Category Archives: Websites/Databases/Blogs

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.

A Curated List of Environmental Laws That Both Protect The Environment and Support Economic and Job Growth

Source: USC Schwarzenegger Institute, Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook, 2017

Laws that protect the environment and the health of citizens, while simultaneously supporting economic and job growth, are being passed in state legislatures across the United States. These laws are more important than ever before and, increasingly, the work being done at the subnational level is having an impact on national and global decision making. The USC Schwarzenegger Institute and the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators have partnered with one another to create this online resource that will help state legislators throughout America learn from their colleagues in other states. We hope to assist legislators who are interested in advancing smart environmental policies by sharing best practices and actual legislation that is working successfully in a number of states already.

Governor Schwarzenegger has long insisted that voters aren’t interested in Republican air or Democrat air but instead simply want clean air. That belief has guided our thought process when choosing the legislation to include in this database. We believe that lawmakers from both political parties and all 50 states will be able to use this resource to find creative legislative solutions to many of the environmental and public health issues facing the people and communities they represent.

This list, although extensive, is by no means complete. We look forward to expanding the list of legislation shared on this website and encourage you to recommend bills from your respective states that you believe can be helpful to legislators elsewhere in America.

BROWSE BILLS BY CATEGORY:
Air Quality
Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Human Health
Climate Change

IMLS Funding Reports by State 2011-2016

Source: Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), 2017

From the press release:
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) released reports with detailed views of IMLS funding for the past six years (FY 2011 through FY 2016) for every state across the nation and the District of Columbia. It is the first time the agency has compiled information across the agency’s museum and library programs by state in this manner. The documents will serve as a one-stop information source with data that are publicly available but are currently distributed across multiple datasets or databases.

The IMLS funding report for each state includes total dollars and counts of IMLS grants and awards, as well as amounts of grantee matches or state government maintenance of effort levels. It lists museums and libraries receiving IMLS awards and grants, and provides descriptions of the library Grants to States program projects. It also includes information about geographic distribution of grants across the state. With charts, tables, and maps, the reports help the reader to find valuable information easily and make state-by-state comparisons.

The Open Policing Project

Source: Stanford University, 2017

Currently, a comprehensive, national repository detailing interactions between police and the public doesn’t exist. That’s why the Stanford Open Policing Project is collecting and standardizing data on vehicle and pedestrian stops from law enforcement departments across the country — and we’re making that information freely available. We’ve already gathered 130 million records from 31 state police agencies and have begun collecting data on stops from law enforcement agencies in major cities, as well.

We, the Stanford Open Policing Project, are an interdisciplinary team of researchers and journalists at Stanford University. We are committed to combining the academic rigor of statistical analysis with the explanatory power of data journalism….

Predict Your FOIA Request Success

Source: data.world, 2017

Does your FOIA have a shot? This model is trained on 9,000+ FOIA requests tracked by MuckRock.

Predictions made using a K nearest neighbors classification algorithm with a test classification accuracy rate of 80%. Factors include word count, average sentence length, specificity (presence of nouns), references to fees, references to FOIA, presence of hyperlinks, presence of email addresses, and success rate of agency.
Related:
What makes a good FOIA request? We studied 33,000 to find out.
Source: Nicolas Dias, Rashida Kamal, and Laurent Bastien, January 30, 2017

Every journalist has ideas about what makes a good public records request. But surprisingly few people have actually tried to systematically analyze how requests can be written to improve their chances of success. To fill this vacuum, we analyzed more than 33,000 Freedom of Information Act requests and identified a few characteristics that were typical of those that were fulfilled…..

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…..