Our good friend Pablo Arredondo shares this great free law development:
We wanted to share as a tip the good fortune that might be had in a legal database’s collection of “Filings” when one is searching for withdrawn state court opinions. In our scenario, citations in both WestlawNext (“WLN”) and LexisAdvance (“LA”) indicated that a particular state supreme court opinion had been withdrawn. The WLN & LA results for the withdrawn opinion revealed only that the opinion had been substituted, but no longer contained the text for the withdrawn opinion. However, with some deep digging into WLN’s “Filings” linked to the substituted opinion, we were able to find a PDF copy of the withdrawn opinion attached as an exhibit to a petition for review. Often (and as was the case here) the HTML versions of these “Filings” lack referenced exhibits, but thank goodness for PDFs…particularly for these 25-year-old, pre-electronic-filing state court cases!
We hope you’re equally as lucky in gaining ready access to withdrawn state supreme court opinions!
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.”
according to the Heard on the Street column in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Data Don’t Add Up for Thomson Reuters.” From the story:
a survey of legal-information customers by Claudio Aspesi of Sanford C. Bernstein in January found that 61% of respondents had a subscription to Bloomberg Law, up from 36% the year before. And some respondents said Bloomberg Law was getting closer to offering a breadth of data needed to completely replace a subscription to Westlaw or rival Reed Elsevier’s Lexis-Nexis.
A story in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Law Firms Face Fresh Backlash Over Fees, caught my eye with this paragraph:
Johnson & Johnson has its own strategy for curbing charges for legal-research services. The health-care-products company maintains its own subscriptions to legal databases such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. It asks law firms to use its accounts when doing work for the company. A J&J spokesman says the practice is one of several used to reduce costs for outside legal work.
Is this a common practice? Comments welcome.
SUSAN NEVELOW MART, Colorado Law, University of Colorado Boulder School of Law
Humans and machines are both involved in the creation of legal research resources. For legal information retrieval systems, the human-curated finding aid is being overtaken by the computer algorithm. But human-curated finding aids still exist. One of them is the West Key Number system. The Key Number system’s headnote classification of case law, started back in the nineteenth century, was and is the creation of humans. The retrospective headnote classification of the cases in Lexis’s case databases, started in 1999, was created primarily although not exclusively with computer algorithms. So how do these two very different systems deal with a similar headnote from the same case, when they link the headnote to the digesting and citator functions in their respective databases? This paper continues an investigation into this question, looking at the relevance of results from digest and citator search run on matching headnotes in ninety important federal and state cases, to see how each performs. For digests, where the results are curated – where a human has made a judgment about the meaning of a case and placed it in a classification system – humans still have an advantage. For citators, where algorithm is battling algorithm to find relevant results, it is a matter of the better algorithm winning. But no one algorithm is doing a very good job of finding all the relevant results; the overlap between the two citator systems is not that large. The lesson for researchers: know how your legal research system was created, what involvement, if any, humans had in the curation of the system, and what a researcher can and cannot expect from the system you are using.
Source: LSN Legal Information & Technology eJournal Vol. 4 No. 29, 07/24/2012
Bloomberg reminds me of the character The Brain from the Animaniacs cartoon Pinky and the Brain:
Pinky: “Gee, Brain, what do you want to do tonight?”
The Brain: “The same thing we do every night, Pinky—try to take over the world!”
This is evidenced in the November 28, 2011 issue of Newsweek with its Business Media article “Bloomberg’s Plan for World Domination,” by Nick Summers.
“With a one-two punch of news and data, Bloomberg L.P. has built a global empire over the last 30 years.” Click on the link above to see a chart of how it breaks down.
The article discussed Bloomberg’s $ 990 million acquisition of BNA and writes that “. . . every lawyer,lobbyist, and lawmaker in the capital depends on BNA’s proprietary data to do his or her job . . . “
Court TV and American Lawyer founder Steven Brill, who once “lusted after BNA,” is quoted as saying, “. . . [BNA] is very high-margin, high-priced, and specialized . . . “
From the Newsweek article: “Now Bloomberg can feed BNA’s sought-after data directly to BLaw . . . The result: a one-stop shop.”
In my opinion, this one-stop shopping synthesis of information from a rich and wide variety of sources – high-quality secondary sources, all primary authority, dockets, pleadings, crowd-sourced commentary, and more can only enrich the research experience.