Just the Facts

By Victoria Szymczak, Director of the Law Library

During the past year, a lot has been made of “fake news.”  Even if the news isn’t exactly “fake,” writers present facts in a way that may garner approval or outrage from their readers.  Newsworthy facts are accompanied by a narrative to provide context, and it is the narrative that creates the spin.  The curious reader may be left wanting to know just the facts.  Fortunately, there are some outlets that will satisfy those cats.

USAFacts.org is the brainchild of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.  Content consists of freely available information organized into a single platform.  To start off, the landing page for USAFacts.org presents a graphic showing you how much money the U.S. government took in (5.2 trillion) and how much it spent (5.4 trillion) in 2014.   You can browse the broad categories and then narrows down to smaller sets.  For example, if you follow the trail for revenue collected from payroll taxes, we learn that the U.S. government collected $228.2 billion for Medicare in payroll taxes.  On the other side – money spent – we can follow the trail in Wealth and Savings to see that we spent $511.6 billion (net of premiums) on Medicare.  You can also search for facts.  Searching for Presidential Campaign Contributions will yield results for 2014 ($924,000,000) and 2012 ($1,008,000,000).  This is a growing, and incomplete resource but it is easy to use and gets to the point quickly.

The Law Library subscribes to a database of statistics called Data Planet which is significantly larger than USAFacts (for the moment).  Data-Planet Statistical Ready Reference is designed to allow users to quickly navigate the billions of points of data contained in the repository, representing ~5,000 datasets covering thousands of geographic entities. With Data-Planet users can quickly search and view charts, maps, and rankings of time series among other filters.  Data Planet’s advanced search feature that allow you to tailor your search by category, state, and country.  For example, a search for solar energy consumption yields data from 1960 to 2014.  Using the advanced search feature, we can limit the results to Hawaii which tells us that we consumed 10,277,000,000,000 BTUs of solar energy in 2014 compared to 1,347,000,000,000 BTUs in 2000.

If you are savvy enough, you might be able to tap into government sources directly.  The gateway to government stored statistics is at https://www.usa.gov/statistics.  In addition to the federal sources, you can find links to local and state statistical gateways.  For example, if you select Hawaii from the state resources and follow the link to the Corrections Department, you will learn that 1,620 incarcerated men are being held at the Saguaro, AZ Correctional Facility and 2,954 incarcerated men are being held at jails and prisons in Hawaii.  Many of the larger, federal databases are more difficult to pinpoint and decipher, which makes the above two resources more friendly in some instances.

It does not take much to check the facts yourself.  So, don’t be lazy!

Expanded Assistance to Justice Portal Available to Hawaii Public

Legal service providers continue to find creative ways to use technology to expand assistance to justice efforts. Starting March 2017 the Hawaii Consortium of Legal Service Providers launched an online comprehensive legal services portal that guides people in need of civil legal help to the most appropriate organizations and resources. It has been designed to be a great first place for those seeking help in civil matters (non-criminal).

From the portal users will find brochures, videos, do-it-yourself online court forms, virtual learn-the-law courses, and other online legal resources. This portal is ideal for public librarians, social workers, the courts, and other state agencies.

You can find links to this portal and many other resources on the library website at http://library.law.hawaii.edu/public-patron-services/#resources.

For more informaton about the Portal see http://www.legalaidhawaii.org/hawaii-legal-services-portal.html.

Celebrate the 14th Amendment on May 1st – Law Day

By Roberta Woods, Reference and Instructional Services Librarian

Law Day 2017 The 14th Amendment Transforming American DemocracyRepresentative John Bingham of Ohio, who Justice Hugo Black called “the Madison … of the Fourteenth Amendment,” wrote the text of Section One of the Fourteenth Amendment. This section includes the due process, equal protection, and citizenship clauses, which, today, are at the heart of many of the most important U.S. constitutional protections. Bingham’s use of “privileges or immunities” is explicitly drawn from the language of Dred Scott (Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393 (1857)) and is intended to fundamentally reject the case.

Ratified on July 9, 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment is one of three Reconstruction Amendments. The Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery, was ratified in 1865; the Fifteenth Amendment, prohibiting the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote based on that citizen’s race, color, or previous condition of servitude, was ratified in 1870.

The 14th Amendment covers a number of important topics in its different clauses, including:

  • U.S. citizenship (providing for birthright citizenship)
  • The privileges and immunities of citizens
  • Due process (including both substantive and procedural)
  • Equal protection under the law
  • Enforcement of laws

The Fourteenth Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment. Through a doctrine known as incorporation, it is the reason that many of the protections of the Bill of Rights have been applied to shield us against state action. Previously, those rights were only enforced against the federal government. Given that most of the law enforcement in this country is done at the state and local level, the importance of having constitutional protections applicable to those proceedings cannot be overstated. Without incorporation, Miranda warnings would not have to be administered by local police, the First Amendment would not stop states from restricting free speech, and an individual would have no Sixth Amendment right to counsel in a state proceeding.

The Fourteenth Amendment has also been the basis for the recognition of certain fundamental rights, including the right to privacy and the right to marry. Many of the laws that resulted from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s found their support and inspiration in this amendment. It has also served as the basis for such key Supreme Court cases as Brown v. Board of Education (barring racial segregation in education) and Loving v. Virginia (striking down laws against interracial marriage), just to name a couple. Rarely, if ever, does a Supreme Court term go by without some major decision grounded in Fourteenth Amendment principles.

The information for this blog entry came entirely from the ABA website.  More information is available on the ABA website: http://www.lawday.org.

Earthquake Preparedness in the Library

By Garid Faria, Administrative & Fiscal Support Specialist

San José Library after 2007 earthquakeA major earthquake is one in which one or more of the following occurs: book stacks collapse or become unstable, walls or floors crack or crumble, window glass breaks, electrical wires or ceiling tiles become exposed, power is lost, flooding occurs, building entrances are blocked and/or occupants are injured.  They are unpredictable and strike without warning.

DURING THE EARTHQUAKE

  • DROP, COVER and HOLD ON. Minimize your movements to a few steps to a nearby safe place.
  • Move away from windows, skylights, suspended light fixtures or objects to avoid falling glass/objects.
  • Beware of collapsing book shelves and falling objects.
  • Take cover under a sturdy table or desk.

IF INDOORS

  • DROP to your hands and knees.
  • COVER your head and neck with your arms. This position protects you from falling and provides some protection for vital organs. Because moving can put you in danger from the debris in your path, only move if you need to get away from the danger of falling objects. If you can move safely, crawl for additional cover under a sturdy desk or table. If there is low furniture, or an interior wall or corner nearby and the path is clear, these may also provide some additional cover.
  • HOLD ON to any sturdy shelter until the shaking stops.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • At night, hazards and debris are difficult to see and avoid; therefore, attempt to move in the dark with caution to prevent injury.
  • DO NOT get in a doorway as this does not provide protection from falling or flying objects and you likely will not be able to remain standing if the tremors are severe.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

IF OUTDOORS

  • If you can, move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON.
  • STAY THERE until the shaking stops. Depending on the situation, you may need to duck inside a building to avoid falling debris.

AFTER THE TREMORS END

  • When the shaking stops, look around to make sure it is safe to move and there is a safe way out through the debris. Then exit the building.
  • Expect aftershocks and be prepared. These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake. DROP, COVER, and HOLD ON whenever you feel shaking.
  • As you exit, PULL THE FIRE ALARM AND EVACUATE to the designated Gathering Area away from buildings/large trees. Staff assembles and conducts a head count to ensure all staff are accounted for.
  • Move injured to a safe area and render first aid as needed.
  • DO NOT BLINDLY RUN OUTSIDE as parts of the building may still be falling.
  • Avoid coming in contact or getting near fallen electrical lines.
  • Beware of fire as it is the most common hazard after an earthquake.

AFTER EXITING THE BUILDING

  • DO NOT RETURN to any building for any reason until the building is declared safe.
  • Call DPS at 6-6911 to report damage and request minor medical assistance OR call Emergency Services directly at 911 for a major emergency (police, fire/rescue, ambulance).
  • If telephones are not working, communicate with authorities in person or via email/text message.

UC Berkeley School of Law Library Begins Permanently Archiving US Supreme Court Decisions

US Supreme Court sealLink rot has plagued the hallowed halls of the Supreme Court. The UC Berkeley School of Law Library has partnered with application developer Philip Ardery to address this problem by hosting U.S. Supreme Court Web Citations, a web service that captures snapshots of any web resource cited by the United States Supreme Court immediately after their opinions are issued.  The goal of the service is to leverage current web and archiving technologies to minimize the link rot that complicates research as websites change or become unavailable over time.

When a judicial opinion cites something from the web, researchers should be able to check it later and find exactly what it looked like when it was cited.1

This is a stopgap initiative until the Court implements a permanent solution. At present there are 612 decisions archived in PDF format on the site.


1. http://scotus.law.berkeley.edu, archived at https://perma.cc/Z7BV-CJNY

CourtListener: Free Legal Research

CourtListener landing page

CourtListener is an open source aggregator of court opinions. It is a subproject of the Free Law Project.

From their site:

“We collect legal opinions from court websites and from data donations, and are aiming to have the best, most complete data on the open Web within the next couple years. We are slowly expanding to provide search and awareness tools for as many state courts as possible, and we already have tools for all of the Federal Appeals Courts.”

Some key differences of this new site include RECAP documents, oral arguments, Judge analysis, and data-rich visualizations.

The RECAP Archive is a searchable collection of PACER documents and dockets that were gathered using the RECAP Extensions for Firefox and Chrome.

The site collects oral argument audio from the Supreme Court and all of the Federal Circuit courts that provide it. State oral arguments are slowly being added.

The judges database has information about thousands of judges from federal and state courts, including their biographical and educational background, judicial and non-judicial positions held, political affiliations, American Bar Association ratings, campaign finance data, and opinions authored.

The site hosts a powerful advanced search that allows one to mine the database from many fields.

Freedom of Information Acts: A double-edged sword in a time of emotional and political unrest

In the legal academy, a petition was circulated among law professors last month that opposed the appointment of Jeff Sessions nomination to be our next attorney general.  There were nearly 1500 signatures.  The petition and its signatories are found here:  https://docs.google.com/document/d/167Ci3pVqwzOUe7_e7itlpew1qGcTo0ZD5dNICIbLQWA/pub.

This month, a reporter working for a conservative political publication relied on the Open Records Act to obtain “a copy of each email (inbound, outbound, deleted, or double deleted) for the university email accounts of Professor Andrea A. Curcio at the University of Georgia and [a colleague who also signed the letter] from the dates of December 15, 2016, to and including January 3, 2017, which includes any of the keywords “Sessions,” or “Jeff Sessions” or “Attorney General.” According the press accounts, similar requests was received by university counsel for law professor signatories working at other public institutions.

The publication is relying on the state versions, what is commonly referred to as open records laws.  Some states label them open information laws or public information acts.  In Hawaii, our version is codified at Haw. Rev. Stat. 92F.  Regardless of what the popular name of the law is, the concept is the same:  public employees are subject to the same open records laws as every other public employee in his state or open information laws that make emails and other written documentation of agencies and individuals who work for those agencies subject to public inspection.