Leah's Law Library Weblog


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Leah's Law Library Weblog

  Thursday, June 27, 2002

Robots v. Librarians

In today’s TVC Alert, Genie Tyburski, referenced a NY Times story about using robots in libraries to physically retrieve information, “thereby eliminating a trip to the library.” Genie asked for our thoughts about this. Specifically, she asked, “Will such a service help patrons conduct more complete research? Do libraries serve any purpose other than as a storage facility?”

I’d like to respond with an excerpt from Bob Berring’s Thinkable Thoughts column in the latest issue of West’s Law Librarians in the New Millennium concerning Tom Reynolds, former Foreign and International Law Librarian at Boalt Hall, UC-Berkeley:

A student had found a reference to an obscure report she needed on the Nuremberg war trials. We asked Tom, who blinked, looked up, and told us where it was, why it was important, and why the student might want to check an additional source.

Tom personifies distilled expertise. He solved the student’s problem and even went further. The fact that she was getting parts of her question wrong did not dismay him. Indeed, he reformulated it for her. In Tom, we have an information source who refines a question, provides the answer, puts it in context, and takes the person a step further. It suddenly struck me: Tom is what artificial intelligence seeks to be.

The human being who can bring out the beauty of an information system is still crucial. As the systems grow more and more complex, we need this expertise more than ever.

Law librarians know that Bob Berring, the Director of the Boalt Hall Law Library and a professor of law there, is one of the leading thinkers in our field. He’s identified something crucial about libraries and librarians. All librarians know other librarians who have the knowledge and skill to do what Tom did in their area of expertise. No robot can do this now, and I’m not sure AI can ever get that sophisticated.

11:53:36 AM comment []   

  Wednesday, June 26, 2002

More on Ring Decision:

Morning Edition broadcast a report this morning on impact of the Ring decision in Arizona and on one specific death row inmate, Richard Rossi.  There are also comments from Dennis Burke, the Arizona Attorney General Chief Deputy, and Dale Baich, a federal public defender. I can't link to the audio report because of NPR's linking policy requiring permission to link (for more information on this issue, see The Shifted Librarian's post on the issue).  Anyway, if you're interested, you can go to the NPR home page, and look for today's Morning Edition page.  

Update, 28 June 2002:  NPR has changed it's linking policy (although they still "reserve the right to withdraw permission for any link"), so here's the link to this report:  http://www.npr.org/ramfiles/me/20020626.me.06.ram. For information and commentary on NPR's changes, see this article from Wired and FOS News.

4:16:23 PM comment []   

More on the FBI and Libraries, from The Virtual Acquisition Shelf & News Desk:

Two ALA Officials Discuss FBI Issue on CNN (Transcripts). Public Libraries--United States Source: CNN.  Judith Krug and Emily Sheketoff of the American Library Association Discuss FBI Issue on CNN. Krug, is the Director of the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom appeared on an afternoon program. Shektoff, is the Executive Director of the ALA D.C. Office appeared on the network's Talkback Live program yesterday. You can access the transcripts at: Transcript of Emily Sheketoff on CNN's Talkback Live (begins mid-page); Transcript of Judith Krug on CNN
Note: As of 10pm ESDT, 6/25, the Krug Transcript is not Complete

As of 12:58 PM MST, the Krug Transcript is still not complete, in fact, there's barely anything there.  The Sheketoff transcript is from a talk show with retired FBI Agent Danny Defenbaugh.  There's a lot of other stuff going on, with interruptions and taking phone calls, so it's not as informative as one would hope.  Genie Tyburski, at TVC Alert, has some snippets of the talk show transcript that give you about as much meat as there is from the show. 

As of Sept. 30, the Krug Transcript is still not complete. Somehow I don't think it ever will be.

11:15:36 AM comment []   

  Tuesday, June 25, 2002

FBI in Your Library

ALA Posts "FBI in Your Library" Web Page.  . . . This new compilation features links to news articles, materials on the USA Patriot Act, Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, and other resources. [The Virtual Acquisition Shelf & News Desk]

There have been several articles in the past few days discussing the provisions (Section 215) in the new USA PATRIOT Act that permit the FBI to request patron information without a normal search warrant.  Related provisions prohibit librarians from telling anyone that the FBI has visited. This new web page from the ALA contains news articles and links to other sources about these provisions. Good reference page.

3:47:05 PM comment []   

Even a "Bad Man" Has Rights

Prof. Gary Solis, a retired Marine who teaches the law of war at Georgetown, has written an excellent op-ed in yesterday's Washington Post concerning Jose Padilla, a k a Abdullah al Muhajir, and Yasser Esam Hamdi, the American citizens, being held as "enemy combatants." I've read a lot about the issues involved with these two; this column is one of the clearest in explaining what's wrong with declaring them enemy combatants.  Furthermore, Prof. Solis explains the impact that holding them in military confinement may have on the public's perception of military justice, usually low already. He also questions whether their confinement violates the Posse Comitatus Act, 18 U.S.C. §. 1385, a criminal statute prohibiting the use of the military in civilian law enforcement. [Thanks again to Howard Bashman at How Appealing.]

11:38:10 AM comment []   

Good analysis of Ring v. Arizona, from Howard Bashman at How Appealing:

What's an extra two years when compared to death? In a decision that should have caught few by surprise, the Court today ruled (6-1)-2 that defendants facing the death penalty are entitled to have juries determine beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of all facts necessary to the imposition of a death sentence. See Ring v. Arizona, No. 01-488 (U.S. June 24, 2002). Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, in which Justices Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter and Thomas joined. As the final paragraph of Justice Ginsburg's well-written opinion explains (okay, I admit it's redundant to say that a Justice Ginsburg opinion is well-written): "The right to trial by jury guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment would be senselessly diminished if it encompassed the factfinding necessary to increase a defendant's sentence by two years, but not the factfinding necessary to put him to death."

Justice Breyer concurred in the judgment, explaining that while he still thinks that Apprendi was wrongly decided, "death is different," and so juries should be required to decide facts necessary to impose the death penalty. Justice Breyer's opinion concurring in the judgment can be read to say that, personally, he's no big fan of the death penalty. Justice Kennedy, who dissented from the ruling in Apprendi, joined the majority opinion and wrote a short concurrence in which he said that he is willing to accept Apprendi as the law of the land. . . . Justice Scalia also wrote a short concurring opinion, in which Justice Thomas joined, to resume the needling of Justice Breyer that Justice Scalia began in his concurring opinion in Apprendi. Today Justice Scalia at the close of his concurrence urged Justice Breyer to "buy a ticket to Apprendi-land." . . . Finally, Justice O'Connor wrote a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice joined. Although Justice O'Connor predicted today's result when she dissented from the Apprendi ruling (which perhaps made her a bit more honest than the Apprendi majority about the consequences of its ruling), she remains unwilling to accept Apprendi as a lawful result and thus refuses to sign-on to today's Apprendi-driven consequences.

So, the Court declares the manner of capital sentencing in five states unconstitutional and casts serious doubt on the capital sentencing schemes in use in four other states. Nearly 700 inmates are on death row in these states, presumably thanks to procedures that are now unconstitutional. The press today had a field day with this information, suggesting that within weeks the death rows in these nine states would be empty except for the sagebrush blowing on through. But, as Justice O'Connor's dissenting opinion correctly observed, most of these prisoners will have no realistic chance at obtaining a shot at a resentencing by a jury:

I believe many of these challenges will ultimately be unsuccessful, either because the prisoners will be unable to satisfy the standards of harmless error or plain error review, or because, having completed their direct appeals, they will be barred from taking advantage of today's holding on federal collateral review.

Certainly the courts will now become even more clogged with suits by death row inmates seeking to grasp onto Ring, but I think that Justice O'Connor has correctly predicted the outcome of those actions, as the Court's ruling last month in Cotton exemplifies.

Janet Napolitano, Arizona's Attorney General (and likely Democratic candidate for Governor), has announced that she believes only 29 of the people on Arizona's death row will be entitled to new hearings. She's also sent a letter to Governor Hull requesting a special session and is working on recommendations for legislation to deal with capital sentencing.  Defense attorneys obviously think that allowing new sentencing hearings for some defendants and not others based on where they are in the appellate process is unfair and plan on litigating that issue.  Today's article from the Arizona Daily Star covers the local impact of the decision here in Tucson.  I'll post updates as things happen.

9:05:26 AM comment []   

  Monday, June 24, 2002

For those who are interested, here's the hot off the presses opinion in Ring v. Arizona. As you may have heard, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that Arizona's death penalty sentencing system was unconstitutional because juries, not judges should be making the final decision on capital punishment. One minor note:  the two dissenters are Arizonans. The next question is what happens to these folks; do we spend the money to re-try them all, commute the sentence to life in prison, with or without possibility of parole, try to do a simple sentence re-hearing? Stay tuned for further developments.


2:04:03 PM comment []   

  Friday, June 21, 2002

From FOS News:

Charles W. Bailey Jr. has released Version 43 of his Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography. The new edition cites over 1,600 print and online sources.

This is a wonderful resource if you have any interest in this area.  Mr Bailey updates his bibliography in a weblog. 

12:57:34 PM comment []   

From Ernie the Attorney:

I taught legal research & writing for a year at one point, and since then I have observed closely the learning process that young lawyers have to go through to become proficient at finding answers to questions.  And, sadly, not everything is in the law books.  For example, law schools will teach you that if you want to know the filing requirements of a particular court you should look up the local rules.  True enough.  But, as one who clerked in a court, here's how I often do it if I have any sort of unusual pleading or filing.  I call the intake clerk and very, very politely (and with great deference) ask them if there are any "new" rules that apply to what I'm filing.  Then they tell me either "yes" (and I learn about a rule that isn't in the books yet), or "no" and then they tell me the rule and also usually some additional tidbit of information that will help me get the thing filed without any hitches.  After several calls like this, I get to know the intake person, and they come to know me.  And, guess what?  When I do have problems they are usually inclined to help me out. 

They don't teach you useful stuff like that in law school.  And research often involves calling someone who knows the answer and being nice to them to have them help you out.

This is so important to law students.  Law schools are getting better at explaining the practical stuff, but so many students still graduate without having much of a clue how to actually do anything in court.  Our Legal Writing & Research program here uses practioners as adjuncts to teach writing and librarians to teach research.  Most of the librarians either practiced law, worked as law firm librarians, or have been law librarians for years.  So both sets of instructors then provide practical examples to the students about what the "real" practice of law involves.  Getting on the phone is often the best answer.

12:22:52 PM comment []   

  Thursday, June 20, 2002

I've been found! Both the The Peanut Gallery and The Shifted Librarian welcomed me to the webblog world.  Thanks.  Now about all these questions I have . . .

Actually, being found means I've got to start putting more stuff up.  One question I have is how to sort out and keep entries from other blogs that I want to keep for personal use from those for the blog.  My blog is at least semi-official, since I'm doing some of it at work and for primarily professional reasons.  Is this where categories come in? More to follow as I get up to speed.

12:51:36 PM comment []   

  Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Digitization Projects--Mexico--Newspapers. Digitization Projects--Mexico--NewspapersDeal Finalized: Canada's Cold North Wind To Digitize Historical Newspapers from MexicoFrom the announcement, "With over 490 titles, this unprecedented project will create the single largest portal of Spanish-language historical newspapers on the Internet and will allow for access to be available to researchers and students in Mexico and around the world. [The Virtual Acquisition Shelf & News Desk]

With our LLM programs in International Trade Law & Indigenous Peoples, this should be very useful in the future.  Hope we hear more details as they begin work.

11:21:07 AM comment []   

  Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Very clear outline on the recent CIPA decision.  It's important that we librarians understand the issues involved so we can discuss them with patrons, friends, and relatives who might not have much background on filtering and First Amendment law.

The Children's Online Protection Act: The Recent District Court Decision in Context, for Librarians and Library Patrons. - A nice primer on CIPA. Worth a read through and printout for the reference desk. (via LLRX) [Library Stuff]

8:40:48 PM comment []   

Want to Start a Blog?. Find a brief account of how to start a blog with Radio Userland. [TVC Alert]

Genie Tyburski of TVC Alert and the folks at LLRX come through with a very timely article from Rick Klau about how he started his blog using Radio.  Very good timing for me, as I'm trying to explain this to the folks I work with.

8:24:31 AM comment []   

Sorry, I'm still learning and didn't post the title and link.  It's "Quiet revolution: Librarians teach and preach Open Source software at convention", at http://newsforge.com/newsforge/02/06/17/1514234.shtml?tid=11.
7:48:49 AM comment []   

Just got this link forwarded to me from a librarian at the Main Library about the Open Source meeting going on an ALA.  This is fascinating stuff, but I don't know how we can apply it in an academic law library.  Any ideas, people?  My husband actually teaches Linux,  and is going to library school, so maybe this is something he can educate us all on.  It's also interesting that apparently a lot of of this is from NZ.
7:47:02 AM comment []   

  Monday, June 17, 2002

This is my first attempt to write something for my new blog.  As an academic law librarian, I want to cover a lot of different areas:  law, librarianship, and anything that combines these two areas. As a retired Judge Advocate, I'm also interested in military issues and military law. 

I'm one of the "geeks" in our library and the first to get into blogs so I'm interested in seeing how this will progress. I'm beginning to see a lot of potential with blogs and RSS feeds to provide information to our library's primary customers and to provide information internally as well.  Well, let's get this show on the road.

3:37:31 PM comment []   

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