20 Aug Where Can I Find Law To Support My Case?
Try the Internet. When I opened my own office in 1983 I chose a one level storefront office. It was a build out and I kept as much open space as possible, just a small conference room and my private office. The rest was open for clients, secretaries and office equipment. That soon changed. After the book salesmen and saleswomen swarmed the premises, I built a wall to separate the waiting area from the rest of the office in a valiant but futile effort to keep the hucksters at bay. Books, books, everywhere. A law library cost more than my first born.
Book companies had a hook and I was the fish. They would practically give the books away. Want a full set of NE reporters. No problem. How about Am Jur 2nd for 90 per cent off. The money was in the subscription service. Every month more books, updates, slip sheets. Then West came out with advance sheets. When a court issued a decision, west would collect the opinion and publish a bound volume of cases within the same geographic region. That took time, and a 20th century lawyer needed up-to-the-month information about new law. So West published advance sheets, a mini paperback collection of case decisions designed to bring the latest cases to me each week, for a price. These were throwaways to tide me over until the bound book and invoice arrived.
West had me hooked on the law. Today it, along with LexisNexis, controls a majority of the $5 billion dollar legal publishing market, according to the New York Times.
Enter Carl Malamud and public.resource.org. Mr. Malamud thinks the law belongs to the people and he is trying to break the stranglehold of publishers like West and Lexis. Mr. Malamud uploaded 1,000 pages of 1880s court decisions to the internet. And he is not alone. The New York Times article, A Quest to Get More Court Rulings Online, and Free, reports other pioneers such as Columbia Law professor Tim Wu want to be able to Gooooogle search case law instead of paying for cases. And online legal information provider Justia‘s Tim Stanley, says people are held to a standard of knowing the law, [ignorance of the law is no excuse], but most US residents do not have free or easy access to the scholarly case decisions of the judicial branches of federal, state and local government.
If history and Mr. Malamud taught us anything, the power of the internet is unstoppable, and government records should be in the public domain, and soon will.
Andy Miofsky, Esq.
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