Monday, July 9, 2012

Does the Internet Affect Supreme Court Opinions?

A very interesting investigation of that issue appears in the Washington Post (here). Unlike trial courts, in which information provided is heavily restricted by the rules of evidence, the Supreme Court has more discretion to incorporate social-scientific information into its decisions (and has done so at least since the 1908 case of Muller v. Oregon and its famous, or infamous, Brandeis Brief, named for then-litigator and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis).

Today, a tremendous wealth of information  - and misinformation - is available at the Justices' fingertips via a Google search. More high quality information could be helpful in improving judicial decisions; but distinguishing high quality from low quality information is not always easy. Professor Allison Orr Larsen (William & Mary Law School), who is quoted in today's Post column, raises important questions about the heightened "possibility of mistake, unfairness to the parties, and judicial enshrinement of biased data."

Does the Supreme Court need to revise its own rules to control access to and use of web-based resources?

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