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Building a Citator on CourtListener

Michael Lissner

I'm incredibly excited today to announce that over the past few weeks we have successsfully rolled out a Citator on CourtListener. This feature was developed by UC Berkeley School of Information students Karen Rustad and Rowyn McDonald after a thorough design and development cycle which included everything from user interviews to performance optimizations of our citation finding algorithm.

As you're browsing the site, you'll immediately see three big new features. First, all Federal citations to documents that we have in our collection are now links. So as you're reading, if there's a reference to a prior case that you feel might be useful to your research, you can just click the link to that case and continue your research there. This allows you to go upstream in your research, looking at the important cases that came before.

The second big change you'll see is a new sidebar on all case pages that lists the top five cases that reference the one you're reading. This allows you to go downstream from the case you're reading, where you'll be able to identify how the case was later interpreted by other courts.

At the bottom of this list of five cases, you'll see a link which will take you to the cited by page. This page is the third big change you'll notice, and it shows you all of the cases that cited the one you're reading, sorted by how many times those cases were cited.

But we've gone beyond even these great features, and added a few others as well. If you use RSS, you can now subscribe to a case, and whenever it is cited in the future, you'll get an RSS update of the new citations. You can find these RSS feeds immediately on every case page. Further, since we believe in giving away all the data that we generate, we're now doing something nobody else is: We're giving away the legal citation graph. If you download our latest data dumps, there's a new field for each case that indicates what other cases have cited it thus far. We hope this will be useful for a number of different fields, and are really excited to see what people do with it.

Finally, we have plans to integrate the citation graph into our search results. This should be complete soon, and will provide two great new features of its own. First, it will allow you to place searches that only show documents with more than a certain number of citations. So, for example, you'll be able to search for something like immigration citeCount:40, and you'll only get back cases that were cited more than 40 times, and which contain the word "immigration." Again, this is something nobody else offers, and we're excited to be offering it soon.

The final big change that is in the works is an update to our relevance engine which will take the citation graph into account, providing greatly increased relevance calculations, and making the very best and most influential cases float to the top of your search results. This is similar to how many web search engines work, so we're really excited to be moving towards this technology.

All these changes would not be possible without the hard work of Karen and Rowyn and the open source development model we have for CourtListener. I'm thrilled to have these features on the site as of now.

As ever, we're eager to hear your feedback! If you have suggestions for improvement or ideas for new features, don't hesitate to get in touch. CourtListener will always be a community project, and we need your participation to succeed!

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