Librarians, technologists and law students join forces to provide open access to California law

Librarians, technologists and law students join forces to provide open access to California law

Our colleagues at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford Law School and Justia (with some help from the folks at Fastcase and Stanford Law students) recently teamed up for SCOCAL, an exciting project to provide open access to California law. From a description on its fabulous Legal Research Plus blog, the website

“provides free access to the full text California Supreme Court opinions from 1934 to the present, along with detailed annotations of selected cases written and edited by students in our Advanced Legal Research class here at Stanford. For selected cases related California Supreme Court briefs, other documents and news items are also available, all free of charge. Users may subscribe to separate RSS feeds of new opinions, annotations, Court news and follow the site on Twitter.”

We had a chance to ask Erika Wayne and Paul Lomio some questions about the project:

MP: How did this project evolve?
PL and EW: Tim Stanley (Justia) came to our Advanced Legal Research class a few years ago and mentioned that lawyer driven annotations were the next big thing. Paul, while biking home, thought let us annotate something….California Supreme Court seemed like a great starting point (model after SCOTUS sites, and local, manageable).

MP: Are students continuing to contribute to the project even after they are done with your class?
PL and EW: We encourage them to do so and I think it is too soon to say….

MP: What happens when your class is not in session (e.g. summer)?
PL and EW: We collect cases for the next quarter. It is based on the Law Review case note model. Alacrity is not critical. Over the course of the year, most of the major cases are covered.

MP: What are the average number of cases each student is covering?
PL and EW: Right now it is 2; it might go to 1 in the future (TBD).

MP: Is participation mandatory for your class?
PL and EW: Yes.

MP: What have been the pedagogical outcomes of having students participate in such a project?
PL and EW: The students all have a deeper appreciation of indexing, court reporting, and computer assisted information retrieval. The students are also learning valuable lessons about search terms and synonyms. In gathering related materials, they understand how difficult it can be to acquire court documents and compile the complete record of the case since it may not all be online (which so many of them expect). We also encourage them to link to free sources so they have a greater awareness of what resources are freely available and what still remains proprietary or unpublished.

MP: Any further enhancements/developments planned for the project (that you may share)?
PL and EW: We are exploring some expansion possibilities, but it is too early to discuss these…..stay tuned!

For more information about this project, check out this posting by Cicely Wilson at Justia.

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