From our friends over at Google Scholar comes word last week of changes to the “Cited by” function within their legal opinions database. For those of you not familiar with this feature, “Cited by” appears as a link under items returned in a result set. For example, the first opinion returned after a search for “347 U.S. 483″ indicates it is “Cited by” 32,903 sources.
Clicking on the link brings up a separate page which, before last week’s changes, sorted citing documents by their prominence but which are now ranked by the the extent of discussion of the cited case. This means that cases that support, overturn, or clarify an opinion are ranked above those that just mention it.
The significance is also visually displayed by a series of horizontal bars which now display next to the case or cited source with explanatory title text, e.g., “Discusses cited case at length”, “Discusses Cited Case” and “Discusses Cited Case Briefly.”