Our present mode of citing websites in judicial cases, including within U.S. Supreme Court cases, allows such citations to disappear, becoming inaccessible to future scholars. Without significant change, the information in citations within judicial opinions will be known solely from those citations. Citations to the U.S. Supreme Court are especially important of the Court’s position at the top of federal court hierarchy, determining the law of the land, and even influencing the law in international jurisdictions.
Unfortunately and disturbingly, the Supreme Court appears to have a vast problem with link rot, the condition of internet links no longer working. We found that number of websites that are no longer working cited to by Supreme Court opinions is alarmingly high, almost one third (29%). Our research in Supreme Court cases also found that the rate of disappearance is not affected by the type of online document (pdf, html, etc) or the sources of links (government or non-government) in terms of what links are now dead. We cannot predict what links will rot, even within Supreme Court cases.
Was bedeutet das? Zum einen wird es damit deutlich erschwert oder unmöglich, Urteile des höchsten US-Gerichts nachzuvollziehen. Zum anderen sollte man sich selbst dringend überlegen, wie man Webzitationen sichert, wenn man (nicht nur) in wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten auf Internetquellen verweist.