Starting today, we’re enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts using Google Scholar. You can find these opinions by searching for cases (like Planned Parenthood v. Casey), or by topics (like desegregation) or other queries that you are interested in.
And now for the inflammatory headlines such as: Google Squeezes LexisNexis and Westlaw Hard. The aforementioned services are subscription-based and cost quite a bit for lawyers and law firms. Google Scholar is free by contrast. But no lawyer is going to rely exclusively on Google Scholar for legal research. It might even be borderline malpractice to do so.
What Google has done is make legal opinions more accessible to educators and students, interested casual readers and maybe those trying to represent themselves in court or during a lawsuit (maybe).
Most people are going to be bored to death reading legal opinions. They’re typically long, often poorly written and obscure or ambiguous in many respects. I should know I spent almost 10 years as an attorney and litigator. Still this is a great service to students and student of the law.
Few people understand how the judiciary shapes public policy or affects politics and social issues, beyond a few high profile debates like abortion. The courts play a massive role in our daily lives but it’s generally all behind the scenes. This helps interested people gain easier access to legal information and court opinions.