Proposed Citation System for Wisconsin

Report to Board of Bar Governors
Technology Resource Committee
June 22, 1994

This report and its recommendations were approved by the Wisconsin State Bar Board of Governors on June 22, 1994. A petition for appropriate Supreme Court rules changes is being drafted.
  • Specifics of Implementation

    Respectfully submitted,

    Technology Resource Committee

    John Lederer, Chair
    Gregory Banchy
    Charles Blumenfield
    James Bolt
    Bruce Craig
    Alan Deutch
    Sharon Drew
    Rex Ewald
    Hon. Mark Frankel
    Perry Friesler
    Robert Goepel
    Robert Hagness
    Roger Hall
    James Jaeger
    William Kirkpatrick
    Ross Kodner
    Marcia Koslov
    James Morrison
    Michael Morse
    Bruce Munson
    Jay Nixon
    Mark Pennow
    Maurice Rice
    William Richards
    Jon Wilcox
    Clyde Wynia

    [Except for H (below), Appendix Currently Not Included]


    This report responds to the Resolution passed by the Board of Governors last January.

    The report reflects several years of discussion by the Technology Resource Committee, ideas from a variety of private, commercial, and governmental sources and organizations, and considerable deliberation by the Law on Disk Sub-committee.

    New computer technologies make it practical to provide case law to the courts, the Bar, and the public more effectively and less expensively than from books alone. The present system is tied to the use of paper as the medium and to dissemination by a small number of print publishers. The present system impedes the use of new technologies.

    Our goal is to establish a foundation that will allow the adoption of new technologies, but still support present technologies such as books. To do so, two main steps are necessary:

    1. Adopt a "vendor neutral" and "medium neutral" citation system for Wisconsin case law.
    2. Establish an official repository of opinions.

    This proposal does not require anyone to use a CD-Rom, a modem, a computer, or any other particular technology. Nor does this proposal favor any particular publisher. It will facilitate the use of new technology and the entrance into the market of new publishers. It will also simplify the present citation system for the practitioner, principally by abolition of parallel cites as no longer necessary.

    A "vendor neutral" and "medium neutral" citation system makes the cite depend on characteristics that are inherent in the opinions of the courts. The courts, not private publishers, determine the citation. In our proposal, citation will be to a case number and a paragraph of the opinion. The same citation will allow finding the law in printed editions, CD-Rom, via the Internet, and through new and as yet undefined technologies.

    A state archive of Wisconsin case law will make opinions directly available to all publishers and to the public. The state, and not private publishers, will "own" the final text of the case law. It will encourage publishers to compete by the value that they add to opinions such as headnotes or search tools, rather than by preferred access to the text of case law.

    The recommendations are consistent with the thoughts and study of a variety of organizations. They are in the Wisconsin tradition of leadership in effective and open government.

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