Over the years I heard from librarians that case law publishing should be regulated. I heard from lawyers who suggested that governments should publish case law reports. I heard a chief justice in Saskatchewan complain about the duplicate publication of judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada.
In the 1970s decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada were published by the Government of Canada in the Supreme Court Reports but many times it took up to two years for a case to be published. In response to a need for the timely publication of Supreme Court of Canada cases our firm, Maritime Law Book Ltd., commenced publication of the National Reporter in 1974 and it became our best seller. The National Reporter published Supreme Court of Canada cases in approximately two months compared to the two year delay by the Supreme Court Reports. Today all decisions are published immediately on the Internet and the issue of timeliness has been overtaken by the technology and speed of the Internet.
Today the free availability of judicial decisions from multiple sources has also overtaken any complaint that the same decision is available in several series of law reports.
As to the suggestion that case law publishing should be regulated, there is not much left to be regulated. Print subscriptions to case law series have been decimated by the free publishing of decisions by governments on servers on the Internet.
Today when a judicial decision is made available on a government server the decision is published, that is, the decision is made public. So governments are now publishing judicial decisions, but mostly without any summaries or headnotes.
The creation of indexes, summaries and headnotes is today the main business of case law publishing, for either a print or an electronic product, and is done mostly by the private sector. Such enhancements save time and money for the researcher.
In the pre-Internet era, it was the private sector that created the needed jurisdictional and topical law reports. The success of these products confirms their need and their timely usefulness. Maritime Law Book created several series of reports for the Atlantic provinces and for the Prairie provinces. At Carswells Gary Rodriques was responsible for creating their topical and other reporters. In the 1970s and 1980s there were many trial and appeal decisions that were not published anywhere. For example, the Ontario Appeal Cases, which commenced publication in 1984, was the only series that included all the decisions of the Ontario Divisional Court. When the New Brunswick Reports (2d) commenced publication in 1969 virtually no New Brunswick cases, trial or appeal, were published anywhere.
Thanks to government servers and the Internet, judicial decisions are now available immediately to all at all times – free!