DOJ’s hidden library of legal research

The U.S. Department of Justice has developed an extensive and extremely useful library of Internet legal research materials, including a research blog, according to Michael Ravnitzky, a lawyer and former colleague of mine at American Lawyer Media. But while DOJ created the library at taxpayer expense, it keeps it closed to public view.

Ravnitzky, who was director of database and computer-assisted reporting at ALM and earlier was senior FOIA analyst at APBnews.com, has obtained print-outs from the library and compiled a list of many of its topical guides. He writes:

“The Department of Justice Library Staff have in recent years created a number of extremely useful guides for the use of DOJ attorneys. These guides are posted on an internal DOJ employees only web site called The Virtual Library. The guides would be quite useful to other attorneys and researchers. Unfortunately, the guides, which were prepared at taxpayer expense, have until now not been available to the public who paid for them.”

He suggests that anyone who wants copies of any of the guides should request them in writing, mentioning the Freedom of Information Act, to Patricia D. Harris, FOIA/PA Mail Referral Unit, Department of Justice, Room 1070, National Place Building, Washington, DC 20530-0001. “In the letter, you should agree to pay fees if necessary,” he advises. “You can ask them to let you know if fees will exceed some particular amount, such as $30.”

Here are some of the guides Ravnitzky found:

  • Guide to DOJ Briefs on WestLaw
  • DOJ Brief Bank on WestLaw
  • Apprendi Issues Guide
  • Civil Monographs
  • Environmental, Energy and Natural Resources Law on the Web
  • Federal Income Taxation Research
  • Federal Register and Code of Federal Regulations Research Guide
  • Finding Expert Witnesses
  • Finding Company Information
  • Guide to Corporation Records by State
  • Guide to Court Resources (Federal, State, Local, International)
  • Guide to State Legal Ethics Resources
  • International and Foreign Legal Research Center
  • Law of War Pathfinder
  • Legal Research on the Web
  • Legislative History Research: Focus on Environmental Statutes and Collections
  • Legislative Research Center
  • Medical and Professional Licensure Information by State
  • Presidential Resources
  • Public Records Resources Online
  • Researching Expert Witnesses Online
  • Resources for Finding, Investigating and Using Expert Witnesses
  • State Legal Resource Center
  • Terrorism Websites and Research Sources
  • Treaties Research

In addition to these guides, Ravnitzky says, the Virtual Library includes a research Weblog written by Justice Libraries staff. You can get a printout of the last year’s worth of blog entries — about 16 pages — by making a request.

You can get more information from Ravnitzky by e-mailing him at mikerav-at-mindspring.com.