April 2, 2014 – When the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) released a beta version of the Wisconsin Statutes eBook in the fall of 2012, the eBook had one primary flaw: the table of contents linking was inoperable in most formats and on most devices. Many researchers tackle statutory research by browsing a table of contents and then linking to relevant chapters and sections. With the more recent eBook releases, the table of contents links to chapters and sections now performs flawlessly. This makes the statutes much more accessible and usable on various ereader devices, and it is a significant improvement over earlier versions of the eBook.
Act 20 Grants Certification Status to Electronic Formats
Equally important to the table of contents functionality is a change in the legal status of Wisconsin statutes in electronic format. Until last summer, only the print version of Wisconsin Statutes was considered prima facia evidence under Wis. Stat. section 889.01 and Wis. Stat. section 990.07. Furthermore, only the printed version was certified. 2013 Wisconsin Act 20 grants certification status to electronic formats of the Wisconsin Statutes published by the LRB. Act 20 also provides that statutes, acts, and administrative rules published by the LRB in web-based or electronic formats may be cited as prima facie evidence of the law, just like printed statutes and acts. This is now in effect for statutes and acts, and will take effect for administrative rules on Jan. 1, 2015. These changes were summarized in WisBar Inside Track article Legislation Affects Publication and Citation of Statutes and Regulations, published in July 2013. To quote the authors, “[t]his gives these electronic publications the same legal status as their printed counterparts.”
Laura Olsen is the legal research operations specialist at Quarles & Brady LLP in Madison. Olsen advises attorneys and other researchers on legal research methodology and evaluates legal research information sources in a variety of formats to recommend the most authoritative, reliable, and cost-effective research tools.
Recently enhanced eBook functionality, coupled with changes in the legal status of electronic formats of the Wisconsin Statutes, make the statutes not only more accessible, but also more usable. When using the eBook, make sure you download the most recent version, as new versions are posted routinely. Point your browser to the Statutes E-book to download the most recent version. An RSS feed is available to help you track when new versions are available. Remember, while the web-based version of the Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations on the Wisconsin Legislature’s web page is always the most current version available, the eBook is a great option for those who like to use eBooks and may not always have access to an Internet connection. You can use notes, bookmarks, and highlighting capabilities in many eReader applications to personalize your statutes, just as you used to with the print version. As I often say, check it out.