Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Professor Ian Gallacher, at Syracuse University, has been writing thought-provoking articles this year at a rate that might be alarming to those less prolific and trying to keep up. His two most recent articles, with each title followed by its abstract, are:
"This article is a manifesto that outlines the principles of the open access to legal information movement and sounds a call to action for law schools to become leaders in that movement. The article surveys the present legal information environment, reviews the development of computer-assisted legal information and the long-term future of book-based legal research, and discusses the problems inherent in a system where two large “information resource” corporations control access to legal information. After considering the need for open access to the law for pro se litigants, scholars from outside the legal academy, and practicing lawyers, after considering and rejecting courts and legislators as viable guarantors of open access, and with the model of the clinical legal community’s tradition of engaged scholarship as an example, the article concludes that America’s law schools have both the opportunity and obligation to provide an alternative to the commercial legal information sites and make America’s law freely available to all. The article ends with a series of proposed principles that might guide such an open-access legal information site."
"As the law moves inexorably to a digital publication model in which books no longer play a role, the problem of how to continue to make the law available to all becomes more acute. Open access initiatives already exist, and more are on the way, but all are limited by their inability to provide more than self-indexed search options for their users. Self-indexing, although a powerful alternative to the traditional pre-indexed searching made possible by systems like West's “Key Number” digests, has inherent limitations which make it a poor choice as the sole means of researching the law. But developing a new pre-indexed legal digest would be a prohibitively expensive and complex undertaking, making it unlikely that open access legal information sites can develop and maintain a fully-implemented digesting approach to legal research. This article proposes a reconceptualization of the information already contained within most American judicial opinions in order to permit open access sites to offer a form of pre-indexed research to their users. By mapping a case's location in a graphical representation of the doctrinal development of an issue under consideration, this approach allows the court's citations to prior authority to act as a pre-indexing tool, allows the researcher to update the law by showing more recent cases that have cited to the target case, and gives the researcher the opportunity to trace network links in order to uncover connections between cases that might otherwise have been difficult to discern."