Casemaker Coming Soon
by Toby Brown
Imagine a Bar benefit that provides online legal research of Utah law for free. That's Casemaker and it's coming soon to Utah State Bar members.
What is Casemaker?
Casemaker is an online legal research service provided through state bar associations. It is easily accessed via the Internet and requires no special software. The content of each state bar library focuses on primary law for that jurisdiction. This normally includes applicable state case law, codes, court rules and some administrative law. There is a federal law library, as well, consisting of case law for the US Supreme Court back to 1935 and all Federal Circuits, at least back to 1995.
Casemaker was pioneered by the Ohio State Bar Association in 1998 as a response to member requests for a simple, convenient and affordable research tool.
How Does Casemaker Work?
Casemaker is very simple to use. The user interface is easily understandable and is matched with a very powerful search engine. This makes it very easy to learn, and very useful for legal research.
There are two basic ways to search Casemaker content: browse mode and search mode.
In browse mode you can easily drill down into the content. For example, when browsing a state code, you can start at the highest level of Title, then drill down into Chapter, then Section and back again. References to other sections of the code are highlighted with links, such that a single click will take you to the corresponding code section.
Search mode offers basic or advanced options. In the basic method you have a simple search window where you can input any terms you want to search. The commonly used Boolean search connectors apply, such as "and" and "or." You can input simple terms or even phrases, by utilizing quotation marks around the phrase.
The advanced mode allows you to combine the basic search window with specific field searches and other criteria. Sample fields include the case name, court number, attorneys involved and judges. Limiting criteria include date ranges, rank by date and word proximity restrictions. These tools allow lawyers to focus their searches on the most useful results.
Search Results are listed by ranking; thus the case or code that most closely meets the search terms is listed first. The list shows the case name and cite along with the ranking. Merely clicking on a case will bring the entire text up for review. In addition to the full text, the right side of the screen shows the casecheckTM results. This is a listing of all other cases that include a cite to the case under review. This is a convenient way to easily find all other cases related to the one you are viewing.
Casemaker includes a quick tool for printing cases. While viewing a case, click on the Print icon on the toolbar. You will then see just the case text, with all of the Internet information removed. This allows easy case printing, which will include the official pagination.
As you can see from the toolbar on the next page, Casemaker is quite easy to use and will provide you with a valuable research tool that you can use anytime you need with no cost to you or your clients.
The Casemaker Consortium
If having free access to Utah law is not enough, Casemaker provides extended value through the Consortium. Currently 20 states are included in the Consortium. This means that the content from these 19 other states will be available within the system for Utah lawyers as well - for free. And this number is growing.
The Consortium started in the east with Ohio, but recently has been gaining ground in the west. A very recent addition to the group is Colorado, which will bring valuable content to Utah lawyers. The list of states in the Consortium as of September 2004 includes: Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Vermont.
Growing Content Approach
The Utah State Bar plans to start out with a solid grouping of content for our library. From that starting point, we will work to add more content over time. The content chosen will depend on feedback from members and the affordability of the content itself. Information that is already in electronic format is generally most affordable. The long-range goal is to increase the value of Casemaker to Utah Bar members over time. For a complete listing of the Utah Library content go to www.utahbar.org/casemaker.
If you want to learn more about Casemaker and see a more complete demonstration of the system, the Utah Bar is offering free CLE courses. These sessions will provide a more complete review of the system, and live demonstrations when Internet access is available. To find available program times and dates, check the Bar's CLE calendar at www.utahbar.org/cle/events/. If your law firm, law department, local bar or any other type of group would like to schedule a class, please contact the Bar at Casemaker@utahbar.org or at 801.297.7027.
TimelineThe last question you might have is: when? The Utah State Bar contracted for Casemaker in April of this year. We are currently in a 6 to 9 month implementation window. We are working towards a late 2004 implementation; however, we may not be live until some time in January 2005. As the date draws nearer we will post more information on the Bar's web site at www.utahbar.org/casemaker.
The Utah State Bar is excited to bring you this new member benefit. Casemaker will have a positive impact on your practice for a number of reasons. First, since it is free, you will be able to stay current on the law without concerns about cost or which client will have to pay; which also means your clients will benefit. In the states that are already live with the Casemaker system, the feedback from lawyers has been extremely positive. Time and again, the response from lawyers has been how valuable Casemaker has been to their practices. The Utah State Bar looks forward to bringing this same value to our own members.