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It was a rough time for the Empire.
Online case services were multiplying fast and furious. Yes, even their vaunted reporter system had been compromised. The beginning of the end began in the late 1990’s, when even the Courts had ruled against them. It became more important than ever to just hold on, to jealously guard what was left from the encroaching armies of Competition.
First, a little background: This is about the use of parallel citations. Legal documents, in my experience, use case law to support arguments made and positions taken. And it’s important that the case is properly cited to both point to the source of the discussion and provide a way for the reader of the document to confirm (or deny) the reasoning made by the author. In most cases, the author will add parallel or additional citations from non-official sources as a courtesy for their readers. There are some judges that do require these to be included but I believe it is done for the reasons outlined above. Online services also routinely include citations to other services as well as their own without regard for the effect it may have on their own business, a practice that can only be described as extending this courtesy.
Now to the event that prompted this posting. A letter recently obtained by 3Geeks was sent out by Westlaw outlining the possible issues surrounding the use of their WL cite for unpublished decisions by Lexis Nexis as part of displaying the various parallell citations associated with a particular opinon. The letter references an advertising campaign trumpeting the availability of parallel citations, with this one spotlighted, for unpublished opinons. They also imply that these cites can only be presumed to be accurate only on their platform (Westlaw). Frankly, I’m not sure why they weren’t flattered by the tacit acknowledgement of their competitor that their brand was respected enough to reference.
Parallel citations from other publishers have been routinely used by both Westlaw and LexisNexis for several decades. Both have made a name for themselves as an accurate purveyor of legal information (including citations) that set them apart from such services as Google Scholar. Although I am sure that Westlaw feels that this response is justified, I think that to respond to what is really a common industry practice indicates a surprising degree of desperation. When asked by 3Geeks to respond, Lexis stated simply that these “parallel citations are lawfully obtained from reliable and accurate sources and are subjected to the same high quality editorial processes used for all of our case law collection.” The Westlaw letter reminds me of the Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny cartoon where Daffy must have the entire treasure of Ali Baba to himself and literally shows how small he is as a result.
As a research professional, I find it difficult to understand how, or why, there would be any limitations on the use of parallel citations from any source.