More Caselaw Online, Free:

The Public Library of Law just launched, and it reports that it provides free access to all Supreme Court cases, federal appellate cases from 1950 on, and state cases from 1997 on. You can also search through all these jurisdictions at once.

I still expect I'll use FindLaw quite a bit, because FindLaw lets one link to cases from posts, and have readers be able to follow the links without registering. But PLoL's coverage and search ability seems to be in many ways better than FindLaw's, so I think I'll be using PLoL quite a bit -- and of course those who don't have free Westlaw and Lexis will find PLoL more useful still.

Excellent - thanks for the link Prof. Volokh. I have an unlimited search plan w/lexisnexis at a very reasonable rate but its jurisdiction specific. Now, if i come across a case from outside my jurisdiction cited within say my state's sup ct decision or whatever- I can save the $12 per click fee they would charge me to access that other case.

I used to google them and get lucky here and there, but wading through all the mess isn't economical on time- and in this biz time is money.

By chance, any idea how often the cases are updated to the system after the case comes down? Is it similar to the westlaw's and lexisnexis'? Or is there an additional lag time because its free? Just curious...
2.15.2008 5:16pm
Wayne Jarvis:
FYI: members of the Virginia Bar have access to FastCase, which is pretty robust (if buggy).
2.15.2008 5:45pm
David Sorkin (mail) (www):
PLOL omits federal district court decisions (as does the limited version of FastCase available through some bar associations). But it appears that district court decisions are now available elsewhere, or soon will be, thanks to (per Lessig).
2.15.2008 6:07pm
Michael Schiffer (mail):
It looks like a potentially useful site, though the case law is the only part that seems to be provided by PLoL/FastCase itself-- the rest are links to other existing sites like FirstGov and the LII and various state government pages. (Having links to them all in one place is nice, but not all that different from what something like FindLaw or any number of law library resource lists might offer.)

That said, they appear to offer more depth to their free case law collection than others I'm familiar with. The nearest equivalent I know of is Lexis's free LexisOne service, which does the last five years worth of case law. (Lexis's search engine seems to be more powerful and flexible, but PLoL is offering eleven years back instead of five; which is a better free service depends on the user's needs.)
2.15.2008 6:13pm
Truth Seeker:
When I searched a term it said "here are 424 results but you could get 1500 more results if you were a subscriber." So this is a tool to get subscribers. But it's free so I can't complain.
We have all Florida and federal cases from FastCase free to bar members here in Florida.
2.15.2008 10:30pm
occidental tourist (mail):
So the only bar I belong to is the one down the street where they still serve pitchers. I never was one for trade associations comingling professional licensing as they aren't free -- either the associations or the cost. So that puts me right out of the Fastcase discussion.

I concede that I'm a partisan of Findlaw since they have been the predominate web resource in providing access to legal decisions since almost the beginning of the web. Their interface with contemporary Supreme court materials including briefs (they used to send somebody in to get copies and they would post the scanned copies and OCR versions until lawyers started submitting electronically and now they post these submissions) really helped on the only case I ever contributed to -- although since we lost 9-0 I suppose that is a relative comment.

Speaking of American Trucking, Eugene, - have you ever considered enlisting Schoenbrod, the spiritual font of the modern non-delegation ideal in the conspiracy? I would love to hear from him more than I do.

So this was about PLOL. Does seem to be easier to get to searchable text of federal appellate decisions and state decisions on PLOL. This is much easier to deal with than PDFs, however, there is no pagination information for citation in any of the decisions, even the supreme court decisions. Also the footnotes are not linked as they are in Findlaw's Supreme Court library -- a pain in the mouse for long decisions, because they are all at the bottom instead of at the bottom of the page.

Ironically, Findlaw's pagination is good for cases before the service began in the mid 90s, but the cases that entered their database directly from electronic versions issued by the court prior to publication and pagination by U.S. reports do not contain any pagination.

Originally, Findlaw published this with placeholders for pagination, so that once a beginning page number had been assigned in a volume of U.S. Reports, I could generally hit the citation right on. Those placeholders have been removed but no permanent pagination has been substituted.

Another oddity of this pagination problem is that the professional tools version of PLOL (I guess that is the same as Fastcase) doesn't list pagination for citation as a 'bene' of the pay service. I'm assuming that it probably is, but they just left it out.

One disappointment with PLOL is that the search engine is a little clunky. You can't restrict to party name in the advanced search function. Although usually a case in which the party is named will come up at the top of the list (presumably because it gets more hits throughout the text) that is not always the case. Try Lochner. Planed Parenthood v. Casey comes up first. Concedely, Lochner is second.

Also, you can't access the advanced search function from a results page. Perhaps if you do search from a results page it uses the same restrictions you put in to start with, but I don't know that for sure. Also, if you want to change restrictions or approach you have to back out to the start page. Minor inconvenience.

While I take no umbrage whatever at them trying to earn some money at this, I'm surprised they won't tell you what the hits are you have to pay for unless you pay. How do I know if its worth paying without knowing the nature of what they found?

Although I have to admit that I hang out at the conspiracy more more than at Findlaw (or the bar at the corner for that matter), Findlaw also put on a fairly good stable of writers for their legal commentary section 'Writ' which I used to peruse regularly.

2.16.2008 7:16am