MW discussion of case archive

  • From: "Dehnel, David" <Podehnel@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "'scotus_archive@xxxxxxxxxxxxx'" <scotus_archive@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 11:01:09 -0500

I'm glad to see the archive is still under discussion.  Thanks much to those
who have kept it alive.  I'm sorry I didn't end up going to the Midwest.  I
will be at APSA if anyone is interested in continuing the conversation.
Below are some thoughts in response to the Midwest discussion as

Dave Dehnel

I. Unresolved Central Issues

A. Who will host / maintain / compile the archive ?

The assumption has been that maitaining the archive will require a lot of
resources. Is that true?  I am no expert, but since this will be a rather
specialized, text based archive (In my mind at any rate), it doesn't seem
like it would be that massive, at least not intially.  Although we at
Augustana are hardly an internet powerhouse, I'd be willing to ask our IT
people about it.

B. Content of the archive

- what is to be included ?

I think the key here is a simple, standard format (like html or rtf).  That
way, it will be easy to modify edited cases.  You can always put your
favorite paragraph back in if it gets left out.

Putting in votes, etc. is a good idea.  Personally, I prefer to let the
Court state the "facts," but I'm flexible. (As Political Scientists we know
that the facts are themselves interpretations, and our separating them in
header makes them look more neutral than they are.)

- different versions of the same case for different teaching purposes?

That would be fine but not crucial if the standard format is flexible for
modification.  My inclination would be for the editors to err on the side of
inclusiveness and let profs shorten them further if they want.

To my way of thinking, the best way to use such an archive would be for
profs to download cases and distribute them locally (eletronically, or
xeroxed in the form of a customized casebook), rather than simply pointing
undergrads to the archive.  I see this as a teaching tool rather than a
research data base.

- how to deal with the issue of political bias in editing/interpreting

We are political scientists.  We will know this when we see it.  And we
won't see it often, because we all need both sides in there to teach, even
to propagandize.  

- including a statement of editorial focus/interpretation

Good idea.

- including access to the full-text version of cases as well

"Access" in the sense of a hyperlink would be ok.  Why duplicate existing
on-line archives?  By the way I ususually use Findlaw for full text because
the format is simpler than LII.  What do others use?

C. Is there a need for some sort of feedback / "review" of the edited cases
before they are included?

If we appoint an editor who is willing to undertake this as a professional
project, I think that would help facilitate the process.  For someone like
me at liberal arts college, this sort of thing would "count" as a
professional activity.  How publishing institutions would view it I don't
know.  The editor could get a board and farm out cases for review if that
became necessary, which I doubt.

II. Specific Detailed Suggestions

A. Submitting / acquiring cases

I favor a simple format like rtf or html, so it is easy to modify.  Where we
get the orignals doesn't seem like a big issue to me.  The Supreme Court
distributes the stuff for free.  What I do now is download it from wherever,
remove all the formatting, and start editing from there.  The text itself
isn't under copyright.  One could start with scanned text, but it will end
up the same.

B. Case details

I agree with Matt Roberts' idea of "scaled contribution."  Hyperlinked case
references and US Reports pagination would be nice, but paper casebooks
don't do these things.  We are still providing a major service without it.
Lexis can do that because they charge a lot of money.

C. The site

D. Access to other resources

In general I think there are many nice ideas about a fancy resource here,
but I say one step at a time.  Unless someone has some money to throw at
this, we may never get off of square one.

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