Fastcase today is announcing a partnership with legal publisher James Publishing to add its entire collection of some 90 legal treatises, books and practice guides to the Fastcase library, where they can be searched along with other legal materials and accessed in digital form.

The James publications are available to all Fastcase subscribers, including those who receive Fastcase through bar association plans, but require additional fees. Prices for individual titles are the same as are charged directly by James Publishing. However Fastcase is offering a variety of bundles that provide discounts of up to 40 percent.

For example, Fastcase offers a California litigation bundle that includes California Causes of Action, California Judge Reviews, California Objections, and California Pretrial Practice & Forms. Purchased individually, those would cost $1,106. The bundle price is $610.

Bundles are also offered for Florida practice, Illinois litigation, federal criminal practice, federal employment and labor law, family law, personal injury and malpractice, Social Security Disability, New York practice, Texas practice, and insurance.

James Publishing’s titles cover several federal practice areas and practice in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. Its titles span a range of practice areas.

New Immigration Law Journal

In related news, Fastcase last week announced that it is partnering with the American Immigration Lawyers Association to produce a twice-yearly law journal.

The AILA Law Journal will be the second law journal published by the Fastcase publishing imprint Full Court Press. It will be available in print, as an e-book and within the Fastcase research application.

Editor-in=chief of the journal will be Shoba Sivaprasad Wadhia, Samuel Weiss faculty scholar and clinical professor of law at Penn State Law and founding director of the school’s Immigrants’ Rights Clinic.

The ongoing legal battle between Fastcase and Casemaker over the latter’s claims of copyright in Georgia administrative regulations has taken a notable turn as the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that the lower court erroneously granted summary judgment in favor of Casemaker. The three-judge panel remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings.

In 2016, Fastcase sued Casemaker in federal court in Atlanta after Casemaker served it a written notice demanding that it remove Georgia administrative rules and regulations from its research collection. Casemaker’s parent company, Lawriter, has an agreement with the Georgia Secretary of State designating it as the exclusive publisher of the Georgia Rules and Regulations and giving it the right to license that content to other publishers.

After the court dismissed that lawsuit without prejudice in January 2017, Fastcase filed a second complaint against Casemaker in February 2017. Casemaker filed a motion to dismiss that second lawsuit. In July 2017, the court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because Casemaker had never registered a copyright in the Georgia regulations, and also concluding that it lacked jurisdiction because because Fastcase failed to satisfy the amount-in-controversy jurisdictional minimum of $75,000.

District Court Erred

Ruling today on Fastcase’s appeal of that decision, the 11th Circuit said that the District Court’s rulings were erroneous on both points.

On the issue of subject-matter jurisdiction, the 11th Circuit said that, while copyright registration under § 411 of the Copyright Act remains a precondition to filing a claim, the lack of copyright registration does not restrict a federal court’s subject-matter jurisdiction.

Because § 411(a)’s registration requirement is not jurisdictional, the District Court here had jurisdiction over the suit despite the fact that Lawriter had not registered a copyright in the Georgia Regulations. Accordingly, the District Court erred in dismissing Fastcase’s complaint for lack of federal-question jurisdiction.

As to the amount-in-controversy issue, the circuit agreed with the District Court that Fastcase had failed to meet its burden of showing by a preponderance of the evidence that its failure to deliver Georgia regulations would result in termination of its contract with the Georgia Bar.

However, the circuit sided with Fastcase in its argument that its potential liability for violating Casemaker’s copyright was not too speculative to satisfy the amount-in-controversy requirement. Fastcase argued that to maintain its contract with the Georgia Bar, it would have to copy the Georgia regulations from the Secretary of State’s website on a daily basis, and that each act of copying would potentially be a copyright violation subjecting it to liability for liquidated damages of $20,000 per occurrence.

The circuit court further ruled, contrary to the holding of the District Court, that Fastcase’s potential liability could be used as a basis for satisfying the amount-in-controversy requirement.

Here, Fastcase must access the Georgia Regulations “at least daily, and possibly thousands of times every day” to maintain a current database of Georgia law. Every time it accesses the Georgia Regulations, Fastcase exposes itself to $20,000 of liquidated liability. The “immediate financial consequence[],” … of the declaratory judgment Fastcase seeks is that it would no longer be subject to this liability. Consequently, we conclude that the amount-in-controversy requirement is satisfied and diversity jurisdiction is proper.

The case will now be returned to the District Court for further proceedings and possibly trial.

Reaction to the Opinion

“Now we get to reach a decision on the merits, and establish that private companies can’t accomplish with a clickwrap terms of service contract what they can’t in copyright,” Fastcase CEO Ed Walters said in an email this afternoon. “Private companies can’t own public law, even if they make clickwrap contracts that try to confer the rights of ownership.”

“In light of the Eleventh Circuit’s opinion in the Public.Resource.org case earlier this month, it seems clear that Casemaker can’t create any more private ownership through clickwrap contracts than LexisNexis or the Code Commission could through copyright,” Walters said.

I have reached out to Casemaker for comment but have yet to hear back.

Read the full opinion: Fastcase v. Casemaker, No. 17-14110 (11th Cir. 10/29/18).

On the surface, the Fastcase acquisition of legal news site Law Street, reported here yesterday, may seem puzzling, given that the site has been dormant for more than a year. But Ed Walters, Fastcase CEO, says there were good reasons for the acquisition.

Speaking by phone last night, Walters said that expanding into legal news is consistent with Fastcase’s ongoing mission to become as robust a legal research platform as LexisNexis and Westlaw.

“We’re knocking the legs out from under the chair of things people get LexisNexis for,” he said. “Legal news is definitely one of them.”

LexisNexis’s offerings of legal news include Law360, all of the ALM news content, legislative coverage from State Net, and litigation coverage from Mealey’s.

As I have reported here several times before, this mission to compete against LexisNexis and Westlaw has driven Fastcase to build out its library of secondary content such as treatises and practice guides, acquiring Loislaw in 2015, bringing on former LexisNexis VP Steve Errick to develop new editorial products, adding blog posts and commentary from the LexBlog network, launching a legal publishing arm, and partnering with Wolters Kluwer to offer many of its materials.

Meanwhile, Fastcase also acquired Docket Alarm, the docket tracking and analytics company. Just last week, Fastcase announced that it will become a member benefit for the 60,000-member California Lawyers Association, reportedly bringing its total user base to some 900,000 lawyers.

Given all that, the company’s desire to move into legal news makes sense. But why do it by acquiring Law Street, a site that has been dormant since August 2017? Why wouldn’t Fastcase just build a site itself?

The answer, Walters says, boils down to the platform, the integrations and the audience.

Although Law Street operates on WordPress, Law Street has customized it to create a robust news platform with a  responsive, mobile-friendly design, Walters says. The site is deeply integrated with social media for distribution of posts across Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere. It is also natively integrated with news aggregation sites such as Google News and Apple News.

In addition, Law Street had built a loyal and sizeable following among millennial lawyers, who had been its target audience. Although dormant for a year, it continues to receive a fair amount of traffic, Walters said, thanks in part to its archive of 5,000 news articles.

(The Alexa ranking service ranks Law Street as 185,540 among U.S. websites. By comparison with other news sites, Law360 ranks at 5,200, Above the Law ranks at 4,188, and Law.com ranks at 6,639. Law Street Media has 2,771 followers on Twitter and 35,095 followers on Facebook.)

Buying Law Street lets Fastcase “start our legal news strategy on third base,” Walters says, rather than have to build a news site from scratch.

Although a handful of new stories have been added to the site in the past week, Walters says the immediate plan is to leave the site “mothballed” while Fastcase further develops its legal news strategy. He expects work on retooling the site to begin in earnest early in 2019 and for the site to relaunch towards the middle of the year.

One decision he has already made is to remove advertising from the site. He believes the site will help drive traffic to Fastcase and that there will be other options for monetizing the site through the sale of content or services.

He also hopes to integrate docket-alert services from Docket Alarm into the news service, to provide both alerts and coverage of breaking litigation news.

 

[Update: Fastcase CEO Explains Why He Acquired A Dormant Legal News Site.]

Legal research company Fastcase has acquired Law Street Media, a company that operates a free legal news site “written by and for Millennials,” particularly law students and young legal professionals.

Fastcase says it will retool the site and relaunch it in 2019 as an enhanced daily news and analytics hub that will highlight national and state litigation, regulatory developments and state bar news, and that will offer analytics driven by other Fastcase products, including Fastcase 7 and Docket Alarm.

Law Street was founded in 2013 by John A. Jenkins, former president and publisher of CQ Press. Jenkins will remain with the company and work with Fastcase on the relaunch.

Fastcase says it will connect the news platform to its Docket Alarm and Fastcase 7 platforms, build out its reporter team, and partner with its state bar associations to showcase their local expertise.

In a press release announcing the acquisition, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters said:

Legal research isn’t just about logging into an online service and running searches. It’s also about taking an active interest in developments that clients care about. Legal news means covering the stories behind new cases filed, analytics, new judicial opinions, passed bills, and rulemaking. Lawyers have to stay as informed as their clients, and our partnership with Law Street Media will be an important source of must-have information about the fast-changing practice of law.

Law Street’s editorial staff is based in Washington, D.C., while its business offices are located in New York City.

Except for California, every U.S. state bar offers a member benefit of free access to a legal research service, typically either Fastcase or Casemaker. Until today, California has been the lone exception.

But this morning, the California Lawyers Association and Fastcase announced a partnership through which the CLA’s roughly 60,000 members will have free access to Fastcase’s nationwide legal research system. This brings Fastcase’s total user base to some 900,000 lawyers, nearly three quarters of all lawyers in the United States.

Beginning in early 2019, anyone who is a paid member of at least CLA section will receive the benefit. The benefit includes unlimited research, printing, webinar training, and reference support. It also includes access via the Fastcase mobile app and live customer support from Fastcase reference attorneys.

Once the benefit begins, members will be able to access Fastcase through the CLA website, where they will be able to log in with their bar username and password.

The CLA is the voluntary bar association formed last January by the split of the State Bar of California. The State Bar retained only its regulatory and public-protection functions, while the CLA was created as the new home of the bar’s 16 sections and its young lawyers’ division.

“At CLA, one of our primary goals is to provide a wide variety of resources to attorneys in California, to allow their practices to thrive and their clients to receive the highest quality legal services,” said Heather Rosing, CLA president, in a prepared statement. “We are proud of what we have accomplished during our inaugural year in terms of benefits for the legal community. Coming in year two, we are excited to announce our new partnership with Fastcase that will allow our members free access to online legal research and more.”

Fastcase says that 31 state bar associations and dozens of metro, county, and specialty bar associations offer its research platform as a member benefit.

Docket Alarm, the docket tracking and analytics platform acquired last January by legal research company Fastcase, says it has released a new tool, the Analytics Workbench, that will allow legal professionals to build their own bespoke litigation analytics across any court, practice area or litigation event.

Generally, legal analytics products tend to focus on specific courts or specific practice areas. For example, Lex Machina, one of the leading providers of legal analytics, launched with intellectual property and has gradually expanded into other practice areas one by one, with that expansion accelerated by its acquisition by LexisNexis.

Docket Alarm says its new tool will allow users to build litigation analytics across all case types in state courts, federal courts, administrative courts, and other jurisdictions included within in the Docket Alarm system.

Docket Alarm says these analytics can reveal information about courts and dockets that would otherwise be imperceptible. For example, it says, the Analytics Workbench can uncover trends about discovery motions, motions in limine, and scheduling and pre-trial conferences, at both the state and federal levels.

Docket Alarm says that its Analytics Workbench provides tools for firms to build custom rules to analyze a large number of cases across any court or case type. Users can tag litigation events based on their own rules and then quickly review the tags to assure an acceptable level of quality. The tool then uses visualizations to display litigation events in aggregate and it allows users to filter or pivot the data as desired.

I have not yet seen this and so can provide no further details. The company says it will be demonstrating the tool at the annual meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries July 14-17.

A partnership announced yesterday will enhance the Fastcase legal research service through the addition of data and reviews on expert witnesses, litigation consultants, mediators and arbitrators from Courtroom Insight.

Content from Courtroom Insight has already been added to Fastcase’s AI Sandbox, a private digital environment where law firms can use artificial intelligence and data-analytics tools against combinations of their own data, Fastcase data, and data provided by third parties. (See my earlier post about it.)

In addition, the Courtroom Insight content will be integrated both into the Fastcase research platform and with the Docket Alarm platform that Fastcase acquired in January.

Some 100,000 profiles from Courtroom Insight are being added to the Fastcase platform as a new content set that will show up in search results when appropriate, according to Steve Errick, Fastcase’s chief operating officer.

Customers will then be able to obtain a more-detailed snapshot for a transactional or monthly subscription. Fastcase will enable links via an API to the Courtroom Insights platform for analytics. The Courtroom Insight content should become available within Fastcase by the fall, Errick said.

When Courtroom Insight launched in 2010, it was intended to be a Yelp-like product for lawyers to provide ratings and reviews of expert witnesses and arbitrators. Over the years, Courtroom Insight moved away from that model, finding that lawyers were reluctant to share reviews publicly. Last October, it relaunched as a private platform for law firms to privately share knowledge and mine data about experts.

Along the way, Courtroom Insight has compiled profiles on more than 100,000 expert witnesses, CEO Mark Torchiana told me in October. It also enhances these profiles with information drawn from several third-party sources.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled oral arguments Aug. 17 in Atlanta on the dispute between Fastcase and Casemaker over the latter’s claims of copyright in Georgia administrative regulations.

Fastcase sued Casemaker in federal court in Atlanta in 2016 after Casemaker served it a written notice demanding that it remove Georgia administrative rules and regulations from its research collection. Casemaker’s parent company, Lawriter, has an agreement with the Georgia Secretary of State designating it as the exclusive publisher of the Georgia Rules and Regulations and giving it the right to license that content to other publishers.

After the court dismissed that lawsuit without prejudice in January 2017, Fastcase filed a second complaint against Casemaker in February 2017. Casemaker filed a motion to dismiss that second lawsuit. In July 2017, the court granted the motion to dismiss, concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because Casemaker had never registered a copyright in the Georgia regulations. Fastcase appealed to the 11th Circuit.

In its brief on appeal, Fastcase — represented by Baker Donelson attorneys Robert G. Brazier, Steven G. Hall and Joshua Tropper — argues that the district court erred in concluding that it lacked jurisdiction. Fastcase argues that jurisdiction exists on two grounds:

  • Diversity jurisdiction based on the amount in controversy. Fastcase alleges that its potential losses exceed the $75,000 amount-in-controversy requirement. The district court ruled that Fastcase failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish this and that the value of the litigation was therefore too speculative and immeasurable. Fastcase argues that the district court applied the wrong legal standard in making this ruling and should have found diversity jurisdiction.
  • Subject-matter jurisdiction based on Lawriter’s threat to sue Fastcase for copyright infringement. The district court concluded that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because Casemaker failed to register its copyright. Fastcase argues that Casemaker’s threat of a copyright infringement suit was one it could easily make good on and was sufficient grounds to establish federal copyright jurisdiction.

In its brief to the 11th Circuit, Casemaker — represented by Kurt M. Rozelsky and Joseph W. Rohe of Smith Moore Leatherwood in Greenville, S.C. — defends the district court’s dismissal. It argues:

  • Diversity jurisdiction does not exist. It contends that in cases seeking declaratory judgment, such as this, the plaintiff bears the burden of proving that the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Fastcase’s claims of damages were purely hypothetical, it argues, and the district court therefore was correct in dismissing the case.
  • Subject-matter jurisdiction does not exist. It says that established 11th Circuit precedent requires a copyright holder to have at least applied to register a copyright in order to invoke subject-matter jurisdiction. Not only has it not even applied for copyright, it says, but it has provided Fastcase a covenant not to sue for copyright infringement.

In a further reply brief, Fastcase portrays Casemaker’s arguments as “litigation gymnastics” designed to preserve its “exclusive copyright-like rights” in Georgia’s regulations.

Simply put, full, free and unfettered access to our laws is vital to our democracy and cannot be defeated by carefully orchestrated efforts to restrict access and evade judicial review. This case presents, at its core, a single simple, but very important question, fundamentally a matter of federal law: can a private party — with or without the complicity of a governmental office — obtain and exercise exclusive copyright-like rights to the publication of public law? Putting aside strategic artifice, it cannot.

In an email exchange earlier this year, Fastcase CEO Ed Walters said that he considers it a good sign for Fastcase that the 11th Circuit requested oral arguments. “If the district court had the Eleventh Circuit’s precedents right, the court of appeals could simply affirm without argument,” he said.

When I reached out to Casemaker earlier this year about the appeal, the company declined to comment.

The Mississippi Bar today announced that it is switching the research service it offers as a free benefit to its members from Casemaker to Fastcase. The switch will take effect for its more than 9,000 members on June 1.

“This new partnership allows us to support our members by providing free access to tools that will benefit them in their practice of law,” said Deanne Mosley, executive director of The Mississippi Bar, in a statement announcing the switch. “We’re proud to partner with Fastcase to provide access to such innovative research tools and online law libraries.”

Mississippi Bar members will be able to access Fastcase through the bar website at www.msbar.org, where they will be able to log in with their bar username and password.

According to Fastcase, 30 state bar associations and dozens of metro, county, and specialty bar associations offer its service as a free benefit to members. Through those partnerships, Fastcase says, its service is available for free to more than 800,000 lawyers — two-thirds of all lawyers in the U.S.

Twelve of those states switched to Fastcase after previously offering a different legal research service. Ten switched from Casemaker to Fastcase.

In 2016, the Minnesota Bar made the reverse switch, from Fastcase to Casemaker, only to reverse itself six months later.