Yale Law Library - Reference Blog
March 2008 - Posts
OMB Watch Launches Regulatory Resource Center
OMB Watch has created a Regulatory Resource Center Website, intended to educate users on the regulatory process and teach citizens how to comment on federal regulations using Regulations.gov, the government's portal for public comments.
OMB Watch is a nonprofit government watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C. When OMB Watch first launched a developmental version of the Regulatory Resource Center in October 2007, public response was overwhelmingly positive. OMB Watch will continue to improve the site based on public needs, comments, and concerns. They encourage feedback at any time at: RegResources@ombwatch.org.
Authenticated Public and Private laws for the 110th Congress now on GPO Access.
Beginning with the 110th Congress, the PDF files of Public and Private Laws on GPO Access have been digitally signed and certified to assure users that the online documents are official and authentic. To search or browse Public and Private Laws go to GPO Access.
GPO Access is the website maintained by the U.S. Government Printing Office and provides free electronic access to various government documents. Click on this link for more information about how GPO has begun implementing digital signatures to certain electronic documents on GPO Access.
Dean Harold Koh Comments on Recent High Court Decision Regarding Treaties
"[A]ll Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the
United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in
every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or
laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding." U.S. CONST. art. VI. However, when the Senate ratifies a
treaty with a two-thirds vote, does that mean the treaty provisions are
binding on the states? According to a new ruling by the Supreme Court, they are binding only if the treaty explicitly says so or if there is legislation to make that clear.
The decision is Medellín v. Texas, at is available at: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/07pdf/06-984.pdf As a background note, in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mex.U.S.), 2004 I.C.J. 12 (
Avena ), the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that
the United States had violated Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations (Vienna Convention or Convention) by
failing to inform 51 named Mexican nationals, including petitioner
Medellín, of their Vienna Convention rights. The ICJ found that those
named individuals were entitled to review and reconsideration of their
U.S. state-court convictions and sentences regardless of their failure
to comply with generally applicable state rules governing challenges to
criminal convictions. In Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. 331 (2006) issued after
Avena but involving individuals who were not named in the
Avena judgment-the Supreme Court held, contrary to the ICJ's
determination, that the Convention did not preclude the application of
state default rules. The President then issued a memorandum stating that the United States
would “discharge its international obligations” under
Avena “by having State courts give effect to the decision. ”Relying on
the President's Memorandum, Medellín filed a second Texas
state-court habeas application challenging his state capital murder
conviction and death sentence on the ground that he had not been
informed of his Vienna Convention rights. The Texas Court of Criminal
Appeals dismissed Medellín's application as an abuse of the writ,
concluding that neither
Avena nor the President's Memorandum was binding federal law
that could displace the State's limitations on filing successive habeas
applications. On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that neither
Avena nor the President's Memorandum constitutes directly
enforceable federal law that pre-empts state limitations on the filing
of successive habeas petitions.
Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh, who served as a State Department
official in the Clinton administration, expressed some concerns over the decision in a statement to National Public Radio: "If our
international allies have no assurance that we're actually going to
keep our word, then they have much less incentive to keep their word
when they're being obliged to do something." To listen to the entire NPR story, go to: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=89064847
For more information on treaty research, please see: Marci Hoffman, Researching U.S. Treaties and Agreements (LLRX, May 15, 2001) available at: http://www.llrx.com/features/ustreaty.htm
The EU is ahead in broadband penetration
The European Commission’s 13th Progress Report on the Single Telecoms
Market said that Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Luxembourg and France are ahead of the US. Why do you think they are? Take a look at the URL to the report for one possible reason.
Yale Law School Supreme Court Clinic will be heard on asylum case
On March 17, 2008, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether a person who was
compelled, against his will, to assist or take part in persecution is
barred from asylum under the "persecutor bar" at Immigration and
Nationality Act (INA) § 208(b)(2)(A)(i). Section 208 of the
Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. § 1158 provides
that the Secretary of Homeland Security or the Attorney
General may, in his discretion, grant asylum to an alien who
demonstrates that he is a refugee within the meaning of the Act. The
statutory definition of "refugee" excludes "any person who ordered,
incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in the persecution of any
person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a
particular social group, or political opinion." 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(42)(B).
If the evidence indicates that an asylum applicant persecuted any
person, he bears the burden of proving that he did not.
Negusie, caught up in the civil war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, was
drafted and forced to be a guard in an Eritrean prison, where he was
ordered to mistreat prisoners. He eventually escaped, hiding in a
shipping container on a ship bound for the United States. Despite a
finding that he was likely to be tortured if returned to Eritrea, he
was denied asylum because of his activities in the prison.
In rejecting Negusie's immigration appeal, the United States Court
of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in an unpublished decision,
determined that Negusie's intent while being compelled to assist
authorities was irrelevant. Rather, the Court's focus was "on whether
particular conduct can be considered assisting in the persecution of
civilians." Fedorenko v. U.S., 449 U.S. 490, 512 n. 34 (1981). The case opinion is Negusie v. Gonzales, 231 Fed. Appx. 325, No. 06-60193 (5th Cir. May 15, 2007) (per curiam), available at: http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions%5Cunpub%5C06/06-60193.0.wpd.pdf
The Yale Law School Supreme Court Clinic was retained to prepare a petition for certiorari and argued that the statutory
history and plain language of the INA's persecutor exception
demonstrate the Congress never intended it to apply to asylum-seekers who have been compelled under threat of torture and death to participate in persecution. See: http://www.yale.edu/supremecourtclinic/pages/cases.html
The DOJ's response is on file at: http://www.usdoj.gov/osg/briefs/2007/0responses/2007-0499.resp.html
The case will be argued during the October 2008 term.
English statutes cleaned up
In the UK, Parliament takes an axe to the laws to eliminate the archaic and obsolete laws. Article here:
"Legal clean-out purges old laws
By Michael Peel, Legal Correspondent
Published: March 19 2008 03:50 | Last updated: March 19 2008 03:50
of allegedly obsolete laws on subjects ranging from the East India
Company to servants who impersonate their masters would be scrapped
under plans before parliament.
The Ministry of Justice said the
pruning of “meaningless and defunct laws” would remove all or part of
328 acts of parliament, although it will leave in force legal oddities
such as the rights of British monarchs to the heads and tails of whales
caught off the country’s shores."
Scrutiny for a Bush Judicial Nominee
3/15/2008 - By ADAM ZAGORIN
As the top lawyer for
America's biggest private prison company, Corrections Corporation of
America (CCA), Gus Puryear IV is known to sport well-pressed preppy
pink shirts, and his brownish mop of hair stands out among most of
President Bush's graying nominees to the federal bench. A favorite of
G.O.P. hard-liners, Puryear, 39, prepped Dick Cheney for the vice
presidential debates — both in 2000 and 2004 — and served as a senior
aide to two former Senators and onetime presidential hopefuls, Bill
Frist and Fred Thompson. For more of this story, go to: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1722065,00.html
Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing website: http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearing.cfm?id=3076
Follow the nomination on THOMAS: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/nomis.html
Corrections Corporation of America's Website: http://www.correctionscorp.com/
House to Close Its Doors for Spying Bill
3/13/2008 - By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 13, 2008
WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Democratic leaders agreed Thursday to a
rare closed-door session -- the first in 25 years -- to debate
surveillance legislation. Republicans requested privacy for what they
termed ''an honest debate'' on the new Democratic eavesdropping bill
that is opposed by the White House and most Republicans in Congress. For more of this story, go to: http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Terrorist-Surveillance.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 required the
transcription of all public and closed session hearings by all House
and Senate committees. The responsibility for deciding which hearing
transcripts should be published rests with the individual House and
Senate committees. Unpublished hearings transcripts are opened for
general public access according to different schedules by the Senate
and House of Representatives for their respective committees. In the
House, unpublished hearings and records are closed for 30 years, with
investigative hearings of both the House and Senate normally remaining
closed for 50 years.
GAO Report Finds EPA Library Closures Flawed
3/13/2008 - Washington, DC – A new report by the Government
Accountability Office (GAO) finds that the Environmental Protection
Agency's (EPA) effort to close regional and research libraries around
the country has been plagued by managerial problems. The report says
that the decision to close libraries was not justified and strongly
suggests that the entire process EPA has followed in closing the
libraries is flawed and could deprive the public, EPA staff, state and
local agencies, and academics with valuable environmental data. GAO
recommends that EPA continue its moratorium on further changes to its
libraries until it takes actions to justify its decisions, improve
outreach, ensure sufficient oversight, and implement procedures for
dispersing and disposing of materials. For more of this story, see: http://science.house.gov/press/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=2127
To address these an other problems, on Thursday, March 13th, the
House Committee on Science and Technology Subcommittee on
Investigations and Oversight held a hearing titled, "EPA Library
Closures: Better Access for a Broader Audience?." The Hearing Charter
is posted on the committee website. It provides some background on the
EPA library closures and outlines five key questions to be addressed
during the hearing. These questions are:
- Did EPA Have a Plan for Maintaining Continuity of Library Services When the Plan Was Implemented in 2006?
- Did EPA Realize Budget Savings Through Implementation of Their Plan?
- Has EPA's Effort to Digitize Library Holdings Resulted in Greater Access to Library Collections?
- Did Implementation of EPA's Plan Ensure Continuity of Library
Services to EPA Employees and the Public or Improve Library Services?
- What Is The Path Forward?
For more information, see: http://science.house.gov/publications/hearings_markups_details.aspx?NewsID=2118
To send your own comments to the House Committee, see: http://science.house.gov/contact/contact_generalform.htm
Census Atlas of the United States
The U.S. Census Bureau has published its first comprehensive atlas of
population and housing since 1920. It includes more than 700 full-color
maps derived from 210 years of official Census data. While the Atlas
will be distributed to Federal Depository Libraries and will be able
for purchase from the U.S. Government Bookstore, the Bureau has also
made the entire atlas available online in PDF format for free. While
the individual chapter files are large and the data is based on the
2000 Census, paints a fascinating and dynamic portrait of the America.
The Atlas interprets population and housing data through maps organized
by: states, counties, cities of more than one million, and major
metropolitan areas of more than four million. See: http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/censusatlas/
Library of Congress Research Reports on Inherent Executive Power
The Law Library of Congress has posted several recent articles by Louis Fisher about inherent executive power in foreign relations and national security contexts.
Now this looks very useful: history meets technology, again!
It has always seemed that history is the area of research best suited
for the heavy use of technology. A new wiki on English medieval legal
documents confirms this again!
The notice of the wiki, published on the listserv of the American
Association of Law Libraries Special Interest Section for Foreign,
Comparative and International Law says, "Hazel Lord, Senior Law
Librarian at the University of Southern California School of Law has
been tirelessly working on a bibliography of published sources of
English medieval legal documents (covering the years 600-1532). What
she had thought originally would only be a few hundred sources, has
blossomed into a list of close to 1,000 sources!"
She has created a wiki for this project. The wiki can be found here: http://emld.usc.edu/tiki-index.php.
She hopes that you will take a look and participate.
Law Firms posting documents/forms
A new web site, JD Supra, offers
documents created by some law firms for reference and form.
Interesting. Firms involved include the EFF, Morrison &
Foerster, Mintz Levin, etc.
So, which State Supreme Court is the most convincing?
A recent study of citations to state supreme court opinions reveals
that the California Supreme Court is most often followed by sister
state supreme court. The New York Times article describing the study includes the following:
In the 65 years ending in 2005, more than 24,000 state high court cases have been followed at least once. California
leads with 1,260 decisions. Washington is next, with 942, and Colorado
is third, with 848. New York comes in 10th and is only about half as
influential as California, with 627 followed cases.
The study, published in the UC Davis Law Review is available here.
A $100 Million Donation to the N.Y. Public Library
New York Times
By Robin Pogrebin
Published: March 11, 2008
The New York Public Library’s venerable lion-guarded building on
Fifth Avenue at 42nd Street is to be renamed for the Wall Street
financier Stephen A. Schwarzman, who has agreed to jump-start a $1
billion expansion of the library system with a guaranteed $100 million
of his own.
Click here for more of this story.
New York Public Library's Website: http://www.nypl.org/
Mexico's Senate Approves Judicial Reform
Mexican senators on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a sweeping
judicial reform that would introduce public, oral trials and guarantee
the presumption of innocence. The Senate voted 71 to 25 in favor of the
measure, after a clause that would have let police search homes without
warrants was deleted from it.
Click here for more of this story
Official Website of the Mexican Senate: http://www.senado.gob.mx/
Hansard's Parliamentary Debates
The UK Parliament is planning to put 200 years of its debates online. All
Hansard reports from 1804 through 2004 are scheduled to be digitized
and posted. Currently, Handsard debates from November 1988 are
available at the Parliament web site.
Lawyer and Client Sanctioned $29K for Conduct During a Deposition
U.S. District Judge Eduardo Robreno of Philadelphia has tallied the
number of times Aaron Wider, the CEO of HTFC, dropped the F-word or a
variant of it in a deposition — it was 73 times — and calculated the
more than $29,000 sanction he and his lawyer Joseph R. Ziccardi should
pay. In his 44-page opinion in GMAC Bank v. HTFC Corp., U.S.
District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno found that Ziccardi was also to blame
for his client's hostile conduct because he failed to stop his client's
tirades and persuade him to answer questions.
(via The Legal Intelligencer)
Library of Congress RSS Feeds
The Library of Congress has a number of RSS feeds. Many are primarily
of interest to those headed to DC, but there are also some excellent
copyright feeds, law feeds, and other interesting feeds. A list of the
feeds with descriptions is available here: http://www.loc.gov/rss/.