Eye on the Blogosphere: Legal sites have had a little work done

By Taryn Hartman
Legal News

We’re officially into spring now, which means it’s time for facelifts.

Not necessarily of the pig-fat-injected-into-your-forehead variety. In the Blogosphere, the lifting and tightening is occurring via home pages across the Web that have recently received freshening chemical peels.

Just West on the I-94 of the information superhighway, the University of Michigan Law School’s home page has redesigned with multimedia in mind. Some of the coolest current offerings include a computer-animated video of what the school’s campus will look like once the ongoing construction of a new academics building and student commons is complete, and videos of the Headnotes, the law school’s a capella group, performing impromptu serenades around campus. Imagine if the wickedly awesome TV show “Glee” went to law school, and you’d have the Headnotes.

The Supreme Court’s got a new look over at www.supremecourt.gov. The “What’s New” link at the bottom of the page says the redesign’s features include “recent Court decisions accessible from the homepage, docket files dating back to 2000, an interactive Court calendar, a new case citation finder,” and “enhanced search and navigation capabilities.”

The aforementioned calendar grabs the most visual attention because it’s color-coded according to what’s happening in the Court on a certain day (argument days are red, conference days are green, etc.) The menu on the right side of the page provides live links to the most recently issued decisions. The opposite side of the page lists comprehensive categories to aid users searching for court documents, court rules, PDFs of instructions for bar admissions and case handling guidelines, and bios of the current justices.

It’s clean, simple, and not as overwhelming as most of the intellectual work being done inside the Court every day. An archived image of the old site is available here, and it’s obvious that the site’s newest iteration is way more 21st-century. Props to @MikeSacksF11F, owner and author of the First One @ One First blog, for the link.

Sacks is finishing up his third year at Georgetown’s law school and has made it his mission to be first in line to witness “every politically salient case from January through April” going before the Supreme Court at it’s One First Avenue address in D.C.

I first read about Sacks a few weeks ago in a New York Times story that chronicled the culture of “Supreme Court groupies” waiting in line to hear the McDonald v. Chicago gun rights case on March 2. In that instance, Sacks was relegated to the third place; despite arriving some 26 hours before the start of oral arguments, a couple from California had beaten him to the punch.

The NYT story — which also features characters such as a group of high school students from California reading Jeffrey Toobin’s “The Nine” while waiting and Josh Blackman, whose Fantasy SCOTUS site has been mentioned here before — is a fascinating and fun read.

According to his own blog, Sacks’s motivations are two-fold. He says he’s first seeking to explore the very culture of groupies mentioned in the Times: he writes, “What does the person in line at 5am hope to see in this case? Why is the family that shows up at 9am hoping to get in? How many of those waiting for the doors to open are lawyers invested in the litigation or legal issues at play or professionals or citizens who will be impacted by how the Court may rule? How many people exiting the Court even understood what they just saw and heard? Do they care or were they just there to be there?”

Sacks continues that he’s seeking to explore his own hypothesis that the Supreme Court under (not retired) Chief Justice John Roberts “has been quite responsive to its surrounding, and shifting, political climate,” and offers several examples of how the makeup of Congress during recent Supreme Court terms has helped dictate its rulings on issues like abortion rights and school desegregation.

It’s simple, it’s smart, it’s awesome. I wonder if he needs a girlfriend.