Modern governments gather information across an extraordinary range of activities and use this information to direct policy. Whether a central bank monitoring inflation or a health agency monitoring disease, these entities typically publicly disclose the information gathered so that their actions can be reviewed and evaluated by others. But in many respects, the justice system is a glaring exception. 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. 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. Here, I detail an example of this feedback with an examination of applications to waive court fees and detail the goals of the Systematic Content Analysis of Litigation EventS Open Knowledge Network (SCALES OKN).
Adam Pah is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. His research focuses on applying data science and network science techniques to understand how individuals and organizations make decisions in complex, changing environments. His work is interdisciplinary and spans topics in crime, epidemiology, healthcare, and law.