Citation Process for California Supreme Court Opinions

On the NOCALL list today was an interesting posting from Kerry Shoji, Paralegal/Research Analyst.

Kerry had recently asked questions on the NOCALL list about the citation process for the California Supreme Court.  Kerry then passed the questions along to the experts, Fran Jones, Director of Library Services, California Judicial Center Library and Edward Jessen, Reporter of Decisions.

Below is the text of Kerry’s questions and Mr. Jessen’s responses. [Reproduced with the permission Kerry Shoji and Edward Jessen.]

“How can you find out a California Supreme Court citation on a recently decided case?  I have the LEXIS citation, but I am curious:

1) How the official reporter volume/page number for the citation is assigned?

The California Official Reports publisher assigns volumes and page numbers because it is essentially a byproduct of the print composition process, and deadlines preclude much involvement in this function by the Reporter of Decisions.  But the publisher is contractually required to print opinions in the order received, and there are contractual requirements for the pagination of volumes.

2) How long does it take to go from slip opinion to the bound opinion?

For example, Official Reports advance pamphlet No. 16 will contain all published opinions filed between 5/17/10 and 5/25/10, and will be issued on 6/17/10.  Promptness is regulated by the Official Reports publication contract.*

Citations for opinions in that pamphlet, however, will be available on LexisNexis by approximately June 11.

3) How one can determine the official citation once bound?

Bound volumes, as a general rule, publish about 10 to 12 months after the last pamphlet issues with opinions  for a particular volume.  Citations, however, never change between advance pamphlets and bound volumes, except that superseded opinions (review granted, depublished, or rehearing granted) are omitted.

4) Do all the Westlaw or Lexis electronic references get converted to the official citation once the bound version is issued?

For the California Official Reports, there are several points in the editorial process leading to the final version of opinions in the bound volumes at which this office or the publisher would “convert” a Lexis or Westlaw cite to another California opinion to the Official Reports cite.  The LexisNexis version of that opinion would also then receive the Official Reports cite in place of the Lexis or Westlaw cite.  I cannot speak to what Westlaw would do in this situation because it is not the official version of opinions and we do not control content in the way we do for opinions on LexisNexis.”

*Special note: Peter W. Martin, Cornell Law School, has published in his Access to Law site many of the contracts between State courts and law report publishers, including California (2003).  There is also a great table showing these contracts, too.

Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research into the Classroom

“Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research into the Classroom”

University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-05

JOOTAEK LEE, University of Miami – School of Law

The Global financial crisis has been discouraging legal researchers and practitioners from accessing high-cost databases.Many legal professionals and researchers are under financial pressures mainly because of the increased kinds and cost of subscription databases such as Westlaw and Lexis; thus, many legal professionals and researchers started considering free or less expensive internet resources for their research and classes. On the other hand, the number of these free or less expensive internet resources is increasing every year, and their coverage for legal sources is also expanded. Furthermore, just as the creation of a list of hypertext links to internet resources is not an easy task anymore because of the gigantic number of resources available, so simply providing created list to the law students will likewise irresponsibly confuse and intimidate them.

First, this article attempted to define internet legal research and to show the difficulty of distinguishing internet legal research from other online searches. Next, pros and cons of free or less expensive internet resources were discussed. Lastly, this article attempted to introduce and apply usability to various internet resources, criticizing Lexis and Westlaw by the principle of usability web-design.In conclusion, the necessity and prospective plan to establish evaluation standards for free internet resources including coverage, currency, accuracy, authority, appropriateness, and perspective will be explored

Source:  LSN: University of Miami School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper
Series Vol. 4 No. 2,  04/21/2010

Vietnam Digest of Case Law

Vietnam Digest of Case Law is a current awareness servivce for Vietnamese statutes, cases, and government publications. Web site contents are only in Vietnamese.

Article: Enabling Free On-line Access to UK Law Reports: The Copyright Problem

Enabling Free On-line Access to UK Law Reports: The Copyright Problem

Philip Leith and Cynthia Fellows

18 International Journal of Law & Information Technology   72 (Spring 2010)


The history of publishing legal decisions (law reporting) in the UK has been that of a privatised system since its inception, and that history has encompassed several hundred years. The privatised nature of this has meant that the product (the law report) has been, except in limited cases, viewed as the property of the publisher, rather than the property of the court or public. BAILII is an open access legal database that came about in part because of the copyrighted, privatised nature of this legal information.

In this paper, we will outline the problem of access to pre-2000 judgments in the UK and consider whether there are legal or other remedies which might enable BAILII to both develop a richer historic database and also to work in harmony, rather than in competition, with legal publishers. We argue that public access to case law is an essential requirement in a democratic common law system, and that BAILII should be seen as a potential step towards a National Law Library.

Gettin’ Googly with the law

Over at 3 Geeks and a Law Blog there’s a terrific discussion of Google Scholar Legal and Online Journals (SLOJ) versus Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw (“Wexisberg” being Greg Lambert’s clever amalgamation of the two big CALR vendors plus upstart Bloomberg ).

One of Greg’s observations is that:

Google Scholar has three people. Not just on the legal portion of Google Scholar, there are three people total on the entire project.

And one of these three people is less than a full self.  That’s Google’s Rick Klau who recently gave a fascinating guest lecture to our advanced legal research class.  Rick told us that he became involved with the legal project by using his “20% time.”  

[Update and correction:  Rick is not one of the 3 who make up the core team – he explains it best himself, in the comment to this post.]

Rick explained to us that Google is not investing a lot of people-time in the project and the case analysis will be accomplished by what Google does best — automated searching and links. Most certainly Google is not about to hire thousands of editors (like Wexisberg have all done) to carefully craft case summaries and headnotes.   As Rick said, “Google is being Googly” with its underlying search and PageRank tools.

Who was SLOJ designed for?  Rick said he had his mom in mind — as a member of the public who does not have access to Wexisberg.

And the public has found its way to the site.  Before Rick’s talk we gave our class an assignment and one question was to find a certain case on a free website.  We gave this assignment after SLOJ launched and made the press (including a round of discussion on the law school’s internal “law-talk” listserv) — and every student turned to  Google Scholar to answer this question!

Following Rick’s talk, and despite all the disclaimers and comments that Google is not competing with Wexisberg, one student sent us this comment about SLOJ:

First, thank you so much for arranging this talk!  I was hoping it was someone from google.  It seems that they have a very specific market to target and they are trying to stick to it.  As skeptical as he seemed about attorneys using it, though, I think it will be exceedingly helpful.  At the very least, it will be a good, free starting point which can then be used in West/Lexis.

I think she’s right!  Google is impressive and what just a very few engineers have done is amazing.  And they aren’t done either; I am sure of that.