Monday, December 11, 2006

It is so frustrating...

The law is free, and I mean that literally. Opinions, statutes, regulations, whatever- these are public documents that are produced in the course of official business.

So why is this stuff so hard to find?

In my state, precedential opinions are posted on the Court's web site for immediate consumption. However, unless you go and physically check the site you will never know it. It would not be difficult for the Court to get the word out via RSS, but they don't do it (and do not get me started on the Pennsylvania Statutes! There is no- NO- official online site containing the statutes. The only site that exists is maintained by an attorney, but it has not been updated in quite some time- much stuff is out of date.)

In fact, using Google Reader as my search tool, the only jurisdictions I could find that officially syndicate their opinions are the state courts of West Virginia, Nevada, and Utah; and the Eleventh Circuit. New Jersey opinions are available through my alma mater's library.

I understand that the law is a (small c) conservative profession, dominated by technophobes and people who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, but making it so hard to track down what is public domain, what anyone can access by right makes no sense. Courts should want this information to be freely available. Citizens, who are expected to know the law, ought to access it without the rigmarole (prob! w/20 fidu! & exec!) that 1Ls are taught to endure by Lexis and West. Those services exist not so much because they provide you with the cases and statutes (which they do not own), but because they tell you how to find it.

And I don't know why the profession is okay with that.