This week, we’re traveling into the heart of law making darkness to find truth in edits, floor speeches, related laws, court decisions, and press scandal. I’ve written about getting a legislative history started when you’re not sure where to look, bill tracking under special circumstances like when a hold has been placed on a bill in Senate, and the U.S. Statutes at Large. Now, I want to talk about tracking down little known resources, free law and open access, and using non-law stuff to get a complete picture of a law’s place in history. Let’s parliament!
Thingvellir, site of the first Icelandic parliament, by Meg
In yesterday’s Sunday Review, Andrew Hacker, a professor at CUNY, asks if algebra is necessary.
by Meg, by Andrew Hacker
He argues that a brand of math that sets students up for failure does more harm, in the form of needlessly lowered academic esteem, than good–untested, unfounded notions that algebraic thinking is an essential life skill. People who go on to use algebra in the workplace are typically offered on the job training, and they number few. People who cannot pass standardized tests required for high school graduation because of algebra, on the other hand, number high.
My thoughts turned to another high attrition learning experience: the first year of law school.
Without invoking the print research vs. online research debate: are we teaching skills that are no longer needed, that actually increase the anxiety of our students? There are legal research skills that require a bit of extra vigor, and there are legal research skills that are downright unpleasant, but are there any that we’re pushing (because we had to learn how) to the detriment of an efficient, complete, modern course of legal research?
Hacker proposes replacing algebra with statistics and consumer economics to produce better citizens. I propose replacing decennial digest research with FDsys, THOMAS, state legislatures, state and federal corporate filings, state and federal court research for the same reason. Much like the argument for ensuring that 1Ls are proficient in both Lexis and Westlaw (you cannot predict which one a future employer will subscribe to), the argument for teaching print resources is that you cannot predict whether a future employer will subscribe to either, or that a law student will be employed post-graduation. In that spirit, let’s include more free online resources to support future legal practice on a shoestring, setting out your own shingle wherever you have an Internet connection, pro bono work, and community legal service in communities that really need it (and who may not have a decennial digest laying around). There is value in print legal research, but lawyer saturation in markets where print resources are available will likely push people in a more rural direction. Including free law in basic 1L legal research is one way of preparing students for that eventuality.
I recently had an Ask A Lib question about Congress’ official activities during the epic East Coast blizzard in February of 2010. The best place to go is to the Congressional Record daily issues for the 111th Congress on THOMAS. Here’s a recap, in case you were feeling too hot today:
On Thursday, February 4, the House agreed to adjourn from Friday, February 5 until Tuesday, February 9. Despite inclement weather, this was not an uncommon adjournment period for either chamber. The House ended up meeting very briefly on Friday, and then adjourning until 12:30pm on Tuesday, the 9th.
On the 4th, the Senate also met and agreed to adjourn until 2pm on Monday, February 8. Again, a long weekend is not uncommon. On the 8th, the Senate conducted five minutes of business, and adjourned until the following afternoon.
On February 9, H.Con.Res. 235 was proposed in the House to recess both chambers until February 22. The House agreed to adjourn until Friday, February 10, or until the Senate responded. Neither chamber met on the 10th because the Office of Personnel Management closed federal buildings. However, on the 11th it was noted in the Senate how bad the snow storm had gotten, H.Con.Res. 235 was agreed to by the Senate, and they too adjourned until February 22.
If you’re watching the @THOMASdotgov Twitter feed, you’ve noticed a serious uptick from 8:30am-3pmish in the last few weeks. THOMAS has started airing live streaming video of House committee hearings, and we (read: I) am updating on what’s starting when throughout the day with #THOMASlive. Here’s what I’ve learned in the first month, over at In Custodia Legis. Enjoy!
I’ve been answering a lot of what-can-THOMAS-do-for-me questions lately. The most interesting composite of questions asks, “how do I track Senate bills that have holds placed on them?”
Because holds are an informal part of the legislative process, THOMAS does not track them… directly. In fact, before S.Res. 28 which brought holds into the public record, we couldn’t track them at all. Now, there are a few ways to go about finding who’s preventing a bill from reaching the Senate floor.
Option 1: Check the Congressional Record for a voice opposition to a bill. Use the iPad app if you’re really feeling fancy. Eventually, any floor opposition will be recorded in the Congressional Calendar. But, the CR has the potential to scoop the calendar.
Option 2: Still with the Congressional Record, look for a notice of intent to object in the extension of remarks, either from the Senator placing the hold, or from the appropriate leader on behalf of the Senator. Again, all of this will eventually be recorded in the calendar, but you may learn something a day or two early by stalking the CR.
Option 3: Stick to the notice of a hold in the Congressional Calendar. THOMAS links out to a variety of calendars, but you’re looking for the goods at GPO FDsys.
There’s still quite a lot of dot connecting that needs to be done, legislative history wise, to understand why a Senator is placing a hold on a bill. But, disclosure is a start. Let the sunshine in, indeed.
I’d like to add an extended remark to wish Betty White a happy 90th birthday:
She was the cheeky Senator from Kansas in Advise and Consent. What? You can’t amend the Congressional Record decades after the fact for a fake Congresswoman? There oughta be a law.