Reconfiguring Law Reports and the Concept of Precedent for a Digital Age

37 Pages Posted: 31 Aug 2007 Last revised: 20 Oct 2007

Date Written: August 29, 2007


Adherence to the "rule of law" entails a strong commitment to consistency - a belief that throughout a jurisdiction and across time judges should treat like cases alike. For over a century, the U.S. judiciary's pursuit of this aim has relied principally upon print law reports. With unsettling rapidity, digital technology has dislodged that system, in practical fact, if not yet in the way lawyers and judges talk and think about case law. This article explores gains one might hope for from a "judicial consistency" system liberated from the constraints of print, likely affects on concepts of precedent, as well as challenges and forces of resistance standing in the way of change.

Keywords: neutral citation, precedent, appellate courts, stare decisis, official reports, digital technology, online, Westlaw, Lexis, West Publishing

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Martin, Peter W., Reconfiguring Law Reports and the Concept of Precedent for a Digital Age (August 29, 2007). Cornell Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-013, Available at SSRN: or

Peter W. Martin (Contact Author)

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901


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