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Problems with Modern Electronic Legal Research—“Googlization” versus “Boolean Logic”

By Michael Wein

About every two to three years, Westlaw and Lexis representatives contact my office about renewing my existing (and not inexpensive) legal database subscription or switching to the other company.  I have used legal databases since college, though which one I prefer is not the subject here.  What’s comparably new is both companies for about the past decade, have boasted their new legal database systems now have a sophisticated algorithm search comparable to Google, for every appellate (and most Federal District Court cases), to quickly and correctly locate the best cases on the topic.  This conceivably makes Boolean logic or just regular “keyword” searching, unnecessary or obsolete.  As explained below, though there are some advantages, depending on the market audience, it is not necessarily these algorithms are superior, particularly when it comes to locating more obscure appellate caselaw, to help win a case.

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An Open Letter to Law Professors: Use This Case To Show Why Statutory Interpretation Is Not as Easy as It Sounds

By Derek Stikeleather[*]

The simplest rules and standards can often be the most confounding; just ask anyone who has had to divine whether an act was “willful.” The decisions of the Fourth Circuit and Supreme Court in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger offer a vivid case study of how the supposedly simple rules of statutory interpretation, which apply a statute’s “plain language” and “clear intent,” are anything but simple in practice. Both courts analyzed whether CERCLA’s express pre-emption of state-law statutes of limitations also pre-empts state-law statutes of repose. Last summer, a split panel of Fourth Circuit judges reversed a district court judge and held that CERCLA did pre-empt North Carolina’s statute of repose. But a divided Supreme Court, reversing again, held last week that it did not. Read More…

How Twitter Can Save Law Reviews

By Steve Klepper (Twitter: @MDAppeal)

Recently, a New York Times column by Adam Liptak reignited a running controversy over the utility of law reviews. If you’re interested in that controversy, I recommend responses by Will Baude and Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy, plus a rebuttal by Christopher Zorn at Empirical Legal Studies. And, more to the point of this post, Derek Muller’s post, Why Aren’t More Journals Like the Case Western Reserve Law Review?, examines what certain law reviews are doing right. Building on Professor Muller’s observations, I’d like to offer my own observations on how an online presence, particularly through Twitter, can increase a law review’s readership and encourage a dialogue useful to the bench, bar, and academia. Read More…