Thursday, April 25, 2013

Good Law, Bad Bot

Today, the makers of the legal research service FastCase unveiled the Bad Law Bot, an enhancement to its Authority Check citator feature which uses algorithms to highlight subsequent negative history. Although such editorial characterization is familiar to users of the premium legal research services LexisNexis (Shepard's Citations) and Westlaw (KeyCite), this represents a major step forward for the lower-cost legal research alternative. Authority Check previously provided only a list of linked opinions which cited the original case, and always recommended that users supplement their Authority Check findings with the additional horsepower of Shepard's and KeyCite.

FastCase does still caution that the Bad Law Bot flags are no substitute for the careful analysis of a human attorney – while the presence of a negative Bad Law Bot flag likely indicates some negative subsequent history, the absence of a negative Bad Law Bot flag shouldn't necessarily be interpreted to mean "all clear." (Of course, as Duke Law's research instructors will happily remind you, this is good advice for using the premium citator services as well!) You can see a screencap of the service in action on FastCase’s announcement of the service.

FastCase is available for free to members of the North Carolina Bar Association, as well as through about 25 other state and local bar associations. Many other state and local bars provide their members with rival research alternatives, such as Casemaker and Loislaw; you can read more about all three in our library guide to Legal Research on the Web.

For help with navigating citator services on any legal research platform, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Federal Budget Research

Yesterday, the U.S. Government Printing Office announced the release of the President's Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2014. The Goodson Law Library's print copy has not yet arrived, but users can read and search the online version at FDsys or the Office of Management and Budget. And there's even an app version for mobile devices!

For news and information about the President's budget proposal as well as the competing version in the House of Representatives, visit the Center for Effective Government (formerly known as OMB Watch). This nonprofit research center provides analysis of budget proposals. CQ Weekly, a subscription database available to the Duke University community, contains regular reports on budget-related actions in Congress.

Historical budgets can be found through FDsys back to 1996 and through the Federal Reserve back to 1926. The Goodson Law Library also maintains a historical print collection of the federal budget at Documents PrEx 2.8. For assistance with locating current or past federal budgets, be sure to Ask a Librarian.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A New Source for Superseded State Codes

HeinOnline has just added a new library of State Statutes: A Historical Archive to its collection. This library contains PDF scans of historic codes from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with some materials dating back to the early 18th century.

Why is this collection important? It provides easier online access to superseded state code sections, which researchers typically must access in print or microfiche at the Goodson Law Library or through limited online availability. Superseded codes allow you to view the text of the law in force, as amended, on a particular date in time, as opposed to session laws, which provide the text of the law as originally enacted by the legislature. A single code section may contain small pieces from many different session laws, so deducing the text of a code section on a particular date from only the session laws can be a difficult and frustrating process. But if you'd like to compare for yourself, State Statutes: A Historical Archive complements HeinOnline’s existing library of State Session Laws.

Current state codes are not a part of this online collection. In addition, some historic state codes are still being digitized for this project. Current state codes are available in print in the Goodson Law Library on level 3, and superseded editions of those codes can be located in the Superseded Codes collection and/or the Microforms Room on Level 1. Current and some superseded state codes can also be found online in LexisNexis and Westlaw, with historical editions generally dating back to the early 1990s. Many legislatures also post online versions of their current codes; free superseded editions are less common but may still be available through the state legislature's website.

To locate current state codes or more recent superseded codes which are not a part of this HeinOnline library, or for help using the new HeinOnline database, be sure to Ask a Librarian.