Bar News - August 14, 2009
Law Librarian Offers Cautions with Casemaker
Editorís Note: The following article, received in early June, was held for a month while we asked Casemaker to address issues raised by Ms. Woods. Responses from Dee Dunn, Chief Operating Officer and Content Director of Lawriter, Casemakerís parent company, are in bold.
Being a cautious attorney is prudent, especially when it comes to legal research. Knowing how to use the tools of the trade like LexisNexis, Westlaw and Casemaker, is only part of the battle. Each one of these electronic research systems has its own idiosyncrasies and, more importantly, limitations. At Franklin Pierce Law Center the teaching staff in the library has been using Casemaker for approximately a year now. In our legal research classes we teach students how to evaluate resources comparatively. What follows is a comparison of Casemaker 2.1 with Westlaw and LexisNexis followed by a cautionary look at the currency statement on Casemakerís Case Law database and Casemakerís case law pagination. It isnít wrong to use Casemaker for legal research, but the researcher should know and understand its limitations.
Coverage Ė Case Law Database
Note: To find the currency or scope on Casemaker 2.1, select Case Law from the listing. Click on the words "Case Law" in the breadcrumb trail just below the tabs. Clicking "browse" here will bring up a selection of either A.2d, N.H. or Slip Opinions.
The scope of cases covered in Casemakerís Case Law database is limited. The coverage statement on Casemaker states:
Supreme Court Reports - 52 N.H. (1872) - current
Last Upload: 06/09/2009
Currency: Reports: 153 N.H. - 966 A.2d Slips: 06/08/2009
Last Checked: 06/09/2009
Anyone relying exclusively on Casemaker needs to know that their case law database for New Hampshire does not go back to volume 1 of N.H. Reports. It begins much later with Volume 52. On Westlaw, "New Hampshire Cases has state court cases with coverage beginning in 1816." The first N.H. reporter is from 1816. Similarly, on LexisNexis, "Earliest opinion from September 1816 through current. Includes Opinions and Orders reported in official citations: From 1 N.H. (1816 - current)." There are 56 years of cases not included in Casemaker. That may or may not be a problem for any particular legal issue being researched.
Casemaker: The content of the NH Library and all libraries in Casemaker is determined by contractual arrangement with the respective bar association members. At the time of the signing of the original agreement, the NH Bar indicated that Vol. 52 was the desired starting point for their caselaw materials. Coverage can be expanded if the Bar Association indicates.
In searching on all three services for "RSA 265:82" with the quotation marks around it, Casemaker has 135 results; Westlaw has 132 results; and LexisNexis has 131 results. Looking at each result set reveals that Casemaker has four duplicate cases in its set; Westlaw has two unreported opinions and is missing State v. Levey, 122 N.H. 375 (1982). The complete result set consists of 131 cases if you exclude the duplicates and the unreported cases.
Duplicates in this result set on Casemaker are troubling because they appear in volumes 154, 156 and 157 of N.H. Reports. The currency note on Casemaker indicates it stops at volume 153 of N.H. Reports. Searching with a citation to the cases in volumes 154 (1996) and 156 (2008) (154 N.H. 237; and 156 N.H. 803) retrieves the cases, but citations to volume 157 (157 N.H. 421; and 157 N.H. 404) containing 2008 cases returns "No results." Thus, when "no results" is the answer and the case was decided within the last two or three years, you will need to search by case name or use the Atlantic Reporter citation if you have it.
Casemaker: Three of the four duplicates reported by Ms. Woods are slip opinions which duplicate reported cases. I would think that most legal researchers would be more troubled by the missing case in the West Law system. We remove slip opinions which have become reported opinions on a periodic basis.
We had inadvertently missed the updating of the NH reports volume to 157. This has now been corrected.
Additionally, in NH caselaw browse mode for 2008 and 2009, a number of opinions from other states appeared in searches by Ms. Woods in early June. Casemaker has since rectified this temporary glitch that related to the opinions appearing in the Browse mode only.
Pin-citing or citing to a particular page in a case depends on when the case was decided. Generally, Casemaker includes the official case version published in N.H. Reports. However, before the official version of the case is published, Casemaker also includes the Atlantic Reporter version of the case in its database and the slip opinion. Slip opinions have page numbers beginning with the number 1 and are cited differently from published opinions found in reporters.
Where the only reporter citation is the regional reporter, Atlantic 2d in this jurisdiction, then the pagination is clear Ė page numbers follow the Atlantic 2d. However, where there is a parallel citation to N.H. Reports, you must check the first page break, which is shown by a solid line, and determine whether the page number follows the Atlantic or N.H. Reports numbering. In more than one case Casemaker has shown both the Atlantic and N.H. Reports pagination.
Given that Casemaker currently includes cases through volume 153 of N.H. Reports and the last physical copy of N.H. Reports sitting on the shelf at Franklin Pierce Law Center Library is volume 157, four entire volumes of cases will use pagination to either Atlantic 2d or to a slip opinion. Without checking each case in the N.H. database it is impossible to know if the pagination through volume 153 on Casemaker is accurate. My advice to attorneys using Casemaker is to check the pagination offered on any case in the database before using it as a pin cite.
Casemaker: In 2006, Casemaker began posting the regional reporters for caselaw for most of our consortium members. Case law is generally published more quickly in the regional reporter system than through the official reports of any state. Once the official reports are received, we add official reporter citations and follow up with official pagination. For example, we posted State v. Fletcher, 158 N.H. 207, 965 A.2d 1000 (2009) on May 6, 2009. The printed version of the official reporter, 158 N.H. Unit 2 was not received in our offices until June 19, 2009. NHBA members using Casemaker had the case weeks before the official version was available.
When relying on Casemaker for your legal research needs, when results indicate "No results" keep searching, especially if the case was decided in the last few years. It may be impossible with the currently jumbled listing of 2009 Slip Opinions to determine what the last case included in the database is. Fortunately, the New Hampshire Supreme Court has an up-to-date listing on its website of slip opinions. Lastly, when citing to a page in a case be sure you cite to the appropriate reporter.
Roberta F. Woods, J.D., Assistant Professor, is Electronic Resources Librarian, Franklin Pierce Law Center, Concord, NH.
Casemaker: Casemaker is responsive to its market and continues to be the number one benefit that a Bar Association can provide its members. We are committed to providing the best value and most efficient legal research tools for the members of our Consortium.
Thank you, Ms. Woods, for helping us improve the product. We appreciate your diligence and the time required to provide this feedback.
The July 2009 issue of Law Technology News featured an article comparing Casemaker to a similar online legal research service offered by some bar associations, Fastcase. The article notes that while both services provide similar coverage of federal and state caselaw, there are differences in navigation and presentation. The article also includes links to a response from Lawriter CEO Steve Newsom. Find the article at http://casemaker.us/pointsofclaritycm21.