Google Case Law and Law Review Article Search

I’m very pleased to see that Google Scholar now allows searches of a very broad range of caselaw, plus many law review articles. This should make law much more accessible to people who don’t have Lexis and Westlaw (which is also good for us privileged free Lexis and Westlaw users, when we want to link to old cases that had earlier been unavailable).

Still, I’m assuming that this is just (in keeping with Google Scholar’s beta status) an early phase of the project, with much more still to come; and I’m a bit surprised that some pretty obvious features were omitted. For instance, as best I can tell one can’t easily search only court opinions (federal and from all states); the advanced mode let one select “all legal opinions and journals,” or “only US federal court opinions,” or “only court opinions from the following states.” Searching all federal and state cases in one search is impossible; searching all state cases seems to require checking 50 boxes.

Likewise, the search feature yields mysterious results; a search for “volokh” in all federal cases yields lots of cases that never mention “volokh,” nor anything that seems similar to volokh. And Google’s famous metadata glitches make date searching iffy, since some very new articles end up having old dates. Check out, for instance, the prescient 1761 source on computer file-sharing yielded by this query.

But again, I assume there are many more improvements to come in the coming years, and perhaps even one day support for Lexis- or Westlaw-like queries, with good proximity searching, segment searching, and more. And even for now, searching for (and linking to) caselaw is much easier today, at least to those without Lexis and Westlaw, then it was before the new Google features.

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