Illinois Adopt Public Domain Citation System

The Illinois Supreme Court adopted changes to Rule 6 and 23 today. These changes adopt a public domain citation system for Illinois appellate decisions that are filed on or after July 1, 2011. According to a Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article, (which I can’t link to because it is behind a paywall), the Supreme Court’s contract with West Publishing Co. to print advance sheets and bound volumes expires on July 31, and will not be renewed.

The comments to Rule 6 explain (this is a link to a PDF),

The system of case citation that has historically prevailed in the United States relies upon the elements of printed case reporters, that is, volume number, case name, beginning and pinpoint page numbers, and year of filing. In Illinois, citations have been made to our state’s official reporters (Illinois Reports and Illinois Appellate Reports), with parallel citations to the appropriate West regional reporter (North East Reporter and/or Illinois Decisions) also allowed. But reliance upon printed reports for access to the courts’ opinions has diminished with the rise of electronic databases, such as those found on the Court’s own Internet website, Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, and various CD-ROMs. In this state, the Illinois Supreme and Appellate Courts’ opinions have been made available on the judiciary’s website since 1996. However, the requirement that case citations be made to printed reporters has prevented direct
citation of those opinions, even though they are now widely available on various electronic databases.

To remedy this situation, the Illinois Supreme Court has amended Supreme Court Rule 23, and has entered an administrative order in relation to Rule 23, to direct Illinois reviewing courts to assign, at the time of filing, public-domain case designator numbers (e.g., “2011 IL 102345”) , as well as internal paragraph numbers, to all opinions and Rule 23 orders filed after July 1, 2011.

I think that this is a great thing. I have nothing against West or Lexis (in fact, I have a WestlawNext subscription and I really like it). However, I do have a problem with our public law being held by a private company. To the extent that we can separate that, the better off we are.

Congrats to the Supreme Court for a great step forward. Next, I hope the address the fact that our public jury instructions can only be found in west publications. Those too should be freely and publicly available on the Court’s website.