For Immediate Release — Berkeley, CA
Brian W. Carver and Michael Lissner, creators of the CourtListener platform and associated technology, are pleased to announce that after four years developing free and open legal technologies, they are launching a non-profit umbrella organization for their work: Free Law Project. Free Law Project will serve to bring legal materials and research to the public for free, formalizing the work that they have been doing, and providing a long-term home for similar projects.
“Since the birth of this country, legal materials have been in the hands of the few, denying legal justice to the many,” said Michael Lissner, co-founder of the new non-profit. “It is appalling that the public does not have free online access to the entirety of United States case law,” said Brian Carver, UC Berkeley professor and Free Law Project co-founder. “We are working to change this situation. We also provide a platform for developing technologies that can make legal research easier for both professionals and the general public.”
The official goals for the non-profit are:
- To provide free, public, and permanent access to primary legal materials on the Internet for educational, charitable, and scientific purposes;
- To develop, implement, and provide public access to technologies useful for legal research;
- To create an open ecosystem for legal research and materials; and
- To support academic research on related technologies, corpora, and legal systems.
The CourtListener platform was started in 2009 as part of a masters project at UC Berkeley, and has matured over the years to be a powerful legal research platform. It has nearly a million legal opinions dating from 1754, and has more each day as it gets them directly from court websites. CourtListener currently serves thousands of people with free legal opinions each week, and has had a doubling of traffic just since July 2013. CourtListener sends out hundreds of alerts to its users each week, informing them of new legal cases in which they have expressed an interest. All of CourtListener’s code is open source and all of its content is available for free bulk download. Numerous startups and researchers have used both the code and the bulk data as a basis for their work.
More information is available in the Free Law Project about page, where you can find a list of current activities and non-profit documents. The co-founders expect to pursue grant funding from foundations, but also hope that those who support the goals of improving public access to the law will donate directly so that the non-profit can put more developers to work on these efforts.
In the future, freelawproject.org will be the official place to find updates about Free Law Project and its related technologies.
“This is a huge day for the open legal movement, and we hope you’ll help share the news by telling your friends and colleagues,” said Lissner.
Mike and Brian
Brian W. Carver is Assistant Professor at the UC Berkeley School of Information where he does research on and teaches about intellectual property law and cyberlaw. He is also passionate about the public’s access to the law. In 2009 and 2010 he advised an I School Masters student, Michael Lissner, on the creation of CourtListener.com, an alert service covering the U.S. federal appellate courts. After Michael’s graduation he and Brian continued working on the site and have grown the database of opinions to include over 900,000 documents.
Michael Lissner is the co-founder and lead developer of CourtListener, a project that works to make the law more accessible to all. He graduated from UC Berkeley’s School of Information. Michael is passionate about bringing greater access to our primary legal materials, about how technology can replace old legal models, and about open source, community-driven approaches to legal research.
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