The Florida Bar
A Collection of the Most Useful Sources for Reporters and Regular Human Beings
Compiled by Neil Skene *
Updated October 2008
Florida Bar Reporters’ Workshop
Compiled by Neil Skene *
Updated October 2008
Florida Bar Reporters’ Workshop
Cartoon by Peter Steiner reproduced for non-profit educational purposes from The New Yorker , (Vol.69 (LXIX) no. 20), page 61, July 5, 1993. See also www.cartoonbank.com .
On This Page
A preliminary note
A further note
U.S. Supreme Court
Courts Affecting Florida
Other Florida Resources
Florida Law Reviews
Federal Government Information
Media Law Sources
A preliminary note
One of the most interesting journalist commentators on the U.S. Supreme Court today is Dahlia Lithwick of Slate. Dahlia is a graduate of Stanford Law School. I got a lot of ideas about covering appellate courts by reading Jim Mann, who back in the old days covered the court for the L.A. Times and wrote the “Courtly Manners” column in American Lawyer. If you want to see some sharp commentary on the court, read Dahlia’s column regularly at www.slate.com . The column, “Supreme Court Breakfast Table,” is really an ongoing blog-like conversation among Dahlia, former U.S. Solicitor General and Duke Law Professor Walter Dellinger (a very bright and knowledgeable guy), plus two people I don’t know: Washington lawyer Cliff Sloan and Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith. If you want to understand the U.S. Supreme Court and get a quick analysis of some breaking court news, read this.
A further note
Legal Times in Washington covers oral arguments at the Supreme Court, but you have to pay for it (except during a 30-day free trial). American Lawyer focuses mainly on the business of law firms, but it’s sometimes useful in watching big firms in your town.
Also, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has accumulated a host of founding documents and related materials, including an annotated version of the U.S. Constitution. Visit http://www.constitution.org/cs_found.htm .
A number of organizations have collected links of interest to people who hang around the law, or lawyers. The Bar itself has links not only to its various constituencies but to a number of law-related areas. The Florida Supreme Court has links. Westlaw offers LawCrawler, which gives you a chance to search law-oriented websites without all the surplusage that comes from regular search engines. American Lawyer has Law.com and LawSource has a great link to law reviews, which can be extremely helpful in catching up on an area of the law.
We’d also like to point out the only independent legal blog we know of in Florida is Abstract Appeal at www.abstractappeal.com , written by Matt Conigliaro, an appellate lawyer with Carlton Fields in St. Petersburg (Matt has been a panelist at several Reporters’ Workshops). There you’ll find Matt’s engaging commentary on recent court decisions, links to newspaper stories on those cases, plus to all kinds of useful legal stuff from around Florida. (And thanks to Matt for suggestions and updates for the 2004 and 2005 editions of this collection of “Law on the Internet” links.)
Another appellate lawyer, James H. Wyman of Ft. Lauderdale, has assembled links to a variety of legal and policy sources in Florida, including the Public Service Commission orders and the Division of Administrative Hearings (the latter a remarkably under-covered but completely public administrative proceedings inquiring into the decisions of local and state agencies. Wyman’s site is http://www.floridalawonline.net/courts.html . (His otherwise spare site includes this comment, re: the Univ. of Florida Law Review right under the link to the readily available Florida State U. law review: Florida Law Review. Note: This public university law review is no longer available to the public online. As befitting this sad but still arrogant shell of a scholarly journal, all links to current and past issues point to the private, subscription-only Westlaw.)
The Florida Supreme Court, which impressed the world with its accessibility during the 2000 election proceedings, is at www.floridasupremecourt.org . The court’s old domain, www.flcourts.org , is still the domain for the state court system generally, and includes links to the various courts in the Florida system as well as to the Office of State Court Administrator (OSCA) and the various court-appointed administrative committees, which themselves have a lot of material posted.
One other thing of importance to all reporters is Florida’s tradition of open government. The Sunshine Law and the Public Records Law have been among the best in the nation, although a growing list of exemptions and exceptions has diminished the law. There is a great deal of information in the Florida Bar’s Reporters’ Handbook. Pat Gleason, general counsel to Attorney General Charlie Crist, maintains an excellent resource, including a comprehensive “Government-in-the-Sunshine” manual, at http://myfloridalegal.com/sun.nsf/manual . You can download an abridged version.
Okay, on to The List. We’ll start with the intermediaries, the collectors of links, and then offer some specific sites worth knowing about or having a ready link to. These are live links; if you are reading this on your computer, you may click on the link and go directly to the site. If you are reading this in print without a computer, it is completely useless but occasionally amusing.
Florida Bar’s Legal Links
Florida Bar website: www.floridabar.org and click on “Links.” These include such sites as local bar associations, committees and sections of the Bar (very useful for expert comments on areas of the law), and national resources like the American Law Institute, arbitration and national specialty areas in the law.
For some specific Bar-related organizations:
Media Law Resource List
Florida Bar’s Reporters’ Handbook is online at the Media Resources at www.floridabar.org, complete with a search engine. You might especially note its really great list of Governmental Access and Internet Resources. You can also click to specific chapters here:
|Chapter 1: Overview of Florida Law Relating to Open Government|
|Chapter 2: Florida's Government-in-the-Sunshine Law|
|Chapter 3: Access to Computer Public Records|
|Chapter 4: Federal Sunshine Laws|
|Chapter 5: The Federal Government in the Sunshine Act: A Federal Mandate for Open Meetings|
|Chapter 6: Cameras in the Courtroom|
|Chapter 7: Judicial Access: The Reporter's Right of Access To The Judicial System|
|Chapter 8: Access to Juvenile Records and Proceedings|
|Chapter 9: The Reporter's Guide to a Civil Lawsuit|
|Chapter 10: Reporter's Qualified Privilege|
|Chapter 11: Defamation and the Media|
|Chapter 12: Invasion of Privacy and the Media: The Right "To Be Alone"|
|Chapter 13: The Grand Jury|
|Chapter 14: The State Courts System|
|Chapter 15: Governmental Access and Internet Resources|
|Chapter 16: Florida Bar Legal Citations|
|Chapter 17: Media Law Resource List|
|Chapter 18: The Florida Bar|
|Chapter 19: Voluntary Bar Association Presidents - links|
Florida Supreme Court’s Links: www.floridasupremecourt.org
Florida Court System Links: www.flcourts.org
Some Handy Links (thanks to Matt Conigliaro for these):
Municipal codes from over 1000 local governments: http://www.municode.com/
Florida Attorney General's summaries of recent appellate cases, assembled by Jon Peck, former reporter and later communications director for Gov. Bob Martinez: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/alerts.nsf/e9db6e3a14425e1085256642005da529!OpenView&Start=1
Florida Statutes: http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=View%20Statutes&Submenu=1&Tab=statutes
Florida Constitution: http://www.flsenate.gov/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=Constitution&Submenu=3&Tab=statutes
Florida Supreme Court docket search: http://jweb.flcourts.org/pls/docket/ds_docket_search
Florida District Courts of Appeal dockets: http://220.127.116.11/pls/ds/ds_docket_search
Eleventh Circuit en banc issues: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/enbanc/index.php
This could be handy: Lawyers.com has a free online version of Martindale-Hubbell directory of lawyers, with lawyers by specialty. Remember, in Martindale, the “av” rating is the highest for lawyers and law firms: http://www.lawyers.com/
Glossary of Terms: From the National Association of Court Management -- http://www.nacmnet.org/Glossary.html . Another dictionary of legal terms, from Findlaw (it’s adequate): http://dictionary.lp.findlaw.com/
Thomson’s FindLaw service has links to a lot of free information, thought the “Public” section is usually extremely basic and limited in depth and perspective. Great home page with a directory to all kinds of information, much of it free, including links to all kinds of other resources. If you have no idea where to start to find some information, this is it: http://www.findlaw.com/
Also has message boards, which provide one way of finding commentators on an issue. Remember that you never know the competence or bias of people on message boards, so be careful with this approach. http://boards.lp.findlaw.com/
Terrific resource: LawCrawler. Search sites deemed to have useful content on the law (includes some newspaper sites): http://lawcrawler.findlaw.com/
You can even sign up for email alerts on law review articles on subjects that interest you: http://www.findlaw.com/lists/ulrpsubscribe.html
LawSource – Links to freely accessible sites on the Web for U.S., Mexico and Canada: http://www.lawsource.com/also/ and also in French and Spanish.
Among the more useful are the links to law reviews. Some law reviews make entire articles available online (including Florida State University), while others provide only the table of contents or abstracts (Harvard Law Review has only abstracts). (And then there’s the University of Florida’s Journal of Law and Public Policy, which offers absolutely nothing online except its covers, even though the UF Journalism School is one sponsor. If you don’t believe me: http://grove.ufl.edu/~jlpp/ . However, the cover does list articles with authors, so if you troll through long enough, maybe you’ll find something you’re looking for.)
Even if you have only the contents listing, though, you can identify possible commentators. Those who write for reputable law reviews are the most desirable commentators. They often are pushing a particular perspective, but the law reviews are usually selective about the authors they publish. And finding a good law review article on a topic is one of the fastest and surest ways to get a solid overview of a topic you are writing about: http://www.lawsource.com/also/usa.cgi?usj .
Statutes of other states: Lawskills: www.lawskills.com . Browse and basic searches are free, along with the full text. Searching is a little clunky, though. You may prefer to go to official state sources. For links, go to Findlaw: http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/
Law.com: From American Lawyer Media at www.law.com . Designed for lawyers, which means there won’t be lots of basics here. But it has lots of news, commentary, links. Includes articles from American Lawyer (www.americanlawyer.com ), which is full of story ideas that can be localized. Also links to Miami’s Daily Business Review, which includes the “Appellate Review” column on recent decisions by appellate courts affecting Florida (registration required).
Internet Sleuth, a director of government law search engines. Links to American Bar Association, American Civil Liberties Union, Court TV and many others at http://www.isleuth.com/lega.html .
American Bar Association Law Info: Pretty basic stuff at http://www.abalawinfo.org/ . Main ABA Site: www.americanbar.org . ABA news releases: http://www.abanow.org/ .
This is a GREAT SITE. See especially the “public education” section: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education.html . It has links for citizens, educators, journalists, lawyers and judges at the bottom of the page.
Nolo’s Legal Encyclopedia: Plain-English articles on legal topics. Very good as the consumer-oriented information goes. Not highly detailed from a legal standpoint, but thorough and useful at http://www.nolo.com/lawcenter/ency/index.cfm .
Yahoo Law Directory: Yahoo’s usual encyclopedic set of links in the law category: http://dir.yahoo.com/Government/Law/ . A lot of sources, but unique in linking to legal issues related to kinky sex. It’s written by a criminal defense lawyer who’s into leather (I am NOT making this up): http://gloria-brame.com/domidea/rumpoule.htm . Sample: “J. Edgar Hoover once said, ‘I regret to say that we of the FBI are powerless to act in cases of oral-genital intimacy, unless it has in some way obstructed interstate commerce.’ ”
Judiciary.org: An eclectic collection of materials, including a link to the home page for the courts of every state and links to a number of international courts at www.thejudiciary.org
Law Libraries and Law Schools with Links to Internet Resources:
(See Florida sections for Florida law schools)
University of Georgia: http://www.law.uga.edu/library/research/internet/index.html .
Washburn College of Law, Rhode Island (terrific set of links to courts, including court opinions, all over the country, both federal and state): http://www.washlaw.edu/ .
Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute offers background analysis: http://www.law.cornell.edu/index.html . It includes overviews of most areas of the law: http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/topic1.html .
Oregon State University: Another collection of useful links, particularly including some links on environmental law at http://osulibrary.oregonstate.edu/research/srg/law.htm .
Legal Commentary / daily weblog from U Pitt law school. Includes link to relevant basic documents, including Supreme Court filings: http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/ .
On the Docket. Medill Journalism School of Northwestern University has a Project on the U.S. Supreme Court. Case information page shows docket number, lower court, question(s) presented, a background story, attorneys for the parties, oral argument date, and, after decision, the vote and prevailing party. Also has links to additional background at http://journalism.medill.northwestern.edu/docket/ .
University of Iowa Journalism School: Communication and Media Law Resources: http://bailiwick.lib.uiowa.edu/journalism/mediaLaw/ .
Vanderbilt University First Amendment Center, a Freedom Forum project: www.firstamendmentcenter.org has information on religion, free speech, free press – all aspects of the First Amendment.
U.S. Supreme Court
Main site: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/ . Includes links to a number of government and unofficial resources. If you are planning to cover an oral argument, beware of seating reservations requirements for high-profile cases. Check online advisories at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/publicinfo/media/mediaadvisories.html and check with the public information office. Note: tape recorders and cameras are not allowed. Unlike the general public, reporters can take notebooks and pens. There’s a web page of “public information” at http://www.supremecourtus.gov/publicinfo/publicinfo.html .
Speeches by justices (some of them): http://www.supremecourtus.gov/publicinfo/speeches/speeches.html .
Reporters guide to procedures, including an FAQ on capital cases: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/publicinfo/publicinfo.html for “Reporters’ Guide to Applications,” or go to http://www.supremecourt.gov/publicinfo/reportersguide.pdf (the latter is an Akamai site, may not be a permanent URL).
Chief Justice’s year-end report, invariably embargoed for release on New Year’s Day (nothing else going on, so gets a little more ink, and the court press room gets it a couple of days early so they don’t have to work the holiday). Includes some basic statistics on the court as well as the federal judiciary, and some observations (usually about needing more judges and the like): http://www.supremecourtus.gov/publicinfo/year-end/year-endreports.html
This court that still pretends that television cameras don’t exist does not have briefs online, although it does have a link to the ABA’s briefs on the merits at http://www.americanbar.org/publications/preview_home.html . You can’t find amicus briefs online.
For grants of certiorari, organized by topic – National Law Journal: http://www.law.com/us_supreme_ct/cert_granted.shtml
Supreme Court Preview: Project of American Bar Association – Excellent Service (expensive, but useful material ABA website). Cases at a Glance is free: Terrific way to get up to speed quickly on a pending case. Cases at a Glance offers an advance look at the issues raised in every case slated for oral argument. Continuously updated links will take you to the full text of the Court's decisions as soon as they are handed down. The current term's cases are at http://www.americanbar.org/publications/preview_home/publiced_preview_glances_oct06.html . Cases at a Glance for previous terms are also available.
Supreme Court Briefs -- The ABA Division for Public Education has launched a new service on its Supreme Court Preview site, where briefs filed by parties in cases pending argument before the Supreme Court of the United States are posted and will be archived. Search, view and download briefs free of charge. Merit briefs may be accessed either by argument date or case name: http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/briefs/home.html
Theme Info: Featured Cases (Articles)
2000 Presidential Election Cases
Cases of Interest to the School Community
Theme Review: ABA Preview conducts a Supreme Court program every summer at the ABA Annual Meeting . Nationally recognized experts review the recently completed term, focusing on such areas as the First Amendment and the Fourth Amendment. Summary is online. For example: The 2006 program was on the new justices -- http://www.abanet.org/publiced/preview/event06.html . This was a free program, and it was in Hawaii.
On the Docket 2003 : Race and Rights in the Supreme Court
On the Docket 2002 : Education in the Supreme Court
On the Docket 2001 : The Fourth Amendment in the Supreme Court
On the Docket 2000 : The Supreme Court and the First Amendment
On the Docket 1999 : Search and Seizure in the Supreme Court (Fourth Amendment)
Westlaw’s Findlaw Service provides free Briefs Filed in pending cases, going back four terms at http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/briefs/index.html
Also provides News on the court. http://news.findlaw.com/legalnews/us/sc/
And commentary on current topics at http://writ.news.findlaw.com/
Courts Affecting Florida
U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals
Main Court Site: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/index.php
Emory Law School archive of 11th Circuit opinions going back to November 1994: http://www.law.emory.edu/11circuit/
Florida State Courts: http://www.flcourts.org/ . Has links to each of the levels of courts, and subsequent pages with links to each circuit and county. You can also find Clerks of Court and Court Administrator offices.
Florida Supreme Court Oral Argument Schedule and Briefs. http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/pub_info/summaries/index.shtml
Also includes a link to live web video of oral arguments and archived video of past cases: http://www.wfsu.org/gavel2gavel/ . Very helpful: Phone numbers of lawyers arguing the cases.
Division of Administrative Hearings:
More Federal Judiciary in Florida: Follow links from the Federal Judiciary Page: www.uscourts.gov/links.html . Sources such as federal Bankruptcy Courts, U.S. District Courts, plus Court of Claims and other federal courts.
One terrific resource in an age of citizen initiatives: Supreme Court Librarian Jo Dowling has compiled the best (and perhaps only) history of amendments to the Florida Constitution, back to its origins in 1838 at http://www.law.fsu.edu/crc/conhist/index.html .
Other Florida Resources
Main State of Florida “Portal”: www.myflorida.com . Sometimes clumsy navigation, and agency websites are very inconsistent, but the links are here somewhere.
Florida Administrative Code, election statistics, campaign finance rules, candidate qualifying, other government links: http://election.dos.state.fl.us .
Attorney General Opinions, usually provided in response to an inquiry from a state or local agency. Occasional good stories: http://myfloridalegal.com/opinions .
Florida Attorney General’s Office: http://myfloridalegal.com/ .
Tracing People (Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, Marriage, Property, Deeds): http://www.myfloridacounty.com/peopleandplaces/ .
Florida Division of Corporations: Sunbiz is the Florida Division of Corporations’ online information, research, and electronic processing service center. Here you can directly access the Division’s business entity, lien information, and image databases. You can also download and print copies of filed documents and forms to use when filing: http://www.sunbiz.org/ .
Also a database of security interests recorded under the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) on business loans (just like mortgages in local clerks’ offices). Sometimes useful to investigative reporters: http://www.floridaucc.com/ .
Department of Juvenile Justice: http://www.djj.state.fl.us/ .
Map of Judicial Circuits: http://www.myfloridacounty.com/circuits/ .
Florida Board of Bar Examiners: Bar Exam issues. This organization is separate from the Florida Bar. Includes rules for Bar admission: http://www.floridabarexam.org/ .
Miami Daily Business Review: www.dailybusinessreview.com . Includes an “Appellate Courts” column on U.S. 11th Circuit, Florida Supreme Court, Florida District Courts of Appeal.
[You can also use the Morris Florida Handbook for lots of historical, statistical and other factual information about Florida, its government and its history. There is, however, no Internet site or Internet version of the book.]
Florida Law Reviews
University of Florida Law Review: Only the cover is online at http://www.floridalawreview.org/ . Otherwise available for free the old-fashioned way: at your nearest law library.
Florida State Law Review: Another “service” offering only the list of articles at http://www.law.fsu.edu/journals/lawreview/ .
Stetson Law Review: Text of current issue is available online and back issues from recent years at http://www.law.stetson.edu/lawrev/ .
University of Miami Law Library: Terrific compilation of links on all kinds of law-related topics at http://library.law.miami.edu/reference.html .
Nova University Law Review: Fall 2004 through Fall 2005 available as PDFs as of this writing at http://www.nsulaw.nova.edu/orgs/lawreview/latestissues.cfm .
Florida Coastal School of Law Journal of Baltic Law. In case you ever need to check out Baltic Law, you should know that it is published jointly with a law school in Lithuania – and much of it is written in what appears to be Lithuanian at http://www.fcsl.edu/baltic/vol1n1/ . But never fear, contact the Lithuanian-American Bar Association: http://www.javadvokatai.org/ .
Code of Judicial Conduct: http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/ethics/index.shtml .
Judicial Ethics Advisory Committee Opinions on the Sixth Circuit’s website, by year back to 1972: http://www.jud6.org/LegalPractice/opinions/judicialethicsadvisoryopinions/Opinions.html .
Federal Government Information
U.S. Government’s “portal” page to government agencies at www.firstgov.gov .
Criminal Justice Reporting: http://www.justicejournalism.org/crimeguide/ . Includes story ideas and sources.
Has a listserv for reporters covering criminal courts. Site is hosted by the Poynter Institute. Go to: http://www.reporters.net/cjj/listserv.html
More Criminal Justice Resources: Criminal Justice & Legal Studies Department Northeastern State University at http://arapaho.nsuok.edu/~dreveskr/SCJRS.html-ssi .
Technology Law: All kinds of sources, including trademarks, patents and copyrights at www.bitlaw.com .
American Judicature Society: Non-profit, non-partisan works for improvement of the court system. Excellent research reports, though some are getting out of date at www.ajs.org .
Judicial Independence: ListServ from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School provides biweekly e-mail updates on issues of judicial independence. Press releases and opinions on the site on a number of currently active legal issues. Advocacy program (including Johnson v. Bush on black voting rights) at http://www.brennancenter.org/ .
Cornell Law Library: collection of resources (350 pages printed, 1.2 mb to download, also searchable online). Huge, and wonderful resource. Beside global information, there are country-by-country breakdowns of information, including World Bank profiles of many countries. If you ever need quick info on another country, including some non-legal information, this is it: http://library2.lawschool.cornell.edu/ForeignLawGuide/ .
International Trade Law: GATT? WTO? This is a place to start. From the Georgetown University Law School. Caution: Date on it is February 2002. As basic research sources, this may not be a major problem. But use caution. Includes U.S. resources, including links to U.S. Trade Representative’s office and U.S. Department of Commerce. Also country guides and statistics. http://www.llrx.com/features/trade3.htm .
Media Law Sources
Federal Freedom of Information Act: http://www.epic.org/open_gov/foia/us_foia_act.html .
Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: http://www.rcfp.org .
National Center for State Courts: Information on court administration. http://www.ncsconline.org/ .
Law Guru: www.lawguru.com . More links, including legal forms for purchase.
Chesslaw: Links to law blogs at http://www.chesslaw.com/lawblogs.htm .
VerdictSearch from American Lawyer. Some summaries for free. A “day pass” costs $195 at www.verdictsearch.com .
Primary Sources on Taxation. From ever-reliable Cornell Law School: http://myphliputil.pearsoncmg.com/student/bp_pope_fedtax_2003_comp/taxurl01.html . And from the University of Texas: http://www.mccombs.utexas.edu/~josephr/384/itaxsrcs.htm .
Survey of Law of Religious Speech in Public Schools (1995): Mercer Law Review at http://review.law.mercer.edu/old/spr95.htm .
American Civil Liberties Union:
National: http://www.aclu.org/ .
Florida: http://www.aclufl.org/ .
Florida en español: http://www.aclufl.org/en_espanol.html .
A weird resource: Rule III(f) of the Arkansas Rules Governing Admission to the Bar provides: "The top examination paper in each subject shall be available for review in the Office of the Supreme Court Library and the libraries of any American Bar Association accredited law school in Arkansas, but the name of the author shall not be disclosed." If you want to read a Bar exam (okay, it’s from Arkansas), read it here: http://courts.state.ar.us/opp/ble_exam_essay.html?num=26 .
A weird way to go to trial: iCourthouse.com. Take your case to a virtual jury (Untested site) at http://www.i-courthouse.com/main.taf .
Zip Code: And just in case you need a zip code for an address, or the cities in a zip code: http://www.usps.com/zip4/ .
* Neil Skene
(850) 894-8424 (O)
EDITORS: Please note The Florida Bar is not an association and "Association" is not part of our name. Proper reference is "The Florida Bar." Local bar organizations are properly termed "associations."