‘Legal research in the age of open law': extract

‘Legal research in the age of open law': extract

December, 14, 2010 • Posted by 0 Comments

In her article ‘Legal research in the age of open law’, Constance Ard presents a compilation of US law resources that are available for online (US) legal research. These are below:

Search engines and portals

Legal Information Institute (LII; www.law.cornell.edu): LII was a pioneer in the World Wide Web space by offering cases and codes to the public. The importance of this resource becomes even more evident when you see that many of the free international legal content are made available using this model. The site itself is easy to navigate, and the portal to source material is thorough and easy to use.

Justia (www.justia.com): Justia offers an overview of legal topics and then directs users to specific types of sources, from dockets to articles, and the legislation and codes in between. In addition, it powers BlawgSearch, a search engine specifically for legal blogs. The search retrieval is accurate and is a great option for a brief overview and a directory to other sources of information. It’s the web equivalent of using Am Jur.

Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com.libezproxy.open.ac.uk): The power of Google, not only in search but also in resources to obtain and index legal materials, makes legal opinions and journals easily available. The search options for this tool will make it a comfortable choice for Westlaw and Lexis users. My old standby Kentucky Case Law search for Steelvest retrieved the exact document as the No. 1 result that it should have.

Public Resource (http://public.resource.org/index.html): Public Resource.org is a nonprofit that works with partners such as Google and Justia to make available the content created by the government. Personally, while the wealth of the information contained within the resource is phenomenal, I find it an intimidating site to approach. I do think that the information being gathered and the partnerships formed make for a promising future.

Search.USA.gov (http://search.usa.gov): The search site itself is in beta. The accuracy of the searches is good. What I find most useful when performing a search in this space are the related searches that are provided. USA.gov (www.usa.gov) offers portal access to resources by branch, agency, and topic. It is based on a user audience system that works sufficiently. Both sites are useful tools in access open law materials.

Case law and dockets

RECAP–PACER Documents available through the Internet Archive (www.archive.org/details/texts): RECAP is the Firefox plug-in that allows all users of PACER to contribute to the open law movement by uploading into the Internet Archive a copy of the documents they retrieve.

Public Law Library (www.plol.org/Pages/Search.aspx): The people behind Fastcase (www.fastcase.com) make available the Public Law Library, a well-designed site with easy-to-use drop-down menus to drill into specific jurisdictions for specific cases or codes. The site includes access to Case Law, Statutes, Regulations, Court Rules, and Constitutions. One interesting feature of this site is the RSS feed for recent opinions.

Legislation, statutes, secondary and international

THOMAS (http://thomas.loc.gov): This site offers current and his torical legislative and bill tracking information. Multiple search features help you retrieve data. Perhaps the most powerful option is the Standard Subject Term, a taxonomy applied beginning with the 111th Congress.

U.S. Government Printing Office Access (GPO;www.gpoaccess.gov): GPO always contained a wealth of information, but in the early days, you could expect to spin your wheels trying to get traction on a term search, especially in the Federal Register. My favorite option, at least related to the Code of Federal Regulations, is “retrieve by citation.”

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ;www.doaj.org): This site offers an access point for the scholarly materials in the open law movement. DOAJ offers scientific and scholarly works and lists 82 titles in the law directory.

World Legal Information Institute (www.worldlii.org): This collaboration builds upon the Cornell Legal Information Institute’s work with international partners. The advanced search features in this site allow you to search the world’s case law. Fortunately, you can also narrow the search to specific resources. The site uses Boolean operators.

For the full article, see: Legal Research in the Age of Open Law. By: Constance Ard, Online, 01465422, Sep/Oct2010, Vol. 34, Issue 5