The Free Law Project Judicial Database
Thanks to Rob Richards at Legal Informatics we learned of the Free Law Project’s press release from April 19, 2016. It says:
“Today we’re extremely proud and excited to be launching a comprehensive database of judges and the judiciary, to be linked to Courtlistener’s corpus of legal opinions authored by those judges. We hope that this database, its APIs, and its bulk data will become a valuable tool for attorneys and researchers across the country. This new database has been developed with support from the National Science Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, in conjunction with Elliott Ash of Princeton University and Bentley MacLeod of Columbia University.
At launch, the database has nearly 8,500 judges from federal and state courts, all of which are available via our APIs, in bulk data, and via a new judicial search interface that we’ve created.
The database is aimed to be comprehensive, including as many facts about as many judges as possible. At the outset, we are collecting the following kinds of information about the judges:
- Biographical information including their full name, race, gender, birth and death dates and locations, and any aliases or nicknames that a judge may have.
- Their educational information including which schools they went to, when they went, and what degrees they were awarded.
- The judicial positions they have held. The core of this data is a list of courts and dates for each judge, but it also includes details about their specific position, how they were nominated or elected, what the voting outcome was, who appointed them, the clerks they supervised, and nearly a dozen dates about the timing of their nomination process.
- The non-judicial positions they have held. The database aims to include comprehensive timelines of a judge’s full career both before before and after being a judge. This includes work in other branches of government, in private practice, and in academia.
- Any ratings that a judge has been given by the American Bar Association.
- Finally, we are gathering the political affiliation of judges. This information is coming from a few sources such as ballots (for elected judges) and appointers (for appointed judges).
We have collected all available public datasets and added a large amount of data ourselves. But there are many actors in the U.S. legal system and the database is far from complete. We hope that interested researchers will collaborate with us in contributing more data. Our goal is to put down a foundation of solid data that can be built on by the community and that can grow into the future.
In conjunction with this database, we’re also launching a project to gather and curate judicial portraits. At launch, we have gathered about 250 judicial portraits, mostly of federal judges. This is a small fraction of the number of judges in the database, and we’re looking for help gathering many more portraits. We’re hopeful that with community support we’ll be able to build a comprehensive database of judicial portraits. If you’re interested in helping or have ideas for where we might get more images of judges, please get in touch.”
The entire press release with more details is located at: https://free.law/2016/04/19/judicial-database-announcement/
Microsoft Partners with Legal Services Corporation and Pro Bono Net (and the NCSC)
Our friends at Pro Bono Net shared their good news about Microsoft’s grant in a press release also on April 19, 2016. The press release said:
“Imagine you are single, with two kids, one in diapers. You have steady work, but after paying for commuting, child care, food and rent, there isn’t much left over. You speak Spanish natively, and English well enough to get by. Things are going along pretty well until the heat fails, repeatedly, in your apartment. When the landlord doesn’t fix it despite your complaints, you withhold rent, as you are legally entitled to do. Not long after that, you are served with an eviction notice.
Where do you turn?
You are not a lawyer, you don’t know any lawyers, and you certainly can’t afford to pay a lawyer. You’ve heard you can “represent” yourself in court – but how? You may be able to get help from a legal aid organization, but which one? The legal aid “system,” such as it is, is de-centralized and fragmented, making it hard to know even where to begin, much less how to solve your problem.
Millions of people in America face challenges like this every year. For better or worse, we are a highly legalistic society, but not everyone has access to the justice system. That can render people powerless – people who need help with housing, employment, government benefits or protection from an abusive spouse. In an era of increasing concern about income inequality, this is a big problem: the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) – an independent nonprofit established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans – estimates that only about 20 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income people in the United States are adequately addressed.
Technology can help. The same tools that businesses and people are increasingly using to shop, learn and communicate can be deployed to address the access-to-justice gap. The technological building blocks are available – we just need to get to work building solutions to address access to justice.
That is why earlier today Microsoft joined with the LSC and Pro Bono Net in announcing the development of a prototype access to justice “portal.” Microsoft will provide funding of at least $1 million and project management expertise to build out this project.
Drawing on state-of-the-art cloud and Internet technologies, this portal will enable people to navigate the court system and legal aid resources, learn about their legal rights and prepare and file critical court documents in a way that is accessible, comprehensive and easy to navigate. The ultimate goal is to help people every step of the way toward addressing their legal problem.
This first-of-its-kind system will be accessible from any device, standards-compliant and connected to legal aid organizations through open software interfaces. Once the prototype is developed, we will post it in open source form to GitHub, one of the leading sites for open-source software development projects. That way, others can build upon it or build other, comparable systems. Over time, we hope that every state will develop a portal solution to provide a modern, efficient way for everyone to access the court system and legal aid resources. With recent advances in machine learning, we can even imagine that within the not-too-distant future systems such as these could enable people to speak naturally and receive help in a comfortable “chat” format tailored to their specific needs.
LSC developed the vision for this portal over the past few years, working with leaders from across the access to justice community. The National Center for State Courts recently began fleshing out the technical requirements for such a portal. Pro Bono Net, a national non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the access-to-justice gap through technology and collaboration, has agreed to help convene local partners and provide service design expertise to execute the pilot. We couldn’t be happier to start working with all three of these organizations to implement LSC’s vision of access to justice for all.
Digital / Social Media Evidence
A recent “The Guardian” newspaper article noted that digital evidence is starting to become very important in discovering “tax fraud”. The article starts:
“From selfies on super-yachts to posing with private jets, the young heirs of the uber-wealthy have attracted worldwide envy and derision by flaunting their lavish lifestyles on social media.
But these self-styled rich kids of Instagram are, often unwittingly, revealing their parents’ hidden assets and covert business dealings, providing evidence for investigators to freeze or seize assets worth tens of millions of pounds, and for criminals to defraud their families.
Leading cybersecurity firms said they were using evidence from social media in up to 75% of their litigation cases, ranging from billionaire divorces to asset disputes between oligarchs, with the online activity of super-rich heirs frequently providing the means to bypass their family’s security.”
Is your court getting ready to deal with this? Just asking?
The full article is available at: