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  Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Some further comments on my post responding to Ernie's post on eGovernment:

Delivering the law via RSS. More courts should heed Ernie and Leah's urging and get the lead out when it comes to making the law understandably available online.   After all, law is free.  In West Virginia, all Supreme Court opinions back to 1991 are online and searchable.   Moreover, thanks to Radio, since earlier this year links to the full text of all new opinions, along with topical summaries written in semi-plain english, have been available in a weblog format and as RSS feeds.  . . .

So curious citizens can visit the official blog pages and learn, for example, of today's filing of a report in a case challenging the constitutionality of federal law terminating welfare benefits.  Perhaps more importantly, all of this primary source information about the law is sorted and freely available as RSS.   Also, because the RSS feeds are registered and available for subscription from a variety of personal RSS aggregators, folks who use tools other than Radio can stay posted and learn about developments in the law.  If, to use an old example picked up by Sam Ruby and Jon Udell, a lawyer or journalist in Louisiana wants to keep abreast of asbestos mass litigation developments in West Virginia, that lawyer could subscribe to the civil topical feed via services like Syndic8 (feed 1, 2, 3, 4) and Fyuze, among others.  (Though Radio permits custom elements in RSS feeds, I haven't seen the need to insert custom elements thus far.  I've been content to use the title element to describe the topic at hand.) [Rory Perry's Weblog]

Thanks, Rory for this info.  Now if someone who works in the Arizona court system could learn about this. Ernie also responded, as did Morgan.

3:11:39 PM comment []   

Some hints for the first year law student.  Alice W. is back at her keyboard, and I couldn't have said it better myself. [How Appealing]

This is a little late, but great advice.  I'm responsible for posting "relevant" articles on the library bulletin board for students and I really wanted to post this one.  Unfortunately, Alice's blog scrolls and I couldn't print it out.  BTW, her blog is well-written and law students and other interested parties should check it out.

12:59:27 PM comment []   

From Ernie the Attorney: 

eGovernment & online records - is there any reason why we shouldn't be able to access important government information online?  Especially statutory law, and court rulings.  Did you know that there is a legal presumption that by publishing laws (in whatever arcane dusty volume those things get printed in these days) the unwashed populace is presumed to have knowledge of those laws?  Yep, that's right.  Forget about whether the average person stands a chance of understanding the laws that get passed; you're supposed to know what the law is.  So here we all are living in a world where the government could pretty easily publish those laws to the web.  Why isn't this more prevalent?  You've paid for the laws to be passed; it seems like the least that government could do is to put a copy out there where you could see it.  Free of charge. [Ernie the Attorney]

Very good point, Ernie.  Arizona just showed up as number one in several categories in the Digital State Survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government. Arizona does several things right as far as providing electronic services; for example, statutes, bills, and session laws are pretty quickly available at the Arizona State Legislature site and the Arizona Supreme Court does a decent job of providing their opinions in PDF format.  But the Court of Appeals' websites (Division One and Two) are pretty bad. The Arizona Administrative Code site is also not very user friendly.  Then there's the problem of finding superceded statutes and regulations.  That's hard even in paper, especially for the Administrative Code, which is a looseleaf.  It appears that the
Arizona State Law Library may be the only place in the state to find old regulations.

Then there's the problem of Westlaw and Lexis often acting as if they "owned" the law.  I can't find a reference to it right now, but there was a bill proposed in Ohio (home of one of these companies) that would have required something on the lines of the state having to establish it could provide electronic services cheaper than a commercial provider, before it could provide electronic information. Someone else could probably provide more details on that proposed bill and what happened. That's one of the reasons librarians are opposed to certain database protection bills.  ALA/AALL has learned that another objectionable bill is likely to be proposed this fall.  For more information, check out ALA's background paper.

10:48:45 AM comment []   

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