the legal academy."
  • Open Access Publishing and the Future of Legal Scholarship (March 31, 2006): "A few weeks ago, the Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon hosted a conference on open access publishing in the legal field. 'Interestingly, the open access publishing model has not yet become as popular in legal scholarship as in other fields. Why has legal scholarship lagged in the open access publishing movement? Should law schools, who do the most to fund both the production and publication of legal scholarship, push toward an open access publishing approach?' "
  • More Law Journals Adding Blog Companions (April 20, 2007): "A number of law journals are now leveraging weblog technology to present information and commentary online. Some are offering online weblog 'digests' which supplement the traditional printed journal, while others are solely online. The common thread (...) is a desire for a more timely forum to comment on new developments in the journal's area of coverage"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:36 pm 0 comments

Monday, July 23, 2007

Council of Europe Declares Video Surveillance 'Threat to Fundamental Rights'

This item from JURIST, the legal news site run by the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, appeared in my inbox this morning:

"The Council of Europe's European Commission for Democracy through Law ... issued an opinion ... Wednesday [July 11, 2007] finding that the use of public video surveillance ... constitutes 'an undeniable threat to fundamental rights such as the right to privacy and the right of respect for his or her private life.' The commission urged European governments to enact specific regulations at the national and international level to ensure that the surveillance conforms with the Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights ... "
Earlier Library Boy posts about surveillance include:

  • UK Fast Becoming Surveillance Society Says Info Commissioner (November 2, 2006): "Richard Thomas, the United Kingdom Information Commissioner, stated in a report released today that his country is sleep-walking into a surveillance society. This is due to the increasing accumulation of credit card, cell phone and loyalty card information, the monitoring of workers' computer activities, and the spread of closed circuit television surveillance. There are now 4.2 million closed circuit cameras in Britain and Britons are picked up 300 times a day on camera as they go about their regular private business."
  • International Surveillance and Privacy Survey from Queen's University (November 15, 2006): "Earlier this week, Queen's University researchers released the results of a survey of 9,000 people around the world about their experiences with surveillance and privacy: 'This is believed to be the first cross-cultural study of its kind that explores relationships between attitudes and experiences, and how much people trust corporations and governments to handle personal information, including the sharing of such information with third parties, the researcher says... the survey included nearly 50 questions on participant’s attitudes about issues like consumer surveillance, racial profiling at airports, national ID cards, media coverage of surveillance issues, workplace privacy, knowledge of privacy regulations, control over personal data and public trust in government'."
  • Suspect Nation Video on Rise of the Surveillance Society (November 28, 2006): "A documentary on widespread surveillance in the US and the UK by Henry Porter of the British paper The Observer has been posted to Google Video. Entitled Suspect Nation, it explores the potential misuse of the mountains of data collected about each of us through a proliferating number of technologies"
  • George Orwell's London Apartment Under 24-Hour Surveillance (April 4, 2007): "On the wall outside his former residence - flat number 27B - where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move."
  • French Privacy Watchdog Warns Against Surveillance Society (July 12, 2007): "In its most recent activities report, the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés or CNIL (the French national personal data protection and privacy commission) warns that the increased use of biometrics, surveillance cameras, and geolocalization technologies (to track employee movements via GPS systems in company cars or corporate mobile phones) may threaten privacy and civil liberties."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:29 pm 0 comments

New Publication from Library of Parliament on Canada-U.S. Tax Treaty

The Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament recently posted a brief research paper from late March entitled Income Tax Conventions and the Taxation of Non-resident Investment Income Under the Canada-United States Tax Treaty:

"Canada is a signatory to a large number of bilateral income tax conventions. For many Canadian businesses and individuals, the most important of those conventions is the tax treaty between Canada and the United States, which is currently under renegotiation. In recent years, the United States has agreed to significant tax treaty modifications with such trading partners as the United Kingdom, Japan, and Mexico and, as a consequence, the payment of cross-border dividends by a subsidiary to its parent company is exempt from withholding tax. In some instances, these modifications have also eliminated or reduced withholding taxes on interest payments between unrelated parties ... In Canada, several business groups and tax experts have argued that similar changes should be implemented in the changes to the Canada–United States income tax convention that are currently under negotiation."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:22 pm 0 comments

Supreme Court of Canada Library: New Titles

The list of new library titles added to the Supreme Court of Canada collection for the period of June 16th to 30th, 2007 is now available on the Court website.

The web page explains: "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.

It is possible to subscribe via e-mail to receive the list.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:18 pm 0 comments

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Quebec Expert Panel Says Protect People Against Abusive Defamation Suits

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPs for short, have been in the news in the province of Quebec recently.

Typically, SLAPPs take the form of defamation actions brought by large corporate actors to shut down criticism by non-governmental organizations or local citizens. The actions are for huge sums of money and are often seen by critics as really just attempts to bankrupt opponents or intimidate them.

On August 20, 2006, I published a post entitled Quebec Environmental Pioneers Threatened With Being SLAPPed Into Oblivion. It described how one of Quebec's oldest environmental organizations, the Association québécoise de lutte contre la pollution atmosphérique (AQLPA) was facing imminent extinction because of a multi-million dollar lawsuit from a scrap metal operator. AQLPA was instrumental in the Mulroney-Reagan years in getting anti-acid rain programs implemented by the Canadian and American governments:

"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".

That post also described the legislative situation elsewhere in Canada, in the United States and in Australia.

As I further reported on October 9, 2006 in the post Quebec Government Launches Study On Anti-Activist Defamation Suits, a government panel was set up to look at the balance between freedom of expression and the right to one's reputation.

The panel, led by Roderick A. Macdonald, the F.R. Scott Professor of Constitutional and Public Law at McGill University, published its SLAPP report earlier this month. The document is only in French.

Here is what it contains.

It comes out very strongly against the potentially "abusive" nature of SLAPPs and calls on the provincial government to adopt measures to discourage them as they "aim essentially at forcing these individuals or these organizations to limit their public activity, or again, to self-censor their declarations by involving them in costly judicial proceedings they can generally not afford. It is basically a form of judicial intimidation" (Prologue, p. 1).

The report explains that 25 U.S. states have legislation regulating SLAPPs.

The panel suggests 3 possible avenues for government action:

  • anti-SLAPP legislation
  • amendments to Quebec's Code of Civil Procedure to more strictly control "abusive" defamation suits
  • legislation enshrining protection for public participation

The government will hold public hearings into the matter in the fall.

More from:

  • Quebec moves to rein in legal bullying, Montreal Gazette, July 19, 2007: "They [report authors] note that Section 46 of the Code of Civil Procedure gives judges the power to throw out nuisance lawsuits. They suggest this section and related sections would have to be beefed up to spell out the right for a judge to reject a SLAPP. But they also suggest a more sweeping approach: adopting a law called the Anti-SLAPP Act. This law would include the changes in the Code of Civil Procedure and an amendment to Quebec's Charter of Rights and Freedoms that recognizes the right to public participation, and the principle of immunity from prosecution that would accompany this new right. The authors also propose creation of a special fund to finance court fights by not-for-profit advocacy groups facing SLAPPs."
  • SLAPP- une lois s'impose, dit le comité d'experts (SLAPP - a law is needed says the expert committee), Le Devoir, July 18, 2007: "On évoque que le recours aux SLAPP est un «phénomène réel» qui soulève des «enjeux sociaux importants» et qui suscite au Québec «une réprobation» générale de la population. Il s'agit selon le comité d'une «menace» pour «la démocratie participative et d'un véritable risque de détournement des finalités de la justice». (The recourse to SLAPPs is described as a 'real phenomenon' that raises 'important social questions' and that provokes general 'rejection' from the population in Quebec. According to the committee, it is a real 'threat' to 'participatory democracy and [presents] a true risk of hijacking the goals of justice'.)"

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:19 pm 2 comments

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Canadian Crime Rate Hits 25 Year Low

Earlier this week, Statistics Canada reported that the national crime rate has reached a 25-year low in 2006.

The overall national crime rate has decreased by about 30% since peaking in 1991.

Last year's decline was due mainly to drops in the number of break-ins, small thefts and counterfeiting.

There were however increases in the categories for attempted murder, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, robbery and kidnapping/forcible confinement.

From a geographical point of view, the largest drops were reported in Prince Edward Island, Alberta, New Brunswick and British Columbia.

For the 9th year in a row, Saskatchewan reported the highest rate, followed by Manitoba and British Columbia. Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest rates.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:19 pm 0 comments

Friday, July 20, 2007

AALL 2007 Post-Conference Meeting With Légion d'Honneur Winner

I had seen Claire Germain, former president of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), at the past 2 annual conferences of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries.

So I was surprised to find out that she was not in attendance at this year's AALL conference that took place a few days ago in New Orleans. I was hoping to see her there.

By the most improbable of coincidences, I bumped into her after the conference in the departure zone at the Philadelphia International Airport. She was catching a connection to Ithaca, New York just minutes before I got on a flight home to Ottawa. Her plane's gate was just across the corridor from mine's.

The reason Mme. Germain could not be in New Orleans: the French-born Cornell University Law School librarian was in Paris receiving the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur medal, the French Republic's most prestigious award.

In the past, France has recognized many others who have distinguished themselves in the field of legal research and legal information.

Back on November 16, 2005, I posted an item entitled Top French National Award Given to Legal Documentation Specialist that described the awarding of the Ordre national du mérite by then French President Jacques Chirac to Mme. Marie-Aleth Trapet, an auditor with France's Cour de cassation. The award was for her contributions to French legal documentation.

The Ordre national du mérite is the second highest award of the French Republic, after the Légion d'Honneur. It was created by President Charles de Gaulle in 1963. The Légion d'Honneur was created by Napoléon Bonaparte.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 10:56 pm 0 comments

Thursday, July 19, 2007

AALL 2007 Conference - Interesting Workshop Sessions

Over the 3 days of the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries that took place earlier this week in New Orleans, I was able to attend 8 or 9 different workshop sessions.

[I also have an earlier post from July 16, 2007 entitled AALL 2007 Conference Sessions describing a session on the evaluation of government websites and one on international legal research]

Here is a description of a few other sessions.

1) Blogging, Disintermediation and the Future of the Law Library

Lawrence Solum, professor at the Univ. of Illinois College of Law and author of the Legal Theory Blog, spoke about the impact of new publishing platforms such as blogs, the Social Science Research Network, bePress, and legal workshop websites and how they contrast with the traditional intermediaries in the law publishing field such as law reviews with their editorial boards and libraries with their indexes, catalogues, and reference services.

Some of the main effects of the disintermediation allowed by the new tools are an acceleration and democratization in the exchange of ideas. Solum mentioned sites such as the SCOTUS Blog that specializes in informed commentary about the Supreme Court of the United States. It offers same day instant analysis of the Court's important rulings.

Solum could also have mentioned the growing number of open access journals as well as the proliferation of so-called online companions to law reviews [see the Library Boy post of April 20, 2007 entitled More Law Journals Adding Blog Companions]

Such content is discoverable via Google (or other search engines), which changes the entire way material gets discovered. The salience of information is now determined by the citation or linking behaviour of readers and users.

As Solum quipped, "the law review is the place articles go to die", and the bibliographic citation for articles is the "marker of the gravestone of interment". We're not there yet of course, but the debate about the future of the law review can only grow more intense as commentators and scholars turn to new modes of writing and communicating (see Library Boy, March 31, 2006, Open Access Publishing and the Future of Legal Scholarship and Library Boy, May 11, 2006, Harvard Blog and Legal Scholarship Conference Update).

In the same session, Gordon Russell, from the Charleston School of Law, discussed new models of collection development involving digital collections such as SSRN, institutional repositories, e-books. Talking about students, he explained that today's users are "Google-oriented" and hate having to search 5 or 6 collections. This requires strategies for the presentation of information involving forms of federated searching, preferably integrating multiple sources into the library's catalogue. If I am not mistaken, Charleston's catalogue allows simultaneous searching of material from Hein Online, Questia, NetLibrary, Google Books, Greenwood Press, etc.

Charleston has gone extremely far down the path of electronic information, with a collection that includes 28,000 print volumes, half of which are case reporters, and digital links to over 300,000 other items.

2) How Law Libraries Can Capture and Preserve Government Web Resources

Cathy Nelson Hartman, of the University of North Texas, described the Web-at-Risk project .

Her institution, in partnership with the California Digital Library and New York University, is involved in a major research project to attempt to understand the collection development processes for material on the Internet and to create tools to support the capture and archiving of Web publications. The project website has reports on current collection activities as well as sample collection development policies and plans from a number of participating institutions. There is also a project wiki.

Project members hope to launch a web archiving tool for the end of 2007 with models and collection plan templates for institutions that may not have the staff or expertise to undertake archiving projects on their own for web-published materials, whether born digital or digitized copies.

The project covers all aspects and issues of collection development for web publications, covering selection, acquisition, item description, version control of items, access and licensing, and preservation.

People may be interested in similar activities in Canada that I have covered in the past here on Library Boy, for instance:

  • Digitization of Early Canadian Government Documents Continues (November 21, 2005): "The non-profit organization Canadiana.org has just received another grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage's Canadian Culture Online program to help it complete its Canada in the Making digitization project (...) Canadiana.org will be able to add a further 250,000 pages ... These will include selected Acts, Debates and Sessional papers from the Colonial period to Confederation, and from 1867 to 1900" [the description page for this project has moved]
  • CALL 2007 Pre-Conference: Managing Digital Collections (May 5, 2007): "The 2007 conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries begins this weekend in Ottawa and continues until Wednesday, May 9, 2007. Today, there was a pre-conference session on Creating and Managing a Digital Collection Project: From policy to technical requirements."
  • Preservation of Web-Based Government Documents in Canada (May 29, 2007): "The Canadian Association of Research Libraries recently released an April 2007 update of a report by Andrew Hubbertz entitled Collection and Preservation of Web-Based Provincial/Territorial Government Publications (...) The update provides a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction description of the current state of affairs relating to the collection and preservation of web-based government information in Canada."
3) Making Connections That Count

This was one of the final sessions, held on the last afternoon and involved very practical descriptions by 3 California librarians of networking and marketing techniques they have tried out that work.

Diane Rodriguez, from Hassard Bonnington LLP, explained how she has been able to expand her network by inviting co-workers from outside the library to meetings on topics of interest to them and by attending presentations given by firm partners. She also suggested finding roles "outside the stacks", for example joining the firm's diversity or charitable giving committees.

Julie Horst, from the University of California Hastings College of the Law Library, suggested that academic law librarians should try to meet "behind-the-scenes people" such as staff from student services or facilities. She also provided tips on how to start up conversations with new networking contacts on campus: introduce yourself, ask specific questions about the other person's job, find things in common. Many of us may wonder how to meet new people and "network", it's actually easier than it appears.

Finally, Carol Henning, Sacramento County Public Law Library, made 2 points.

First, perfect your "elevator speech", the quick explanation of who you are and what you do. She suggested that you need to find out to whom you are speaking and tailor your spiel to who and what they are and why they should care (what's in it for them?).

Secondly, she told the story of how her library needed to create a buzz to market their services to the public of the county and get some press attention. They decided to come up with a novel activity series, spread over one week, related to pets. They had an art show, sessions on emergency pet preparedness, setting up a non-profit animal welfare organization, estate planning for your pet, avoiding canine litigation (avoiding being sued for dog bites), presentations by book authors, readings by "pet psychic" (hey, it's California after all!), a pet adopt-a-thon, and musical entertainment by the "Gecko Band". And they had a "Yappy Hour". It was just off beat enough to attract lots of pet owners and the media to the County Library.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:01 pm 0 comments

AALL 2007 Conference - Differences Between U.S. and Canada

I got back early this morning (got home at 1:30 AM) from the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries in New Orleans.

This was my first law library conference in the United States and the event, as well as many conversations with American delegates, made me realize how different the political and legal cultures of Canada and the U.S. can be.

The keynote speech that opened the conference was a case in point.

It was given by Joan Biskupic, the Supreme Court of the United States correspondent for USA Today. She is also the author of Sandra Day O'Connor: How the First Woman on the Supreme Court Became Its Most Influential Justice.

She discussed the life and judicial approach of now retired Justice O'Connor, the latest term of the U.S. Court, and the book she's now working on that will be about conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

She contrasted what she described as O'Connor's pragmatic, case-by-case approach, her "legacy of moderation", with the text-driven, inflexible style of Antonin Scalia, who holds to a stricter conservative philosophy of "original intent".

During the writing of the book, her exploration of archives from the Reagan years allowed her a glimpse into what she calls the Republican social and legal counter-revolution: a long-term strategy to appoint like-minded thinkers to the Bench to gradually overturn liberal rulings of the past 3 0r 4 decades and attain a number of policy goals: expanding executive power, ending racial preferences to help U.S. Blacks and other minority groups in matters of school integration, speeding capital executions, restricting access to abortion services, protecting corporations from lawsuits by consumers or employees. etc.

As Biskupic put it, "the court of [Reagan Attorney General] Meese, [Nixon press secretary] Buchanan and Scalia is here now".

She commented on how quickly the American Supreme Court has swung toward "Reaganism" in the few years since O'Connor resigned, not hesitating to undermine and weaken so-called liberal precedents.

The U.S. Court appears to be a battleground of ideas, with a now more solidly entrenched conservative majority openly fighting, appearing openly antagonistic at times to the more liberal minority. The divisions, the ideological polarization between these identifiable camps are out in the open. I could be wrong but that's the image I have after the conference.

That reality is quite striking and, on a gut level, feels quite alien to this Canadian observer.

In contrast, the longstanding tradition at the Supreme Court of Canada is one of collegiality and bridge-building. Over the past 10 years, for example, statistics indicate that on average 70-80% of all rulings have been unanimous. There is no sign this is about to change.

Neither would it be easy to determine who is a right-wing or conservative judge and who is a left-wing or liberal judge on the Supreme Court of Canada. Our judges do appear less predictable. A very good thing, perhaps. It would not be appropriate for me to provide any examples but I am often surprised how wrong my predictions are when I read a Supreme Court of Canada ruling. "Oh, I was absolutely sure they would rule the other way!" Not predictable at all.

Obviously, the differences in legal history, doctrinal differences, the necessity in Canada of reconciling the civil law and common law streams, our vastly different judicial appointment practices and traditions, all these no doubt explain the general tone here in Canada.

So, yes, law librarians everywhere share many of the same goals, accomplishments, problems and challenges. But the opening conference speech by Biskupic, and many of the conference workshops, were a reminder of how different national legal cultures still are.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:05 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

AALL 2007 Conference Blogger Get Together

Some 30 law bloggers met yesterday at the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries for the second annual Bloggers' Get Together.
There was a special guest: Ernie Svenson, the famous New Orleans attorney known to bloggers and others as Ernie the Attorney.

People shared thoughts and experiences about blogging. There were a number of common experiences:

  • quite a few blogs were launched because librarians became tired of having to spend hours and hours formatting newsletters they felt no one was reading. As a test, one librarian explained that she and her colleagues decided to insert the word "panda" in the middle of articles in one issue. No one noticed. A blog seemed a better approach,
  • other bloggers explained that blogging is a useful way for them to keep track of research material and library-oriented news of interest to them. Blogging allows them to share it.
  • the most interesting comments had to do with how the practice of blogging changes the way we read. On a positive note, blogging enforces a form of discipline, it creates a habit of more focused reading. Viewed more cynically, some joked that material they read now only seemed interesting if they could find an angle to blog about. The question was no longer, "is this useful, is this interesting", but rather "is this a bloggable idea?"

Among the blogs represented at the get together were:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:17 pm 0 comments

Monday, July 16, 2007

AALL 2007 Conference Sessions

I will report at greater length on the 2007 conference of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) when I get home later this week.

Inh the meantime, I wanted to draw attention to 2 presentations I attended over the past 2 days.

Handouts are available on the website of the AALL.

Session C-5 ("Government Web Sites That Have Met the Challenge") provided an overview of what are considered some of the best official web sites in the U.S. according to criteria developed by the AALL's Access to Electronic Legal Information Committee.

The same very detailed criteria could be used to evaluate and select Canadian or any other official, governmental, or intergovernmental sites.

The Committee came up with core values for public information on government sites, divided into 5 areas:
  • accessibility
  • reliability
  • official status
  • comprehensiveness
  • preservation

The Committee's website contains information about exemplary sites chosen by Committee members, the evaluation criteria, a bibliography on website design and evaluation issues, etc. A huge amount of work went into this project.

In the Session E-3 ("Globalization Moved My Cheese: Or, How Do I Find International Law?"), Jean Wenger of the Cook County Law Library went through the highlights of a massive and extremely useful bibliography (again, handouts available from the conference website), covering some of the differences between public international law, private international law and customary law, the players, the various document sources, resources available (guides, secondary sources, source documents such as treaties, decisions), research scenarios, ...

This was topped off by Mary Rumsey from the University of Minnesota who presented a number of actual research requests posted on various international law discussion lists, ranging from the easy-to-answer questions to some more convoluted ones. Her workbook is also in the dowloadable handouts.

I'll post again tomorrow.

Gotta run to a bloggers' get together, followed by a reception for "foreign" librarians (non-U.S.), then to a bash at the House of Blues, then off into the nightlife of New Orleans...

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:08 pm 0 comments

Sunday, July 15, 2007

AALL 2007 Conference: Greetings from New Orleans!

The 2007 conference of the American Association of Law Libraries has kicked off in New Orleans.

It is indeed as hot and humid as they say. This morning, it was so humid my glasses fogged up in less than 10 seconds as I started walking the 2 blocks to the convention centre.

Another thing about New Orleans: many of the street names are French but don't make the mistake of pronouncing them correctly (in French): people will not understand what you are talking about. For example, Chartres Street is pronounced "Char-duhrs" with a hard D sound.

Yesterday, there was a pre-conference called CONELL or Conference of Newer Law Librarians whose purpose is to welcome newer AALL members or first time attendees such as myself. It is very much a "get acquainted" event with brief introductions on the Association, how to volunteer, advice on how to network at the conference, etc.

The real highlight of the day was the bus tour of New Orleans which went beyond the more well-known tourist spots. We spent quite a lot of time visiting the neighbourhoods most devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

The tour guide provided a very detailed explanation of the civil engineering dimensions of New Orleans: the massive canal system, the levees, the network of rain water drainage routes, etc.

Despite the efforts at reconstruction, there are many areas where the destruction is still extremely visible: vacant spaces where houses used to stand, caved in buildings, homes that are nothing but empty shells, boarded up shopping centres, etc.

It is much more gut wrenching than on any TV screen. These people have amazing courage and resilience.

The vendor exhibits have opened this morning. Workshops begin this afternoon.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:21 pm 1 comments

Friday, July 13, 2007

AALL 2007 Conference Material Available

I fly down later today to the 2007 conference of the American Association of Law Libraries starting this weekend in New Orleans.

Many of the conference presentations can already be downloaded from the AALL conference site.

The conference also has an official blog called the AALL Second Line Blog.

While down in New Orleans, I hope to have some free time to post to Library Boy.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:29 am 0 comments

Canada Announces Competition Policy Review in Midst of Foreign Takeover Wave

This should be interesting to watch.

Yesterday, the federal government announced the creation of a Competition Policy Review Panel, to be chaired by Lynton Ronald Wilson, former CEO of telecom/media company BCE and currently the chairman of the board of CAE (flight simulators).
"The Panel's core mandate is to review two key pieces of Canadian legislation, the Competition Act and the Investment Canada Act, including the treatment of state-owned enterprises and the possibility of a national security review clause. The Panel will also examine Canada's sectoral restrictions on foreign direct investment, and the competition and investment regimes of other jurisdictions to assess reciprocity between their rules and Canada's. Separately, the Panel will also assess how Canada's policies may further encourage outward investment. The Panel will report to the Minister of Industry, on behalf of the Government of Canada, by June 30, 2008 with concrete recommendations to further enhance competition in Canada".
Canada's competition and foreign investment laws have not gone through any major review in 20 years.

This is all happening in the midst of a series of foreign takeovers of major Canadian enterprises that economic nationalist critics claim are having the effect of "hollowing out" the country's corporate structure.

Well-known Canadian firms that have been taken over by foreign investors in the near past include Inco, Dofasco, Falconbridge, Four Seasons Hotels and the über-Canadian icon Hudson's Bay Co. (aka "The Bay").

Coincidentally, the announcement was made hours after the Anglo mining conglomerate Rio Tinto concluded a $38.1 billion (U.S.) deal for Canadian aluminum maker Alcan. It will be the largest corporate takeover in Canadian history.

More from today's Globe and Mail article Alcan takeover fuels economic worry.

Further discussion of the "hollowing out" issue from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 11:01 am 0 comments

Thursday, July 12, 2007

French Privacy Watchdog Warns Against Surveillance Society

In its most recent activities report, the Commission nationale de l'informatique et des libertés or CNIL (the French national personal data protection and privacy commission) warns that the increased use of biometrics, surveillance cameras, and geolocalization technologies (to track employee movements via GPS systems in company cars or corporate mobile phones) may threaten privacy and civil liberties.

In a recent interview in the Parisian daily Le Monde (La CNIL s'inquiète d'une 'société de surveillance' qui menace les libertés - "The CNIL is worried about a 'surveillance society' that threatens freedoms"), CNIL president Alex Türk explains that the Commission is seeing a rapidly rising number of reports by private and public bodies about the implementation of increasingly sophisticated systems.

Türk adds that he sees another potential menace, which is the fact that new surveillance technologies are less and less visible: "de plus en plus de traitements de données sont réalisés à l'insu des personnes et permettent de tracer leur déplacements physiques dans les transports en commun, leurs consultations sur Internet, leurs communications téléphoniques" ("more and more processing of data is done without people being aware of it and allows the tracking of their physical movements in public transit, their web browsing, their phone communications").

Concern about the rise of the 'surveillance society' has been very strong in the United Kingdom. Obviously, this recent French report shows that other countries face the same debate.

Earlier Library Boy posts about surveillance include:
  • UK Fast Becoming Surveillance Society Says Info Commissioner (November 2, 2006): "Richard Thomas, the United Kingdom Information Commissioner, stated in a report released today that his country is sleep-walking into a surveillance society. This is due to the increasing accumulation of credit card, cell phone and loyalty card information, the monitoring of workers' computer activities, and the spread of closed circuit television surveillance. There are now 4.2 million closed circuit cameras in Britain and Britons are picked up 300 times a day on camera as they go about their regular private business."
  • International Surveillance and Privacy Survey from Queen's University (November 15, 2006): "Earlier this week, Queen's University researchers released the results of a survey of 9,000 people around the world about their experiences with surveillance and privacy: 'This is believed to be the first cross-cultural study of its kind that explores relationships between attitudes and experiences, and how much people trust corporations and governments to handle personal information, including the sharing of such information with third parties, the researcher says... the survey included nearly 50 questions on participant’s attitudes about issues like consumer surveillance, racial profiling at airports, national ID cards, media coverage of surveillance issues, workplace privacy, knowledge of privacy regulations, control over personal data and public trust in government'."
  • Suspect Nation Video on Rise of the Surveillance Society (November 28, 2006): "A documentary on widespread surveillance in the US and the UK by Henry Porter of the British paper The Observer has been posted to Google Video. Entitled Suspect Nation, it explores the potential misuse of the mountains of data collected about each of us through a proliferating number of technologies"
  • George Orwell's London Apartment Under 24-Hour Surveillance (April 4, 2007): "On the wall outside his former residence - flat number 27B - where Orwell lived until his death in 1950, an historical plaque commemorates the anti-authoritarian author. And within 200 yards of the flat, there are 32 CCTV cameras, scanning every move."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:51 pm 0 comments

New Book on Legacy of Former Chief Justice Bora Laskin

Canadian legal publisher Irwin Law has just published The Laskin Legacy: Essays in Commemoration of Chief Justice Bora Laskin:

"This book is a collection of seventeen scholarly articles and personal reminiscences that examine the life and career of the late Bora Laskin, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. The essays are written by family members, judges, law professors, and lawyers whose recollections about Laskin flesh out the life of a man 'at the summit of Canada’s political and legal life,' with commentary from some whose paths crossed his. The book includes examinations of Laskin's contribution to legal education and scholarship, as well as to jurisprudence in constitutional law, administrative and labour law, and private law. As well, it provides discussion of Laskin's impact on the Supreme Court of Canada itself".
Laskin was named Chief Justice of Canada in December 1973 and served on the Supreme Court of Canada for 14 years. He died on March 26, 1984, at the age of 71.

Some of the most famous cases heard by the Supreme Court under Laskin's leadership include:

For more background, I suggest reading Philip Girard's 2005 full-length biography of the man entitled Bora Laskin: Bringing Law to Life (Toronto : Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History):

"In his first career, as a human rights activist, university professor and labour arbitrator, Bora Laskin used the law to make Canada a better place for workers, racial and ethnic minorities, and the disadvantaged. Then, in what he called his 'accidental career' as a judge on the Ontario Court of Appeal and later chief justice of Canada, he embarked on a quest to make the judiciary more responsive to modern Canadian expectations of justice and fundamental rights. In the struggles of a man who fought anti-Semitism, corporate capital, omnipotent university boards, the Law Society of Upper Canada and his judicial colleagues, Philip Girard chronicles the emergence of modern Canada".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:00 pm 0 comments

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

How To Prepare For Library Conferences

In 2 days, I will be flying down to New Orleans to attend the annual conference of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL).

I sometimes find these events a bit overwhelming, especially conferences organized by international or American organizations. American conferences are just so much larger than Canadian events. And of course, I barely know anyone in the law library field in that humongous Republic south of the 49th Parallel.

However, there are people out there with some good advice on how to prepare to confront the unknown at these get togethers. In fact, not knowing anyone may even be an advantage.

For first-time conference attendees (this will be my situation at AALL), organizers have put together some "practical things a first time visiter to the annual meeting needs to know".

This presentation, re-worked from material presented in 2005, covers food, snacks, conference bags, business cards, name badge etiquette, where to sit in a session, how to leave a session, vendor exhibits, networking and "brain burn". Very practical.

As well, the June 2007 edition of the AALL Spectrum has an article entitled All Rise! Stand with your colleagues as AALL comes together for the 2007 Annual Meeting in New Orleans that includes a sidebar entitled "8Tips for Making Connections at the Annual Meeting":

"... You need to spend more than half of your time at the Conference with strangers. Always sit by a group of people that you do not know ..."

"If and when you are sitting by friends or coworkers at an event ... , grab a small plate and only fill it halfway.That way you can refill your plate often and say something to the stranger standing in line next to you".

"... The first thing you should pack is business cards. More importantly, hand them out... Write down how you met the person (session, during lunch, etc.) and anything else that would help you remember them..." [N.B. from Library Boy - this may sound obvious but I have been to a few conferences and have forgotten to hand out my card. D'uh!]

"Set a goal, such as, 'I will meet 12 new people today.' ..."

"After the Annual Meeting, you should input information from business cards and contacts into a database..."

"Listen, learn, and act upon all the ideas you are exposed to".
As for my take on conference-going, back in 2005, I wrote a post entitled What I Learned at SLA 2005 about the Special Libraries Association conference held in Toronto 2 years ago. It has to do less with the practical preparations, but I believe I summed up the type of attitude that can make for successful conference-going. Just be totally open and prepare yourself mentally to entertain any idea:

"There are a few things I have learned, though, about conference-going. So here are the true reasons for attending conferences, according to my experience:
  • remember that project you wanted to launch, or that software you thought you wanted to test? Well, you don't want to touch any of that with a ten-foot pole: conferences are great places for finding out what to avoid and learning about disaster stories from colleagues
  • you know those things you have already been doing for so long but find boring? Well, you just may have been on the cutting edge all along without knowing it and everyone else is now copying you: conferences can be great places for finding out how good and creative your shop may actually be
  • remember all those ideas you thought were useless or a waste of time? Well, other libraries have successfully implemented many of those things you were ridiculing and they saved time or money or brain cells or their sanity: conferences can be great places for finding out how to change your thinking by taking another look at projects and ideas you had neglected or discarded too soon
  • you know that feeling that everyone else knows more than you and other libraries do things better than your place? Well, you may have stumbled across a solution to someone else's problem: conferences can be great places for finding out how bloody smart you really are in the eyes of others, and how much others recognize the value of what you do"
Of course, you will never get to realize any of the above unless you talk to all those strangers.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:12 pm 0 comments

June 2007 Issue of Global Legal Monitor (Law Library of Congress)

The June 2007 issue of the Global Legal Monitor is available on the site of the Law Library of Congress.

It is a publication of the Law Library of Congress that provides regular updates on legal developments from around the world.

The current issue covers topics ranging from national budgets to war crimes in countries from Australia to Zambia.

The complete archive of the Global Legal Monitor is also available.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:03 pm 0 comments

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

8th International Conference Law Via The Internet

LexUM, the University of Montreal's legal informatics laboratory, is hosting the 8th International Conference Law Via The Internet to be held in Montreal on October 25-26th, 2007.

"This year, a number of relatively innovative topics have been chosen for the Conference: we will introduce new themes relating to doctrine, document preservation and legal information overload. Doctrine and its production and publication are very high profile. Indeed, issues related to documents that complement primary sources of law are certainly the next frontier. Preservation of both pre-digital law and that born today in digital environments will also be the focus of a major session. Also, issues related to the proliferation of legal information will be presented and discussed. The more traditional themes of development through promotion of access to legal information and, generally, the obstacles, challenges and lessons learned with respect to free publication will round out the program..."
The conference will be preceded by the Annual Meeting of the Legal Information Institutes, including CanLII, the Canadian Legal Information Institute.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:25 pm 0 comments

Law Society Panel on Aboriginal Judges

Last month, in recognition of National Aboriginal Day, the Law Society of Upper Canada hosted a seminar on the role of aboriginal judges. The event also looked at the situation of aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.

Panelists included two Aboriginal judges, Justice Harry LaForme (Ontario Court of Appeal) and Justice Todd Ducharme (Superior Court of Justice of Ontario) as well as Justice Patrick Sheppard (Ontario Court of Justice - no relation), Assistant Crown Attorney Fred Bartley, and Frances Sanderson from the Aboriginal Legal Services Community Council. Justice LaForme is the first Aboriginal person appointed to any appellate court in Canada.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:10 pm 0 comments

Monday, July 09, 2007

Finding Customized Search Engines on Law

People can use the Google Coop tool to create a custom search engine that will search only the sites or subsites specified. It is also possible to insert code for the custom search engine on any website.

According to the Google Operating System blog, Google has now come up with a structured search engine that only searches the most popular custom search engines based on Google Coop.

In other words, a search engine to find custom search engines. The search can be limited in many ways: by keywords, language, the number of sites covered, popular queries, etc.

For example, I did a simple search for custom search engines that index legal research guides and sites. I applied no limits in terms of number of sites, additional query terms, etc.

This could be a useful discovery tool.

Earlier Library Boy posts on customized searching include:

  • New Search Engine for Library Blogs (October 29, 2006): "LisZen is a new customized search engine that searches the content of more than 500 library-related blogs."
  • Customized Search for Intergovernmental Organizations (November 16, 2006): "The people at Indiana University Libraries in Bloomington, Indiana have developed customized search tools for IGOs - intergovernmental organizations like the World Bank, the European Union and the UN."
  • Blawg-Finding Tools (November 22, 2006): "Well, the Law Dawg Blawg, created by law librarians at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, describes 'New Tools for Finding Blawgs' in a post from November 18, 2006.The post describes 2 finding aids: the refurbished blawg.com site (...) and the search engine BlawgSearch." The search engine on blawg.com is based on the Google custom search technology.
  • Customized Search For French Legal Material (December 15, 2006): "More and more libraries and individuals have been using tools such as Google Coop to build customized topical collections of searchable online material.The French blawg Doc en Vrac has a recent item about a number of searchable collections, including French-language blogs and legal material from France, Belgium, Switzerland and Quebec."
  • Customized Search Tool for Reference Sites (January 25, 2007): "Bill Drew of the Morrisville State College Library has created a custom search engine that aggregates content from more than 200 reference sites.The sites are those included in the 1999-2006 annual lists issued by the Best of Free Reference Web Sites Committee of the (...) American Library Association... "
  • New Legal Research Engine (February 2, 2007): "The Cornell University Law Library has launched its new Legal Research Engine that helps users find research guides on legal topics from authoritative sources. Authoritative as in Harvard Law, Georgetown, Cornell, Duke, New York University... the top U.S. sources anyway. It is based on the Google Custom Search Engine technology I have discussed in earlier Library Boy posts..."
  • Customized Search Engine for Canadian Government Documents (February 7, 2007): "David Sharp, the Government Publications Librarian at the Maps, Data and Government Information Centre at Carleton University in Ottawa, has recently developed a customized search tool for Canadian government documents... For now, it searches on the federal level, including select crown corporations, the provincial and territorial level; as well, it searches 80 municipal sites from across Canada."
  • Customized Search Engine For U.S. Law School Websites (March 1, 2007): "John Doyle, who works at the Washington & Lee Law School Library has developed a custom search engine for Searching U.S. Law School Websites."
  • New Customized Search Tools for Canadian Legal Material (March 4, 2007): "I have come up with 2 search tools for Canadian legal material. Canadian Law School Websites: this searches the websites of all Canadian law schools in all provinces (...) Legal Research / Recherche juridique: this searches through the legal research guides and tutorials of Canadian law schools and their libraries."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 6:00 pm 0 comments

Law Students Now Have Access to Supreme Court of Canada Library

The Supreme Court of Canada has approved a change to the Policy on Library Use to extend use of the Court Library to students of law faculties.

The change was posted today to the Supreme Court of Canada website.

Section II. B. now reads:

"The following persons are permitted to use the Library upon presentation of proof of identity and obtaining of a visitor's pass from Court Security which must be worn at all times while on the Library's premises:

  • Judges of any other Court
  • Members of the bar and their representatives
  • Faculty Members and students in good standing of Faculties of Law".

The policy used to only mention "Members of law faculties". The change reflects the wish on the part of the Justices and managers of the Court to make the institution more accessible.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:48 pm 0 comments

MIT Updates Virtual Reference Pages Using Social Bookmarking

The library at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is using the social bookmarking site del.icio.us to keep its virtual reference web pages up to date.

On del.icio.us, users can create an account to save bookmarks and assign them subject tags that can be shared with others.

What is interesting is that MIT uses an RSS feed to send the links from the del.icio.us account to its virtual reference collection, making maintenance a much easier task.

This is the first I have heard of using del.icio.us as a way of enhancing a reference service.

At the Supreme Court of Canada Library, we have hundreds of legal research links, a list that can become quite difficult to manage and we have been thinking of new ways to provide access to this kind of material. This looks promising.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:37 pm 0 comments

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ontario E-Laws Now Presumed Authentic for Court

There is a recent item on Slaw.ca about the coming into force later this month of the Legislation Act, 2006 (S.O. 2006, c. 21, Sched F).

According to the post, this new Ontario legislation is a "comprehensive statute on the publication, citation and proof of statutes and regulations (including making e-Laws a presumptively accurate statement of law ...)". e-Laws is the online version of Ontario statutes and regulations.

According to the explanatory note contained in the bill passed by the Ontario legislature (pp. xiii-xiv):

"The Legislation Act, 2006 would assemble in one Act provisions about the publication, citation and interpretation of Ontario legislation. The Act has nine Parts (...)"

"Part IV – Proof of Legislation (sections 34 to 41)
This Part of the Act states that the Act endorsed by the Clerk of the Legislature as having received Royal Assent and the regulation filed with the Registrar of Regulations are 'official law'."

"A copy of an official law that is printed by the Queen’s Printer or accessed from the e-Laws website in a prescribed form or format is an official copy of the law, unless there is a disclaimer indicating that it is not official. Unless the contrary is proved, official copies of the law are accurate statements of the law [emphasis added]".

This is an interesting coincidence. Last week, I gave two tours of the Supreme Court of Canada library to students. They are always impressed when they see the rooms containing dozens of shelves with complete runs of Canadian law reporters and Canadian legislation. Without fail, there are always many questions from the 20-something students about why we need to keep all those "old" print volumes since "everyone knows" all of this material is available electronically on WestlaweCARSWELL or Quicklaw databases.

This allows me to give my little spiel about the courts' insistence on accuracy, authentication, and trustworthiness of legal information.

These students of the Facebook/Google generation are often surprised, or shocked, to discover that electronic versions of caselaw and legislation are not always considered "authentic". I explain that this is on a court-by-court, jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis, with Ontario apparently having now progressed the furthest down the path of authenticating online law, at least when it comes to the e-Laws website.

South of the border, our colleagues from the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) have examined the issue in great depth. The AALL recently released the State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources (more than 250 pages) that presented the results of a survey of primary online legal resources from the U.S. states and whether these resources are official and capable of being authenticated.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:17 pm 0 comments

Slaw.ca: Happy 2nd Birthday to Canada's Co-operative Blawg!

Today marks the 2nd birthday of Slaw.ca, the co-operative weblog about Canadian legal research and IT.

"Our membership has grown and strengthened, we've kept up the flow, and, I hope, we've made ourselves as near to indispensable as a blog might be. There's always room for improvement, and I can tell you that improvement's in the works".

"Finally, let's not lose sight of the fact that for practically every single month we've been blogging, we've been able to say, 'This was our best month yet for visits.' Our readership continues to grow, as the table for this year shows".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:45 pm 0 comments

New Report on Frequency of Data Breaches

This is a follow-up to the Library Post of July 6th entitled List of Identity Theft Laws in US and Canada.

The blog beSpacific has a recent item about a new report by the U.S. government's Government Accountability Office on the frequency of data breaches.

"These incidents varied significantly in size and occurred across a wide range of entities, including federal, state, and local government agencies; retailers; financial institutions; colleges and universities; and medical facilities. The extent to which data breaches have resulted in identity theft is not well known, largely because of the difficulty of determining the source of the data used to commit identity theft".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 1:35 pm 1 comments

Friday, July 06, 2007

October 2007 LibQUAL+ Conference - User Surveys and Performance Measurements in Libraries

The Canadian Association of Research Libraries is co-sponsoring a conference called LibQUAL+ & Beyond in Ottawa, Ontario on October 24-25 , 2007.

LibQUAL+ is an online suite of survey and quantitative and qualitative data evaluation tools that libraries can use to track users' opinions of service quality. It was developed by the Association of Research Libraries.

The Supreme Court of Canada Library is currently using LibQUAL+ to help with library service assessment.

The October conference will look at how to effectively use LibQUAL+ as well as at other assessment methods and the relevance of evidence-based practice.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 3:19 pm 0 comments

List of Identity Theft Laws in US and Canada

The Congressional Research Service in the United States recently published a paper entitled Identity Theft Laws: State Penalties and Remedies and Pending Federal Bills. It is available from the OpenCRS website, a project of the Center for Democracy & Technology that provides citizens access to reports prepared for U.S. Congress members.
"This report provides an overview of state laws on identity theft. It discusses state laws that penalize identity theft, as well as state laws that assist identity theft victims, including those that permit consumers to block unauthorized persons from obtaining their credit information, known as 'security freezes.' The report also includes a survey of state 'credit freeze' statutes. The report concludes with summaries of federal identity theft legislation pending in the 110th Congress".
This is a follow-up to the Library Boy post of April 2, 2007 entitled Working Papers on ID Theft. That post referred to a series of papers prepared by the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) at the University of Ottawa, including ones on anti-ID theft legislation in Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

Since that post, CIPPIC has published additional working documents on the topic:
  • Caselaw on Identity Theft: "This paper presents an inventory and analysis of identity theft caselaw in Canada and the U.S. as of December 2006. It covers criminal, civil, and administrative cases in both countries. For Canada, relevant findings of the Federal Privacy Commissioner are analyzed. For the U.S., decisions of Federal Trade Commission cases are discussed. Briefs of all cases referred to in this Working Paper are included in Appendices (one with Canadian cases; the other with U.S. cases). Most cases involve criminal prosecutions focusing on fraudulent uses of stolen personal information. Sentences tend to be mild, especially when compared with those in the U.S. Identity theft has not figured directly in many civil or administrative cases in Canada. "
  • Policy Approaches to Identity Theft: "This paper reviews government and corporate sector initiatives that help to prevent, detect, and mitigate the effects of identity theft. Examples of collaboration and cooperation between various levels of government, between the public and private sectors, and within the international community are canvassed as well. The role of nongovernmental organizations in shaping the policy agenda for identity theft is also discussed, as these organizations play an important part in policy development, through their advocacy, research, and education activities. "
  • Identity Theft: Bibliography

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 2:54 pm 0 comments

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Library Philosophy and Practice: Special Journal Issue on Libraries and Google

Library Philosophy and Practice, a peer-reviewed electronic journal from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, recently published a special issue entitled Shape Shifters: Librarians Evolve Yet Again in the Age of Google:

"As the tools of the age of Google have become integral to research and other activities, librarians have adapted in three key ways: using the tools, creating and improving library tools, and grappling with the social and pedagogical implications of the tools. This special issue invites readers to consider specific instances of these modes of adaptation".

"The first group of articles examines how librarians have taken advantage of opportunities presented by age-of-Google tools to improve workflow and service (...) The second group of articles shows how librarians adapt to the challenge of the age-of-Google service model, in which user expectations drive service (...) The third group of articles explores how librarians are changing how they think about information literacy and authority in the age of Google".

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:56 pm 0 comments

New International Law Research Guides from NYU's GlobaLex Collection

GlobaLex, the online legal collection at the New York University School of Law, has added new research guides to its list:
  • Researching Customary International Law, State Practice and the Pronouncements of States regarding International Law: "This research guide is intended to be an introduction to the concept of international custom and its place as a source of international law. The primary focus is on researching state practice and the pronouncements of states regarding international law as evidence of custom (...) The guide introduces the researcher to titles that provide texts of the pronouncements of states regarding international law, both U.S. and international. There are also recommendations for secondary sources and finding aids helpful in describing state practice and in tracking down additional resources. Lastly, a list of additional research guides on customary international law is also provided. These alternate research guides were used extensively in preparation for writing this guide, and are highly recommended as additional resources on the subject."
  • Comparative Criminal Procedure: A Select Bibliography: "This bibliography lists selected English-language resources on comparative criminal procedure. It focuses on journal articles, book chapters, and treatises covering comparative criminal procedure generally, criminal procedure in multiple jurisdictions, and specialized research topics in comparative criminal procedure such as: arrest, pre-trial detention, interrogation, right to counsel, legal assistance for indigent defendants, discovery, plea bargaining, trial by jury, the privilege against self-incrimination, inquisitorial versus accusatorial systems, role of prosecutors, judges and defense attorneys, cross-examination, exclusionary rules, sentencing, death penalty, criminal appeals, and double jeopardy."
  • Canon Law Research Guide: "This is a legal research guide to Canon Law in the Catholic Church (both Roman and Eastern Rites), the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Churches, the Lutheran Churches, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (L.D.S. or Mormons) (...) Canon law has affected the development of common law in areas such as marriage and inheritance. In addition, religious law may induce administrative behavior that must be explained at some point during litigation or as part of a transaction (e.g., a sale or purchase of real estate)."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 5:44 pm 0 comments