How to Start a Case Analysis Bulletin

The start-up period for the liibulletin-ny began in the spring of 1995 and extended through the summer. The result was a handbook, two rough sketch prototypes, and an invitation to second and third year students to begin work on a new electronic publishing venture, preparing commentary on important opinions of the Court of Appeals of the State of New York. The Legal Information Institute already offered an e-mail bulletin covering the U.S. Supreme Court and was publishing the New York court's opinions on the Internet. The new bulletin seemed a natural next step, drawing on the same talent and energy that have historically fueled the school's print journals.

While this novel electronic bulletin is focused on the work of a single court, the same approach can readily be adapted to commentary with a topical orientation (i.e., intellectual property, computer law, environmental developments, and so on). The combination of factors that have come together quite suddenly to make this type of publication possible include: 1) timely access to legal materials in digital form, 2) the ability to provide low-cost, high speed delivery of analysis via e-mail and the World Wide Web, 3) a growing collection of primary material on the Net itself which can be linked to a bulletin presented in hypertext form, and 4) the necessary audience -- an exploding number of lawyers and other professionals discovering that the Internet has become a serious communication and information pathway.

In short, the emergence of the present form of the liibulletin-ny is not a function of unique features of the New York Court of Appeals nor of the LII's role in publishing its opinions. We simply chose a ready and important resource to experiment with the new medium.

The Handbook and Style Sheet, on which the following text is based, are the product of the start-up effort and less than a half year's experience working in dual e-mail and WWW distribution of the resulting bulletin. Because the liibulletin-ny represented not only a novel publication but a new law school organization as well, we devoted substantial attention to issues of structure and "corporate culture." A fair amount of the Handbook aims at these matters, in an attempt to build a successful culture for the liibulletin-ny or at least to avoid the more obvious pitfalls and bureaucratic features of traditional school-based law journals.

While embracing most citation and style norms as starting points, obvious differences between print and internet publication, especially via e-mail, led to us try some new solutions. Those have evolved through the fall, and no doubt will continue to, as the bulletin strives for a format appropriate to the distinct (and distinctly different) environments in which it appears. The Style Sheet provides for quite different presentation of the same content in e-mail and HTML versions of the bulletin.

Here is how we did it -- offered more in the spirit of a journal than as a recipe. Obviously, our approach will have to be adapted to suit different publication goals, institutional opportunities, constraints, and resources. It appears to us, however, from this early stage of the venture that the underlying structure and division of tasks works laid out in this document will work.

I. The liibulletin-ny

  1. Background and Purpose
  2. Overview

II. Organization and Personnel

  1. Legal Information Institute
  2. Bulletin Editors
  3. Correspondence Editor
  4. Managing Editor
  5. Editor-in-Chief

III. Procedures

  1. Selecting Cases for Commentary
  2. Developing Case Commentary
  3. The Production Process
  4. Quality Assurance

IV. Correspondence

V. The Style Sheet

I. Bulletin

A. Background and Purpose

Since 1993, the liibulletin has provided an e-mail based current awareness service, distributing the syllabi of U.S. Supreme Court decisions in bulletin format within hours after their release. Starting in the the fall of 1995, the Legal Information Institute ("LII") has offered the first of what may be a series of additional bulletins written by student editors, working for the LII. This new student-written bulletin focuses on the more significant decisions of the New York Court of Appeals. (As decisions of the U.S. Courts of Appeals become accessible via the Net and therefore via the LII Internet server, follow-on bulletins with topical rather than simple jurisdictional scope, may be offered.) The decision commentaries prepared by bulletin editors are not only be disseminated via e-mail, they are also be added to the indexed hypertext material at the LII's World Wide Web (WWW) site. In hypertext form, they link to full text of the underlying decisions and where possible to cited material. Through these complementary means the bulletin should reach a large and sophisticated audience of professionals, academics, and others interested in legal issues.

B. General Overview

The liibulletin-ny and successors are likely to be first of their kind publications. Law journals of diverse types have begun to appear on the Internet but none carry the kind of timely, professionally-focused analysis that characterizes the liibulletin-ny. Both bar associations and commercial publishers offer current awareness coverage of appellate decisions, but as yet none have moved to electronic publication via the Internet. Having built a large subscriber-base with the original liibulletin and an even larger user population with its World Wide Web Internet server, the LII is in a position to establish a service that: (1) has widespread use and impact; and (2) provides student writers, researchers, editors with valuable professional experience.

II. Organization and Personnel

A. The LII

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School is sponsored by the National Center for Automated Information Research, the Keck Foundation, Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, LEXIS-NEXIS, Matthew Bender, Shepard's McGraw-Hill, Transnational Juris Publications, West Publishing Co., and is directed by Thomas R. Bruce and Peter W. Martin. Since its establishment in 1992, the LII has employed student editors -- to prepare and update hypertext versions of legal documents at the core of important law school courses, to write description and analytic material for publication on disk and on the Internet. All such student participants in the LII's work are referred to as members of the LII Editorial Board.

B. Bulletin Editors

Bulletin editors are responsible for creating the commentary and analysis of each decision selected for inclusion in the liibulletin-ny, for collecting and doing research on all court cited sources, and for developing an editorially neutral product that reflects both solid analysis and rigorously edited, first quality legal writing. Together with other bulletin editors, each editor works on one case at a time to develop implications of and propose possible evaluations for the opinion. Editors prepare each case commentary in both e-mail and HyperText Markup Language("HTML") formats. Working with other bulletin editors and the bulletin editor in chief, they review the periodic release of the opinions from the New York Court of Appeals and make recommendations concerning which opinions should be selected for comment.

C. Correspondence Editor

The Correspodence Editor ("CE") is responsible for managing the E-Mail of the Bulletin. This includes the development of individual and form responses to both subscribers and other members of the readership to be delivered via E-Mail. The CE has no editorial duties, but may participate in commentary development as he or she wishes.

D. Managing Editor

The Managing Editor ("ME") is responsible for final editing of each team's written product. The ME ensures that the write-up conforms to the style sheet and maintains a common writing style across teams. He or she is also a regular member of a team with standard editorial duties. Due to the nature of the position, the ME is generally one of the best writers on the editorial board.

E. Editor-in-Chief

The Editor-in-Chief ("EIC") is responsible for the operation of the Bulletin. He or she performs all HTML markup of NY Court of Appeals cases and makes the initial selections for which opinions will be reviewed by the Bulletin. The EIC has general editorial duties to ensure uniformity among each issue of the Bulletin. Further, the EIC performs HTML quality assurance checks on commentary before it is submitted for publication on the WWW. Finally, the EIC oversees the administrative aspects of the Bulletin including correspondence and other non-publication oriented activities. Presently, the EIC is selected by the LII co-directors.

III. Procedures

A. Selecting Cases for Commentary

The New York Court of Appeals publishes sets of opinions in irregular batches. Once these opinions have been released. The EIC reads all of them and select those opinions to be developed and works with each team to ensure that the selected case is appropriate for commentary. This phase of the commentary process occurs within 48 hours of the LII's receipt of a set of Court opinions. These types of cases generally be selected are:

  1. Cases that are first decisions on a new legal theory.
  2. Cases that rely on common statutes (e.g., UCC, UPA, UPC, etc.).
  3. Cases that affect large numbers of people (e.g., benefits, tax, etc.).
  4. Cases that interpret the N.Y. or U.S. Constitution(s).
  5. Cases that effect N.Y.'s concurrance with regional laws.
  6. Cases that deal with issues on which N.Y.'s position is (or was) distinctive.
  7. Cases that overrule current law.
  8. Cases that deal with legal / professional ethics.

While this list is not exhaustive, it does point out the sort of case that is likely to merit analysis by the Bulletin staff.

B. Developing Case Commentary

Once a case is revieved and selected, each team takes over the development of the Bulletin commentary. While the format for this commentary is fairly fixed, the substance of it is not. Each team is encouraged to approach the opinion with a creative and rigorous analysis of what the Court both has done or failed to do. There is a fine line between analyzing an opinion and second-guessing it. The Bulletin must strive to have a neutral tone so that we neither lose our special relationship with the Court nor lose our credibility on the Internet.

NOTE: Two schools of thought have emerged on the best way to accomplish this task. Under one approach the team takes the case, analyzes the opinion, and freely builds towards a commentary. A second involves sharper initial division of labor with team members each taking on portions of a standard write-up, as they are relevant to this opinion, with the resulting parts later being integrated into a full commentary. Ultimately, these may be routes to the same end, but the current editors have strong feelings about which approach works best. The former method generally yields lengthier commentaries whereas those produced by the latter are usually more succinct.

C. The Production Process

The liibulletin-ny aims to publish on Mondays and Fridays during its inaugural year. The physical production of the piece is up to each team. Each team has no less than four Editors assigned to each opinion. The team deadline for turnover of two versions of their commentary-- one text file and one "HTML-ized" file is driven by the following forumla. Each project spans over one full weekend day and allow for at least 96 hours and be due on the next available publication date. This yields the following production schedule:

D. Quality Assurance

Each Editor on the team is responsible for the initial editing of the piece to ensure compliance with both the Bluebook, the Style Sheet and the proper conversion to HTML. Before the commentary is published on the WWW, one other Editor (to include the EIC and ME) and the faculty supervisor also check to proof each one for any possible HTML errors.

IV. Correspondence

Currently, the LII receives a fair amount of correspondence via E-Mail inquiring into whether the LII provides legal advice or other services. The liibulletin-ny adds to this growing responsibility. How the Bulletin responds to the written inquiries of the readership forms a valuable part of the LII's reputation. Accordingly, managing this flow of opinion and maintaining a responsive dialogue with the readership is an important aspect of the liibulletin-ny.

V. Style Sheet

[Version 1.1, dated October 30, 1995]

I. What is the liibulletin-ny Telling the Reader?

The bulletin is not merely a decision summary. Were it simply that there would be little reason for someone to read it rather than the head notes or lead paragraphs of the Court's opinion. The bulletin should provide concise summary but also useful analysis and references that reach outside the opinion. If it is just case re-hash, there is little to no value added (and little to no reason to read it). Outside references should include citations to law reviews, other legal services, contemporary media sources, relevant law in other jurisdictions, and so on. Although there is extra benefit if the referenced materials reside on the Net so that the commentary can link to them, they are not presently chosen with this in mind.

II. Format

  1. Paragraphs
    1. New paragraphs are indented with five spaces and line of whitespace between each.
    2. In HTML, place the <P> before and </P> after each paragraph.
    3. Never use tabs to indent.
  2. Section Headings.
    1. In text versions, All main and sub-section headings are done in [SQUARE BRACKETS].
    2. For the main (and sub) headings.
    3. Other standard sub-headings include:
      1. Survey of the Law in Other Jurisdictions
      2. Unanswered Questions
      3. Implications
    4. Capitalization rules:
      1. Main headings are all capitalized.
      2. Sub-headings are numbered, followed by a period and right parenthesis and the first letter of each word only is capitalized.
      3. Lower sub-headings are lettered, followed by a period and right parenthesis and the first letter of the heading only is capitalized.
    5. Numbering Rules.
      1. The order is number.lowercaseletter.number (e.g., 5.a.1).
      2. "Commentary" is an element of Analysis.
      3. Order of Headings.
        1. TITLE
        2. HEADLINE (starts with an asterisk)
        3. SUMMARY
        4. ANALYSIS
          1. 1. Issue:
          2. 2. Disposition:
          3. 3. Cases Cited:
            1. a. Key: (received considerable attention)(omit if not applicable)
            2. b. Discussed: (omit if not applicable)
            3. c. Cited: (only ten most cited) (no footnote cases)
            4. d. Relied on by Dissent: (only where different)
          4. 4. Other Sources Cited:
          5. 5. Commentary: (Our product)
            1. a. Reasoning
            2. b. Dissent
            3. c. Survey of the Law in Other Jurisdictions
            4. d. Unanswered Questions
            5. e. Implications
          6. 6. Prepared By:
      4. Spacing Rules (lines of whitespace aka "skip a line").
        1. Put one line of whitespace between topic line and one sentence summary, between headline block and case citation, between all paragraphs and headings (except SUMMARY and ANALYSIS).
        2. Put two lines of whitespace before both SUMMARY and ANALYSIS headings.
    6. Cases Cited:
      1. List each category in BB order.
      2. List only those cases relied on by the court.
    7. Issues are also phrased as a sentence starting with the word, "whether."
  3. Sentences.
    1. There are two spaces after every "." between sentences.
    2. Never use tabs to indent.
  4. Uniform HTML.
    1. Section symbol.
      1. E-mail: "Sect."
      2. HTML: "&#167;"
    2. Paragraph symbol.
      1. E-mail: "Para."
      2. HTML: "&#182;"
    3. Ampersands.
      1. E-mail: "&"
      2. HTML: "&amp;"
  5. Text no-no's.
    1. Do not use: <, >,or =. E-mail processors may be confused into believing the text is HTML.
    2. Do not use : {}. These are used in some citation schemes for electronic text.
    3. Do not use tabs.
  6. Editor Names.
    1. Each team's Editors' names are listed, one editor per line, at the conclusion of the commentary in alphabetical order in one of two ways.
      1. First name Middle initial. Last name, (Jr., II, etc.,), 'year
      2. First initial. Middle name Last name, (Jr., II, etc.,), 'year
      3. Example: Charles W. Gameros, Jr., '96

III. Citation

There will be some modification of BB rules, but this will be minimal.

  1. Cases.
    1. Use BB Rule 10 & BB T.6 for all case names.
    2. Use BB Rule 10 & BB T.9 for all explanatory phrases.
    3. For New York cases, use N.Y. and N.Y.2d only for Court of Appeals; N.Y.S. and N.Y.S.2d only for all lower courts. Do not cite to N.E. and N.E.2d. For new cases without official citations, use the Int. cite.
    4. For non-NY cases, cite only to the regional reporter.
    5. In HTML only, all case names are italicized.
    6. Always include the court of origin (e.g., N.Y., N.Y. App. Div., etc.)
    7. Do not include the Department in Appellate Division citations.
  2. All other sources.
    1. Follow all applicable BB rules.
    2. In E-mail, make no attempt to approximate the different type faces.

Updated January 8, 1996