T. R. Halvorson is Deputy County Attorney in Sidney, Montana, President of Synoptic Text Information Services, Inc., an online industry research, consulting, database creation, and computer programming firm, webmaster of LexNotes , and author of Law of the Super Searchers: the Online Secrets of Top Legal Researchers .
Margi Heinen is the Manager of Library Services at Sherman and Howard in Denver, Colorado. She has taught courses on Legal Resources at the University of Michigan’s School of Information and at Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science. She has been a faculty member for several I.P.E. presentations including “Internet Strategies for the Paralegal in Michigan” and ICLE’s “Internet Legal Resources” seminar. She is a member of the Colorado Association of Law Libraries and the American Association of Law Libraries.
For years Bar Associations have sought special deals and arrangements with vendors to provide extra benefits for their members. These bargains have often included reduced car rental fees, insurance specials and special travel rates. Some Bar groups have negotiated membership rates for computerized legal research as well. While in the past these group contracts for online services have been with recognized providers — Westlaw®, LexisNexis™, LoisLaw™ — there is a new entrant making itself felt, the Ohio State Bar Association’s Casemaker™ Consortium.
In this article Margi will set forth the origin and structure of the consortium and T. R. will give you a guided tour of the system in use with an evaluation of its quality factors. In the concluding section, we put our heads together to assess the service’s value-to-cost ratio.
The Ohio State Bar Association has a history of innovative and entrepreneurial legal research technology products. Back in 1965 under the leadership of James Preston, OSBA President, and William Harrington, Research Counsel, the Ohio Bar developed the Ohio Bar Automated Research Project. Entering into a commercial agreement with the Data Corporation of Dayton to have Ohio statutes and case law entered into a computerized database, OBAR was the first glimpse of present day Computer Assisted Legal Research. By 1969 the Mead Corporation purchased the Data Corporation and in 1972 was renamed LEXIS. (Michael A. Geist, “Where Can You Go Today“, 11 Harv. J. L. & Tech. 141 (Fall, 1997).) Now the Ohio State Bar Association has paired up with another technology company and released Casemaker ™, an Internet legal research library marketed to Bar Associations.
This new partner, Lawriter, is no novice. Lawriter’s previous partnership, with Ohio’s own Anderson Publishing, produced Ohio law on CD Rom from 1983 until 1995. Their partnership agreement vested all rights to the electronic products in Lawriter, so when Anderson developed a new relationship with LexisNexis, Lawriter retained a database of Ohio law. The only restriction to taking this database to the marketplace was a covenant prohibiting future partnerships with publishers. The innovative owner of Lawriter, Joseph Shea, saw an opportunity to partner with a non-publisher organization with a special interest in Ohio law-the Ohio State Bar Association.
In 1995 the format of Casemaker™ was still the CD Rom, but by 1998 the Internet was clearly going to be the future for research of all types. According to Lawriter’s owner, Joe Shea, he had no interest in amassing debt or going public to move into the .com environment, so the Ohio State Bar Association put up the money to make the move to a Web platform. The CD Rom format is still available for those attorneys and firms for whom the Internet is not yet appealing.
Business and Consortium Structure
So what is the business entity that Bar Associations are consorting with? Joe Shea describes Lawriter, L.L.C. as a “low-profit” limited liability corporation wherein the Ohio State Bar Association holds a minority interest and Shea’s corporation, Lawriter, is the other member. When a State Bar Association joins the Consortium, that Association has no ownership interest in the L.L.C. or its products. However, Mr. Shea described protections offered to Consortium members in the event of changes to the business. Should Lawriter, L.L.C. fail, the Bar Associations would be given their state library database which they could maintain or use to their benefit. Should Lawriter, L.L.C. decide to sell their online library (which Mr. Shea assures us is not his intention), each Bar Association would receive a portion of the sale price based on a formula described in their contracts. Joe Shea credits an attorney with previous experience with LexisNexis for devising Consortium contracts with “fair” clauses that cover such contingencies. Illustrative of the low-profit, fair dealing contract, Mr. Shea says is the fact that Bar Associations are guaranteed the same price for 5 years when they join the Consortium. Obviously, if they request additions to their libraries within that time their may be an increase in costs, but Shea also indicates that enhancements made to the system, like the citation searching described later, will be provided to current Consortium members free of charge.
Lawriter, L.L.C. is not a huge operation. “As many as 50 employees” work on the creation and updating of state libraries. Mr. Shea explained that the individual Bar Associations determine not only what will be included in their state library, but also the updating schedule. (These decisions impact cost. See the Value-to-Cost Ratio section following.) The average lead time needed to get a state library up is nine months, so several associations who have signed contracts are now waiting for their libraries to be created.
Since Casemaker™ is marketed only to Bar Associations, only members of these associations will have access. Who is a member eligible for this benefit is left up to the individual associations. Many Bar Associations have membership opportunities for law librarians and paralegals, but access for those of us who are not licensed attorneys may need to be addressed with State Bar groups. Joseph Shea assures us that Bar Associations already in the Consortium looked to law librarians when faced with the task of determining what to include in their state library databases.
Current Consortium Status
As of this writing, the Casemaker ™ Consortium includes the following Bar Associations: Connecticut Bar Association, Idaho State Bar and Idaho Law Foundation, Inc., Indiana State Bar Association, Massachusetts Bar Association, Nebraska State Bar Association, New Hampshire Bar Association, North Carolina Bar Association, Ohio State Bar Association, Rhode Island State Bar, and Vermont Bar Association. Two more bar associations are reviewing contracts to join the consortium. The Michigan Bar Association is not currently a member of the Consortium, although it is considering membership. Michigan materials, however, are already part of the Casemaker™libraries. Joseph Shea explained that is because Ohio attorneys requested Michigan materials be part of their library. Since Bar Associations choose the materials for their libraries, there are jurisdictional considerations that may impact the materials included.
Coverage, Scope, and Timeliness
We find no single place – and Lawriter tells us there is no single place – where Casemaker™ documents its database contents nor where it keeps database information up to date. The documentation of Casemaker’s content is scattered across the web. This is to be expected since Casemaker™ does not market to end users but is a consortium of bar associations. Bar associations specify in contract negotiations when joining the consortium what content they want. They know what their contract calls for, and the bar associations in turn inform their members what is provided.
The contents of five of the state libraries and the federal library are documented at Casemaker’s trial web site. The entry into that documentation is a Library Contents page. Two clicks away from that page are pages for the federal, Connecticut, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Ohio libraries.
The coverage of the North Carolina library and partial information on the scope of the databases in that library are listed at the North Carolina Bar Association site. The coverage, scope, and timeliness of the Connecticut library are documented in the first pages of the CBA Casemaker user guide. The Indiana library is slated to be available on March 1, 2003. The Idaho library is slated to be available on March 31, 2003.
Even in combination, these sources of published information are woefully incomplete, vague, and out of date. We provide what we can find about the federal library and, as an illustration of the contents of the state libraries, what we can find about the North Carolina library. Otherwise we refer you to the sources of information hyperlinked above.
According to the trial web site, scope in the federal databases begins in the following years: U.S. Supreme Court, 1935, 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th Circuits, partial 1995; 2nd Circuit, 1989; and 6th Circuit 1990 (note the lack of stated coverage of the D.C. and Federal Circuits); and U.S. Code, 2001 version. The federal coverage page includes this note: ” Circuit court cases were made available by the courts to us in the year of the decision. Case coverage varies from provider to provider. Not every case is on this or any other service. We recommend searching more than one service to obtain a ‘close as possible’ comprehensive search result list.” There are differences between this description and, for example, what the North Carolina Bar Association and the Connecticut Bar Association web sites say. For example, the North Carolina site says the federal library includes “all circuits” and both the North Carolina and Connecticut sites say federal district court opinions for the federal districts within those states are included. In Connecticut, those opinions begin with volume 705 of the Federal Supplement, Second Series, and in North Carolina they begin with 1995. You’re stuck asking participating bar associations or Lawriter what the coverage, scope, and timeliness are for whichever materials may be indispensable or desirable in your setting.
North Carolina State Library
North Carolina Supreme Court 1939 to current
North Carolina Court of Appeals – 1968 to current
North Carolina Attorney Gen. Opinions (1977 to date)
North Carolina Statutes
North Carolina Administrative Code
North Carolina Constitution
North Carolina Current Legislature Enacted Bills
North Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure
North Carolina Rules for Practice in Superior & District Courts
North Carolina Rules of Evidence
North Carolina Rules for Appellate Procedure
North Carolina Rules for Court Ordered Arbitration
North Carolina Rules for Continuing Legal Education
North Carolina Rules for Continuing Judicial Education
North Carolina Rules for Professional Conduct
North Carolina Rules for Judicial Conduct
Mediators Conduct Standards
North Carolina Order Adopting Canons, Ethics, Arbitrators
City Codes for Charlotte, Raleigh & Durham – Assuming no copyright restriction.
For each of the federal case law databases, timeliness is through “previous month’s releases.” Lawriter tells us that some circuits are regularly more timely than others and the description of timeliness being through the “previous month’s releases” is the worst case for any circuit. The timeliness for a given circuit is specified by contract with the respective bar association that wanted coverage of the circuit’s cases.
The timeliness of state case law databases is similarly specified by contract. As an example of what is published concerning timeliness in a state library, t he Connecticut library page at the trial web site says:
All case law: Case law, including Conn., Conn. App., Conn. Supp., Conn. L. Rptr. and F.Supp. opinions are updated weekly from the state’s web site. Current week’s releases will be available on Mondays.
General Statutes and State Regulations: Updated annually with current version provided by the state.
Session Laws: Enacted session laws are added to the General Statutes database monthly as they are released.
All State Agencies’ Decisions: Agency decisions; including Attorney General, Worker’s Compensation Commission, Freedom of Information Commission, and the CBA’s Ethics Opinions are updated monthly as they become available.
CBA Publications: The Connecticut Lawyer and Connecticut Bar Journal volumes will be available one week from publication.
Casemaker™ gets its newer data from official sources, such as the courts themselves. The back files of historical cases come from conversion to digital data from official reporters where they exist and from West’s reporters where official reporters do not exist. Lawriter has a written agreement with West concerning digitization of data from West’s reporters.
Accessibility / Ease of Use
Trial Account and Subscribing
Casemaker™ offers a trial web site. There are a few more steps to signing up for the free trial account than is usual elsewhere on the web. The forms require some information about the trial subscriber. Activation is more or less immediate. An email confirmation arrives promptly. The duration of the trial account is generous, 180 days.
Casemaker™ also offers trial accounts through other sites, for example, a 45-day free trial through the North Carolina Bar Association site. (Members of the North Carolina Bar Association receive access as a free benefit of membership. The free trial is for nonmembers.) We hoped to use this to compare the “real” version of the service to the trial web site. Logging in on the trial account at the North Carolina Bar Association site leads one right back to the library selection page at the trial web site, however. This was disappointing because the user manual for NC Casemaker describes and illustrates features and functions that are different from the trial web site. We won’t be able to show you the “real” version of some of the interface elements. Our illustrations are captured from the trial web site.
Choosing a Database
On the trial site, one chooses the federal library or one of the state libraries. That brings up a page where one chooses a database and whether to search or browse it. In the illustration below, notice the Search and Browse command buttons.
Casemaker™ offers two search modes, Basic and Advanced. The Basic search mode has a very simple interface with only three elements: a drop down list box to choose which group of cases to search (by reporter), a text box for entry of a query statement, and a search command button. The query statement may be either Boolean or natural language.
The advanced mode provides additional interface elements to let the searcher perform a citation search, a docket number search, apply date restrictions, expand word forms that qualify as matches, specify proximity, and chose between two sort orders (relevance and ascending date). The NC Casemaker user manual indicates that the subscriber version of the service also offers field or segment searching on syllabus, court, attorney, and judges (distinguishing between author of the majority or plurality opinion and the authors of concurring or dissenting opinions).
Navigation While Searching
The service provides a navigation bar at the top of the page. The commands available and which ones are active vary according to whether one is entering a search query, viewing a hit list, or viewing a hit document.
The NCCasemaker Web Library Demonstration Guide and Manual says the first navigation bar appears “once you perform a successful search,” but that is not how the trial web site behaves. The following, first navigation bar appears as soon as a searcher arrives at the search screen.
The Casemaker Home command brings a searcher back to the library selection screen where one chooses either the federal library or one of the state libraries. The Library Contents command is context sensitive so that, for example, if a searcher is in the North Carolina Library, it brings her to the database selection screen for the North Carolina library. The Help command displays online help in a separate, popup window. The Revise Search and Back to Results commands are grayed because they are inactive. Oddly, the New Search command button is active already despite the fact that no search has yet been performed. Clicking it loops back to where one already is.
When a searcher performs a search and is viewing the hit list, the system displays the same navigation bar and activates the Print Results and Revise Search command buttons, as illustrated.
The Print Results command streamlines the page for printing, but does not itself send the page to the printer. The command removes the navigation bar and other interface elements that are not necessary in a printout. Once the print version of the page appears, a searcher must use her browser’s print command to send the page to the printer. The number of hits displayed in the hit list defaults to ten. We find no way to change this number. A Results Pages footer lets a searcher cycle through the hit list pages that display ten hits per page or jump to a particular hit list page, e.g., page 3 containing hits 21 through 30. This footer is included both on the regular version and on the print version of the hit list pages. The footer is context sensitive so that, when used on the print version, the link calls the print version of the next hit list page.
The Revise Search command recalls the search screen with the last query statement intact so that it need only be edited. The command also remembers whether the last search was done in Basic mode or Advanced mode and recalls the search screen in the same mode. Should one desire to switch modes, that can be done by clicking on the opposite mode tab of the search screen. When the mode of the search screen changes, the last query statement still is intact so that it need only be edited.
When displaying a document selected from the hit list, the system changes the buttons on the navigation bar. A Print Document button replaces the Print Results button. The system activates the Back to Results button. It adds Next Result and Previous Result command buttons. It adds a Browse Mode/Search Mode toggle switch button. It adds an indicator of location within the hit sequence that tells which of how many hit documents is displayed, e.g., Result: 2 of 57.
The Print Document command removes all online interface elements and generates a clean copy of the document. Highlighting of query terms is removed. The Back to Results command recalls the hit list. The Next Result and Previous Result commands let a searcher sequence through the hit documents.
The Browse Mode/Search Mode toggle button allows a searcher to switch between search mode and browse mode. In browse mode, a searcher can sequence through the documents in a book rather than through the documents in a hit list. To illustrate, assume we have searched a case law database in the North Carolina library, we have searched on the phrase “easement by prescription,” and we are viewing the sixth of 57 hits. The document is Perry v. Williams (1987), 84 N.C. App. 527. The next, seventh document in the hit list is Concerned Citizens of Brunswick v. North Carolina (1991), 329 N.C. 37. But if, before clicking the Next Result button, we first switch to browse mode, the navigation bar changes. The next and previous buttons change from Next Result to Next Document and from Previous Result to Previous Document. The Next Document command retrieves Star Automobile Co. v. Saab-Scania of America, Inc. (1987), 84 N.C. App. 531, which is not in the hit list and has nothing to do with easements or prescription. Perry v. Williams, the sixth case in the hit list, begins on page 527 and ends on page 531, and Star Automobile begins on page 531. Star Automobile is simply the next case in the reporter.
When in browse mode, the system also makes other changes in the navigation bar.
The command buttons that relate to searching disappear. A Back to Documents List button appears. The function of this command is analogous to the Back to Results command, but because of being in browse mode, instead of recalling the hit list, it calls a list of documents in the reporter.
The navigation interface is graphically pleasing, always smartly context sensitive about which commands really are active and which ones are not, always provides clarity about one’s sense-of-place in the search and retrieval process, and command elements always do what one intuitively expects without having to read the manual. These aspects of the system rate high marks for ease of use, even if the query syntax does not.
Boolean and Other Operators
Casemaker™ supports the Boolean AND, OR, and NOT operators, phrase searching, truncation, and proximity.
Operator Representation Example AND space search seizure OR comma between terms in parentheses (purposely,knowingly) NOT minus sign weapon -knife phrase quotation marks “search and seizure” truncation asterisk librar*
The query processor only supports representation of operators as shown in the table above and does not support the straightforward use of “and” for AND, “or” for OR, and “not” for NOT.
Casemaker™ supports proximity, but not in command mode and not to user specified parameters. One must be in Advanced mode and select from options in a drop down list box. The options are terms within the same document, within 1000 characters, within 500 characters, within sentence, or within word. Bar associations can negotiate to provide different or additional proximity parameters, e.g., 100 characters.
The representation of the Boolean operators is not standard, and this can be a pitfall for searchers experienced on systems that implement Boolean operators in standard, algebraic syntax. The standard Boolean expression assault and weapon expresses two operands (the terms “assault’ and “weapon”) and it expresses an operator (“and”). On Casemaker™, the query expression becomes assault weapon . It looks like a phrase, and the phrase can mean something, as “assault weapon” does. The phrase “assault weapon” does not mean the same thing as “assault AND weapon”. This could trip searchers experienced on Lexis where phrases are entered in a straightforward manner.
On Casemaker™, the OR operator is represented by a comma and it requires a construction that looks like nesting or express order of operation on other, standard systems. The standard, algebraic query statement grounds and writ and (certiorari or review) (leaving aside for the sake of illustration the fact that this search should be done with proximity or phrases) becomes grounds writ (certiorari,review) . The OR construction must begin with an opening parenthesis, the OR operator must be represented by a comma, there must be no spaces around the comma, and the construction must end with a closing parenthesis.1
Casemaker™ supports equivalencies by a thesaurus expansion operator, the tilde immediately preceding a word. The expression ~wine will hit on wine and related terms like beer and alcohol.
When a search succeeds in returning results, Casemaker™ displays the hit list. The hit list numbers the hits and for each hit it displays the citation, the date of decision, the relevancy score, the name of the case, and the first occurrence of a query term with some context surrounding it.
In Advanced mode, a searcher can specify the sort order of the hit list. There are two choices, relevance and ascending date order. In Basic mode, the hit list is sorted by relevance.
The appearance of documents is good. The on-screen display highlights query terms in bold, red font. There is a print version that removes unnecessary user interface graphics and highlighting. There is no command to email documents. There is no word processor format and no dual column format. The print version of documents saves nicely to local storage. Citations within an opinion to other cases that are in the library of databases contracted by the same bar association are hyperlinked. Bar associations can negotiate to get hyperlinks to cases in other libraries. At present, however, hyperlinking that crosses library boundaries involves a system speed issue that Lawriter is looking to overcome.
Court opinions have official citations and official pagination. All state cases have parallel West citations. Federal cases do not. Where bar associations have specified West pagination by contract, Casemaker ™ has it. Lawriter has a written agreement with West for use of West’s pagination. Only one bar association has requested vendor neutral citations and pinpoint paragraph citations. That association’s cases have them. For unreported cases, Lawriter creates citation information including paragraph citation and submits the citation formats to the Blue Book seeking approval.
Case Citator and Citation Searching
We asked Joseph Shea, Publisher of Lawriter, whether Lawriter endorses the following statement by Matthew F. Valerio, President of the Vermont Bar Association:
The Vermont Casemaker Web Library will also include a citator which will allow members to check the subsequent history of cases. By the time the VBA Casemaker library is fully operational, Lawriter expects to have an advanced citator, which will make all the case history features found in Shepard’s Citations available at the push of a button.
President’s Column, Vermont Bar Journal, June 2002, p. 1. Shea demonstrated his knowledge of the difference between a citator and software that performs citation searching. He said that what most states in the consortium will have is not a citator but citation searching performed by software, but bar associations can negotiate for a citator. The citation searching feature has been developed and is in testing. It is due to be rolled out within days of publication of this article. This feature will be added without additional cost to participating bar associations. This feature will be invoked automatically when viewing a court opinion and will list other cases that cite the one being viewed. The list will be ordered and grouped to ease evaluation. Lawriter also has done work on a sample citator to determine the cost of producing one so that bar associations can negotiate for a citator covering their state’s cases. For this citator, as distinguish from citation searching, qualified persons read the cases and mark whether a case has been subsequently followed, overruled, distinguished, or criticized. Our question put Shea in a delicate position given Valerio’s claim, but it was clear that Lawriter is forthright in its claims and any error in the claim that Casemaker’s citator will have “all the case history features found in Shepard’s Citations” is a misunderstanding of legal research by the President of the Vermont Bar Association.
Documentation, Customer Support, and Training
We presented what we know about documentation of the contents of the service under “Coverage, Scope, and Timeliness” above.
Lawriter prepared a basic user guide that bar associations can dress with their name, logo, and other elements. Members of the consortium have extended and revised the manual The version prepared by the North Carolina Bar Association tends to be circulated in other states. Lawriter acts as a repository and disseminator of the user-developed documentation.
We find the following documentation on use of the service:
- Ta-Letta Bryant, NCCasemaker Web Library Demonstration Guide and Manual (North Carolina Bar Association 2001). Alternative location
- Casemaker Cheat Sheet, North Carolina Bar Association. Alternative location
- Casemaker Table of Contents, Connecticut Bar Association. This document has no title page. It begins with the table of contents and the first line says “Casemaker Table of Contents,” but really it is a user manual.
- Casemaker Help, Nebraska Bar Association.
- Casemaker Online Demonstration, Nebraska Bar Association.
- Frequently Asked NSBA Casemaker Questions, Nebraska Bar Association.
- “Cheat Sheet” for using Casemaker to do Caselaw Searches, Nebraska Bar Association.
- Casemaker Online Demonstration, Massachusetts Bar Association.
- Casemaker Trial FAQ, Casemaker Trial Web site.
Lawriter says it has tried to develop a system that an end user can search without ever looking at a manual. Joseph Shea says, “Utilization is significant” and believes based on feedback that the company has succeeded in making the system intuitive for its target users. He believes most users never have seen a manual and there are almost no questions being presented by users on how to use the service. Lawriter provides customer support by telephone, and demands upon customer support have been light.
The value-to-cost ratio is difficult to assess because costs are not generally published. As this article was going to press, the Oregon State Bar put out news about their consideration of Casemaker. Their news story includes an estimated cost of $120,000 to $150,000 per year. They base this cost on their conversation with other bar associations. The Bar Associations negotiate the content of their libraries and pay Lawriter an amount based on that content. Thus, while different Bar Associations pay different amounts, the formula used to determine that amount is the same. Only the content and a certain few features vary. Certain features that require additional work (like a true citator or frequent updating) or that are the result of agreements with other providers (like West pagination) add costs outside the formula.
Although costs are confidential, published materials from Bar Associations and an interview with Lawriter owner, Joe Shea, describe costs as ranging from $7.00 to $20.00 per Bar Association member. The variation in cost results from differences in content and in number of members. Bar Associations are free to decide how to pay for the costs of Casemaker™. All of the current Consortium members have presented Casemaker™ as a “benefit of membership.” For some associations there is the hope that this benefit will encourage more legal professionals to join the association (10 New Jersey Lawyer 981, “Waldman at State Bar Helm,” 5/21/2001). For associations using Casemaker™ to grow membership, there will probably not be a dues increase to cover the cost. For other bar organizations a dues increase seems the appropriate approach to the cost of Casemaker™. Chris Blake, Director of Communications, states that the Connecticut Bar Association “raised dues by $50.00 to cover the cost of Casemaker™and other enhanced services. It would be inaccurate to state that the entire $50.00 amount was for Casemaker.” The Rhode Island State Bar Association intends to begin by offering Casemaker™as a “free” benefit of membership, but Executive Director, Helen Desmond McDonald, states, “If it becomes necessary to have a modest dues increase to support the program [Casemaker ™ ] that amount will be far less annually than most of our members are paying per week for legal research.”
Although the response from Consortium members to Casemaker™is reported to be “overwhelmingly positive” in interviews with Association representatives, we were unable to obtain utilization figures at the time of this writing. Lawriter does report usage figures to the Bar Associations, but reports of those figures have not been made public.
Joseph Shea and Bar Association representatives do not claim that Casemaker ™ is the answer for all research. The goal, instead, is to offer a low-cost option for the majority of primary legal research and leave the secondary research to other providers. Shea says Casemaker™ is designed to satisfy what most lawyers need most of the time, to be easy for end users to use, and to be American owned. It is not aimed at what only some lawyers need only some of the time. If indeed the content hits that mark and if indeed the service is a free benefit of membership or at least not a large component of bar association dues, with the system’s ease of use aside from non-standard syntax, the value to cost ratio is favorable.
1 Does this construction allow the user to expressly control the order of operation? Suppose we have a search where we want the AND operation to precede the OR operation. Can we do this? How would we do it? Can the standard, algebraic query
(import and export) or “international trade”
be expressed on Casemaker™ as:
(import export),”international trade”
or does it need to be
((import export),”international trade”)
We are ORing (import export) with “international trade” . According to Casemaker’s OR syntax, we need not only the comma. We also need the enclosing parentheses. The parentheses we have in the first Casemaker™ version of the query above do not enclose the two OR terms. They enclose the AND terms in an attempt to expressly control the order of operation, to force the AND operation implied by the space between import and export to be executed before the OR operation. Don’t we need the additional set of parentheses in the second version of the query? Only then would we have a set of parentheses to nest the AND terms and a set to construct the OR operation. Let’s see.
In the federal circuit courts library, a query lacking the extra set of parentheses, (import export),”international trade” returns two cases, Commodities Export Co. v. U.S. Customs Service (1992), 957 F.2d 223 and Senator Linie GMBH & Co, v. Sunway Line Inc. (2002) 2nd Cir., No. 01-7374. In the same database, the same query with the extra set of parentheses, ((import export),”international trade”) returns no results. So this search must be an exception to the way OR expressions usually are constructed on Casemaker™. This is one of the problems with nonstandard syntax, that is, non-algebraic syntax. The programmers of the query processor inevitably will bang into queries, even relatively simple ones like this, where they have to make exceptions or where they fail to perceive that their system already incorporates exceptions. Then the searcher has to discern by induction, since it is not documented, when exceptions apply and the effect of them.
At first I (T.R.) mistyped the query when I intended to enter the version with two sets of parentheses. I typed the closing parenthesis for the OR construction correctly, but instead of typing an opening parenthesis, by mistake I keyed a quotation mark:
“(import export),”international trade”)
That query ought to be indecipherable, but the system returned one hit, and it was neither of the cases cited above. It was Nippon Miniature Bearing Corporation v. Weise (2002), 9th Cir, No. 97-55930. The only term highlighted as being hit by the query was “international.” The phrase “international trade” did occur in the case text, but it was never highlighted. Why wasn’t the phrase highlighted, and why was this case not included in the results of the other version of the search? In the other version, the phrase “international trade” was ORed to everything else in the query? Since the phrase was ORed, an opinion should not need anything but the phrase to qualify as a hit.