It's Access to Legal Information Week!

Harris County Commissioners Court recognized July 14-20 as “Access to Legal Information Week” with a July 9 resolution to encourage all to visit the Harris County Law Library to learn about the valuable resources and services available. Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and the Law Library are celebrating “Access to Legal Information Week” with a week’s worth of event to raise awareness about legal research resources available to all at our downtown Houston location. Stop by the Law Library Reference Desk Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm to request a tour and learn about legal information resources available to the people of Harris County. Access to Legal Information Week events will include the following:

Sunday, July 14

Our law librarians kicked off the week in Washington, D.C. at the 112th Annual Conference of the American Association of Law Libraries to receive the inaugural Excellence in Community Engagement Award for our Harvey Recovery Resources webpage.

Monday, July 15

The Law Library will begin offering tours for patrons at 8 a.m. Stop by all week to learn about the resources and services available for legal researchers and self-represented litigants. Plan your visit with driving directions and parking information on our Contact Us page.

Tuesday, July 16

Our law librarians will be recognized at the AALL Annual Meeting with the Joseph L. Andrews Legal Literature Award for our work on the Pro Se Litigant Handbook and Manual para Litigantes Pro Se, which connect Harris County’s self-represented litigants with current, accurate information about a wealth of local legal aid resources. Stop by the Law Library to pick up a copy or visit our Self-Help page to access the digital version.

Wednesday, July 17

Join us Wednesday starting at 8 a.m. to receive a copy of our limited edition Digital Destination Passport. The Law Library has greatly expanded the digital resources available to all legal researchers in Harris County. The Passport takes patrons on a journey through eight new resources available for free at the Law Library and provides an opportunity for public and attorney patrons to learn about all the information available at your fingertips within steps of the courthouses at our downtown Houston location. Visit our Digital Destinations Passport page to learn more.

Thursday, July 18

Join us for a Hands-On Legal Tech Training on Thursday at 2 p.m. to learn how to Find & Format Legal Forms using the free databases available at the Harris County Law Library. Each Thursday, our law librarians offers classes accredited by the State Bar of Texas to all of our patrons for free to increase access to legal resources through our Legal Tech Institute. Visit our Legal Tech Institute Course Calendar to sign up for a free session today!

Friday, July 19

Deputy Director Joe Lawson will visit the 1910 Courthouse to lead an advanced legal research class for interns of the 1st and 14th Texas Courts of Appeals. Each summer interns from the Courts and Harris County Attorney’s Office have the opportunity to sharpen their legal research skills with training sessions from the Harris County Law Library to ensure our newest legal professionals have access to the legal information they need to move our justice system forward in their careers.

Saturday, July 20

The Harris County Law Library is closed on Saturdays, but that doesn’t mean access to legal information stops. Visit our Legal Tech Institute On-Demand Learning page to find videos about legal tech topics and access to legal information. Several videos are accredited by the State Bar of Texas and there is something for everyone.

Access to Legal Information Week: July 14-20, 2019

Today, Harris County Commissioners Court passed a Resolution recognizing July 14-20, 2019, as Access to Legal Information Week in Harris County in honor of the exemplary service to the public offered at the Harris County Law Library and the many awards recognizing the Law Library from the American Association of Law Libraries.

We would like to thank Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo for placing the item on the Court’s agenda, the County Judge and Commissioners for supporting the resolution, and Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan and Judge Daryl Moore of the 333rd Civil District Court for their kind words shared on behalf of the Law Library at today’s Court session.

Learn more about the Resolution and Access to Legal Information Week with this press release from the Office of Vince Ryan, Harris County Attorney.

Precinct 3 Commissioner Steve Radack, Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, County Attorney Vince Ryan, County Law Library Deputy Director Joe Lawson, County Law Library Director Mariann Sears, 333rd Civil District Court Judge Daryl Moore, Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia, County Judge Lina Hidalgo, and Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis recognized July 14-20, 2019 as "Access to Legal Information Week" during Commissioners Court, July 9.

Court News: March Madness Research Guide, Promoting Successful Brackets for All

March Madness has struck, and the Harris County Law Library has a cure. If you are a Houston Bar Association member who is participating in the Bracket Challenge, or just a college basketball fan in need of some guidance in completing your bracket, the Harris County Law Library can help! We have assembled a March Madness Research Guide with information and links to insider data from sports experts at ESPN, SB Nation, Sports Illustrated, FoxSports, the Bleacher Report, and more. Get the inside scoop from experienced basketball pros, such as statisticians, researchers, and correspondents, as well as former players who know the game from the inside out. On the line-up are:

Chris Dobbertean: College basketball contributor and resident bracketologist at SBNation and editor of Blogging the Bracket

Reid Gettys: Part-time NCAA basketball analyst for ESPN, lead attorney for ExxonMobil, and part of the "Phi Slama Jama" era of the early 1980s, who participated in three Final Fours and had two national championship appearances. Follow him on Twitter @reidgettys.

Joe Lunardi: College basketball analyst for ESPN who is best known for creating Bracketology. He correctly predicted all 65 teams to appear in the 2008 NCAA Tournament and all 68 teams for the 2013 tournament. Wow!

Jerry Palm: Resident Sports Geek at CBS Sports and a pioneer in predicting the March Madness bracket and in understanding the tournament selection process. Follow him online at CBS Sports, NCAA Basketball.

John Rothstein: College Basketball Insider for CBS Sports and host of the College Hoops Today podcast, as well as a driving force behind Bleacher Report. Get the app here for Apple and Android.

Check out what these and other NCAA basketball experts have to offer in helping you build your bracket. Click on the image above to view the Harris County Law Library Research Guide for even more tips from the pros. Good luck, bracket hopefuls. May the best bracket win!

Equal Protection and Transgender Rights

Image source:

Image source:

Throughout the month of May, we have highlighted civil rights law resources from the Law Library's print collection. Titles currently on display include Transgender Persons and the Law, Section 1983 Litigation in a NutshellAmericans With Disabilities Practice and Compliance Manual, and Sexual Orientation and the Law. We have also been celebrating the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This cornerstone of landmark civil rights legislation has been a source of inspiration for equal justice advocates for nearly 150 years.

The 14th Amendment has been invoked in a great number of historic cases including the trial of Susan B. Anthony (1873), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Loving v. Virginia (1967), Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), and as recently as yesterday, Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School District, a case in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals with important implications for transgender rights.

In Whitaker, a three-judge panel cited the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, arguing that anti-discrimination laws apply to transgender students. They upheld the lower court's injunction, stating that sex discrimination based on gender identity is unconstitutional. This decision, the first ruling of its kind by a court at the federal level, will protect the individual student at the heart of the case and could extend to transgender students as a class. By invoking federal civil rights laws, this ruling has the potential to ensure equality for all transgender people and prohibit discrimination in education, housing, and employment. 




Visiting the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Library System - Houston Satellite

March is Federal Practice Resource Month at the Harris County Law Library. Throughout the month we are featuring some of the federal practice legal materials found in our collection. We are also calling attention to a select few online resources, including the Federal Practice Manual for Legal Aid Attorneys.  Law Library staff are always available at the reference desk to help in using any of these materials.

Another helpful resource is the satellite branch of the United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit Library System, located right here in Houston at 515 Rusk.  This Satellite Library, open to the public, is a valuable resource for researching federal legal issues and it's well-worth a visit for those working in federal law.

You can learn about the Satellite Library's services and guidelines using the Visitors' Guide to the U.S. Courts Library in Houston, Texas.  Many of the sources available in the Harris County Law Library collection are also available at the Fifth Circuit Library, but the staff's knowledge and expertise regarding the federal judiciary may add even more value to your research. Federal law is their specialty, and they are happy to help you access the resources you need. The Houston Satellite is also a United States Federal Depository Library, where government publications, including a selection of official sources of our nation's primary legal documents, are housed.

Texas Supreme Court Commission to Expand Legal Services Releases Justice Gap Report

On December 6, 2016, the Commission to Expand Civil Legal Services released eight recommendations for increasing the public's access to justice in Texas. As part of these recommendations, the Commission presented innovative options for those of modest means to participate in the legal system and thereby narrow the justice gap in Texas. Two overarching goals guided the Commission in the drafting of its report: connecting lower and middle-income clients with affordable representation and helping pro se litigants navigate the court system.

According to the report, the success of current initiatives has been dependent upon the participation of public law libraries at the state and county levels. Recognizing the essential role that libraries play, the Commission's report encourages the court to promote adequate funding for public law libraries and for the placement of navigators in libraries, courthouses, and other public spaces. 

In addition to the Travis County Law Library and the Texas State Law Library, the Harris County Law Library was recognized by the Commission for taking steps to close the justice gap. We at the Harris County Law Library are very proud of this recognition, as well as our partnership with the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program in providing services to the populations targeted by the Commission’s recommendations and objectives. We look forward to continuing to provide assistance to our library clientele, helping them to navigate their way through the justice system.

Fastcase v. Casemaker

Georgia State Seal

Georgia State Seal

A recent legal battle between two online publishers, Fastcase and Casemaker, is pitting the proprietary interests of private companies against the public good. At issue is the extent to which a publisher of online legal content is entitled to copyright claims over state rules and regulations, a seemingly uncomplicated dispute. However, according to the Georgia Secretary of State, which has designated Casemaker as the exclusive publisher of the Georgia Administrative Code, the question is indeed more complex.

The Georgia Secretary of State has granted Casemaker the right to publish, distribute, and license its rules and regulations, but Fastcase has taken exception to that right, maintaining that Georgia regulations are public law, published under statutory mandate as part of the public domain, and therefore uncopyrightable. Based on this belief, Fastcase posted the Georgia Administrative Code on its online platform, making it available to many thousands of Fastcase subscribers, including state bar association members throughout the country. Lawriter, the parent company of Casemaker, sent Fastcase a demand letter asking them to stop publishing the Georgia rules and regulations or requesting that they purchase a subscription to the electronic files. Instead of capitulating to Casemaker’s demands, Fastcase sued, saying that no private publisher is entitled to claim copyright over public regulations. The Georgia Secretary of State's office has expressed its desire to ensure that the Fastcase litigation does not hinder public access to the state's administrative laws but the Secretary of State has since made no further comment. The ultimate outcome of the case remains to be seen.