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Sunday, May 27, 2007

OA for state appellate court decisions: only Alabama is left

Alabama is talking about OA for appellate court decisions.  Details in today's column by Dana Beyerle in the Tuscaloosa News:

The state law library at the Alabama Judicial Building wants to put appellate court opinions online for free. Opinions now are available electronically for a fee, for free [in print] at the law library or online at county courthouses. The Web site Talking Silk reported that Alabama is the only state that doesn’t provide free, online access to state appellate decisions....Talking Silk quoted Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition, saying that charging for the service restricts access and is poor public policy. “When it comes to opinions of court, which articulate the law that all of us are supposed to follow, we shouldn’t have to pay a toll to find out what the law is," Scheer said. Subscription service revenues support the Alabama Law Library, said state law Librarian Tim Lewis. He said the library will provide an opinion for free if someone can’t pay. Lewis said the subscription service is “mainly" for lawyers who want case opinions the day they’re released. Scheer said taxpayers should bear the cost....

Update. The correct name of Beyerle's source is Taking Silk, and here's the story itself: Stephanie Hoops, Alabama only state charging public to view appellate opinions, May 21, 2007. An excerpt, focusing on details Beyerle omitted:

In Tuscaloosa, Ala., lawyer Mike Comer feels everyone in Alabama should have free access to the decisions of the state’s appellate courts.

“They already have to pay lawyers,” he said. “Why should they have to pay to read opinions?”

Keith Norman, executive director of the Alabama State Bar said he does not believe Alabamians are up in arms about Alalinc’s fees. He said there is a large network of county law libraries that have computer databases hooked up to major online research providers, so people are taken care of.

“People that need that information who otherwise don’t have access can go to county law libraries,” he said. “They can get the books and they have subscriptions with the online research services.”

Back in Montgomery, [Director and State Law Librarian Timothy Lewis] said the State Law Library is planning to soon launch a new Web site offering the opinions free of charge.

That was news to Norman at the state bar.

Lewis said: “We are rolling out a new Web site in the fall that will have cases available at no cost.”