August 28, 2007
Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School Launch Free Database of U.S. Court Decisions
From the Columbia Law School press release:
Aiming to make federal case law fast and easy to search, more accessible to the public – and free – Columbia Law School and the University of Colorado Law School have launched a Web site called AltLaw.org, which has the potential to transform the national landscape of case law resources.
AltLaw.org contains nearly 170,000 decisions dating back to the early 1990s from the U.S. Supreme Court and Federal Appellate courts. The site’s creators, Columbia Law School’s Timothy Wu and Stuart Sierra, and University of Colorado Law School’s Paul Ohm, said the site’s database would grow over time.
[Columbia's Timothy] Wu said he envisions AltLaw.org having a diverse audience – journalists, the public, lawyers who want to avoid the hundreds of dollars per hour in fees for proprietary law databases and legal scholars who need quick and searchable access to cases at home or on the road. One of the assets to AltLaw.org’s design is that it is fast and simple to use, Wu said.
[Colorado's Paul] Ohm wrote the thousands of lines of code that download cases to AltLaw.org from more than a dozen court Web sites each night. He said the data comes from the courts themselves, and AltLaw.org is designed as an extremely open platform so that others can take the raw material and use it in various ways.
AltLaw.org is a joint project of Columbia Law School’s Program on Law and Technology, and the Silicon Flatirons Program at the University of Colorado Law School. [JH]
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An interesting site with much potential. They do, however, need to improve their search mechanism. For instance, you cannot search by legal citation (your results contain citations to your case, but not your case) nor can you search by party (entering the parties names results in a full-text search for those names, so your case will probably still show up, but not necessarily in the first set of results; a search for Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition returned the case on the 5th results page). These issues will not prevent me from pointing out the site to patrons, however, including attorneys and pro se patrons.
Posted by: Jennifer Greig | Aug 28, 2007 7:07:58 AM