Carl Malmud Publishes Cases

Today’s New York Times has reports that “activist… internet gadfly… self-styled Robin Hood” Carl Malmud has begun a direct challenge to the big online publishers by copying and placing online 1000 pages of court decisions from the 1880’s that he acknowledges getting from a Thomson microfiche. He says he aims to make freely available up to ten million pages of caselaw.

The judgments Malmud has published are available on his site, At the moment there is a hyper-compressed tiff file of all of the thousand pages — nearly 4G in size, itself a formidable barrier to access I should have thought. However, Malmud plans to make text available eventually — or to force the U.S. government to do so.

According to Malmud’s “readme” file:

The goals of this project are:

1. The short-term goal is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of the Federal Reporter, the Federal Supplement, and the Federal Appendix.
2. The medium-term goal is the creation of an unencumbered full-text repository of all state and federal cases and codes.

As we’ve remarked a number of times here on Slaw, we who live in Canada and enjoy the access to law that CanLII provides might find it hard to believe that our neighbours lack the same free access. Malmud’s goal seems laudable to me; but his chances of success, if he has to go it alone, are small, I fear.


  1. Simon, there’s a whole heck of a lot of US case law available free in the US through Findlaw, LII, and the various federal and state court sites themselves. Some of the Findlaw databases go back decades. California’s may be for all of its superior / appellate courts, for example. I suspect it’s at least as extensive as the coverage provided by CANLII. I’m open for correction on that.

    It’s ironic that my RECAPTHCA words are “incidental” and “1867”.


  2. Simon, Canlii is hopelessly deficient at present.

    Further, we have nothing like the pacer system in Canada.

    We are the backward country when it comes to online access to law, not our southern cousins.

  3. The United States is a formidably large jurisdiction of jurisdictions, and so only a pollyanna could imagine that it would be flawless in the matter of free access to law. I ain’t no pollyanna, but I am a sucker occasionally for an easy target — for which I apologize.

    Still and all…

    Pacer, which is very good, is not free (unless you can modify your searches such that they result in charges under $10 [PDF], which might be easier than I imagine but still intimidating to the lay person perhaps.)

    The Legal Information Institute — which redirects you to free sources and doesn’t serve up all case reports itself, tells us in its footer that “The absence of a link from an entry indicates we are unaware of an open (non-fee) Net site providing that information.” — e.g. Kentucky Court of Appeals.

    And, as was reported last year, Timothy Wu, Columbia law prof and Judge Posner fanboy, felt it desirable to set up a site offering that judge’s opinions, because, as it turns out, if you go to the 7th Circuit website, or arrive there thanks to LII, you have to know the name of a party or a case number to see any reports. This may have changed — haven’t tried it again.

    Yeah, I know: unscientifically spotty, and picky picky. Still and all…

  4. Seen from France, here are my 2 posts (in French) on Carl Malamud’s and Tim Wu’s ( initiatives :
    AltLaw : un véritable émule des LII se lance aux Etats-Unis
    All The Government’s and the Courts’ Information — Le combat de Carl Malamud