Earlier this week, the nonprofit Measures for Justice launched an amazing new data portal “to assess and compare the criminal justice process from arrest to post-conviction on a county-by-county basis. The data set comprises measures that address three broad categories: Fiscal Responsibility, Fair Process, and Public Safety.”
According to The Marshall Project:
The project, which has as its motto “you can’t change what you can’t see,” centers on 32 “core measures”: yardsticks to determine how well local criminal justice systems are working. How often do people plead guilty without a lawyer? How often do prosecutors dismiss charges? How long do people have to wait for a court hearing? Users can also slice the answers to these questions in different ways, using “companion measures” such as race and political affiliation.
Just six states are included so far, but fortunately for us, Wisconsin is one of them. The others are Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.
The site is really incredible. It allows you to zero in and compare data for measures including bail payments, diversion, dismissals, case resolution, type and length of sentence, and more. Data is then presented by county with the option to further limit and compare by race/ethnicity, sex, age, offense severity, and offense type.
For example, here’s a screen shot from the tool comparing non violent felonies sentenced to prison by Wisconsin county further filtered by race/ethnicity. Note that you can select specific counties to more deeply explore and compare data as shown below.
Kudos to Measures for Justice for creating this remarkable and easy-to-use tool.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has recently launched an archive of formal Attorney General opinions. The opinions, in PDF, are available from the first bound volume of opinions in 1912 to the present.
Note that the bound opinion volumes were published between 1912 and 1994. From 1900-1912, opinions were printed in the Biennial report of the Attorney General of the State of Wisconsin. Since 1994, individual opinions have been made available on the DOJ website.
Kudos to Amy Thornton, senior librarian, DOJ Division of Legal Services for making this collection available.
Last month the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “the state Department of Natural Resources recently scrubbed language from an agency web page on the Great Lakes that said humans and greenhouse gases are the main cause of climate change. The DNR now says the subject is a matter of scientific debate.”
The web page in question is http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/greatlakes/climatechange.html. The article gives links to both the current and old text as archived by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, a digital archive of web contact back to 1996.
What the Journal Sentinel article didn’t mention is that the archived site is also available through an archive of websites curated by Wisconsin Historical Society. The archive contains sites from “state agencies and local governments, political campaigns for gubernatorial or U.S. Senate races and related social media, topical issues such as mining and organic agriculture and selected online publications.”
According to the Historical Society,
This effort aims to provide permanent access to websites and other digital materials for researchers and the general public. By harvesting the content of these websites through the “Archive-It” subscription service, the Wisconsin Historical Society collects, preserves, and makes accessible these electronic publications and records for public use.
What’s the difference between the Wayback Machine and sites collected by the Historical Society you might ask? Thoughtful curation and searchability. From the Historical Society FAQ:
The primary difference between the general Wayback Machine web portal and Archive-It websites collected by institutions such as the WHS (which are also viewed through the Wayback portal) is that Archive-It collections are full-text searchable. WHS staff selects websites to preserve in various collections and can capture websites at strategic times, while the general Wayback Machine may or may not have an archived version of the website for which a user is searching.
So – if you’re looking for an archived version for a particular URL, stick with the Wayback machine which will include any sites archived by the Historical Society. However, if you want to determine if particular text ever appeared on those sites, then give the Historical Society web archives a try.
It’s the end of an era as Lexis.com, the long-running and highly regarded database says its final goodbyes to the Law School community.
With 100% of Lexis content now migrated to Lexis Advance, the small amount of loyal Lexis.com users will have to prepare for the switch to Lexis Advance, which has slowly been becoming the primary Lexis database over the past several years.
Both Lexis and Westlaw have transitioned to their new platforms and retired their flagship databases in recent years.
If you’ve ever tried looking for a CRS Report, you know that they can be very difficult to track down. A new site called everyCRSreport.com is hoping to make them more publicly accessible online.
Currently the site includes 8,260 CRS reports, although that number will change regularly. It’s unclear what date range is covered by the site, although it does say that “if you’re looking for older reports, our good friends at CRSReports.com may have them.”
[update 10/27: Per @danielschuman at Demand Progress “the @EveryCRSReport website has all the reports currently available to congress. They can go back to the 90s, but not usually.”]
If you’re not familiar with CRS Reports, they are reports issued by the Congressional Research Service which is a legislative branch agency housed inside the Library of Congress. These reports contain analytical, non-partisan information on topics of interest to members of Congress.
Although the reports are works of the United States Government and not subject to copyright protection, the federal government has, thus far, not made them publicly available. Numerous non profits and commercial vendors have been working to fill the gap.
According to the website, EveryCRSReport.com is a project of Demand Progress in collaboration with the Congressional Data Coalition — a bipartisan coalition founded by Demand Progress and the R Street Institute to promote open legislative information.
There is a good piece on the latest in the Pacer litigation on Quartz. Several non-profits claim that fees charged by Pacer, an online database of papers filed by litigants in the US federal courts, exceed the cost of providing the records.
While the 10 cents a page that most people are charged to view documents doesn’t sound like much, critics say that the very existence of the paywall has stifled the development of tools to meaningfully search and analyze the data.
“You should be able to say, for example, ‘Give me everything that has the word motion in its description and that talks about copyright,’” says Mike Lissner, executive director of the nonprofit Free Law Project. “That’s not possible.”
Lissner, whose group provides free online access to primary legal materials, says the system’s shortcomings are a direct result of the fees attached to Pacer documents. “If the data were free,” he says, “you’d see an ecosystem cropping up with competitive services improving it.”
The case is currently before the US District Court for the District of Columbia. Judge Ellen Huvelle is expected to decide in the coming days whether a lawsuit accusing the government of setting Pacer fees at unlawfully high rates can proceed.
A collaborative group of librarians from the Library of Congress, U.S. Government Publishing Office, Internet Archive, and several other archives and universities have teamed up on a project to preserve public United States Government websites at the end of the current presidential administration ending January 20, 2017.
In this collaboration, the partners will structure and execute a comprehensive harvest of the Federal Government .gov domain. But they need your help. The project team is calling upon government information specialists, including librarians, political and social science researchers, and academics – to assist in the selection and prioritization of the selected web sites to be included in the collection.
Simply submit urls of your favorite or any interesting, live .gov website other federal government websites, or governmental social media account with the End of Term Nomination Tool.
For more information, see this post from the Library of Congress.
If you haven’t yet heard about Harvard’s Caselaw Access Project to digitize millions of pages of case law and make it freely available online, check out this story in Bostonomix.
“We want the law, as expressed in court decisions, to be as widely distributed and as available as possible online to promote access to justice by means of access to legal information,” [Managing Director of Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab Adam] Ziegler said. “But also to spur innovation, to drive new insights from the law that we’ve never been able to do when the law was relegated to paper.” . . .
Harvard has granted Ravel Law an eight-year exclusive contract to use the case law information. The law school has an equity interest in the California-based company, which plans to use the data in new and innovative ways.
Daniel Lewis, CEO of Ravel, says it has applications that can detect trends and patterns in the law, even tracking bias among judges, presenting data in a visual way that discloses relationships never seen before in the law.
Hat tip to UW Law Library Director, Steve Barkan.
The Law Library of Congress has recently released a full collection of historical volumes of the Federal Register online. The collection begins with the first Federal Register in 1936 and contains all daily volumes through 1993.
For more information, see the announcement from the Law Library of Congress.
According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the Supreme Court has denied cert to Authors Guild, et al. v. Google, Inc., in which the Authors Guild and individual writers argued that Google engaged in copyright infringement “on an epic scale” by digitizing, indexing, and displaying snippets of print books in internet search results.
From the article:
The last major development came in October when a federal appeals court in New York ruled for Google….
The dispute involves the boundaries of “fair use,” the legal doctrine that permits unauthorized copying in certain, limited circumstances. The Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded in October that Google’s scanning millions of copyrighted books wasn’t infringement because what the company makes viewable online is so limited.