The Free Law Project recently announced the availability of PACER Docket Alerts on CourtListener.com. CourtListener is a free public access website tracking federal and state courts. The Docket Alert tool will send you an email anytime there is a new court filing in a case you are following in PACER. Access to PACER documents is provided by the website’s RECAP function. Clicking on the RECAP Archive link allows users to search for available PACER filings.
Setting up Docket Alerts using CourtListener is simple (quoting the Free Law Project’s press release):
“The best way to get started with Docket Alerts is to just make one. Try loading a popular case like U.S. v. Manafort or The District of Columbia v. Trump. Once the case is open, just press the “Get Alerts” button near the top. Then, just wait for your first alert.”
Give it a try. I did with U.S. v. Manafort and the Docket Alerts started flowing in the very first day the alert was set, and they just keep coming.
The primary source powering these alerts is RSS data provided by PACER websites. However, not all courts have RSS feeds yet. So another very important source is the docket information contributed by RECAP users. Attorneys and others who download documents from the PACER system using their paid accounts can participate by installing the RECAP Extension to then upload these same documents to CourtListener’s RECAP Archive. To date, 37M PACER docket entries have been uploaded to the RECAP Archive which includes 6.5M searchable PDFs. The RECAP Archive continues to grow with the addition of over 100,000 docket entries and 2000 PDFs every day.
The value of CourtListener goes well beyond RECAP and PACER. CourtListener also provides a free searchable archive of over 4M court opinions with more being added by the day. They also have one of the largest collections of oral arguments available on the Internet. Their coverage page breaks down the figures and services in greater detail.
There really is no other legal website like it. As the courts continue to charge the public fees for access to PACER, the Free Law Project practices what they call PACER Advocacy to bring these documents out into the light for the world to see for free.
Access to free PACER Docket Alerts is not unlimited, however. Any user can monitor five dockets for free. Those who install the RECAP Extension will get an additional ten docket alerts. Users who make monthly contributions to the Free Law Project can make as many alerts as they need (within a reasonable limit). The current suggested minimum monthly donation is five dollars per month.
Sometimes we get to post really great news. In that vein, it is with great pleasure that I announce that Bonnie Shucha, the creator of WisBlawg, has been appointed the Law School’s Associate Dean for Library and Information Services and Director of the Law Library. Her appointment, which followed a national search, took effect February 6.
Bonnie joined the Law Library staff in 1999. She has served as our Reference and Electronic Services Librarian, Head of Reference, Assistant and then Associate Director for Public Services, and most recently Deputy Director. Her professional accomplishments are extensive, and she has been an active participant in local and national library activities and associations.
Bonnie is taking over for Steve Barkan, who will be retiring this spring. Steve, the UW Law School’s Voss–Bascom Professor of Law and Director of the Law Library, joined our Law School faculty in 1995. He has also held library positions at Marquette Law School, the University of TX at Austin School of Law, the US Supreme Court, and the University of Southern California Law School.
Among many other activities, Steve taught Torts I and Torts II for many years. He is chair of the Wisconsin Board of Bar Examiners, and he has served on numerous ABA site visits. He is a co-author/editor ofFundamentals of Legal Researchand founding editor ofPerspectives. He will be receiving a Wisconsin Law Journal Leaders in Law Lifetime Achievement Award later this month.
Congratulations to Bonnie on her new position and to Steve on his upcoming retirement.
The Law School recently marked a reunion worthy of the school’s history and its graduates. Pete Christianson, J.D. 1977, is a big Badger booster and avid collector of UW Homecoming commemorative buttons, and other memorabilia. Mr. Christianson has a long family history as one of five generations of Badger lawyers. His interest in UW Law’s history would connect him with the Old West and Henry Frawley, another UW Law School alum from 1876, when Frawley’s diploma was put up for auction this past July. It was in the summer of 1877 Henry Frawley moved to Deadwood in the Dakota Territory, and went on to become a noted rancher and frontier attorney. After the passing of the younger Henry “Hank” Frawley last year, his father’s 1876 law degree from the UW went up for bid. Bidding started at $300 and Mr. Christianson got it for $500.
The plan then was to give the diploma as a gift to the Law School ahead of its 150th anniversary this year. Mr. Christianson spoke and presented the Frawley law degree to the Law School at their Feb. 2nd Faculty Meeting. Speaking with local columnist Doug Moe later, Mr. Christianson said of the time spent on the project, “It was a tremendous amount of fun, and I was just so happy after I bought it to find out they actually wanted it.”
The story gets more interesting. As chance would have it, there is another diploma from 1876 hanging in the halls of the Law Library. Clarion Augustine Youmans graduated in the same class as Henry Frawley. Clarion Augustine Youmans made his fortune in Wisconsin and was a prominent resident of Clark County. He wore many hats with great success during his lifetime as a farmer, lawyer, county judge, district attorney, and state senator.
CCAP, or the Consolidated Court Automation Program, is the Wisconsin electronic circuit court case management system. Recently, several bills were introduced in the Wisconsin legislature regarding CCAP.
Here in law library-land, we’re all familiar with the concept of “citation chasing”- i.e., finding one good on-point article and then mining its citations, footnotes, and citing sources for other relevant articles. But what if there were a way to let an algorithm look at the relevant article you’d already found and mine it for keywords, ultimately generating you a list of other relevant articles?
This tool allows you to place large chunks of text (or even the entire text of an article!) into its search box, which will then analyze the text and return other relevant JSTOR articles. If you’ve ever used the “related articles” link on Google Scholar (another great way to citation chase), it’s a similar algorithm. EBSCO also has a similar tool.
However, JSTOR’s Text Analyzer does several things these tools do not. Text Analyzer will also provide a list of what it has identified as relevant keywords in the article, along with importance/prominence. After you’ve run your search, though, you can play with these keywords and elevate their importance, or add or delete keywords in order to re-run your search. Therein lies the true strength of this new tool- not assuming that the search or algorithm gives perfect results right away, but allowing the user to tweak and re-tweak in order to find what they are looking for. It’s still not perfect, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction as far as search engines go, and I’m hoping this pushes other search engines to develop similar and even better tools for searching.
UW Law Professor Emeritus Herman Goldstein has been awarded the 2018 Stockholm Prize in Criminology, as announced today.
This prize recognizes Prof. Goldstein as “the world’s most influential scholar on modern police strategy.”
Goldstein’s seminal 1977 book, “Policing a Free Society” and its 1990 follow-up, “Problem-Oriented Policing,” discussed police authority and discretion as well as conduct and corruption, and posited strategies for improving police function. His strategy of “problem-oriented policing” has been adopted in various forms by a large number of police agencies in the United States and internationally.
Goldstein based much of his early work on his own experiences in the mid-1950s and early 1960s with city management and policing– he spent two years as a researcher for the American Bar Foundation Survey of the Administration of Criminal Justice, observing police operations in Wisconsin and Michigan, and then was executive assistant to O.W. Wilson, the “architect of the professional model of policing” and superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. After these experiences and subsequent writings, Goldstein received a Ford Foundation grant to continue his work within a law school setting, and he joined the Wisconsin law faculty in 1964.
LLMC Digital is a searchable archive of historical primary legal sources for Wisconsin, the United States, and other jurisdictions. Wisconsin materials included in LLMC’s collections include historical Wisconsin reports, session laws, and statutes. A large number of secondary sources including federal government periodicals and treatises are also searchable via LLMC.
The Wisconsin State Law Library has recently announced that with your Wisconsin State Law Library card, you can now log into LLMC Digital from outside the library.
The Free Law Project has recently announced that in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Labor and Georgia State University, they have collected every free written order and opinion that is currently available in PACER.
New opinions will be downloaded every night (!) to keep the collection up-to-date.
Currently, the collection contains about 3.4 million orders and opinions from cases dating back to 1960. All of the documents are available for search, and the Free Law Project has also partnered with the Internet Archive to upload a copy of every opinion as well (the Internet Archive is a non-profit whose mission is to permanently store digital content).
Read more about this exciting new initiative here.