Supreme Court opinions have come down with a bad case of link rot. According to a new study, 49 percent of the hyperlinks in Supreme Court decisions no longer work.
This can sometimes be amusing. A link in a 2011 Supreme Court opinion about violent video games by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. now leads to a mischievous error message.“Aren’t you glad you didn’t cite to this Web page?” it asks. “If you had, like Justice Alito did, the original content would have long since disappeared and someone else might have come along and purchased the domain in order to make a comment about the transience of linked information in the Internet age.”
Even links to the Supreme Court’s own Web site have stopped working. One is to a video of what Justice Antonin Scalia called “the scariest chase I ever saw since ‘The French Connection.'”The chase ended when a police car rammed the vehicle of a fleeing suspect, leaving him paralyzed. The driver sued, saying the police had used excessive force, and in 2007 the Supreme Court ruled against him.The court posted the video. “I suggest that the interested reader take advantage of the link in the court’s opinion, and watch it,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in a concurrence.Good luck: the link does not work. “The fact that the Supreme Court itself has links to its own Web site that no longer function shows the depth of the link rot problem,” Ms. Liebler and Ms. Liebert wrote, noting that the video could still be found with a little hunting around.There were scores of links in the term that ended in June. For proof that many dog owners use six-foot leashes, for instance, Justice Alito included a link to About.com.(Should justices conduct independent Internet research of the sort that might appear in a high school research paper? In an article last year in The Virginia Law Review, Allison Orr Larsen, a professor at William & Mary Law School, called the trend worrisome. Judge Richard A. Posner of the federal appeals court in Chicago defended the practice in a new book, “Reflections on Judging,” saying that “the Web is an incredible compendium of data and a potentially invaluable resource for lawyers and judges.”)Links in Supreme Court opinions are less likely to work as they get older. But even some recent links are broken. A decision from February, for instance, included a citation to statistics from the Ohio court system; the link leads to a dead end.Even working links may be problematic, as many Web sites are routinely altered. In April 2008, for instance, the court issued an important decision in a case concerning the lethal chemicals used to execute inmates, linking to a draft article. The link now delivers the reader to an article that indicates it was last revised in August 2008.
But Assistant State Attorney Jane Anderson, who prosecuted the Traverso case in 2012, wrote Rubio that despite the widespread contention that this was a DUI case, the prosecution “had no proof that the defendant had driven under the influence or recklessly. Legally it was an accident.”There is now an online petition circulating for Judge Thomas that you can sign here.
The judge, she noted, actually refused a defense motion for downward departure from the sentencing guidelines. He added a year’s sentence to the 11 months Traverso had already served in the county jail — a 23-month sentence, not, as Rubio’s office intimated, 364 days. Anderson wrote, “While the sentence was ultimately disappointing to the state and the victim’s family, Judge Thomas legally sentenced the defendant after hearing all parties and conducting the sentencing hearing with compassion and careful judgment.”
Rubio has a similar letter correcting popular misconceptions about the Traverso case from Nushin Sayfie, chief administrative judge for the criminal court.
Rubio received other letters praising Thomas from bleeding-heart organizations like the Miami-Dade and Broward Police Benevolent Associations, not to mention the League of Prosecutors. Ovalle, who knows everything about that courthouse, insisted that Thomas is regarded as one of the hardest-working, most competent judges in the Miami-Dade criminal court division.
But all this is to pretend that Rubio had some reason other than crass Tea Party politics for sabotaging Judge Thomas’ reputation and aborting the confirmation process.
So the Thomas nomination won’t get a hearing, much less a vote.
Because, you know, he just lacks the right “judicial temperament.”
UPDATE -- if you want to read any of the letters referenced in the Grimm article, you can access them at Glenn Sugameli's website.