Washington eBulletin – June 2019

A Look Ahead

AALL Supports Greater Access to Office of Legal Counsel Opinions

AALL joined a coalition of organizations on a letter to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees asking them to include language in their Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) appropriations bills to require the Department of Justice to provide a list of the titles, authors, and dates of issuance of all final Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) opinions.

OLC is tasked with providing authoritative legal advice to the president, the Attorney General, and other executive branch agencies. However, the executive branch often withholds from Congress and the public even the most basic information about their reports, such as when and to whom they are issued, the subject of their analyses, and even how many are currently in effect. This hinders Congressional oversight as well as public knowledge of the OLC’s work.

Due to national security and privacy concerns, not all OLC opinions can or should be released to the public without any redactions. However, other government agencies with similar national security and privacy requirements have found workable solutions to provide information about their reports. For example, the Department of Defense Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office release information, such as a report title or report number, in cases when some or all of a report’s contents must remain nonpublic.

While the House Appropriations Committee marked up its FY 2020 CJS bill on May 22, the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet marked up its bill. We urge the Committee to require the Department of Justice to begin reporting a list of all final opinions.

Act Now

Survey on U.S. Code Annual Supplements

AALL is working with the U.S. Government Publishing Office and the Office of the Law Revision Counsel (OLRC) of the U.S. House of Representatives to conduct a survey of AALL members on the use of the United States Code (USC) and its supplements. OLRC is the office that produces the USC. The office is investigating whether the USC can be produced more efficiently by eliminating printed USC annual supplements.

All AALL members are welcome to complete this survey, including those who completed a similar survey for the Federal Depository Library Program. The OLRC wants to continue to serve the needs of its users, and your completion of the survey will provide important feedback.

Please complete the survey by June 24. You may see a copy of the survey before you begin.

AALL in the States

UELMA Enacted in Iowa and Texas

Submitted by John Edwards and Lynn Murray

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) on May 8. AALL Members Karen Wallace, Rebecca Lutkenhaus, and John Edwards were instrumental in the enactment. They worked with Drake’s Legislative Practice Center, Commissioner David Walker (Drake Emeriti Law Professor), Representative Jon Jacobsen, and others. The advocates attended the signing ceremony.

In Texas, thanks to the tireless efforts of AALL past president Barbara Bintliff, Governor Greg Abbott signed UELMA on May 24. For three legislative sessions, Barbara recruited legislative sponsors, and she provided testimony about the importance of UELMA at committee hearings. One story she shares from the 2017 legislative session relates how she won over the Secretary of State causing him to drop his opposition mere minutes before their testimony at one committee hearing. Barbara was assisted by the legislative clinic at UT, and she enjoyed the universal backing of library associations, both law and non-law, who all endorsed the adoption of UELMA.

UELMA has been enacted in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

GPLLA Volunteers with Books through Bars

Submitted by Janet Peros

On Saturday, May 18th, a Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association (GPLLA) contingent volunteered at Books Through Bars in Philadelphia selecting books requested and packaging books to send to incarcerated individuals in PA and neighboring states after a brief orientation.

Those that attended felt it was a rewarding experience and we are hoping to make this a regular/ongoing event (every few months) so that others in our chapter might also get involved.

Roundup and Review

  • The Depository Library Council delivered its Federal Register Modernization Act (H.R. 1654/S.1078) Issue Brief to GPO. The brief expresses gratitude to AALL for its advocacy to ensure continued publication of the Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations indexes.
  • The House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress made its first recommendations, putting forth ideas to improve access to bills and votes.