LexisNexis Would Have Me Commit Malpractice.

by Jamison Koehler on October 18, 2013

I am working on a petition to seal a criminal record.

I know that the statutory language was recently amended so I check first with my hardcopy version of the code – put out by LexisNexis — to make sure that I have the language right.  (As an old school guy, I prefer something I can mark up and feel.)  Although the new legislation took effect last June and my codebook is dated a month after that, it is clear that my hardcopy version has not been amended to reflect the new legislation.

I go next to Lexis-Nexis on-line.  This is the legal research service for which I pay a hefty fee each month.  And I find the following language:  “A person arrested for, or charged with, the commission of an eligible Municipal Regulations whose prosecution has been terminated . . .”

This obviously doesn’t make any sense:  Unless you are going to subject D.C. council members to criminal liability for enacting regulations, you can’t be arrested or charged with “commissioning” a regulation.

So I go directly to the legislation itself.  And I find that LexisNexis has omitted a critical component of the language:  The ability to seal an arrest record applies not just to local regulations in the District but also to the D.C. crimes code.

Think about the implications of this.  I have done enough petitions to seal a criminal record to spot the error.  But how about a lawyer who is reading this language for the first time?  He or she might very well advise a client incorrectly on the client’s potential eligibility to file such a motion.  More importantly, what does this say about my confidence in anything I might find through LexisNexis?

The LexisNexis representative is pleasant with me on the phone – and appropriately apologetic.  She agrees that the current language is wrong and promises to make sure the mistake is fixed right away.  But she cannot answer my final question:  How can I be sure that everything else I read under this section is accurate?

Well, she tells me, I guess you would need to do a line-by-line comparison of the legislation.  Exactly.  And is this not what subscribers pay LexisNexis to do for us?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilou Auer October 18, 2013 at 7:04 pm

For what LexisNexis charges, they should immediately send out an errata sheet and email to every subscriber, and they should pay you well for the correction. Congratulations on some head’s-up lawyering.

Jamison Koehler October 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Hello Marilou.

I too thought I deserved some remuneration and suggested it to the rep on the phone. Apparently she thought I was kidding because she just laughed.

Norm Pattis October 19, 2013 at 3:47 am

Jamison:

We’ve twice found failures to update statutes after amendments with Bloomberg Law. I hate Westlaw’s bizarre billing system, but, all things be equal, I don’t recall problems like these with Westlaw.

Jeena Belil October 29, 2013 at 6:55 am

And, of course, their contract limits Lexis/Nexis’ liability for errors/omissions like this?

Matthew B. Kaplan October 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm

Based on my experience I have a lot of reliability concerns about Lexis. Among other issues I have found, they use cites to cases in the annotated DC code that are simply wrong.

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