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January 31, 2024 Feature

Adding Some Bite to Their Bark: Using AI to Transform the Way the Press Covers the Judiciary

By Amy Kristin Sanders

Without a doubt, the press coverage of Federal Circuit Judge Pauline Newman’s refusal to submit to a neurological exam amid her colleagues’ questioning of her fitness for office has been robust. Reuters, Bloomberg, Law360, IP Watchdog, and others have followed the saga closely as it has unfolded after Chief Judge Kimberly Moore first claimed Newman was unable to discharge the duties of her office in April 2023.1

At the core of the complaint is an allegation that Judge Newman is slow to issue opinions. Yet largely missing from the coverage is the presentation of any real statistical evidence to support or refute Judge Moore’s primary claim—or related claims that Judge Newman hears fewer cases and writes fewer opinions than her colleagues.2

Why is that? Federal court records are public after all. But anyone who has dealt with PACER knows the headache and heartache involved in merely accessing these documents, let alone trying to conduct any large-scale, systematic analysis of judicial records.

Until now, it has been nearly impossible to answer even the simplest questions about whether the judiciary is operating fairly and efficiently. That could all change. SCALES—a freely available, open-source, AI-based tool—aims to provide attorneys, journalists, and civic-minded members of the public with the answers to these questions.3 To demonstrate the potential impact of our tool, I first offer a quick overview of the current challenges to judicial transparency, highlight the role that data play in both the administration of justice and the study of the legal system, and outline the case for greater access to open data with a particular focus on court records. The article concludes with a striking proof-of-concept illustrating the way SCALES could be employed to bring about a more transparent and equitable judicial system.

Using machine learning, our team of scholars in law, journalism, computer science, and engineering has developed a tool that allows large-scale analysis of court dockets. With more than $5 million in funding from the National Science Foundation,4 we have been able to acquire and analyze more than 864,000 federal court dockets—but that is just the tip of the iceberg. To really understand the judiciary at scale, we need access to many, many more docket sheets as well as the underlying case documents.

The Lack of Judicial Transparency

As recent reporting on the Supreme Court has revealed,5 the judiciary has largely escaped the same level of institutional and public oversight that other branches of government endure. The public’s inability to readily access and analyze court records at scale plays a role in the courts’ lack of transparency and accountability. In many ways, PACER serves as both a technological and a financial roadblock to large-scale analysis of court records, making it nearly impossible to use the information in them to guide policy decisions. Despite these challenges, empirical legal scholars have begun to demonstrate the value of evidence-based recommendations as a means to improving the administration of justice. As Genn, Partington, and Wheeler noted in a 2006 report, “Put simply, empirical research helps us to understand the law better and an empirical understanding of the law in action helps us to understand society better.”6

Although attorneys and legal scholars frequently describe court records as public records, this oversimplifies the realities of accessing these records. Through PACER, the federal courts charge 10 cents per page to view a record online,7 meaning that examining the documents associated with a single case could cost more than $10. At scale, that means the tab for accessing a years’ worth of federal court cases would run into the millions of dollars.8 Although the federal courts release in-house studies that rely on federal court records, they provide only a scant amount of descriptive data about the courts’ operations. Even the database that includes basic case information, such as the subject matter and disposition of cases, comes up short9 because the underlying records remain behind a paywall—unavailable to anyone unwilling or unable to pay PACER fees.

The judiciary’s decision to charge for access to court records stands in stark contrast with the approach taken by the other branches of government with regard to their records. provides free access to congressional records. The records of executive agencies are available free of charge at In a democratic society, it is hard to imagine a compelling argument for charging citizens to access public records.

Although federal court records can be viewed through other means in addition to PACER, the barriers to large-scale, systematic analysis still exist. Many attorneys and legal scholars access court records through commercial legal services—including Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg—who have purchased their collection of records directly from the court. But these services are far from free. In fact, they charge significant fees to access their collections, and each service’s collections come with limitations in scope. Because these services prohibit bulk downloads of records, even paying subscribers are unable to engage in large-scale systematic analysis using their records.

On rare occasions, these commercial services or even individual judges will grant ad hoc fee waivers or fee reductions for research purposes. When that happens, it comes with the stipulation that the researcher can access only a limited subset of the data and cannot disclose the records underlying their analysis to the public.10

Crowd-sourced alternatives to the commercial services exist, but they have their own limitations. Free Law Project, for example, offers its compilation of court records to the public at no cost. Although this approach can enable valuable examination of one-off cases, it does not adequately support systematic research.

The Power of Data

Many open-government and freedom-of-information advocates start from a position that meaningful government oversight has two positive effects: (1) It can serve to deter government officials from engaging in malfeasance or other undesirable behaviors and (2) it can help identify existing problems and provide sound guidance for reform. Being able to take data from court records and analyze the data in ways that create usable insights are key to better understanding how the judiciary operates. “Data-driven approaches are indispensable in driving effective reform initiatives. By collecting and analyzing relevant data, we can identify trends, predict challenges, and measure the impact of implemented reforms. This empirical evidence empowers policymakers and stakeholders to make informed decisions and adapt strategies when necessary.”11

Data as a Form of Oversight

A 2015 study of newspaper coverage of judges demonstrates the ways in which oversight can shape the behavior of government actors. Lim, Snyder, and Stromberg found that as newspaper coverage of a particular judge increased, the judge—assuming they were selected in a nonpartisan election—was more likely to increase the length of the criminal sentences they imposed, in part because of pressure from the public to avoid lenient sentences.12 Regardless of one’s thoughts on the length of criminal sentences, Lim, Snyder, and Stromberg’s research suggests that public oversight, or the perception of public oversight, affected how government officials behave, with those effects extending to the judiciary. Although much of existing transparency law has focused on the executive branch of government, there is no reason to think that the same effects of transparency made possible by greater availability and scrutiny of court records would not apply to the judiciary.

Data as a Driver of Policy Reform

Similarly, increasing pressure from the Fourth Estate’s coverage of federal court judges’ behaviors, based largely on the data contained in or omitted from financial disclosure documents, likely contributed, at least in part, to the Supreme Court’s recent passage of an ethics code.13 In an explanation of their coverage of the federal courts, ProPublica explains to readers, “the federal judiciary still struck us as a relatively under-scrutinized branch of our democracy. . . . The team filed a raft of public information requests for records on courts across the country.”14

The series of stories that emerged detailing questionable relationships that Supreme Court justices maintained with wealthy and influential Americans—some of whom had business before the Court—started with a team of ProPublica reporters “scouring the annual disclosure forms filed by the justices.”15 With only nine justices on the Court, this level of data-driven investigative research is manageable on a small scale over short periods of time. In fact, the justices have only been required to file these disclosures for about 45 years, beginning after the passage of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.16 Some simple multiplication suggests that just over 400 of these forms should have been filed. Without a doubt, reviewing them all would require a serious commitment of time and resources, but the project scale is manageable.

Doing this kind of work on a larger scale—a systematic analysis of the judiciary and administration of justice more broadly—requires access to the troves of data generated by the courts as they do their work. Studies like the ones described above offer far more than mere descriptive knowledge of how the judicial system functions. Rather, they have the potential to change the actual operation of our justice system—to help inform policy-making and allow attorneys and policy advocates to campaign for reforms in new and exciting ways. But as it stands, those of us attempting to undertake this kind of research are hampered by the dearth of data the federal courts are willing to make freely available.

The Need for Open Data

Openness and transparency play key roles in establishing trust and credibility—whether in the functioning of the judicial system or in the rigor of scholarly research. Yet academics and legal professionals seem to approach openness and transparency in very different ways. In part, the difference in how they contextualize these values may explain why the legal profession—and jurists in particular—have not adequately advocated for free and open access to court records.

The Academy’s Approach to Openness

Ask any academic researcher about their objective, and somewhere along the way they will tell you they aim to “build knowledge.” At its best, research is an inherently open process where scholars share the knowledge they’ve created with members of the public. In the past decade, a large conversation has even developed around “translational research.” Simply put, translational research makes scholarly knowledge available to the public by providing it in formats that are accessible—using language that is easy to understand and publishing in venues appropriate to lay audiences. At its most basic level, scholarly and scientific practice relies on a culture of sharing data in ways that allow others to replicate findings. More recently, academic culture has even begun to embrace open-access publishing, which ensures that valuable research is not locked away behind a paywall where those who cannot pay are excluded from access.

The Judiciary’s Approach to Openness

In many ways, the judiciary also recognizes the need for openness. Starting in 1980 with its decision in Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia, the Supreme Court laid the foundation for the public’s right to access judicial proceedings.17 In the case, the Court ruled in favor of Richmond Newspapers, which had claimed a judge’s decision to close a murder trial to the public and press violated the First Amendment. Writing for a plurality, Chief Justice Warren Burger noted:

Civilized societies . . . cannot erase from people’s consciousness the fundamental, natural yearning to see justice done—or even the urge for retribution. The crucial prophylactic aspects of the administration of justice cannot function in the dark; no community catharsis can occur if justice is “done in a corner [or] in any covert manner.” . . . A result considered untoward may undermine public confidence, and where the trial has been concealed from public view an unexpected outcome can cause a reaction that the system at best has failed and at worst has been corrupted. To work effectively, it is important that society’s criminal process “satisfy the appearance of justice,” and the appearance of justice can best be provided by allowing people to observe it.18

Basing its decision on the history of openness found in the criminal justice system, the Court would extend this reasoning to other aspects of judicial administration in subsequent cases during the 1980s.

Four years after Richmond Newspapers, a majority of the Court ruled in favor of public access to voir dire. Chief Justice Burger, writing for the majority in Press-Enterprise v. Superior Court of California, again relied on historical accounts of the open nature of jury selection throughout the country’s history, noting that it promotes the rights of the public and the defendant:

[T]he primacy of the accused’s right is difficult to separate from the right of everyone in the community to attend the voir dire which promotes fairness.

. . . The value of openness lies in the fact that people not actually attending trials can have confidence that standards of fairness are being observed; the sure knowledge that anyone is free to attend gives assurance that established procedures are being followed and that deviations will become known. Openness thus enhances both the basic fairness of the criminal trial and the appearance of fairness so essential to public confidence in the system.19

Two years later, Chief Justice Burger and a majority further extended the protections provided for judicial proceedings. In Press-Enterprise II, the Court held that the First Amendment guarantees the public a presumptive right of access to attend pretrial hearings.20

As a result of these rulings and their progeny, the press—through the rights granted to the public—have a presumptive right of access to nearly all court proceedings. Closures, the Court has said in its jurisprudence, should only be tolerated in the rarest of circumstances, primarily in situations that would jeopardize a criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial.21 But this deference to openness in the administration of judicial proceedings has not always translated into ensuring court records—the documentation of what occurs in those proceedings—are open and accessible to the public.

Judicial Skepticism of Empirical Research

Throughout its history, the Supreme Court has, at times, relied on social scientific research in its opinions. Professor Michele Meitl has documented the Court’s references to research in its opinions, finding that these references go back more than 100 years.22 Her research found that from 2001 to 2015, 40 percent of the written opinions made reference to social science research, up from 14 percent in 1990 and 10 percent in 1978.23

Nonetheless, the justices still seem to question the value of social scientific research at times. In Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, for example, Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the Court addresses research on violence and video games that had been introduced into the record. “The State’s evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them, and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning).”24

But more recently, members of the Court have been quick to dismiss the value of quantitative research to the administration of justice. Eschewing evidence-based approaches, the legal field instead largely relies on anecdotal experience and professional judgment. A mere five years ago, Chief Justice John Roberts referred to empirical evidence in Gill v. Whitford as “sociological gobbledy-gook” that any “intelligent man on the street” would see was “a bunch of baloney.”25

The Consequences of Non-Consensus

Legal professionals, including jurists and scholarly researchers, seem to have starkly different understandings of what it means to be open, transparent, and accountable in their practices. Although both groups purport to have shared values, they conceptualize and value them differently. As a result, the lack of large-scale access to court records and the data in them hardly registers as a concern for many members of the legal community, including jurists. Yet for empirical legal scholars and other academic researchers, the inability to conduct large-scale analysis of court records serves as a major obstacle to identifying inequities and inefficiencies in the administration of justice and providing evidence-based proposals for judicial reform.

Without cooperation between members of the legal profession and academic researchers, court records are likely to remain inaccessible to the public, foreclosing an opportunity to improve the administration of justice at a time when the public’s confidence in the judiciary continues to decline. “Transparency and accountability are essential pillars of a just legal system. Embracing practices that foster greater transparency, such as open courtrooms and public access to information, can instill confidence in the justice process. Moreover, establishing mechanisms for oversight and evaluation ensures that our justice systems are held accountable for their decisions and actions.”26

Proof of Concept: Using SCALES to Identify Access to Justice Issues

As discussions of social justice have proliferated in recent years, many legal scholars and civil rights attorneys have raised important questions about the access to justice issues that pervade our judicial system. The World Justice Project identifies accessible and impartial justice as one of the four principles undergirding the rule of law;27 essentially, it is the crux of a fair and legitimate legal system. As an overarching concept, access to justice encompasses myriad issues that have the potential to be studied empirically. As a proof of concept for SCALES, we identified one key question to explore in greater detail: court fees.

An inability to pay court fees has the potential to prevent an indigent litigant from accessing the legal system. To file a case in federal court, litigants are expected to pay a $400 filing fee as well as additional fees, including those associated with formal service of process. As one example, incarcerated populations often lack the means to pay these fees, which would be required to allege a violation of their civil rights. The judicial system has anticipated this inability to pay, permitting litigants to petition for a waiver of court fees. However, no uniform criteria exist for evaluating these in forma pauperis petitions.28 Even the applications themselves differ among the federal district courts. Although they often collect similar information related to the applicant’s income and assets, judges have significant discretion when determining whether these fee waivers should be granted.

Ensuring these decisions are being made fairly and efficiently in a consistent manner is key to guaranteeing access to justice. But evaluating judicial determinations such as this one in any meaningful way requires access to structured court data. Presuming access to such data, the actual analysis is quite simple. When a party files an in forma pauperis petition, the request is added to the case docket. That text-based entry typically indicates whether the petition was granted or denied. Because of this, the overwhelming challenge is not the complexity of the analysis but instead the amount of data to be analyzed. These kinds of queries are ripe for the application of artificial intelligence (AI) tools like SCALES.

Using the tool to analyze docket sheets for every case filed in 2016, our team computed the grant rate for every federal judge on the bench that year.29 It is no surprise that average grant rates vary among federal districts because cases are filed in districts based on jurisdictional grounds rather than simple random assignment. Within each federal district, however, cases (and thus fee waiver petitions) are randomly assigned to judges within that district. Given this approach, grant rates within each district should not differ in statistically significant ways.

Our research determined that grant rates do vary—dramatically—among judges in the same district. “At a 95% confidence level, nearly 40% of judges—instead of the expected 5%—approve fee waivers at a rate that statistically significantly differs from the average rate for all other judges in their same district.”30 As a result, we examined one particular district where judges’ grant rates varied from less than 20 percent to more than 80 percent, indicating that an indigent litigant’s ability to access justice often hinges on the luck of the draw in terms of judges.

Our team presented these findings to the group of judges in that district who oversee their local rules. After learning about the disparities in grant rates, these judges expressed interest in using the data from our analysis to improve their decision-making processes. Work like this, which produces evidence-based assessments of how the judiciary functions, has the ability to improve access to justice in ways that ensure fairness and equity while advancing the administration of justice with an eye toward efficiency and effectiveness. Our team is optimistic that judges, attorneys, and journalists will be interested in empirical research that is “straightforward, apolitical and incontrovertible.”31

Conclusion: What This Means for Communications Lawyers

To fully realize the potential of AI-based tools like SCALES, a number of key imperatives exist. Communications lawyers, by virtue of supporting media professionals and open government advocates, are well-positioned to help advance these issues.

Court Records Must Be Free

The federal courts do not have to charge for access to court records. In fact, Congress could make court records freely available simply by repealing 28 U.S.C. §§ 1913, 1914, 1926, 1930, and 1932, which authorize the courts to charge for records through PACER. Another option would be for the Judicial Conference, the courts’ policy-making entity, to stop charging these fees. Public momentum for free access to court records is growing, but Congress and the courts have yet to respond.32 The Open Courts Act, which is supported by numerous open-government and press groups (including the Project on Government Oversight, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and the Radio Television Digital News Association), has yet to get full consideration before Congress despite strong efforts by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.33

As recently as April 2022, by contrast, the United Kingdom government announced that court and tribunal judgments would be made freely available through the National Archives Find Case Law site. The Legal Education Foundation’s research director lauded this effort for good reason: “The launch of the new judgments service at The National Archives is a hugely significant step for open justice. For the first time, the retention and preservation of judgments from courts and tribunals in England and Wales is guaranteed under primary legislation, as is the right for the public to obtain access to these documents.”34

Despite a strong cadre of supporters, legislative efforts to make federal court records free in the United States are often shut down by the Administrative Office of the Courts and their congressional allies.35 Given the judiciary pulled in more than $145 million in PACER fees in the 2019 fiscal year, this comes as no surprise. That accounts for about 2 percent of the judiciary’s budget, and Congress has yet to suggest it will increase funding to cover the decrease should PACER fees be abolished.

Our team, as well as other open government advocates, believe that education is the key to increasing traction for free access to court records. “The stalemate persists because not enough judges, members of Congress, and people realize that this is an issue of legitimacy, not just an issue of money.”36 Communications lawyers and their clients are well-positioned to educate and advocate on behalf of these issues.

The Public, Including Journalists, Must Be Incentivized and Empowered

In recent years, we have seen an increase in citizen participation aimed at holding government entities, including the judiciary and law enforcement, accountable. As communications lawyers, we know all too well just how necessary these efforts are. We see firsthand the impact that shrinking newsrooms have on accountability journalism and the ability of all news organizations to carry out large-scale, in-depth investigative work. Our goal at SCALES is to help facilitate this kind for work by removing the barriers to data analysis to allow small news organizations, public interest legal groups, and citizen advocates who may lack access to data scientists to engage in this important public oversight function.

But tools alone are not enough to ensure this essential work continues. A community of scholars and researchers, working with members of the judiciary, journalists, citizen advocates, potential litigants, and their attorneys, have to be incentivized to do this work. Working together we can further develop tools that allow for Google-like natural language queries that would allow anyone to ask questions like “How often are court records sealed?”

Doing this work requires massive amounts of money and these projects do not always fit neatly into philanthropic foundation funding priorities. Instead, we are going to have to form coalitions of nongovernmental organizations, law firms, legal aid organizations, news and entertainment companies, and academic institutions to submit collaborative proposals for grants and other forms of funding. Our team remains committed to creating a tool that is open and accessible to the public, which largely rules out the possibility of seeking venture capital or similar types of investment.

Knowledge Must Be Networked

Acquisition of these records is expensive. The docket reports needed to conduct our fee waiver analysis cost more than $100,000. Until we have the capacity to engage in bulk downloads of court data without paying PACER fees, it is essential that the data we do obtain is linked with other knowledge networks.

Court records are what we refer to as unstructured data. This means that significant time and resources must be dedicated to training AI tools to analyze them. Our team has spent years using natural language processing to analyze the documents, disambiguate entities so that we are sure the information is analyzed accurately, and train the tool to identify events using machine learning. Our work is open-source, and anyone can access our documentation.37 The work that we have done allows our data to be linked to outside data sources, including databases that include data on judges, attorneys, and litigants. Ensuring that data sources can be networked with other data repositories ultimately means that users will be able to engage in more powerful queries.

These records contain myriad pieces of information that need to be evaluated and categorized—a massive undertaking that cannot be done without a collaborative effort. It really will take a village to make these records open and accessible. We recognize that underlying court documents, which will require extensive additional research and work, contain a host of information that raises privacy concerns. Given the existing expertise among communications lawyers and their clients, we welcome feedback and sharing of expertise on how to make this information public in the most useful and responsible ways.


1. See, e.g., Blake Brittain & Nate Raymond, Suspended US Appeals Judge Warns Her Treatment Could Erode Confidence in Judiciary, Reuters (Sept. 21, 2023),; Michael Shapiro, Deny Oldest US Judge’s Case for Reinstatement, Colleagues Argue, Bloomberg (Nov. 17, 2023),; Aliza Shatzman, Newman Suspension Shows Need for Judicial Reform, Law360 (Oct. 19, 2023),; Gene Quinn, Chief Judge Moore Said to Be Petitioning to Oust Judge Newman from Federal Circuit, IP Watchdog (Apr. 12, 2023),

2. Judge Newman’s response to the complaint can be found here: Rule 20(A) Response to Special Comm.’s Rep. & Recommendation, In re Complaint No. 23-90015 (Complaint Against Circuit Judge Pauline Newman) (Fed. Cir. Aug. 31, 2023),,%202023%20Redacted%20Response.pdf.

3. SCALES (2020),

4. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation Convergence Accelerator Program under grant no. 1937123.

5. A full accounting of ProPublica’s reporting on the Supreme Court justices and their relationships with donors and receipt of trips and gifts can be found here: Courts: An Eye on the American Judicial System, ProPublica (2023),

6. Dame Hazel Genn, Martin Partington & Sally Wheeler, Law in the Real World: Improving Our Understanding of How Law Works, Final Rep. & Recommendations 1 (Nuffield Found. 2006),

7. U.S. Courts, Public Access to Court Electronic Records: PACER User Manual for CM/ECF Courts (2022),

8. Federal Judicial Caseload Statistics 2022, U.S. Courts, “In accordance with 28 U.S.C. 604 (a)(2), each year the Administrative Office of the United States Courts is required to provide a report of statistical information on the caseload of the federal courts for the 12-month period ending March 31.” Id.

9. William H.J. Hubbard, The Effects of Twombly and Iqbal, 14 J. Empir. Leg. Stud. 474 (2017).

10. Jonah. B. Gelbach, Locking the Doors to Discovery: Assessing the Effects of Twombly and Iqbal on Access to Discovery, 121 Yale L.J. 2270 (2011).

11. Justice System Reform: Advancing Fairness and Efficiency, GGI Insights (Dec. 8, 2023),

12. Claire S. H. Lim, James M. Snyder Jr. & David Strömberg, The Judge, the Politician, and the Press: Newspaper Coverage and Criminal Sentencing Across Electoral Systems, 7 Am. Econ. J.: Applied Econ. 103 (2015)

13. See, e.g., Michael Siconofli et al., Dozens of Federal Judges Had Financial Conflicts: What You Need to Know, Wall St. J. (Apr. 27, 2022),; Jodi Kantor & Jo Becker, Former Anti-abortion Leader Alleges Another Supreme Court Breach, N.Y. Times (Nov. 19, 2022),; Andrew Perez, Andy Kroll & Justin Elliott, How a Secretive Billionaire Handed His Fortune to the Architect of the Right-Wing Takeover of the Courts, ProPublica (Aug. 22, 2022),

14. Stephen Engelberg & Jesse Eisinger, The Origins of Our Investigation into Clarence Thomas’ Relationship with Harlan Crow, ProPublica (May, 11, 2023),

15. Id.

16. Whitney K. Novak, Cong. Rsch. Serv., Legal Sidebar, Financial Disclosure and the Supreme Court (updated Nov. 22, 2023),,Justices%20of%20the%20Supreme%20Court.

17. 448 U.S. 555 (1980).

18. Id. at 571–72 (internal citations omitted).

19. 464 U.S. 501, 508 (1984) (internal citations omitted; emphasis in original).

20. Press-Enterprise Co. v. Super. Ct. (Press-Enterprise II), 478 U.S. 1 (1986).

21. See Globe Newspaper Co. v. Norfolk Cnty. Super. Ct., 457 U.S. 596 (1982) (holding unconstitutional a Massachusetts statute that automatically closed rape trials during the testimony of minor victims).

22. See Michele Bisaccia Meitl, Evidence-Based Opinions?: How the Top Jurists in the United States Differ in Their Use of Social Science in Criminal Procedure Decisions, Soc. Sci. J. (Oct. 8, 2020),

23. Id.

24. 564 U.S. 786, 800 (2011) (emphasis in original).

25. The transcript of the oral argument in Gill v. Whitford can be found at

26. Justice System Reform, supra note 11.

27. What Is Rule of Law?, World Just. Project (2023),

28. Andrew Hammond, Pleading Poverty in Federal Court, 128 Yale L.J. 1478 (2018).

29. See Adam R. Pah et al., How to Build a More Open Justice System: Court Records Are Unstructured and Costly to Access—Here’s How to Fix It, 369 Science 134 (July 10, 2020).

30. Id. at 135.

31. Id.

32. The “Free Pacer” Bill Is Not Becoming Law This Year, but That’s Not the Entirety—Nor the End—of the Story, Fix the Ct. (Dec. 29, 2022),

33. Id.

34. Press Release, Ministry of Just., Court Judgments Made Accessible to All at The National Archives (Apr. 19, 2022),

35. The “Free Pacer” Bill, supra note 32.

36. Pah et al., supra note 29, at 135.

37. Full documentation for the SCALES Open Knowledge Network can be found at

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By Amy Kristin Sanders

Amy Kristin Sanders is a former journalist who teaches media law and ethics at the University of Texas at Austin. She coauthors The First Amendment and the Fourth Estate: The Law of Mass Media (Foundation Press) and is licensed to practice law in Florida. The author would like to thank Archit Junnarkar for his assistance with parts of this research.