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Google Scholar Creates a More Useful Way to Shepardize

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on Sat, 03/10/2012 - 04:01

Shepardizing went 2.0 yesterday with Google Scholar.  Google Scholar changed how it references legal citations.

For those that are unfamiliar, shepardizing is the method of determining whether law is still valid, good or otherwise important.
Google Scholar now sorts the cited cases based on the extent the cited cases are discussed.  Opinions that discuss the cited case in detail is deemed highly relevant.  If the case is highly relevant, it uses a three horizontal blue lines as the visual indicator.
  If the legal opinion mentions the cited case but fails to analyze it or mentions it in passing tells google that the case is not so relevant.  Google scholar then uses one horizontal blue line with two gray lines as the visual indicator.
As an example, take US v. Treadwell, 593 F.3d 990 (9th Circ. 2010).  Its citation history is summarized below.  Three blue lines signifies the law contained in the cited case is important.  One line may signify that it is footnoted, not important,  not relevant or simply "no big deal." 
google scholar, legal citation, shepardize

As always, never trust any shepardization other than your own.  Although Westlaw and Lexis use human eyes to create their visual indicators, human eyes are still fallible.  There have been multiple occasions where the visual indicator referencing a cited case has simply been inaccurate.  The same will certainly be true with Google's shepardizing algorithms.  So, you must always read to ensure the visual indicator is accurate no matter whether you use Westlaw, Lexis or Google Scholar.

Google Scholar's visual indicators does help lessen the gap... and google scholar is free!

Test it out.  Tell me what you think.



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