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Free Law Project Powers ProPublica's New App about SCOTUS Investments

Michael Lissner

Something we do here is collect data and put it online. Our theory is that if we do this, others will come along, grab our data, and do great things with it.

One data set that we're particularly proud of is our collection of financial disclosures. It contains more than thirty-thousand disclosure documents filed by thousands of federal judges. This data was used by Wall Street Journal in their exposé of judicial conflicts, and has underpinned the many articles ProPublica has published about the justices this year.

Today we were thrilled to learn that ProPublica downloaded this data, did some tremendous clean up work on it, and published it as a much better version than we could ever do. They normalized names, and cleaned up bad OCR. They added maps and graphics — It's wonderful, and if you want to get a view of the investments held by judges and the biases they may have, it's certainly worth checking out.

For example, here's the travel that Justice Thomas has done, according to the data:

A map of all the places Justice Thomas has reported going.
A map of all the places Justice Thomas has reported going.

This is what it's all about. We collect data, we make it as good as we can, and we open it up. Others grab the data, make it even better, and publish innovative tools.

There is, however, one thing we'd change. ProPublica's tool only has information about Supreme Court justices. Next time, we hope they'll clean up all 1.9 million investments in our data set. Come on, y'all!

Try their Tool Check Out Our Data

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