We Have Every Free PACER Opinion on CourtListener.com

Free Opinion Report Dropdown

At Free Law Project, we have gathered millions of court documents over the years, but it’s with distinct pride that we announce that we have now completed our biggest crawl ever. After nearly a year of work, and with support from the U.S. Department of Labor and Georgia State University, we have collected every free written order and opinion that is available in PACER. To accomplish this we used PACER’s “Written Opinion Report,” which provides many opinions for free.

This collection contains approximately 3.4 million orders and opinions from approximately 1.5 million federal district and bankruptcy court cases dating back to 1960. More than four hundred thousand of these documents were scanned and required OCR, amounting to nearly two million pages of text extraction that we completed for this project.

All of the documents amassed are available for search in the RECAP Archive of PACER documents and via our APIs. New opinions will be downloaded every night to keep the collection up to date.

The RECAP Archive now has more than twenty million documents.

With this additional collection, the RECAP Archive now has information about more than twenty million PACER documents.

As a backup and permanent repository, we are continuing our partnership with the Internet …

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Judge Profiles on CourtListener Now Show Oral Arguments Heard

We’re proud to share that we’ve now linked together our database of judges and our database of oral argument recordings. This means that as of now if you look at the profile page for a judge, you may see a list of oral argument recordings for cases that judge heard.

For example, on the page for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, there is a new section that looks like this:

Example screenshot of RBG

Ginsburg has participated in hundreds of oral arguments that we have in our system.

Clicking on the button at the bottom takes you back to our database of oral argument recordings where you can further refine your search. If the judge is active, there is an icon in the upper right that lets you subscribe to a podcast of the cases heard by that judge. At this time, these features are only available for the Supreme Court and for jurisdictions where the judges for specific cases are provided by the court website. We hope to expand this in the future.

To our knowledge, a linkage like this has never previously existed on any system, and we hope that it will make research and exploration faster and easier for our users …

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CourtListener’s SCOTUS Data Gets Even Better with Legacy Data from the Supreme Court Database

We’re excited to share that as of today, we have added the latest data from the Supreme Court Database (SCDB) into CourtListener. This update adds SCDB ID’s, parallel citations, vote counts, and decision direction data to about 20,000 Supreme Court cases. Each of these enhancements enables some great functionality.

For example, now that we have vote counts for older cases, you can create visualizations of older topics, like the “Separate but Equal” doctrine or the Commerce Clause. Colin Starger, the creator of SCOTUS Mapper, has been working with this early data and has created a variety of fascinating historical Supreme Court network graphs. If you want to experiment with this, the place to start is at the SCOTUS visualization homepage.

Here’s a taste, showing Katz v. U.S. plotted to Olmstead. In this graph you can see that over time the vote went from a divided conservative vote in 1928 to a divided liberal vote in 1967:

The other big enhancement that we’re excited about is that we were able to add about 60,000 parallel citations to the cases we have in CourtListener. This enables our citation parser to find these old citations and …

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Launching the Next Version of CourtListener.com

Today we’re launching a new version of CourtListener.com that focuses on making the site more useful and intuitive.

The big new feature in this version is the addition of a new navigation bar at the top of every screen, as you can see below:

New Navigation Bar

The new navigation bar on every page.

This should be a big improvement over our old site, making it much easier and intuitive to use the oral arguments, judges, and visualizations sections of CourtListener.

The other big feature in this version is new advanced search pages for opinions, oral arguments, and judges. For example, here’s a screenshot of the new judicial advanced search page:

Screenshot of the Judge Advanced Search page

The new judicial advanced search page.

This page should make it much easier to understand and query our judge database, and we expect the pages for advanced oral argument search and advanced opinion search will be similarly valuable.

The final enhancement we’re excited about is a layer of polish across the entire site. This cleans up some old issues, adds explanations to areas that were somewhat unclear before, and makes the site more accessible to people with certain physical disabilities.

This kind of work doesn’t sound like …

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Judge Profiles on CourtListener Now Have Campaign Finance Information from the National Institute on Money In State Politics

We’re proud to share that as of today we’ve added campaign finance data to our database of judges. This update links judges in the CourtListener system to their fundraising profiles in the FollowTheMoney.org database, allowing researchers and members of the public a new way to understand judges elected in State Supreme Court jurisdictions. This work was made possible by a prototype grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Using this system, you can easily see the sources of money that a judge received as part of an election, and you can put it side by side with all of the data that we have already gathered about that judge, such as the decisions they’ve written, the positions they’ve held professionally and in the judiciary, and their biographical information.

For example, on the page for Judge Tom Parker, there is a new section that looks like this:

Example screenshot

Tom Parker has raised approximately $2.1M dollars.

To our knowledge, it has never previously been possible to research the decisions written by a judge side by side with the money they’ve received. We invite researchers and journalists to use this information to uncover interesting …

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Judge Profiles on CourtListener Now Show the Cases Authored by Each Judge

When we launched our judicial database, we shared our plan to show the cases written by each judge. As of today, we’re pleased to share that we’ve launched the first iteration of that endeavor. If you pull up any judge, say, Sonia Sotomayor, you’ll see a new section at the bottom that looks like this:

This listing provides the five most important opinions by the judge, and you can click the button at the bottom to see all of the cases they wrote or participated in. Clicking the button takes you to our search results, where you can slice and dice the data, choosing, for example, to see only their opinions from the Second Circuit, or their Supreme Court Cases.

In the search results and in the list on the judge profile page, the opinions are ordered by relevance, using our CiteGeist relevance engine. This highlights the cases that have been cited the most frequently by the most important cases.

Finally, you can now get an RSS feed for any active judge in our system, enabling you to keep up with anything they write. To do so, click the RSS icon (), and configure it with your RSS …

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Twenty-nine New Jurisdictions and an Improved Interface Coming Soon to CourtListener

At CourtListener, we’re currently working on one of the biggest upgrades yet, and in doing that we’re adding many new jurisdictions that we didn’t have previously:

  • Attorney General opinions from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin
  • Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission
  • Appellate Division of the Superior Court of California
  • Colorado Industrial Claim Appeals Office
  • Connecticut Compensation Review Board
  • Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents
  • New Jersey Court of Chancery
  • Superior Court of North Carolina
  • North Carolina Industrial Commission
  • Civil Court of the City of New York
  • Criminal Court of the City of New York
  • Oregon Tax Court
  • Superior Court of Rhode Island
  • Tennessee Superior Court for Law and Equity
  • Texas Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation
  • Court of King’s Bench

This brings the number of jurisdictions to more than 400, and it is getting hard to tell which courts are important. For example, some of the courts above have been terminated, and the King’s Bench is actually an English jurisdiction—-or was, until it was terminated in 1873.

To address the confusion that is caused by so many jurisdictions (a good problem to have), we’ve identified the …

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Milestone: CourtListener has 365 Days of Continuous Oral Argument Listening

You said you liked listening to oral argument recordings, and we heard you. Back in 2014, we began collecting oral argument recordings, and we’re happy to share that as of today we have more than 365 days of continuous oral argument listening — a full year. You can sit down today, start listening to oral arguments, and 365 days later, you’ll have finished listening to what we currently have. (Of course, by then, we’ll have thousands more minutes to listen to!)

Lots of people like binge watching TV shows. So, for comparison, this much oral argument audio is similar to watching:

  • Every episode of The Simpsons…40 times
  • Every episode of Law & Order…19 times
  • Every episode of Sesame Street…2 times
  • About half of the episodes of General Hospital!

(Source)

Listening to lawyers argue for this much time is not recommended, but we’ve seen demand for this material and we’re very pleased to offer it as oral argument podcasts or directly on CourtListener.com.

We’re also working on and investigating a few new projects to enhance oral argument recordings:

  • Removing dead air at the beginning and ends of oral argument recordings and doing volume …

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More Information about our Judicial Database and Some Responses to Feedback

Robert Ambrogi recently wrote an article about our new judicial database for his LawSites blog. In his article, he makes a few concrete observations about our judicial database, and I want to use these observations as a launching point to talk some more about what we have made, why it is useful, and what we are working on next.

The two observations Robert makes are:

  1. Our page for Justice Robert Cordy is sparse compared to the same page on Ballotpedia.

  2. Scalia’s end date was not set for his time on the Supreme Court, and his education data was not quite correct.

These kinds of observations are really important to us, and it shows that we still have work to do building and explaining our work.

On Sparseness

To the first observation about Robert Cordy, our response is that we’re building a database, not a more free-form wiki. Unlike the incredible work Ballotpedia is doing, which allows almost any kind of information, our work is focused on gathering specific facts about judges and appointing officials. This approach has pros and cons, and Robert is fair to point out that our data about this important judge is fairly sparse. He …

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Free Law Project and Princeton/Columbia Researchers Launch First-of-its-Kind Judicial Database

A screenshot of President, Judge Taft

President Taft’s Biography Page

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 …

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Releasing V3 of the API, Deprecating V1 and V2

This post is one with mixed news, so I’ll start with the good news, which is that version 3.0 of the CourtListener API is now available. It’s a huge improvement over versions 1 and 2:

  • It is now browsable. Go check it out. You can click around the API and peruse the data without doing any programming. At the top of every page there is a button that says Options. Click that button to see all the filtering and complexity that lies behind an API endpoint.
  • It can be sampled without authentication. Previously, if you wanted to use the API, you had to log in. No more. In the new version, you can sample the API and click around. If you want to use it programatically, you’ll still need to authenticate.
  • It conforms with the new CourtListener database. More on this in a moment, but the important part is that version 3 of the API supports Dockets, Opinion Clusters and Sub-Opinions, linking them neatly to Judges.
  • The search API supports Citation Searching. Our new Citation Search is a powerful feature that’s now available in the API.
  • Bulk data now has metadata. In response to a …
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Citation Searching on CourtListener

One of the great new features that the new version of CourtListener provides is what we’re calling Citation Searching. Citation Searching lets you look at all the opinions that cite an opinion you’re interested in and then slice and dice them so that you only see the ones that are important to you.

For example, say you’re looking at Roe v. Wade and you want to analyze the cases that have cited it. In CourtListener, in the sidebar on the left, there’s a list of the opinions citing the one you’re looking at, in the section called “Cited By”. At the bottom of that section, there’s a link that says, “Full List of Cited Opinions”.

Sidebar

If you click that link, you’ll be taken back to the search results page, and you’ll see that your query is for cites:(108713). The number in there is the ID of Roe v. Wade that you can see in its URL. This is just standard CourtListener search syntax, so you can tweak it however you like.

For example, another important case in this area is Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which has an ID of 112786. If …

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Millions of New “Short Form” Case Names Now on CourtListener

While working on a soon-to-be-released feature of CourtListener, we needed to create “short form” case names for all the cases that we could. We’re happy to share that we’ve created about 1.8M short form case names, including complete coverage for all Supreme Court cases going back to 1947, when the Supreme Court Database begins.

If you’re not familiar with the term, short form case names are the ones you might use in a later citation to an authority you’ve already discussed in a document. For example, the first time you mention a case you might say:

Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States Ex Rel. Carter

But later references might just be:

Kellogg Brown at 22

The Blue Book doesn’t have a lot to say about this format, but does say the short form must make it, “clear to the reader…what is being referenced.” Also:

When using only one party name in a short form citation, use the name of the first party, unless that party is a geographical or governmental unit or other common litigant.

With these rules in mind, we made an algorithm that attempts to generate good short form …

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Many Improvements Released in New CourtListener Version

It’s taken the better part of a year, but I’m thrilled to announce that a new and better version of CourtListener is live as of this moment. If you can’t tell the difference immediately, we see that as a good thing, since most of the enhancements are under the hood.

  • The most important changes in this version have to do with the database, which now supports a number of new features. Most importantly, legal opinions are no longer single entities. For example, in the past if we had the lead opinion, a dissent, and a concurrence, we had no choice but to put them all together and make them readable top to bottom on our site. That has been fine, but in our new system we introduce the concept of an Opinion Cluster, which consists of several “sub opinions”.

    This will let us have links from a dissent to a concurrence, something we couldn’t do before. Or we can change the way the “sub-opinions” are displayed so that you can easily go straight to the dissent or the concurrence, without having to scroll endlessly. In a similar way, we are now introducing dockets, which will soon …

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Our New Citation Finder

CourtListener now has a new citation finder that you can use with any citation in our system. It’s dead simple. There are two ways to use it.

Either simply type in the citation you want to look up:

Citation Lookup

Or, just make a link with a format like:

  • https://www.courtlistener.com/c/REPORTER/VOLUME/PAGE/

And you’ll get to the page for that citation. For example, using parallel citations, any of these links will take you to Citizen’s United v. Federal Elections Commission:

This new tool relies on our existing citation extractor, which extracts thousands of citations from opinions every day. As a result, these links are also able to handle alternate names for any reporter that we have encoded in our Reporters Database. For example, the United States Reports has historically also been abbreviated as “U.S.S.C.Rep.” or “USSCR”. Use either of these, and you’ll find that they also work without a hitch:

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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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Reporters Database

United States Reporters

A long time ago in a courthouse not too far away, people started making books of every important decision made by the courts. These books became known as reporters and were generally created by librarian-types of yore such as Mr. William Cranch and Alex Dallas.

These men—-for they were all men—-were busy for the next few centuries and created thousands of these books, culminating in what we know today as West’s reporters or as regional reporters like the “Dakota Reports” or the thoroughly-named, “Synopses of the Decisions of the Supreme Court of Texas Arising from Restraints by Conscript and Other Military Authorities (Robards).”

Motivated by our need to identify citations to these reporters, we’ve taken a stab at aggregating a few facts about them, such as variations in their name, abbreviation, or years they were published, and put all that information into our reporters database. Until recently, this database lived deep inside CourtListener and was only discovered by intrepid hackers rooting around, but a few months ago we pulled it out, put it in its own repository, and converted it to better formats so anyone could more easily re-use it.

Currently, it’s ready to use …

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CourtListener Can Now Send Alerts in Real Time for Donors

We rolled out a new feature today on CourtListener that allows you to stay up to date with court opinions and oral arguments as fast as we know about them. We’re calling it Real Time Alerts, and donors can start using this now by selecting “Real Time” in the rate drop down when creating alerts:

Real Time Alerts
Demo

Once you’ve set up an alert with this rate, we’ll begin checking the hundreds of items we download each day and we will send an email as soon as a new item triggers your alert. Just like our other emails, once you get the alert, you can click directly on the results to read opinions or listen to oral arguments.

For journalists and other users with speed-critical work, it’s as simple as that to keep up with hundreds of courts. Let us know what you think!

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CourtListener is Now Integrated with the Supreme Court Database

Earlier this week somebody on the Internet pinged us with some code and asked that we integrate the data from the Supreme Court Database (SCDB). Well, we’re happy to share that less than a week later we’ve taken the code they provided and used it to upgrade CourtListener’s database.

The Supreme Court Database includes data for about 8,500 Supreme Court opinions from 1946 to 2013 and this first pass merges that data with CourtListener so that:

  • Our copy of these opinions are enhanced with better parallel citations. You can now look these items up by U.S. Reporter (U.S.), The Supreme Court Reporter (S.Ct.), Lawyers’ Edition (L.Ed.) or even LEXIS citation (U.S. LEXIS). This should make our citation graph much more robust and should help people like Colin Starger at University of Baltimore that are doing great analyses with this data. Many of these items were screen scraped directly from the Supreme Court website meaning that for these items, this is the first time they have had proper citations. Here’s an example of the many parallel citations items now have:

Roe v. Wade
Citations

  • All Supreme Court Opinions from 1946 to 2013 have a new …
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Introducing Quick Tips on CourtListener

Starting today, as you use CourtListener you’ll see Quick Tips on the bottom of search results. They show up below search pagination and look something like this:

tips

The idea behind this feature is to give people quick bits of information about Free Law Project, CourtListener, RECAP and any other projects that we create in the future. As of now we’ve seeded the tips with about 20 that we thought would be useful, but because all of our work is in the open, we’re welcoming our users to add tips that they think would be useful.

To add a tip you’ll need a Github account and some basic HTML skills. If you have these two things, you can wander over to the list of tips and submit some of your own. If they’re good, we’ll add them to the site!

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