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Clinton puts 7,000+ Supreme Court decisions on Web from FLITE
- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Clinton puts 7,000+ Supreme Court decisions on Web from FLITE
- From: James Love <email@example.com>
- Date: Tue, 24 Sep 1996 18:34:20 -0400 (EDT)
INFO-POLICY-NOTES / newsletter available from firstname.lastname@example.org
INFORMATION POLICY NOTES
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
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
HISTORIC FILE OF SUPREME COURT DECISIONS 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.
Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs
Office of Management and Budget
September 25, 1996
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