Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Google Scholar LOJ - Where Did Google Get the Cases?!

Uh-oh. It may be nothing at all, but a few searches in Google SLOJ have retrieved cases that have headnote numbers embedded in them. There are no headnotes, of course, nor are there any key numbers, but the headnote numbers themselves are clearly embedded in the text of the cases.

What does this mean? Apparently the cases in Google SLOJ were, at some point, in the Westlaw database. To see what I mean, search for State v Dragoo, 765 N.W.2d 666 (2009), in Westlaw. Now, find the case on Google SLOJ. As you scroll down through the opinion, you'll notice that on page 670, at the beginning of the first paragraph under the heading "Standard of Review," is a number one, in brackets: [1]. The second paragraph of the section has the numbers two and three in brackets: [2][3]. This corresponds to the headnote numbers in the West version of the case.

Oddly, the Google SLOJ version of the case has excluded the court's own Syllabus, which isn't an official part of the opinion, but is written by the court and is contained in the official publication of Nebraska Supreme Court cases, and is included in the Westlaw version as well. This also explains why the Google SLOJ version is missing page 667.

Listen carefully, you might soon be able to make out the sound of a shoe dropping in Mountain View....


Fat-Triathlete said...


I heard yesterday that it looked like Google was just doing book scanning and that their database was behind by what had been printed.

That would explain the embedded key numbers.

Unfortunately, by deleting the syllabus and not using databases of cases already available, it shows that Google really doesn't understand what they are doing and what is needed.

Oh well. I can only hope they are taking note of the responses everywhere.

Jason said...

I don't have access to it through the Nebraska Reporter of Decisions site, but it would appear that these boxes are in the original opinions of the Nebraska Supreme Court. In fact, it looks as if Nebraska has it's own "headnote" system, and those number correspond to the system. Here's an example:
The brackets also appear in the Loislaw version of the case, and I don't think they book scan.

Richard Leiter said...

Jason, NE S Ct does have it's own headnotes, but they don't correspond to the Google or West version. The West version of the case has 10 headnotes. The NE S Ct version has 7. The Google version has 10 and their locations correspond exactly to West's placement.

Jason said...


Thanks for pointing that out. I just confirmed that the opinion actually matches the same embedded numbering as the one on FastCase. This would be consistent with earlier rumors that Scholar purchased the opinions from them. Rick Klau said they purchased a collection from a third party provider, but didn't mention who.

Anonymous said...

These numbers are pagination guides, not headnotes or key numbers. They match the page numbering of the official reporter for any particular case, which for U.S. Supreme Court decisions is the "U.S.Reports." Google has actually done a very good job, from what I have seen(I'm a law librarian) of the cases put up in Google Scholar Legal.