The parallel universe – is it really necessary?


In preparing a filing for the SJC the other day, the lawyer I was working with asked, "why do we need to include the parallel citation (i.e. the A.2d as well as the ME cite)"?  Good question.

Having the A.2d cite can be useful, I suppose, for headnote searching – but that's electronic these days anyway – plug in the ME cite into westlaw and you will get the decision, with the A.2d version and headnotes and you go from there.  And even if there is a benefit, perhaps, in a full cite to both citations the first time a decision is referenced, thereafter it certainly takes up space in the pin cites for no discernible reason.  The paragraph pin cite in the public domain cite is useful; why do we need need to keep repeating the Atlantic reporter page in the pin cites after the first citation?  

The reason why we parallel cite in the Maine court system is Maine Administrative Order SJC-216, issued in 1996.  This order started public domain citing as well as citing to the Atlantic reporter, and provides as follows:

  "The order of this Court, dated January 27, 1966, as amended by the order of December 1, 1982, is further amended to read as follows:

1. The Atlantic Reporter is the official publication of the Court's opinions commencing January 1, 1966.

2. Opinions issued on or after January 1, 1966, and before January 1, 1997, shall be cited in the following style: Westman v. Armitage, 215 A.2d 919 (Me. 1966)

3. Opinions issued on or after January 1, 1997, shall include the calendar year, the sequential number assigned to the opinion within that calendar year, and shall be cited in the following style: Smith v. Jones, 1997 ME 7, 685 A.2d 110

4. The sequential decision number shall be included in each opinion at the time it is made available to the public and the paragraphs in the opinion shall be numbered. The official publication of each opinion issued on or after January 1, 1997 shall include the sequential number in the caption of the opinion and the paragraph numbers assigned by the Court.

5. Pinpoint citations shall be made by reference to paragraph numbers assigned by the Court in the following style: Smith v. Jones, 1997 ME 7, para 14, 685 A.2d 110

6. Memorandum Decisions and Summary Orders shall not be published in the Atlantic Reporter and shall not be cited as precedent for a matter addressed therein."

This order, requiring parallel cites when first establishing the public domain cite, made perfect sense.  But do we still need the parallel cites?  Can't we save some space by only requiring the public domain cite?  Even this order itself, moreover, doesn't seem to contain a pin-cite for the Alantic reporter  — see paragraph 5 above, with no "at" in the A.2d cite – it looks like all you officially have to do is keep reciting the general first page citation, over and over, which doesn't seem particularly useful to anyone.

So here's a modest proposal:  as to decisions, from Maine or anywhere else, that have easily accessible public domain cites, only that cite should be required in the pleadings, with the additional regional reporter citation optional.