From the front line -- A reminder about legal research "on the web"
7 October A.D. 2014
There´s a difference between (A) "on line" research (in competent
databases) and (B) legal research "on the web."
Be VERY, VERY careful when grabbing quotes and cites from the web.
Just had the occasion to confirm some suggested cites found in an
interestingly large number of web sites, some of which site managers
very definitely should know better, and regarding some others of
which there´s no surprise at all that there´s a problem of this
The research "test language" is this concept about "jurisdiction."
"A judge ceases to sit as a judicial officer because the governing
principle of administrative law provides that courts are prohibited
from substituting their evidence, testimony, record, arguments, and
rationale for that of the agency. Additionally, courts are
prohibited from substituting their judgment for that of the agency.
Courts in administrative issues are prohibited from even listening
to or hearing arguments, presentation, or rational." ASIS v. US, 568 F2d 284.
Feel free both to read the opinion and to perform electronic
searches on it in search of the quoted language. You´ll find that a
search for the term "judge" (without the quotes when entered into
the search box) will be sufficient. Several other searches will
prove unsatisfying, but very confirming. A search on the term
"ceases," for example, comes back with no hits. A search on the
term "substituting" also returns no hits. "No hits" is
unsatisfying, but it´s also a 100% confirmation of the problem
addressed here. There simply is no such language in that opinion.
The cite, itself, is incomplete, which is a pretty good clue to
check further. The complete cite would be closer to this: 568 F.2d
284 (3d Cir. 1977). For a complete listing and discussion of proper
citation, see "The Bluebook -- A Uniform System of Citation," which
is typically published and distributed by The Harvard Law Review
Association. This is not the only complete citation guide. Also,
each state may have its own particular formatting "suggestions."
For example, the Texas Law Review publishes "Texas Rules of Form."
There´s an impressively extensive set of rules for formatting
various sources of authority cited in motions and briefs.
As for the case style, itself, there turns out to be yet another
strikingly obvious problem. The first-named plaintiff is American
Iron and Steel Institute, the acronym for which is AISI, not ASIS.
Yet another problem is that "United States" is not a (named)
party defendant in that matter. The EPA is, and where that´s the
case style of the opinion, it´s extremely rare (as in "never" done)
to substitute "United States," a party nowhere listed in the case
style, for the EPA (or any agency, for that matter).
Incomplete citation references are the best excuse for checking
further into concepts found "on the web." A complete cite will have
not only the (correct) case style, but also the volume and page
number of the Reporter, as well as which court
entered the published ruling (here, "3d Cir.") and the year
in which the opinion/ruling was entered. To find the volume and
page in the identified Reporter is then also to have found not only
the case style information but also the quoted language or
referred-to concept, if it´s there, at all.
Why is the quote not found in that opinion? This author´s guess is
that whatever the actual origin of that "quote," the cite was
deliberately corrupted so as to serve as the (sick) "joke" that it
turns out to be. It´s one way that agents provocateur "track" the
flow and "success" of their mis-information.
If that language really did exist in that opinion, then one
possibility is that the language in the case has been altered,
somehow, in making it ready for the web. The only way to know that,
for sure, is to find the printed, published opinion in the books in
the law library and read it for its content.
Another possibility is that the language exists but that the cite is
somehow errant. There may be an "AISI v. United States" case "out
there," and there may also be an "ASIS v. United States" case "out
there." The page number could be mistyped, as could also be a
problem with the volume. As also happens from time to time, the
volume and page are correct, but the Reporter is the wrong one.
In a quick search for each case style, if either does exist, this
author has yet to find either of such cases electronically available
"on the web." To verify the entirety of the cite, the thing to do
is find the origin of the quote. In a generic search for that
quote, this author has yet to find a reference to any case
containing it. Doesn´t mean it´s not there. Just means that this
author hasn´t found that "quote" anywhere, yet.
It happens here that the case style, itself, is a (sick) "joke," and
that while there is actually a case at that page in that volume in
that Reporter, which sometimes is not the situation, at all, the
alleged "quote" just simply isn´t there.
In sum, research "on the web" is a bad idea, generally. Better is
to start at the law library. A close second is electronic research
in an on-line database, but access to those is typically "by
subscription fee only." Even with electronic searches, be careful.
To get a general list from the initial search, and then to drill
down into that first set of hits with further, successive searches,
can, and has in the past, produced links to cases that say one thing
in the link and something totally different when that link is
followed all the way through to the opinion, itself. In other
words, there´s no guarantee that the subsets of the search are
"reset" between successive sub-searches. This author ran into that
problem once, and it was embarrassing enough that it has never
happened, again. Electronically accessible databases are great, but
even then, it´s Ok to check and double check everything about the
reference that ends up in the materials filed with the court.
The example here, of there being a case reference/cite that just
simply does not say what the quote attributes to that opinion, is
"just one more" example of the unfortunately "typical" problem
encountered with legal research "on the web." Incomplete cites are
one of the best clues going for finding value in checking out
further that which is found "on the web," regardless of whose web
site is providing that information.
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