Court Listener – Real Time Alerts

Legal decisions are public records, no matter what West and Lexis/Nexis try to sell you. So, why should you care about a court reporting service like Court Listener (link here)? Court Listener’s angle is that it will provide you with “real time” alerts on decisions reported in the 13 federal courts of appeal and Supreme Court. Get a daily report on the decisions that contain your search queries by registering on the site and entering your alert query using boolean connectors in the search box.

Court Listener is a graduate student’s thesis project. From the site:

This site was created by Michael Lissner as part of a masters thesis at the University of California, Berkeley School of Information. Michael was advised by Assistant Professor, Brian Carver. The goal of the site is to create a free and competitive real time alert tool for the U.S. judicial system.
At present, the site has daily information regarding all precedential opinions issued by the 13 federal circuit courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. Each day, we also have the non-precedential opinions from all of the Circuit courts except the D.C. Circuit. This means that by 5:10pm PST, the database will be updated with the opinions of the day, with custom alerts going out shortly thereafter.
The coverage of our corpus for a given court varies, but it is growing on a daily basis. We are working to integrate the documents from other online sites that provide free public access to court documents.

As of today’s date, Court Listener as 166,144 documents in its database. You can also browse recent opinions to see generally what the federal courts have been up to. Not bad for a student project.

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It's Easter. Supeep Court's in Session.

I have a new tradition. Much like viewing light displays at Christmas, Easter is fast becoming my time of year to admire the handywork of artists such as Frank Salamone. Mr. Salamone’s medium is the sugar-encrusted marshmallows more commonly known as Peeps. His subject is the Supreme Court. Match made in heaven? You decide:

As explained by Mr. Salamone over at the ABA Journal site:

“I knew I wanted to do something to touch on the rock star status afforded Justice Sotomayor, and nothing screams ‘celebrity’ like a red carpet, a huge star and pipe-cleaner shades.”

Can you find Justice Scalia?

You really need to hit this link (here) and see the rest of the masterpieces. Before they get snarfed up.

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Examining the Supreme Court

Interested in the United States Supreme Court? Check out the Supreme Court Database, a broad-based collection of information not necessarily targeted at lawyers. Currently, the store holds over 200 pieces of information on all cases decided between the 1953 and 2008 terms. It is a work in progress and new information is being added all the time. The proponents come from a variety of universities and colleges and a range of backgrounds.

In a sense, the database seeks to impose a structure on the pertinent data within and surrounding each decision. There is an analysis tool that allows for searching across the database using concepts and keywords. Hit the link to the codebook to view the list of variables culled from the cases, searchable using the analysis tool – it really is quite impressive.

If such analysis can be applied to the Supreme Court’s decisions, why not the lower court cases and statutory law? Sure it might take a while, but this effort could open the door to a semantic treatment of legal resources. Maybe we could even push legal research out of the approximately 15-year slump in which it is been languishing. Are you listening, Google?

You Want Dockets? I Got Yer Dockets Right Here

Washington DC: United States Supreme Court
Image by wallyg via Flickr

Thanks entirely to Robert Ambrogi’s LawSites, a perpetual wealth of legal information of the free and on-line variety, I learned today of a new site called FreeCourtDockets. This site offers federal civil, criminal and bankruptcy court dockets, and material from the Supreme Court, Court of Claims and Court of International Trade.

Remembering fondly, here, those frantic calls to Iowa looking for a court docket on a dusty old case, then writing a check, then sending the check, and then patiently waiting for the pound of paper to return via U.S. Postal Service. Ain’t technology grand?

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