Court Website March Madness Tournament: Southern Conference

By Mark Wilson, Esq. on March 24, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, we inaugurated the FindLaw Court Website March Madness Tournament, where we use a single-elimination tournament to determine which, among the fifty state supreme courts, thirteen federal circuits, and U.S. Supreme Court, has the best website.

Did SCOTUS win last week? Not even a little. It got trounced in the third round of the Eastern conference by Pennsylvania, which ended up winning the region. This week: the Southern Conference.

Dare we mess with Texas?

Round One Highlights

The first round wasn't pretty for some states. Take Alabama, which handily bested Virginia, whose website looks like it came out of 1997. The link to read opinions isn't obvious, and the whole front page is basically a sitemap. This is in spite of Alabama's own major problem, which is that links to view opinions go to a PDF document containing a link to go to a particular opinion. Blech!

Georgia and Florida didn't play each other, but they shared the problem of opinions being issued only on one day of the week. (Almost every other site we've seen publishes opinions online as they're filed.) That contributed to Georgia losing to the Fourth Circuit and Florida losing to West Virginia.

Round Two

The biggest upset of this conference was the round two battle between the D.C. Circuit and West Virginia. Who would have thought West Virginia would best one of the most important federal appeals courts? The website for the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals is extremely easy to navigate, with only a few links to important things on the left-hand navigation bar. The home page is a few paragraphs of "about the court" text. The D.C. Circuit wasn't bad, but it just wasn't as simple. Advantage: West Virginia.

Round Three

But West Virginia's simplicity couldn't match that of the Federal Circuit website, which is clean, elegant, and dead-simple. The home page is just a large photo of the courtroom, with navigation menus above and below. The Eleventh and Fourth Circuits duked it out in the regional semifinals, and it was a very close match, but the Fourth had fewer menus.

Winner: Federal Circuit!

The regional finals in the South pitted the Fourth against the Federal Circuit, but the Federal Circuit couldn't be beaten. It's very useful and has a simpler layout than the Fourth Circuit site, which uses a lot of block elements of various sizes in a two column layout. The Federal Circuit, on the other hand, has a simpler top/bottom layout, with a navigation bar on top and content on the bottom. The Federal Circuit is also less reliant on PDFs to convey information, like oral argument calendars, which show up there as HTML in tables (as they should).

(Texas, by the way, also succombed to the Federal Circuit's simplicity, despite a generally elegant website.)

Tune in Thursday for the third conference: the Midwest.

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