By Ken Fox, Reference Librarian
If you have used CanLII recently, you may have noticed a couple of new visual elements.
First, pull up a case – Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 (CanLII),  1 SCR 87, http://canlii.ca/t/g2s18, for example. Notice the series of tabs across the top of the header, immediately below the case citation in large type. The fourth tab from the left is “Cited by (3,580).” The number in parentheses is the number of other cases that have cited the present case. This is not new.
Now note that immediately to the right of the number of citing cases there is what appears to be a blue jalapeño pepper –
This is new. Only cases that have been discussed with a certain level of “intensity” have the blue pepper icon. Click on the link, and as always, you receive a list of citing cases. But a couple of things are different.
First, according to CanLII’s blog post, they have beefed up their sorting algorithm to ensure that the cases that contain the “most extensive discussion” float to the top of their relevance ranking, and they improved their snippets for better browsing of the results.
Second, the blue jalapeño peppers now serve as a rating system – 5 jalapeño peppers indicate the most extensive treatment, whereas zero peppers mean the case is merely mentioned.
The jalapeño pepper system is new to CanLII but is not really novel (except for the idea of equating extensiveness/intensiveness with spiciness, which I approve of). Advance QuickLaw’s citation system has “types” of treatment that include implied intensity levels (“followed,” “explained,” “mentioned”). WestlawNext Canada has both treatment type and “depth” of treatment in their KeyCite reports. So let’s congratulate CanLII for once again giving to the general public what previously was only available to clients of the large publishing companies.
However, the OTHER new feature discussed in CanLII’s blog post, is to my knowledge something new in Canada.
Look at that Hryniak decision again (or any recent higher court judgment). Scroll down to the written reasons and look at the right-hand margin. Many paragraphs have at the right edge a grey bar, and beside the grey bar there is a speech bubble with a number –
The darkness of the bar indicates how often that paragraph has been cited in other cases, and the number is how many cases cite it.
Now click on the bubble –
You have three options in a pop-up menu. The first, “Copy text,” makes it very easy to place that paragraph on your clipboard to paste it into your document. The second option gives you an instant pinpoint citation –
Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 (CanLII),  1 SCR 87, par. 2, <http://canlii.ca/t/g2s18#par2>, retrieved on 2020-02-06
And the third option (you may have guessed) gives you a citation list for the paragraph. To make it abundantly clear – only cases that quote words from that exact paragraph are included.
At a glance, you can now see what the most authoritative (frequently cited) paragraphs are. But you now have the power to get a list of citing cases for a particular legal point and exclude all those cases that cite the authority on a separate issue. This is indeed a powerful new tool for legal researchers.