Geeks seek to make the law Googleable; RECAP in WSJ

Buried on page W13 of today’s Wall Street Journal  is a must-read piece by Katherine Mangu-Ward, “Transparency Chic.”

As the author makes clear:

. . . no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch. Digital records of court filings, briefs and transcripts sit behind paywalls like Lexis and Westlaw. Legal codes and judicial documents aren’t copyrighted, but governments often cut exclusive distribution deals, rendering other access methods a bit legally questionable. . . .

Which leads her to discuss RECAP:

. . . [Stephen Schultz, Tim Lee and Harlan Wu] whipped up a sleek little add-on to the popular Firefox Internet browser called RECAP (PACER spelled backward). Legit users of the federal court system download it. Then each time they drop eight pennies, it deposits a copy of the page in the free Internet archive. This data joins other poached information, all of which is formatted, relabeled and made searchable—the kind of customer service government tends to skimp on. . . .

This might be the first mainstream press mention of RECAP, which is something we are all abuzz about here.

The author of the Wall Street Journal piece, Katherine Mangu-Ward, a senior editor at Reason magazine, is apparently a bit of a geek herself, giving a Twitter shoutout to those who helped her write the piece:

@kmanguward Thanks @binarybits @carlmalamud @cshirky @evwayne for info, perspective, and snappy quotes in “Transparency Chic” http://tinyurl.com/navyvj

@evwayne is, of course, our very own Erika Wayne who was interviewed for the piece.

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