On Monday and Tuesday, January 30 and 31, as the public scrambled to understand and respond to the President’s executive order on immigration and refugees, many turned to Cornell’s Legal Information Institute (LII) to inform themselves. To be precise, 323,455 individuals logged onto the LII’s website on Monday and 432,336 visited on Tuesday. These are the site’s second- and third-highest visitor volumes in a 24-hour period, surpassed only by traffic after the Supreme Court decision on Bush v. Gore in 2000.
Founded in 1992, the LII is the world’s foremost resource of free-access legal information. Dedicated to the idea that everyone should be able to read and understand the laws that govern them, without cost, the LII uses digital technology to publish law online and provide commentary, analysis, and interpretive materials. In 2016, the website served more than 32 million unique visitors from the United States and abroad.
“These are times in which it is more important than ever for people to be able to read the law for themselves, from an unbiased source outside of immediate government control,” says LII Director Thomas Bruce. He notes that the recent surge in traffic, though dramatic, was accommodated without a hitch, thanks to the efforts of LII Associate Director for Technology Sara Frug’s technical team.
Frug, in turn, emphasizes the contributions of systems administrator Nic Ceynowa and text systems developer Sylvia Kwakye. “Supporting all this traffic is the result of very steady work over the past year,” she says. “When an extra 100,000 people showed up to read the law for themselves yesterday, aside from running some extra analytics reports, it was business as usual.”
Frug notes that most of the visitors were looking into US Code Title 8 (Immigration) and 50 (War and National Defense). Traffic increased to Title 50 (Government Organization and Employees) after Sally Yates was dismissed from her position as Acting Attorney General Monday night.
“We have noticed the effects of current events in other ways,” observes Bruce. “increased attention to our WEX articles on executive orders and other topics; a query from Senator Portman's office about discrepancies between online versions of the statutes related to religious freedom, questions about the publications of executive orders and memoranda, and so on.”
He adds, “One way or another, every member of the LII staff is involved, as they always are, in the effort to help people find and understand the law. We do that every day—but some days it seems more important than others.”