Cuban Legal System: A Law Library of Congress Introduction

Foreign and international law librarians know things we mere mortals don’t know (yet):

“FALQs: Cuban Legal System
January 27, 2015 by Kelly Buchanan

The following is a guest post by Gustavo Guerra, a foreign law specialist covering a number of Spanish-speaking jurisdictions at the Law Library of Congress. It is the second post in our “Frequently Asked Legal Questions” series, following on from our post yesterday on French terrorism laws. As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for this series!

In light of initiatives to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, and the recent visit of a U.S. government delegation to Havana, I decided to provide answers to a few questions about the Cuban legal system and where one could locate Cuban laws and information about them….” [Link to full LLoC post.]

Update on the Oregon Ballot Measure Archive Project, 1959-2007

The Ballot Measure Archive Project (BMAP) is invaluable for anyone researching Oregon legal history. You can find the digital archives at:

Portland State University (PSU), Special Collections & University Archives. (Currently, find the direct link under “More Collections.“)

Brief Description:

“The Ballot Measure Archive Project (BMAP) was a five-year project led by Josh Binus and included over 120 researchers, mostly Portland State University undergraduates. Josh Binus, a public historian and Portland State University history instructor, began the project in 2004 to document and preserve surviving evidence from Oregon’s history of direct democracy. The State of Oregon has earliest established initiative and referendum system in the United States and that has been one of the most active users of the system during that time. The project goal was to collect the materials not being accessioned by the Oregon State Archives, because a substantial number of players in the initiative system work outside of the state government. Author: Pete Asch

Visit the PSU Special Collection site for more information and access to the files.

Thank you Josh and PSU!

Public Records Argle-Bargle at the University of Oregon Archives: Librarians on Hot Seat?

If you’ve not been following the news about the University of Oregon archives “leak,” now is the time to start catching up.

Library workers under scrutiny for leak of 22,000 UO documents: Meanwhile, documents leaked to a professor were not returned by the UO’s deadline,” by Diane Dietz, The Register-Guard, Jan. 23, 2015

The Oregonian and the Register Guard have been posting stories. So has U of O blogger, Professor Harbaugh, at his UO Matters: The Unofficial Organ of the University of Oregon blog, which has links to the news stories.

Make sure you know and understand all the facts, and the relevant law, before jumping to any conclusions. Remember:

The lesson of that first day in kindergarten was re-taught to me throughout my life: If you think you’re pretty smart, you’re not talking to enough people.” Cameron, Bruce, “The Smartest Guy in an Empty Room,” Funny Times, September 2013, p. 3.

Multnomah County Circuit Courthouse Project: Public Meetings (Jan & Feb 2015)

The Oregonian reports that: Multnomah County wants input for new courthouse project

This information is not yet posted at the Multnomah County Circuit Court website, but you can contact the Court if you have questions. From their Contact Us page:

Multnomah County Courthouse
1021 SW Fourth Avenue
Portland, OR 97204-1123
General Information Phone: 503.988.3957

Here are meeting dates/times as reported on 1/21/15 by Tony Hernandez at the Oregonian:

Residents will have a couple chances in upcoming weeks to give input about Multnomah County’s downtown courthouse project.

The Board of Commissioners in December approved two possible locations: an L-shaped lot at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge and a surface lot between the KOIN Center and Marriott Hotel.

County officials will hold two events to collect comments and share information such as concept renderings and site characteristics:

Jan. 29: 5 to 7 p.m. in the boardroom of the Multnomah County Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.

Feb. 5: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the county courthouse, 1020 S.W. Fourth Ave., Room 130….” [Link to full Oregonian article for more information or call the Court.]

Oregon Attorney General’s 2014 Public Records and Meetings Manual

The  Oregon Attorney General’s 2014 Public Records and Meetings Manual is available for viewing and purchase.  (The last edition was published in 2011.)

Please visit the ODOJ website for information on downloading and ordering options.

CLEs for Oregon Solo and Small Firm Practitioners: Legal Lunchbox Series

The OSB Sole and Small Firm Practitioners’ Section executive committee is starting a series of free or low-cost (for non-SSFP members) CLEs that may be of interest to solos or small firm practitioners. The series starts Wednesday, January 21, 2015, and are free to OSB SSFP Section members. Please visit the OSB SSFP website for more information or the SSFP Section website (under construction) for additional contact information.


The Sole and Small Firm Practitioners Section of the OSB is pleased to invite all members to attend a series of free seminars/CLEs, to be held from 12:00 p.m. -1:00 pm on the third Wednesday of each month. You can participate via webcast, but members in the Portland area are encouraged to bring your lunch and meet your colleagues at Kafoury and McDougal, who have graciously provided their conference room for our series:

January 21, 2015: Business Planning for Solos and Small Firms – presented by Scott Schnuck
February 18, 2015: Privacy 101 – presented by Lauren Wallace
March 18, 2015: Elder Abuse Issues for Solos and Small Firms – Victoria Blachly and Ellen Klem
April 15, 2015: Before You Hire Your First (or Next) Employee – presented by Elizabeth Inayoshi
May 20, 2015: Lawyers and the ADA – presented by Dennis Steinman



The Meaning of the Word “Accompany” in 18 USC 2113 (SCOTUS)

From Willamette Law Online:  ‘Whitfield v. United States, Case #: 13-9026, Date Filed: January 13, 2015

Scalia, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Full Text Opinion: 

CRIMINAL LAW: The word “accompany” in 18 U.S.C. §2113, which creates increased penalties for actions taken during the commission of, or flight from, a bank robbery, means “to go with” even over short distances.

While eluding capture after a failed bank robbery, Petitioner entered the home of a 79-year-old woman. There he moved her a short distance into another room where she died of a heart attack. Federal law provides a mandatory minimum 10-year sentence when a bank robber “forces a person to accompany him” during the robbery or flight thereafter. After pleading not guilty, Petitioner was convicted by a jury. On appeal he argued that the severity of the punishment carried by this aggravating factor must require accompaniment over a substantial distance, and that it should not apply to his moving his victim into the next room. The Fourth Circuit disagreed, affirming the trial court.
The Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts holding that “accompany” means “to go with” even over short distances. The Court referred to newspaper articles, a wedding announcement, the dictionary, and British Literature classics to illustrate the clear meaning of the word “accompany.” In response to Petitioner’s argument regarding the severity of this aggravating factor the Court states, “It is simply not in accord with English usage to give ‘accompany’ a meaning that covers only large distances.”

Hat tip to Willamette Law Online for their case summaries; you can view and subscribe.

Tax Forms and Free Tax Preparation Help in Oregon

1) Some public libraries and U.S. Post Offices distribute federal tax forms via the IRS “Tax Forms Outlet Program,” e.g. Washington county libraries and Multnomah County Library. Locate contact information for your own public library.

2) For tax preparation sites, visit the IRS “Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers” website:

3) AARP tax info

4) 211 Info in Oregon (to find tax preparation services for state and federal tax returns)

Book Review: Levitt & Davis: “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers”

Book Review: Levitt & Davis: “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers”

  • Would you like a clear description of 3 free online versions of the U.S. Code?
  • Would you like useful tutorials on Fastcase and Casemaker?
  • Would you like to know about free and low-cost legal websites, legal research apps, and case law databases? How about cite-checking, dockets, federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal law, foreign, international, and comparative law free and low-cost research resource tips?

You will find those and more in “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers,” by Carole A. Levitt and Judy K. Davis, ABA Law Practice Division, 2014.

It takes brave authors to write a book about online legal research. If badly executed, it will sink quietly to the bottom of the recycle bin. If done well, it will remain within close reach of the researcher. I keep this book nearby and I’ve already pressed it into the hands of other legal researchers.

What this book is not: This is not a book about how to search public records or to perform background checks or skip-tracing. (There are other books on those subjects: see, e.g. Note 1, below.)

What this book is and for whom:

New and experienced researchers will find tips and instructions that can save time, money, and frustration when using the free and low-cost online legal research resources described.

I reviewed the book through the lens of a public law librarian who teaches lawyers and other legal researchers on limited budgets how to research the law. I wanted a quick reference book for myself, to lend to a researcher looking at a new research site or tool, and for our motivated self-represented litigants who need free or low-cost legal research tools.

This book will be useful to lawyers, law library employees, paralegals, judicial assistants, public librarians, and self-represented litigants. It will also be a useful legal research text for students of all stripes, paralegal, library school, and law school.

It can be read from cover to cover, but it is well organized, with a useful table of contents and a good index, so the specific guidance you seek can be found without wasting time.

It includes chapters on researching legal forms, court rules, cases, dockets, citators, and much more, all with excellent advice (and caveats) regarding the strengths and limits of the reviewed resources.

The research and website evaluation tips will be familiar to law librarians and will improve the research skills of those we serve – or at least reinforce the lessons we try to teach the researchers in our midst:

  • Read the whole screen.
  • Understand the database’s (or website’s) strengths and limits.
  • Make no assumptions about database searching protocols. (They change faster than the latest secret to a long life nutrition fad: Quinoa! Kale! Pomegranate! Bacon?)

This book presents those lessons painlessly and gives readers a roadmap for exploring and evaluating all online legal research resources.

Standouts: Tips are practical and the book is highly readable with appropriate warnings about data quality and database reliability. One, among other, standout examples is the section comparing 3 U.S.C. websites (pp. 163-177).

You will want to mark up this book. That is a good thing. It is not good when after reading a legal research guide all you have to show for the effort are a couple of sticky notes that could just as well fall out, with no regret or loss.

I added lots of sticky notes for tips to try out myself and recommend to co-workers. I featured this book in a recent legal research class, where I will recommend this book among my other favorite legal research guides.

The book was well organized. I would like to have been a fly on the wall when the authors and editors met to decide which legal research resources to include in the book and how to organize them – and which ones to leave out (the toughest cuts of all). Not all of the taxonomy, legal research, and UX knowledge in the world could have made that task easy.

Index: The index is very good – and I’m not unappreciative of the fact that there is an index at all, a rare value-added feature nowadays. I did wish there was a Legislative History index term; it is a subject frequently researched. Also, you need to look under both Briefs and Legal Briefs to find all the Briefs index entries, and … no, I quibble. I was able to find just about everything I needed in the index.

Wish list: I wished for more coverage of state and local resources, however, the selection of high quality, publicly accessible state and local online legal research resources varies widely from one jurisdiction to another, so the authors didn’t leave out anything over which they had any control. Many of the state and local research resources we need just don’t exist in digital format – and state legislative history documents often top that list.

Bottom line: This book is Highly Recommended, for law libraries, public libraries, legal research instructors, paralegals, and lawyers.


1) “The Cybersleuth’s Guide to the Internet: Conducting Effective Investigative & Legal Research on the Internet,” by Carole Levitt, J.D., M.L.S. & Mark E. Rosch, is in its 12th edition as of today.

2) You can purchase today’s reviewed book, Levitt & Davis: “Internet Legal Research on a Budget: Free and Low-Cost Resources for Lawyers” from:

Internet for Lawyers (Net for Lawyers)
Also: Internet Legal Research on a Budget
ABA Bookstore