Congressional Record – Additional Digital Resources

Research news alert from the HeinOnline’s blog – Additions to the internet federal legislative history resources

The GPO has recently partnered with the Library of Congress to release an authenticated digital version of historical issues of the bound Congressional Record from Volume 97 (1951) to  Volume 153 (2007).  The issues are now available to the public via the GPO’s website.  The project digitized more than a million pages, covering debates and proceedings of the 81st through the 105th Congresses.  Search capabilities are also provided.

The Congressional Record was first published in 1873 and is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress, published by the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO) and issued when Congress is in session.  Indexes are issued approximately every two weeks.  At the end of a session of Congress, the daily editions are compiled in bound volumes constituting the permanent edition.

The Record is the most complete and accurate account of congressional matters to date.  At the end of each session of Congress, all of the daily editions are collected, re-paginated, and re-indexed into a permanent, bound edition.  This permanent edition, referred to as the Congressional Record (Bound Edition), is made up of one volume per session of Congress, with each volume published in multiple parts, each part containing approximately 10 to 20 days of Congressional proceedings.  The primary ways in which the bound edition differs from the daily edition are continuous pagination; somewhat edited, revised, and rearranged text; and the dropping of the prefixes H, S, and E before page numbers.

The Congressional Record consists of four sections:

  • Daily Digest
  • House section
  • Senate section
  • Extension of Remarks

What about coverage after 1998?

This site provides access to the text of the Congressional Record from Volume 140 (1994) to present.  The text is available by browsing but is not presented as PDFs of the bound volumes.

Before 1951?

The Internet Archive has a collection of the older Congressional Record.  Congressional Record – Bound (1873 to 1993 via Internet Archive – Search Title and Date then Browse volume parts and Find words and phrases – Magnify, Browse, Download)

Also Google Books, Congressional Record – Bound (1873 to current via Google Books – Search then Browse selected pages with some pages or whole volume parts missing and unsearchable) Print and online sources

The Legislative Research Special Interest Section of the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C., Inc. (LLSDC) as part of its Legislative Source Book has a list on the web entitled “Sources for the Congressional Record: Free and Commercial” (http://www.llsdc.org/sources-for-the-congressional-record–free-and-commercial).  The website contains a list with links to most all online sources for the Congressional Record, free and commercial, with dates of coverage, including the bound Record, the daily edition, the Congressional Record Index, and predecessors to the Congressional Record.  Also included are brief notations about search, browse, print, and cite retrieval capabilities of the sources as well information on libraries with paper and microform issues.  Finally there are a number of links to aid researchers in understanding the Congressional Record, its history, its volume numbers, and what is or is not included in the pages of the Record

Going back further?

The Congressional Record goes back to only 1873.  Before 1873, congressional debates were catalogued in the Annals of Congress (1789-1824), Register of Debates (1824-1837) and Congressional Globe (1833-1873).

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GovTrack – Tracking The Cutting And Pasting In DC’s Docs

Trying to follow the history of legislation in Congress?

The website ~ GovTrack ~ now provides a way to track the text of Congressional legislation when that language has been cut and pasted from another piece of legislation.  The language may have been enacted but not under the bill number that introduced it.

All too often Congress cuts bills apart and pastes them back together—sometimes into an “omnibus.”  The bills that finally get a vote are an amalgam of provisions from other bills that either can’t or won’t get a standalone vote themselves. The most important legislation is crafted this way.

The site will even flag a bill when some of its provisions have been incorporated into another bill that was enacted.  For enacted bills, the searcher will be able to note which other bills had “text in common” with the enacted legislation.

The full blog post – “How a Complex Network of Bills Becomes a Law: Introducing a New Data Analysis of Text Incorporation!

Below is a chart from GovTrack showing how common this situation has become in recent legislative sessions.

Researching Current Federal Legislation And Regulations: A Guide To Resources For Congressional Staff

New Congressional Research Service report

Researching Current Federal Legislation and Regulations: A Guide to Resources for Congressional Staff

http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33895.pdf

This report is designed to introduce congressional staff to selected governmental and nongovernmental sources that are useful in tracking and obtaining information on federal legislation and regulations.  It includes governmental sources such as Congress.gov, the Government Publishing Office’s Federal Digital System (FDsys), and U.S. Senate and House websites.  Nongovernmental or commercial sources include resources such as HeinOnline and the Congressional Quarterly (CQ) websites.

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Congress May Eliminate Print Federal Register & CFR

CFR75

 

Congress is considering eliminating the statutory requirement to print the Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and to produce their indexes. The Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) would be required to be published electronically. H.R. 4195, the Federal Register Modernization Act available at bill/4195  available at https://beta.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/house-bill/4195  passed the House unanimously by voice vote on July 14, 2014 and is headed to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The Alameda County Law Library (ACLL) in Oakland has the current CFR in print which is a mixture of 2013 and 2014 volumes. HeinOnline (web subscription, available in the Main Oakland Law Library and Hayward Branch Library) provides the CFR from its inception in 1938 to the present as well as CFR – Compilation of Sections Affected, 1958 to 2014 (the present) and the CFR –List of Sections Affected, 1949-2000. Fortuitously the library has the commercially printed and superior index West’s Code of Federal Regulations, General Index issued yearly in four volumes.
Although the library no longer has the Federal Register in print, our HeinOnline subscription, available in the Oakland Main Law Library and the Hayward Branch, has the Federal Register, Vols. 1-79 (1936-2014) and is updated daily. Included are the Federal Register indexes.
See the American Association of Law Libraries’ Advocacy One-Pager on the Federal Register and CFR for background information at http://aallnet.org/Documents/Government-Relations/Issue-Briefs-and-Reports/2014/FRonepager.pdf.

Prescription for Trouble

1996’s California Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, added section 11362.5 to the California Health and Safety Code, legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes.  Despite the passage of this act, marijuana use remains illegal under federal law.  The conflict between state and federal laws on the subject have led to such confusion that last week Paula Dow, Attorney General for the State of New Jersey, asked the Obama Administration for clarification on its policy.  The policy the administration had announced in 2009 was that it would not prosecute marijuana users who comply with state laws.  According to Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland based group, the administration has not upheld this promise.  Americans for Safe Access recently released a report card claiming that the federal government has actually stepped up enforcement considerably since the Bush administration.

But as wary of federal enforcement as California’s providers of medical marijuana should be, there is another group they should be increasingly concerned about: their own customers.  Last month, the parents of a Cal Poly student filed a wrongful death action in the San Luis Obispo County Superior Court.  While under the influence of marijuana, cocaine and alcohol, the 21 year old student attempted to cross Highway 101 on foot and was killed by a motorist.  Among the defendants named in the suit was the doctor who provided the student with his medical marijuana prescription.

What makes this claim novel is that as long as buying marijuana was illegal, drug dealers would have been shielded from civil liability for the acts of their intoxicated clients because the buyers were in pari delicto, or in equal fault.  The Restatement Second of Torts, section 889, comment b, page 352 illustrates the concept:

[I]f the injured person has violated a statute designed to prevent a certain type of risk, he is barred from recovery for harm caused by violation of the statute if, but only if, the harm resulted from a risk of the type against which the statute was intended to give protection.

Thus, while marijuana use was illegal (presumably because of its intoxicating effect), sellers of the drug would have had an affirmative defense protecting them from civil liability for things done by their customers while high.  But thanks to the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, those who lawfully make marijuana available for medical purposes may increasingly find themselves vulnerable to damages for stupid things done by their stoned patients.  Ironically, the legalization of marijuana use and the risk of civil liability may be able to accomplish what decades of law enforcement have been unable to do: cause the risks involved in selling the drug to outweigh the profitability.

Given the relative newness of the field and the uncertainty of the law, there are few resources that discuss liability for medical marijuana.  If you are a medical marijuana provider who has been sued by your patient (or are a patient who wishes to sue your provider), the Alameda County Law Library does have several resources on medical malpractice that address liability for drug prescriptions.  In addition, the library has numerous titles on personal injury and general tort litigation.

Two cases test “shield law”

The police raid of Gizmodo editor Jason Chen’s Fremont home after he had reported on the prototype iPhone has given legal analysts much to discuss.  From a criminal law point of view, there is the issue of whether Chen had committed a crime.  From a Fourth Amendment standpoint, there is the issue of whether the raid and search warrant were legal.  And with regard to tort law, there is the issue of whether the San Mateo Police Department is liable for misconduct.  Max Fisher of the Atlantic Wire provides an excellent overview of many of the legal issues involved in the case.  One of the more interesting issues concerns whether Gizmodo should have been protected by the journalist shield law.  Orin Kerr, a blogger for the Volokh Conspiracy, provided a thoughtful discussion on whether the shield law should have applied.  But because of the attention that this case has commanded, another situation implicating the journalist shield law might easily be overlooked.

Following an April 10 riot near Virginia’s James Madison University where more than a dozen police officers were injured, police and prosecutors appeared at the student newspaper’s offices with a search warrant and seized more than 900 photographs of the event.  What makes this case interesting is that the fact situation mirrors that of a 1971 Bay Area case that made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in Zurcher v. Stanford Daily (1978) 436 U.S. 547.  In Zurcher, officers from the Palo Alto police Department searched the student run newspaper pursuant to a warrant, looking for photographic evidence of an earlier riot where several police officers had been injured.  The question for the High Court was whether a search warrant could be executed against a party that was not involved in the unlawful acts.  The Court answered to the affirmative in a five-three decision. 

Perhaps the only significant difference between the situations at James Madison University this year and Stanford University in 1971 is not in the facts, but in the law itself.  Following the unpopular Supreme Court decision, Congress passed the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 which shields journalists and newsrooms from government searches.  In light of this law, it would be interesting to see how our current Supreme Court would rule on James Madison University case today.  In the unlikely event that the case were to make it all the way to the Supreme Court, it would be before a completely different Court: the only member of the Zurcher Court still sitting today is John Paul Stevens who is set to retire at the end of the summer term.  Stevens wrote a dissent in the 1978 decision.

Health Care Reform: Online Resources

Thanks to David P. Dillard of Temple University for posting the link to an article in today’s Washington Post, “Online resources for information on health-care reform”.  http://tinyurl.com/yed4vox

He has also compiled cites to discussions about family coverage from the Temple University listserv, Net-Gold.  http://tinyurl.com/y8f8k8r