Monthly Archives: January 2009

Library Mini-Classes Spring Schedule

Basic Mini-Classes Spring Schedule

Wednesday, January 28th

  • 11:30-11:45 AM       What is a Treatise?
  • 2:30-2:45 PM            What is a Digest?

Monday, February 2nd

  • 11:30-11:40 AM      How to Use Thomcat

Wednesday, February 4th

  • 11:30-11:40 AM     What is a Legal Encyclopedia?
  • 12:00-12:15 PM     How to Locate a Case
  • 12:30-12:45 PM     How to Locate a Statute

Monday, February 9th

  • 11:30-12:00 AM    How to Research

Thursday, February 12th

  • 9:30-9:50 AM        Legal Trac and Hein ONLINE

Monday, February 16th

  • 11:30-11:50 AM    Additional Reference Resources

All classes will be taught at the reference librarian’s desk in the circulation/course reserve area of the 1st floor of the Law Library.  If you cannot make the time listed, check with June Mac Leod ( for additional scheduling.  These classes are between 10-20 minutes in length.


President Obama Signs Documents Promoting Transparency & Freedom of Information

On his first full day in the White House, President Obama signed two Memoranda and an Executive Order that promote openness and transparency in government by encouraging public disclosure and freedom of information.

Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government

President Obama announced that, under his Administration, government will be transparent, participatory, and collaborative.  He ordered his Chief Technology Officer, the Director of OMB, and the Administrator of General Services, to coordinate the development of recommendations for an Open Government Directive, to be issued by the Director of OMB, instructing executive departments and agencies to take specific actions implementing these principles.

Click to read the full text of the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.

Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act

President Obama reaffirmed the importance of FOIA as a prominent expression of our democratic commitment to government accountability and transparency, quoting Justice Louis Brandeis:  “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”   To “usher in a new era of open Government,” the President said that agencies should adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure in response to all FOIA requests.  He also encouraged agencies to take affirmative steps to make information public even in the absence of FOIA requests.  The President ordered the Attorney General to issue additional guidance to executive departments and agencies, in keeping with these principles.

Click to read the full text of the Memorandum on FOIA.

Executive Order on Presidential Records

President Obama revoked former President G.W. Bush’s Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001.  Former President Bush’s Order had allowed former presidents, vice presidents, and some family members to assert executive privilege, preventing release of presidential records.  The new Executive Order alters procedures in favor of disclosure, giving the National Archivist a greater role in reviewing claims of executive privilege.

Click to read the full text of the Executive Order on the Presidential Records Act.

For more on these stories:

Obama Issues Executive Orders Promoting Government Transparency, Open Records, 77 U.S.L.W. 2439.

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, On First Day, Obama Quickly Sets a New Tone, NY Times (1/21/2009).

Court Allows Attorney To Serve Documents Using FaceBook

In an interesting legal development that reflects the pervasiveness of “Web 2.0” social networking sites,  an Australian court last month approved the use of Facebook for serving a foreclosure notice to a couple defaulting on a mortgage.  Mark McCormack of Canberra law firm Meyer Vandenberg, the attorney for the lender and an avid Facebook user, told the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court that repeated attempts to serve documents at the homeowners’ last known physical address had failed.  He used the email address given on the loan application to search Facebook and discovered a page with matching personal information.  The firm issued a press release and the story was picked up by the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times among others.

Should Obama give up his BlackBerry?

Cornell law professor Michael Dorf summarizes the major issues related to President-Elect Obama’s BlackBerry use, including security concerns and Presidential Records Act compliance: All the President’s IMs: Are Federal Record-keeping Laws Out of Step With Modern Communications?

Professor Dorf goes on to ponder the nature of electronic communication itself and the documents it produces. He argues that U.S. communications law has not kept pace with the reality of today’s forms of communication and that application of archaic laws to today’s and tomorrow’s forms of communication creates distortions.

Peter Scheer, a lawyer, journalist, and executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition argues that Obama should keep using his BlackBerry for non-sensitive communications and make those communications public: Obama should keep his BlackBerry.

Meanwhile, the makers of the BlackBerry are likely enjoying the debate, basking in the free publicity: BlackBerry, Obama’s Devotion Is Priceless.

Read the Presidential Records Act at the National Archives website.

Weigh in on the debate yourself by posting your own comments below. Provide links to other articles on the topic that you find interesting or compelling.

2nd Circuit affirms ruling that NSL ‘gag order’ violates ISPs’ 1st Amendment rights; modifies lower court’s injunction

On December 15, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court (S.D.N.Y.) ruling that the nondisclosure provision of National Security Letters issued under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2709, 3511(b), constitutes a prior restraint on speech. Prior restraints are presumed unconstitutional, and the government must implement certain procedural protections, including bearing the burden of initiating judicial review of the restraints.

The Court of Appeals held the relief granted by the lower court (an injunction, stayed on appeal, enjoining the government from issuing NSLs altogether) was overly broad. The Court of Appeals limited the injunction to enjoining FBI officials from enforcing the nondisclosure requirement of section 2709(c) in the absence of Government-initiated judicial review.

Read more about the case in United States Law Week: One Aspect of NSL ‘Gag Order’ Law Altered, One Struck to Comply With First Amendment, 77 U.S.L.W. 1391.

The text of the decision may be found on the Court’s website:
John Doe Inc., et al. v. Mukasey, et al., No. 07-4943-cv (12/15/08)