Law in the News

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act signed into law in Illinois

August 27 UPDATE: Governor Quinn signed UELMA into law yesterday, as Public Act 98-1097. This makes Illinois the 11th state to enact UELMA.

May 30 UPDATE: The Senate unanimously voted to approve the House floor amendment, so SB 1941 has now passed both houses and will be sent to the Governor.

On Friday, May 16, the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) unanimously passed the Illinois House of Representatives. The bill (SB 1941), which was unanimously passed by the Senate in March, provides a technology-neutral approach to ensuring that online Illinois state legal material deemed official will be preserved and will be permanently available to the public in unaltered form. Currently, many Illinois legal materials, including the state code, are neither official, nor authenticated. Indeed, the version of the Illinois Compiled Statutes published on the Illinois General Assembly website bears the disclaimer: “The provisions have NOT been edited for publication, and are NOT in any sense the ‘official’ text of the Illinois Compiled Statutes as enacted into law. The accuracy of any specific provision originating from this site cannot be assured, and you are urged to consult the official documents or contact legal counsel of your choice. This site should not be cited as an official or authoritative source.” (emphasis in original). If passed, UELMA will require that Illinois primary legal materials are deemed official and that mechanisms are put in place to ensure that they have not been tampered with or altered accidentally.

A technical amendment to the bill was made in the House, so it will be returned to the Senate for concurrence with the House amendment. The hope is that the bill will be approved by the Senate before they adjourn within the next two weeks. Once the bill is signed by the Governor, Illinois will become the tenth state to pass UELMA, joining California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, and Oregon. The bill’s progress can be tracked via the Illinois General Assembly website, and more information about UELMA is available on the American Association of Law Libraries Government Relations website and on the Uniform Law Commission website.

Cholera in Haiti: The United Nations, public health, and the law

Cholera in Haiti

Cholera in Haiti

Since October 2010 when UN peacekeepers contaminated Haiti’s principal river with cholera-infected human waste, the disease has killed over 8,300 and sickened more than 650,000.”

On February 26, 2014, at noon, there will be a panel discussion at the Biological Sciences Learning Center on “Cholera in Haiti: Intersection of Public Health and Global Humanitarian Intervention.”  Then at 4:30, in Room III, of the Law School, a panel including Brian Citro of the International Human Rights Clinic, Brian Concannon of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and Dr. Paul Pierre of Partners in Health (PIH), will discuss “Law in a Time of Cholera: The Failure of the United Nations in Haiti.” 

Background documents, including the IJDH claims against the UN (November 3, 2011 Petition for Relief filed with the Bureaux des Avocats Internationaux (BAI)) and October 9, 2013 lawsuit filed against the UN (Georges et al v. United Nations et al., Docket # 1:13-cv-07146-JPO, SDNY), are available at the “Cholera Litigation” section of the Institute’s website. Both panels are sponsored by the University of Chicago Human Rights Program’s Health and Human Rights Initiative, with the support of the Richard and Ann Pozen Fund.

Sherlock Holmes and the Curious Case of the Copyrighted Canon

The Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle claims ownership of the Sherlock Holmes Canon, the character Sherlock Holmes and story elements from the 4 novels and 56 short stories featuring Holmes written by Doyle and published from 1887-1927. The estate still collects license fees from the likes of CBS TV (for “Elementary”), the BBC (“Sherlock”), the producers of the Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey Jr., and Random House, publisher of A Study in Sherlock. A Study in Sherlock was a collection of stories written by contemporary authors such as Lee Child and Neil Gaiman, using the Holmes Canon characters and plot elements from stores that were first published before 1923 and are now out of copyright in the United States. Editors Leslie S. Klinger and Laurie R. King (the author of the Mary Russell series of Holmes Canon novels) have refused to pay license fees for a sequel, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, to be published by Pegasus Books. Klinger has filed a suit in federal court in Chicago for a declaration that these stories, and the elements of the Holmes Canon that first appeared in these stories, are in the public domain. (Ten stories that were first published in the United States after 1923, in The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes, are still under U.S. copyright.)

The Economist and Publishers Weekly have covered the lawsuit. A good legal explanation of the legal issues in using elements of out-of-copyright works is Copyright and the Public Domain, by Stephen Fishman. (Print and Ebook.)

Explanation of new tax law available via CCH IntelliConnect

You’ve probably heard by now that Congress finally managed to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” by passing new tax legislation. The main features of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 are that it allows the Bush-era tax rates to sunset after 2012 for individuals with income over $400,000 and families with incomes over $450,000; permanently “patches” the alternative minimum tax (AMT); revives many now-expired tax extenders; and provides for a maximum estate tax of 40 percent with a $5 million exclusion. In total, the Act makes over 100 changes to the Internal Revenue Code. If you are interested in learning more about the specific implications for tax law (and who doesn’t find tax law fascinating?), then take a look at American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012: Law, Explanation & Analysis, a new publication available via CCH IntelliConnect. Since 1913, CCH has been a leading source of comprehensive, ongoing practical and timely analysis of the federal tax law.


United Nations resources

On this day, October 24, in 1945, the  Charter of the United Nations entered into force, and the UN was born.  To celebrate, here are a few useful resources on the Charter’s history and law, and the UN generally:

Flag of the United Nations


Supreme Court 2012 Term

Today is the start of the Supreme Court’s October 2012 term. The Court is expected to rule on affirmative action, in a case involving admissions at the University of Texas; same-sex marriage, in challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8; and the Voting Rights Act’s continuing restraints on southern state governments. Check out our Supreme Court Research Guide for sources of news and analysis, briefs, and calendars and transcripts of oral arguments. 

Chicago speed camera program delayed by old AG opinion

Yesterday, the Chicago Tribune reported that, due to a 38-year old Attorney General’s opinion, the City of Chicago has decided to delay the start date for its speed camera program until early next year. The program was set to begin with at least 25 speed cameras set up throughout the city in “safety zones” located within one-eighth of a mile of schools and parks. Drivers caught by the cameras would be issued a warning ticket on their first offense, followed by tickets of up to $100.

The Attorney General’s opinion interpreted the Illinois state statute on special speed limits in school zones (625 ILCS 5/11-605) to mean that children must be “visibly present” before the school zone speed limits can be enforced. The City has interpreted this opinion to mean that the speed cameras must not only capture photographs of the speeding car and its license plate, but also a child within the vicinity, preferably in the same shot.

The Tribune reports that the old AG opinion did not come up earlier during the debate over initiating the speed camera program. An excellent way to discover such opinions is to look at an annotated code, such as West’s Smith-Hurd Illinois Compiled Statutes. In the “Notes of Decisions” section for the Illinois statute on speeding in a school zone, there is a citation to the relevant AG opinion with text stating that that the statute applies “only when children are physically present on such street or are outside the school building in a school zone.”

The moral of the story: always use an annotated code when doing legal research!


NATO and Chicago: Research information resources

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will hold its 25th meeting in Chicago May 20-21, 2012.  Heads of state and government from NATO’s member states and more than 30 other countries will attend.  The U.S. and 11 other original signatories to the North Atlantic Treaty (34 U.N.T.S. 243 via HeinOnline) established NATO on April 4, 1949 to promote mutual defense and cooperation.  NATO’s current 28 member states include:  Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  NATO works with partner countries on “a broad array of issues from counter-piracy, to energy security, counter-terrorism, promoting the role of women in peace and security, and more.”

At the NATO Chicago Summit, the  participants expect to discuss three agenda items:   assistance to Afghanistan through transition and beyond, cost-efficient defense capabilities, and partnerships – improving relations with other governments and international organizations.

NATO Chicago Summit banner/logo II For further reading:

Chicago NATO Summit 2012 (City of Chicago NATO Host Committee/World Business Chicago)

Chicago Summit (NATO)(including mobile)

NATO Chicago Summit 2012 (United States Mission to NATO)

Senate Hears Testimony on Upcoming NATO Meeting in Chicago (C-SPAN, May 10, 2012)

Smart Defense and the Future of NATO (Chicago Council on Global Affairs, conference papers)

NATO website:

Atlantic Treaty Association (ATA)

NATO Handbook (2006).  eBook (PDF).  Call number:  KA18.N86A2.

Thilo Marauhn, “North Atlantic Treaty Organization ,” in Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law (Online).  Last updated May 2011.  Includes “Select Bibliography” of books and journal articles.

“Closing the Circle:  The Negotiation of the North Atlantic Treaty,” in Brian C. Rathbun, Trust in International Cooperation:  International Security Institutions, Domestic Politics and American Multilateralism (2012).  Call number:  JZ1318.R375 2012.

The Handbook of the Law of Visiting Forces (Dieter Fleck, ed., 2001).  Call number:  XXKZ5589.H36 2001.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, The Long Entanglement:  NATO’s First Fifty Years (1999).  Call number:  E744.K177 1999.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO 1948:  The Birth of the Transatlantic Alliance (2007).  Call number:  UA646.3.K365 2007.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the UN:  A Peculiar Relationship (2010).  eBook.  Call number:  JZ5930.K36 2010.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO and the United States:  The Enduring Alliance (1994).  Call number: UA646.5.U5K370 1994.

Lawrence S. Kaplan, NATO Divided, NATO United:  The Evolution of an Alliance (2004).  Call number:  JZ5930.K37 2004.

NATO Review (see Chicago Summit Special Edition).

Marco Rimanelli, Historical Dictionary of NATO and Other International Security Organizations (2009).  Call number:  UA646.3.R485 2009.

Snežana Trifunovska, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)(2d ed., 2012)(also online in the International Encyclopaedia of Laws: Intergovernmental Organizations).  Call number:  XXKZ5930.T75 2012.

John Woodliffe, The Peacetime Use of Foreign Military Installations Under Modern International Law (1992).  Call number:  XXK4720.W66 1992.

The Titanic disaster and international law

Titanic sinking painting

Titanic Sinking (Willy Stöwer, 1912 )

This weekend is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  On April 14, 1912, the RMS Titanic, while on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York City,  struck an iceberg.  It sank in the early morning on April 15.  Over 1,500 passengers and crew perished in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.  The Titanic disaster led to adoption of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, in 1914 (revised in 1929, 1948, 1960, and 1974) , and the creation of the Inter-Governmental Maritime Consultative Organization (IMCO) in 1948, which became the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 1982.  However, as IMO Secretary-General, Koji Sekimizu, noted in a video message:

“[N]ew generations of vessels bring fresh challenges and, even today, accidents still occur, reinforcing the need for continual improvement. Our efforts to promote maritime safety and, in particular, to avoid such disasters befalling passenger ships as Titanic, will never end.  Today, on the 100th anniversary of that disaster, let us remember those who lost their lives in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic on that fateful night of 14 April 1912 and reflect on the dangers and perils still associated with sea voyages today.”

For further reading:

Kelly Buchanan, “Failure to Update the Law a Titanic Mistake“, In Custodia Legis (Law Library of Congress blog)(links to U.S. Senate Investigating Committee and UK Wrecking Commissioner inquiry reports, historic laws, treaties, and related other publications).

Comment, “Limitation of Shipowners’ Liability:  Substance or Procedure? “, 17 University of Chicago Law Review 388, 389, 393-395 (1949-1950)(via HeinOnline)(suggests that The Titanic case be re-examined).

IMO:  100 Years after the Titanic (links to “Surviving Disaster:  The Titanic and SOLAS” graphic in PDF).

Arthur K. Kuhn, “International Aspects of the Titanic Case, ” 9 American Journal of International Law 336 (1915) (via HeinOnline)(discusses U.S. federal and foreign case-law on shipowner’s liabilitiy for accidents at sea, including The Titanic case, Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. v. Mellor,  233 U.S. 718 (1914)).

Thomas A. Mensah, “International Maritime Organization“, Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law Online.

James E. Mercante, “In the Wake of ‘The Titanic’: An Unsinkable Law,” New York Law Journal, April 12, 2012.

Everett P. Wheeler, “International Conference on Safety of Life at Sea,” 8 American Journal of International Law 758 (1914)(via HeinOnline).

You can use Lens to locate documents and reports on international conferences on the safety of life at sea available via Hathi Trust, The Making of Modern Law, and ProQuest Congressional.   See for example, the April 10, 1913 letter from the Secretary of Commerce on the need to have enough life-boats for every passenger and efficient water-tight divisions of hulls for vessels.

Follow the Supreme Court hearings on health care reform

On Monday the Supreme Court begins hearings on three cases that challenge the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act. The cases are Dept. of Health and Human Services v. Florida (11-398); National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (11-393); and Florida v. Dept. of H&HS (11-400), Twenty-six states have challenged provisions of the Act, and issues before the court include the “individual mandate,” severability of the challenged provisions, and coercing state compliance by threatening to withhold Medicaid funds. Complete audio recordings of the arguments will be posted in the evening after each day’s arguments, along with transcripts. Bloomberg Law will live blog the hearings. For more sources of news and documents, check our Supreme Court Research Guide.