The D.C. Circuit Offers an Innovative Way to Fight “Link Rot”

In a July 30, 2015 press release, The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit announced a new program designed to preserve web-based information cited by the Court in its decisions. (Please click here to access the decision.)

“Link Rot” is a term used to describe the tendency of web pages to change or cease to exist over time. According to the Court, “the Circuit’s opinions frequently contain citations to web pages.” Link Rot would be a major concern in the future should that referenced material become unavailable. Judges, lawyers and the public would be unable to determine what the original judge was relying on for the decision once links rotted away.

The Court’s solution is to archive those cited pages as part of the electronic case record on PACER. In September, the clerk’s office has started adding those cited web pages as .pdf files in the electronic case file insuring that it will be archived indefinitely.

The press release implies that the Court will continue to use web page cites, with archived pages available on PACER as a backup, rather than having those web pages first converted to the archived material and use the PACER web address for the hyperlinks. The latter might be an improvement as it would better achieve the stable results for which the Court is aiming. Unfortunately, that approach would also add time to the process of issuing the opinions. It would also make that information less publically available as it would require a PACER account and probably payment of the usual document retrieval fees (currently $.30/page) charged by PACER to view most files.

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Read related article: "Web Links to Nowhere" in SCOTUS Decisions: How to Ensure that Cited Material Remains Available for Years to Come.

Tagged: Appellate Practice, Appellate Services, Appellate Procedure, United State Court of Appeals District of Columbia Circuit, Litigation