WeCite Project’s win-win opportunities

Analyzing how a given opinion has been impacted by subsequent decisions is an essential part of legal research.   Consequently, the work of the Free Law movement cannot stop with making opinions freely available: a free and robust citator is also needed.

A gargantuan effort will be required to build (and continually update) such a citator. The newly launched WeCite Project, co-sponsored by the Stanford Center for Legal Informatics and the free legal research platform Casetext, aims to bring the win-win power of crowdsourcing to the task. Along with the traditional crowdsourcing strategy of enabling a community of like-minded people to easily contribute,  the WeCite Project is also giving law schools the unique opportunity to do their fair share in another win-win way:  students learn about citators and citation analysis; the database grows.  Already a number of advanced legal research classes have already participated and our class this spring will join the crowd.

The Columbia Society for Law, Science and Technology is hosting a WeCite Event at Columbia Law School on March 26, 2014 (see details and RSVP here: https://casetext.com/wecite/event).  Any and all who are passionate about legal research and/or equal access to the law are invited to attend.  Those who cannot make it to New York can also participate remotely.

Importantly, any and all citator entries created under the WeCite Project (“wecites”) are public domain under a Creative Commons SA license.  Casetext will also be creating an API to allow anyone to bulk download wecites.

The beauty of crowdsourcing is that small contributions from individuals can aggregate into something magnificent.  For those who are interesting in pitching in, instructions can be found here: https://casetext.com/wecite

Introducing “Citing Legally,” helping to improve legal citation

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:
http://citeblog.access-to-law.com/

Citing Legally just posted this item about a survey to improve the Bluebook:

Ideas on how to improve The Bluebook? Online survey

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.

 

The superhero approach to legal research

We haven’t asked our students to buy a textbook in advanced legal research for a long time.  The existing books are just too darn expensive.  But a new book crossed my desk today that looks particularly useful for teaching legal research; it is:  The Law of Superheroes (catalog record copied below).

This book starts with three pages explaining “Legal Sources and Citations” that explain legal citation about as well as anything I’ve seen.  It also points the reader, presumably the lay reader, to sources of free law:  Google Scholar for legal opinions; Cornell’s LII for the United States Code.  Peter Martin is cited on page xiii, so this tells me the authors know their research!

Throughout the book are wonderful footnotes explaining, in the clearest language possible, different aspects of legal research.  For example, footnote #4 on p. 113:

. . . Restatements of law are scholarly works that attempt to set forth the majority position on particular areas of law or recommended changes to the majority position.  They mostly cover subjects that are still primarily common law rather than those based on legislation. The Restatements are not law themselves, but courts often find them persuasive, and many sections of various Restatements have been adopted as law by state courts.

The section on immigration (is Superman a citizen?) offers a great explanation of private laws:

Private Acts of Congress

There’s another way that someone can become a citizen without going through the immigration process: a “private act” of Congress, i.e., a law targeting a specific person and declaring him or her to be a citizen.[fn 9]  Although unusual today, private acts have a long history in the United States.[fn10]  . . . As a matter of fact, in at least one story, Superman is granted citizenship by every country in the world, presumably by their respective versions of a private act of Congress. . . .

9. . . . These bills are not very common, nor are they usually passed, but it happens.

10.  In fact, for decades after the founding of the country, private acts by state legislatures were the only way for a legitimate 9i.e., non-annullable) marriage to be dissolved.  Similarly, prior to the passage of general incorporation statutes, which create the procedures by which corporations may be chartered with state-level secretaries of state, creating a corporate entity required an act of the state legislature.

The sections on international and interplanetary law are really fun, and explain the very basics of “law” itself:

The important thing to remember about international law . . . is that international law is a matter of custom and practice as much as it is anything else.  This is true of domestic law as well, and is really the reason the common law exists: a “law” is, essentially, a custom or tradition that is enforced by a government.  In the case of common law that tradition is built up by the decisions of the courts. . . .

I may have more to add later, as I’m taking this book home with me for the Thanksgiving break.

Here’s its catalog record:

The law of superheroes / James E. Daily and Ryan M. Davidson.

At the Library:
Crown (Law) > Basement > PN56 .L33 D35 2012

Bookmark: http://searchworks.stanford.edu/catalog/9734665

 

Brief citation 101

My post from yesterday about the incomplete and confusing (to me anyway) citations in numbered paragraph 3 of the Attorney General’s letter “Re: Physician Hospitals of America v. Sebelius, No. 11-40631 is, by far, our most-read posting on this blog.  Now that the mystery about the cites has been solved (they are in fact citations to Solicitor General briefs and we now have copies of all four of them, copies supplied to us by the Department of Justice), I’ve taken down the post to prevent my confusion from spreading to others.   But for our readers who might be new to legal research and legal citation, let me offer a few definitions from one of my most favorite reference books, Fox, Elyse H. The Legal Research Dictionary: From Advance Sheets to Pocket Parts. 2nd ed. [Chapel Hill, N.C.]: Legal Information Services, 2006.

First, brief. 

A document submitted to the court by a party to the litigation to persuade the court to accept a legal proposition advanced by that party.  Briefs include a statement of jurisdiction, a summary of the case (2), history of the proceedings, statement of facts, a summary of the legal issues presented, summary of argument, argument, the relief requested, conclusion, and table of authorities. . . . An amicus brief is a brief submitted to the court by a non-party to the litigation. . . .

Next, citation and citation manual

A reference that unambiguously identifies the location of a specific opinion, statute, rule, law review article, or other type of legal publication. . . . Appropriate citation consists of the name or title of the source . . . Citation guidebooks dictate proper form.  Citations use standard formats to for identifying authority to lead the legal researcher to the source material quickly and accurately.  Citation format generally applies to all types of legal writing.  Also called cite.  See also citation manual, parallel citation, medium-neutral citation.

citation manual

A manual or guidebook that prescribes the standard form of citation to be used in citing authorities in legal writing.  Various citation manuals exist: probably the most widely used manual is A Uniform System of Citation (the Blue Book). . . .

So now, turning to the so-called bluebook, let us take a look at how it says briefs should be cited:

Rule 10.8.3 (p. 106):

In general, all court filings follow the same general form.  The full name of the document, as it appears on the filing, must come first, . . . followed by a pinpoint citation, if any.  . . .

. . .

Always include the docket number, whether parenthetically (when there is a reported citation) or as the citation (when there is no reported citation):

> Brief of Petitioner-Appellant at 48, United States v. Al-Marri, No. 03-3674 (7th Cir. Nov. 12, 2003).

. . .

Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact or Fiction?

Ken Strutin, director of legal information services at the New York State Defenders Association, has an article in the September 27th issue of the New York Law Journal, “Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact of Fiction?,” calling for a need to create “forensic bibliometrics” tools, similar to law citators.

The author points out that “In the scientific publishing lexicon, three levels of caution, which resemble Shepard’s signals, are the most salient: Retraction, Expression of Concern and Correction.”

From the article:

   It was Frank Shepard’s methology that paved the way for Eugene Garfield’s creation of the Science Citation Index (SCI), and ultimately, the page ranking protocols used by Internet search engines. [footnote omitted]  Most legal opinions can be Shepardized, and along with a full court press of bibliometric analysis in multiple sources, this tool can provide a high level of quality assurance.  The same is not easily accomplished in the scientific disciplines.

   Aside from the tools already noted, quality control of scholarly literature would benefit from something resembling a Shepard’s for scientific research.  It would be a universal mechanism that flags retracted articles in peer review journals and treatises, in all formats and at all access points, clearing indicating which ones should not be cited or relied upon.

The article clearly sets out the reasons why “. . . an expert in the citation analysis of scientific literature can play a crucial role in litigation.”

Mitra Sharafi’s South Asian Legal History Resources

Professor Sharafi’s Web on South Asian Legal History site includes a list of citation abbreviations of  law reports from the colonial era for Bangladesh, Burma (Myanmar), India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.  It also includes a useful “Research Guide to the Case Law,”  which explains the role of precedent, details major published and unpublished sources of cases, and describes how cases were cited.

 Mitra Sharafi’s South Asian Legal History Resources

http://hosted.law.wisc.edu/wordpress/sharafi/

 

 

Bluebook metastasis

Here’s a great article by Richard Posner:  “The Bluebook Blues, ” 120 Yale L. J. 850 (2011).

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation exemplifies hypertrophy in the anthropological sense.  It is a monstrous growth, remote from the functional need for legal citation forms, that serves obscure needs of the legal culture and its student subculture.

Judge Posner has a short manual for his clerks (written, as the judge notes, chiefly by Stanford Law School’s alumnus Scott Hemphill, now a prof. at Columbia) which includes an appendix on “citation formats.”  The appendix is reproduced in the article and starts with clarity and commonsense:  “No parallel citations in cases; statutory provisions do not need years, unless the point is to identify an old law . . . “

Here at Stanford I can’t count how many times law students have come to the reference desk confused about what year to assign to a United States Code citation.

Read the short book review article – you’ll enjoy it!

The Cost of Judicial Citation: An Empirical Investigation of Citation Practices in the Federal Appellate Courts

From the just-received Volume 2010, Issue 1, Spring University of Illinois Journal of Law, Technology & Policy, at page 51:

The Cost of Judicial Citation: An Empirical Investigation of Citation Practices in the Federal Appellate Courts

by Casey R. Fronk

Abstract:

Since the early 1960s, computerized legal research technology has enabled judges and their law clerks to access legal information quickly and comprehensively. Particularly for appellate judges, who rely on wide-ranging legal research when writing opinions, this technological change has had special resonance. This Article attempts to quantify the effects of computer- assisted legal research on the federal judiciary by empirically analyzing citation patterns over the past fifty years. The results of this analysis suggest that the digitization of legal research has had statistically significant effects on the amount and style of citation in judicial opinions. Although the average number of cases cited in opinions has doubled between 1957 and 2007, the number of cases cited only in string citations has decreased by nearly the same percentage. This Article argues that such results can be explained by a basic economic theory of judicial citation in which judges respond to the decreasing cost of opinion production by discarding string citation for more effective communicative techniques.

Conclusion:

This Article proposes that a simple microeconomic approach can describe judicial citation practices over the last fifty years.  It provides empirical evidence that judges use citations in part as a communication device, and that the cost of legal research is intimately connected with the effectiveness of this communication (and therefore with judicial citation patterns).  The empirical results in this Article not only demonstrate the effectiveness of the microeconomic approach in describing  judicial opinion style, but also provide a foundation for future research into the effects of judicial ideology on citation practices.

How do you cite T-shirts?

Since it’s only a matter of time before a student working on a journal asks this . . .

Q. How do you cite T-shirts?

A. You could write, for example: Last week on Ellis Avenue I saw a T-shirt that said, “I keep pressing Escape but I’m still here.” That is, if you think it’s a good idea to cite a T-shirt.

The Chicago Manual of Style Online

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/CMS_FAQ/new/new_questions01.html

From:

The Chicago Manual of Style website has just been updated with answers to the following new questions:
Q. I’m wondering about the ampersand versus “and” in journal titles.
Q. Another editor wants this: New Westminster, BC: Pie Tree Press, [1988]. I say the comma goes.
Q. We have a difference of opinion in my company about the capitalization of defined terms in policy and procedure documents.
Q. Would it be most correct to write “2000% increase,” “2,000% increase,” or “2,000 percent increase”?
Q. I often have difficulty deciding how to cite translations with critical commentaries of ancient texts. How do I refer to something the editor/translator says in that edition?
Q. What is the proper way to punctuate a compound sentence with an introductory clause that applies to both parts of the sentence?
Q. When sending a paper manuscript for approval of publication in a journal, should it be softbound or sent as loose papers?
Q. Often I find this [ . . . ] within a quote. Does this mean that there is an ellipsis in the quoted passage in the original?
Q. I understand that the term “Other” is a philosophical term. Could it be initially capitalized or in quotes, and then subsequently written lowercase?
Q. What is the correct punctuation for an event or location for a group? I have the following examples: delegates’ reception, members’ forum, speakers’ room.
Q. How do you cite T-shirts?
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To read the answers to this month’s questions, go to the Chicago Manual of Style website, at http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org.
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This is the June 2010 update of the Chicago Manual of Style website. We update the site monthly.
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