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Moritz Law  /  Law Library  /  Opinio Juris  / December 2011


Opinio Juris - December 2011

Scroll down to read about the Miller-Rose Institute Initiative Database, National Law Journal's Forum on Legal Education, Lexis Advance's official release, remote access to Westlaw China, and Google's unofficial proximity search operator. For information about other topics, see the Moritz Legal Information Blog and the Moritz Law Library Facebook page.

Miller-Rose Institute Initiative Database

The Rose Institute of State and Local Government is now offering a freely accessible database on statewide initiatives. The database website claims to provide information on all statewide initiatives adopted by U.S. voters from the first successful initiative in 1904 to 2010. The database began as the empirical basis for Claremont McKenna professor Ken Miller's 2009 book, Direct Democracy and the Courts (view catalog information), and now serves as an online supplement. Users of the database can sort initiatives by year, state, and subject, and can view summaries of the initiative text. Information is also available on post-election challenges including corresponding case names and outcome details.

National Law Journal's Forum on Legal Education

National Law Journal recently hosted an online forum on legal education called The Law School Review. Participants included Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Irvine, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University, William Henderson of Indiana University, and others. The forum addressed topics such as skills training, the value of a law degree, curricular change, and the effect of federal loan accesibility on law students and law schools. Excerpts from the forum are available on the NLJ website as well as the complete discussion in the form of blog entries and comments.

Lexis Advance

Lexis officially released its Lexis Advance platform earlier this month following a period of beta-form access to certain users including law faculty. Lexis Advance parallels WestlawNext with a simplified, Google-like box from which users can search across all available content with post-search options for filtering results. Some of the notable features are:

  • Web searching from the Lexis Advance platform of "reliable" legal websites
  • Folder system to organize and store documents, similar to WestlawNext
  • Graphical Shepard's viewing options - "grid" view of citing cases and "map" view of a case's appellate history
  • "Legal Issue Trail" feature that lists citing cases for specific points of law discussed within a case
  • New tabs that open at various steps in the research process such as when a cited case is accessed

Note that not all of the secondary source material is yet available on Lexis Advance. Also, like WestlawNext, Lexis Advance offers native Apple applications for iPhone and iPad accessibility. Look soon for notification of a faculty session with our new Lexis representative, Tara Santarelli.

Remote Access to WestlawChina

WestlawChina is now accessible off-campus as well as on-campus. The database provides comprehensive access to current Chinese laws and regulations in both Chinese and English. The database also offers a limited number of brief articles on Chinese legal issues and a selection of model contracts such as joint-venture business contracts and international trade contracts. Case headnotes are available with links to full cases in Chinese. Thomson Reuters recently purchased another leading Chinese law database, iSinolaw, which may expand the offerings on the WestlawChina platform to include more translated court and arbitration decisions.

Google's Unofficial Proximity Search Operator

In addition to official advanced search options, Google has a proximity search operator not noted on the search engine's web pages. The operator AROUND (all caps) finds terms within a certain number of words of each other. For example, the search

deborah AROUND(3) greene

retrieves results including the term "deborah" within three words of the term, "greene." The items containing the terms within the specified proximity appear first in the results list followed by other items containing both terms. Bing has a similar operator with a slightly different form:

deborah near:3 greene

The above searches would retrieve results for "deborah greene" with or without a middle name or initial. Additional search-narrowing possibilities include official Google advanced search options like searching by file type (.pdf, .doc, .ppt, etc.) and within a certain website or domain type (.edu, .gov, .org, etc.). Access the advanced search page by clicking the gear symbol at the upper right of the Google main page.