#SCOTUS Now Tracks Changes To Revised Opinions and Combats Link Rot

October 5th, 2015

In a statement announcing “What’s new, from www.supremecourt.gov,” the Supreme Court made two important changes to its policies that are directly responsive to criticism (led by Adam Liptak).

First, the Supreme Court will now alert the public when an opinion is modified.

Beginning with the October Term 2015, post-release edits to slip opinions on the Court’s website

will be highlighted and the date they occur will be noted. The date of any revision will be listed in a new “Revised” column on the charts of Opinions, In-Chambers Opinions, and Opinions Related to Orders under the “Opinions” tab on the website. The location of a revision will be highlighted in the opinion. When a cursor is placed over a highlighted section, a dialog box will open to show both old and new text. See “Sample Opinions” for an example of how postrelease edits will appear on the website.

On the slip opinions page, there will now be a column for “revisions” to indicate when an opinion is changed. The Court offers a “sample opinions” to demonstrate what it looks like.


Now, there is the original link for Nautilus, Inc. v. Biosig Instruments, Inc., and the revised version on 6/02/14. The header of the page offers this guide to the track changes.


Here is an example of a page that was modified:



This is a significant change to their policies, and I am very glad to see it. Last year, Adam Liptak wrote about this problem@SCOTUS_servo can now stand down.

Second, the combat link rot, the Court will store PDFs of all web sites that are cited in opinions:

The Court’s Office of Information Technology is collaborating with the Library, the Reporter of Decisions’ Office, and the Clerk’s Office to preserve web-based content cited in Court opinions. To address the problem of “link rot,” where internet material cited in Court opinions may change or cease to exist, web-based content included in Court opinions from the 2005 Term forward is being made available on the Court’s website. Hard copies will continue to be retained in the case files by the Clerk’s Office. See “Internet Sources Cited in Opinions.”

All of the cited documents–going back to 2005!–are available here. For example, here is the code from Reed v. Town of Gilbert. Adam Liptak also wrote about this problem.

Update: I should note that both Liptak pieces were based on articles in the Harvard Law Review. See their articles on link rot and the finality of decisions.