I posted about three weeks ago about the discussion going on at my library concerning the maintenance of the National Reporter System as well as other bibliographic items. This was in connection with ABA Standards for law school library collection allowing for “reliable access” to primary law through electronic resources. This got me wondering. I know that current and ongoing material would be on Lexis and Westlaw and other resources. The immediate question is how far back does everything go? I would assume through representations that the databases cover all case law from the beginning.
I wound up checking each information statement for case law in WestlawNext and compared it to everything that is a citable item in Table 1 of the Bluebook. Westlaw does, in fact, represent that it carries case law for every item listed as a citable reporter in the Bluebook. I’m in the process of checking Lexis at the moment. While I can take issue with the way Lexis organizes its case law files, the survey so far indicates that it goes all the way back as well. Lexis does have some interesting additions in that it seems there are databases for circuit court reports for a select number of states. I’m still working on that survey.
I’m considering an expansion of the survey to other databases such as Hein Online as well as free resources such as Google’s case law and books and other reliable databases for comparative purposes. Hein’s historical databases for case law and statutes continue to expand, especially for state published items. I’m also interested in the formats (text only, PDF, etc.) and the range of coverage for each file type. This information would likely be useful for cite checkers and reference librarians. I have the initial WestlawNext chart for coverage by reporter and date. Feel free to contact me for a copy. I’ll post my progress as I get through this. I may ultimately turn this into an article that compares type of material to availability, format, and whether it’s reliably free or in a subscription database. We’ll see if I have the stamina as this goes forward.