National Law Library: A View Through the Southern California Online Users Group Rating Scale Lense

T. R. Halvorson is a lawyer in sole practice in Sidney, MT, President of Pastel Programming Co. , a division of Synoptic Text Information Services, Inc., and author of Law of the Super Searchers: the Online Secrets of Top Legal Researchers , How to Avoid Liability: The Information Professional’s Guide to Negligence and Warranty Risks, and Legal Liability Problems in Cyberspace: Craters in the Information Highway.

An Eruption of Content

Hunter M. A. Carr and associates created National Law Library (, a subsidiary of Internet Law Library, Inc. (, in November 1998. NLL began commercial operations in January, 1999 providing a case law database of Texas opinions. During the first five months of that year, the company test marketed it services and attracted over 1,000 subscribers. In a press release dated June 10, 1999 the company announced its official launch, issuing a direct challenge to Westlaw and Lexis based on discount pricing. The headline of the press release is “New Internet-Based Service Aims At Becoming The America Online Of The Legal Research Market.” Since then it has issued a steady stream of press releases (see Excite, Yahoo!, 1st Net Technologies, and NLL) announcing:

  • the addition of new case law databases

  • the recruitment of directors and officers including:

    • David Harriman, who served as President, CEO, and Editor in Chief of The Michie Company, who “marketed the company’s parent, industry leader Lexis-Nexis, to Reed Elsevier” (according to a NLL press release of November 29, 1999), and who founded Brief Reporter, LLC

    • Jeffrey P. Coughter, who worked for The Michie Company and Lexis as state code editor, statute indexer, acquisitions editor, and most recently as director of publishing for Lexis’ Southern Region

  • the acquisition of Governet Affairs, Inc., provider of GoverNet (, a legislative tracking service

  • the acquisition of Brief Reporter, LLC, provider of Brief Reporter (, an online brief bank

Internet Law Library, Inc., is a Delaware corporation headquartered in Houston, Texas. Its stock is traded under the symbol ELAW on NASDAQ BB OTC.

Internet Law Library and its subsidiary National Law Library are closely affiliated with IT/IS, Inc. (, a wholly owned company of Hunter M. A. Carr founded in 1984. IT/IS is a provider of various litigation support products and services, web services, and computer services. IT/IS created Litidex®, the software that NLL uses for case law search and retrieval. Carr contributed to National Law Library all of his rights and interests in the retrieval and database software valued at $934,000 and database content valued at $1,096,000 in exchange for 15,152,500 shares of common stock of National Law Library. Under a Continuing Service Agreement, IT/IS agreed to provide NLL with data files containing case law and statutes together with coding and proprietary editing services covering these data files. IT/IS charges NLL $0.65 per 1,000 characters for data files that satisfy prescribed quality control requirements.

During 1999, NLL added coverage of a number of state and federal jurisdictions. By January 2000, NLL completed databases of all 50 states and released them on February 23, 2000 upon completion of its conversion to the Unix operating system. By March 21, 2000 NLL’s coverage of federal case law included the Supreme Court and the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, DC, and Federal Circuits.

On February 18, 2000, NLL announced that it was taking on state statutes. In a press release of March 15, 2000, David P. Harriman, NLL’s President, said “Our goal is to be the source for the most up-to-date, highest quality statutes on the Internet.” At the time of preparing this article, NLL offered Rules of the United States Supreme Court, Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Local Rules for 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, the New York Constitution, New York statutes, and the Texas Constitution. The service might have offered additional materials for other states, but there is no central documentation of coverage and I did not navigate to every state’s database listing to compile a complete list. In addition, the federal database listing and the database listing for each state includes links to additional materials at the sites of third parties, such as the Code of Federal Regulations, the United States Code, and Texas Attorney General Opinions.

ILL is an acquisitive company. It acquired GoverNet and Brief Reporter. It has a Vice President for Mergers and Acquisitions, Edward Stevens. Matthew Bechard, Senior Editor of Electronic Information Report reports that:1

Carr said NLL is in discussions concerning five mergers and acquisitions, but declined to mention the companies’ names. “We are finding companies that have content to put on the Internet,” Carr said, adding that fiscal 2000 revenues could reach $10 to $15 million if these deals are completed.

NLL “is hoping to take a piece of the online legal information market from leaders Lexis-Nexis and West Group, aiming for a 3% to 5% [market] share … within the next 12 months, president and chief executive officer Hunter Carr said.”2 In a press release of April 4, 2000, the company announced results through the first quarter of this year: “Combined search hits approached 4 million in March. The first quarter of 2000 alone experienced more search hits than all 1999. Subscribers total nearly 3,000. Total employees are less than 75.”

In this article I will present a review of the National Law Library based on the SCOUG Rating Scale, a framework for judging performance in ten broad categories: consistency, coverage and scope, timeliness, accuracy/error rate, accessibility/ease of use, integration, output, documentation, customer support and training, and value-to-cost ratio.3

Coverage and Scope

NLL publishes a database list that is a bare listing of jurisdictions and databases for each jurisdiction. There is no central page documenting the coverage and scope of the databases. Navigation to a database begins at the State Selection page. That page presents an alphabetized, linked list of states in two columns preceded by a link for “Federal.” Clicking on a link brings up the login page where a searcher enters UserID and Password. On successful login, the system displays the list of databases available for the selected jurisdiction. The following excerpts illustrate coverage and scope for federal jurisdictions, New York, California, Pennsylvania, and Texas as of April 21, 2000. Leaving aside miscellaneous databases such as plain language forms, the excerpts are complete for cases and statutes except for truncation of the list of titles of statutory codes as indicated in brackets.


United States Supreme Court — Cases Cited by Docket Number (1992 thru 2000)
United States Supreme Court — Vol’s 1 – 509 (thru 1993)
Federal Case Law 1st Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 2nd Circuit — F.2d Vol’s 179 – 999 & F.3d Vol’s 1 – 173 (1950 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 3rd Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 4th Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 5th Circuit — Current Opinions
Federal Case Law 5th Circuit — F.2d Vol’s 450 – 999 & F.3d Vol’s 1 – 172 (1970 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 6th Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 7th Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 8th Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 9th Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 10th Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law 11th Circuit — Current Opinions
Federal Case Law 11th Circuit — F.2d Vol’s 661 – 999 & F.3d Vol’s 1 – 172 (1981 – 1999)
Federal Case Law D.C. Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)
Federal Case Law Federal Circuit — F.3d Vol’s 1 – 181 (1991 – 1999)

New York

New York Constitution

New York Case Law – Current Opinions
New York Case Law – N.Y.S.2d Vol’s 141 – 687 (1955 – 1999)

New York Statutes – Abandoned Property
New York Statutes – Agricultural Conservation and Adjustment
New York Statutes – Agriculture and Markets
New York Statutes – Alcoholic Beverage Control
New York Statutes – Alternative County Government
New York Statutes – Arts and Cultural Affairs
… [listing continues, but is truncated for purposes of illustration in this article]


California Case Law – Cal.Rptr. Vol’s 206 – 286 & Cal.Rptr.2d Vol’s 1 – 89 (1985 – 1999)


Pennsylvania Case Law – A.2d Vol’s 484 – 724 (1985 – 1999)


Texas Constitution
Texas Constitution — View in Entirety

Texas Case Law – Current Opinions
Texas Case Law – S.W. 2d Vol’s 225 – 992 (1950 – 1999)

Texas Statutes – 1999 Changes to Texas Rules of Discovery
Texas Statutes – 76th Legislature Session Laws (project underway to codify all changes)
Texas Statutes – All
Texas Statutes – Agriculture (current through 1999 changes)
Texas Statutes – Alcoholic Beverage (current through 1999 changes)
Texas Statutes – Business and Commerce
Texas Statutes – Business and Corporation
… [listing continues, but is truncated for purposes of illustration in this article]


Chuck Dunbar, Vice President for Sales, says “We continue to outpace our competition by providing thorough, timely, and accurate legal research,” and that a solo practitioner using NLL “can now conduct legal research as effectively as any multi-member large firm.”4 The company reportedly claims to provide its customers with “the most updated law, rules, and statutes … nearly immediately upon their availability.”5

Who is NLL outpacing in timeliness? Which “competition” is he talking about? The claim that its databases are the “most” updated is superlative and hence relates to everyone including Westlaw and Lexis. The comparison of solo practitioners to large firms suggests comparison of using NLL to using Westlaw and Lexis. Don’t large firms predominantly use Westlaw and Lexis? The company says it is challenging Westlaw and Lexis for market share by price competition. For these three reasons, I infer that NLL claims its timeliness outpaces the timeliness of Westlaw and Lexis.

The database listings illustrated above do not comport with the company’s claims. Either those listings have fallen behind the database contents or the claims are not supported.

Accuracy / Error Rate

According to the Continuing Service Agreement between National Law Library and IT/IS, NLL provides raw material to IT/IS for conversion into electronic material. IT/IS also formats and uploads the content to NLL’s website. The agreement requires IT/IS to produce electronic material that is 99.9 percent accurate measured against the raw material supplied to it by NLL. IT/IS warrants to NLL that level of accuracy and agrees to correct errors pointed out within 30 days of delivery of an order of data. The agreement provides:

“Raw Materials” – Raw Materials shall be understood to mean the materials used for conversion into an electronic format. Raw Materials shall generally consist of legal materials or legally related materials. Raw Materials can be in the form of print which are usually contained within a compiled format and bound together, in the form of both soft and hard bound books, pamphlets, folders, and the like. The legal materials can also be in electronic form in a variety of formats. In such cases, the legal materials shall be handled as if they were printed materials.

“Electronic Materials” – Electronic Materials shall be understood to mean Raw Materials that have been keyed (or otherwise converted); formatted in accordance with specific requirements; and supplied with all appropriate Coding Information and Emphasis Tags as specified in the Basic Editing Guide and project instruction sheets.

“Quality Standards” – Quality Standards shall mean Electronic Materials that are accurately converted to Ninety-Nine point Nine Percent (99.9%) of the Raw Materials.

“Measured Quality Standards” – Measured Quality Standards is the method used to determine Quality Standards. Upon the receipt of Electronic Materials sent by IT/IS to NLL, NLL shall select a 100 page continuous block of information, (or as many 100 page blocks as NLL desires) and compare the Raw Materials to the Electronic Materials. Accuracy of the conversion is checked by counting the total number of characters within said 100-page block(s) and the number of occurrences where the Raw Materials do not match the Electronic Materials. The total number of correct characters can be determined by subtracting the total number of incorrect characters from the total number of characters within said 100-page block. The total characters contained within a given 100-page block of Electronic Materials shall then be divided into the total characters of Electronic Materials converted correctly to determine the Quality Standard. The results of the quality check shall be immediately sent to IT/IS if the materials do not meet Quality Standards. IT/IS shall then check its copy of the Electronic Materials to ascertain the veracity of said quality check. It is understood by both IT/IS and NLL that the accuracy level of any 100-page block so chosen by NLL shall be deemed to be that of the entire amount of Electronic Materials for that shipment. It shall be understood that in the event that NLL fails to make a quality check within 30 days of having received the Electronic Materials, it shall be considered that said Electronic Materials have met Quality Standards.

Paragraph 7(A) of the agreement says “NLL shall supply Raw Materials to IT/IS prior to the start of each new project and IT/IS shall provide NLL an inventory of Raw Materials received within seven days of receipt of Raw Materials,” Paragraph 17 says, “Acquisition and delivery of Raw Materials to IT/IS shall be the responsibility of NLL.” Internet Law Library, Inc.’s Annual Report, Form 10-K for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1999 filed October 13, 1999 says;


Case law and statutes are public information that is not protectable by copyright. Many vendors of these historical records sell these products. National Law purchases content for its databases from IT/IS who also formats and uploads the content to National Law’s web site. New content, including recently decided case law and new or pending legislation, is purchased directly from the respective courts and legislatures.

On April 25, 2000 at 8:18 Mountain Daylight Time, I sent email to NLL. I identified myself and said, “I am preparing an article reviewing National Law Library for submission to Examples of previous review articles may be seen at the following links.” The email set out a number of questions about the service.

I have a rough draft of the article, but in the process of outlining and drafting it following the SCOUG Rating Scale, there were questions that I cannot find answered at NLL’s internet site. …

12. Accuracy; Source of Data; Method of Incorporating Data.

Where and how are the cases acquired? Are the cases doubled-keyed from print sources; are print sources scanned followed by optical character recognition; are they acquired already in electronic form?

Have you performed accuracy testing? What method or methods were used for accuracy testing? What rate of accuracy did the testing show?

On April 26, 2000 at 9:20 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time, my office received a telephone call from NLL’s Vice President of Content saying she was working on getting information to answer my emailed questions. On April 28, 2000 I spoke by telephone with the NLL’s Vice President of Content. I asked where NLL gets its case law data, whether it comes from the courts or from a vendor’s electronic products such as CD-ROMs or online databases. She declined to provide that information.

Accessibility / Ease of Use

One may obtain an account easily either by telephone or by a sign-up page on the website. Account activation is prompt.

The service usually is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. NLL appears to have an adequate number of adequately powerful servers to handle its patronage well at all times. I have searched it at a wide variety of times and at all those times the service has been available and responsive.

Connecting to the service for searching is simple. The service is on the web. The service requires no special software beyond a level 4 web browser.

The front page displays a row of top-level navigational buttons in a column at the left. The first is the “Search” button. Clicking it calls the state selection page. That is the page a searcher probably would bookmark. The word “Federal” is the first item listed, followed by all 50 states. Clicking a link from the list calls the login page where a subscriber enters her user ID and password. Upon successful login, the next page lists the databases available for the state or, if the “Federal” link was clicked, the list of federal jurisdictions and databases. Clicking the link for a database calls the query page. The following is an example:


Enter search words for Federal Case Law 5th Circuit — F.2d Vol’s 450 – 999 & F.3d Vol’s 1 – 172 (1970 – 1999) database.

Boolean Search – Automatic Mode

Search Word: Help

Enter a word (i.e. ” legal “) and select “Enter” to start boolean search process in automatic mode.

Boolean Search – Free Form Mode

Search String: Help

Enter a search string (i.e. ” ( legal AND precedent ) OR ( legal AND ruling ) “) and select “Enter” to perform a boolean search in free form mode.

Phrase Search

Search String: Help

Enter a search string (i.e. ” legal precedent “) and select “Enter” to perform a phrase search.

Citation Search

Citation: Help

Enter the citation elements (i.e. ” 965 ” and ” F.3d ” and ” 3 “) and select “Enter” to perform citation search.


NLL’s servers are fast. All of these pages arrive in a searcher’s browser rapidly.

The query page offers four types of searching. NLL calls the first type “automatic” Boolean, but I think of it as assisted mode. It assists a searcher in gradually constructing a Boolean search statement. The assisted mode employs a text box for entering a single keyword and a row of operator command buttons. Only a subset of the commands available in freeform mode are represented by the command buttons. Professional searchers probably would not use the automatic mode. It does have one feature that could be useful at times: it tells the number of pages in which the most recently entered keyword occurs. I am not sure what NLL means by “pages.” If one were searching for cases on prescriptive easements, after entering “easement” in the text box on the query page as the first step, the successive steps look like this:

Step 2 – From the first step taken on the query page, the search statement has been started with “( ( EASEMENT”. Enter “by” and click the “Within1” command button.

The word EASEMENT occurs in 218 pages.

Search Word: Help

    Your options are to:

  • enter a word and click the operator to use to combine it with the existing search.
  • click the Do Search button.

Step 3 – From the prior steps, the search statement has been built to “( ( EASEMENT W1 BY”. Enter “prescription” and click the “Within1” command button.

The word BY occurs in 169675 pages.

Search Word: Help

    Your options are to:

  • enter a word and click the operator to use to combine it with the existing search.
  • click the Do Search button.

Step 4 – From the prior steps, the search statement has been built to “( ( EASEMENT W1 BY W1 PRESCRIPTION”. Click the “Do Search” command button.

The word PRESCRIPTION occurs in 1036 pages.

Search Word: Help

    Your options are to:

  • enter a word and click the operator to use to combine it with the existing search.
  • click the Do Search button.

Hit List – The search statement is completed with closing parentheses and the hit list is displayed.


Found 2 hits … Hits 1 through 2 listed below

View a case by clicking on the link below. When done, use your browser’s “back” button to return to this page.

832 F.2d 901 (5th Cir. 1987) 11/25/1987 CHARLES G. McDONALD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,…
620 F.2d 47 (5th Cir. 1980) 06/23/1980 CARL McCULLOCH AND NORA DELL McCULLOCH, …

In free form mode, Litidex®, the search engine used by NLL, supports the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT. NOT takes the form AND NOT. Litidex® supports two proximity operators, W and O. W means “within” and O means “order.” W hits on records in which the two keywords appear within the specified proximity to one another regardless of the order in which the two appear. O hits on records in which the two keywords appear within the specified proximity to one another only if the first keyword occurs before the second one. Operators are not case sensitive and must be preceded by a backslash, e.g., AND, OR, W5. Note that in AND NOT, each of the words must be preceded by a backslash, AND NOT.

Litidex® does not support phrase searching in either Boolean mode. The effect of phrase searching can be accomplished, however, using O1, which means that two keywords must appear “within 1” word of each other, that is, without any intervening words, and they must appear in the specified order. In the example above of searching for “easement by prescription”, W1 was used because in automatic mode, the O operator is not provided by the command buttons. In free form mode, the statement would be: “( ( easement o1 by o1 prescription ) )”. In one database, I’ve compared the hit lists generated by that statement and the phrase “easement by prescription” using the phrase search mode. The lists were the same.

Oddly, all free form Boolean searches must begin and end with parentheses. The opening parenthesis must be followed by a space and the closing parenthesis must be preceded by a space. While on most systems the statement “livestock or cattle” is sufficient, on NLL it must be “( livestock or cattle )”. Even a search for a single word takes the form “( replevin )”. For single-word searches, some researchers might prefer to use phrase search to avoid having to enter parentheses. In a more complex search requiring two parentheses in succession, they must be separated by a space.

Litidex® supports right truncation using the asterisk. The hit list page displays the search statement with the effect the particular truncation expanded. For example, if a search statement included the expression “( reasonabl* )”, on the hit page that expression will be expanded to ( ( ( REASONABL OR REASONABLE OR REASONABLENESS OR REASONABLY ) ) ).

The service does not document the implicit order of operation (operator precedence), but I induce that OR precedes AND from the followings results:

Found 363 hits … Hits 1 through 25 listed below

Found 363 hits … Hits 1 through 25 listed below

Searched: ( ( OIL OR ( PETROLEUM AND PRICES ) ) )
Maximum of 2,000 hits retrieved. Click “Continue Current Search” to search for the next group of 2,000.
2000 hits found so far … Hits 1 through 25 listed below

The oddities of Litidex® are not much of an impediment to me. They remind me of computer BBS software called =M=C=D= that used a full text search engine called FYI. I searched =M=C=D= systems a lot in the early 1990s. Even the automatic mode on NLL reminds me of the assisted mode of FYI. My hunch is that for many searchers, however, Litidex® will require a period of adjustment.

In phrase search mode, punctuation in the database records is ignored and should not be included in the query. A search for “J DOE” would hit on records containing “J. DOE”.

The following statement by NLL is curious: “Litidex® doesn’t have the normally associated limitations of searching just headers, indexes, sites [sic] or key phrases.”8 I guess they are referring to field restrictors or segment searching. Litidex® does not support either and NLL apparently is trying to tout that serious omission as a feature while implying that other systems do not support free text searching.

Note that the citation search mode is not a citator. It merely allows for retrieval of the cited case, not the retrieval of opinions citing the case. To search for subsequent history, you need to devise full text search strategies. For example, you might try searching on the citation in phrase search mode . Be sure to remember Litidex® rules for phrase searching: omit periods and replace them with spaces. This might automatically overcome some of the variations in citation formats. Notice that the FAQ has an error. To search for subsequent history on the case reported at 328 S.W.2d 885, the FAQ says the query should be “328 s w 885”, but that produces no hits. The query should be “328 s w 2d 885”.

NLL often says Litidex® is fast, and it is. It slows a bit on some proximity and phrase searches, but tolerably.

The query page provides an example for each search mode. (The examples are so general that they are silly, as thought the people who designed them do not know much about the law, but they convey the point of how to search.) Context-sensitive help for each of the search modes is only a click away via a link adjacent to every text box.

There is no relevancy ranking, concept searching, or natural language processing.


NLL is consistent from database to database. The query page is always familiar. The search engine and search modes are always the same. In some files I saw a few cases with irregular, very ragged right margins, such as AT&T Corp. v. Iowa Utilities Board, _____ U.S. _____, 119 S.Ct. 721, 142 L.Ed.2d 834 (1999).


To switch jurisdictions, remember to use the “Quit” command button. This will take you to a page where you can return to the jurisdiction selection page without having to log in again.

There is some hyperlinking from citations to the cases cited. Hyperlinking does not appear very thorough yet, perhaps because the back file of earlier cases is not yet very deep. Sometimes the hyperlinks are wrong. For example, Dill v. District Court, 979 P.2d 188, 1999 MT 85 (1999) cites “Kratz v. Kratz (Okla.1995), 905 P.2d 753 , 755.” The hyperlink, 905 P.2d 753 , instead of retrieving the cited Oklahoma case, retrieves the Montana case Loney v. Milodragovich, Dale & Dye, 273 Mont. 506, 905 P.2d 158 (1995).

A serious omission is the lack of cross-file searching.


When you submit a search, NLL returns a page of hit citations. The citations appear to be in reverse-published order according to West’s reporters. The hit lists often have duplicate citations. Sometimes the number of duplicates is large, as in the following example searching for the phrase “search and seizure” in Ninth Circuit cases:

174 F.3d 1016 Gonzalez v. Metropolitan Transp. Authority, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1999)
173 F.3d 1213 U.S. v. Marolf, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1999)
173 F.3d 1186 McDowell v. Calderon, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1999)
160 F.3d 573 U.S. v. Alvarez-Tautimez, (C.A.9 (Ariz.) 1998)
155 F.3d 1051 U.S. v. Smith, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
155 F.3d 1051 U.S. v. Smith, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
151 F.3d 951 U.S. v. Albrektsen, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
146 F.3d 1149 Ortega v. O’Connor, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
145 F.3d 1342 U.S. v. Fredericks, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
142 F.3d 447 Weaver v. Multonam County, (C.A.9 (Or.) 1998)
138 F.3d 403 U.S. v. Real Property Located at 25445 via Dona Christa, Valencia, Cal., (…
138 F.3d 393 Hernandez v. City of El Monte, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1998)
136 F.3d 670 U.S. v. Albers, (C.A.9 (Ariz.) 1998)
136 F.3d 670 U.S. v. Albers, (C.A.9 (Ariz.) 1998)
131 F.3d 150 U.S. v. Williams, (C.A.9 (Cal.) 1997)
130 F.3d 853 Grand Jury Investigation Concerning Solid State Devices, Inc., In re, (C.A…

The system displays 25 hits per page. To see the next 25 hits, click the “Continue Current Search” command button.

There is no KWIC-like display format.

NLL displays cases in very nicely formatted HTML as illustrated in the excerpt below. The cases include West pagination and parallel citations including citations to miscellaneous reporters. Keywords are highlighted in yellow. The highlighting is not “smart.” In the excerpt below, the query was a phrase search for “search and seizure.” The system highlights “search”, “and”, and “seizure” wherever any of those words appear, not just when they appear in the phrase “search and seizure.” This makes for a lot of busy and annoying highlighting of the meaningless conjunction “and”. The same flaw blemishes output with proximity searching.

Hit 7 of 25 … page 7 of file

Page 951

151 F.3d 951

98 Cal. Daily Op. Serv. 5946, 98 Daily Journal
D.A.R. 8319

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
Michael John ALBREKTSEN, Defendant-Appel, Helvetica, sans-serif”>No. 97-50488.

United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.

Argued and Submitted June 1, 1998.
Decided July 31, 1998.

Page 952

Michael Littman, San Diego, California, for defendant-appellant.

David P. Curnow, Assistant United States Attorney, San Diego, California, for plaintiff-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California; Napoleon A. Jones, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CR-97-00112-NAJ.

Before: O’SCANNLAIN, TROTT, and FERNANDEZ, Circuit Judges.

Opinion by Judge FERNANDEZ; Dissent by Judge O’SCANNLAIN.

FERNANDEZ, Circuit Judge:

Michael John Albrektsen appeals his conviction after his conditional guilty plea to counterfeiting obligations of the United States. See 18 U.S.C. § 471. He alleges that the police violated his rights under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution when they entered his motel room without a search warrant and without his consent. We agree, and reverse his conviction and remand.


On November 30, 1996 Michael J. Stanton, an officer of the La Mesa Police Department, was on routine patrol. 1 As he was cruising through the parking lot of the Motel 6 in La Mesa, California, he noticed that Albrektsen’s automobile was parked in a handicapped parking space. Because it was not displaying the required handicapped placard, it was illegally parked. Stanton wrote down the license number, and then went to the motel office where he determined that the driver was Albrektsen, who was a guest at the motel. Stanton also ascertained that an unidentified second person was registered to the motel room. Stanton then ran a vehicle license and criminal records check. He determined that the automobile was registered to Albrektsen and that Albrektsen also had two outstanding misdemeanor bench warrants. Stanton knew that the Motel 6 location was frequented by people who sold or used methamphetamine. He therefore decided that he wanted to search Albrektsen’s room.

Armed with the warrants and that intention, Stanton approached the room and knocked on the door. Albrektsen came to the door and admitted his identity. However, instead of arresting Albrektsen on the spot, Stanton pursued his goal of entering the room. Without asking, he simply walked into the room. Albrektsen moved away from the door because if he had not done so Stanton would have knocked him down while entering.

Once in the room, Stanton asked if he could conduct a search, Albrektsen said “I

Page 953

guess so,” and Stanton then arrested him. 2 During the ensuing search, Stanton found counterfeited currency in various stages of completion, and a computer system which was apparently used in the counterfeiting operation. Albrektsen’s indictment for counterfeiting followed.

Albrektsen moved to suppress the evidence seized from his motel room. He claimed that his Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. The district court denied the motion, and Albrektsen entered a conditional guilty plea to count one of the indictment–counterfeiting obligations of the United States. See 18 U.S.C. § 471. He was sentenced in due course, and this appeal followed.

There is no separately downloadable format such as Word, RTF, or Wordperfect. When you choose File, Save As in your browser, the proposed file name always is You must think of a different file name and type it manually. If you forget, the save operation works without warning that the default file name could be a problem. Subsequent save operations accepting that default file name will overwrite the same file. Application software often associates the .pl file name extension with PERL scripts making it difficult to open the file.

When you save a document, the highlighted search terms are saved with the highlighting. That is not presentable in court. It reveals an advocate firm’s thought process. Getting rid of the highlighting is a chore.

My state of Montana has a court-approved system of vendor-neutral citation format and internal citation by paragraph numbers. NLL provides both.


Documentation consists mainly of a “Tutorial” page, a help page, and a frequently asked questions page. The tutorial is more like a cheat sheet. The help page is an adequate user’s guide. Help links on the query page are tied to specific sections of the help page.

Customer Support and Training

NLL offers a free telephone training session to every new subscriber. The staff takes the initiative to contact new subscribers to schedule the training session. Technical support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Value-to-Cost Ratio

For a limited time, NLL is offering full access to all services for a flat fee of $49.95 per month locked in through January 2001. This permits a single user to use the service from anywhere, but not on more than one computer at a time. NLL also offers free access to judges and their law clerks.

A number of factors make it difficult to assess the value-to-cost ratio. The service is young and is undergoing rapid change. Key factors to watch are:

  • whether NLL discloses the source of its data

  • how rapidly NLL adds depth to its back files

  • whether NLL can demonstrate its claims of timeliness

  • how soon NLL offers cross-file searching

  • whether the query language becomes more standard

Privacy Policy

The service does not publish a privacy policy. The URLs in hit lists include the searcher’s user ID. This might be done for the purpose of maintaining session information in the stateless environment of TCP/IP communications on the web. One wonders, however, whether this could be used to track searcher behavior and subject matter.


  1. Michael Bechard, “National Law Library Looks To Carve Online Legal Share From West, Lexis,” Electronic Information Report, Simba Information Inc., undated. <back to text>
  2. Id. <back to text>
  3. Reva Basch, “Measuring the Quality of the Data: Report on the Fourth Annual SCOUG Retreat,” Database Searcher, vol. 6, no. 8, October 1990, pp. 18-24. <back to text>
  4. Press Release, “Internet Law Library Announces Federal Enhancements,” March 21, 2000. <back to text>
  5. New Internet-Based Service Aims at Becoming the America Online of the Legal Research Market,” Internet Wire, June 10, 1999. <back to text>
  6. New Internet-Based Service Aims at Becoming the America Online of the Legal Research Market,” Internet Wire, June 10, 1999. <back to text>

Copyright © 2000 T. R. Halvorson. All Rights Reserved

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