Wishlist of features on a Philippine legal resource website

You don’t need to photocopy the SCRA version to read the originals or full text of a case. A lot of websites already provide the decisions of the Philippine Supreme Court, some from 1901, from paid sites like eSCRA, CD Asia, MyLegalWhiz to free sites like ChanRobles, Lawphil, Supra Source, Batas.org, Lawyerly, The Corpus Juris, Digest, and the Supreme Court site itself and its eLibrary.

I use all sites, considering their disadvantages and making full use of their advantages. But there are just some features which I think a Philippine legal resource site, free or not, should have. The most important ones, to my opinion, go first in this list.

1. Shepardize

Merriam-Webster defines “shepardize” as:

to look up (a case citation) in Shepard’s Citations especially in order to check the status of the case, parallel citations, or the use of the case in other jurisdictions

In short, shepardizing means determining whether a case is still “good law”, or if it has been supplanted by more recent laws or cases.

Perhaps a color coding could be used: red if overruled (then indicate if by law or by a case), yellow if inconsistent with another case (ex. if a decision on a case by the First Division is inconsistent with a decision by the Second Division on another case with similar facts), and green if still good law.

Perhaps important paragraphs could also be highlighted using the color scheme I just proposed. Upon clicking or tapping the paragraphs concerned, a box stating the law or case that overruled a certain paragraph would appear.

2. Allowing readers to recommend corrections

Nobody’s perfect. Typing a case from print or copy-pasting from the scanned copy to a text editor will always lead to typos, duplicate paragraphs, misplaced words. The reader can help point out these errors by clicking “Report an error”.

3. Auto-click footnotes

Don’t you hate it if you have to scroll down to look at a footnote, and then scroll up to go back where you paused? You can always use Ctrl + F. But a more elegant solution would be simply to click on the footnote number in the main text to get to the footnote text, and to click the footnote number beside the footnote text to return to the main text.

4. Links to other cases in the text itself

Instead of copying the title of one case cited in another, and then pasting it on a Google search box, it would be easier if the case titles themselves link to those cases. For example if X vs. Y cites A vs. B, clicking “A vs. B” would lead to the full text of A vs. B.

5. Cases cited in and cited by

eSCRA has this feature. The left side of the screen shows the list of cases cited in one case, and the list of cases citing that case in return.

6. Allowing searches by case title, case number and/or SCRA citation at the same time, with suggestions if none found

Most legal sites allow only searching by case title. eSCRA allows searching by case number, SCRA citation, or case title, but not all at the same time. Worse, there are no suggestions if no search results are displayed.

7. Laws as amended with feature to look at how law evolved

Supra Source contains this feature but I can no longer use it because I can’t use my Facebook account to log in to that site. Clicking the letter “H” shows previous versions of a provision or law. For example, I can see how Article 302 of the Labor Code on retirement pay evolved from RA 7641 up to RA 10757.

8. Philippine legal dictionary

This can work either as a list from A to Z like this site or through links in the text of a case. For example, clicking the term “Ubi lex non distinguit, nec nos distinguere debemus” would display a box stating the definition “When the law does not distinguish, we must not distinguish.”

9. Auto-generate case citations

Clicking a box generates “A vs. B, G.R. No. 123456, January 1, 2019″.

10. Summary of new laws

This can probably go at the home page of the site. Self-explanatory

11. List of topics with list of cases

The topics can be arranged by subjects. Then clicking a topic leads to a list of at least important cases. For example: Remedial Law > Civil Procedure > Service of summons > Manotoc vs. CA, Robinson vs. Miralles

12. CA and CTA decisions

Both the Court of Tax Appeals and Court of Appeals have made their decisions available online. But they are not easily accessible. You’ll need to use their search engine. Perhaps they could be arranged by date decided, just like Supreme Court cases.

13. Fun facts

To spice things up while reading an otherwise boring case, perhaps a box can appear on the right side of a case containing trivia. For example, did you know that the building involved in Manila Lodge No. 761 v. Court of Appeals [G.R. No. L-41001, September 30, 1976] is now the Museo Pambata?

14. Reference to page of SCRA version

Take a look at Brown vs. Board of Education at Justia. Ever wondered what “[489]” means? That’s the page number of the hard copy where the paragraphs above it appeared.

What features do you want to appear on a legal resource website? Which of the ones listed here are more important to you? Which of these features would appear next on a legal resource site? Let me know and I’ll edit my post accordingly.


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