Category Archives: Elected Officials

CourtListener

Source: Free Law Project, 2017

CourtListener is a free legal research website containing millions of legal opinions from federal and state courts. With CourtListener, lawyers, journalists, academics, and the public can research an important case, stay up to date with new opinions as they are filed, or do deep analysis using our raw data.

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.

Related:
Free Law Project and Princeton/Columbia Researchers Launch First-of-its-Kind Judicial Database
Source: Free Law Project, Press Release, April 19, 2016

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 what degrees they were awarded.
• The judicial positions they have held. The core of this data is a list of courts and dates for each judge, but it also includes details about their specific position, how they were nominated or elected, what the voting outcome was, who appointed them, the clerks they supervised, and nearly a dozen dates about the timing of their nomination process.
• The non-judicial positions they have held. The database aims to include comprehensive timelines of a judge’s full career both before before and after being a judge. This includes work in other branches of government, in private practice, and in academia.
• Any ratings that a judge has been given by the American Bar Association.
• Finally, we are gathering the political affiliation of judges. This information is coming from a few sources such as ballots (for elected judges) and appointers (for appointed judges).

We have collected all available public datasets and added a large amount of data ourselves. But there are many actors in the U.S. legal system and the database is far from complete. We hope that interested researchers will collaborate with us in contributing more data. Our goal is to put down a foundation of solid data that can be built on by the community and that can grow into the future.

In conjunction with this database, we’re also launching a project to gather and curate judicial portraits. At launch, we have gathered about 250 judicial portraits, mostly of federal judges. This is a small fraction of the number of judges in the database, and we’re looking for help gathering many more portraits. We’re hopeful that with community support we’ll be able to build a comprehensive database of judicial portraits. If you’re interested in helping or have ideas for where we might get more images of judges, please get in touch.

Health Benefits for Members of Congress and Designated Congressional Staff: In Brief

Source: Ada S. Cornell, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43194, January 13, 2017

Many private- and public-sector firms offer employer-sponsored health insurance to their employees and contribute toward the cost of that insurance as part of the employee’s compensation package. The federal government, as an employer, also offers health benefits to its employees and retirees. In general, federal employees receive health benefits through the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, administered by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). However, Members of Congress and designated congressional staff receive employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) through the District of Columbia’s small business health options program (SHOP) exchange, also known as DC Health Link (hereinafter the “DC SHOP”). ….. In addition to health insurance coverage under the DC SHOP, this report describes other health benefits available to Members and congressional staff, including the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS); the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP); the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP); the Office of the Attending Physician; and treatment in military facilities. …..

The 5 faulty beliefs that have led to Republican dysfunction on health care

Source: JB Silvers, The Conversation, July 12, 2017

…. The latest development has been the inability of Republicans to even agree on their own proposal and, worse yet, what should come next if it fails. Should they repeal the Affordable Care Act and worry about a replacement later or just try to “fix” the ACA now?

But the problem is much deeper than just a policy fix. As a former health insurance CEO and professor of health finance, it seems clear to me that Republicans are making five key implicit assumptions that are inherently problematic:
1. If it’s your own money, you’ll be more careful in how you’ll spend it. ….
2. Many or most poor people (Medicaid recipients) can work and should contribute to pay for insurance. ….
3. Government restrictions are holding back insurers from competition that would drive costs lower. ….
4. Physicians should be the only ones making care decisions (with the consent of their patients) since they know best. ….
5. Government should help people – but not too much. ….

What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators

Source: Labinot Demaj, Public Administration Review, Volume 77 Issue 3, May/June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions have produced contradictory findings. This article offers a framework of the parliamentary context that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. The framework suggests that the impact on politicians’ allocations will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult trade-off for the decision maker, and whether information falls into a receptive partisan mind. The experimental study uses 57 actual legislators. The results show that the introduction of performance information into legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. This difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. More informed decisions, however, might make compromise among legislators more difficult because individual positions will become more polarized.
Previous version:
What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators
Source: Labinot Demaj, University of St. Gallen, Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2015-04, September 9, 2014

From the abstract:
Existing studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions are limited and have produced contradictory findings. This paper argues that most previous work has somewhat problematically focused on self-reported use of performance information rather than on the legislative context into which performance information is introduced. This study offers a framework that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. I argue that the impact will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult value tradeoff for the decision-maker, and whether the implications of the performance information fall into a receptive partisan mind. This paper studies these aspects by manipulating the first two of these factors in an experimental setting involving budgetary decision-making by 57 actual legislators. The control groups consist of 65 undergraduate students. The results show that the introduction of performance information into the legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. I argue that this difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. This paper concludes that more informed decisions based on good performance budgets might also create a situation in which it is more difficult for legislators to compromise because individual positions become more polarized.

Congress’ Browsing Habits

Source: Speak Together, 2017

Find out what the government is doing on your site

Get real time analytics on Congress, White House, and FCC visits to your site, while taking in part in one of the largest movements for internet privacy in the history of the Web.
Related:
How to Track What Congress Is Doing on the Internet
Source: Louise Matsakis, Motherboard, June 12, 2017

There’s now a way to track what government employees, including elected officials, are doing online during working hours. A new plugin created by a software engineer in North Carolina lets website administrators monitor when someone accesses their site from an IP address associated with the federal government. It was created in part to protest a piece of legislation the president signed earlier this year. In April, President Trump signed a measure allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to sell sensitive information about your online habits without needing your consent, rolling back Obama-era regulations intended to stop that very thing from happening…..

These Protesters Are Hitting Trump Where It Actually Hurts

Source: Mattea Kramer, The Nation, May 23, 2017

Could the president be influenced by threats to his profit margin? ….

…. Since Donald Trump’s election in November, and especially since his January inauguration, hundreds of small and not-so-small organizations have sprung up to oppose the president. They joined the ranks of established left-leaning and liberal groups already revving up their engines to fight the administration. Among all the ways you can now voice your dissent, though, there’s one tactic that this president will surely understand: economic resistance aimed at his own businesses and those of his children. He may not be swayed by protesters filling the streets, but he does speak the language of money. Through a host of tactics—including boycotting stores that carry Trump products, punishing corporations and advertisers that underwrite the administration’s agenda, and disrupting business-as-usual at Trump companies—protesters are using the power of the purse to demonstrate their opposition and have planned a day of resistance against his brand on June 14th.

Such economic dissent may prove to be an especially apt path of resistance, especially for the millions of Americans who reside in blue states and have struggled with a sense of powerlessness following the election. After all, it’s not immediately obvious how to take effective political action in the usual American way when your legislators already agree with you. But what blue-state dwellers lack in political sway they make up for in economic clout, since blue states have, on average, greater household incomes and more purchasing power than their red-state compatriots. The impact of coordinated blue-state boycotts could be enormous. That’s why Grab Your Wallet, along with Color of Change, a racial-justice group, and numerous other organizations are encouraging individuals to see their purchasing power as political muscle. ….

…. At first glance, Grab Your Wallet is a modest website: a Google spreadsheet that lists about 50 companies to boycott. Included are the department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord & Taylor, as well as online retailers like Overstock.com, Zappos, and Amazon, all of which sell some type of Trump swag. (The precise number of companies listed continues to decline, as retailers dump the Trump brand.) The site gets an impressive two million unique visitors every month, and when I spoke with Coulter, she told me that 22 retailers had dropped Trump products since the start of the boycott. She believes that this is just the beginning…..