Public Access to Law and “Official” Court Reports
Some noteworthy posts in the area of access to (and preservation of) legal information:
Peter Martin, co-founder of the LII and author of previous works on citation, has a new blog post on the lag time between U.S. Court decisions and official publication. In terms of the time between the Court’s decision in a case and the arrival of the print volume containing that case at the Cornell Law Library, Martin finds the current delay to be 4 1/2 – 5 years. Not only does this frustrate attorneys and other researchers, but it leaves citation gaps in state print reporters as well — and indeed, in the Court’s own citation to its previous decisions. Martin points to Illinois as a model for publication, in terms of the speed of the release of official opinions (since the digital form is official), and for the immediate release of a public domain citation. He notes that Congress would likely have to act in order for GPO to create a parallel track of official digital publication.
Sarah Glassmeyer, who spent the last year at a fellow at the Harvard Library Innovation Lab, has completed an inventory of state legal information that focuses on barriers to access, including citation requirements, publication lag, and availability of historical law online. Using these (and many more) factors, she scores states, finding Illinois, Indiana and Oklahoma at the top overall, and New York, Illinois and Oklahoma the “most open” publishers of caselaw. Her raw data is available along with the report.
These issues of publication — official and unofficial, digital and print — are intertwined, with no clear solution for the improvement of public access now or in the future. Official digital publication doesn’t solve preservation problems if commercial concerns claim ownership over the information. An example, see the Fastcase litigation over Casemaker’s claimed copyright in Georgia statutes. A recent post by Robert Ambrogi serves as an excellent backgrounder and update, highlighting Casemaker’s recent attempt to have the case dismissed entirely — thereby avoiding a judgment on the issues. As of this morning, nothing new has posted to the docket since Fastcase’s motion for summary judgment and Casemaker’s amended answer and reply to the motion, but expect Ambrogi to report when that decision comes down.