Lawyers, scholars, and curious court watchers seeking comprehensive analysis of California Supreme Court opinions can now find just that with SCOCAL, a new online resource launched in December by the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford Law School. A joint project with Justia, an online legal information company, SCOCAL provides briefs, documents, and news to accompany its full archive of the court’s opinions reaching back to 1934. But what distinguishes this site from sources such as google Scholar is the legal analysis provided in detailed annotations written and edited by students in Stanford Law’s Advanced Legal Research class.
“The most interesting part for me was realizing that all the resources we use are created by people who invest time and effort in researching and analyzing cases, statutes, and other materials. It’s so easy to just go online and think that things appear there by magic. But in creating some annotations myself, I realized that every link, every insight, every connection is put there by a researcher,” says Amy Burns ’12, who took the class. “I also realized that if I made a mistake or cited something inaccurately, other people trying to do research using SCOCAL could be misled, which drove home the point that I should always double- check information that I get from secondary sources.”
“Law students’ involvement with the project provides them with a deeper appreciation of indexing, court reporting, and computer-assisted information retrieval,” says J. Paul Lomio, director of the law library and lecturer in law.
Students in the course, explains Lomio, are required to cover one or two cases; this allows them to gain necessary hands-on experience with legal research sources as they learn how to evaluate and utilize them effectively, a main objective for the course. To stay current with California Supreme Court news and cases, SCOCAL users can subscribe to the website’s court calendar to keep up with recent opinions or subscribe to separate RSS feeds with recent annotations and news. Users can also follow the website on Twitter for real-time updates.