Saturday, March 10, 2018

Do you have digital assets in your Texas estate?

The Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act was added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 400 (S.B. 1193), Sec. 1, effective September 1, 2017.

Digital assets are electronic records in which someone has a personal interest or right. They include electronic communications and records such as emails, text messages, online photographs, documents stored in a cloud, electronic bank statements, and other electronic communications or records. The advent of certain technologies has created challenges, particularly to a person who is tasked with managing the digital assets of someone who has either lost capacity or died.

The purpose of the Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act is twofold. 

Fiduciaries Have Legal Authority
First, it provides fiduciaries the legal authority to manage digital assets and electronic communications in the same manner that they manage tangible assets and accounts. Further this act specifies when a fiduciary may access the content of digital assets and electronic communications, and when only a catalog of the property is permitted to be accessed. 

Custodians Are Granted Immunity from Liability for acts or omissions in Good Faith
Second, it provides custodians of digital assets and electronic communications the legal authority they need to interact with the fiduciaries of their users while honoring the user's privacy expectations for his or her personal communications. A custodian is granted immunity from liability for acts or omissions done in good faith compliance with the provisions of this bill.

The full text of this statute is located here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

SWALL Inside Books Project

Heather Holmes, Assistant Law Librarian at the Harris County Law Library, is organizing a book donation at the SWALL annual meeting in Houston this April. For those of you attending and interested in donating, here is a link with additional information.

From information provided in the link: "Inside Books Project is an Austin-based community service volunteer organization that sends free books and educational materials to prisoners in Texas. Inside Books is the only books-to-prisoners program in Texas, where over 140,000 people are incarcerated. Inside Books Project works to promote reading, literacy, and education among incarcerated individuals and to educate the general public on issues of incarceration."

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Texas Supreme Court Discusses the Perils of Relying on Wikipedia

As I was skimming for cases discussing libel and the TCPA (Texas Citizens Participation Act), I stumbled into D Magazine Partners v. Rosenthal, No.15-0790, 2017 WL 1041234 (Tx. Sup. Ct. March 17, 2017). Some readers may have heard of this case because it concerns D Magazine and their publication of a local interest story. The gist of this story, and the subsequent libel case, revolves around an article published by D Magazine identifying the plaintiff as the “The Park Cities Welfare Queen.” The article contains an investigation of the plaintiff and provides evidence that she may be abusing public benefits while living in a wealthy part of Dallas etc.

Where does Wikipedia tie in? Well, apparently the Court of Appeals relied heavily on Wikipedia for the definition of “welfare queen.” As the Tex. Sup. Court states: “Essentially, the [Court of Appeals] used the Wikipedia definition as the lynchpin of its analysis on a critical issue.” Id. at 6. The Court took issue with this heavy reliance and spent significant space discussing their concerns with relying on Wikipedia for a critical issue. This sums up their concern:

“Of the many concerns expressed about Wikipedia use, lack of reliability is paramount and may often preclude its use as a source of authority in opinions. At the least, we find it unlikely Wikipedia could suffice as the sole source of authority on an issue of any significance to a case.”

Id. at 5. It did not end there. Justice Guzman drafted a separate concurrence “to emphasize the perils of relying on Wikipedia.” Id. at 10 (Guzman, J., concurring). There are a lot of nuggets worth including here, so I will pull out a few and present them next.

Both the majority and Justice Guzman acknowledge the usefulness of Wikipedia throughout, but they caution against reliance: “Wikipedia has many strengths and benefits, but reliance on unverified, crowd-generated information to support judicial rulings is unwise.” Id. at 10 (Guzman, J., concurring).

Justice Guzman even quotes Wikipedia’s warning against citing as a “damning indictment”: “As Wikipedia states more pointedly, “Wikipedia is a wiki, which means that anyone in the world can edit an article, deleting accurate information or adding false information, which the reader may not recognize. Thus, you probably shouldn't be citing Wikipedia.” Id. at 11 (Guzman, J., concurring) (emphasis not added).

Justice Guzman concludes with this, which looks like it could have been written by a librarian: “…in my view, Wikipedia properly serves the judiciary only as a compendium—a source for sources—and not as authority for any disputed, dispositive, or legally consequential matter.” Id. at 13 (Guzman, J., concurring).

It is nice to have the weight of the Texas Supreme Court on your side when you caution against Wiki reliance to your library’s patrons. For additional information about this case, you can read this article at Law 360 by Nicholas Sarokhanian.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

All Things Texas!

In case you missed the announcement, the Texas State Law Library has made Texas statutes electronically available with complete coverage from 1879 to 1984!

Read more at the Texas State Law Library's website:

Historical Texas statutes are not the only exciting thing happening right now in Texas.

If you've headed over to the Texas State Fair, check out this older, but interesting blog post from the Dallas Public Library about the Fair:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

It's Not Just Legal Research -- Check Alerts & Analytics Too!

Numerous articles have been written lately about the differences in relevant results pulled back in various legal research databases (e.g. Robert Ambrogi's recent article and Susan Mart's research that really kicked off this discussion). That may just be the tip of the iceberg. In closely examining the resources you already have or those that you're trialing, you may soon discover more discrepancies than you'd expect when making apples to apples comparisons. Docket litigation alerts and even those trendy analytics that we can't seem to get enough of are at least two additional areas where more critical evaluation is needed.

New Litigation Docket Alerts
Back in April, I evaluated and compared two weeks' worth of patent alerts from six different resources. After examining well over 250+ cases, the results were quite surprising to me. Only two of the resources included all of the patent infringement cases and one of these, while including the relevant cases, did not always have the patent infringement cause of action indicated. Three of the six resources missed over ten cases in that two-week time period. The lowest performer of these resources missed seventeen cases! Some of the cases that were missing had both trademark and patent infringement causes of action, others just simply did not include your run-of-the-mill patent infringement case. My hypothesis is that this happens because of the nature of suit limitations on the civil cover sheets filed in federal district court cases:

Unless the various vendors have diligent people parsing through the filings (clue: it's not the vendors charging an arm and a leg) or their technology is such that they're capturing every cause of action, our attorneys may be missing cases that they (and perhaps some information professionals) assume are coming through. I've noticed too that at least one of the databases will miss cases in the alerts, but then eventually go back and tag those cases correctly. While helpful in conducting analytics later, it still misses the point of being able to count on these alerts for business development purposes and making sure we can keep our clients informed of new litigation of interest to them.

I recently decided to evaluate three resources on their analytics of patent cases filed within a certain time period in federal district courts and for certain companies (and making sure to take into account company subsidiaries, etc.). This would seem like a fairly straightforward exercise considering I was looking at data within the past two years and all three resources indicate that they have this coverage. Once again the discrepancies are disconcerting. While two of the resources were pretty close in their numbers, one resource was significantly off and clearly missing relevant cases. Try a similar search with analytics for judges too and you're likely to be surprised. It's easy enough to foresee this playing out in a less commonly-filed motion, where one database has identified four motions as having been granted and one denied, leading one to believe on initial glance that the motion will probably be successful in front of a judge, whereas another database has identified that there are actually a total of seven motions - four granted, two denied, and one granted-in-part/denied-in-part. What looked like a likely outcome for the client, doesn't look like such a sure win now.

Law Librarians & Information Professionals to the Rescue
This is a great opportunity for us to make sure we're asking questions of the vendors and comparing databases against each other so that when they claim to have the same scope and coverage of information, when we run a search, we're getting results that make sense. This isn't limited to the patent infringement arena either. I've seen it in securities products as well. The underlying issue here is really information literacy. Most of our attorneys are going to assume that we've evaluated and chosen reliable and accurate resources that have the coverage for their needs. Have we evaluated our resources to know that this is the case? With all of the analytics products coming out, do we emphasize in our training sessions with our attorneys that if possible they should be comparing analytics within the databases that track the same data or at least taking a deep-dive into the analytics when they're relying on it for an important strategic decision for a client's case? It would be great to have one go-to place for all of our analytics needs, but we're not there yet. 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Big Change on Now the default search operator is AND instead of OR

June 26, 2017 is the date it all changed.
Your search results may be more relevant on the website because the space between two search terms now uses the AND operator instead of the OR operator.

Before June 26, 2017 the space between the two search search terms meant OR, providing many results that may not have been relevant. Red Blue meant Red OR Blue.

Going forward from June 26, 2017, the search terms are joined because the space means AND. In other words, Red Blue means Red AND Blue.

You may still use the OR operator if you need to expand the results.

The Venn Diagram illustrates the two concepts.
When you search Red Blue, you get the darker portion of the Venn Diagram, or the UNION of the two circles. But, if you search Red OR Blue, you get the symmetric difference of the two circles minus the darker portion.

Practical Example as of June 30, 2017
If you search affordable care on, the results set will be 212. But if you search affordable OR care, the results set will be 1,224. The default for a space is AND.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Dallas City Code Online

The Dallas City Code is online, which saves you time in finding the general language of an ordinance. 

However, if you need historical information you might want to try the 7th floor of the Dallas Public Library (Dallas History and Archives) or the 6th floor (Urban Information). 

If your practice includes a lot of city ordinance work, you might want to consider owning a printed copy.

To reach the online version, use this URL.

Here you will find links to the various chapters.

City Charter
City Code - Volumes 1 - 3
City Code - Volume 4 Chapter 51P is located at the City Attorney's website.
City Construction Code is located at the Building Inspection Site
City Council Rules of Procedure.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Online Brexit Resources

The Berkeley Library has created a sound resource collection about BREXIT.

An excerpt for your review...

"Developments surrounding the "Brexit" or vote on the Referendum of the United Kingdom's Membership of the European Union are evolving.  At present most research has been published by think tanks and governments.  Some coverage can be also be found in academic journals from the UK such as International Affairs and Political Quarterly
The European Documentation Centre at Cardiff University has excellent guides to the Brexit Debate as well as several other published Brexit Information guides.  The British Library also has a EU Referendum Information Guide." 

Friday, December 16, 2016

What skills should the new Register of Copyrights have?

Today's question is, "What skills should the new Register of Copyrights have?"

An online survey will run from December 16, 2016 through January 31, 2017. 

Your input will be reviewed and inform development of knowledge, skills, and abilities for fulfilling the Register position. 

The link to the survey is 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Battling Overconfidence in Law Students

Because of the Google-like interfaces of most major databases, the students I work with often approach the database like they are looking for an answer to a question in Google. They open up Westlaw, search for something like: motion to dismiss Texas, get tons of results, and stumble through them. Yet, because this shotgun-to-mosquito approach yields results, they ultimately overestimate their confidence.

I recently read an article* suggested to me by fellow DALL Member Ed Hart. It discusses an appropriately titled “Shock and Awe” technique to teaching legal research. The idea being that one way to combat pervasive overconfidence in law students is to provide an uber-challenging research problem that will almost surely cause them to fail. In effect, this “shock and awe” approach often happens to law students when they start interning somewhere. They are given a research assignment, and they don’t know where to begin; they are stuck in “find a case” mode. In fact, a summer of struggles is one of the more common precursors to law students taking an elective Advanced Legal Research course.

One of the ways that I create challenging problems is by intentionally using plain English terms in a question, although the subject is discussed in resources using more refined legal terminology. For example, recently I wanted students to locate practice materials that discuss emancipation of a minor, but I asked them to find a secondary source that will help an attorney needing to advise a young teenager that wants the same rights as an adult. Perhaps I am hiding the ball, but this will also help them prepare for encountering members of the public that will not use proper legal terminology when seeking legal advice.

The “shock and awe” approach is a good way to battle overconfidence, but at the same time, I don’t want to go so far as to become discouraging. I am happy to hear from librarians that have suggestions for “shock and awe” questions that they have encountered when working with new associates or any other related experiences that you would like to share.

* Karen Skinner, The “Shock and Awe” Approach to Legal Research: Helping Students to Understand Their Research Deficiencies So That They Are Better Prepared to Learn Legal Research, 23 Persp: Teaching Legal Res. & Writing, Fall 2014, at 47.