Category Archives: Research Guidance

IRS Controversy: What is a 501(c)(4) anyway?

Allegations of inappropriate IRS investigations of the tax status of “tea party” groups have put so-called 501(c)(4) groups in the headlines. Section 501 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (i.e. Title 26 of the U.S. Code) identifies many types of organizations exempt from most federal income taxation (with exceptions provided by certain other sections of this sub-chapter of the Code). Sub-section 501(c) lists out the types of exempted organizations. 501(c)(3) is the most well-known of these, and covers non-profit corporations including many charitable, religious, and educational institutions. Until recently 501(c)(4) has received far less public, political, or non-specialist legal attention. 501(c)(4) exempts “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit but operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare” or certain kinds of local employee organizations.
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Federal Statutory Codes: Free (official? authentic?) Research Here?

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Case Western Reserve University Law Library.

I recently wrote about the fact that website distribution of digitally-signed PDF facsimiles of the “classic” printed versions of certain Government Printing Office publications made it possible to do “official” research into federal administrative regulations freely, online. Among those free resources is the Code of Federal Regulations, the codification of federal administrative-agency regulations.

There isn’t any quite comparable access to “fully official” online legal research in statutory law in the federal system, due to the complicated status of the United States Code.
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Free, Official, Federal Regulatory Research

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Case Western Reserve University Law Library.

In finding free, or very low cost, ways to conduct legal research one of the obstacles is often the unofficial status of freely available web-based tools. In other cases, even where the official, formal, “weight” of free (or low-cost) resources is equivalent to, say, much-prized unofficial resources like the annotated codes available in print or through Lexis or Westlaw, the effective cognitive authority and assumed merit (deservedly or not) of the resource is much lower.

In the case of Federal regulatory resources, however, the most official and formal research methods — hearkening back to those used for “old fashioned” print-bound regulatory research — are available, for free, online. There is a penalty in convenience, and there are drawbacks in terms of updating to which the wary researcher must be attentive. But the tools are there and they are used, in fact, very much in the fashion of print-based research into the Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal Register, and the other tools and tables that connect those resources together in response to a real research question.

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“Stand Your Ground” Laws – Issue Backgrounder

(See also Cheryl Cheatham’s post from earlier this week.)

Since the Florida shooting death of Trayvon Martin rose to public attention, that state’s law of self-defense has attracted much attention. Florida was one of the first states to enact a ‘Stand Your Ground’ statute. (One of the tangential controversies attached to the Florida law has to do with the role ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, played in drafting related legislation in nearly half the states.)

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SOPA, PIPA, Anti-Piracy Legislation: Issue Backgrounder

This post also appears in a very similar form at lawlibrary.case.edu

The English-language Wikipedia is ‘dark’ today, in protest against a set of bills (nick-named SOPA in the House and PIPA in the Senate). These bills are intended to create new tools to address both the online commerce in copyright-infringing works and of counterfeit goods (i.e. both Copyright Act and Lanham Act violations). In particular, they aim to target the use of foreign-registered websites for “piracy,” although opponents point to several ways in which domestic websites can also be affected.

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ICANN and New Top-Level Domains

This post originally appeared in a very similar form on lawlibrary.case.edu. This version has received additional editing, mostly related to format and presentation more than to content itself.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has begun to accept applications to operate new “generic Top-Level Domains.” A “top-level” domain amounts to the right-most portion of a domain name, after the final dot. Venerable examples of “generic” top-level domains include .com, .edu, .net, and .org. Applicants are to propose new TLDs while applying to be the entity that will maintain a registry of that nominated domain. Unlike previous additions of new TLDs, the new policy does not merely envision a specific one-time expansion of the namespace, but instead creates a policy mechanism for continued, possibly rapid, expansion of the number of TLDs in use.

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State-Specific Legal Encyclopedias

(In a previous post we discussed the legal encyclopedia as a genre of secondary source. We’ve also talked about some ways of analyzing secondary sources.)

Legal publishers have also used the genre of legal encyclopedias to cover specific, state-level, jurisdictions. Like American Jurisprudence, 2nd and Corpus Juris Secundum these state-specific encyclopedias are tools that are likely to be most useful to you early in a research endeavor, and are valuable both as tools to find (basic) explanation of doctrine and citations/references to a wealth of further sources and as tools to “model” some explication of a widely-understood structure for the topical organization of law.

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Legal Encyclopedias

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Case Western Reserve University law school library.

We recently wrote about the value of secondary sources to the legal researcher. So-called “legal encyclopedias” are a valuable secondary-source research tool. When you are conducting topical legal research in a comparatively unfamiliar subject or (especially in the case of state-specific encyclopedias) jurisdiction, a legal encyclopedia can provide a valuable starting point.

This is largely because encyclopedias score well on the ‘contextualizing’ and the ‘citation mining’ facets of analyzing secondary sources. Read the rest on lawlibrary.case.edu

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Bankruptcy, A Research Guide

This article is a revision and reformatting of a research guide that first appeared here on the website of the Judge Ben C. Green Law Library.

Introduction

Federal bankruptcy law governs the disposition of property from the estate of a distressed borrower who either voluntarily seeks liquidation or reorganization of debts under the terms of the Bankruptcy Code or whose creditors seek to involuntarily impose such liquidation or reorganization. Bankruptcy procedures balance the need to offer debtors a “fresh start” as economic participants, the desire to save some businesses that may be of more value as “going concerns,” and the need to allocate recovery fairly between the various creditors of a person or firm that is unable to pay all of its debts according to the original terms.

Bankruptcy itself is federal law, and Congress has the power to create uniform federal bankruptcy laws under Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution. The current Bankruptcy Code was enacted in 1978 and last extensively revised in 2005, is codified as amended as Title 11 of the United States Code.

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Quick Guide: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

The NRC was established as an independent agency by the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 (P.L. 93-438)with licensing and regulatory functions over civilian nuclear power. A distinct agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration (which later became the Department of Energy) took on the research and promotion roles with regard to nuclear power. From 1946 until the ’74 act nuclear power had been overseen by the Atomic Energy Administration. The agency is headed by five commissioners appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation, and who serve overlapping five-year terms. The President designates one commissioner as Chairman.
Civilian reactors are tightly regulated – the NRC publishes technical specifications for each type of authorized reactor, within which all licensed reactors must operate.

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