Deep thoughts on Court Websites – Howard Bashman has a great article at Law.com on what makes for a good court website. He prefers that the opinions be available in PDF format, but applauds the US 1st Circuit and the US 10th Circuit for making opinions available in both PDF and HTML format.
He chastises the US 3rd Circuit for breaking links to its opinions, which are initially released with one URL, but then (when they are moved to the opinion archive) they are given a new URL. Of course, he praises Rory Perry for providing new opinion alerts through RSS/XML feeds, which I think is the wave of the future. It's nice to see Howard, whose readership includes many judges and law clerks, pointing out the flaws in Court web-services.
I'm not naive enough to think that his article will cause judicial administrators to scurry around and revamp their websites, but maybe it will have some nevertheless significant and beneficial effect. Courts are purveyors of important information, and the Internet is a powerful communications medium. But the needs of the citizens are not always understood by court officials. We want an easy to use cross-platform system that gives us free access to the law, and which makes it easy to hyperlink to the law without fear that the link will later be broken. Anyway…Enough griping.
Congratulations to the winning courts, and especially to Rory Perry. Of course, Rory isn't resting on his laurels. He's already got some ideas on how to make things better. Man, why can't we have more court officials like Rory? [Ernie the Attorney]