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Bar News - September 21, 2016


Court News: NH Supreme Court Working to Preserve Links in Slip Opinions

Link rot is real, but the problem has been solved, at least with respect to NH Supreme Court opinions.

“Link rot” is a term that describes a link that is broken, dead or no longer supported by a website. It leads to the dreaded “Error 404” or page “Not Found” on your computer screen.

To address this problem, the NH Supreme Court has created a new hyperlink web page - a place where links will be stored, giving readers the ability to access the material cited in an opinion without the threat of link rot.

A search by law clerks at the state Supreme Court found several hyperlinks cited in past opinions had become outdated. But this is far more than just a New Hampshire problem. The authors of a recent study published in the Harvard Law Review Forum found that of the 555 links cited in US Supreme Court opinions between 1996 and 2013, 49.9 percent no longer contained the cited material due to either link rot or reference rot – a term that combines link rot and content drift where the resource mentioned changes over time.

Harvard Law Library maintains a service called Perma.cc that allows courts and legal journals to save and store archived data representing the relevant information of an online source. Several appellate courts across the country currently use this service. But, as with other privately owned websites, there is the possibility that at some point, they cease to exist or become prohibitively expensive.

Recognizing the problem, as well as the fact that it would only get worse going forward, Lorrie Platt, Reporter of Decisions for the New Hampshire Supreme Court, put together a team that included herself, law clerks Scott Sakowski, Aaron Lang and Stephen Zaharias, plus the webmaster for the Judicial Branch, Brian Eddy. Together, they developed a process to eliminate link rot in the Court’s opinions.

“We put together our process based on the model used by the US Supreme Court,” Platt said. “Christine Fallon, the Reporter of Decisions at the US Supreme Court, was extremely generous with her time. She explained their process in detail to me, including walking me through how the country’s highest court posts hyperlinks, and answering all of my questions about their webpage. Christine’s help was invaluable.”

The Court’s new hyperlink website is now live at www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme/opinions/cited_urls/2016/index.htm.

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