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.

In TBJ: Local Justice a Violin Virtuoso

Justice Brett Busby, 14th Texas Court of Appeals

Justice Brett Busby, 14th Texas Court of Appeals

Justice Brett Busby’s name often appears in the pages of the Texas legal community’s newspapers and magazines next to quotes and facts about his successful legal and judicial career.* But in the February 2016 issue of Texas Bar Journal, Justice Busby is featured for his musical talent.  In the interview, he recounts an invitation he received from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to play his violin while clerking for the Court. More recently, Justice Busby performs with the Houston Civic Symphony, which holds five concerts a year. He is also chair of Artistic & Orchestra Affairs for the Houston Symphony Orchestra, through which he promotes music programs for local school children.

If you would like to read about Justice Busby’s musical endeavors, visit the Texas Bar Journal website for a digital copy or find a printed copy of the journal at the Harris County Law Library.

* See, e.g., John Council, Texas Conservative Leaders Mourn Justice Antonin Scalia,, Feb. 22, 2016.

Court Watch – U.S. v. Texas - Immigration case before the U.S. Supreme Court

Photo from the Library of Congress Photos, Prints and Drawings Collection

Since it is Immigration Law Resource Month here at the Harris County Law Library, we thought we would fill you in on one of the more important immigration law cases facing the State of Texas in recent memory. In February 2015, Texas took the lead in the case State of Texas, et al. v. United States of America, et al., in which 26 states sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal agencies from executing a DHS program titled “Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents” (DAPA). Under DAPA, four to five million undocumented immigrants who met certain criteria would be granted stays in deportation proceedings. After finding that at least one of the plaintiff states could suffer direct damage from DAPA and had Article III standing, the Court moved to the merits of the case, primarily whether the DAPA was constitutional and was legally adopted.  The Court granted the preliminary injunction, holding, among other things, that defendants had enacted a substantive rule without complying with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

After failing to get a stay, the Government appealed the preliminary injunction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. (Search Doc. No. 15-40238). The Court affirmed the lower court’s order, finding that Texas not only satisfied the injury requirement for Article III standing, but also was likely to succeed on the merits of its APA claims. In January 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States granted certiorari. So far, no date has been set for oral argument, but it is worth keeping an eye on.

If you would like to read more about this case, check out SCOTUSblog for recent discussions or read the amicus briefs found on the website for the National Immigration Law Center.