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Court Website Madness Tournament: Final Four and Championship

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 06, 2015 10:58 AM

It's down to the Final Four: Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the East, Federal Circuit in the South, Indiana Supreme Court in the Midwest, and California Supreme Court in the West. Who will take home the coveted ... bragging rights?

Pennsylvania v. Federal Circuit

While we lauded the Federal Circuit for its simplicity -- just a photo of the courtroom on a black background, with menus on top and bottom -- we were always afraid it might be too simple. Pennsylvania's landing page manages to pack in actual information while still looking dignified (thanks in part to the choice of URW Egizio as a font for headers and titles; it's modern, but commands respect).

Basically, both the Federal Circuit and Pennsylvania provide the same or similar information on their home pages, but Pennsylvania's is easier to access, plus it includes a section on cases of public interest. Sorry, Fed, while you were the best of the courts of appeals, Pennsylvania is just a little shinier.

Winner: Pennsylvania

Indiana v. California

Indiana hasn't been doing so well in the news recently, but its supreme court's website is terrific. Excellent use of a navigation/information bar on the left, plus the main section on the home page has actual information.

California's supreme court also has excellent navigation and useful information on the home page. There's one thing that won us over in Indiana, though: less reliance on PDFs. The California Supreme Court has a PDF link to practically everything, and PDFs are the only way to read the oral argument calendar.

Not so in Indiana, where the calendar is an HTML table. PDFs aren't easily accessible with screen readers, plus they don't Google so well. As Web design firm Shortie Designs says, "Before you put a PDF on line, first think, 'can this information be represented in html?'"

And for that reason, California, you've been chopped.

Winner: Indiana

Pennsylvania and Indiana for the Championship

Here at last, we have two titans of Web design. Both states' court websites are exceptionally well laid out, with the most important information one click away. Let's take a look at the specifics.

Opinions: Most people are going to a state supreme court's website looking for the opinions. Pennsylvania's opinion page provides a little extra information about each opinion, plus a way to search for supreme court and appellate opinions on the same page. (Indiana's case search page has to redirect to an external site.)

Advantage: Pennsylvania

Oral arguments: Indiana argument calendars are not only available in HTML, but clicking on a case provides more information about the case that's going to be argued. Pennsylvania's argument lists are PDFs, which, as we just observed, is a lot less than ideal.

Advantage: Indiana

Overall design and usability: Indiana's site is great ... but Pennsylvania's is just a bit better. It looks and feels more modern, and has that great "cases of public interest" button we keep coming back to. That's extremely useful for keeping members of the public involved in what's going on in the most mysterious branch of government.

Indiana put up a good fight, but we can safely say that the winner of the FindLaw Court Madness Tournament is the Pennsylvania Supreme Court! (Now we just wish we had a lovely prize to give away.)

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