Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Impact in High Places: Law Librarians Influence US Supreme Court Policy on Link Rot and Legal Issues

For the second time in 2015, The United States Supreme Court is relying on the advice of law librarians. (Ok they probably rely on the advice of the terrific team of the  Supreme Court Librarians all the time -- but in this post  I am referring to advice coming from librarians working for other institutions). Today a New York Times story Supreme Court Plans to Highlight  Revisions in Their Opinions  notes changes in opinion revision and internet citation policies. Until now it has been a common practice for for the US Supreme Court to issue corrected slip opinions without public notice of the changes. The Court will now acknowledge the changes on their website.


The Court is now taking steps to address link rot. "Link rot" refers to the removal of or changes to cited materials which render the citations unusable or unreliable. The Supreme Court  policy  cited a study  “Something Rotten in the State of Legal Citation.” by two librarians from the John Marshall School of Law, Raizel Liebler  and June Liebert. The study noted:  “It is disturbing that even at the Supreme Court, where creating and citing precedent is of the utmost importance, citations often fail to point the researcher to the authority on which the court based its decision.”  According to the study 29% of the internet citations in US Supreme Court opinions written between 1996 and 2011 were broken.  Liebert  who was previously the CIO at John Marshall School of Law, is now the Firmwide Director of Library and Research Services at  Amlaw 100 firm, SidleyAustin.


The US Supreme Court has now created a new page "Internet Sources Cited in Opinions." The Court will provide a list of all internet sources cited during the term. The link will include  an image of the page as it existed at the time it was cited.

Librarian Cited in ACA Opinion King v Burwell

Back in June, Chief Justice John Roberts authored the majority opinion in King v Burwell which cited a scholarly article, “A Legislative History of the Affordable Care Act: How Legislative Procedure Shapes Legislative History,” written by  John Canaan, Research and Instructional Services Librarian , at Drexel University School of Law.   The Robert's opinion cited Canaan’s observation that the drafting of the ACA strayed from “the traditional legislative process” because Congress wrote key portions of the Affordable Care Act behind closed doors.

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