View Full Version : RECAP in the Wall Street Journal

09-10-2009, 11:37 PM

With the possible exception of the ever-leaky CIA, no aspect of government remains more locked down than the secretive, hierarchical judicial branch. Digital records of court filings, briefs and transcripts sit behind paywalls like Lexis and Westlaw. Legal codes and judicial documents arenít copyrighted, but governments often cut exclusive distribution deals, rendering other access methods a bit legally questionable. Supreme Court decisions are easy to get, but the briefs and decisions of lower courts can be hard to come by.

Last week, a team from Princetonís Center for Information Technology Policy took a pot shot at legal secrecy, setting in motion a scheme to filch protected judicial records and make them available for free online. One of the developers, Harvardís Stephen Schultze, says he went digging for some First Amendment precedent last fall and was shocked by the outdated technology he found. Knowing that ďthereís a certain geek cache to openness projects these days,Ē Mr. Schultze and Princeton computer science grad students Tim Lee and Harlan Yu went straight to work.