AALL Cook Stove Travel Offset Project Benefits Climate and People

By David Selden, SR-SIS

The focus of the SR Cook Stove Travel Offset Project was to provide a convenient and affordable way for AALL members to reduce their personal contribution to climate change. The environmental impact of this project is significant and it has the bonus of multiple social benefits.

Climate Impacts

Travel is by far the biggest environmental burden associated with the conference and makes a significant contribution to global warming.  Did you know that the average travel carbon footprint of each attendee is about one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) –per passenger?  I was amazed when I learned this and realized how much fuel an aircraft carried. (No wonder the planes crashing into the World Trade Center created such horrific explosions! The aircraft carries a huge amount of fuel!) The emissions created by one person is equal to equal to burning about one ton of coal or all of the energy used by the average U.S. household over six weeks.

Sixty three conference attendees participated in the offset project, donating $1,700. These generous donors offset about 283 tons of carbon dioxide – more than 4 times each person’s footprint for this one trip. They are doing that much more to help cool the planet. Nearly everything you do just by living counts toward your personal footprint of about 17 ton of CO2 emissions per year per person.


Social Impacts

What makes the cook stove project special is that the benefits go way beyond the verified carbon offset. It improves the lives of Ugandans in East Africa by providing jobs and greatly reducing the cost of cooking meals. Many jobs have been created to manufacture, distribute and sell the stoves. This project reduces charcoal or wood use for cooking by over 50%, lowering impacts on deforestation and saves families about 20% of their annual income spent on cooking fuel. The stoves also help reduce respiratory illness by significantly lowering the smoke created from cooking.

By the Numbers

Project participants: 63

Dollars raised: $1,700
Cost to offset a ton of CO2: about $6.04 (this is very inexpensive for 3rd party verified offset)

Tons of CO2 offset: about 283

Annual income saved by Ugandan families: $110.
Annual income for a Ugandan: $550

Deforestation reduced: Estimated 3,000 Hectares per year (90,000 Uga stove users)

Cumulative impact of Uganda the cook stove project: Over 1 million tons of carbon saved so far.

LISP2Thanks to AALL

The Committee on Environmental Sustainability would like to thank AALL staff and President Ronald Wheeler for embracing and promoting this volunteer offset project.

Photos used with permission of CoolEffect.org



LISP-SIS Members Raise Money for the New England Innocence Project

By Jessica Almeida, LISP-SIS

As part of their local chapter’s Service Committee, members of LISP-SIS helped raise $7,700 for the New England Innocence Project (NEIP).

Started in 2000, NEIP has been working in the New England region to shine a light on criminal justice reform and help individuals who have been wrongfully convicted.  Originally, the New England Innocence Project accepted cases of prisoners who could be exonerated through the use of DNA testing.  Now, their caseload also includes individuals who were mistakenly identified by witnesses or were victims of police misconduct.  Guided by a small staff and an army of volunteer lawyers and law school interns, the NEIP has exonerated 70 people from Maine to Massachusetts.  To read their stories, please visit http://www.newenglandinnocence.org/new-england-exonerees/.  Due to budget concerns over the past year, the NEIP has been unable to accept new clients.

In conjunction with their biannual meetings, the Law Librarians of New England (LLNE) Service Committee provides an outlet for their members to give back to the community.  In the past, members have given stuffed animals to Project Smile, Raspberry PI computers to a local Girls Who Code club, and books to the Rhode Island House of Corrections.  This fall, the LLNE meeting was held in partnership with the Southeastern New England Law Librarians Association (SNELLA).  The meeting theme was “Hysteria, Hyperbole, and Witch Hunts: 1697 & 2017.”  Held in the hometown of the Salem Witch Trials, the meeting looked at historical legal resources and discussed current informational bias.

The New England Innocence Project seemed to be the perfect fit for the meeting theme, so the call went out to LLNE and SNELLA members to give what they could to NEIP.  Members donated a total of $3,850, with a very generous $3,000 contribution coming from librarian Kathy Ludwig and her father, Bruce Williams.  NEIP also set up matching donations through an anonymous donor, so that doubled the effort to $7,700, making it the most funds the committee has raised in one project.

The Law of Prison Law Libraries

Lewis C. Zimmerman, SR-SIS

Prisoners have long presented a special challenge to law librarians. In his 1970 essay, Werner O. James declared that law librarians must confront the needs of prisoners or “live with their consciences, knowing that they are not adequately providing a needed service and that they are not doing anything about it.” Law Library Service to Prisoners–The Responsibility of Nonprison Libraries, 63 Law Libr. J. 231, 240 (1970).

Since 1971 law libraries have been the center of nearly constant legal disputes over prisoner’s right to conduct legal research. The two United States Supreme court cases Bounds v. Smith and Lewis v. Casey have shaped the landscape of these debates. Understanding these cases and how they define what librarians can do to provide legal information is vital for librarians seeking to answer James’ call to our consciences.

Bounds v. Smith

Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977) recognized that prisoners have a right to meaningful access to the courts. Bounds stood for the proposition that a law library, or a reasonable substitute, is necessary to effectuate that constitutional right. Justice Marshall declared:

We hold, therefore that the fundamental right of access to the courts requires prison authorities to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of meaningful legal papers by providing prisoners with adequate law libraries or adequate assistance from persons trained in the law. Id. at 828

The Bounds opinion called for an expansive view of a prisoner’s right to information. The court seemed to envisage a broad right to place prisoners on equal footing with lawyers. A prisoner was to be provided with resources adequate to determining “… whether a colorable claim exists, and if so, what facts are necessary to state a cause of action.” Id. at 825.

In the wake of Bounds, the federal courts rushed to fill in the details of the right to legal information. The lower courts ruled that this right meant libraries must be realistically available to prisoners. In practice this meant a whole range of new requirements, from reasonable hours to trained legal assistants. Kaufman v. Schneiter, 474 F. Supp. 2d 1014 (W.D. Wis. 2007), Gluth v. Kangas, 773 F. Supp. 1309 (D. Ariz. 1988).

Lewis v. Casey

Twenty years later Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996) reexamined this expansive right. Justice Scalia, writing for an eight justice majority, chided the Bounds court for suggesting a right to “discover grievances, and to litigate effectively once in court.” Id. at 354. Instead of the broad right to legal information implied by Bounds, the Lewis opinion charted a much more narrow course.

Lewis held that the right to access the courts was limited to the right to “attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in order to challenge the conditions of their confinement.” Id. at 355. The Lewis opinion sharply criticized the years of lower court decisions under Bounds and declared that inmates need not be given the ability to transform themselves into “litigating engines.” Id. at 355.

Perhaps more importantly, Lewis limits the remedies available to prisoners denied effective access to the courts. The court clarified that Bounds required actual harm to the prisoner’s rights and that any remedy must be limited to that specific harm. The Lewis opinion definitively rejected the proposition that there was a right to “physical access to excellent libraries.” Id. at 356. Rather, prisoners would only have the right to research specific remedies to their own personal and non-frivolous injuries.

The effect of Lewis on lower court decisions was swift and lasting. Lower courts have continued to reject claims that merely allege inadequate law libraries. Legal complaints asserting a general lack of access are regularly found inadequate. See Johnson v. Little, (D. Nev. 2017); Jackson v, Feliciano, 2017 WL 5712596 (W.D. Mich. 2017). The free standing right to law library services in prisons is dead and buried.

What Next?

What are law librarians to make of these cases? What role should the law library play in prisons? How should librarians advocate for imprisoned patrons? A clear-eyed understanding of Bounds and Lewis is necessary before librarians can answer these questions. In the light of Lewis, librarians cannot rely on legal demands and must turn to other avenues of persuasion.

There is a larger and more fundamental argument for law libraries in prisons. Libraries provide their patrons with new ways to think about their place in the world. Law libraries are no different. A full law library charts the way society deals with its hardest questions. Law l libraries answer questions important to everyone. What is going to happen in my divorce? What is the best way to organize my new business?
Prisoners have an even greater need for this kind of information. Their lives in prison and their futures out of it are more uncertain and more subject to the law than any other group of people. They naturally have a greater need for full access to legal information. A desire to discover their legal rights and obligations is healthy and should not be frustrated.

Law librarians can confront the grim assessment of Lewis that inmates are disruptive engines of litigation. They should recast the prisoners’ understanding of the law as what it remains for the rest of society: a tool of reconciliation. This is the hard lesson of Lewis for law librarians. We must, for the sake of prisoners, convince the state that prison law libraries can work not only to fulfill the minimum duty of access to the courts but can educate and elevate the prisoner. Access to a full law library will fuel the engine of rehabilitation and make the prisoner better able to rejoin society.

Greetings & Welcome

This is the inaugural post to the shared blog for Legal Information Service to the Public and Social Responsibilities, Special Interest Sections of the American Association of Law Libraries. Both of these Special Interest Sections have an interest in promoting Access to Justice, so it made sense to develop a joint blog. We plan to feature posts from members of both groups.

This blog is the brainchild of Nicole Dyszlewski, last year’s Legal Information Services to the Public SIS Chair. We decided to join forces with Social Responsibilities SIS as many of our interests overlap. Our plan is to post on topics of interest to both Special Interest Sections, as well as the wider law librarian and legal communities.

If you have any interest in writing a post, or just want to suggest a topic, or have any other feedback, we would love to hear from you. Please send a message via the form on the Contact link above.

Stay tuned.

Heather & Dana

Heather Simmons, Chair Legal Information Service to the Public

Dana Neacşu, Chair Social Responsibilities