Category Archives: Legal News

Collaborative Research for the Digital Age

While there have been significant changes in the realm of legal research (such as the shift from print to digital resources) conducting legal research is still often a solitary endeavor.  Two new websites are trying to change that, however, and have provided platforms designed to make online legal research a collaborative enterprise: Casetext and Mootus.


Casetext is a “community of lawyers, law professors, and law students helping each other understand the law by annotating key legal documents.”  The website contains a database of over a million cases, statutes, regulations, and contracts which users can add analysis and commentary to, including tags, documents, and links to secondary sources.  The site also allows users to “upvote” commentaries they like as well as post questions which others answer with case law.  Registering and using the site is free.


Mootus states that it “helps law students and lawyers build skills, reputation and knowledge…through open, online legal argument.” Registered users can post legal questions on the site, to which other users respond with legal arguments and supporting cases (in the future users will be able to add statutes and regulations).  Users can also vote for cites, indicating whether they think they are “on point” or “off base.”  Registering and using the site is free although there is a fee for use of upgraded features.

The next time you need to brief a case for class or would like some insightful commentary when working on a memo, check these two sites out.

*Hat tip to Robert Ambrogi’s article “Crowd Searching” in the January 2014 issue of the ABA Journal.

Celebrate Constitution Day with the New U.S. Constitution App

The Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the Library of Congress and the Government Printing Office (GPO) mark Constitution Day today by launching a new app and web publication that make analysis and interpretation of constitutional case law by Library experts accessible for free to anyone with a computer or mobile device.

The new resources, which include analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013, will be updated multiple times each year as new court decisions are issued.

Get the App:  The app can be downloaded for free from iTunes. A direct link is here: An Android version is under development.

Happy Constitution Day!

SCOTUSblog Interviews with Nina Totenberg

SCOTUSblog has conducted a five-part series of interviews with Nina Totenberg, NPR’s award-winning legal affairs correspondent and Dean of the Supreme Court Press Corps.  The videos are excellent and provide a unique insight in to the Court from someone who has been reporting on it since the 1970’s.  Links to each of the five interviews are provided below.

Part One: Totenberg talks about her background, how her career began, and how she first started covering the Supreme Court.

Part Two: Totenberg addresses how the Supreme Court works and how to convey its subtleties.

Part Three: Totenberg speaks to which actions of the Court are newsworthy and which are not, as well as how to interview a Supreme Court Justice.

Part Four: Totenberg gives her thoughts on the confirmation process and her role in breaking the Anita Hill story.

Part Five: Totenberg provides insight in to understanding the Court amid its jurisprudence and stories.

New Books at the Law Library – Manifest Injustice

Manifest Injustice: The True Story of a Convicted Murderer and the Lawyers Who Fought for His Freedom
By Barry Siegel
Law Treatises KF224.M18 S56 2013

Manifest Injustice, by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barry Siegel, details the story of Bill Macumber and the efforts of the Arizona Justice Project, led by lawyer Larry Hammond and Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Professor Bob Bartels, on his behalf.   In 1974 Macumber was convicted for a double homicide that occurred in 1962, despite his assertion of innocence, questionable evidence linking Macumber to the crime, and a confession from a violent criminal.  Manifest Injustice artfully reconstructs the past, detailing the chain of events that led to Macumber’s conviction, and chronicles the present-day fight for his release.

You can learn more about the Arizona Justice Project and its work to overturn wrongful convictions in Arizona at

Update:  The Arizona Justice Project is hosting a conversation with Bill Macumber and Berry Siegel, the author of Manifest Injustice, on March 4th at 4:30pm in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Great Hall.   Autographed books will be available at the event and a reception will follow at 6pm.  See the event flyer for more details.

Top Legal Blogs


The ABA Journal has announced its 6th Annual Blawg 100, in which its lists its 100 favorite law blogs.  Blogs included in the list focus on a variety of legal topics, from just for fun (Lowering the Bar) to criminal justice (Lawyerist).  In between are blogs on specific topics such as IP, labor and employment, and torts, as well as blogs focusing on legal research and writing.


In addition to the list of 100 blogs, this year the Journal named ten blogs to its Hall of Fame:

All of the blogs on this annual list are lively and engaging, with authors who are passionate about their chosen subjects.  Take a break from studying to check a few out.

State v. Federal Law – Medical Marijuana

Eighteen states (including Arizona) and the District of Columbia now allow for medical use of marijuana.  The medical marijuana laws of these states are in direct conflict with federal law, however, as the Controlled Substances Act prohibits the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.  This has created an incongruous situation in which an individual may be using medical marijuana in compliance with state law but is concurrently violating federal law, and thus exposing him or herself to federal prosecution.  While the U.S. Department of Justice stated in a 2009 Memorandum to U.S. Attorneys that federal prosecutors should generally not focus their resources on “individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana,” prosecution is still a real possibility.

It is yet to be seen how the federal government will respond to the state laws authorizing and regulating medical marijuana use, but if in the meantime you would like to learn more about the constitutional law issues raised by these laws  you can read through the recent Congressional Research Service report “Medical Marijuana: The Supremacy Clause, Federalism, and the Interplay Between State and Federal Laws.”

To learn more about the Medical Marijuana Program in Arizona check out the Arizona Department of Health Services webpage.

Google Settles with Book Publishers

After seven years of litigation, Google and the Association of American Publishers announced a settlement yesterday which will allow publishers to choose whether Google digitizes their copyrighted but out-of-print publications.  The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but settlement language dictates that 20% of content from books that Google has already digitized will be readable online with the entire book available for purchase from Google Play, and Google will share revenue with book publishers.

This settlement does not resolve the litigation between Google and authors, however – the Author’s Guild published a press release yesterday, confirming that the “authors’ class action continues.”  Nor does the settlement answer the question of whether Google is infringing copyright by digitizing books, which is really the main issue in the litigation.

You can read more about the litigation on the Association of Research Libraries website, which offers a four-part series on the Google Library Project: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

Supreme Court in the News

Were you surprised by the United States Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Health Care Act?  Does it make you curious about the sort of cases they’re going to be looking at and how they may vote in the upcoming year?  If so, here are a few articles that take a look at the most well-known cases that will come to court:

Above the Law:  A Preview of the upcoming Supreme Court Term (OT 2012)

New York Times:  Supreme Court Faces Weighty Cases and a New Dynamic

Thompson-Reuters: Affirmitive Action, Rights Cases Await U.S. Supreme Court

If you want more in-depth information about where the Supreme Court is headed and what’s current, check out the SCOTUS Blog at


Well, this gives new meaning to “drafting a brief”

Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. So when one attorney was asked to keep his amicus brief…brief, he used pictures to illustrate his point.

As told by the always entertaining and informative Above the Law:

For anyone who has ever been frustrated by a judge’s imposition of silly page limits, just follow the lead of Bob Kohn. He filed a brief regarding the Justice Department’s proposed settlement in the long-standing e-book (so appropriate, right?) price-fixing case involving Amazon, Apple, and some of America’s largest publishers…

Kohn is the chairman and chief executive of RoyaltyShare and one of the more outspoken critics of the settlement put forth in the spring by the DOJ with three e-book publishers, according to the New York Times Media Decoder blog.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote forced him to keep his argument to five pages, so instead of getting mad, he got creative. He enlisted the help of his daughter, Kate (the other main character in the comic), and her Harvard classmate, Julia Alekseyeva, to draw it.

You can draw your own conclusions, about whether this is a picture-perfect brief, by viewing whole thing here.