What is Caselaw Analyser?
Caselaw Analyser is a web-based system for human rights litigators to research caselaw in order to prepare their court cases. It allows them to easily browse inter-related court decisions, to quickly access the primary caselaw for a given type of violation, to highlight and comment relevant sections of a decision, and to share their commentary with their colleagues and work collaboratively on case research.
We are currently developing Caselaw Analyser together with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA). This first version will hold IHRDA’s carefully curated collection of decisions from the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR). It will be ready and launched in November 2010. See bottom of this page for more information.
Caselaw research is a crucial part of winning a case. Litigators need to be able to browse court decisions easily, and quickly find the primary caselaw, annotate useful interpretations, and then save them for use in their court briefs. If they can do this collaboratively, it will save them time as they can access the research already made by their colleagues.
The challenge is that current caselaw browsers are difficult to navigate. Although decisions are often interlinked, its hard to browse from one to another. Also, primary caselaw is not highlighted, so you are left in front of a forest of cases with no key to the important ones. Bookmarking and exporting is impractical, and commenting has to be done manually. Caselaw Analyser aims to provide solution to this problem.
Caselaw Analyser: easy navigation from one decision to another
Court decisions often reference specific paragraphs of other decisions, which in turn reference other decisions. Caselaw Analyser allows you to easily navigate from one decision to the next. And because it uses inline-browsing to jump stright to the quoted paragraph, you don’t even lose your page. Also, all incoming and outgoing citations are listed next to the text of the decision.
Also, CaseLaw Analyser will use a specifically designed CaseRank algorythm, meaning that the decisions that are the most often referenced, will appear first (like Google’s PageRank). This gives the user an indication of which cases are the most important: the primary caselaw.
Commenting and bookmarking
Caselaw Analyser will also allow you to bookmark relevant cases, but it goes beyond that: you can highlight relevant paragraphs, and add your commentary and casenotes too. You can add a keyword to each comment, which can be the name of the client you’re working for, or of your research project. Caselaw Analyser allows you to browse your bookmarks and annotations, and even export them to Word documents, including the correct legal citations. This will save valuable time for overworked human rights lawyers.
Social features: collaborate on legal research
In future iterations, Caselaw Analyser will allow users to form private groups. For example, the lawyers from the same NGO can form a group, or the students and professors from the same LLM degree program can form a group. This will allow them to share their research, their commentary, and learn collaboratively. Research for one case can be easily stored for another.
Our technology partner for Caselaw Analyser is Burlaca.com, based in Chisinau, Moldova. Burlaca.com specializes in architecture of text-based information systems and has ten years experience in designing document storage and knowledge management solutions.
Taking action: next steps