Our good friend Pablo Arredondo shares this great free law development:
We here at Stanford are big fans of CourtListener. We use it to, among other things, identify recent cases that cite our faculty; those alerts come to us faster than those from some other services.
Stanford Law School alumnus, Legal Research Plus guest blogger and legal informatics visionary Pablo Arredondo has some news to share about CourtListener’s Free Law Project:
Brian W. Carver and Michael Lissner, creators of the CourtListener platform
and associated technology, are pleased to announce that after four years
developing free and open legal technologies, they are launching a
non-profit umbrella organization for their work: Free Law Project. Free Law
Project will serve to bring legal materials and research to the public for
free, formalizing the work that they have been doing, and providing a
long-term home for similar projects.
“Since the birth of this country, legal materials have been in the hands of
the few, denying legal justice to the many,” said Michael Lissner,
co-founder of the new non-profit. “It is appalling that the public does not
have free online access to the entirety of United States case law,” said
Brian Carver, UC Berkeley professor and Free Law Project co-founder. “We
are working to change this situation. We also provide a platform for
developing technologies that can make legal research easier for both
professionals and the general public.”
The official goals for the non-profit are:
* To provide free, public, and permanent access to primary legal
materials on the Internet for educational, charitable, and scientific
* To develop, implement, and provide public access to technologies useful
for legal research;
* To create an open ecosystem for legal research and materials; and
* To support academic research on related technologies, corpora, and
The CourtListener platform was started in 2009 as part of a masters project
at UC Berkeley, and has matured over the years to be a powerful legal
research platform. It has nearly a million legal opinions dating from 1754,
and has more each day as it gets them directly from court websites.
CourtListener currently serves thousands of people with free legal opinions
each week, and has had a doubling of traffic just since July 2013.
CourtListener sends out hundreds of alerts to its users each week,
informing them of new legal cases in which they have expressed an interest.
All of CourtListener’s code is open source and all of its content is
available for free bulk download. Numerous startups and researchers have
used both the code and the bulk data as a basis for their work.
More information is available in [the Free Law Project about page],
where you can find a list of current activities and non-profit documents.
The co-founders expect to pursue grant funding from foundations, but also
hope that those who support the goals of improving public access to the law
will [donate directly] so that the non-profit can put more developers to
work on these efforts.
In the future, freelawproject.org will be the official place to find
updates about Free Law Project and its related technologies.
“This is a huge day for the open legal movement, and we hope you’ll help
share the news by telling your friends and colleagues,” said Lissner.
**Brian W. Carver** is Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley School of
Information where he does research on and teaches about intellectual
property law and cyberlaw. He is also passionate about the public’s access
to the law. In 2009 and 2010 he advised an I School Masters student,
Michael Lissner, on the creation of CourtListener.com, an alert service
covering the U.S. federal appellate courts. After Michael’s graduation he
and Brian continued working on the site and have grown the database of
opinions to include over 900,000 documents.
**Michael Lissner** is the co-founder and lead developer of CourtListener,
a project that works to make the law more accessible to all. He graduated
from UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Michael is passionate about
bringing greater access to our primary legal materials, about how
technology can replace old legal models, and about open source,
community-driven approaches to legal research.
For more information, contact email@example.com
I start my day reading newspapers, and I especially enjoy the obituaries. Today’s New York Times includes an obituary for Jerry Finkelstein, publisher of the New York Law Journal, and the obit includes this observation:
In 1963, Mr. Finkelstein bought The Law Journal, the official paper of the city’s legal profession, for $1 million. Its circulation was small, and it was an ocean of tiny print: legal notices, case calendars, texts of decisions. But he turned it into a leading journal, and he wielded enormous power by deciding which cases to publish, in effect determining what the bar read — a leverage not lost on judges, lawyers and politicians.
SUSAN NEVELOW MART, Colorado Law, University of Colorado Boulder School of Law
Humans and machines are both involved in the creation of legal research resources. For legal information retrieval systems, the human-curated finding aid is being overtaken by the computer algorithm. But human-curated finding aids still exist. One of them is the West Key Number system. The Key Number system’s headnote classification of case law, started back in the nineteenth century, was and is the creation of humans. The retrospective headnote classification of the cases in Lexis’s case databases, started in 1999, was created primarily although not exclusively with computer algorithms. So how do these two very different systems deal with a similar headnote from the same case, when they link the headnote to the digesting and citator functions in their respective databases? This paper continues an investigation into this question, looking at the relevance of results from digest and citator search run on matching headnotes in ninety important federal and state cases, to see how each performs. For digests, where the results are curated – where a human has made a judgment about the meaning of a case and placed it in a classification system – humans still have an advantage. For citators, where algorithm is battling algorithm to find relevant results, it is a matter of the better algorithm winning. But no one algorithm is doing a very good job of finding all the relevant results; the overlap between the two citator systems is not that large. The lesson for researchers: know how your legal research system was created, what involvement, if any, humans had in the curation of the system, and what a researcher can and cannot expect from the system you are using.
Source: LSN Legal Information & Technology eJournal Vol. 4 No. 29, 07/24/2012
The China Guiding Cases Project is pleased to announce the opportunity to volunteer with the CGCP! We are currently accepting applications to be part of the CGCP team over the coming year. If you are interested in working with our diverse and experienced team on producing high quality products aimed at advancing understanding of Chinese law both inside and outside of China, please visit http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/volunteer. Note that applications are due June 30, so don’t delay!
We are also pleased to announce the launch of Phase II of the China Guiding Cases Project website (http://cgc.law.stanford.edu)! Visit the site now to see the following new features:
FOUR (4) China Law Summaries. Visit our site to learn how Contract Law, Environmental and Resources Law, Intellectual Property Law and Labor Law is practiced in China. Each summary includes an overview of the area of law, historical background, and reference materials linked to the original sources of law available in English and Chinese!
Quotes on the 1st FOUR (4) Guiding Cases. Come see what has been said about each of the first batch of guiding cases since their release last December!
News and Events Page. Learn about CGCP events and see how the CGCP has been covered in the news since our launch last year!
And, if you haven’t already done so, see our recently released….2nd Batch of FOUR (4) Guiding Cases. The English translations of the second batch of Guiding Cases released by the Supreme People’s Court are now available on our website at http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/guiding-cases/. The new cases include two (2) administrative penalty cases, one (1) construction project contract dispute and one (1) corporate dissolution dispute.
Two (2) NEW Expert Commentaries!
“How to Apply the Guiding Cases of the Supreme People’s Court in Judicial Practice” written by Judge CHEN Kui, President of the Dongguan Municipality No. 2 People’s Court of Guangdong Province (available at http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/expert-commentary/3-judge-chen/).
“Discussing the Guiding Case System with Chinese Characteristics By First Combining Guiding Case No. 1 with Adjudication Practices” by Judge OU Zelin, of the Second Civil Tribunal of the Dongguan Municipality No. 2 People’s Court of Guangdong Province, (available at http://cgc.law.stanford.edu/4-judge-ou/)
For future updates, please subscribe to the China Guiding Cases Project mailing list by visiting https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/chinaguidingcasesproject. Just enter your email address in the space provided and then click “Subscribe.” Please note that we will be primarily using this list from now on to communicate important announcements and developments, so be sure to sign up today!
The CGCP Team
Stanford Law School
The Supreme People’s Court (SPC) of China has released its first four guiding cases : two contract law and two criminal law cases.
Shanghai Zhongyuan Property Consultants Ltd. v. De-Hua Tao
This is a contract law opinion.
Wu Mei v. West Side Paper Co., Ltd. Sichuan Meishan
Also a contract law case.
Panyu Mei, Ning Bribery Case
Wang Intentional Murder Case
The SPC statement explaining the concept of guiding cases and links to the four cases in Chinese is available at :
The court announcement and additional information in Chinese can be found at:
Stay tuned to Legal Research Plus for news about English translations and commentary on the initial batch of SPC Guiding Cases.
From time to time I will get a call or e-mail from a proud parent whose son or daughter has been admitted to Stanford Law School. The parent wants my advice on a book for their accomplished child to read upon the beginning of their new-found career. A wonderful book has just come along which fits the bill perfectly: Judge Ruggero Aldisert’s A Judge’s Advice: 50 Years on the Bench.
This slender volume packs a lot of punch. In less than 250 pages the judge offers answers to questions that have occupied his thoughts for decades: : “What is the bedrock of our common law system? What are trial and appellate judges really looking for? What is the logical configuration that is absolutely necessary in any legal argument? What practical challenges do judges face when deciding a case? What is the difference between the philosophy of law and a philosophy of law? What is the difference between a judge making a decision and a judge justifying it, and why does that difference matter to me? Precedent in the law: When do you kiss it and when do you kill it?”
The judge organizes his thoughts among the following five themes:
- Our Common Law Tradition: Still Alive and Kicking
- Logic and Law
- Avoiding Assembly Line Justice?
- The “Write Stuff”
- How Judges Decide Cases
And within these themes are found the following chapters:
The house of the law — The role of the courts in contemporary society — Precedent : what it is and what it isn’t, when do we kiss it and when do we kill it? — Elements of legal thinking — Logic for law students : how to think like a lawyer — Formal and informal fallacies — State courts and federalism — Life in the raw in appellate courts — “The seniors” suggest a solution — Brief writing — Opinion writers and law review writers: a community and continuity of approach — Reading and evaluating an appellate opinion — Philosophy, jurisprudence and jurisprudential temperament of federal judges — Making the decision — Justifying the decision.
While I know that all law students would benefit greatly from reading this book, when I first saw it our international students immediately came to mind as no other single volume that I am aware of so neatly and clearly explains the American legal system. This book explains stare decisis better than anything else available.
Judge Aldisert writes about his particular passion — the law — with an enthusiasm that is almost exhausting. Through this book the law student can get a glimpse of just how enormously satisfying the next 60 or 70 years of his or her life can be.
As the judge states in his Introduction: “. . . These pages flesh out the instruments and implements of lawyers with a far-ranging ‘view from above’ with one objective in mind: to enrich the skills of these men and women so that each may bear — to borrow from Izaak Walton’s The Compleat Angler — the noble title of ‘compleat lawyer.’
This book really should be required reading for all law students, lawyers and others too. Judge Aldisert is one of my heroes, along with others who inspire me such as Roger Ebert, Vin Scully, Tony Bennett and Keiko Fukuda (Google her) — people who, while they may have stopped buying green bananas, they have not stopped working and never will. These are people who make no distinction between work and play and who will be carried off the job feet-first. They know the secret. People who I want to be like when I grow up.
Full disclosure: I was first charmed by Judge Aldisert when I met him during my daughter’s clerkship for him.
Court Interpretation of Indigenous Agreements: Database
The Centre for Energy, Petroleum and Mineral Law and Policy (CEPMLP) – University of Dundee (Scotland)
From the database description:
This database has been compiled from over 200 cases and articles from courts/tribunals in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America. The decisions collated for the database are those that interpret or apply documents involving indigenous parties. The database records, for each decision:
- a brief summary of the decision (including URL where available);
- the details of the document(s) involving indigenous parties; and
- a summary of the court’s/tribunal’s engagement with that document.
The database’s search function allows users to focus and find decisions and articles according to particular need. For example, if researching the relevance of fiduciary obligations in relation to indigenous agreements, the database allows quick collation of all materials relevant to that.
On the NOCALL list today was an interesting posting from Kerry Shoji, Paralegal/Research Analyst.
Kerry had recently asked questions on the NOCALL list about the citation process for the California Supreme Court. Kerry then passed the questions along to the experts, Fran Jones, Director of Library Services, California Judicial Center Library and Edward Jessen, Reporter of Decisions.
Below is the text of Kerry’s questions and Mr. Jessen’s responses. [Reproduced with the permission Kerry Shoji and Edward Jessen.]
“How can you find out a California Supreme Court citation on a recently decided case? I have the LEXIS citation, but I am curious:
1) How the official reporter volume/page number for the citation is assigned?
The California Official Reports publisher assigns volumes and page numbers because it is essentially a byproduct of the print composition process, and deadlines preclude much involvement in this function by the Reporter of Decisions. But the publisher is contractually required to print opinions in the order received, and there are contractual requirements for the pagination of volumes.
2) How long does it take to go from slip opinion to the bound opinion?
For example, Official Reports advance pamphlet No. 16 will contain all published opinions filed between 5/17/10 and 5/25/10, and will be issued on 6/17/10. Promptness is regulated by the Official Reports publication contract.*
Citations for opinions in that pamphlet, however, will be available on LexisNexis by approximately June 11.
3) How one can determine the official citation once bound?
Bound volumes, as a general rule, publish about 10 to 12 months after the last pamphlet issues with opinions for a particular volume. Citations, however, never change between advance pamphlets and bound volumes, except that superseded opinions (review granted, depublished, or rehearing granted) are omitted.
4) Do all the Westlaw or Lexis electronic references get converted to the official citation once the bound version is issued?
For the California Official Reports, there are several points in the editorial process leading to the final version of opinions in the bound volumes at which this office or the publisher would “convert” a Lexis or Westlaw cite to another California opinion to the Official Reports cite. The LexisNexis version of that opinion would also then receive the Official Reports cite in place of the Lexis or Westlaw cite. I cannot speak to what Westlaw would do in this situation because it is not the official version of opinions and we do not control content in the way we do for opinions on LexisNexis.”
*Special note: Peter W. Martin, Cornell Law School, has published in his Access to Law site many of the contracts between State courts and law report publishers, including California (2003). There is also a great table showing these contracts, too.
University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-05
JOOTAEK LEE, University of Miami – School of Law
The Global financial crisis has been discouraging legal researchers and practitioners from accessing high-cost databases.Many legal professionals and researchers are under financial pressures mainly because of the increased kinds and cost of subscription databases such as Westlaw and Lexis; thus, many legal professionals and researchers started considering free or less expensive internet resources for their research and classes. On the other hand, the number of these free or less expensive internet resources is increasing every year, and their coverage for legal sources is also expanded. Furthermore, just as the creation of a list of hypertext links to internet resources is not an easy task anymore because of the gigantic number of resources available, so simply providing created list to the law students will likewise irresponsibly confuse and intimidate them.
First, this article attempted to define internet legal research and to show the difficulty of distinguishing internet legal research from other online searches. Next, pros and cons of free or less expensive internet resources were discussed. Lastly, this article attempted to introduce and apply usability to various internet resources, criticizing Lexis and Westlaw by the principle of usability web-design.In conclusion, the necessity and prospective plan to establish evaluation standards for free internet resources including coverage, currency, accuracy, authority, appropriateness, and perspective will be explored
Source: LSN: University of Miami School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper
Series Vol. 4 No. 2, 04/21/2010