Perhaps it's because ZiefBrief is a cynic, but we weren't at all surprised to learn from the Stanford law librarians' excellent Legal Research Plus blog that two law professors are suing West Publishing Corp. for defamation for daring to claim that the professors actually wrote the latest supplements (a.k.a. pocket parts) to Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure, the treatise that bears their names. Evidently the dispute began when West cut the professors' compensation in half, whereupon the professors ceased providing updates. Nonetheless, pocket parts appeared, and the professors were listed as authors. Worse yet, the pocket parts "were not up to standard," in the words of the judge hearing the case.
This is no less that what ZiefBrief has learned to expect ever since West was acquired by a publicly-held entity in the 1990s. In the ensuing years we've heard rumors of "downsizing of editorial staff, and yet we've seen prices go up and errors increase. We can't fault a publicly-traded company for seeking to maximize shareholder revenue, but we wonder what the long-term outcome will be if West (or any other legal publisher) should get a reputation for doing shoddy work. Lawyers need to trust that the resources they use are accurate, and if publishers betray that trust, will they be able to continue to command the high prices they are getting now?
For more on the Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure dispute, visit Legal Research Plus and read: