Free the Law!

August 27th, 2009 by Ilya Marritz

Working as a journalist, I am routinely astonished at how hard it is to lay eyes on our laws.

Everyone knows it’s illegal to jaywalk in New York City, but can you find the statute and read it back to me? Go on, Google it.

Didn’t think so.

Now a bunch of websites are trying to rectify the problem of hard-to-locate laws and legal records, as Katherine Mangu-Ward notes in the Wall Street Journal.

Openregs.com is an unofficial, user-friendly alternative to the official online government register, regulations.gov.

The official US Government stimulus-tracker, recovery.gov, can be clunky, but recovery.org, the creation of a for-profit business, is easier to navigate.

Most provocative of all, recapthelaw.org accepts donated legal records obtained by users of PACER, the maddeningly unsearchable official database of US court documents.

Some of these unofficial pages are still developing and have their own shortcomings. But 15 years after the internet gave people direct access to pornography, isn’t it about time we could also read our own laws in the privacy of our homes?

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