Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Impact of Legal Blogs on Judiciary

Ian Best at 3L Epiphany posts a fascinating discussion with U.S. District Judge Richard Kopf (Nebraska) on the use of legal blogs as authoritative secondary sources of information for legal decisions. The email Q/A with Judge Kopf provides a bit of insight (at least three judges perspective) on how legal blog information is being used and how it might be used in the future by courts across the country.

Judge Kopf's comments on the federal court CM/ECF system were particularly timely for me as the Southern District of West Virginia moves into the mandatory electronic filing category starting May 1, 2006.

Also two other judges (Justice Judith Lanzinger and Judge James S. Gwin) have responded to Mr. Best's email Q/A on blogs and judiciary. I haven't had a chance to read these yet and will plan to post additional comments.

I found the following excerpt comments by Judge Kopf particularly interesting (read the full Q/A for context):
My guess is that legal blogs will partially fill the “practicality” gap between the legal academy and the rest of us.

I would guess that we would see big and small changes. For example, as video technology and the Net become interwoven, I see little reason to require witnesses to travel long distances to attend trials when they could as easily appear by interactive video. As another example, think about whether court reporters are needed given advances in digital audio recording. Digital audio recordings of trials can be provided over the Net, perhaps even in real time. Vendors located at any place in the world could access the digital audio over the Net and bid to provide transcriptions, presumably at very low prices. Such a system would obviate the necessity and exorbitant cost of employing a court reporter.

I tend to read law reviews in spurts. I think I am like most judges, I read them when I need them and can find something useful in them (which is not often). I don’t have favorites. Indeed, I find many of the “elite” reviews laughably beside the point.

The advantages are obvious: speed, availability, and topicality. I don’t see real disadvantages.

Incidentally, you ought to convince Westlaw and Lexis/Nexis to buy your blog list. They should think about listing blogs like they list law reviews. Then convince them to develop a really good search engine for blogs.

I found the following quotes by Judge Lanzinger of interest (read the full Q/A for context):
The legal blogger can sponsor ideas on current issues that can be reviewed immediately through the input of readers. The best serious blogs define a particular field of interest and inquiry and stay within that scope.

Assuming that legal blogs are now in their infancy, and that they will grow to have a long and fruitful life, I think that lawyers who ignore them altogether will do so at their peril.

The willingness to learn and relearn technology skills will be essential for mastery of new tech tools. The future will belong to the flexible.

I don't have the time or inclination to slog through many law review articles in my spare time.

Because of publishing realities, law reviews may appear hide-bound while legal blogs operate with free-wheeling immediacy.

On the other hand, without peer review, blogs can publish anything and suppress anything –- so caveat emptor.

I believe that the serious blogs do have a time advantage in raising issues, networking primary sources, and serving as a clearinghouse for additional discussion. Law reviews have the luxury of handling an issue in depth; however the time lag can be a negative when fast-moving matters are being considered. Law reviews are permanent; one does not have to worry about a broken link or missing achival material. Nevertheless, even if (and maybe because) they are ephemeral, legal blogs are fun to read. Most cut to the chase and many have a sense of humor -- a plus in my book.
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