Adding Statute Links Where There Were None

Great tip from RIPS Law Librarian blog  on a tool for pulling the text of statutes from a web page that fails to include the hypertext link (link here). The tool is called LII Citer (link here) and it is offered by the Cornell Legal Information Institute. The tool works by adding the Citer to your favorites (in any browser). Simply highlight the law on the web page, then go to the Citer link in your Favorites and you will see the text of the highlighted statute. It currently accesses federal law only, see the list below:

  • U.S. Code, e.g. 12 U.S.C. 1749bbb-10c, or 7 U.S.C. 136a(c)(3), which links to the paragraph level, using the LII internal USC resolver.
  • United States Supreme Court, e.g. 457 U.S. 800, using the LII resolver that tries to find an LII-local copy, and failing that, gives the user the option of choosing another source.
  • Federal Circuit Court System, e.g. 875 F.2d 1059, “resolved” by constructing a direct link to the resource.org data set as hosted by lawlibrary.rutgers.edu
  • Code of Federal Regulations, e.g. 40 C.F.R. Part 164 Subpart D, tries to resolve section references with the get-cfr.cgi file at frwebgate.access.gpo.gov; if no section number is cited, then a resolver at ecfr.gpoaccess.gov is used.
  • US Statutes at Large, e.g. 118 Stat. 919, resolution currently very speculative, using get-cfr.cgi at frwebgate.access.gpo.gov
  • US Public Law, e.g. Pub. L. 110-116, fairly stable, using get-cfr.cgi at frwebgate.access.gpo.gov
  • Federal Register, e.g. 72 Fed. Reg. 37771, uses the getpage.cgi at frwebgate.access.gpo.gov

Even without state statutes, it is still a handy tool for speeding up your web-based research process. Thanks Cornell and RIPS!

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Advertisements

Fastcase: An iPhone Lawyer's Fast Friend

Last week I mentioned it, this week I review it. I have downloaded and have been playing with Fastcase’s new, FREE, iPhone application that offers a portal to a database of caselaw and statutes at your iPhone-bearing fingertips. New to Fastcase? From their site:

Fastcase is a next-generation, Web-based legal research service, that puts the complete national law library on your desktop anywhere you have Internet access.  Fastcase’s smarter searching, sorting, and visualization tools help you find the best answers fast – and help you find documents you might have otherwise missed.

Fastcase reaches back to volume 1, page 1 of the major federal reporters and also includes primary caselaw from the 50 states and statutes as well as other materials  via its Web interface. Fastcase had already positioned itself as the affordable, legal research option, free to many via bar memberships. Fastcase is sure to blow that particular part of the field wide open with its free legal research iPhone application, the first of its kind to hit the App Store.

The iPhone application uses the same process as Fastcase’s web-based application – a natural language and relevancy weighted search function. But Boolean search works too. What’s more, there is a citation analysis tool integrated into the search results. No need for an existing Fastcase account: I quickly filled out a form within the app, providing my name, company, job title, and log-in information and achieved full access immediately. In their welcoming email, they include an offer for a free trial of their web product (aaahhh, THERE’s the marketing hook.)

Fastcase lists the features of its app as follows:

  • Free, searchable library of American cases and statutes
  • Keyword (Boolean), natural language, and citation search
  • Browse or search statutes
  • Most relevant results first
  • Customizable search results that you can sort five different ways
  • Search results automatically display number of citing cases
  • Jump right to most relevant paragraph of any case or statute
  • Integrated research history
  • Save favorite documents for use later
  • Case law is updated regularly

Not bad for a free application.

Of course, I have opened and closed the doors and hood, kicked the tires a couple of times and have run a few searches. In a word, it delivers.

I entered my search query:

set my jurisdiction and date parameters,

and let it run. Thirty seconds later, my results showed up.

The relevancy-weighted algorithm assigns a relevance score to the case from 1 (not relevant) to 100 (right on point). Authority check shows via an orange button indicating how many times the case has been cited overall and how many times it has been cited by other cases in the search results. You get more details on the citing cases when you press the button.

When you click on a particular case, it brings up the header with both the official and West Reporter citations (cool!), docket number, court, parties and officiating judges. There are arrow buttons to scroll through the results list, a save button to save a particular case (which you can also copy, paste and email to yourself if you want to print 😉 ) and a “most relevant” button which brings you to your search terms. The case text is easy to read and it hypertext-links you to other cases cited within the text.  Footnotes are displayed at the end of the case.

A burning question in my mind is how quickly Fastcase gets decisions loaded into its database. I haven’t queried Fastcase themselves and my research did not disclose a clear answer.

Another potential drawback for frequent users of the Big Two premium legal research products is the lack of the editorial treatment in these cases – no headnotes, keynumbers of introductory paragraph summarizing the case posture and holding. This editorial treatment is the value-add the Big Two lean heavily upon in keeping their prices at the top of the range. The lack of these features in Fastcase and, consequently, their app, may dissuade some from using this tool for more than the occasional quick look-up while on the go. But I do have to commend Fastcase’s relevancy algorithm – in an area of law that I am VERY familiar with, Fastcase quickly showed some of the key cases right at the top of the results list. Impressive showing for the first, free, legal research app for a mobile platform.

I give Fastcase’s app a hearty two-thumbs up for both effective implementation and the surefire “kick-in-the-pants” this free tool will bring to this somewhat archaic, top-heavy industry.

Run. Don’t walk.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Primary Legal Materials, FREE & On-Line. It’s About Time

Carl Malamud at O’Reilly Radar reports on Law.Gov, “America’s Open Source Operating System”. As st forth in the opening paragraph:

Public.Resource.Org is very pleased to announce that we’re going to be working with a distinguished group of colleagues from across the country to create a solid business plan, technical specs, and enabling legislation for the federal government to create Law.Gov. We envision Law.Gov as a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. More details on the effort are available on our Law.Gov page.

Primary legal materials include case law and statutes.

For years, easy access to these materials has been tied up in paid gateways tended by private publishing houses. This has NEVER made sense to me. Why can’t we have a system offering superior access to this free content? The powers behind Law.Gov apparently agree and are working towards that end.  Let the money makers focus on their secondary materials and expert commentary. Case law and statutory law accessible and on-line are necessary components of an open government, a result we all should embrace.

Primary Legal Materials, FREE & On-Line. It's About Time

Carl Malamud at O’Reilly Radar reports on Law.Gov, “America’s Open Source Operating System”. As st forth in the opening paragraph:

Public.Resource.Org is very pleased to announce that we’re going to be working with a distinguished group of colleagues from across the country to create a solid business plan, technical specs, and enabling legislation for the federal government to create Law.Gov. We envision Law.Gov as a distributed, open source, authenticated registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States. More details on the effort are available on our Law.Gov page.

Primary legal materials include case law and statutes.

For years, easy access to these materials has been tied up in paid gateways tended by private publishing houses. This has NEVER made sense to me. Why can’t we have a system offering superior access to this free content? The powers behind Law.Gov apparently agree and are working towards that end.  Let the money makers focus on their secondary materials and expert commentary. Case law and statutory law accessible and on-line are necessary components of an open government, a result we all should embrace.