A new Twitter account, @SCOTUS_servo, alerts followers when the U.S. Supreme Court edits its decisions.
The account crawls through the decisions looking for changes, which it will report. Images of altered decisions with the changes highlighted in red will be issued.
The justices’ practice of editing things came to light this year thanks to a New York Times piece. One notable example was Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, which mischaracterized an opinion that Scalia had written. Scalia then edited EPA, erasing his mistake from the public record.
A study by Harvard professor Richard Lazarus shows that such edits are common. A decision is not considered “final” until it is printed in U.S. Reports, which can take years.
So if Justice Samuel Alito regrets writing in Akami v. Limelight, “The Federal Circuit’s analysis fundamentally misunderstands what it means to infringe a method patent,” a statement which has irritated some patent lawyers, we’ll be able to find out if he erases it.
There’s still the problem of whether the court always will update its website with the latest rulings.
And according to tweets the account posted in the past couple days, it appears there’s a few issues so far with proper coding, resulting in some false alarms.
But once things get smoothed out, it could provide an interesting way to track edits that previously were far less visible to the public.