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How the Florida Supreme Court Prevents “Link Rot” in URLs Cited in Its Opinions

On Sept. 23, 2013, the New York Times published an article with the headline, “In Supreme Court Opinions, Web Links to Nowhere,” by Adam Liptak. The article stated that a recent study had found that 49 percent of the hyperlinks cited in US Supreme Court decisions no longer worked.

The article cited the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as a potential model for other courts. That court maintained an archive of .pdf versions of all websites and documents cited in its opinions, at https://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/library/webcites/. (These are now available via PACER since Jan. 1, 2016.) The article also discussed a new project called “Perma.cc,” which was a new platform built and maintained by a law library consortium. Perma.cc allows a writer to build a new permanent link that will always take you to the same cited website.

The NYT article was forwarded to the Florida Supreme Court justices, and one of them assigned the reporter of decisions, the public information office, and me, as the court librarian, to find out how other courts were handling this “link rot” problem, and make recommendations as to how our court should proceed.

We conducted an online search and discovered that, as of October 2013 the court had cited fewer than 200 websites since internet citations were first included in its opinions in 1997. At least 40 of those cases contained at least one dead link.

The justices approved a new policy and process for preserving online source materials. The policy stated that the court discourages the use of online source materials generally, but does allow website citations in opinions, where no written source is available.

The assigned staff attorney will create a .pdf capturing the content of the cited online source material at the time it is used as a reference. These .pdf files are then made available on the court’s website at: https://www.floridasupremecourt.org/Law-Library/Websites-Cited-in-Opinions.

FURTHER READING:

Link Rot: The Web is Decaying: https://medium.com/@arweave/link-rot-the-web-is-decaying-cc7d1c5ad48b, Feb. 22, 2019, Medium

Link rot in the law. Causes and remedies: https://kevin.lexblog.com/2018/08/15/link-rot-law/, Aug. 15, 2018, LexBlog

Link Rot for Lawyers: a Prodigious Problem: https://blogs.harvard.edu/perma/2018/02/01/link-rot-for-lawyers-a-prodigious-problem/, Feb. 1, 2018, Perma.cc Blog

Combating link rot: U.S. Supreme Court Web Citations: http://lawlibnews.lawnews-asu.org/?p=2343, March 14, 2017, Ross-Blakley Law Library Blog

Link Rot: Whose problem is it and how do we solve it?: https://www.llsdc.org/assets/LLL/58/58.2/llsdc%20newsletter%2058.2.pdf, 2016, Law Library Lights, Vol. 58.2, p. 16

Law Library of Congress Implements Solution for Link and Reference Rot: https://digital.gov/2016/04/13/law-library-of-congress-implements-solution-for-link-and-reference-rot/, April 13, 2016, Digital.gov

Supreme Court addresses link rot problem: http://www.counselpress.com/page_blog_single.cfm?bid=174, Jan. 26, 2016, Counsel Press Blog

Stopping Link Rot: Aiming To End A Virtual Epidemic: https://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/04/26/307041846/stopping-link-rot-aiming-to-end-a-virtual-epidemic, April 26, 2014, NPR, All Tech Considered

Something rotten in the state of legal citation: the life span of a united states supreme court citation containing an internet link (1996-2010): https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjolt/vol15/iss2/2/, 2013, 15 Yale Journal of Law & Technology 273

‘Link rot’ is degrading legal research and case cites: http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/link_rot_is_degrading_legal_research_and_case_cites, Dec. 1, 2013, ABA Journal

Is Link Rot Destroying Stare Decisis as We Know It? The Internet-Citation Practice of the Texas Appellate Courts: https://lawrepository.ualr.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1248&context=appellatepracticeprocess, 2012, 13 Journal of Appellate Practice and Process 268

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