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Understanding the context of Supreme Court of Canada decisions is crucial for counsel, and a new, sophisticated program – designed to examine the relationships among decisions using case citations – is here to help, commercial litigator Ben Hanuka writes in Canadian Lawyer.
Until recently, writes Hanuka, a lawyer with Law Works Professional Corporation, only a textual method has been available, which did not provide a single representation of how a particular decision came to be or its direct or indirect impact on future cases.
“What if there was a way to look at the historical and future importance of a case using much more sophisticated tools? What if that information was presented in a two-dimensional graphical display that also incorporated information relating to a timeline, rate of citation, and, above all, indirect or ‘multi-generational’ past and future citations of ancestors and descendants?,” he asks.
“Will these elements, when incorporated and presented together through an interactive chart in the form of a ‘family tree’ not give you a far deeper understanding of the real impact of any particular decision?”
CanLII’s new Citeology program, says Hanuka, creates both a comprehensive and complex web of direct and indirect citation links for all Supreme Court of Canada citations in an interactive graphical interface.
“The cases are organized in vertical columns by year, with the first few characters of a case displayed. The most frequently cited decisions are located in the middle of their respective columns. The horizontal band displays the most frequently cited cases. By hovering your mouse over any particular dot on the chart, the full case name is displayed,” writes Hanuka.
“Once you select a case, if you hover your mouse over any other dot, the chart will automatically display a line representing the shortest path, if one exists, between those two cases.”
While lawyers will need to understand some terminology, using this new tool is quite simple, writes Hanuka. “Enter the future of examining the real impact of cases,” he adds.