November 1, 2008
Bluebook users: automated citations in Firefox
The Law Librarian Blog recently posted news of a new tool available for Firefox users, CiteGenie. It purportedly can create "Bluebook-formatted pinpoint citations from Westlaw." The post refers readers to an article reviewing CiteGenie by Marc Hershovitz at LLRX.com.
This is a fascinating product, from what I've read in Hershovitz's review. Keep reading. You may be delighted or horrified, depending on your attitude toward teaching citations.
Using the Firefox browser to access Westlaw, a user pulls up an authority in Westlaw, highlights and copies the desired text, and pastes it into a word processing document. CiteGenie then automatically adds the full citation to the quotation, including pinpoint references (even when they span pages). Note that it does not add subsequent history, although it does flag cases to alert users to check the KeyCite results. CiteGenie can also be configured to warn users if the material copied comes from a dissenting or concurring opinion.
Hershovitz tested CiteGenie for its ability to recognize and apply some of the "tricky" rules of citation: parallel citation (including whether to use it or not depending on a jurisdiction's own briefing rules); case names (e.g., when to use a state's name vs. referring to it as "State," "Commonwealth," "People"); pinpointing material appearing in footnotes; dropping the second business reference for party names ending in "Co., Inc."; even altering citations to conform to state-specific rules, such as medium neutral and public domain references. In Hershovitz's test, CiteGenie got them all right. It handles state and federal statutes and regulations, too.
Hershovitz acknowledges that although CiteGenie is "not quite perfect," he's hooked. As your students discover this product, they will probably be hooked, too.
The CiteGenie website advises visitors that Lexis (some functionality available now) and Internet Explorer versions are "in development."
ADDED: If you are an ALWD citation manual user, you may wish to look at this product, too. Most practitioner-style citations in Bluebook and ALWD are identical, particularly for cases and statutes. CiteGenie will let you select a "truncated court name" (e.g., Ark. App. instead of Ark. Ct. App.), which matches ALWD's requirements. You'll need to watch for Bluebook Table 6 abbreviations that use apostrophes, changing them to conform with ALWD Appendix 3 abbreviations.
ALSO ADDED: I downloaded CiteGenie and tried it myself. Note that it does not italicize or underline case names (you'll have to do that yourself when you edit your document). Also note that it relies on the West's running head for its rendition of the case name. As you know, sometimes the running head version does not conform to a citation manual's dictates.
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I am the developer of CiteGenie and I'm glad you found it useful.
I'm very sorry you don't get italics or underlining when you paste. This is a known problem with exchanging clipboard data from Firefox on a Macintosh. See Bug 428096 in bugzilla.com. https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=428096. We hope the next Gecko engine, in Firefox 3.1, will fix this issue when finally released... but it is up to the Mozilla/Gecko people. On a PC, the italics and underlining paste properly.
While CiteGenie does consider the contents of the running head, it does not exclusively "rely" on it. As you pointed out, West's running head often has errors. CiteGenie will still give you a proper Bluebook cite for a lot of cases where West's running head is dead wrong. The only exception is when the case title is very long, and the running head gets truncated. If that happens, CiteGenie will warn you because there is not enough of the running head to properly parse and compare to the raw caption data. CiteGenie also does not try to correct improper capitalization in the caption, since that can often cause more harm than good. Think of "Oscar de la Hoya v. John D. MacDonald."
If you are a heavy ALWD user, you can edit your supplemental abbreviations table in CiteGenie, through the configuration screen. The user's supplemental abbreviations will generally control over the built-in T.6 table. If there is enough demand, I'll make CiteGenie more ALWD-friendly with a single option to select "ALWD Compatibility Mode" that will make all the necessary changes with just one click, including abbreviations.
I am also very sensitive to the Hippocratic maxim of "first, do no harm." If law faculty at any particular school so wishes, there is already a provision built into CiteGenie so that CiteGenie users on that school's Internet domain, get a special popup warning when using CiteGenie. I just need to add the school's domain name to the list that controls that warning message.
Please let me know if there are any other suggestions for improvements. I aim to please.
Posted by: CiteGenie | Nov 1, 2008 9:52:58 AM
I have been using Cite Genie for the last couple of weeks and I think it is an incredibly useful tool. Purists might disagree, but I don't think using Cite Genie is much different than using a Bluebook. Most people use the Bluebook poorly, so shouldn't they at least have some way to write their citations correctly?
Posted by: Josef | Nov 3, 2008 8:11:03 PM