Our good friend Pablo Arredondo shares this great free law development:
A byproduct of this year’s revision of Professor Peter Martin’s Introduction to Basic Legal Citation and the forthcoming revision of The Bluebook, is a new blog “Citing Legally” at:
Citing Legally just posted this item about a survey to improve the Bluebook:
October 21st, 2013
In preparation for the commencement of work on the 20th edition of The Bluebook, due out in 2015, that manual’s proprietors have placed a survey online at: https://www.legalbluebook.com/survey. Anyone with views on how that reference might be improved in scope, delivery, or content should register them … soon. Submissions must be received by Nov. 8.
From the November issue of Scientific American: Why the brain prefers paper, by Ferris Jabr
In many studies people understand and remember what they read on paper better than what they read on screens. Researchers think the physicality of paper explains this discrepancy.
I can’t tell you how many times a faculty member has sent me a reference from Amazon asking if we could get a certain book. Often we already have the book in our collection, but the go-to source for many for finding books is Amazon, not the OPAC. This new NBER Working Paper talks about the online tools consumers use to find books of interest.
Searching for Physical and Digital Media: The Evolution of
Platforms for Finding Books
by Michael R. Baye, Babur De los Santos, Matthijs R. Wildenbeest – #19519 (IO PR)
This paper provides a data-driven overview of the different online
platforms that consumers use to search for books and booksellers, and
documents how the use of these platforms is shifting over time. Our
data suggest that, as a result of digitization, consumers are
increasingly conducting searches for books at retailer sites and
closed systems (e.g., the Kindle and Nook) rather than at general
search engines (e.g., Google or Bing). We also highlight a number of
challenges that will make it difficult for researchers to accurately
measure internet-based search behavior in the years to come.
Finally, we highlight a number of open agenda items related to the
pricing of books and other digital media, as well as consumer search
We here at Stanford are big fans of CourtListener. We use it to, among other things, identify recent cases that cite our faculty; those alerts come to us faster than those from some other services.
Stanford Law School alumnus, Legal Research Plus guest blogger and legal informatics visionary Pablo Arredondo has some news to share about CourtListener’s Free Law Project:
Brian W. Carver and Michael Lissner, creators of the CourtListener platform
and associated technology, are pleased to announce that after four years
developing free and open legal technologies, they are launching a
non-profit umbrella organization for their work: Free Law Project. Free Law
Project will serve to bring legal materials and research to the public for
free, formalizing the work that they have been doing, and providing a
long-term home for similar projects.
“Since the birth of this country, legal materials have been in the hands of
the few, denying legal justice to the many,” said Michael Lissner,
co-founder of the new non-profit. “It is appalling that the public does not
have free online access to the entirety of United States case law,” said
Brian Carver, UC Berkeley professor and Free Law Project co-founder. “We
are working to change this situation. We also provide a platform for
developing technologies that can make legal research easier for both
professionals and the general public.”
The official goals for the non-profit are:
* To provide free, public, and permanent access to primary legal
materials on the Internet for educational, charitable, and scientific
* To develop, implement, and provide public access to technologies useful
for legal research;
* To create an open ecosystem for legal research and materials; and
* To support academic research on related technologies, corpora, and
The CourtListener platform was started in 2009 as part of a masters project
at UC Berkeley, and has matured over the years to be a powerful legal
research platform. It has nearly a million legal opinions dating from 1754,
and has more each day as it gets them directly from court websites.
CourtListener currently serves thousands of people with free legal opinions
each week, and has had a doubling of traffic just since July 2013.
CourtListener sends out hundreds of alerts to its users each week,
informing them of new legal cases in which they have expressed an interest.
All of CourtListener’s code is open source and all of its content is
available for free bulk download. Numerous startups and researchers have
used both the code and the bulk data as a basis for their work.
More information is available in [the Free Law Project about page],
where you can find a list of current activities and non-profit documents.
The co-founders expect to pursue grant funding from foundations, but also
hope that those who support the goals of improving public access to the law
will [donate directly] so that the non-profit can put more developers to
work on these efforts.
In the future, freelawproject.org will be the official place to find
updates about Free Law Project and its related technologies.
“This is a huge day for the open legal movement, and we hope you’ll help
share the news by telling your friends and colleagues,” said Lissner.
**Brian W. Carver** is Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley School of
Information where he does research on and teaches about intellectual
property law and cyberlaw. He is also passionate about the public’s access
to the law. In 2009 and 2010 he advised an I School Masters student,
Michael Lissner, on the creation of CourtListener.com, an alert service
covering the U.S. federal appellate courts. After Michael’s graduation he
and Brian continued working on the site and have grown the database of
opinions to include over 900,000 documents.
**Michael Lissner** is the co-founder and lead developer of CourtListener,
a project that works to make the law more accessible to all. He graduated
from UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Michael is passionate about
bringing greater access to our primary legal materials, about how
technology can replace old legal models, and about open source,
community-driven approaches to legal research.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Here’s a new article by a law librarian about statutory definitions:
Price, Jeanne Frazier. “Wagging, not barking: statutory definitions,” 60 Cleveland State Law Review 999-1055 (2013).
And here’s its abstract:
Legislative text is distinguished by the frequency with which it specifies the meaning of the words it employs. More than 25,000 terms are defined in the United States Code alone. In few other contexts is there a perceived need to so carefully and repeatedly clarify meaning. This Article examines the roles played by definitions in a reader’s understanding and application of a legislative text; it demonstrates that the effects of defining are not as straightforward as we might assume. The discussion is framed by the distinction between legislation as a communication vehicle and as an instrument of governance. In some cases, definition serves predominantly a communicative purpose; it clarifies the speaker’s intent. But at other times the legislative definition empowers; it serves a performative function, investing groups of individuals or instances with rights or obligations. The Article suggests that a better understanding of the effect of definition on a reader’s interaction with a text, coupled with an appreciation of the different roles served by definition, will enable legislators to draft more useful definitions and enable interpreters to better apply those definitions.
It is certainly well-settled that Stanford Law School graduates are doing some very exciting things in the world of legal informatics. I’ve posted before about Ravel law, founded by our alumni Dan Lewis and Nik Reed. Alumnus Jacob Heller is also doing some very cool things in this space (stay tuned!) and alumnus Pablo Arredondo just created the new tool described below:
By Jonathan Abel, in Volume 101, Issue #5 of The Georgetown Law Journal (June 2013). Here’s the abstract:
The prison law library has long been a potent symbol of the inmate’s right to access the courts. But it has never been a practical tool for providing that access. This contradiction lies at the core of the law library doctrine. It takes little imagination to see the problem with requiring untrained inmates, many of them illiterate or non-English speakers, to navigate the world of postconviction relief and civil rights litigation with nothing more than the help of a few library books. Yet law libraries are ubiquitous in American prisons. Now, in light of a technological revolution in legal research methods, prison libraries face an existential crisis that requires prison officials, courts, scholars, and inmates to reconsider the very purpose of the prison law library. This Article takes up that challenge by providing a novel historical account of the prison law library’s development.
This Article uses original historical research to show how prison law libraries arose, not as a means of accessing the courts, but rather as a means of controlling inmates’ behavior. By placing the origin of the prison law library in the first decades of the twentieth century–half a century earlier than typical accounts–this Article shows how the law library evolved to take on a new purpose in the 1960s and 1970s, when the Supreme Court and other courts first began to fashion a law library doctrine. The central argument of this Article is simple: The courts’ attempts to graft an access-to-courts rationale onto a law library system that had developed for other purposes led to a law library doctrine riddled with contradictions and doomed to failure. This historical account helps explain a prison law library system that never really made sense in terms of providing access to the courts. As prisons look to update their law libraries in light of sweeping technological changes, it is all the more important to understand the history of the law library system so that authorities can plan for its future.
Ravel, a search visualization, analytics, and annotation platform of United States Supreme Court and Circuit Court cases, now offers free and unlimited access directly through the website (in beta mode). The database, according to its founders, is generally as comprehensive and up-to-date as Google Scholar (meaning complete Supreme Court collection & Circuit Court coverage back to ~1950). They expect to add California, New York, and Delaware case law during the summer.
According to a story from the Daily Journal (“Entrepreneurs use design to launch legal startup,” December 31, 2012) founders Dan Lewis and Nik Reed
. . . set out to create a website that would visually map out case histories so legal professionals could more easily extract important information, such as how many times a case had been cited and what cases incorporated similar key words and phrases.
Co-founders Dan Lewis and Nik Reed are Stanford Law School alumni and their company is discussed in a recent article from the Stanford Lawyer, “The Cutting Edge:
A Positive Disruption: The Transformation of Law Through Technology.”