I’ve mentioned Jade a couple of times. They’re an Australian case law service that I think have created an excellent free product. They have recently announced a premium service for AU$40 a month. The free service contains 190,000 decisions.
The premium – Jade Professional – service provides a couple of interesting options. You can upload documents to the service and they’ll cite check it for you. They’ve added an online briefcase function, so you can access research and documents while you’re out of the office. One new feature is their visualization, which appears to create a node-based visual, where you can see relationships between case law results.
The Pro version seems a no-brainer for Australian lawyers. The new enhancements supplement an already strong case law product (nicely segmented case details, for example, with Jademark bookmarking and Jadetrace links between cases).
Canada-specific legal apps are still quite thin on the ground, although the publishers are now more active in releasing updates. This is still primarily for iPad users. Here’s a rundown:
- Case Law. First to market was LexisNexis Quicklaw (iOS) and that’s pretty much all there is. No Westlaw Canada app, nor one from CanLII. Garry Wise has created an iOS app called WiseLII that will search CanLII. The Law Society of Upper Canada and LexisNexis have an Ontario Reports app which gives access to back issues as well as a handful of cases each week (iOS or Android).
- E-books. Thomson Reuters Carswell is delivering e-books through its Thomson Reuters Proview tool (iOS or Android). LexisNexis sells its books for any e-book reader (iOS, Blackberry, Android). Kindle isn’t listed but you might try using Calibre to convert the LexisNexis epub format to a mobi file, which is Kindle friendly. Irwin Law has an online e-book library (Web-based) but you can also download a free app (iOS) for any books you own.
- Law Journals. If you aren’t getting your law journals as PDFs (like the free content on SSRN’s Legal Scholarship Network), you can try the HeinOnline app for everything else (iOS). Law Society members in Ontario and British Columbia have free access through their dues (Canada), as do lawyers in a variety of U.S. jurisdictions through their local law library or bar (Social Law, Jenkins, Hamilton County (OH), NY City Bar, etc.).
There are a variety of e-books, law-related podcasts, and magazines available from the iTunes store. Other publishers, like Emond Montgomery, also have e-books (iOS or Kobo).
All of which assumes you need an app. If you are on a tablet, you can probably just surf to the site to do your research. Sites like CanLII in particular are sufficiently simple in design that they work fine on Safari on the iPad or Firefox on an Android tablet. Irwin’s Canadian Online Legal Dictionary, a free Web site, is also tablet accessible – I wouldn’t say friendly, since the navigation requires a smaller finger or a stylus – as a Web site.
[Disclaimers: my employer is one of the major funders of CanLII, since Ontario's lawyer dues are used, in part, to pay for the free resource. The book that started this blog is a Thomson Reuters Canada Law Book product. But you already knew that!]
The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) and the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) have partnered to make federal judicial opinions available. I posted on this when it was announced.
The result is a terrific, easy to search site that relieves the need for work-arounds to find court opinions. The appellate decisions have been easily available for some time. The benefit that this new resource offers, in my mind, is making the federal trial court opinions accessible. In the past, a researcher looking for free case law from the federal courts would have had to visit each of the district court sites and relied on the very uneven availability of each court or judge making their decisions available.
Here is a sample search of the Ohio federal district, or trial, courts. The search facets for further narrowing the results appear on the left. Some of the facets are rather useless – if you search in the Ohio Southern District, you get the facet for the Circuit Court of Appeals as well as the location. But since the court is in the 6th Circuit Appellate district and in Ohio, there’s not much help there since all decisions should already fall into those facets. But it’s nice to know there are ways to narrow the results further, by persons and organizations mentioned in the opinions.
Pro tip: you can quickly get to a US federal court by using their very sensible Web site name designations. All appeals courts are at www.caN.uscourts.gov, where the N is their number. For example, http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov is the 6th Circuit. District courts are identified by their two letter state and their name. So the Southern District (SD) of Ohio (OH) is http://www.ohsd.uscourts.gov. Montana only has one court, so it is http://www.mtd.uscourts.gov. You get the picture. It can be faster than trying to search for the site or going to USCourts.gov and trying to find it.
This may not be a resource that gets much use in the average practice but it is interesting to see this sort of case law aggregation tool available. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has captured court decisions on human trafficking and organized them by country. You can click on Canada, for example, and see the 11 relevant decisions.
The site has a Web 2.0 feel to it, very clean and good use of space. Brief case summaries are available but are truncated to the first few lines unless you click the show more link. If you click on the summary itself, you will be taken to a reference page that has links to the court decision as well as other information on jurisdiction.
The reference page has keywords to enable quick aggregation of similar cases – click on harbouring, for example, and the site will retrieve all cases tagged as relevant to harbouring. There are some interesting metadata nuances not typical of a case law database. Keywords reflect the type of exploitation (sector), how it was done (means), purpose, the acts involved, and its form. It’s interesting to see this kind of detail in metadata, rather than just stringing together the various keywords without regard to their importance. The database has its own copies of each of the decisions, which makes sense in assuring their permanent access.
LexisNexis has dropped the free case law resource – formerly known as LexisOne – and is now funnelling users to paid options only. When I saw the announcement on Twitter, it was a disappointment. As far as U.S. case law goes, LexisOne was unique in enabling some of the segments – search by counsel, by judge’s name – that you could get within the paid database.
RT @: RT @ We've updated our post on the demise of lexisONE http://t.co/g44Dnccl ... free case law RIP
This was not that surprising, since they had recently shifted the free case law from a relatively easy to reach location on Lexisone.com to a new community site. Since that lasted for only 2 months, this elimination of access was probably planned. It may also mean that LexisOne as a case law service wasn’t that popular, although it may also just be the next shift away from any flexibility in access beyond a subscription.
It seems a relatively feeble decision. Free U.S. case law is abundantly available. State and Federal appellate courts have a substantial amount of recent, free law on their own sites. Google Scholar maintains a database of US case law that is getting regular improvements (citation relationships, pagination). Despite the continuing lack of information about where the data comes from, it appears to be entirely reliable.
There is also the venerable Public Library of Law, which, like LexisOne did, relies on a fee-based service. Fastcase.com powers the PLOL and content you retrieve in your searches comes from the same database.
Access to Google, the Public Library of Law, and the courts are more than enough of an option to the departed LexisOne. Free case law needs to be easy to access – not behind marketing sign-ins and other functionality – so the disappearance of LexisNexis’ free content was probably inevitable.
When Barnet announced their mobile-enabled Jade Touch site, I was not surprised. These guys continue to push new methods of delivering Australian case law. The mobile theme that enables access to their Jade database is sleek and uses standard interface choices for anyone accustomed to Apple iPhone or iPod products. This isn’t an app, though, so it should work on any mobile device.
Jade Touch mobile interface for Barnet Jade Australian case law on an Android Gingerbread device
Or desktop. It’s a clean way to access recent decisions from Australian courts. If you visit on a desktop, you can select settings at the bottom left corner of the screen and switch to the desktop version. Great new way to get at free case law and use the many other enhancements that Barnet is providing.
I came across NWD Publishing and their Rolls Reports recently when one of the parties mentioned in their case law summaries was none other than David Whelan. Not me! While NWD is a subscription-based service for the daily and weekly case law summaries, you can follow their case updates for free. Their site uses WordPress to protect its premium content, which means you can follow their RSS feed at the typical WordPress location.