Uploading PACER Dockets and Oral Argument Recordings to the Internet Archive

At Free Law Project, we collect a lot of legal information. In our RECAP initiative, we collect (or are donated) around one hundred thousand items from PACER every day. Separately, in our collection of oral argument recordings, we have gathered more than 1.4 million minutes of legal recordings — more than anywhere else on the web. All of this content comes from a variety of sources, and we merge it all together to make a searchable collection of PACER dockets and a huge archive of oral argument recordings.

Part of our mission at Free Law Project is to share this information and to ensure its long-term distribution and preservation. A great way to do that is to give it to a neutral third party so that no matter what happens, the information will always be available. For years, we have been lucky to partner with the Internet Archive for this purpose and today we are pleased to share two pieces of news about how we give them information. more ...


A Million Minutes of Oral Arguments

Today, we’re celebrating another milestone. We now have more than a million minutes of oral argument audio in CourtListener.com’s oral argument archive. All of this audio is available in our search engine, APIs, podcasts, and our website.

A million minutes of oral argument audio is a lot, so it helps to contextualize it. This is nearly 700 days of continuous oral argument audio from nearly thirty thousand cases. Put another way, listening to this entire collection would take as long as watching every episode of The Simpsons 76 times.

We have had a lot of success with our oral argument archive, and we’re thrilled to be able to provide it at no cost, despite its size growing every day.

In the coming months we will continue expanding this collection in two key ways. First, we plan to begin automatically generating transcripts for audio files so that you can get an email alert any time certain words are said in court. Second, we plan to continue expanding our coverage so that it includes more state courts, and so that it includes all of the federal courts that have recordings available.

Between these two initiatives, we will continue …

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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 Oral Argument Podcasts Now on iTunes

iTunes Logo

Just a quick post today to share that our oral argument podcasts are now available on iTunes.

If you are a user of iTunes, you can easily subscribe to our podcasts by opening iTunes and searching for “Free Law Project” or “oral arguments.” Once you subscribe, the podcasts will download to iTunes wherever you use it.

These podcasts contain all of the oral argument audio for a given court or for a search that you create. This means that as of this moment, you can pipe the audio from the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Courts directly to your pocket with almost no effort.

To learn more about creating custom podcasts or about the podcasts that we already have, we’ve created a page on our site with all the details. It also has information about how to subscribe using Google Music, Stitcher Radio, and other apps.

We hope you’ll enjoy these podcasts. Who doesn’t want the Supreme Court in their pocket?

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CourtListener.com Now Supports Oral Arguments from the Second Circuit

Seal for Second Circuit

We are happy to share that as of today, oral argument recordings from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals are finally available on CourtListener.com. This means that you can search these recordings, create email alerts for them, listen to them on our site, and even include them in custom podcasts. Of course, we also provide enhanced versions of these recordings for download, and for developers or researchers they’re also available as bulk data or via our APIs.

Before today, we were unable to provide these features for the Second Circuit because they didn’t post their oral argument recordings on their website, so we’re thrilled that they’ve begun doing so. At this point, only the Tenth and Eleventh Circuits do not post their oral argument recordings, but we are hopeful that they will follow the lead of the other circuits and begin doing so soon.

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Second Circuit of Appeals to Finally Place Oral Arguments Online by Default — Write to the Court with Your Suggestions

At the end of last week there was some excellent news coming out of the Second Circuit:

That’s right, years after the other circuits put their oral arguments online, the Second Circuit has decided to join the party. According to the Court’s announcement (presently on the homepage; will eventually be in their archive):

At its quarterly meeting on May 23, 2016, the judges of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit approved the posting of audio recordings of oral arguments to the Court’s website, commencing August 15, 2016, the first day of the 2016 Term.

A few months ago, we calculated that this content would cost $300,000 to purchase, so this is great news for historians, scholars, legal practitioners, and everybody in between.

To make this change, the Court has proposed a change to its local rules, and there is a 30 day period ending July 15th for the public to make comments on the change. The change the Court has proposed is quite minor, simply stating that the website should now have …

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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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CourtListener Podcasts Now on Google Play

Google Play Logo

Just a quick post today to share that our oral argument podcasts are now available on Google Play Music.

If you are a user of Google Play Music, you can easily subscribe to our podcasts by searching for “Free Law Project”, “CourtListener”, or simply, “oral arguments”. Once you subscribe, the podcasts will download to your device if you use one, or will be playable via the website.

These podcasts contain all of the oral argument audio for a given court or for a search that you create. This means that in 2016, you can literally pipe the audio from the Supreme Court and Federal Circuit Courts directly to your pocket.

In honor of this announcement we’ve created a new page on our site that lists our existing, pre-made podcasts, explains how to make custom ones, and explains how to subscribe to them in Google Play Music or Stitcher Radio.

We hope you’ll enjoy these podcasts. Who doesn’t want the Supreme Court piped to their pocket?

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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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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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CourtListener Adds 7,000 More Oral Arguments

The past week has been a busy one for us and we’re excited to announce that thanks to a generous data donation we’ve added an additional 7,000 oral arguments to CourtListener. These files are available now and can already be searched, saved, and made into podcasts.

Although 7,000 more oral arguments may not sound like much, I must point out that these files are larger than your average MP3 and this has taken a week for our powerful server to download and prepare. Our collection now has more than 200 continuous days of listening — more than six months of audio.

From here on, we’ll continue getting the latest oral arguments from the Federal Appeals courts that offer them but we are eager for more donations so we can build up our archive. Oyez.org is doing an incredible job with the Supreme Court (and we hope to integrate these eventually), but if you know somebody in the federal appellate courts or if you have a collection of oral arguments you’d like to share, please get in touch! We’re eager to hear from you and to build the largest collection of oral arguments that …

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More Oral Argument News

Stitcher Logo

Stitcher Logo

We’re happy to share three pieces of news about oral arguments at CourtListener.

First, the sixth circuit has begun putting oral argument audio on their website and we have begun dishing it up through CourtListener. We briefly spoke to the technology team at the court and their reaction to our questions about their system was, “Oh, is that on our website already?” So this is a very new development, even for them.

Right now their site has oral argument audio back to August 7th and we are in the process of grabbing this audio and putting it in our archive. Unfortunately, the case in the news right now that’s blocking gay marriage in the circuit was argued one day prior to the oldest files they’ve posted, and so we don’t have audio for that case, and possibly never will. This is one big reason we’ve wanted to get into oral arguments on CourtListener and why we’ve been supported with a grant from Columbia Library to do this work: This content is simply going dark as new content is published.

While we’re happy to now be collecting data from the 6th Circuit …

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Announcing Oral Arguments on CourtListener

We’re very excited to announce that CourtListener is currently in the process of rolling out support for Oral Argument audio. This is a feature that we’ve wanted for at least four years — our name is CourtListener, after all — and one that will bring a raft of new features to the project. We already have about 500 oral arguments on the site, and we’ve got many more we’ll be adding over the coming weeks.

For now we are getting oral argument audio in real time from ten federal appellate courts. As we get this audio, we are using it to power a number of features:

  • Oral Argument files become immediately available in our search results.
  • A podcast is automatically available for every jurisdiction we support and for any query that you can dream up. Want a custom podcast containing all of the 9th circuit arguments for a particular litigant? You got it.
  • You can now get alerts for oral arguments so you can be sure that you keep up with the latest coming out of the courts.
  • For developers, there are a number of new endpoints in both our REST API and our bulk data API for …
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