The United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued a forceful report this week on the human rights record of the United States under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The report is linked here.
The committee’s “concluding observations” included 22 numbered sections detailing areas of concern and recommendations. These included topics that have been commented on frequently (NSA surveillance and privacy rights, the death penalty, targeted killings by drones and racial profiling) and a range of other concerns (from voting rights and the “criminalization of homelessness” to non-consensual psychiatric treatment and domestic violence). The report includes recommendations in all of these areas; and calls on the United States, among other things, to report on its compliance with several of the HRCs’ recommendations within one year, and to provide information on implementation of all the recommendations in its next periodic report, five years from now.
The HRC is one of the “treaty bodies” (or panels of experts) that receives reports from member states on their obligations under international human rights conventions. After receiving the member state’s report and hearing from, e.g., human rights and other “civil society organizations” about that state’s compliance or non-compliance with the convention, the treaty body issues its “Concluding Observations,” in which it states its principal matters of concern and recommendations.
Other UN treaty bodies include, e.g., the Committee Against Torture, which monitors implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment; and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
In addition to the treaty bodies, the UN’s human rights apparatus includes the Human Rights Council, a body of 47 UN member states elected by the General Assembly and based in Geneva that coordinates human rights activities for the UN; and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the part of the UN’s Secretariat, or permanent bureaucracy, that works to advance human rights by, e.g., speaking out on human rights issues, coordinating activities with human rights organizations and other UN bodies and providing assistance to national governments.
One of the most challenging things when you are in a busy practice is keeping current with key developments in your practice area. The library subscribes to two services that are heavily used in the practice community: BNA and Law360.
BNA – this is the oldest service with the widest coverage. It tracks decided cases, regulatory developments and practice news generally. You can have an e-mail delivered to your account either daily or weekly depending on the topic.
Law360 – this is a more recent service that is heavily used by litigators. It tracks current litigation and decided cases in a number of legal practice areas.
Lexis and Westlaw also offer numerous newsletters in various practice areas that you can create an alert for and have sent to your e-mail.
Another way to keep up with legal developments for free is to create a Google Alert for a blog search. Google allows you to search only blogs and these are probably the easiest way to keep current in obscure areas that only one lawyer might be interested in.
The resources that you can use to monitor a case at the Supreme Court include free and subscription services that are available to BU Law students. One of the most high profile cases in the Court’s current Term is NLRB v. Noel Canning, involving the President’s power to make recess appointments without the consent of the Senate.
To learn about the case, including the most current information, consider availability of these, among other sources:
- the transcript of the oral argument, posted to the Court’s website within hours of the argument on Jan. 13
- the docket for the case, 12-1281, updated to the present, also from the Court
- Lyle Denniston’s same-day coverage of the oral argument on SCOTUSBlog
- from SCOTUSBlog’s Merits Briefs section, more extensive news coverage and links to all the briefs filed in the case
- coverage of the case on United States Law Week, including a detailed story following the oral argument (Kerberos password required)
When the Court releases its opinion, probably in the Spring, these sources and many others will provide access to the full text. For a same-day announcement of this and other SCOTUS cases, you might consider signing up for the Supreme Court Bulletin, a service of Cornell’s Legal Information Institute.
For more SCOTUS resources, see our research guide on court documents; or check out our guide to current awareness tools for links to other updates and news sources.
The ABA Journal recently posted its 7th annual “Blawg 100,” a selection of the top 100 law-related blogs. The ABA site lists the winners by topic and alphabetically.
Along with many blogs that have been selected before, new picks include:
- Center for Law and Religion Forum (hosted by St. John’s University, this blog highlights news related to law and religion, “taking seriously varied religious traditions rather than mocking them or treating them in a lowest-common-denominator fashion”)
- JD Careers Out There (hosted by legal recruiter Marc Luber, the blog focuses on alternative career paths for lawyers, with text and video content from numerous JDs and tips and advice on law school and career topics)
- Legally Weird (this site defines its mission as locating “the strangest and most ridiculous current events with a legal angle”; from FindLaw)
- Ponzitracker (as the name suggests, this blog tracks news on Ponzi schemes; it also provides links, suggested readings and more)
You may notice that some familiar titles, maybe some of your favorites, are not on this year’s list. That could be because those blogs are among the select group–such as Above the Law and the Volokh Conspiracy–that have been added (in 2012 or 2013) to the Blawg 100 Hall of Fame.
To find other law blogs, consult the ABAJ’s Blawg Directory, the legal blog archive from the Law Library of Congress, or Justia’s BlawgSearch feature.
It’s that time of year when opinionated lists of the year’s best books appear. If you are shopping for holiday gifts, looking for something good to read over the winter break, or just like books, here are a few online places (among others) to look:
As noted in articles today in the New York Times, the Boston Globe and other sources, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action that could lead to a ban of use of trans fatty acids (trans fat) in processed foods sold in the U.S. FDA notes CDC estimates that eliminating trans fats in partially hydrogenated oils in the diet “could prevent up to 20,000 cases of coronary heart disease (CHD) and up to 7,000 deaths annually.”
A statement from Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, explains FDA’s administrative action and next steps:
Because of the evidence linking trans fats to an increase in the risk of heart disease, however, FDA has preliminarily determined that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer GRAS [generally regarded as safe] for any use in food. We are providing a 60-day comment period to ask for additional information. If, after reviewing the comments and scientific information submitted, FDA makes the final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not GRAS and are not otherwise authorized for use in food, such oils become unapproved food additives. That would make their use unlawful unless a company or other petitioner could prove to FDA that one or more specific uses are safe under the “reasonable certainty of no harm” safety standard.
A Notice (request for public comments and scientific data) is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register tomorrow. (See the Notice here.)
Existing FDA regulations require including information on trans fat content in food labels. However, as Taylor’s statement acknowledges, for foods containing less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving, the regulations direct that the label indicate zero (0) grams of trans fat. Thus, consumers purchasing foods with labels indicating no trans fat still may be consuming trans fat in amounts up to .5 grams per serving.
At present, FDA states it has “no plans” to adjust the food labeling regulations; however, the agency notes that “the preliminary determination [announced today] would result in a lowering of actual [trans fat] levels in foods.”
You’ve probably familiar with TED Talks, among other sources of informative video content via Internet. Although TED defines its mission as spreading ideas by bringing together people from the worlds of technology, entertainment and design, many TED Talks explore or implicate legal and law-related issues–from human rights to intellectual property, from money in politics to international environmental law.
Usually running 15 to 20 minutes, these talks can help to identify an unseen issue, inspire action or even suggest research leads to explore. A few popular examples:
- Lawrence Lessig, We the People, and the Republic We Must Reclaim (how too few people dominate American democracy and a proposal to change the way election campaigns are funded)
- Michael Sandel, Why We Shouldn’t Trust Markets with Our Civic Life (on America’s “market society,” in which almost everything is for sale; the sting of inequality and the case for reform)
- Shereen El-Feki, HIV – How to Fight an Epidemic of Bad Laws (about opposing restrictions on persons with HIV; the impact of laws banning entry or residence in many countries)
- Kristina Gjerde, Making Law on the High Seas (on those areas in the seas beyond any national jurisdiction and building a network of “marine protected areas” to prevent exploitation)
- Karen Tse, How to Stop Torture (the safeguards necessary to prevent torture as a routine means of securing information and confessions)
- Scott Fraser, Why Eyewitnesses Get it Wrong (a forensic psychologist explores how eyewitnesses create “memories” and testify falsely)
- Joanna Blakley, Lessons from Fashion’s Free Culture (on intellectual property, knockoff products and the fashion industry)
- Micha Glenny, How Global Crime Networks Work (a former BBC journalist on the Russian mafia, drug cartels and other organized criminal enterprises in the world economy)
- Kevin Bales, How to Combat Modern Slavery (on the scope, the causes and methods of human trafficking)
The site’s topical directory and search engine facilitate discovery of other talks. Still more talks are available from TEDx events, which afford the “opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level.” These include some 30,000 videos on many topics from events in over 130 countries.
The U.S. Supreme Court heard the first oral arguments of the 2013 Term on Monday. The Court’s home page provides an argument calendar for the month; by clicking on the date, researchers can quickly access docket information on the cases argued or to be argued that day.
Among the cases that have emerged as leading cases to watch in this Term is McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, a case involving limitations on campaign finance contributions, that was argued on Tuesday. For commentary and analysis on this and other leading cases, consider:
SCOTUSBlog, perhaps the single best source for monitoring the Court, summarizes and provides background information on, and available briefs filed in, the cases scheduled for oral argument here.
Among other sources that may be helpful for monitoring developments and cases at SCOTUS, see Oyez, the ABA’s Preview Briefs and blogs such as The Volokh Conspiracy.
For more complete information on sources for current awareness and news, check out Steven’s research guide.
Each year, the U.S. Supreme Court Term begins with oral arguments on “the first Monday in October.”
For those following the Court’s proceedings, its web site is an indispensable source, providing a wide range of information, including the Court’s docket, oral argument calendar and transcripts, Order lists and much more. In addition, many independent tools are available to stay current with news developments, research the background of pending cases and receive notifications of the Court’s opinions.
If you’re following particular cases or the Court’s proceedings generally, some tools you may find especially helpful include:
- SCOTUSBlog: Followed by Court watchers everywhere, this high-volume blog includes news, analysis and detailed reporting and commentary that is second to none; use a news reader to track new posts, or follow SCOTUSBlog’s Twitter feed; the Merits Cases section is a great way to locate background information on pending and recent cases, including briefs filed in the case
- United States Law Week: Now part of the Bloomberg/BNA library of legal information, U.S.L.W. provides extensive coverage of the Supreme Court, including new opinions, docket summaries, preview and review articles, coverage of oral arguments, an extensive subject index to its coverage, and related material such as Circuit splits; for new users, an online tour of the “Supreme Court Today” section of U.S.L.W. is available here
- Supreme Court Bulletin: Available for a free subscription from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, this email news update is a good way to get summaries of the Court’s decisions and previews of upcoming cases
- Justia’s Opinion Summaries, which can be received on ongoing basis by email after a simple registration process
- Useful Twitter feeds also include those of journalists who cover the Court–e.g., Marcia Coyle, Adam Liptak, Tony Mauro; searching or monitoring the hashtag #scotus is a quick way to locate very current news and commentary
The Term begins in less than two weeks. Signing up for news updates now can help you to avoid missing important information later.
Have you explored the resources available through library’s subscription to Bloomberg BNA?
These resources can be a great way to stay current on a topic of professional interest, explore possible Note topics, locate hard-to-find documents or search for informationabout a case or legislative development.
The Bloomberg BNA library includes dozens of titles, from the comprehensive U.S. Law Week to topical weekly newsletters, such as Criminal Law Reporter and Family Law Reporter. Especially popular with specialist practitioners are the daily updates on topics like banking, labor, tax, environmental law and international trade.
While many titles focus on traditional, highly regulated areas–tax, banking and securities–others (e.g., Digital Discovery & e-Evidence and Privacy Law Watch) cover emerging areas in law and policy. A growing number of updates have an international scope, World Intellectual Property Report and International Business & Finance Daily, for example.
Some of the richest BNA resources can be found in the comprehensive libraries that include research portfolios, primary legal source documents and links to news updates and searchable, archived stories. Among these are the Health Law & Business Library, the Tax & Accounting Center and the Labor & Employment Resource Center.
Choose among several ways to access the Bloomberg BNA products.
- select a title from the comprehensive list: check recent articles or use indexes and search engines to find articles on your topic
- sign up for email delivery of the updates that you want to receive: select “Sign Up for Email Updates” at BNA’s Law School Professional Information Center (there is a brief registration process); your updates can be customized to your interests
- during a session on Bloomberg Law, select “BNA Law Reports” in the Stay Current section of the Home page