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Universal Citation: Caselaw Access Project

A South Carolina focused guide to discussions of citation reform, sometimes referred to as vendor neutral citation, medium neutral citation, uniform citation, or public domain citation.

What is the Caselaw Access Project?

"The goal of the Caselaw Access Project (“CAP”) is to expand public access to U.S. law by making all published U.S. court decisions freely available to the public online, in a consistent format, digitized from the collection of the Harvard Law Library."
case.law/about
 
screen capture of case.law

South Carolina Case Law in CAP

Results 1 to 10 of 41,658 - Dacres v. Danson, May 8, 1700, 6 Rec. Co. Ch. (S.C.) 67, Court of Chancery of South CarolinaCAP has digitized 41,658 South Carolina cases.
https://case.law/search/#/cases?page=1&jurisdiction=sc

This is the entire collection of published decisions in South Carolina Reports and all prior official reporters, including South Carolina Law Reports, South Carolina Equity Reports, and so on, dating from 1700 through the end of 2017.

While CAP allows individuals to search and read the text of up to 500 cases per day, its interface is not designed for ease of use in doing legal research. CAP lacks headnotes; lacks a citator (a way of determining whether a case was later questioned or overturned); and lacks statutes, regulations, secondary sources, and any other sources a researcher may want to use other than case law. CAP is not being updated on an ongoing basis as new cases are decided. For these reasons, CAP is not an effective legal research platform for the public or law practitioners who are seeking precedents relevant to current legal situations.

Instead, CAP is intended to be useful to legal technologists—specifically to those who would design and develop legal research systems to serve the public and practitioners. CAP's comprehensive case law collection is the result of a wealth of resources being devoted to creating a high-quality, publicly available collection of digitized case law. Because the collection has been organized into machine readable data, it provides an incredibly valuable foundation for anyone with the tech skills to build innovative online research tools. However, the 500-case-per-day limit is a significant barrier to building those tools.

To lift the 500-case per day limit and unlock its historical case law for tech innovators to build on, a state can choose to implement digital-first case publishing according to guidelines Harvard provides.

Unlocking Historical South Carolina Case Law

1997 opinion State v. Long on sccourts.orgCurrently, the South Carolina Judicial Department makes a collection of South Carolina case law freely available on sccourts.org, dating back to 1997. These online opinions are missing the citation information such as volume and first page, as well as subsequent page numbers, that would be necessary to cite them or locate them using a traditional citation.
https://sccourts.org/opinions/searchOpinion.cfm 

When a state's courts "transition to digital-first publishing for new opinions, the Harvard Law School Library will provide and make publicly available a free, open collection of historical opinions (as scanned images and as OCR-generated text) published in all official reports prior to 2019." For South Carolina, that would be case law dating back to 1700. Citation information is included, meaning volume number and page numbers to the official reporters, so that traditional citations can be located. 
https://case.law/action/

Universal citation is part of the digital-first guidelines each state must meet in order to unlock Harvard's offer of freely accessible online historical opinions.

Essential characteristics

Citable

The digital version should be citable in and by the courts of the relevant state, using vendor neutral citation formats.
 

Desirable characteristics

Medium-Neutral

Decisions should include paragraph-numbering and avoid page-dependency.

 

 


Illinois case law met Harvard's digital-first guidelines. As soon as the Caselaw Access Project was made available in 2018, the first research using Caselaw Access Project data was completed, specifically using Illinois case law data: Telling Stories with CAP Data: The Prolific Mr. Cartwright by John Bowers.

chart of judge prolificness by year