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Research & Litigation

Library of Congress’ website for federal legislative information transitions from to

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Wed, 07/02/2014 - 6:00am
In the spirit of Thomas Jefferson, legislative information has been made available to the public online by the Library of Congress, originally through its website THOMAS, and now through its new site, still in beta form, .

THOMAS was launched in 1995 at the behest of the 104th Congress. It was a joint project between the Library of Congress and the Center for Intelligent Information Retrieval (CIIR) at the University of Massachusetts, giving us a special local connection.

Since 1995, the scope of the material that THOMAS provided access to continually expanded. According to the Library of Congress, however, THOMAS “has been updated over the years, but its foundation can no longer support the capabilities that today’s internet users have come to expect, including access on mobile devices. Using best practices for retrieving and displaying information, the refined user friendly system makes finding and using legislative information more intuitive, comprehensive and accessible than the existing system.” Beginning Nov.19, 2013, users of THOMAS have been redirected to The plan is to retire THOMAS in late 2014.
Categories: Research & Litigation

150th Anniversary of Yo-Semite Valley Land Grant

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 4:16pm

If Memorial Day marked the beginning of summer when I was young, then summer marked the time when the family would visit our local national parks and monuments such as Bandelier and Carlsbad Caverns.  Indeed, summer marks the time when millions of Americans visit state and national parks, forests and monuments.  June 30 of this year marks the 150th anniversary for one of our most famous national parks, Yosemite.  So what was happening in the United States 150 years ago when the park was first established?

June 1864 was a pivotal time in the American Civil War.  General Ulysses S. Grant was overseeing the Overland Campaign against the troops under Robert E. Lee; General Sherman had begun his campaign against Atlanta; and early in June President Lincoln was renominated by his party to run for his second term.  Congress was engaged in passing legislation to help in the war effort.  For example, on July 1, 1864, they passed an act “to provide for the efficiency of the navy.”  At the same time, they were looking forward and on June 30, 1864, Congress passed “An Act authorizing a Grant to the state of California of the ‘Yo-Semite Valley,’ and of the Land embracing the ‘Mariposa Big Tree Grove.’”  This land was granted under the express condition that California should hold the land open for “public use, resort and recreation.”

On October 1, 1890, Congress set aside certain tracts of land in California as forest reservations but noted “nothing in this act shall be construed as in anywise affecting the grant of to the State of California of the Yosemite Valley, and of the land embracing the Mariposa Big-Tree Grove.”  In 1901, Congress granted rights of way through certain parks and public lands including Yosemite.   These rights were granted for electrical power, telephones and telegraphs, canals and ditches, water plans and dams, and cutting of timber.  These rights of way are still in force today and can be found in the United States Code, Title 16, section 79.

Then in 1905, Congress excluded certain lands from the Yosemite National park and attached these lands to the Sierra Forest Reserve.  This law can also be found in the United States Code, Title 16, section 46.  But in 1984, in section 105 of Public Law 98-425, Congress added additional lands to Yosemite: “certain lands which comprise … ‘McCauley Ranch Addition.’”

Serendipitously, I went to a meeting in the Adams Building of the Library of Congress earlier this month and discovered myself at the Yosemite Conference Room!

Photograph by Andrew Weber

Which also included a map of the park.

Photograph by Andrew Weber


Categories: Research & Litigation

v.. Decided 07/01/2014

US Supreme Court - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 3:00pm
Categories: Research & Litigation

Did you read the Supreme Court's decision, ABC v. Aereo? Will this impact the future of cloud computing?

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Tue, 07/01/2014 - 2:01am
Were you following the copyright case involving Aereo? What did the Supreme Court judges say and how will their decision impact the future of cloud computing?
In a 6 to 3 decision issued on June 25th, 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that Aereo had violated copyright laws by capturing broadcast signals on miniature antennas and transmitting them to subscribers over theInternet for a fee. Subscribers that logged on to watch or record a program were assigned a different antenna, and according to a June 30th Wall St. Journal, this meant no two customers were watching the same copy of a program.
Do you have a Law Library card? If you do, you can read the following articles via the Retrievelaw database:
·       Aereo and Cablevision: How Courts are Struggling to Harmonize the Public Performance Right with Online Retransmission of Broadcast Television by Sam Mendez at 9 Washington Journal of Law, Technology & Arts, Issue 3, Winter 2014
·       Aereo and Copyright’s Private – Public Performance Line at 162 University of Pennsylvania Review Online 205 (2013-2014)
·         “A Million Little Antennas: The Second Circuit’s Decision in WNET, Thirteen v. Aereo, Inc. and the Next Great United States Supreme Court Copyright Battle” at 16 Tulane Journal of Technology and Intellectual Property by Sebastian Wyatt Novak
You can also access the following Nolo ebooks with your Law Library card:
·         Copyright Handbook
·         Patent, Copyright & Trademark
Don’t have a Law Library card yet? Here are some articles that might peak  your interest:
·        A letter to Aereo’s consumers from its founder and Chief Executive, Chet Kanojia stating the company was temporarily suspending its operations following the Supreme Court’s ruling.
·         Cloud confusion sparked by Aereo ruling’s ‘guilt by resemblance’
·         Aereo Suspends Service after U.S. Supreme Court ruling
Thinking about getting a Law Library card? Click on this link for our locations and hours of operation.

Categories: Research & Litigation

v.. Decided 06/30/2014

US Supreme Court - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 8:00pm
Categories: Research & Litigation

New Recommended Formats Specifications

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 2:42pm

The Library has just released its new Recommended Format Specifications, a more current set of specifications for “identifying preservable content.”

Library staff, including subject matter and technical experts, joined the team led by Ted Westervelt, head of acquisitions and cataloging for U.S. Serials – Arts, Humanities & Sciences at the Library of Congress, so they could apply their knowledge of preservation, patron needs, specialized content, and publishing and market trends. Team members included Law Library staff, who brought the perspective of the Law Library’s collection needs.

The team met to develop the specifications that would “serve as a set of hierarchies of the physical and technical characteristics of creative formats.” The specifications are designed to complement, not replace or supersede, the Copyright Office’s Best Edition Statement, which the Library uses to select the formats wanted for the collections. The Best Edition Statement has few references to digital formats and is a bit outmoded in its description of analog formats; the intent is for these specifications to aid with those gaps. The team also took guidance from the Sustainability of Digital Formats guidelines and current collection policy statements when designing the specifications for its users.

There are two intended audiences for these specifications: internal users, specifically library staff involved in dealing with acquisitions; and external users, including members of the creative, publishing, media, business, archival and creative communities.  These users can consult the technical specifications for content created in the following categories:

  • Textual Works and Musical Compositions
  • Still Image Works
  • Audio Works
  • Moving Image Works
  • Software and Electronic Gaming and Learning
  • Datasets/Databases

Most of these categories are broken into subsets, for example: Textual works—print; Photographs—digital; Audio-media independent (digital). The subsets are more finely organized by formats and attributes. The subsets have categories of “preferred” and “acceptable” material within those groupings.

Keeping stuff safe.  [Photo by Harris & Ewing. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.]

To keep the specifications current, work on them will remain an ongoing process. Each spring, permanent technical teams will meet to review the specifications for currency and take into account internal and external feedback given by its users. Each June 30, the Library will issue an updated copy of the Recommended Format Specifications that will remain in force for a full year.

Legal material and texts are increasingly published in digital formats. The new specifications will not resolve all questions related to the preservation of these newly appearing formats but should serve as a compass for content creators and users. When selecting and preserving legal materials, the Law Library staff will find these specifications a practical tool. Creators and users of legal materials should find them useful as well, and hopefully will shape the specifications to enhance their relevance by commenting thoughtfully and often. Doing so will keep help legal content freely accessible in future.

If you have questions about the Recommended Format Specifications, please visit its Resources page for more detailed information and points of contact.

Categories: Research & Litigation

No Gorillas allowed in the back seats of cars?

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 2:00am
Every once in a while, someone publishes a list of weird or silly laws that were once on the books in Massachusetts, or still are. A recent article from May 2014, for example, repeats some of these silly laws, such as "All men must carry a rifle to church on Sundays", or "In Boston, it's illegal to bathe unless your doctor gives you a prescription", or, most memorably, "No gorillas are allowed in the back seats of cars".  ("OK, well then how about in the front seat?", one might ask.) 

While some silly laws really existed or still do, articles such as these rarely cite where a particular law may actually be found in the present Massachusetts General Laws, or in any previous laws going back to colonial times. This is partly due to journalistic laziness, or simply the desire to be humorous without actually believing that there is or ever was such a law.  Many articles may be found online that repeat the Massachusetts "gorilla in the back seat" law, yet none cites the chapter and section of the law, because there is none. The gorilla law is, unfortunately, an urban myth.  We are not quite sure when or how it started.  

A diverting article from Boston Magazine in 2002, "My Short Happy Life in Crime", about one man's experience with some of Massachusetts' silly laws, mentions his failed attempt to locate the gorilla law. 

It is possible that the misunderstanding began when someone read the first part (only) of Massachusetts General Law ch. 90 s.22H, which reads:  "No person shall transport an animal in the back of a motor vehicle in a space intended for a load on the vehicle on a public way unless such space is enclosed or has side and tail racks to a height of at least 46 inches extending vertically from the floor, the animal is cross tethered to the vehicle, the animal is protected by a secured container or cage or the animal is otherwise protected in a manner which will prevent the animal from being thrown or from falling or jumping from the vehicle."  (Red highlights are mine.)

Ignoring all mention of a requirement for an enclosure, or the portion of the vehicle (presumably a truck) intended for a load, one could then simply extrapolate from the word "animal" and substitute the word "gorilla", to make for a hilarious sounding, but supposedly true law.

The current law may derive, in part, from the Revised Laws of Massachusetts (published in 1902), ch. 52, s. 16: "Whoever leads or drives a bear or other dangerous wild animal or causes it to travel upon or be conveyed over a public way unless properly secured in some covered vehicle or cage shall be punished by a fine of not less than five or more than twenty dollars."

This was from a time, of course, when most vehicles were not motorized; and unlike the present law, it only covers “dangerous wild animals”, not pets such as dogs. (We might assume that a gorilla is a dangerous wild animal.)

Both Massachusetts and federal laws regulate the importation, transportation, and possession of endangered species, and the gorilla is listed by the federal government as an endangered species.  You may see the complete list of endangered species at 50 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations) 17.11.   Massachusetts does not list the gorilla specifically,as it is not native to Massachusetts, but M.G.L. c.131 s.23 lists wild animals that may not be owned without a permit, and 321 CMR 9.02(c), on Exotic wildlife, states that: "Any vertebrate taxa not listed in 321 CMR 9.02 shall be presumed to be wild, and shall be subject to provisions of M.G.L. c.131."
In other words, since the gorilla is both a wild and endangered species, you may not have one as a pet.  (Zoos are exempt from restrictions against owning endangered species.)  

But what if the gorilla is not owned by you?  If you happen to find yourself with a free gorilla, can you drive with it in your car?
No, even then, transporting a gorilla would be subject to federal law  9 CFR 3.87 on the transportation of nonhuman primates (NHP), requiring a separate, specially designed enclosure for the nonhuman primate. (You would also need a permit.)

Therefore, your choices are limited.  
If you happen to find yourself in a car with a gorilla, your best bet to avoid a fine would be to exit the vehicle.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Lending of Ebooks by Public Libraries

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Sun, 06/29/2014 - 1:30pm
The still evolving landscape of Ebook library lending was covered in an informative article, full of facts and discussion of different points of view and interests, by Adam Vaccaro, staff writer, on June 27th, 2014 ("Why It's Difficult for Your Library to Lend Ebooks").

See also our webpages: "Welcome to the MA eBook Pilot Project" and "Ebooks: Massachusetts Court Rules and Documents."
Categories: Research & Litigation

A Walking Tour of St. Elizabeths Hospital

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 9:00am

In May, I  took a walking tour of the western campus of St. Elizabeths (there is no apostrophe) hospital in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The tour was hosted by the D.C. Preservation League. The hospital is situated high above the city, providing the panoramic view you see pictured below. Dorothea Dix, an advocate for the mentally ill and  personal friend of President Fillmore, lobbied Congress for an appropriation to provide a mental health hospital for members of the armed forces and residents of the District of Columbia. Dix and Fillmore personally scouted sites around the city before settling on what was then a piece of farmland that was chosen for its tranquil setting. The hospital commenced operations in 1855 under the name ” The U.S. Government Hospital for the Insane.”

St. Elizabeths Center Building. This building once housed Ezra Pound and Richard Lawrence.

During the Civil War, the hospital hosted wounded soldiers who were  reluctant to tell their loved ones that they were writing from “The U.S. Government Hospital for the Insane.” Instead, they referred to the hospital as “St. Elizabeths,” the colonial-era name for this tract of land.  The hospital’s name was officially changed to St. Elizabeths in 1916. The hospital treated several famous patients over the course of its operations, including Richard Lawrence, the attempted assassin of Andrew Jackson, and the poet Ezra Pound. The western campus is under consideration as the new headquarters for the Department of Homeland Security (D.H.S.). Our knowledgeable tour guide, a General Services Administration employee, provided insight into the painstaking efforts necessary to preserve the integrity of this historic site while making the site suitable and secure for the needs of the D.H.S. The eastern campus is owned by the District of Columbia and still operates as a psychiatric hospital in a modern structure.

A view of Washington, D.C. from St. Elizabeths

Categories: Research & Litigation

U.S. Supreme Court Strikes Down Massachusetts Clinic Buffer Zone Law

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 7:30am
Yesterday the Supreme Court decided unanimously in McCullen, et al. v Coakley, striking down the Massachusetts Buffer Zone Law.  The 2007 law had instituted a 35 foot perimeter rule for abortion protesters at the entrances to clinics.  The Court said that the law too heavily restricted the free speech rights of abortion opponents in a public way who wanted to talk to people entering the clinics.

Attorney General Martha Coakley said that she would work with the Legislature, Governor and advocates to ensure women safe access to reproductive health care that also meets the requirements of the Supreme Court.  The opinion states that the Commonwealth must find other ways to preserve safety, access and stop harassment at the clinics. 
Categories: Research & Litigation

Cell phone privacy

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 7:57am
The U.S. Supreme Court  ruled yesterday in Riley v. California that law enforcement cannot search a person's cell phone without a  search warrant. The unanimous decision disagreed with the argument that there should be no difference between smartphones and legally searchable "pocket litter" such as wallets, cigarette wrappers and address books.  The decision not only protects all of the personal data that may be stored on a person's smartphone, but it also prohibits the police from looking at a suspect's recent calls without a warrant or some other immediate danger.
Categories: Research & Litigation

Expanded Health Plans for Transgender Patients

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Thu, 06/26/2014 - 7:30am
Massachusetts on Friday became the third state in the nation to cover transgender medical services, including gender reassignment surgery, as a standard benefit in its government health plan for lower-income and disabled people.

The administration of Governor Deval Patrick also moved to prohibit private insurers from denying coverage for gender reassignment surgery or other treatments medically necessary for patients who are transgender, saying that would constitute sex discrimination.
The Patrick administration will strongly recommend similar reforms to the Group Insurance Commission, which provides coverage for thousands of state and municipal employees and their dependents.       

For more information on gender issues visit our page Massachusetts Law About Gender Identity or Expression 
Categories: Research & Litigation


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