Abandoning Law Reports for Official Digital Case Law by Peter W. Martin, Cornell Law School (January 25, 2011) Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 11-01.
In 2009, Arkansas ended publication of the Arkansas Reports. Since 1837 this series of volumes, joined in the late twentieth century by the Arkansas Appellate Reports covering the state’s intermediate court of appeals, had served as the official record of Arkansas’s case law. For all decisions handed down after February 12, 2009, not books but a database of electronic documents “created, authenticated, secured, and maintained by the Reporter of Decisions” constitute the “official report” of all Arkansas appellate decisions.
With justifiable pride, the state supreme court proclaimed Arkansas to be the first jurisdiction in the nation to switch from law report publication to official legal data distribution. It will not be the last.
This article examines what distinguishes this Arkansas reform from the widespread cessation of public law report publication that occurred during the twentieth century and its reporter’s official database from the opinion archives hosted at the judicial websites of most U.S. appellate courts (including that of the Arkansas judicial branch between 1996 and 2009). The article next explores the distinctive alignment of factors that both led and enabled the Arkansas judiciary to take a step that courts in other jurisdictions, state and federal, have so far resisted.
Big Hat Tip to Sabrina I. Pacifici!