Legal Research Blog



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Back after an impromptu hiatus! I came down with a really bad case of the flu last week while simultaneously traveling to Chicago for the NABE and BLI conferences, so we took an unscheduled break. But fear not — we’re back now. Consider welcoming us back by subscribing to the podcast and rating us five stars on iTunes!

1. The government isn’t psyched about the whole PRISM leaking and is responding in-kind by requesting $9 million from the government for next year to fund its “insider threat” program. This program would allow it to monitor employees with secret clearance (or above) on or off the job. The monitoring wouldn’t end at the job — the program seeks to leverage off-site social media behavior to assess risk (as well as potentially polygraphs to extirpate would be whistleblowers).

2. Check out this truly awesome piece of journalism by Brad Hearth at USA Today titled, “The ones that get away.” This is a really interesting theory about hard and fast rules in many counties across the US against extradition. Sometimes, certain cities will forego pursuing over 90% of potential felons for monetary reasons. Philadelphia in particular was called out pretty hard in the article. Interestingly, I’ve participated in quite a few teleconference motions arguments in PA where the defendant was incarcerated in a prison in another state and present by video — seems like at least a partial solution?

3. We’re linking to a sad but legally intriguing case of a Texas man who recently died of skin cancer allegedly caused by burns he received at eight years old when a then-13-year-old boy doused him with gasoline and set him on fire. 99 percent of the boy’s body was covered in burns and he died in 2011 at age 23. The attacker is now being charged with murder in adult court. Interestingly, when the crime was committed, a juvenile had to be at least 14 for a capitol murder case to be transferred into adult court, but that age was changed to 14 in 1999. It’s an interesting policy question we’ve seen show up on the podcast a few times before: do we apply the law as it existed when the act was committed, or do we use the date of the victim’s actual death to determine which law governs?

4. Dean Chemerinsky recently wrote an op/ed calling for Justices Ginsburg and Breyer to retire. And soon. According to Chemerinsky, the Justices are 81 and 79 respectively and this summer could be the last viable time a democratic president could push new Justices in for confirmation. Depending on your ideology I suspect this could either be good or bad news, but Dean Chemerinsky points to some precedent, including Roe v. Wade, that could legitimately change with another conservative Supreme Court Justice.

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!

Two Great Services that Work Great Together: Announcing HeinOnline Law Reviews on Fastcase

Last year we announced a groundbreaking partnership with HeinOnline: HeinOnline users would see hyperlinks to caselaw from Fastcase, and Fastcase users would be able to search HeinOnline databases such as law reviews, historical state statutes, acts, and attorney general opinions. The news was welcomed by fans of both services alike.  Legal tech blogger Martha Sperry said that the combination was like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, adding:

Nice to see these well-respected resources partnering to offer more to subscribers. This is a benefit to those groups that is worth noting.

The first phase of this partnership launched at the end of 2013, when Hein launched caselaw links from Fastcase.  The combination brought new functions to HeinOnline users, as caselaw citations in the system are now hyperlinked, bringing cited cases from Fastcase into HeinOnline.

Today, we’re happy to launch the second phase of this partnership, integrating HeinOnline’s extensive law review collection in Fastcase. Using your Fastcase account, you now have access to search one of the most comprehensive databases of law review articles in the world.  The HeinOnline collection includes more than 2,000 law review titles, each going back to the first page of the first volume.  It’s by far the largest collections of law reviews and law journals in the world — and starting today, you can search the entire collection in Fastcase, and subscribe to HeinOnline whenever you want at a discount.

You’ll see several new ways to search law reviews in Fastcase. If you already know which journals you want to search (or if you want to search them all), you can access the entire database of journals by hovering your mouse over the Search menu and selecting Search Law Reviews. Selecting HeinOnline Law Reviews will allow you to browse or search more than 2,000 journals, back to the first page of each.

All  journals are selected by default, but you can mix and match the ones of particular interest to your search query as well. You’re free to search using a keyword (Boolean) search or using natural language.  As with primary law searches on Fastcase, you’ll get a list of results, the most relevant paragraph of each, ranked by Fastcase’s relevance engine.

This update marks several big changes for Fastcase.  Fastcase has traditionally been a primary law service, with access to cases, statutes, regulations, court rules, constitutions, and the like.  The HeinOnline collection is a major expansion into secondary materials.  In addition, the HeinOnline law reviews are in PDF format, so there’s a new way to view documents in Fastcase.  Our PDF player is still in its early stages, so watch for upgrades in the weeks and months ahead.

In addition, this marks the first time we’ve offered suggested results in Fastcase.  Now, when you’re searching in Fastcase, in addition to standard search results, you’ll also get suggested results from HeinOnline.  The law review materials add such depth to caselaw, statute, and regulations searches, we provide them in a collapsible sidebar on the right-hand side of the page.  If you don’t care to see suggested results, simply close the panel. When you’d like to review them later, simply open the panel on any search results page.

We’re selective about the journal articles we suggest: we’ve hand-tagged each journal with the states we believe it primarily implicates. If you’re searching Pennsylvania case law, there’s a good chance the Penn State Law Review is going have articles relevant to your search, so it’ll be one of the many journals we search in that jurisdiction to suggest relevant journal results.

If you (or your firm or law school) already subscribe to HeinOnline, you can view the law review content on Fastcase at no additional charge.  If you don’t already subscribe, we make it easy to sign up on a monthly or annual basis.  Clicking on a link to a law review article will bring up the following window (at first):

If you’re a member of an organization already subscribing to HeinOnline, you can click the link to get a token and attach it to your Fastcase account. (Note that if you log into HeinOnline through a third party website, you may have to first click on that organization’s link to HeinOnline in order to authenticate your account before syncing it with your Fastcase account.) Otherwise, you’ve got two great options to subscribe to HeinOnline’s database at a substantially reduced rate.

For an individual user, for $59 per month (with no obligation to continue subscribing) or $595 per year (~16% discount), you can sign up to view and download law review articles on Fastcase for whatever period you subscribe. (Enterprise subscriptions are also available for mid- to large-sized firms.)

Once you’re authenticated and/or subscribed to HeinOnline, pulling up a journal article acts substantially like accessing any other document in Fastcase. You’ll see the actual scanned PDF displayed on the screen, which you can search or download to your machine to email or print out.

We want to emphasize that this is the first step in a multi-part rollout for secondary sources on Fastcase. In successive releases, we’ll include several other ground-breaking features, as well as  HeinOnline’s historic state statutes, acts, and attorney general opinions beyond those already offered by the Fastcase service.

These are the early steps of a progressive partnership between Fastcase and HeinOnline, designed to empower the users of both services.  Subscribers to HeinOnline and Fastcase together will have access to two powerful, unrivaled legal research experiences.  It’s two great services that work great together — like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Episode 25: Bostonian Pervert Prompts Great Civics Lesson

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It’s Friday for me, probably the weekend for you. Sounds like you don’t have a good excuse not to subscribe to the podcast and rate us five stars on iTunes.

1. The Hollywood Reporter recently published an interesting article on the case pending before the Ninth Circuit whereby the Court will consider whether the batmobile is entitled to copyright, rather than trademark or trade dress, protections. The strange argument appears to be that an inanimate object can rise to a level requiring protections as if it were a person. My favorite quote appears at the end:

If Towle is able to establish that DC has no protectable rights in the Batmobile, you should quit your job and start selling replicas of the General Lee and a decked-out DeLorean time machine.”

So if DC loses, I guess, see ya. Off to print some money by making Back to the Future DeLorean replicas.

2. @ouij points out on the subreddit that this next story is a great lesson in civics. It looks something like this: the Massachusetts legislature passed laws about 10 years ago designed make it illegal to take pervy photos. Here’s the text of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, 105(b):

Whoever willfully photographs, videotapes or electronically surveils another person who is nude or partially nude, with the intent to secretly conduct or hide such activity, when the other person in such place and circumstance would have a reasonable expectation of privacy in not being so photographed, videotaped or electronically surveilled, and without that person’s knowledge and consent, shall be punished by imprisonment in the house of correction for not more than 21/2 years or by a fine of not more than $5,000, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

The executive branch attempts to enforce a perceived violation of the law (when a man takes upskirt photos of women on the Green Line on the T). The judiciary steps in and says, nope, the statute doesn’t do what you want it to do.

The legislature comes back and within 48 hours passes a new law, already in effect, which makes recording a person’s private parts illegal “whether under or around a person’s clothing or when a reasonable person would believe that the person’s intimate parts would not be visible to the public.”

(Incidentally if you’re a Fastcase member, you can check out the indexed opinion at here.)

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 24: For $8 All Your Datas Are Belong to Me

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It’s late. I’m in the office alone trolling RSS feeds for today’s news items. Don’t you feel some kind of imperative to subscribe to the podcast and rate us five stars on iTunes?

0. As promised, I used to read the five star reviews from the Legal Geekery podcast once in a while, so I’m going to read one of ours here at TLR today — Lawstudentnyc101 rates us five stars and says, “Great podcast for a law student to get interesting legal news and stories. Quick and to the point. Keep up the good work.” Thanks for the review!

1. The Governance Lab brings to our attention Datacoup, a service claiming to be “the first personal data marketplace.” Gone are the days where third parties benefit from surreptitiously selling your behavioral data. Why not sidestep the perfunctory “I Agree” and start selling your data yourself? That’s a more sarcastic version of the sales pitch anyway. Given some of my research on the privacy habits of millennials and the state of the economy, I wouldn’t be surprised if this kind of service becomes sort of ubiquitous. I’ll be sad — don’t get me wrong — but not surprised.

2. Is service via social media going to become more common? A judge in the Eastern District of Virginia believes that service by LinkedIn, Facebook, and/or email, satisfies the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(f)(3). Insofar as the spirit of the rule is concerned, I’m getting behind this as way more likely to make someone aware of a pending court case than traditional service by publication.

3. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog posted about Florida’s Warning Shot Bill, which was just voted out of the Senate judiciary committee. The law purports to “plug a hole” in the Stand Your Ground Law whereby a person could not threaten to use deadly force, say, by firing a gun a few inches from your would-be assailant’s head. Here’s the proposed text of the bill which is really the old bill with a lot of “or threaten to use” thrown in for good measure.

4. If you’re looking at receiving a settlement contingent upon your silence, you should probably make sure your kids aren’t blabbing about it on social media. This is probably also good advice if your clients have kids as well.

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!

Episode 23: SCOTUS to Consider Right of Inmates to Bear Beards?

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It’s snowing out so I’m in my home office watching the snow fall and being thankful that I don’t have to be outside today. Would you consider warming me up by subscribing to the podcast and rating us five stars on iTunes?

1. This interesting Op-Ed piece at the Times considers whether the super wealthy should be allowed to use the judiciary in secret (for a price, of course). Specifically, it examines a 2009 law allowing litigants to essentially rent out judges and courtrooms for secret binding arbitration purposes. I can think of some good reasons for and against I’ll likely discuss in the ‘cast.

2. We talked about this on an earlier podcast, but just a follow-up that the Supreme Court of New Jersey is hearing arguments today on whether a defendant’s rap lyrics are admissible as substantive evidence. I continue to be baffled about the relevancy issue.

3. Kat Chow points us to this Slate piece urging President Obama to issue an executive order calling for a redesign of the American Passport. I sort of think it’s complaining for the sake of complaining. I dig my Passport.

4. When I moved to Florida for college (from Massachusetts where we have incredibly strict alcohol purchasing regulations) I remember having my mind blown when I learned about drive-thru liquor stores. Similarly, my mind was once again blown when I read this article about a drive-thru (okay, walk-thru) traffic ticket payment service in Pasadena. The Court claims the installation of the service window has cut down the traditionally very long wait times, but didn’t seem to offer any hard data on the reduction. Do these people have e-Ticket payment? I can pay my parking tickets in New York online in about 10 minutes even if I lose the actual ticket. I mean, not that I ever get parking tickets.

5. The Supreme Court of the United States has granted a hand-written cert petition by an Arkansas prisoner claiming that even though he’s incarcerated, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ensures him the right to grow his beard for religious purposes. LawProf Douglas Laycock from the University of Virginia filed a supplemental brief with SCOTUS pointing out that there’s a legitimate circuit split on this issue, and is now representing Mr. Holt.

As always, please take note of our subreddit at Feel free to submit stories there or vote on the stories you’d like to hear us discuss that day. You can also email us at podcast /at fastcase /dot com.

Thanks for listening!