Thursday, November 13, 2008

Jureeka: Free law made easier?

Suppose you don't have access to Westlaw or Lexis and you're looking at a case on a webpage that doesn't have those services' convenient hyperlinks to cited material peppered all over it. Do you manually type in each and every citation of interest into Google? You could, but there's another alternative: Jureeka, a Firefox add-on that might save you time and keystrokes.

Despite its funny name, the idea behind Jureeka is serious and straightforward: to provide an interconnected, hyperlinked web of primary legal material in Westlaw/Lexis fashion, but to do so using free, readily available, web-based resources. Jureeka recognizes the legal citations on a webpage and makes hyperlinks out of them that take you to "free" law located on sites like Justia, federal agency websites, AltLaw, and Cornell's Legal Information Institute.

Here's an excerpt of a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Federal Register notice that's available online and hyperlinked by Jureeka:

Suppose you're interested in the text of 6 U.S.C. 557. If you click on that link, you're taken to Cornell's free version of that code section:

The "Find by Citation" search box located in Firefox's Jureeka toolbar allows you to type in a citation like you would in Westlaw or Lexis:

The toolbar also allows you to create HTML pages from PDF pages so that Jureeka can hyperlink them (the button labeled "PDF"), and to report errors (the spider/bug button). The latest version lets users tag material (the "TAG" button) so that Jureeka's creator can amass the data and eventually release it to programmers interested in creating a recommendation/search engine.

Like most Firefox add-ons, Jureeka is far from perfect. It doesn't always hyperlink citations (even for those citation forms that it technically recognizes) and it often fails to find free material at all--and, hey, it's never difficult to type a citation or case name into Google and find what you need, right? For some webpages, though, Jureeka's hyperlinking feature may prove useful; it's not a bad program to have running in the background as you surf.

Are you a Jureeka user? How helpful is it? Feel free to comment. If you haven't tried it, install it and let us know what you think.

-- Pablo Sandoval

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