20 May 1999. Thanks to Brad Hillis. JYA welcomes contributions of additional world-wide URLs (and brief descriptions) of justice on the Internet. Send to <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
See listing of all US Circuit Courts: http://www.ce9.uscourts.gov/web/sites.nsf/All+sites+by+circuit?OpenView&ExpandView
And the Adminstrative Office of US Courts: http://www.uscourts.gov
Date: Thu, 20 May 1999 10:17:10 -0700
From: "Hillis, Brad" <BradH@DIS.WA.GOV>
Subject: Re: judges publishing their own decisions online
The 9th Circuit actually has started publishing some of its opinions. I can't tell if it is supposed to be comprehensive or merely a selective sampling. To my knowledge, the 5th Circuit is the only other federal appeals court to publish its opinions at its official Web site. If your question is: which U.S. District and Bankruptcy Courts have opinions online, that is a great query because there are a growing number of courts doing this, but nobody has comprehensively tracked the sources, even though it is relatively easy to figure out by visiting all their Web sites.
The newest innovation is moving from past practice of judges posting individual opinions in noteworthy cases, to efiling or imaging leading to all orders and opinions being available online by searching for docket entries. One example of the rapid increase in trial court opinions becoming available is the new site from the US Bankruptcy Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, which found just yesterday. It has opinions from 1991 for its two judges, at:
When I was at the ADIJ conference in Paris last October, the star of the conference was a judge of the Court of Appeals of Évora, Portugual, Francisco Bruto da Costa. He publishes his opinions online at:
Everything he said was so right on it was sort of spooky, like how did he slip through the cracks to understand the power of the Web? He talked about the efficiency of placing his opinions online in 30 minutes, in contrast to the bureaucracy of the Portuguese Justice Department which can take 1 to 2 years to publish traditional case law books. I nominate Judge da Costa as the world leader in judicial technology. He is fluent in English and you could email him for more information.
In England, Lord Mark Saville is a well-known advocate of publishing court
opinions online. While he does not mark up the opinions himself in HTML,
he is the driving force behind the judicial Web presence there. But England
remains bogged down in many areas of court technology, as they still cling
to the notion that there is a logical, engineered, efficient way to move
forward, when really what has proven to work best is more or less total chaos
fed by some level of funding (the Brazilian and Spanish model, see below).
In New Zealand, Judge David Harvey of the District Court, Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand, built the court Web site. However, New Zealand is one of the worst countries for posting court opinions so it is not surprising there are no opinions online:
Your question about judges outside the US is intriguing. Logic tells me that there must be judges in Finland and Iceland who are posting their opinions, since those countries are so ahead on the Net. I have some difficulty in tracking Web sites in those languages, however. Germany and Sweden should have judges posting stuff online, too, but my research tends to find law school sources for law but not courts individually publishing opinions.
Brazil in all likelihood has the most judges posting opinions online. There is no country like Brazil for placing judicial information on the Web, unless you count California as a separate country (it's a separate planet, arguably.) It's all chaos in Brazil and so each court is free to move forward as rapidly as it likes. Brazil ignores all other countries' use of the Web. They don't link out, except to Cornell; we don't link in. On my darkest days, when the endless Seattle rain would beat against the window if my office had a window, I go to Brazil and bask on the beach of their glorious accomplishments.
In the last year I have seen Spain really break out ahead of other countries
in putting law on the Web. What I look for are local jurisdictions placing
texts online without guidance from or reference to central authority as the
best measure of Net sophistication getting into the fabric of communities.
In this respect, three of my favorite court Web sites are state trial courts
in Mexico because nobody has a grip on how Mexican judges use the Net:
Tribunal Superior de Justicia del Estado de Quintana Roo, state trial court:
Poder Judicial del Estado de Sonora, state trial court:
Supremo Tribunal de justicia del Estado de Jalisco, state trial court:
I don't know what role the judges play in maintaining these sites.
To follow up in Spain, try contacting Prof. Albert Ruda González, Professor of Civil Law, University of Girona, who has the best gateway to Spanish law:
AMATRA, which is the Association of Magistrates, is the gateway to Brazilian courts online:
Within the U.S., there are several judges who use the Net to distribute court information, though you are correct in perceiving that few post their opinions.
I heard indirectly that North Dakota Supreme Court Justice Dale V. Sandstrom began the court Web site, though I don't think he currently maintains it--who has time anymore ;-) ? ND is cool in many ways. They freely post the Supreme Court justices' email addresses. Sandstrom is an interesting study in how judges view the Net, as he seems to have one foot way out in front on technology but hasn't yet let go of the old ways. For example, he is the force behind the rule that attorneys submit their appellate briefs on disk so the judges can pack their reading on their laptops. But he hasn't yet figured out that attorneys should be able to email in the briefs, or file them at a Web site, instead of using floppy disks. His bio is at:
The briefs on disk idea, though silly to advanced Net users, is proving the most powerful idea in advancing electronic information in the U.S. Courts of Appeal, where the judges are not into the Net but do travel a lot and have learned to hate the huge briefcases full of, well, briefs. This is especially true in the powerful 2nd Circuit.
In Illinois, Judge David A. Youck of Onarga, Illinois, provides an email notice service for new opinions from the state Supreme Court:
Judge Dennis Jacobsen, of Waterloo, Illinois, maintains the Circuit Court of Monroe County Web site:
where he posts forms and information he wrote.
Pennsylvania is a stange state. Though the Supreme Court was an early adopter of the Web, the legislature is one of only a few states that refuse to publish its statutes online. Two judges maintain Web sites that help
pirate (is that the right word?) the law onto the Web. In Avondale, PA, Judge Thomas E. Martin, Jr., of District Court 15-4-04, has a site at:
He has a cool email address,
"email@example.com." In Centre
County, Pennsylvania, Judge Carmine W. Prestia, Jr., runs the Web site for
District Court 49-1-01.
In San Francisco, Superior Court Magistrate Richard Best uses Findlaw's free Web site service to post orders but I couldn't find his URL when I looked just now. Stacy Stern at FindLaw might have it handy.
In Alabama, Judge Edwin L. Nelson of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, created his own Web site in 1997 that was recently replaced by the official court site:
He may be the only federal judge who knows HTML.
Any discussion of judges and Web sites would be incomplete without mentioning Phil Harter of Calhoun County, Michigan:
who built the Web site, and Presiding Judge Donald E. Shelton of Washtenaw County Court, in Ann Arbor, Michigan:
who always has the right instincts on how to use the Web, and is a leader in providing court services through their Web site, including court opinions at:
From: Wendy Leibowitz [SMTP:wendyl@AMLAW.COM]
Sent: Thursday, May 20, 1999 8:27 AM
Subject: judges publishing their own decisions online
This question was cross-posted to two other lists; sorry for the duplication. Does anyone know of any judges who are publishing (or having their clerks publish) their decisions online? I remember one magistrate in Florida who published a decision online, with links to exhibits of the case, but that was a one-time event.
The Ninth Circuit's official Web site has individual home pages of the judges that at one time boasted photographs of one jurist's vacation in Norway, but not a single decision yet. Home pages of judges seem to have biographical information and little more.
I know that there are some official court sites and of course law school sites that make decisions available--but are the judges, particularly lower court state judges whose work is harder to find online, publishing their work themselves?
Thanks for any pointers, especially to judges outside the U.S. who may be publishing their work.
Wendy R. Leibowitz, Technology Editor
National Law Journal
105 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Thanks to JM.
For U.S. law, FindLaw is indispensable to get court opinions, but if you want to find court Web sites, the best Web sources IMHO are: