Legal opinions now available in Google Scholar

Those interested in learning more about historical court opinions have a few new options in Google Scholar, although serious research will likely happen elsewhere.

Aimchair lawyers using Google have a new resource for finding legal opinions. Screenshot by Tom Krazit/CNET

It may not satisfy the needs of Google's lawyers as they research antitrust law, but Google Scholar now offers the full text of numerous legal opinions from throughout U.S. history.

The company announced Tuesday that Google Scholar users now have the option of searching for specific opinions related to broad topics, like copyright or desegregation, as well as famous cases like Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade. Google Scholar also points to academic papers and other research material, making it useful for those who are scouring the Web for scholarly information on a given topic.

Given the vast number of legal opinions produced every day in the U.S., however, completeness should not be expected. That means anyone doing serious legal research in preparation for an upcoming case likely won't be able to drop their LexisNexis accounts. But more casual searchers should be able to find several interesting and famous cases from throughout history without having to sign up for the U.S. federal court system's PACER Web site.

Google acknowledged that it's not the first organization to go down this road. "We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others," the company said in a blog post announcing the new service.

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