The law, annotated

Introducing Casetext

casetext
Casetext is a free, searchable legal database that you dear reader can annotate! The beta version just opened to the public, and the site is building a community of annotators so that lawyers reading a case see related legal documents, articles, and commentary alongside the text.
Casetext is committed to making the opinions and annotations freely available. Instead of charging for access, the site will support itself by offering additional tools that enhance search and save time.
The database currently contains the bulk of federal cases (all Supreme Court, circuit courts from 1 F.2d, and district courts from 1980); as well as Delaware cases in the Atlantic Reporter from 30 A.
Co-founders Jacob Heller and Joanna Huey met when he was president of the Stanford Law Review and she was president of the Harvard Law Review. After clerking together and working at firms, they decided to build Casetext because it’s what they wished they had for their own research. They’d love to hear your feedback (and, of course, to read your annotations).

Searching for law that is “well-settled.”

It is certainly well-settled that Stanford Law School graduates are doing some very exciting things in the world of legal informatics.  I’ve posted before about Ravel law, founded by our alumni Dan Lewis and Nik Reed.  Alumnus Jacob Heller is also doing some very cool things in this space (stay tuned!) and alumnus Pablo Arredondo just created the new tool described below:

The wellsettled.com search engine enables users to search two unique databases:
Unequivocal Articulations of Legal Principles 
Occasionally a court will issue a written opinion containing an unequivocal articulation
of a legal principle. If the common law were a biological genome, these articulations would
be the “genes”. Luckily, these common law genes are frequently introduced by specific phrases, the most prelevant of which are “It is well settled that…”  and “It is well established that…”
To continue with the genomics anology, these introductory phrases can be likened to the “start codons” that indicate when a DNA sequence is switching from non-coding to coding. Leveraging these common law “start codons”, the wellsettled.com engine allows users to run queries against, and only against, concise articulations of law.
Court-Generated Summaries Of Earlier Judicial Opinions 
Leading legal search companies employ armies of attorneys to read judicial opinions and generate written summaries of them. At the same time however, judges (and their clerks) are also reading and summarizing prior decisions.  Specifically, when citing to an earlier decision, judges will often include a parenthetical that concisely conveys the legal substance of the decision. Judge-generated case summaries are often of a better quality than those generated by the private sector.
To date, the judge-generated case summaries tucked away in parentheticals have been grossly underutilized. The wellsettled.com engine seeks to change that by enabling users to run queries against, and only against, these summaries. Once again common law “codons” are leveraged; in this case prime examples include  “(holding that…)”  and  (“finding that…)” .  The result is that attorneys can review case summaries that are at once concise, trustworthy, and free.
The wellsettled.com search engine is very much a work in progress, currently residing somewhere between a prototype and a beta. Phrases can be searched in quotations (e.g. “felony murder”). Rudimentary boolean searching is enabled using mySQL syntax. Full-text opinions are not available. Many full-text opinions are however freely available from a number of sources including scholar.google.com and ravellaw.com.  Any and all feedback is welcome and appreciated, and can be directed to info@wellsettled.com.
The wellsettled.com engine was conceived and built by Pablo Arredondo.  A graduate of Stanford Law School, Pablo has practiced law in California and New York and recently completed a fellowship at Stanford’s Center For Legal Informatics where his work focused on contextual (matter-specific) legal search/rankings. In college, Pablo worked at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Human Genome Center where, during the heyday of the Human Genome Project, he was tasked with critical duties such as replacing the liquid nitrogen tank and injecting mice with pregnant mare serum. He hasn’t shut up about genomes since.