October 19, 2010
The Bluebook (be)comes Standard on WLN.
Almost six months ago, one of our Westlaw reps provided me with a quick demonstration on Westlawnext (WLN). I had lukewarm feelings about it at the time, but the more I use it, the more I seem to like it. West still has a number of kinks to work out. And one of them was something I asked about when I was first introduced to WLN, that fine Spring day; it was what West intends to do about the dates for statutes and regulations? I No normal personl likes the Bluebook. It confuses people - and it seems to confuse West as well.
Westlaw next offers a "Copy with Reference" feature, allowing users to cut text and paste it in a document with the citation attached. Users are given a choice of ten citation formats from which to choose: (1) ALWD; (2) California; (3) New York; (4) Florida; (5) Texas; (6) Illinois; (7) Kentucky; (8) Michigan; (9) Westlaw; and (10) Standard. Two weeks ago "Standard" was "Bluebook." I know this because two weeks ago I taught two classes on Westlawnext and the citation format option was not "Standard" but "Bluebook.". Yesterday, I gave a presentation on WLN to our evening 2Ls. The option changed from "Bluebook" to "Standard." And caught me off guard for a second (but I survived). "Standard," which was "Bluebook," seemed to follow the 18th edition of the Bluebook. (We adopted the 19th at LMU as soon as it was released in June. LMU law librarians had access to WLN in May.)
What’s nice about the feature is that it provides parallel, pinpoint citations to every case and even provides subsequent history if the case had direct, subsequent history. Thus, if a case was reversed or affirmed by a higher court, the citation would indicate that as required under Rule 10.7. It even abbreviates words in accordance with Table 6 (of the 18th edition). For example, I copied and pasted the following:
Even when viewed independently, these two prongs of Microsoft's campaign threatened to "forestall the corrective forces of competition" and thereby perpetuate Microsoft's monopoly power in the relevant market
United States v. Microsoft Corp., 87 F. Supp. 2d 30, 42 (D.D.C. 2000) aff'd in part, rev'd in part, 253 F.3d 34 (D.C. Cir. 2001)
WLN properly abbreviated "Corporation," gave a pinpoint citation, and provided the subsequent history of the case. What it failed to do, however, is provide a parenthetical citation to Eastman Kodak Co. v. Image Technical Services, Inc., 504 U.S. 451 (1992) in conformance with Rule 10.6.2 as Microsoft did quote language from Eastman Kodak. Okay, I will accept the fact that it isn’t perfect. We all have flaws (some less than others).
What bothers me most though is the "Copy with Reference" feature as it applies to statutes. For statutory citations, it fails to provide a pincite, and moreover, completely ignores the date requirements of either Rule 12 or Rule 18 altogether. When citing to a statutory code provision in print, Rule 12.3.2 states (in pertinent part), "provide parenthetically the year that appears on the spine of the volume, the year that appears on the title page, or the latest copyright year – in that order of preference. However, Rule 18.3.2 provides that when citing to a statutory code provision contained in an electronic database, "give parenthetically the name of the database and the information regarding the currency of the database as provided by database itself." Thus, a citation to the federal statute providing punishment for manslaughter should look this:
18 U.S.C.A. § 1112(b) (West, Westlawnext through PL 111-255 (excluding P.L. 111-203 and 111-240)).
However, WLN’s Copy with Reference feature cites the statute as such:
18 U.S.C.A. § 1112 (West)
Notice what is missing? There is no pinpoint citation to the sub-section. WLN ignores the date altogether. And it fails to properly identify the electronic database. It actually provides the citation to the print version, save the date. (Now, I happen to think that Rule 18.3.2 is the dumbest rule in all of the Bluebook. The Bluebook editors really need to amend it, but that is a whole other issue.) So WLN’s citation to the statute (or any statute) it is not in proper Bluebook format. And Westlaw probably realized that and, as a result, what used to be the option to "Copy with Reference in Bluebook" form is now "Copy with Reference in Standard" form; but that doesn’t work for me. They shouldn’t be able to cover their failings by changing the name of the option. They meant "Standard" to be "Bluebook" and they should just call it what it is – after they fix their mistakes! How hard could it be to provide the correct information as required in Rule 18.3.2? And the fact that they found a way to provide pinpoint citations in cases makes me believe that it shouldn’t be quite so difficult to provide the same for statutes. In the end, Bluebook comes standard on WLN, even if it’s not really Bluebook. I do commend them for making strides when it comes to citing cases, articles and treatises. Now fix it. [DCW]
The Blue Book citations that WestlawNext provides are not entirely accurate. BB does not require parallel citations for court cases (although is does advise users that local court rules may require parallel citations for documents filed in courts). Even if you were using a parallel citation, the one that WestlawNext provides seems to contradict the Blue Book. It includes a court abbreviation in the parenthesis, which should be omitted when the state is clear from the official reporter title. The Copy with Reference tool is still helpful, but you need to know that you might need to fix a few aspects of the citation.
Posted by: Matt | Oct 20, 2010 8:03:42 AM
I wonder why WLN doesn't provide the Ohio citation format. Is it because the Buckeye State is the home of Lexis?
Posted by: Joe Hodnicki | Oct 20, 2010 3:32:43 AM