Media cameras outside the U.S. Supreme Court on the day of arguments in the immigration case United States v. Texas. April 18, 2016. (Photo: Diego M. Radzinschi/NLJ)
After months of uncertainty about its future, the Oyez Project, a free repository of more than 10,000 hours of U.S. Supreme Court oral-argument audio and other court resources, has found a new home.
The project’s founder, Jerry Goldman, who is retiring soon, told The National Law Journal on Tuesday that a newly minted arrangement with Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute and Justia, the online publisher of legal information, will keep Oyez alive.
“It’s a perfect match,” said Goldman, 71. “They will be great stewards.”
Launched in 1993, Oyez.org boasts nearly 9 million visits annually, ranging from students doing term papers to Supreme Court practitioners rehearsing upcoming arguments.
The Supreme Court has taped oral arguments for the last 60 years and deposited them with the National Archives. Oyez makes the audio available on its website with additional information, including searchable transcripts that are synchronized to the audio.
That makes it easy to hear the moment during arguments in the 2003 affirmative action case Grutter v. Bollinger when then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist addressed advocate Maureen Mahoney—a former law clerk of his—by her first name. Or, more recently, the time on March 27, 2012, when the late Justice Antonin Scalia compared the coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act to an order that the public buy broccoli.
The project is now housed at Chicago-Kent College of Law in Chicago under an agreement that expires soon. By the time the new term of the Supreme Court begins in October, Goldman said, its home will be Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, though Chicago-Kent may stay involved.
“We’re delighted to be the recipient of what is a tremendous gift,” said Thomas Bruce, co-founder and director of the institute at Cornell. “Oyez is obviously of huge interest to the research community” and to lawyers, law students and the general public.
Tim Stanley, chief executive officer of Justia, described Oyez as the source of “a lot of stuff that you don’t find anywhere else” that is important “from a public-information standpoint.” He added, “people like to see how their institutions work.” Justia has given technical assistance to Oyez for years; when you click on an Oyez link to a Supreme Court decision, you are sent to Justia.
The Oyez site will look the same for now, though Bruce and Stanley both say that over time improvements and expansions will be made to make more information about the court even more accessible. “We’re still figuring it out,” Bruce said.
Stanley said he sees possible alliances with other law schools, law firms and legal publishing companies. For now, he said, “Oyez.org is not going to change much at all.” Stanley said he is committed to keeping access to Oyez free to the public.
The principals declined to give financial details of the agreement, but it involves financial backing from Justia and, according to Bruce, the charitable donation of Oyez to Cornell. The arrangement will sustain Oyez “for the indefinite future,” Bruce said.
When Goldman was looking for a new home for Oyez this year, The Wall Street Journal reported he was seeking upwards of $1 million for the value of the intellectual property that went into creating Oyez.
Goldman declined to say whether the agreement he reached includes that piece. “I am happy to be entrusting my magnum opus to [the Legal Information Institute],” he said. An avid baseball fan, Goldman also borrowed a metaphor attributed to New York Yankees star Reggie Jackson when he added that Stanley is “the straw that stirred the drink.”