It seems Texans are of the “opinion” that one should leave no stone or judicial opinion unturned, even if the opinion is only accessible though Westlaw or Lexis. Erika Wayne at Legal Research Plus tipped me off to a recent change to the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 47 that discusses the use of unpublished and memorandum judicial opinions. Apparently, in 2003, the Texas legislature barred the use of unpublished legal opinions in civil cases, but authorized the use of memorandum opinions in their place. In 2008, the Legislature took matters one step further by giving the memorandum opinions issued since 2003 full precedential value.
So, what’s the problem you ask? Well, these fully binding, precedential memorandum opinions are only accessible by Westlaw or Lexis. Cha-ching!
Hey, Texas! What’s up with this move to lock the law behind a very expensive toll booth? If the Texas legislature insists that memorandum opinions are binding, then the Texas legislature better figure out a way to open access to them. In an age when information is moving steadily towards free and open source, this short-sighted procedural move seems more than a little backward. I suppose the next move is to require lawyers to ride to court on buckboard.
This sort of vendor lock-in is really annoying!
(I’m getting more and more sensitive to it now that I’m losing my free law student accounts, too.)
It goes against the general trend towards more open government and open access – hopefully Texas is an outlier in slipping backwards on this.
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Right now, Texas is the only jurisdiction that I am personally aware of that is pulling this sort of stunt. If there are others, maybe other readers / commenters will let us know. Let’s hope such brilliance is less contagious than the swine flu.
I am not a lawyer but…
it seems to me that if the law applies to everyone, and ignorance is not a defence, the least one could do is let everyone read it. All of it. Call me naïve.
This is interesting: http://www.bailii.org/ I don’t know how it compares with e.g. LexisNexis.
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