Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Legal Information Wants To Be Free

The amazing David L. Schwartz (Northwestern Law School) has coauthored a clarion call in the journal Science to make legal information freely available to all, allowing rigorous analysis and informed correction of the law.  As the authors point out,
In the United States, a range of technical and financial obstacles blocks large-scale access to public court records—all but foreclosing their use to direct policy. Yet a growing body of empirical legal research demonstrates that systematic analyses of court records could improve legal practice and the administration of justice. And although much of the legal community resists quantitative approaches to law, we believe that even the skeptics will be receptive to quantitative feedback—so long as it is straightforward, apolitical, and incontrovertible.
If implemented successfully, this proposal would allow data-driven legal decisions and legal reform.  Not everyone may be happy about this development, though its benefits are likely to be substantial.  In fact, as the authors suggest, “although much of the legal community resists quantitative approaches to law, we believe that even the skeptics will be receptive to quantitative feedback—so long as it is straightforward, apolitical, and incontrovertible.”  As Sherlock Holmes warns in A Scandal In Bohemia, “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”

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