Friday, October 16, 2015

Supreme Court Fixes Two Major Issues With Its Opinions

At the start of the new Supreme Court session, the Court announced that it is fixing two major problems with prior opinions: post-release edits and link rot. 

Supreme Court pundits had complained about the Court's prior practice of revising post-release opinions without notifying the public of the changes. According to a study conducted by Harvard professor Richard J. Lazarus, these alternations were not all aesthetic. Some were substantive changes to facts and reasoning. 

Adam Liptak wrote about this issue in The New York Times in May and apparently the Court listened. Post-publication changes will now be noted in a new column on the charts of opinions and altered material will be highlighted. 

And link rot has long been a problem. A 2013 study showed that nearly half of all links in Supreme Court opinions no longer work. The Court will now preserve online content cited in its opinions and make that content available on its website. 

These changes are wonderful improvements and, I think, evidence that the Supreme Court is willing to alter its procedures to improve its opinions and its transparency. Who knows--maybe cameras in the courtroom are the next frontier! 

You can see explanations of the new procedures in the What's New section of the Court's website.

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