Open legal data is a critical component of transparency in government and government accountability, and it’s a necessary ingredient for the expansion of the access to justice movement and the continued progress of the legal profession.
We’re thrilled to share the third and final installment in our open legal data series that was published in Attorney at Work and authored by UniCourt’s CEO, Josh Blandi. Josh’s first article, Why Does Open Data Matter and How Can It Increase Access to Justice?, and his second article, How Automation and AI Make Open Data Possible and Valuable for Lawyers, set up the final piece by laying the groundwork for why open data is important to lawyers and how it’s made available through legal tech companies and nonprofits using automation and artificial intelligence.
In his third article, Open Data Advocates Are Forging Improved Access to the Law, Josh discusses the recent historic win at the Supreme Court level in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org and what it means for open legal data. He also highlights pivotal players in the open data movement, how open legal data affects lawyers across the US, and concludes by noting while there have been great advancements, open data advocates must keep the momentum moving forward as there is much work yet to be done.
Here below is an excerpt from the introduction of Josh’s article:
Legal data, from court cases to legislative materials, form the framework of our justice system, and automation and artificial intelligence are the tools that make legal data accessible, organized and useful for all.
This is the third article in a three-part series on the what, how and why of open legal data. In Part I, we discussed what open data is and how it can improve access to justice while strengthening attorneys’ practices. Then, Part II delved into the how of legal data and what it takes to make bulk access to structured data possible through automation and AI. To round out this discussion, we now turn to the who and, ultimately, the why of open legal data.
We’ll look at the key players furthering the spirit of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org (a landmark decision prohibiting states from copyrighting the law) — and how their work practically affects lawyers and their clients. Surveying the open data landscape, we see the recent wins in this sphere translate to concrete benefits for practitioners, from those in BigLaw to solo practices.
When It Comes to the Law, There Should Be No Second-Class Citizens
Carl Malamud, president of Public.Resource.Org and a leading champion of the movement promoting open legal data, set the open access fight in motion. His 2019 win in Code Revision Commission v. Public.Resource.Org was a substantial victory for the movement: The 11th Circuit deemed the annotations to the Georgia statutory code public domain materials that were not copyrightable, against the state’s wishes to hide the official law behind a prohibitive paywall.
Responding to Georgia’s petition for certiorari, SCOTUS recently ruled in favor of Public.Resource, marking a watershed moment for open law advocates and the greater access to justice movement. By denying a state’s right to effectively “own” the law, the high court affirmed that everyone, from lawyers to the lay public, should have unfettered access to the laws that bind them. As such, the court established that access to the law is no longer a privilege reserved for the upper echelons of the legal community and those who can afford restrictive “pay-per-law services.”
This win notwithstanding, open law advocates have their work cut out for them. Even though states can no longer own the law, substantial barriers persist. Fortunately, open law advocates continue working to remove these barriers to make SCOTUS’ ruling more than just a theoretical statement that legal data belongs to all.
You can read the full article here on Attorney at Work.