Supreme Court

Westlaw to Correct Errors, Even for Old Cases

| by The Volokh Conspiracy

By Eugene Volokh

Earlier this week, I noted that a Westlaw reference attorney informed me that Westlaw doesn’t correct transcription errors in its versions of old cases. (The error that I was trying to get corrected was in Thorn v. Blanchard, 5 Johns. 508 (N.Y. 1809); the Westlaw version incorrectly reported the name of the court that decided the case.) I argued in the post that this was a bad policy.

I’m pleased to report that Westlaw has made clear that what the reference attorney told me is not Westlaw’s policy:

Prof. Volokh,

Thank you for bringing the error in the Thorn decision to our attention. While West processes are designed to ensure the accuracy of opinions in its collections, Thorn reminds me that there is no substitute for an extra set of eyes (or many extra sets of eyes, as provided by your readers), in reviewing legal documents. We appreciate that you, and your readers, provided input: whenever a researcher calls an issue to our attention, we look to the source data. For older materials (and for new materials that have been modified), this can be problematic as there may be discrepancies in source data. This is particularly true with respect to older text published in variant reporters. 

Once a cover page from the print reporter was submitted, the courtline issue for the 1809 Thorn decision should have been reviewed and the decision promptly corrected by West. It has now been modified on Westlaw. Again, thank you for bringing this to our attention....

West continues to strive for 100% accuracy (every year our editors work with the courts to make more than 100,000 corrections to cases), so I take it personally when an error slips through. We truly appreciate that legal professionals care enough to bring these things to our attention.
 
David Spencer
Vice President
Legal Editorial Operations
Thomson Reuters, Legal

For more, see this post by Joe Hodnicki (Law Librarian Blog).