In 2013, the problem of “link rot” in Supreme Court opinions was revealed in an article in The New York Times and discussed in by Counsel Press in a previous blog: "Hyperlinking" Your Appeal: Types of Hyperlinks and Techniques, A General Overview. The Times article cited a study that found almost half of the links no longer worked. That same study (Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations) also found that the problem was even worse in certain legal references like law review articles. Not surprisingly, this topic comes up frequently, particularly regarding best practices for creating links for e-briefs and e-filed briefing.
Last summer the D.C. Circuit announced a novel approach to preserve the sources they cited from this problem. I discussed that in a blog post at the time: The D.C. Circuit Offers an Innovative Way to Fight “Link Rot”. Evidently, that solution must have had some good results and word of mouth as the Supreme Court announced a similar program at the start of the current term. In addition to archiving hard copies of the linked web based materials, the Court has now made those sources available on its web page Internet Sources Cited in Opinions. Starting with the opinions from the 2005 Term, the Court’s webpage lists each opinion and its corresponding web based sources with link for you to review the original material cited.
This solution does not fix link rot, but archiving and making the original web based supporting materials certainly preserves the integrity of the opinion. The solution still requires a diligent researcher to double check each referenced source, but now that process should be simplified. Perhaps the Court needs to add source materials to its web page first so that the links can point directly to it rather than 3rd party locations subject to change overtime.
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Read related articles:
The D.C. Circuit Offers an Innovative Way to Fight “Link Rot”
"Web Links to Nowhere" in SCOTUS Decisions: How to Ensure that Cited Material Remains Available for Years to Come
"Hyperlinking" Your Appeal: Types of Hyperlinks and Techniques, A General Overview
CP eBriefs now offer cross-document linking directly to PACER documents
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