EMERYVILLE, CA — Free Law Project is proud to announce that it has been selected by researchers at Georgia State University to provide PACER data for their research on employment misclassification lawsuits. The purpose of their research is to gain an understanding of how courts distinguish between employees and independent contractors, and the factors influencing those decisions across federal jurisdictions. This research will be funded by a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, and will be conducted by primary researchers Charlotte S. Alexander and Mohammad Javad Feizollahi of Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business.
Free Law Project’s role in this grant will be to acquire court opinions and orders from PACER, and to provide them to Alexander and Feizollahi for their research. Because PACER is not optimized for automated access, a key outcome of the grant will be to develop tools and infrastructure to enable other researchers to utilize PACER data through future grants.
“PACER data is too difficult for researchers to access, and it’s high time that a centralized service be created by a non-profit to gather this kind of data for researchers,” says Michael Lissner, Founder and Executive Director of Free Law Project. “Until this data is easy to access and analyze, we will not have a clear vision of the judicial branch.”
Free Law Project will gather both free and paid content from PACER for this grant, and will be adding it to their RECAP Archive of PACER documents as it is collected. Free content will be collected from the nearly 200 “Written Opinion Reports” available via PACER. Once in the archive, any scanned documents will be converted to text, and all of the documents will be immediately available to other academics, journalists, and the public. Furthermore, as Free Law Project completes more grants of this type, the RECAP Archive will grow, creating a valuable archive for studying the judicial branch.
Free Law Project is also planning to open this archive to commercial entities, providing them with automated access to the archive, and a straightforward way to contribute to it.
For this grant, Alexander and Feizollahi will use big data analytics to examine the court opinions provided by Free Law Project, and through text mining and content analysis, they will explore plaintiffs’ misclassification win/loss rates; legal tests used by courts; factors exerting greatest influence on judges’ decisions; and other worker, employer and litigation variables associated with plaintiff misclassification wins and losses.
This project is one of nine Labor Research and Evaluation Grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor to support university-based research on workforce policies and programs.
Free Law Project is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides free access to primary legal materials, develops legal research tools, and supports academic research on legal corpora.