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DOJ Will Spend Over $15M on Legal Research This Year

Documents provided this week by the U.S. Department of Justice under a Freedom of Information Act request show that it will spend more than $15 million for legal research this year. Of that, it will pay more than $5 million to each of the major legal research providers, WestLaw and LexisNexis, and pay $4 million for access to the federal judiciary's PACER system.

The documents were obtained by Carl Malamud at Public.Resource.Org, an organization devoted to publishing government documents in the public domain, pursuant to FOIA requests he filed in May with various federal agencies. He asked for documents detailing amounts spent on PACER and with commercial legal information providers for access to federal court documents and other primary legal materials.

The DOJ, responding on its own behalf as well as on behalf of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Office of the Solicitor General, provided Malamud with 152 pages of documents. The documents reveal many details about the DOJ's contracts for legal research.

For use of PACER, the DOJ was due to pay the U.S. courts $4 million on Nov. 13. This payment would provide access to PACER in 2010 for all DOJ employees. The cost to the DOJ of PACER access has risen sharply since 2003, the first year covered by these documents, when it was $800,000. For 2004, that more than doubled, to $2 million, and it has risen steadily ever since.

For legal research on WestLaw and LexisNexis, the DOJ entered into contracts with both companies in 2004. Its contract with West was for an initial annual amount of $5 million. With LexisNexis, it contracted to pay $4.4 million for legal research, $500,000 for public records research, and $170,000 for other research services.

The LexisNexis contract provided annual renewal options that would bring the base legal research cost to $5.6 million in 2010 and $5.9 million in 2011. DOJ's total payment to LexisNexis for legal research from fiscal years 2005 to 2011 would be $36 million.

It appears from these documents that the DOJ had a nearly identical contract with West providing for the same options and payments. I say "it appears" because the documents with regard to the West contract award appear to be exact duplicates of the documents that pertain to the LexisNexis contract award (even bearing the same reference number). It is unclear whether both contracts were identical or if this is a duplication error.

You can read the documents for yourself and come to your own conclusions about their significance. Because they cover all legal research, the documents fail to answer Malamud's question regarding how much the DOJ pays for access just to primary legal materials. What they show, however, is that even the government pays a steep price for access to legal research. 

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on December 2, 2009 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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