Quick Hack Will Now Alert People When The Supreme Court Quietly Changes Rulings On Its Site

from the but-only-if-they're-updated-there dept

A few weeks ago, we covered a NY Times article about how the Supreme Court was quietly changing rulings well after they had been released -- and often doing so without notifying anyone other than a few big legal publishers. Because of that, many people were still relying on the old and outdated versions. A few people suggested setting up an automated system to just check the Supreme Court website for changing documents and monitor those changes -- and that's exactly what someone has done.

Lawyer David Zvenyach quickly hacked together a system to check the Supreme Court's website every five minutes for any opinion that changes, and to then automatically tweet out an announcement @SCOTUS_servo. He then follows it up with a manual explanation of the change, and recently added a feature that will highlight the actual change in the document.

This is great -- though, it assumes that the Supreme Court will always update its website with the latest rulings. As the original article pointed out, that doesn't always happen. Still, it's a step in the right direction, though there's absolutely no reason that the Supreme Court doesn't do this itself. And, in the meantime, as I discovered earlier this week in looking up a certain case, it's not just the Supreme Court that does this, but many other courts as well. Perhaps we'll need to get Zvenyach to set up similar feeds for each of the different circuit appeals courts as well...

Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Beta (profile), Jun 12th, 2014 @ 8:48pm

    What an utterly brilliant idea. Why didn't we think of that?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 9:10pm

    source control

    Government needs to start using source control for everything... I suggest Git.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Melayna, Jun 12th, 2014 @ 9:13pm

    MAUDE Reports

    This would be great for people to track MAUDE reports especially regarding all the medical mesh cases. Reports seem to come and go from the site.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:22am

    Good idea, dubious implementation

    Twitter? Really?!

    That may make it accessible to the people dumb and careless enough to hand personal data over to Twitter, but it hardly makes it accessible to everyone. Nor does it guarantee that it will be archived or indexed.

    A much better way to do this would be to use Mailman to set up a (public) list and send the announcements there. That way they're available at minimal privacy cost (either subscribe from a throwaway or just monitor the web version), they'll get indexed by search engines, and if the site owner gives permission, the site can be mirrored. Plus: gateway it to a Usenet newsgroup so that it gets global propagation and archiving. Plus: set up an RSS feed.

    Setups like this ensure long-term online preservation of data and they do so in a way that (a) makes it nearly impossible for anyone to take it down and (b) make it possible to read the data years later. (I presume everyone knows that email and Usenet archives from 30+ years ago are completely readable and usable today using standard Unix/Linux tools. And even if they weren't, the formats are simple enough that a decent Perl/Python/Java/etc. programmer could write a parser for them in a day.)

    They also (c) remove it from the control of corporations like Twitter, who have recently indicated that they will censor anything for anyone on demand because, of course, they're run by spineless cowards. How long do you think it will be before those "few legal publishers" do what legal publishers usually do and try to crush any effort that threatens their monopoly status?

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:26am

    Re: Good idea, dubious implementation

    Taking down content that is illegal (yeah crazy laws but still...) is different to bending to the will of publishers.

    Hate on it all you want but it provides a simple method for achieving most of what you seem to want.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 1:49am

    it took me about 2 minutes but this change is correcting an apostrophe into a quotation mark, which is probably not a super great example to use of changes that we as a nation should be on the alert for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    Paul Renault (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 4:44am

    Re:

    It's not just a comma, but a very expensive comma, eh.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:23am

    Re:

    So this is a very elaborate form of Grammar Naziism.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
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    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 5:55am

    Re: Good idea, dubious implementation

    So you are complaining that this rather nice, totally free, and easily accessed service is not good enough?

    Fantabulous - please go ahead and build something better to replace it and let us know when it is done.

    In the meantime, I am going to thank David Zvenyach rather than bitch that his solution doesn't use services and technology that I find adequate.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:00am

    Re:

    Let's eat grandma.
    Let's eat, grandma.


    Punctuation can be important.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
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    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:14am

    Re:

    SWAT is kicking in his door right now to serve the warrant for violating the CFAA.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:15am

    Re: source control

    We will be the only ones in control.

    - The US Government

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 6:33am

    Stupid computer trick...

    This seems pretty useless. As has been already pointed out, spell checking and grammar checking isn't really that time sensitive. That's why nobody has done this before. I guess it is helpful for Lawyer David Zvenyach's programming skillz. WTG David!!

     

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  14.  
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    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 7:13am

    Re: Stupid computer trick...

    Feel free to read this article:
    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140526/06271527358/supreme-court-quietly-changes-rulings -after-releasing-them-refuses-to-reveal-what-those-changes-are.shtml

    It points out some instances of them changing significant parts of the rulings.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    nasch (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:03am

    No reason

    Still, it's a step in the right direction, though there's absolutely no reason that the Supreme Court doesn't do this itself.

    Do you mean no good reason? Because obviously there is at least one reason why they don't do it (otherwise they would be doing it).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Michael, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 10:34am

    Re: No reason

    There is plenty of evidence that the Supreme Court does things with no reason.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
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    Rich Kulawiec, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Good idea, dubious implementation

    I'm not complaining, I'm pointing out that (a) he's handed over control of his communication channel to a company that JUST THIS WEEK made it abundantly clear that it will engage in censorship-on-demand and (b) if his goal is to notice, document and preserve these changes for the long term (and it may or may not be) then using something as ephemeral as Twitter and something as unilaterally-controlled as Twitter is a bad idea. (Surely nobody reading this thinks that Twitter is immortal. In five years it could be gone. Or it could lock up its entire archive. Or it could delete it.)

    If you want things to last on the Internet then you need to use open formats, open services, open protocols, open source. Even doing all that isn't a guarantee: things can still go wrong. But it's the best way to stack the deck in your favor -- as decades of history have shown.

    No, I'm not going to bother to fix this particular thing. I only have time to contribute so much -- and I do. I'm going to point out this design flaw and stop there. Maybe it'll get fixed. Or maybe not. (Maybe the author doesn't care about long-term preservation, in which case the point is moot.)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    Bergman (profile), Jun 13th, 2014 @ 12:09pm

    Re: Re:

    You beat me to it. What he's done is no different in nature than what numerous people have been indicted for under the CFAA -- accessing publicly available information in a way the information provider didn't think of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 13th, 2014 @ 4:11pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    This is the same sort of thing that will do in the right to be forgotten when the Streisand Effect search engine is created by some smart programmer to diff google us from google eu.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    Eldakka (profile), Jun 15th, 2014 @ 8:35pm

    Re: Re:

    pfft, doors are so last year. You can make your own with an MRAP.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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