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Friday, September 12, 2014

Lexis Advance: New Interface

On September 9th LexisNexis rolled out their new interface. Along with the new look Lexis has made new administrative code and constitutional content available to Lexis advance users.

Lexis has made a number of guides and videos available to explain the new interface here. The PDF before and after guide is particularly useful for users of the old interface.

The heart of Lexis Advance is the unified search box. You can run natural language searches across the entire Lexis database from this box. You can also limit your search to specific sources or jurisdictions. Inside the search box there is a button labeled “Filters”. This button opens the following menu:

Using this menu you can select a number of categories to include in your search. For example checking Oregon under the jurisdiction tab and Cases under the category tab will limit your search to cases out of Oregon. The filters you have applied will appear at the top of the filters window.

You can browse the database of sources from the front page as well. At the top of the home page there is a black bar that contains a button called "Browse." Clicking on it opens an interface that lets you sort through the Lexis sources by various categories. You can also search the available sources using a small search box.

One last interesting feature is the ability to change the font and text size of results across your Lexis session. If you click on the "More" button at the top of your Lexis home page you will get a list of options that includes an option for "Settings."

Once you are in the settings menu you will be presented with a number of interface options. This will include the ability to change the font and text size of displayed documents.

If you would like any further help with Lexis Advance please stop in at the State of Oregon Law Library. We are located inside the Supreme Court building in Salem. You can ask for yours truly, Lewis Zimmerman. I'd be happy to show you around the new Lexis. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

History of the Oregon State Fair

The Oregon State Fair is currently taking place at the Oregon State Fair and Exposition Grounds here in Salem. The state fair has been an ongoing tradition in Oregon since 1861. After the first fair in Oregon City it has been held in Salem for more than one hundred and fifty years.
In 1885 the Oregon State Legislature officially charged the state board of agriculture with the management of the Oregon State Agricultural Society and the State Fair.

Discussing the first fair in 1861 the Oregon Argus on September 7th stated:
We are a go-ahead people, and if we design to keep up with the people of other States, we must not forget that all improvements worth anything – of whatever character – are effected only by zeal, labor, and perseverance. Come up, brethren and sisters, to the work expected of us.

Next year, in 1862, The State Republican’s had a gloomier take on the state fair.
Of home manufactured articles on display was rather slim, but all that could be expected of a people who have depended on foreign manufactories so long that they can’t make a broom stick or an ax handle until poverty drives them to it.

The articles above are both drawn from the excellent Historic Oregon Newspapers website. I think we can agree that Oregonians today are filled with zeal and labor and are not only driven to axe handle manufacture by poverty.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

PACER Update

PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) is a distributed system that provides online access to federal court documents. On August 10th PACER announced it would be removing access to large swaths of cases from the system:

As of August 10, 2014 the following information will no longer be available on PACER:
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: Cases filed prior to CM/ECF conversion
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: Cases filed prior to March 1, 2012
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California: Cases filed prior to May 1, 2001

From now on in order to access the covered cases one will have to contact the court directly.

Why PACER removed access to case archives of five courts

The Washington Post reports that the court’s migration to a new case management system is the cause of the change.

It may be possible to access some of the removed documents through the RECAP database of PACER documents.
The RECAP project is a partnership of the Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy and the non-profit Free Law Project. It consists of a browser extension that informs you when there is a free copy of PACER documents you are browsing. If there is not a copy in the RECAP database it prompts you to share the document with the database after you purchase it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oil Train Derailments

Sitting in the State of Oregon Law Library one can hear the occasional train pass on its way to or from Portland. Many of these trains contain the black squat cars used to transport crude oil through Oregon.

Recent accidents involving oil carrying rail cars have energized state and federal regulators.
  • North Dakota oil train fire – December 31st, 2013 fire that forced the evacuation of 1,500 residents of Casselton, North Dakota.
  • Lac-M├ęgantic derailment – July 6, 2013 derailment and explosion of a freight train carrying crude oil in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The resulting fire and explosion killed 47 and destroyed roughly half of the downtown area.
  • BNSF derailment in Seattle – July 24th derailment of a train carrying crude from North Dakota. There was neither a spill nor any injuries.
Oregon governor Kitzhaber has responded with a call for more rail inspectors, improved reporting and transparency.
The federal government has primary rule making power in the United State with regard to railroad commerce and safety. The feds have initiated rulemaking changes that intend to make the transportation of oil by rail car safer.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wildfires in Oregon

In recent weeks wildfires have plagued portions of the Pacific Northwest. On July 16th Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has declared a state emergency and mobilized the Oregon National Guard. This week light rain and lowering temperatures have helped to calm the ongoing fires. Despite the recent good news about the wildfires a lot of Oregonians are threatened or affected by the ongoing crisis.
Both the Federal and State forest services put a lot of great information online. Keeping up to date on wildfires can help keep you safe. No one wants to find themselves in the danger zone of an active fire. The Following websites are great places to get up to date fire information:
  • Northwest Large Fire Map
    • Northwest Interagency Coordination Center publishes a regularly updated map of fire incidents around the Northwest. The map plots the areas of the fires and tags the fires with detailed information about their status. The map provides geographic plotting of fire extent and links to the Inciweb entries for each fire.
  • Inciweb
    • The National Wildfire Coordinating group maintains this official online database of active and inactive fires across the United States. This database is updated minute by minute with detailed data on wildfires in the United States. You can display incidents by state, age, status and type. The individual reports on incidents include a summary of the situation, contact information, a map, images and links to news releases.
The Oregon department of Forestry and the United States department of Forestry also maintain their own websites devoted to wildfires in the state.

Oregon and Federal planning for forest fires started well before the fires broke out and will continue well after they are out. Key to the efforts are the laws and regulations of the state of Oregon.
Oregonians have for decades been working on and thinking of ways to manage the great forests of our state. Here is preamble and summary of the 1925 act creating the state board of forestry.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dictionaries: Revolution and Philological Society of London

We all know there are few activities as satisfyingly conclusive as looking a word up in a dictionary. A dictionary definition is synonymous with unbiased and certain fact. Dictionaries are institutions of staid and magisterial certainty.

Nothing could be farther from the truth! Two of the most respected dictionaries in the English language are rooted in a 19th century ideological struggle that grew in part from an 18th century.

Noah Webster wrote in 1828 in the introduction to his American Dictionary of the English Language:
"It is not only important, but, in a degree necessary, that the people of this country, should have a American Dictionary of the English Language; for although the body of the language is the same as in England, and it is desirable to perpetuate that sameness, yet some differences exist. Language is the expression of ideas; and if the people of one country cannot preserve the identity of ideas that cannot retain an identity of language."

Webster himself was an ardent American nationalist and revolutionary. He was a constitutional pamphleteer and an editor of the Federalist Party newspaper. He viewed his dictionary as an active agent of American exceptionalism. Indeed in the introduction to his dictionary he wrote:
"I present it to my fellow citizens, not with frigid indifference, but with my ardent wishes for their improvement and their happiness; and for the continued increase of the wealth, the learning, the moral and religious elevation of the character, and the glory of my country."

Webster’s dictionary was not a cold and impartial arbiter of language but as a lively argument for “the glory of my country”. The dictionary had a parochial guiding vision. It denigrated references to King’s commissions and outmoded terms of nobility such as heraldry while lifting up American institutions such as land-office and selectmen.

Thirty years later the Philological Society of London would enunciate an entirely different purpose for a dictionary. In 1859 the Unregistered Words Committee published a ‘Proposal for the Publication of a New English Dictionary by the Philological Society’ which declaimed in its first principle:
"The first requirement of every lexicon is that it should contain every word occurring in the literature of the language it professes to illustrate."

It was almost thirty years until this proposal was realized in the complete Oxford English Dictionary.

This dictionary was presented to both the English King George the Fifth and the President of the United States. Though it might be noted the particular President (Calvin Coolidge) remained unnamed in the 1933 preface. The compilers of this dictionary rejected the parochialism of a national dictionary. They claimed to represent a comprehensive record of the entire language. This was the magisterial and authoritative dictionary of today’s imagination.

Yet it is important to remember that the heart of the dictionary is an argument. More it is an argument about words. Webster and the Philological Society represent two arguments in a fight over your words. In essence they are fighting over the contents of your very thoughts.

Who would have thought just picking up a dictionary could be so dangerous?

If you dare, visit the State of Oregon Law Library and take a look at copies of every edition of both the

Oxford English Dictionary and

Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Oregon and World War 1

One hundred years ago on July 28th Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia starting what would eventually be called the first world war. The war quickly escalated. By August 4th Germany had started a invasion of France and violated Belgium’s neutrality. Britain’s declaration of war on Germany followed shortly after on August 4th 1914.

When the United States entered the war on April 6th 1917 Oregon did its part in the war effort. The Daily Capital Journal reported in its April 6th issue that the Third Oregon Regiment had completed its initial muster.

Posters from the period called on Oregonians to join the armed forces. Even librarians were enlisted in the war effort!

Despite public calls for enlistment President Wilson was disappointed with the voluntary enlistment numbers. The Selective Service Act of 1917 (40 Stat. 76), which is available to view in our collection here in the Law Llibrary, initially required all males 21 to 30 to register. In 1918 the age range was expanded to males 18 to 45. By the end of the war over 2.8 million people were drafted.

Oregon contributed thousands of those registrations. The Genealogical Forum of Oregon has indexed almost 180 thousand WW1 draft registrations. They also provide copies of those registrations for a nominal fee.

Not everyone in Oregon supported the war. A well known Oregonian labor activist named Marie Equi demonstrated publicly against the war. By the start of the war Equi was already famous for aiding victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Equi was locally well known for a dispute with Reverend Orson D. Taylor in 1893 over $100 in wages. Following through on a threat she horsewhipped the Reverend in front of his real estate office. While she didn’t get the $100 from him residents of Dallas, OR auctioned off the whip for more than $100 the proceeds going to Miss Equi.

And On May 16, 1918 congress passed the Sedition Act of 1918. This act made it a crime to “willfully utter, print, write, or publish any disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of the Government of the United States” or “willfully urge, incite, or advocate any curtailment of the production" of the things "necessary or essential to the prosecution of the war."

Equi was arrested in 1918 during a demonstration at the Industrial Works of the World against the war. She was convicted on December 31 and sentenced to three years in prison. Adamn Hodges’ article “At War Over the Espionage act in Portland” (Oregon Historical Quarterly Volume 108 No. 3) is available in the Law Library and is a great place to start learning more about Marie Equi.

For a more general history Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August is a Pulitzer Prize winning book that covers the earliest stages of the war.