Sunday, October 23, 2011

Internet Legal Research: Traditional Sources of Authority Are Blurring

With the access to so much information on the internet, lawyers and judges are employing sources of authority that extend beyond cases, statutes, and law review articles. Temple Law School Professor Ellie Margolis explores this phenomen in her recent article Authority Without Borders: The World Wide Web and the Delegatization of Law, 41 Seton Hall Law Review 909 (2011). Here is the abstract:

We live in an information age, with massive amounts of information available at our fingertips, thanks to the internet. The last few generations of law students and lawyers, as well as the future generations – the digital natives – have shifted almost entirely to conducting legal research online. This shift to online research has led to a blurring of the once clear delineation between legal and nonlegal materials, and contributed to a broadening of the types of sources used as authority in support of legal analysis. This article will show that the traditional ways of defining legal authority are rooted in a print-based system that no longer exists, and that in the world of online research, it is all too easy to lose track of where a source comes from. The combination of accessibility of information and electronic means of retrieval is erasing the once clear line between the distinct domain of law and the broader world of information. This blurring of the line is reinforced by courts, which are increasingly citing to online, nonlegal sources in support of legal reasoning in judicial opinions. The article documents the ways in which traditional means of identifying authority no longer exist, and calls for a new vocabulary for defining authority that reflects the world that exists today.


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