Access to JURIS: Democratic or Just Pricey?

Regarding the Opinion page article "Provide Public With Access to Database," July 26: The author, of Taxpayer Assets Project, does not point out that JURIS has been developed solely as an internal research service, and that JURIS hardware and software resources are correspondingly limited.

He also does not point out that upgrading these resources to provide public access would cost many millions of taxypayer dollars, dollars that would likely reduce the funds available to support the crimefighting efforts of the Department of Justice.

The author states that JURIS could be made available to the public "for a few dollars an hour," but does not reveal, as Taxpayer Assets Project has previously acknowledged, that the present charge to JURIS users is $73 per hour. Of course, the $73 per hour figure does not include the cost of the massive new hardware and software resources that would be necessary to support public access.

The author also does not point out that West has been creating and publishing its own copyrighted case reports for over 100 years, and that these case reports contain many value-added editorial features, including case summaries (synopses), headnotes (summaries of the points of law we believe are discussed in the court decision), and West Key Number classifications (which help researches find other case law authority). The Department of Justice has sought the many benefits of these value-added features, and West has agreed to license case reports for use on JURIS. It should be noted that the public already has access to these features, since they are included in our National Reporter System publications, which are contained in thousands of libraries across the country, on our own computerized service called WESTLAW, and, increasingly, on our CD Reporter CD-ROM products, which can be used through personal computers.

The author does not point out that the Department of Justice may have valid policy reasons why it does not want to make a service intended for its own internal use available to those members of the general public who are under investigation, are under indictment, or are trying to overturn a conviction.

We thought your readers deserved to know that this matter involves facts that the author neglects to mention. Dwight D. Opperman, Eagan, Minn. President and Chief Executive Officer West Publishing Company Stem population growth to help Haiti

The View from Capitol Hill article "Tame the Elephants in Haiti," July 13, vividly describes the situation there. Sad to say, the author is absolutely right that it "has deteriorated from extreme poverty to a state of virtual famine in some parts of the country."

That being the case, it is amazing that he fails to mention the tragic overpopulation that is the root cause. Not only in Haiti, but in Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, India, and Mexico, our abused, battered soils can no longer support our burgeoning populations. World population is expected to double in a few short years. Neither healthy elephants nor humans can exist on worn-out soil. John M. Anderson, Abbeville, La. Check out what Jefferson said

The author of the View from Capitol Hill article "Campaign Reform or Muzzle?," July 20, who proclaims the "speech tax" to be "unconstitutional," ignores a basic tenet of American society. Americans believe in fair play for all competitors.

PAC money and other special-interest funding give incumbents an unfair advantage (media exposure) over their competitors.

One focus of campaign reform should be to assure that each candidate has equal and adequate media exposure to present substantive proposals on what should be done to solve the varied issues relevant to constituents and to the nation. For a candidate to spend vast amounts of money, often obtained from sources outside the district or State, for general rhetoric and negative commentary on opponents is not constructive.

It exposes the image of the well-financed candidate to the public, but it does not edify. It is inconceivable that such "free speech" was the intent behind the First Amendment. To try to fall back on the Constitution as a way to justify taking unfair advantage in a political campaign seems reprehensible. G. B. Lloyd, Southwest Harbor, Maine

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