Friday, May 23, 2008

When will Google index the legal world?

I've been looking for the text of this case for about an hour - I finally found Westlaw:

Theodora Holding Corp. v. Henderson, Del.Ch., 257 A.2d 398 (1969)
Westlaw costs money - unless you're in law school or something, or maybe if you can physically get to a law library or something??

I can't imagine why that should be the case, unless the powers that be were intentionally trying to keep power out of the hands of poor and working class people and.....oh.

So, Google - what's up?

I'm guessing all this legal information is freely, publicly available, right? So, then all we need is to start having courts publish all public court documents to the web in electronic format, right?

Someone's gotta be working on this already...

...the two major players are Lexis/Nexis and Westlaw. The Lexis wiki page has this:

As part of its current publishing deal with the California court system, Lexis has a stripped-down free site, available from the California Courts Web site, for the public to search California opinions. It also has a stripped-down free site, called LexisOne, that has case law available for all American jurisdictions for the last five years.
So, we're getting somewhere. I don't know what an 'opinion' is vs. a 'case law', but if the California information is being digitized, then Google should have access to it, too.

I can imagine that judges and the entirety of the public judicial system would not want our prying eyes all over their work, but what they do is so illegal, we need to be watchdogs. Hopefully we can get access to all that stuff.

...Delaware, where Google and most other corporations are incorporated, has opinions online from the year 2000 up until the current time. I sent an email (web form) asking if they planned on adding earlier years. The particular court that handles corporate-type decisions there is called the Chancery - here are those opinions.

...there is a Free Access to Law Movement. Suh-weet. World Legal Information Website - doesn't seem to work too well for the U.S., but I like the idea.

...more movement on the opening-up of legal research (I added some links):

A mix of for-profit and not-for-profit firms have missions similar to Fastcase's, including PreCydent, and Collexis Holdings' Casemaker division. They are assembling a digital version of the collections that fill miles of shelves at law libraries across the country.

What people will do with it is anybody's guess. Public.Resource.Org is the brainchild of Carl Malamud, a data-access advocate who in the mid-1990s started putting filings from the Securities & Exchange Commission online for free. The SEC later took up his idea and created the Edgar online service for accessing filings. Malamud prodded the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office to do the same with patents in 1998.

With the help of influential backers like Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar's foundation, Malamud's Public.Resource.Org is filling up a 24-terabyte Sun Microsystems (nasdaq: JAVA - news - people ) server with case law going back to 1754. (That's a lot of bytes, enough to type out 12 million novels.) Malamud bought some data from Fastcase while building his service, which is available for free on the Web. "If we do it and do it right, there are 100 other people who will copy our data and use it in interesting ways," Malamud says.

It is not online yet, but Chris Anderson has a good article called 'The End of Theory' in the July 08 issue of Wired Magazine. Google has been known to be fond of the technique of 'throwing more CPU at a problem' to conquer it as opposed to trying to figure out some kind of perfect algorithm (like PageRank, etc.).
The End of Theory

Scientists have always relied on hypothesis and experimentation. Now, in the era of massive data, there's a better way.

It seems like Forbes used the Wired article as background, but who knows -- and in any case, this Forbes article really fills out the scene for the legal industry. Anderson's Wired article talks about several problemsindustries, including legal, agriculture, physics, news/journalism, infectious disease outbreak control, search (Google), astronomy, health/skeleton, air fares, voting, terrorism, and 'big data' analysis. Good stuff.'s important to note that Fastcases's CEO and other seem to be Republicans, they built their platform on Microsoft technology, and they're partnering with ChoicePoint - the criminals that helped George Bush prevent tens of thousands of black folks from voting in Florida in the 2000 election, and they've likely been similarly successful and criminal in many other districts and states and countries, and continue their criminal ways to this day, and have probably already successfully stolen the 2008 election for the Republicans.

No comments: