In a January 2, 2010 op-ed in the New York Times entitled “A Nation of Do-It-Yourself Lawyers,” California Chief Justice Ronald George and New Hampshire Chief Justice John T. Broderick Jr. asked “how can we help those who are left to represent themselves in court?”
One thing we can do is make the law of the nation freely available. Today much of the law remains behind a pay wall, often a very expensive pay wall.
There have been efforts to liberate the law — five guys at Cornell (Cornell’s Legal Information Institute), three guys at Google (Google Scholar legal opinions), and others. The federal government has made strides too, eCFR remains a model of free, updated legal content, but as the first paragraph explains on the eCFR website disclaims, “It is not an official legal edition of the CFR.” State government efforts are as varied as the 50 states and District of Columbia.
So what to do?
Law.gov is a campaign to identify what a national law registry should include, and to make recommendations to the policy makers on how to structure a repository of all primary legal materials (and maybe more) at all levels of government.
The Stanford Law Library hosted a Law.gov kickoff event on January 12, 2010 and the day’s events included a terrific panel discussion with Carl Malamud, Anurag Acharya (Google Scholar lead engineer) and law professor Jonathan Zittrain, moderated by Stanford Law School lecturer Roberta Morris. We now have a streaming video link from this discussion and it’s definitely worth viewing: