LexBlog: A Major Legal Publisher Adds Local COVID-19 Ordinances and Orders

Jean O’Grady writes up what TR  Westlaw have been up to in the world of Coronavirus information dissemination…

Thomson Reuters has added a collection of municipal ordinances  and order for the 100 largest U.S. cities. Early in the COVID-19 crisis Thomson Reuters published  a Global Coronavirus Toolkit on the Practical Law platform. A bigger legal publishing challenge  was about to emerge.  Ever since California Governor Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first state “stay at home” order on March 19, 2020 there has been a steady cascade of orders, ordinances and policies issued from every kind of governmental unit (cities, counties, villages) and administrative units ( health, transportation, public utilities, fair housing…)

Across the US. law librarians and knowledge managers were developing a “skunk-works” approach to gathering what was normally viewed as the “ephemera” of legal documents: governors proclamations and agency polices. Most states lacked a systematic publication plan and most failed to publish all the  COVID materials on one central website. Sometimes these  life altering  issues emerging  as tweets, texts,  on  Facebook or other social media sites. Finding COVID materials was not unlike a scavenger hunt.  Legal publishers were facing the same challenges and as far as I know Thomson Reuters is the first legal publisher to tackle the publication of at least some of these new municipal COVID orders and ordinances.

Last week I spoke with  Drew Raun, Manager of Global Content Strategy & Editorial at Thomson Reuters who  has taken on the challenge of collecting this unruly mass of data and taming it to conform to the Thomson Reuters editorial standards. According to Raun the plan was to create “useful and sustainable resources on municipal  COVID materials.”

The “COVID 19 Legal Materials & News” page on Westlaw and Westlaw Edge platforms which was launched with Federal COVID legislation and executive orders is now enhanced with Municipal materials.

How to Find the Municipal COVID Materials:

  1. Tools & Resources on the right side of the Statutes & Court Rules page
  2. Tools & Resources on the right side of the Regulations page
  3. Tools section on the right side of the Municipal Law practice area page

Access the materials by filtering  by State: or keyword searching by city.

The collection of orders are  from the mayor or municipal departments (Dept of Health, Parks Departments, etc.) of the 100 largest US cities. Each document represents a policy or procedure prompted by COVID. These materials address issues such as stay-at-home orders, limitations on mass gatherings, guidelines for re-opening cities, etc.Documents will link out to related judicial opinions.T A collection of 50 state surveys for COVID related laws is in development.

Like many librarians, TR editors are “trolling” local government websites and tracking news stories to stay on top of new COVID-19 developments.The Thomson Reuters Codes Editorial team will  posting new orders on a regular basis.