This item about a new California Office of Legislative Counsel white paper is from the most recent issue:
Authentication of Primary Legal Materials and Pricing Options
“The recent passage of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) has brought to the forefront the issue of costs of authenticating primary legal materials in electronic format. This white paper briefly reviews five methods of electronic authentication. These methods are based on trustworthiness, file types, effort to implement, and volume of electronic documents to be authenticated. Six sample solutions are described and their relative costs are compared. The white paper also frames the legal landscape and background of authentication for primary legal materials in electronic format, and provides context and points to applicable resources. The aim of this collective effort is to promote the understanding of costs related to authentication and invite further discussion on the issue.”
In 1875, a jury committed Mary Todd Lincoln to an insane asylum. This week, the Chicago Tribune reported that two Illinois State Supreme Court justices discovered her trial papers still on file with the Cook County Clerk! The Clerk’s Office will be donating them to the Lincoln museum, but we hope the story does not end there. Like many others, we’ve previously posted about the cultural heritage reflected in state court files. Some of the stories told in these documents are historically significant, like Mary Todd Lincoln’s commitment, or John Wesley Hardin’s murder trial (see this Texas Task Force report). Many stories, however, are just minor threads in life’s tapestry: divorces, probates, business disputes. Whether the story is big or small, the court records that tell it may be irreplaceable.
Each state’s preservation rules differ. Some place the retention determination in the hands of state libraries or archives, some issue mandatory retention schedules based on the nature of the action, and some afford the clerk of court discretion to dispose of files after prescribed time periods. Even if a clerk of court wanted to save everything, storage expenses and space constraints make this impossible. The costs of digitizing every paper record are prohibitive. As cultural institutions may not be interested in less noteworthy files, many are noticed for destruction. Provided that a state’s rules allow it, however, law libraries may be uniquely positioned to rescue these files — preserving not just the documents, but also state history. And if you spend some time digging through them all, you never know just what you might find…
The common policy objectives in modern liberal democracies of promoting open and accountable government and of preserving national culture and heritage are reflected in the provision of access to, and the preservation of unpublished and published works held by government. A wide spectrum of social enquiry is in whole or in part dependent on these government preserved holdings.
The policy objectives in Australia are manifested in two ways. One is in government archival practices and laws. The other is in the Australian Copyright Act 1968 facilitating access to, and the preservation of, unpublished and published works held by archives and libraries. While preservation of these works and the costs associated with it are in themselves a recognition of the public interest in accessing works held by archives and libraries, existing laws and practices facilitating access should be reviewed in light of technological changes in way we access, create and communicate works and in light of further moves towards openness in government.
This article outlines present archival practices and laws in Australia, and the scope of Copyright Act provisions, before turning to reform. The focus will be on the Australian federal sphere.
Link rot is a pet peeve of mine. A posting I made on June 11, 2008, “Law School Laptop Bans,” already has a broken link to a news story and the posting isn’t even a year old yet. And I can’t count the number of times I have found a terrific-sounding right-on-point resource in a law review footnote, only to find its URL leads to the dreaded “404 Not Found.” But it’s more than a pet peeve issue, as this survey makes clear:
Journal of Appellate Practice and Process, Vol. 9, No. 2, Fall 2007
TINA CHING, Seattle University School of Law
As more legal research is conducted online, it is reasonable to conclude that there will be a corresponding increase in citations to the Internet by judges in their opinions. With the widespread public use of the Internet to access information along with the constant changes and impermanence of websites, citing to the Internet should be an issue of increasing concern to the legal community across the country. This paper surveys the types of Internet sources the Washington state Supreme Court and Appellate Court justices are citing. It discusses the interrelated issues of link rot and the impermanence of web pages, citation format, authentication and preservation of online electronic legal information.