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Despite all that’s happening, we at the Legal Information Institute continue to be in the fortunate position of finding new opportunities among the chaos.  In September we set new single-month records for users (4.148M), sessions (6.035M), and pageviews (14.827M).  Our traffic continues to track the news, with spikes to Article III of the Constitution after the death of Justice Ginsburg, the Wex page on No-Knock Warrants around the Jefferson County grand jury announcements regarding the shooting of Breonna Taylor, and, since the first presidential debate, 18 U.S.C. § 594, Intimidation of Voters.  All of this occurs alongside the regular and steady flow of traffic from folks who come to our website to do their jobs, further their education, or just live their lives.

Since our last newsletter in July, our collaboration to publish a feature-rich collection of the regulations of all 50 states has gained momentum.  The engineering team has been working its magic adapting the federal regulations pipeline to handle state regulations, while brushing up on the latest data standards for bulk publication.   Sylvia has extended our language parsers to address the new XML format.  Jim identified and remediated major web accessibility roadblocks (we’ve once again been working in parallel with our friends at Public.Resource.Org and their contractors to transform non-web-accessible images from the regulations into machine-readable formats).  Ayham incorporated new point-in-time support into the data model to support comparisons between quarterly snapshots, and Nic has kept all of the trains running by streamlining the process of re-generating content from cached data – a much-needed new feature now that we’re working with a corpus an order of magnitude larger than those we’ve published in the past.   

A battalion of summer students finished up work on the Wex Definitions project, though a small team remains employed and working on a much more part-time basis.  Our Women & Justice collection continues to grow, thanks mostly to the work of a dozen students over the summer.  Our newest use of law students, though, is performing research intended to nail down with precision the number of times each of the Supreme Court’s most prolific advocates appeared before that court.  We’ll be publishing the results as a feature on the Oyez website.  

Neli, Sara and Craig each gave presentations at the virtual Law Via the Internet Conference in late September.  The LVI conference is a (mostly) annual event where members of the global Free Access to Law Movement (FALM) come together to share expertise and best practices, often joined by a mixed bag of legal academics, law librarians, scattered legal tech industry-types, and even the occasional curious practitioner.  Neli Karabelova presented on a panel alongside her opposite number at South Africa LII and a staffer from a Canadian organization assisting self-represented litigants, discussing how to communicate user impacts.  Sara teamed up with Cornell Law Librarian Kim Nayyer on two panel presentations: the first, with Canada LII’s Sarah Sutherland on the role of Legal Information Institutes in mitigating bias in legal datasets; and the second, with Ivan Mokanov of Lexum (CanLII’s for-profit software development subsidiary), inviting the gathered FALM membership to consider its potential role in open legal scholarship. Craig presented an overview of the Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org case for the international conference audience.    

So that, briefly, is what we’ve been up to. The rest of this newsletter contains a combination of familiar items (such as the popular “Anatomy of a Traffic Spike”) as well as some new ones.  In that latter category are a “Spotlight on Student Work” (namely, an LII Bulletin Preview) and a worked example of using free legal resources to solve an actual research question, which we’re unimaginatively calling “Free Legal Research in Action.”  We hope you enjoy all that, as well as a summary of some of the coverage on the life and passing of Cornell almuna Ruth Bader Ginsburg in our “Footnotes” section.

Stay safe and well.

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