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 on “LexisNexis Would Have Me Commit Malpractice.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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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