Tara Calishain is the co-author of Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research, 2nd Edition, and author or co-author of four other books. She is the owner of CopperSky Writing & Research.
In This Issue:
The Latest on Legal Research
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Iowa Judicial Branch
Iowa court information is available online from its Judicial Branch site at http://www.judicial.state.ia.us . Plug a keyword into that almost unnoticeable search box in top right hand corner. Additional searching options appear after the initial query, including all or any words with partial matching and selecting which area to search.
Search results provide the sub-headings, such as Case Statements or Press Release dates, along with a brief description. Clicking on Case Statement provides more details such as the names of counsels, dates, scope of review and a general case description.
Judicial Branch offers directories of contact information state offices and operational hours of the clerk of courts offices. Viewers can register for e-mail notifications of press releases and court opinions.
On the lower portion of the page, you will find links to and descriptions of the newest additions. New releases include services and information for domestic violence victims. There is also a parental handbook for understanding Juvenile
Court and a page of resources for students at http://www.judicial.state.ia.us/students/. Lots of information here for Iowa residents.
Northwestern University’s Oyez Project, Current Justices
(http://oyez.nwu.edu/justices/justices.cgi), focuses on Justices serving on the United States Supreme Court. Justices are listed in appointment order or alphabetically. The current Justices are listed on the front page.
Each Justice name links to a portrait and overview of the person. Overviews include appointment information and professional experience with an interesting biographical sketch. You can also view a list of cases in which each Justice participated and additional online resources. That information is not on the front page, it in a series of tabs on the left side of the screen.
The same information is provided for former Justices, all the way back to John Jay who served from 1789 until 1795. Interesting site.
The Campaign Finance Information Center, at
http://www.campaignfinance.org/, is designed to aid reporters in following the campaign money trail and calculate its influence on all levels form local to national.
The center column features a new update, story, tip sheet and more each week. The blue box on the right offers a Federal Contracts Database and a Power Search database that can only be accessed by IRE members. IRE stands for Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., but it is for anyone with an interest in investigative journalism. Outside the blue box, but still in the right column, are additional training opportunities.
In the left column are some resources that’ll be useful to anyone whether they’re IRE members or not. There’s state-by-state information on campaign finance, an archive of stories and tips on campaign finance, and a link to a mailing list devoted to campaign finance reporting (the archives of that list are searchable from this page as well.)
Australian Law Online
There’s an online source for Australian law and government at
http://law.gov.au/wotl.html. The map and menu on the front page offer the Commonwealth for Australia’s Federal government information, or selecting individual state or territory governments.
Click on Commonwealth to learn more about which levels of government provides laws for which types of crimes, followed by additional online resources grouped by subject. However, the Commonwealth Legislation link in the left column provides access to Commonwealth Act and Regulations as well as bills before Parliament since 1998. It also provides explanatory statements
of Statutory rules listed by number and alphabet.
The procedure is the same for states and territories. The map or menu links to a like group on online resources sorted by the same subjects, while the State & Territory Legislation link on the left provides access to current and historical regulations, acts and ordinances. The site’s easy to browse or you can use a general keyword search — unfortunately I found that the search page per se at
http://law.gov.au/search gave me a 403 error, but the search boxes
(for example, the one at http://law.gov.au/nsw/lawtopics.html) worked fine.
Additional resources on the left include Court and Tribunal Decisions on both levels and a link to information about the Attorney-General. If you’re not comfortable with using the Internet to find information, the front page helpfully provides numbers for a family law hotline and a regional law hotline. Nice site; cleanly designed, plenty of information.
Google Offers Beta News Search
Google’s finally launched a news search. It’s in beta at http://news.google.com/. This news search scrapes 100 sources about once an hour, and allows you to search through almost seven days’ worth of material.
I liked the collection of headlines on the front page, and the summaries seemed useful and readable. But at the same time — only a hundred sources? And you can’t restrict searches to a particular time (all stories scraped in the
last day, last three days, etc.) Nate Tyler, Google’s PR Manager, tells me that Google will be adding more news sources in the future. He also reminded me that the news search is in beta and that Google welcomes feedback and feature requests from users.
That isn’t to say that this search isn’t worth it. Some of the Google syntaxes work — allintitle: finds words in the news headlines, while site: restricts your search to a particular news site. I wish allinurl: was supported instead, because then you could just enter a partial url (like BBC) instead of having to know the entire source URL.
I found the searches pretty good. I found some things I haven’t seen in AllTheWeb or RocketNews (which seems to support phrase searching now; yay!) Results include the source and the date of the site and a note if registration is required. Stories don’t appear to be cached; drat!
Considering all the news search sources that have sprung up lately, Google’s playing catch-up. It’ll be interesting to see how this site evolves over the next couple months.
New York Times Offers News Alerts
The New York Times is now offering a news alert service. Of course you will have to register to take advantage of this (registration is free) but if you are registered you can check it out at http://www.nytimes.com/mem/tnt.html. You
can specify keywords (ALL keywords, ANY keywords, or NOT INCLUDING specified keywords) with the option to specify that the keywords appear in the headline or byline only. You can also narrow an alert by newspaper section.
Once you’ve selected an alert you have the option to review it to see if there any recent articles matching your query (very handy for finding out if your search term is too general.) You’ve also got the option to specify when you
want to get alerts (when the news appear, daily alerts, or weekly alerts) as well as the subject line of the alert.
This is interesting and a great addition to The New York Times. But you only get three alerts! What a bummer.