Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2007


Digital case law archive, Vendor neutral citation, Medium neutral citation, Wisconsin Bar, Wisconsin Judicial Council


Computer Law | Law and Society | Legal Writing and Research


In 1994, the Wisconsin Bar and the Wisconsin Judicial Council together urged the state’s supreme court to take two dramatic steps with the combined aim of improving access to state case law: adopt a new system of neutral format citation and establish a digital archive of decisions directly available to all publishers and the public. The recommendations set off a firestorm, and the court deferred decision on the package. In the dozen or so years since those events, the background conditions have shifted dramatically. Neutral format citation has been endorsed by AALL and the ABA and formally adopted in a number of states, including Wisconsin. Thomson’s acquisition of the West Publishing Company in 1996 removed the principal source of opposition. Court Web sites, nonexistent in 1994, are now a standard feature of e-government with the result that the idea of a public case archive, open to all, no longer stretches imaginations. With the environment seemingly so much more hospitable to the 1994 Wisconsin recommendations, one might expect to see them widely implemented. Yet less than a handful of states have effectively put them to work in tandem. Professor Martin explores some of the reasons why they stand today as lonely illustrations of “best practice.”

Publication Citation

Published in: Law Library Journal, Vol. 99, No. 2 (Spring 2007).