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Friday, April 29, 2005

Research Gifts To Justices, Politicians

HighBeam is making its service available for free to U.S. Supreme Court Justices, members of the Cabinet, and members of Congress. Here's the press release:

Patrick Spain, founder, chairman and CEO of HighBeam™ Research, Inc., responded today to a congressman's recent allegation that there's something wrong with a member of the U.S. Supreme Court doing his own research on the Internet. In addition, the operator of an online research engine for individuals ( announced a program that offers complimentary access to Supreme Court Justices, U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, Cabinet Members and qualifying journalists.


"We're certain that if the Justices use their complimentary HighBeam Research memberships, they will find the service quick, accurate and efficient," Spain said. "And we used our own HighBeam Research service to make sure that these complimentary memberships do not violate any rules regarding gifts."

I've heard anecdotally from time to time that Westlaw and Lexis might be available to the staff of various courts on a complimentary basis (maybe courts simply receive more advantageous pricing?). It's in everyone's interest to provide the judiciary ready access to reliable information, but the press release doesn't link to the sources referenced as the basis for HighBeam's thoughts on the gift issue (and I hope HighBeam did more than rely on its bare search results in arriving at what amounts to a legal conclusion). Anyone more conversant than I with the applicable ethical rules care to comment?

(Also, though HighBeam is blogger friendly, I'm wondering what constitutes a "qualifying journalist.")

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