Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Data Visualization

Graphic from
An area of automation that the courts have generally ignored has been data visualization.  While my colleague, Dr. Ingo Keilitz has worked for many years on digital dashboard concepts, there is a lot that can be done.

One excellent example was posted by the authors at Computational Legal Studies  that presents "The Development of Structure in the Citation Network of the United States Supreme Court".  This two minute online video of a growing "network diagram" representing the early relationship of cases is fascinating.

Similarly, the possibility of visually presenting organizational relationships is compelling.  The Asterisq company in Australia has posted several examples that are fun to manipulate.  See:

How would courts use such a tool?  Family relationships is the most prominent answer.  Courts face the problems of understanding how persons are related to one another every day and, who has specific responsibilities in relation to children and in caring for the disabled.  And because of complexity, it is not uncommon for judges to experience confusion.  Proper visual information could help the judge to understand which child is with which parent/guardian.  Issues between persons could be color coded as to whether they are friendly or contentious.

The question then arises, how can this family relationship data be acquired?  Most likely it would be extracted from social service agency databases. Years of data would be needed.  But interestingly, social media and credit databases will also be a source for this data.

Whether this is right or wrong is not the question for this article.  But it is a fact that should be factored into the court's future planning.

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