West Triumphs in Legal Battle

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Thomson's West Publishing fought off a closely watched threat to its dominance of the legal publishing field when the Supreme Court rejected a small rival's bid to obtain a Justice Department database of federal court opinions through the federal Freedom of Information Act.

America's highest court Monday refused to consider an appeal by Tax Analysts, a Virginia-based firm that provides tax-related court opinions to subscribers.

Tax Analysts had challenged West's preeminence in the legal field by using the Freedom of Information Act to request the release of the Justice Department's JURIS database, containing decades worth of court decisions. The firm said it intended to put the database on the Internet for free use in legal research. West, the leading provider of law books and electronic legal research information, had run JURIS for a number of years under a contract with the federal government. West objected that it owned the rights to most of the information contained in the database. A federal trial judge agreed that West's contract with the Justice Department gave the company ownership of material that it arranged, indexed and formatted for computerized access in the database. Because of that, the judge ruled, the material West put in the JURIS database was not a public record and was not subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. …

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