University of Wisconsin–Madison

Access millions of cases for free and in bulk with Harvard's new Caselaw Project

As November gears up, many students (and faculty, and staff) are focused on the last month of classes and starting to peak ahead to Finals. However, there are still other great new developments happening out in the wider legal world. Case in point - Harvard is hard at work to make case law freely available to anyone, and not just for searching and browsing like we are used to.

Early last week, the Library Innovation Lab at the Harvard Law Library announced the release of their Caselaw Access Project, which will allow for much wider access to case law than ever before. Over the past five years, Harvard has scanned and digitized over 40 million pages of case law from across the US, equaling nearly 6.5 million cases.

While that may sound like old news since the vast majority of these cases are also available in Westlaw and Lexis, the added bonus here is that these cases can be downloaded in bulk and used in statistical analyses. This will inevitably lead to powerful analytics and general analysis of case law that have not yet been conceived, and hopefully lead to a better understanding of why certain cases turned out the way they did and highlight historical trends over time. Statistical wonks unite because you now have a powerful new tool to help understand case law and the American legal system.

One fun example of what can be done with the data is the "limerick generator" on Harvard's site. The program, with the Harvard case law data backing it up, automatically generates a limerick based on a case in the system. Here is a sample limerick:

Was There a Breach of the Subcontract?
The parties had no further contact.
Improper recross.
The premises Ros.
The rear bedroom was never ransacked.

Can you guess the case?

Check out the Harvard Case Law website to either download data in bulk or see what other tools have already been created using this amazing (and free) set of data.

Submitted by Kristopher Turner on November 8, 2018

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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