Tuesday, January 08, 2008

West Offers Free Access to PA's Statutes Online

The full Pennsylvania statutes -- both consolidated and unconsolidated -- are now available online through free public access granted by Thompson-West from a link recently posted on the website of the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

On January 8, 2008, Kathy Coon, Deputy Librarian, of the Jenkins Law Library, noted that Westlaw had enabled free public access to its Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes -- its version of all current Pennsylvania's statutes, both unconsolidated and consolidated.

She announced this in her posting on the Jenkins Blog, entitled "Full Public Access to the Laws of Pennsylvania is Here"

Back in July [2007] the General Assembly posted the official consolidated statutes for Pennsylvania on the Internet.

Today I noticed that the unofficial Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes from West has replaced the official consolidated version. Although Purdon’s is not an official publication of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is the best resource to use when researching the laws of Pennsylvania by subject.

West’s Purdon’s Pennsylvania Statutes, hosted by Westlaw, is easy to browse and can be searched using natural language or by typing a statute citation in quotations. This free version is not annotated and does not include court rules. * * *
I had announced & explained the General Assembly's sudden online availability (on Friday the 13th of July) of its official form of consolidated statutes, in my PA EE&F Law Blog posting "Official PA Statutes Finally Online!" (07/13/07).

That was a big step forward, delayed for many years; but I noted that PA still had one foot in the mud:

There remains a caveat regarding a significant limitation: Only the consolidated statutory chapters are posted.

Pennsylvania still has
unconsolidated statutes -- such as many governing real estate -- that have not yet been consolidated. These session laws still must be researched & accessed through the privately-published Purdon's publications, or online through commercial legal resources, such as Westlaw, Lexis, or other database services.
The replacement of the Legislature's link to its form of official consolidated statutes, with Westlaw's new link to its versions of both consolidated and unconsolidated Pennsylvania statutes, now brings both feet onto firm ground.

Admittedly, this is "PA Statutes Lite", in that it is unofficial. Also, this free public version remains unannotated as to case law decisions rendered under statutory provisions. However, this Westlaw version of the statutes contains source notes, which provide pamphlet law citations for the unconsolidated statutes. And it should be quite accurate & reliable as to provisions given the character of its publisher.

To understand more about the interaction between consolidated and unconsolidated statutes in Pennsylvania, and the origin of West's Purdon's version of PA statutes, see: "Pennsylvania Statutes: Frequently Asked Questions", posted by Duquesne University Law School.

The Legislature's prior, short-lived link to "Official Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes" is now "dead", as are all its sublinks. It has been replaced by this general link: "
Unofficial Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes from West", and its many progeny -- sublinks to each statutory title maintained by Westlaw.

The West's PA Statutes webpage contains some disclaimers:
This site from West provides free access to an unannotated version of West's Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes.

Use of all or part of the data displayed on this site for commercial or other unauthorized purposes is prohibited. * * *

Court Rules: Rules of the federal, state and local courts are not accessible via this website. * * *

Legal Notice: Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes is not an official publication of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Official Commonwealth publication of Pennsylvania laws can be found in Smith's Laws of Pennsylvania (1700 through Nov. 30, 1801), Laws of Pennsylvania (Dec. 1, 1801 to date), and Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. * * *
Thank you, legislators, and thank you, West, for making all PA statutes available publicly, online. It continues to be a great partnership of government & business, begun in 1930, and updated as technology advances and public expectations change.

Update: 01/14/08:

Smithfield Trust Company, of Pittsburgh, PA, reposted a message sent by my friend, Bob Wolf, of Pittsburgh, PA, identified
as "Trust Tip No. 5", regarding this posting. See Bob's message here.