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How Courts Can Cite Internet Materials in Opinions

By Neetal Parekh | Last updated on

Well, Technologist reader, we thought you would like to know that the federal government is weighing in on the best practices for citing and hyperlinking internet materials in court opinions.

It began as a pilot project conducted by circuit libraries and organized by the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM).  The pilot project involved observing and noting how webpages were cited in opinions over a six-month period and resulted in a body of "suggested practices" for courts across the country.

It was no surprise to really anyone that judges have been ramping up inclusion and citations to internet sources in their opinions.  With online search possibilities endless and easy to access, and the increased preference to online sharing by courts, firms, and scholars alike--the setting down of rules surrounding the internet haze only makes sense.

The guidelines suggest that if a webpage is cited, chambers staff should preserve the citation by downloading a copy of the website's page and filing it as an attachment to the judicial opinion in the case management and filing system.  The attachment, then, would be accessible on a non-fee basis through the court's electronic records system, much like the opinions themselves. 

The CACM also recommended that the Judiciary steer clear of including hyperlinks leading directly to commercial vendor databases in final opinions, to avoid any level of endorsement or preferred treatment.  And if inclusion of the material is a must, judges can include an appropriate disclaimer.

Now, how is the court going to cite a tweet? We'll stay tuned for that one.


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