Free Law Project to Serve as PACER Data Provider to Department of Labor Grantees at Georgia State University

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 …

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Free Law Project Receives “Le Hackie” Award from D.C. Legal Hackers for PACER Research and Blogging

On Tuesday we were proud and humbled to receive a Le Hackie award from the D.C. Legal Hackers group for a top ten legal hack of the year:

The “hack” that we received this award for was our series of blog posts about PACER:

And our older pieces:

D.C. Legal Hackers is an amazing group, and we’re really proud to get this award from them.

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Free Law Project and University of Baltimore to Collaborate to Create Supreme Court Doctrinal Maps

An early prototype of the new version.

An early prototype of the new version.

Free Law Project is excited to announce that over the next several months we will be collaborating with the University of Baltimore and Assistant Professor of Law, Colin Starger, to build a web-based version of his Supreme Court Mapping Project, a software-driven effort to visualize Supreme Court doctrine. Currently a desktop software tool, the collaboration will move this functionality to the web, incorporating it directly into Free Law Project’s CourtListener platform.

Once incorporated into CourtListener, users will be able to create visualizations of how different cases cite each other, including plotting them against variables from the Supreme Court Database such as whether the case had a liberal or conservative outcome, and the minority/majority votes of the justices. Using the CourtListener citation API, Colin and his partner Darren Kumasawa have done a lot of work in this area already, laying a great foundation for this project.

The current design The current design

We hope that within a few months our new service will go live, and that teachers, librarians, and researchers will be able to create great new visualizations of Supreme Court doctrine. If you’ve been watching Colin and Darren’s work over on …

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Knight Foundation to Support OpenJudiciary.org

Free Law Project is pleased to announce that its OpenJudiciary.org has been selected as a winner of the Knight News Challenge on Elections, an initiative of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The new project will make judicial elections more transparent for journalists and researchers by creating online profiles of judges. Profiles will show campaign contributions, judicial opinions, and biographies.

The project aims to fill an information gap by helping citizens understand and meaningfully participate in judicial elections,” said Chris Barr, Knight Foundation director for media innovation, who leads the Prototype Fund.

A site such as OpenJudiciary.org is needed because big money is infiltrating the judicial election process. Academic research has shown that election years correlate with judges handing down harsher sentences, even an increased frequency of death sentences.

The money in state judicial elections appears to cause not only a public perception of partiality (judges being bought), but also real damage to judicial impartiality as judges are forced to fundraise from the attorneys and litigants that appear in their courts.

Free Law Project co-founder Brian Carver said, “It is currently extremely difficult for voters, journalists, or academics to investigate a judge’s past decisions and …

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Brian and Mike’s Presentations from Columbia’s Web Archiving Conference

Co-Founder Brian Carver and I presented at Columbia’s Web Archiving Conference last month and the videos have now been posted on YouTube. Brian gave a substantial talk about Juriscraper and how we used a grant from Columbia to expand it to cover all fifty states:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_qZ4hNtmyw&index=2&list=PLf1Dab4lwQhBpFRB1dpUnKLglmM2iScjl

And I did a lightning talk about RECAP:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqrC0Ygdc-M&index=4&list=PLf1Dab4lwQhBpFRB1dpUnKLglmM2iScjl

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Free Law Project Recognized in two one of Top Ten Legal Hacks of 2014 by DC Legal Hackers!

Yesterday the impressive DC Legal Hackers group held their first annual Le Hackie Awards and Holiday Party. Although we weren’t able to attend the event (it was in D.C.), we’re proud and gratified to share that Free Law Project played a part in two of the top ten legal hacks of the year. The first was for our new Oral Arguments feature that we’ve been blogging so much about lately, and the second was for Frank Bennett’s Free Law Ferret, which he built using code originally developed for CourtListener.

Update: Turns out the Free Law Ferret was from 2013 and was not awarded a Le Hackie Award. Our mistake was to trust a slide from the presentation, which contained a typo.

.@DCLegalHackers top 10 legal hacks of 2014 @congressedits @SCOTUS_servo #legalhacker pic.twitter.com/MJAvRU5Xln

—- Matt McKibbin (@LibertyPanacea) December 4, 2014

Brian and I couldn’t be happier to see the legal hacking community grow and we’re humbled to be a part of it. So much fantastic work is getting done each year, and the legal arena is growing and maturing at a feverish pace. We hope that the DC Legal Hackers will keep …

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Free Law Project Co-Founders Named to Fastcase 50 for 2014

Last week legal publisher Fastcase included Free Law Project co-founders, Brian Carver and Michael Lissner on the company’sannual list of “Fastcase 50” award recipients. As their press release explains, “The Fastcase 50 award recognizes 50 of the smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders in the law.”

Michael and I are humbled by and grateful for this recognition. We’re especially thrilled to see individuals we have worked with included on this year’s list, such as:

  • Frank Bennett, who created the Free Law Ferret, adapting some of CourtListener’s citation-finding code to JavaScript and enabling users of the extension to find citations on any website and then get the documents from CourtListener.
  • Jake Heller, CEO of CaseText, whose team there has frequently been a helpful sounding board when Mike and I are thinking through the interesting questions that arise when trying to put useful legal research tools on the web.
  • Colin Starger, of the University of Baltimore School of Law, with whom we’ve had great conversations about citations, metadata, and bulk downloads, not topics of conversation that everyone has as much experience with as Colin!
  • David Zvenyach, General Counsel to the Council of the District …
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$10,000 in Further Awards for RECAP Projects

Today, teams across the country are hard at work on the Aaron Swartz Memorial Grants. These grants, offered by the Think Computer Foundation, provide $5,000 awards for three different projects related to RECAP.

We are delighted to announce additional awards. The generous folks over at Google’s Open Source Programs team have pledged to support two more RECAP-related project awards — at $5,000 each. These are open to anyone who wishes to submit a proposal for a significant improvement to the RECAP system. We will work with the proposers to scope the project and define what qualifies for the award. All projects must be open source.

There are several potential ideas. For instance, someone might propose add support to RECAP for displaying the user’s current balance and prompting the user to liberate up to their free quarterly $15 allocation as the end of the quarter approaches (inspired by Operation Asymptote). Someone might propose to improve the https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/ interface, and to improve detection and removal of private information. Someone might propose some other idea that we haven’t thought of. You may wish to watch the discussion of a few of these initial ideas …

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Announcing the Aaron Swartz Memorial Grants

Last week, our community lost Aaron Swartz. We are still reeling. Aaron was a fighter for openness and freedom, and many people have been channeling their grief into positive actions for causes that were close to Aaron’s heart. One of these people is Aaron Greenspan, creator of the open-data site Plainsite and the Think Computer Foundation. He has established a generous set of grants to be awarded to the first person (or group) that develops the following upgrades to RECAP, our court record liberation system. RECAP would not exist without the work of Aaron Swartz.

Three grants are being made available related to RECAP. Each grant is worth $5,000.00:

  1. Grant 1: Develop and release a version of RECAP for the Google Chrome browser that matches the current Firefox browser extension functionality
  2. Grant 2: Develop and release a version of RECAP for Internet Explorer that matches the current Firefox browser extension functionality
  3. Grant 3: Update the Firefox browser extension to capture appellate court documents, and update the RECAP server code to parse them and respond appropriately to browser extension requests

For more details, see The Aaron Swartz Memorial Grants. If you are interested, you must register by the …

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