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Law Library News for April 30, 2007

Law Library News Archive

Cheryl Nyberg, editor

Upgraded Computers

Computers in the Law Student Lounge (L113) are now equipped with Microsoft Office software. Use the computers just as you would use the ones in Room 222, the Law Student Computer Lab. These PCs are connected to the Pharos printers.

Remember to save your data and documents to your thumbdrive or floppy disk; saving to the PC hard drive is not an option.

Library Lifesavers

Drop by Room 119 on Tuesday, May 1st at 12:45 to learn a little about regulations and other things you always wanted to know about legal research but were too afraid, bashful, or intimidated to ask!

This session is one of the opportunities you will have to register for the drawing!

Summer Access to LexisNexis and Westlaw

by Ann Hemmens


You can register your Lexis ID for summer access, as long as your use falls under these “academic purposes”:

  • law school coursework
  • research for law review or moot court
  • work for a law professor (paid or unpaid)
  • internship, externship, or clinic work that is unpaid and for which you receive law school course credit

To extend your Lexis ID for the summer, go to and click on the “register for summer access” link.

Graduating students: You can extend your Lexis ID until August 1, 2007 by following these same instructions.


You can register your password for summer extension if you need access for:

  • law school coursework
  • research for law review or moot court
  • work for a law professor
  • unpaid non-profit/public interest internship or externship (or pro bono work) that is required for graduation

To register for Westlaw summer extension, go to Then sign-on and complete the Westlaw Password Summer Extension form.

If you do not fall into one of the categories listed above and do not register for a summer extension, your password will still allow you access to Westlaw for 2 hours per month during the summer. 

Graduating students: Your Westlaw password will expire on June 30, 2007. You can receive a summer bar study password from WestlawRewards. (They’ll email you in mid-May. This password does not include free printing.)

Stay Up-to-Date with Congressional Action Using OpenCongress

by Bret Masterson, Law Librarianship Intern

Whether you are tracking the progress of a bill, monitoring legislative activity in a certain issue area, or keeping tabs on what your elected representatives are doing, you need to check out This relatively new website is produced by the Sunlight Foundation and the Participatory Politics Foundation. OpenCongress combines information from THOMAS and other official sources with news and discussion from the Web to provide a comprehensive and easy-to-use site for information on Congress and its activities.

OpenCongress offers some powerful tools for tracking legislation. If you know the number of a bill, you can examine its text, check its status, review all legislative activity, and obtain related information. You may subscribe to an RSS feed that will provide you with an update whenever further action is taken on the bill.

If you are interested in a certain topic and want to find out what legislation might be pending in that area, navigate to the “Issues” page. Here you’ll find over 4000 issue labels assigned to bills by the Congressional Research Service. Select an issue to see relevant bills and subscribe to the RSS feed for updates on legislative developments and new bill introductions. Numerous links allow users to move easily from overview information to specific topics in greater depth.

Many of the features on OpenCongress promote accountability by keeping voters informed about their elected representatives. Separate pages for each member of Congress offer a wealth of easy-to-digest information:

  • committee membership
  • recently-sponsored bills
  • recent votes and a complete voting history
  • fascinating and fun “Voting Trends Analysis” that names the Senators or Representatives with whom the individual has voted most-often and least-often,  both within his or her own party and from the opposition
  • consolidated links to news stories on the Web and blog postings that reference the official
  • an overview by industry of campaign funding from the most recent election cycle.

The OpenCongress project is currently in “beta” and its sponsors are working on extending the site. Many of the features planned for the next phase of the project are designed to allow for user collaboration: tagging of bills, message boards for users to discuss and analyze pending legislation, and “plain language” summaries of complex proposals.

With its easy-to-navigate structure, impressive scope, and powerful RSS options for maintaining current awareness, OpenCongress offers a terrific way to keep up with federal legislative activity. Take a look.