This is Why We Need Universal Legal Citation

Courtney Minick nails it:

. . . if you want to cite to judicial law, you must pay to access the Reporter’s opinions.

Sounds crazy, but it’s true.

As a law student I wasn’t aware of the problem. But it frequently holds me back, now that I’m building online information systems. E.g., say some text on oregonlaws.org contains a citation to an opinion, such as

PGE v. Bureau of Labor and Industries, 317 Or 606, 859 P2d 1143 (1993)

. . . one of the most important Oregon cases; and of course law, owned by all of us.

To make the website more valuable to my visitors, I want to grab the text of that opinion and display it. Or, failing that, I’d like to simply hyperlink to it, online.

But neither of these are possible. The unique identifiers we’re provided to this public law: “317 Or 606″, “859 P2d 1143″ — point to resources accessible only behind a pay-wall. If you’re skeptical, try googling for “859 P2d 1143” or “317 Or 606“. Zilch.