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Clinton puts 7,000+ Supreme Court decisions on Web from FLITE

  INFO-POLICY-NOTES / newsletter available from listproc@tap.org
  September 24, 1996
  -    Today the Clinton Administration published 7,000+ Older U.S. 
       Supreme Court Decisions on the Web, after a long dispute 
       over public access to Air Force FLITE database of legal 
       information.  FLITE is the nation's oldest computer 
       assisted legal research program, which began in 1963,
       and is still in operation.  Until today, no court
       cases from FLITE had been available to the public.
  -    The action places all U.S. Supreme Court Decisions from
       1937 to 1975 on the Web.  These include decisions from 
       volumes 300 through 422 of U.S. Reports (the Official 
       federal government reporter of U.S. Supreme Court
  -    The cases are now available from Fedworld, at 
       and can be searched by keyword or by names of parties.
       The Government Printing Office (GPO) will soon have the 
       opinions available on GPO Access.  We assume that 
       anyone can obtain the entire database.  (As is required 
       under the Paperwork Reduction Act.)
  -    The battle over public access to court opinions now 
       shifts to newer opinions from the Supreme Court, and 
       lower court opinions.
  -    "Slip" opinions from the Supreme Court from 1990 are 
       generally available on the Web.  The Cornell site is:
  -    The U.S. Supreme Court has printing tapes of most U.S.
       Supreme Court opinions published since the late 1970s.
       These tapes could be converted into HTML documents for 
       publishing on the Web, but the Supreme Court still 
       refuses to release them to the public.  This is a benefit
       mainly to West Publishing, the large legal 
       publishing firm that asserts a monopoly on citations 
       and the text of corrected court opinions from lower 
       federal courts.  West is an active supporter of many
       favorite court charities, and until recently, spent
       large sums on lavish vacations for several members of
       the Supreme Court.for background.  See for example:
  -    The Clinton Administration has yet to release a huge 
       collection of lower court decisions and more recent 
       Supreme Court decisions from Air Force FLITE database.
       The refusal is due in part to controversial assertions 
       of copyright to the text of corrected court opinions by 
       West.  These copyright assertions did not come
       into play in the pre-1974 opinions, which were based 
       upon the government's own reporter of court decisions.
  -    White House Aide Tom Kalil, an active supporter of
       better public access to government information, played 
       important role in persuading the Clinton Administration
       to release these important records.  The press release
       announcing the release of the records was signed by
       Sally Katzen Administrator of OMB's Office of 
       Information and Regulatory Affairs.  We have been 
       asking Katzen to do something about this for the past 
       four years.  The Air Force had been reluctant to release
       the opinions, for fear that West would cause the funding
       for FLITE to be eliminated, based upon West's impressive
       political influence.  See West campagin contributions at:
      James Love, CPT & TAP
      202-387-8030, love@tap.org
  The Katzen press release is attached.
  Background on the access dispute for FLITE is found in:
  More general background on dispute over legal information is at:
  The OMB release follows:	
  Date: Tue, 24 Sep 1996 16:09:52 -0400 (EDT)
  From: "Peter N. Weiss (202) 395-3630" <WEISS_P@a1.eop.gov>
  Subject: FLITE materials now available on-line
       I am pleased to announce that the U.S. Air Force has agreed 
  to release a historic file of Supreme Court decisions from its 
  FLITE ("Federal Legal Information Through Electronics") system.  
  The file consists of over 7000 Supreme Court opinions dating from 
  1937 through 1975, from volumes 300 through 422 of U.S. Reports.
       The decisions can be accessed on the National Technical 
  Information Service's FedWorld system (http://www.fedworld.gov) 
  and will soon be available on the Government Printing Office's 
  GPO Access system (http://www.access.gpo.gov).
       This file had previously been determined to be exempt from 
  release under the Freedom of Information Act by the U.S. District 
  Court for the Northern District of California.  That decision was 
  not appealed.  Nonetheless, the Air Force has agreed as a matter 
  of discretion to release these materials. 
  Sally Katzen
  Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
  Office of Management and Budget
  September 25, 1996
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