Citation change is afoot (or a footer) within the Supreme Court. As noted by Fortune, SCOTUS’ first shortened link appeared on page 30 of a recent decision, courtesy of Justice Elena Kagan. Is this a good or bad thing? Depends on whom you ask.
According to Fortune, on one side is the opinion reflected by law professor Josh Blackman, who considered the shortened Google link an attractive space saver, with the added benefit of analytic tools. On the other side is criticism for turning to a private company for public records. Would this affect the records’ integrity?
In addition to shortened links is the matter of “link rot.” We’ve all been there: clicking on a link to an older web page that ultimately goes nowhere except to a “404 page not found” error message. Fortune drew on a 2014 New York Times article that found that nearly half of the links on the SCOTUS website were broken. Links that are intended “to lead to research papers, statistical surveys and, in one case, a video of a police chase.” Fortune recommends using Perma, which creates permanent records of cited web sources. Currently, one solution the court is turning to is preserving web pages as PDFs.
The wheels of justice turn slowly in court cases and toward technology, too. And yet the reason for the slow approach is ironic, says Fortune. While the court — or at least Chief Justice John Roberts — believes that continuing to accept paper petitions helps ensure access to justice, not all the briefs SCOTUS receives are accessible online by the public. And as the preference for paper continues to be strong, so, too, is the stench of link rot left unattended.