Articles Posted in United States Federal Resources

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PACER has been a regular jumping bean lately, bouncing up and down, up and down.

While these PACER back-ups are not perfect, and you’ll need to verify document currency when PACER is back up again, some law librarians say in a pinch they might still be useful:

1) PlainSite

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The 1990’s Thomas dot gov becomes the 00’s (beta) Congress dot gov. It’s about time, but bittersweet nonetheless. Thomas was on the cusp, riding the web wave, a time and money saver to us all, and made teaching federal legislative history a little more fun than it was in the all-paper days.

So visit Congress dot gov: Let’s hope its ratings will be higher than the branch of government after which it is named (e.g. see Gallup).

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From a GovLoop blogger: 10 Most Entertaining Government Mobile Apps:

1) Solve the Outbreak, from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

2) NASA App: NASA’s official app enables you to discover the galaxies from the palm of your hand.

3) Comet Quest: Another fantastic NASA creation. This game makes you the mission controller of the Rosetta spacecraft. While dodging ice chunks, you carefully observe and record information from comets. Not only is it a fun game, but you also learn a lot about comets in the process. It is compatible with iPhone and iPad.

4) Leafsnap: The Smithsonian Institution: an educational app that utilizes visual recognition software to identity tree species from photographs of their leaves.

5) Pointe du Hoc: The American Battle Monuments Commission created this app to give you a chance to visit the World War II D-Day landing site in France.

6) mPing: Ever wanted to be a meteorologist? This app, created by the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL) and the Precipitation Identification Near the Ground project (W-PING)

7.Satellite Insight: Another NASA gem. This game is similar to Comet Quest, but instead you are collecting data from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, R series (GOES-R)

8) Your Art: The National Gallery of Art constructed this app for both visitors and art lovers across the globe. It provides access to the Gallery’s expansive collection of art

9) Aesop for Children: The Library of Congress adapted the book “The Aesop for Children” to create this interactive app. It contains over 140 classic fables, complemented with creative illustrations and animations.

10) DocsTeach: The National Archives and Records Administration constructed this app to enable you to learn more about our nation’s history and interact with primary source documents.

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If Access to Justice (A2J) is to be something other than a catch-phrase or a pipe dream, lawyers, judges, court administrators, and law librarians need to think, plan, and act creatively on micro and macro initiatives.

Many ideas are already on drawing boards, in app programmer hands, and in pilot project status.  Court Simplification is another A2J Big Idea and here are some places to read about it:

1) You can Google the phrase “court simplification” for information.

2) Richard Zorza’s Drake Law Review paper on simplification: “Some First Thoughts on Court Simplification: The Key to Civil Access and Justice Transformation.” [Link directly to PDF.]

…. To summarize the approach proposed here: We must find ways to radically simplify the legal dispute resolution system so it becomes much more accessible and so the costs of accessing and operating the system dramatically decrease. Such an increase in access will lead to an improvement in the justness and fairness of outcomes….” [Link to full article.]

3) Related Zorza post on courts, budgets, and access to justice, June 17, 2013: “Professor in Nederlands On Strategies for Access Change,” notes from the International Legal Aid Group meeting in the Nederlands

Richard Zorza homepage.

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We often hear about the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) in the arena of civil court cases such as divorce, evictions, foreclosures, and default judgments.  However, the SCRA offers other consumer protections to deployed and disabled veterans.  The  Oregon Department of Justice’s Veteran Resources website offers information on consumer protections offered by the SCRA in Oregon including:

  • reinstatement of existing insurance policies after returning from active duty
  • reduced interest rates on existing financial obligations
  • termination of real estate leases
  • termination of automobile leases

The 2013 Oregon Legislature has a proposed bill (due for its final vote on June 11th) that will increase consumer protection benefits for active duty personnel.  Under House Bill 2083, an active duty service member can terminate or suspend the following services upon written notice to the service providers:

  • telecommunications services
  • internet services
  • health spa services
  • exercise or athletic activities offered by a health club
  • television services

Service members with consumer protection complaints can contact the Oregon Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline at 1-877-877-9392.

The Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs has more information on SCRA its benefits.  See our previous posts on the SCRA and other legal resources for military personnel here.


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Read about FOI Day at the Newseum, to commemorate the (March 16th) birthday of James Madison.

Federal Freedom of Information Act.

How to file a federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request.

How to file an Oregon Freedom of Information Act Request: Oregon Department of Justice and Open-Oregon.

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From U.S. Courts News, 1/31/13: Access to Court Opinions Expands

A pilot project giving the public free, text-searchable, online-access to court opinions now is available to all federal appellate, district and bankruptcy courts….” [Link to full news release.]

Access will be through FDsys.

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This case arises in discussions of the Second  Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

You can find the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion in Printz v. United States online using just about any search engine, for example, Google Scholar. (Make sure you click on Legal Documents if you want cases.)

You can also use other free legal research online resources.

Printz v. U.S.
U.S. Supreme Court (95-1478)
521 U.S. 898
Argued December 3, 1996
Decided June 27, 1997


“…. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policymaking is involved, and no case-by-case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed….”

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Is rewriting the U.S. Constitution really that much of a “dangerous idea?”

See, e.g. Op-Ed Contributor, Louis Michael Seidman, “Let’s Give Up on the Constitution,” New York Times, December 30, 2012.

If business and labor models are changing, why aren’t government models?

See also, from the Institute for the Future website: Aligning Business and Community Interests: A Recipe for Hope in Volatile Times,” Aug 13, 2012, by Tracey Grose, who reviews Robert H. Girling’s books, “The Good Company.”

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President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation
January 1, 1863
A Transcription

By the President of the United States of America:

A Proclamation.

Whereas, on the twenty-second day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-two, a proclamation was issued by the President of the United States, containing, among other things, the following, to wit:

“That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom….” [Link to full transcript.]

Other Presidential Proclamations can also be found at the National Archives.