Law Libraries and Access to Justice

September 25, 2014

By Emily Feltren

Last week I had the special opportunity to join AALL’s past president Steve Anderson for the Legal Services Corporation’s (LSC) 40th Anniversary Celebration in Washington, D.C. The event brought together stakeholders and supporters for several days of reflection on LSC’s successes and discussion of the challenges ahead. The event attracted policymakers from both sides of the aisle, current and former administration officials, state Supreme Court justices and judges, law school deans and faculty, business leaders, attorneys and others who participated in panels about how public and private sector leaders can help to improve access to justice.

The timing of the event couldn’t have been better as AALL’s Access to Justice (ATJ) Special Committee just published its new white paper entitled “Law Libraries and Access to Justice: A Report of the American Association of Law Libraries Special Committee on Access to Justice.” There was a high level of interest in the paper at the conference, as well as support for the need for partnerships with law libraries to support the ATJ movement. In particular, there was recognition that the ATJ leaders need to build bridges between communities and work together to address the needs of the disadvantaged.

Access to justice is a key element of AALL’s strategic directions. It is also part of AALL’s Public Policy Positions for the 113th Congress, which states: “Access to justice is essential for a well-functioning democracy. Law libraries provide access to legal resources and increase understanding of the legal system, helping to ensure equal justice for all.” AALL is committed to supporting the work of our members and the Legal Services Corporation to ensure “justice for all”.

Next Steps on Net Neutrality

September 23, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

The time has come for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to get down to business on new net neutrality rules. Last week, the agency announced that it had received over 3.7 million comments and reply comments on its now-closed notice of proposed rulemaking on Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet. Chairman Tom Wheeler made the rounds at hearings on Capitol Hill and hosted 12 hours of discussions in the Open Internet Roundtables.

In our July comments to the FCC, AALL urged the agency to establish a firm foundation for net neutrality rules by reclassifying broadband Internet access as a Title II telecommunications service; and in a blog post yesterday, Wireline Bureau Chief Julie Veach wrote that agency is seriously considering proposals that rely, at least partially, on Title II. Veach highlighted comments from AOL, Mozilla, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and Professor Tim Wu that recommended using Title II in combination with other legal theories to protect the principle of net neutrality. Wheeler is, she wrote, looking at a “rainbow of policy and legal proposals” rather than being confined to “monochromatic” options.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats have gotten on board for stricter regulations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for the commission to designate broadband Internet service as a utility, while Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is using his committee to explore ways to strengthen the proposed rules. Chairman Leahy also authored the bicameral Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act (H.R. 4880, S. 2476) that would require the FCC to ban paid prioritization deals. Oppositely, Senate Republican leaders have taken aim at the FCC for what they see as burdensome government regulation. The Federal Trade Commission also says it would lose its ability to take action against “deceptive and unfair” behavior by broadband providers if the FCC decides to pursue Title II reclassification.

Chairman Wheeler has said that he hopes the FCC will approve a proposal before the end of 2014. With any action unlikely before Election Day, the commission has a few more months to consider comments, meet with stakeholders, and test the waters on Title II before scheduling a final vote.

Renewed Call for ECPA Reform

September 11, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

AALL has joined more than 80 privacy advocacy and tech groups on two new letters urging immediate action on Electronic Communication Privacy Act (ECPA) reform. Addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the letters call on the leadership to bring their chambers’ ECPA reform bills to the floor, where we believe they will pass overwhelmingly. Both bills (H.R. 1852, S. 607) have stalled in Congress recently, despite widespread support from lawmakers; in the House, more than a majority of Representatives are listed as co-sponsors of the legislation.

As the letters read, “updating ECPA would respond to the deeply held concerns of Americans about their privacy” without impeding law enforcement. H.R. 1852 and S. 607 would make clear that the warrant standard of the Constitution applies to private digital information just as it applies to physical property, eliminating the outdated discrepancy that affords data stored in the cloud less protection than data stored locally.

Importantly, this legislation guarantees Americans’ full constitutional and statutory protections for electronic communications like text messages, emails, photographs, and documents stored online. The only resistance to ECPA reform comes from civil regulatory agencies seeking an exception to allow them to obtain the content of customer communications directly from third party service providers.  Such a carve out would expand government power, as government regulators currently cannot compel service providers to disclose their customers’ communications.  The coalition any rules that would treat private data differently depending on the type of technology used to store it.

AALL urges Congressional leadership to bring H.R. 1852 and S. 607 to a vote now. We strongly support these proposed reforms to ECPA, which ensure important protections to the privacy of library users and appropriately balance the government’s interest in protecting national security with the protections of privacy and freedom from government surveillance the Constitution requires.

Advocacy Training Archive  

September 9, 2014

By Elizabeth Holland

Over 175 AALL and chapter members have already viewed the Government Relations Office’s 2014 quarterly advocacy trainings. But there’s no need to fear missing out! All past recordings are now archived in the AALL Resources library on AALLNET.

Want more? Visit the GRO’s Presentations page, which hosts links to PowerPoint presentations from previous trainings, Annual Meeting content, and materials from other events, organized by year. We encourage you to review the presentations at your leisure and contact us with any questions.  

Q1 Training: “The 113th Continued: What to Expect in Congress’s Second Session and How You Can Help”

Q2 Training: “Proving Your Value: Skills for Public Law Librarian Advocacy”

Q3 Training: “Making the Most of Midterms: Opportunities for Advocacy at Home”

Q4 Training: December 2014. Stay tuned!

September Washington E-Bulletin

September 5, 2014

The September issue of the Washington E-Bulletin is available now on AALLNET.

Vol. 2014, Issue 09





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