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Judicial Conference Issues Guidelines on Citing to Web Pages

By Brian Kumnick on August 18, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
Internet-based materials are more and more commonly cited in all kinds of legal documents, including judicial opinions. One problem raised by this practice is the ephemeral nature of web pages, which often change URLs or simply disappear with little or no notice. At the same time, there is obvious value in seeking out and citing relevant information on the web.

To help judges resolve this tension, the Judicial Conference of the United States has released recommendations to the federal courts on how to handle internet-based materials.

After a six-month pilot project conducted by the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM), during which court librarians collected and examined citations to web-based resources in opinions, the conference developed its guidelines.

The CACM broadly recommends that judges at least consider some form of preservation for all internet-based materials cited in their opinions. Among the recommendations for handling internet case citations:

  • Download a copy of a cited web page and include it as an attachment in the Case Management/Electronic Case Files System. From here, the page could be made retrievable via PACER
  • Keep in mind that not all litigants have computer access
  • Try to avoid linking directly to commercial databases, to avoid the appearance of an endorsement; and provide an appropriate disclaimer where such links are necessary

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