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Archive for the ‘Legal Information’ Columns

This US Election May Finally Be Over and Other Year End News From Washington, DC

I have good news from DC about the US election. On Monday, December 14 the United States Electoral College met virtually and certified that Joe Biden is the President-elect and Kamala Harris as Vice-President-elect. The drama continues to drag on due to the machinations of a very sore loser, but many Republicans are finally acknowledging the fact. I think that the Electoral College is an outdated institution that violates the principle of “one person, one vote”. Its state winner-take-all approach can result in the winner of the popular vote losing the election as has happened twice in this century. However . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Legal Responses to COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: From Argentina to México, From Barbados to Guatemala, From the Bahamas to Chile

Since March 2020, a group of law librarians have been monitoring and reporting on the legal responses to COVID-19 throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. The main idea behind this project is to provide the most pertinent and precise amount of information concerning a situation in a particular country or a comparative report on various countries. Unfortunately, the rapidly evolving and tragic situation in the region has given us numerous topics and angles to pursue, learn from and write about. The more the health crisis becomes multiple crises: political, social, educational, humanitarian, financial and so on, the more we must . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Finding the “COVID Boundary” in CanLII Usage Statistics 🦖

I’m no palaeontologist, but being the father of a 7-year-old boy, I talk about dinosaurs more than the average human. My son doesn’t necessarily have that of a great interest in our prehistoric friends themselves, but his thirst for knowledge about the circumstances of their disappearance is seemingly insatiable.

Those father-son discussions about the extinction of dinosaurs led me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole only to discover the existence of such a thing as the Cretaceous–Paleogene boundary. This boundary is a line of dark dust with high concentrations of iridium, which, according to the leading hypothesis, came from the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Technology

Do You Believe in Peer-Review?

Peer-review is a widely accepted process in scholarly publishing. It’s seen as a sign of quality and a way to establish legitimacy. There are, however, drawbacks to this process too. It takes time and doesn’t always give consistent results. What benefits do we get from the peer-review process and is it worth the costs? Are the benefits the same for legal information as they are for other disciplines?

Many journals, whether scientific or legal, open access or behind a paywall, use peer-review because it provides status that can help writers with tenure promotion or securing grants and scholarships. There are . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Bar Exam Babies and Other Bar Exam Stories

When I was in law school I remember my aunt, a trailblazing female lawyer who was born in 1948, telling me about her bar exam. She told me she took the New York subway to the exam location in the pre-dawn hours and sat on the steps outside the building waiting for it to open, just so that she could not be late. At the time, secure in my knowledge that my bar exam was years away, her caution seemed extreme. But she told me she wasn’t alone on those steps; she shared her silent vigil with a small group . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Editing Legal Resources

At CanLII, we have a number of programs that provide opportunities for writers to publish their work. Most recently, we have been working to develop content from scratch through initiatives such as a collaborative manual on BC litigation and our call for book proposals. It’s through these projects where we have taken on a whole new and exciting aspect of publishing: editing. 

Editing is complex and exists on multiple levels that can happen in succession or at the same time, and can range from general to specific. There are also several types of editing, from developmental to proofreading. Overall, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Never Say Never

In 2014 I wrote a column about researching Native American Law. In it I discussed the controversy over sports teams whose names and mascots were perceived as being derogatory and racist. The most egregious of these names was that of the Washington Redskins football team. In 2013 their owner, Dan Snyder told USA Today that “We’ll never change the name.” “NEVER – you can use caps.” To read more about the history of opposition to the name see this Wikipedia entry.

In 2020 never is now. The US is roiling with protests against systemic racism and its symbols. In . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Thoughts on Why I Write (And Why You Might Want to Too)

I have been thinking about writing lately. There are so many reasons why people write and so much it can give them and the community, so I thought I would share a bit here about why I write and give some suggestions on why you might want to write too.

When I started writing for publication in about 2010, I wrote about issues that mattered to me professionally (You can read some of these early pieces here). This started because I found that I had things I wanted to say and talked about it when I went out . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Publishing

Separation of What? a Brief Overview of Executive Orders in the United States

Executive orders are in the headlines again. As every child in the US is taught in school, the federal government is made up of three branches, the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. This arrangement was designed as part of an intricate system of checks and balances intended to avoid giving too much power to any part of the government. In recent years there has been much debate over the limits of executive orders, particularly those executive orders relating to immigration, and this debate has been brought to the fore in recent weeks because of executive orders signed by the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

On Legal Ethics and Artificial Intelligence

There continues to be extensive discussion about artificial intelligence and law, and concerns are regularly raised about the ethical and moral issues this presents, so I was happy when Marcelo Rodríguez invited me to be on a panel at the American Association of Law Libraries Conference on “Legal Ethics in the Use of Artificial Intelligence” with Kristin Johnson, Steven Lastres, and with Kim Nayyer moderating this year. Here’s the session description:

There is a pressing need for both innovators creating the datasets as well as users such as law librarians and attorneys to be aware of the ethical implications of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Technology

Barriers to Accessing Legal Information

In this post, I would like to highlight the barriers to accessing legal information and ways we can help remove them.

Let’s begin by clarifying the difference between accessibility and availability. Material is accessible when barriers to the content are removed and they can be used by as many people as possible, these barriers can take several forms such as financial or technical limits to access. Material is available when people can easily use it, because it is free of legal and policy restrictions.

A legal document can be accessible, but not available. For example, a member of the public . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information

Connecting Public and Private Legal Information Part II: Linking Your Legal Citations to CanLII Material

A month ago, I introduced Lexum’s first step in providing Knowledge Management as a Service (KMaaS) via Lexbox. This development has made it possible for Lexbox users to start searching their own documents alongside the public legal information made available on the CanLII website. This post covers the upcoming release of the second feature tied to that approach. In a few weeks Lexum will integrate its citator to Lexbox, automating the linking of legal citations included in the body of documents submitted by users to the corresponding cases and legislation on CanLII.

The idea of enabling users to auto-link their . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Information, Legal Publishing