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Lawsuit seeks electronic version of statutes

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Lawsuit seeks electronic version of statutes 12/14/1993 MISSOURI -- The revisor of statutes has been taken to court over his…

Lawsuit seeks electronic version of statutes

12/14/1993

MISSOURI — The revisor of statutes has been taken to court over his contention that the computerized version of Missouri’s laws is not a public record.

Ralph Kidd, who supervises the printing and publication of all state statutes, declined Springfield attorney Patrick Deaton’s request for a copy of the Missouri Revised Statutes on computer disk in mid-October. The denial stated that the statutes were being copyrighted and were not public records.

In early November, Deaton filed a lawsuit against Kidd in circuit court in Jefferson City, asking for copies of the computerized text for the cost of copying it.

Deaton says in the lawsuit that the contract between the state and a private company creates a monopoly on public information. The computerized version of the statutes, which provides a superior form for legal research than the book version, should be available to the public at cost, Deaton says.

A member of the Committee on Legislative Research, which appoints the revisor, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that Deaton’s lawsuit represents “big lawyer thievery.” Chris Kelly, D-Columbia, said that contractors were seeking the right to profit from the work of state employees without paying a royalty.

A hard-bound copy of the statutes currently costs $125. The revisor recently awarded an exclusive contract to Missouri Lawyers Weekly to produce the computerized version of the statutes. The cost varies depending on the number of users, with a single user paying $155 and up to 100 users paying $2,000. The state receives up to a 50 percent share of the selling price.

Because the attorney general declined to represent the revisor shortly before the answer to Deaton’s complaint was due, so the deadline for the revisor’s answer has been extended.

(Deaton v. Kidd, Director/Revisor of Statutes; Counsel: Patrick Deaton, Springfield)