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Features - Jurisline.com Update: January 24, 2000

By T.R. Halvorson, Published on January 24, 2000

With research assistance by
Lynn Peterson
and
Judy Fair-Spaulding

T. R. Halvorson is a lawyer in sole practice in Sidney, MT, President of Pastel Programming Co., a division of Synoptic Text Information Services, Inc., and author of Law of the Super Searchers:  the Online Secrets of Top Legal Researchers, How to Avoid Liability: The Information Professional's Guide to Negligence and Warranty Risks, and Legal Liability Problems in Cyberspace: Craters in the Information Highway.

Lynn Peterson is the founder of PFC Information Services Inc., provider of advanced research and information since 1989 to the legal community, corporations, financial institutions, venture capitalists, employers, investigators, the media and other information firms.  Ms. Peterson has been quoted on the subject of public records searching in a variety of sources, including The Wall Street Journal, Kiplingers, and The Information Brokers Handbook.

Judy Fair-Spaulding is President of JFS International, Inc. She has been an Information Specialist for over 30 years and a DIALOG searcher for over 20 years.  Ms. Fair-Spaulding was a DIALOG Customer Services Specialist for 10 years and in library management positions for over 15 years. She was one of the three people who designed DIALOG's TRADEMARKSCAN database. She is the author of numerous published articles, a frequent panelist on online searching, and has testified in court as an expert in online trademark searching.

TW3

You already might have forgotten Y2K, but do you remember TW3?  That was the popular name for That Was the Week That Was, the Sixties NBC television program of topical satire expressed through one-liners, skits, and songs, also known as TWTWTW.  It reviewed the often amazing events of the week.  Readers in the United Kingdom might remember that the American program was a spin-off and tamed version of the original BBC program.  In our household, at the end of a particularly busy week or one filled with the unexpected, instead of saying, "What a week," we would say "that was the week that was" or just "TW3!"  As I settle in to prepare for you this update to "Jurisline.com:  What You See ... What You Don't See" and review the events, email, and continued searching of the week that has passed since the original article was published, I find myself saying it again: "TW3!"

This week Jurisline.com was offline, we got an answer from Network Solutions about the discrepancy between search results in the WHOIS and dot com directories, Jurisline.com came back online on numerous domains, speculations flew about the source of Jurisline.com's case law data, the collegial community of LAW-LIB (an email-based discussion forum of law librarians) solved the mystery of which "Ken Chow" is associated with Jurisline.com, we ruled out some false leads and bum steers --- and that's only what we can tell you about for now.

The answers we are finding are important, but what is just as significant to me is the way a team of researchers and the online library community work together pooling diverse specialties and knowledge to produce answers that probably could not be found by any one person working alone -- at least, not in one week.  That is a story in itself.

WHOIS and Dot Com Directory

During the first week of January I had inquired of Network Solutions about the discrepancy reported in the original article between search results in the WHOIS and dot com directories for the domain "jurisline.com".  On January 21, 2000 I received this reply:

Subject:  FW: important press question about dot com dir
Date:     Fri, 21 Jan 2000 17:43:42 -0500

Thank you for bringing this discrepancy to our attention.

1) We've determined that this discrepancy is a result of a mismatch between the business "K&L Holdings" and "K&L Rock America," both of which are located in NYC.
2) We've deleted the K&L Rock America listing (linked to K&L Holdings' domains) from the dot com directory.
3) We are working to get a full and detailed explanation of why the matching algorithm would have considered this a "match."

Jurisline.com Offline and Online

During the noon hour Mountain time on January 19, 2000 I notice that Jurisline.com was offline.  I checked periodically through the rest of the day and evening and it remained offline.  The next morning, Jurisline.com was still offline, I posted a message to LAW-LIB asking what other members could see.  I received 42 private replies, one public reply, and private replies from friends who are not LAW-LIBers.  All of the messages were to the same effect.  Jurisline.com was offline.  There was a single, simple page that said, "Jurisline.com is currently being updated with additional cases!  Please try again soon."  The title of the page was "NCHERM."

I next noticed Jurisline.com back online at 11:20 p.m. January 20, 2000 Mountain time.

The "What's New" section of the front page said "Due to enthusiastic response to Jurisline.com, we are in the process of adding server capacity. As a result, some state databases may be unavilable [sic] for a short period of time. We apologize for any inconvenience."  On January 22, 2000, the "Scope of Coverage" page actually showed less coverage than before.  Now missing from coverage provided prior to when Jurisline.com was offline is the following:

State Jurisdictions
District of Columbia - Court of Appeals early 1940's through third quarter 1999
Florida - Supreme Court 1880's through fourth quarter 1998
Florida - District Courts of Appeal 1950's through fourth quarter 1998
New Jersey - Supreme Court, Superior Court, Court of Errors and Appeals, Court of Chancery and Perogative Court 1890's through third quarter 1999
Texas - Supreme Court 1880's through third quarter 1998
Texas - Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Civil Appeals 1940's through third quarter 1998

Those states are missing also from the list box where a searcher selects which jurisdictions to search.

The service is in final public beta testing and with the scope of many of the files specified as precisely as "early 1900's," all of this actually could make sense.  The data previously claimed could still be there with error having been made in the listing on the Scope of Coverage page.  If "early 1990's" means, say, 1924 or 1918, a couple of decades of cases could have been added to a number of files that still only go back to the "early 1900's."  For a service still in beta test, maybe it could take 35 hours to load that many cases and add servers.  The Big Computer in Eagan, Minnesota (that is, Westlaw), was not born full-grown either.  I have a little experience sysoping online systems and I have coded an entire full text retrieval system complete with back-end inverted indexer, query processor, and user interface.  I know that things can take time and they can get hairy when you are starting out.  The fact that the system might have hit a few speed bumps is not the focus of my concerns.

In the original article I reported having browsed in December 1999 other domains registered to K&L Holdings, like www.mebar.com, and finding the full Jurisline.com service.  After my inquiry to Network Solutions, on January 8, 2000 the Jurisline.com service pages were replaced by ones disclaiming affiliation with any state bar association.  Those pages also said, "If you are looking for information of interest to members of the [particular state] bar, including free legal research materials and information regarding CLE, please click here to visit jurisline.com [sic]."  When Jurisline.com came back online, the Jurisline.com service pages returned to as many of those other domains as I had time to check.  On January 21, 2000 I posted a message to LAW-LIB saying:

Jurisline is back online, and not only at www.jurisline.com. The
Nebraska State Bar Association is a .com

http://www.nebar.com/

but Jurisline is a .org

http://www.nebar.org/

A message posted to NET-LAWYERS on January 21, 2000 sharing a partial list of 42 state bar association Web sites showed that 14 of them use domains formatted the way K&L Holdings' domains are formatted:

Colorado
Connecticut
Georgia
Kansas
Kentucky
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nebraska
Nevada
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
Vermont
www.cobar.org
www.ctbar.org
www.gabar.org
www.ksbar.org
www.kybar.org
www.mnbar.org
www.msbar.org
www.mobar.org
www.nebar.com
www.nvbar.org
www.okbar.org
www.pabar.org
www.scbar.org
www.vtbar.org

and one more is similar but lacking the "www":

Rhode Island ribar.com

Actually, the Rhode Island bar can be found at both ribar.com and www.ribar.com. In addition I found the following:

Arizona
District of Columbia
New Mexico
South Dakota
New Hamshire
www.azbar.org
www.dcbar.org
www.nmbar.org
www.sdbar.org
www.nhbar.org

Note that the District of Columbia Bar is not the same as the Bar Association of the District of Columbia whose site is at www.badc.org.

That means 20 out of a possible 52 bar bar associations use domains formatted like the ones K&L Holdings has registered.  One LAW-LIBer found the felicitous phrase for this in an email to me.  She said "they seem to have registered domains for 'false' bar sites ... for a number of states ....  I guess they are hoping for the 'accidental tourist.'"  (used by permission)

On January 22, 2000 the disclaimer-leader page returned to www.nebar.org saying:

You have reached www.nebar.org
Please note: This site is not affiliated with any state bar or state bar association

If you are looking for information of interest to members of the bar, including free legal research materials and information regarding CLE, please click here to visit jurisline.com

With search engine spiders continuing to crawl the Web, snippets from pages in their indexes now reflect both sets of pages (the Jurisline.com service pages and the disclaimer-leader pages) at domains that look like ones one might expect to be state bar associations.

Ken Chow

A LAW-LIBer who was reading the postings about Jurisline.com sent me an email on January 20, 2000.  The email said the list member was in the same law school class as Lee Eichen and vaguely remembered Eichen being friends with a Ken Chow whose formal name is Kendrick Chow.  Both of them graduated from the University of Pennsylvania Law School in 1994.  With this more distinctive first name, school, and date of graduation, we believe we have identified the Ken Chow who is associated with Jurisline.com.  DIAlOG File 234 indicates a Kendrick Chow with the following attributes:

The Alumni List of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association of the University of Pennsylvania Law School lists Kendrick Chow, Ropes & Gray, Boston, 617-951-7808, 1994.  A search of AltaVista for "kendrick chow" hits on Ropes & Gray Professional Directory, but Chow's page at that URL has been removed.  The page snippet in the AltaVista hit list says "Kendrick Chow Corporate Department Ropes & Gray One International Place Boston, MA 02110-2624 (617) 951-7808 Fax: (617) 951-7050 Email:..."  The Ropes & Gray Professional Directory alphabetic listing currently has no entry for Chow.  A telephone call to the firm's number listed at their Web site, 617-951-7050, yields the response that he no longer is with the firm and they have no referral telephone number.

A search of All Federal cases on Jurisline.com for "kendrick chow" hits on Unofficial Committee of Zero Coupon Noteholders v. The Grand Union Company, 179 Bankr. 56 (1995) in which Kendrick Chow, Ropes & Gray, Boston appeared.  The reported opinion was decided in United States District Court for the District of Delaware, Civil Action No. 95-102-RRM.  A search of EDGAR filings on Jurisline.com powered by 10-K Wizard hit on a 10-K filed by Grand Union Company on June 30, 1995.  Kendrick Chow, Ropes & Gray, signed a waiver in section 49 of the full text.  The full text is difficult to view on Jurisline.com because the Active Server Page script times out.

It appears from the online address history we obtained on Kendrick Chow that he is still in Boston.

The individual who answered K&L Holdings' main switchboard said "Ken Chow" is in charge of content for Jurisline.com.  Perhaps others do not care, but librarians, as George Jackson, Reference Librarian and Professor of Advanced Legal Research at the University of Minnesota School of Law says, "think bibliographically."  To librarians, the source of the data matters; it affects accuracy and authority.  Having identified Ken Chow and having located contact information for him, hopefully it will be possible to learn the source of Jurisline.com's case law data.  But you never know.  That was the week that was.  Who is to say what this week will bring?

Afterthought

Perhaps a good way for us to learn the source of Jurisline.com's case law data would be for someone in New York City to visit K&L Holdings offices and ask.  The address in the WHOIS directory is:  K&L Holdings, 575 Eight Ave., Suite 511, New York, NY 10018.  The individual inquiring would be looking for LAW FOR FREE.COM, which is another of K&L Holdings' domains.

Copyright © 1999-2000 T. R. Halvorson.  All Rights Reserved.