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Texas effectively denies open access to state law

A recent change to the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure gives “memorandum” opinions full precedential value – but those opinions are currently only accessible through the very expensive Westlaw or LexisNexis.

By Kristopher A. Nelson in

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Image by jmtimages via Flickr

According to the Advocate’s Studio, a recent change to the Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure gives “memorandum” opinions full precedential value – but those opinions are currently only accessible through the very expensive Westlaw or LexisNexis:

Hey, Texas! What’s up with this move to lock the law behind a very expensive toll booth? If the Texas legislature insists that memorandum opinions are binding, then the Texas legislature better figure out a way to open access to them. In an age when information is moving steadily towards free and open source, this short-sighted procedural move seems more than a little backward. I suppose the next move is to require lawyers to ride to court on buckboard.

The general trend, building on similar approaches in scientific publishing as well as open-source software, has been to open up access to legal opinions. The goal is to make the law – an absolutely fundamental part of society – more accessible to the public. It is, to borrow from a rather different context, rather like allowing people to read the Bible in their own language, rather than requiring to go to a priest trained in Latin.

Hopefully, the Texas example is the exception to the trend away from proprietary lock-in, and not an indication that we are moving backwards.