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I am looking for free websites that contain (potentially partial) catalogs of state and local court cases in the United States, and allows me to filter and/or sort by any of the following:

  • The vote margin
  • Some kind of expert/subjective/automated/experimental measure of the case's influence
  • Some kind of objective measure of how often the case was cited
  • Some kind of expert/subjective/automated/experimental measure of the case's political contentiousness

Does anything like this exist? My intent is to be able to look for things like "top 5 most politically sensitive cases in bla county superior court from 2000-2010." Determinations like that would be deeply subjective, but maybe subject to some kind of systematic approach?

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  • I’m voting to close this question because belongs on Law.SE. – agc Sep 23 '20 at 17:48
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    @agc Just because the question could be on Law.SE doesn't mean it should be closed here. I am not sure that this would be a good question for that site which and suggesting it belongs there would not be good advice. – Joe W Sep 23 '20 at 18:17
  • What about software recommendations? – capet Sep 23 '20 at 18:18
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    opendata.stackexchange.com could also be a good place for this kind of question. for example this answer might be relevant. – Erwan Sep 23 '20 at 21:11
  • @Erwan that's awesome! I see it at least has citation count. Plus some of the other answers/comments have some possibly generalizable methods. – capet Sep 23 '20 at 21:50
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I am looking for free websites that contain (potentially partial) catalogs of state and local court cases in the United States.

This is a matter of public record and available from many sources.

Some kind of objective measure of how often the case was cited

There are several commercial services that offer this to subscribers including Westlaw, Lexis-Nexis, and Lois Law. Doing this used to be known as "Shepardizing" after a commercial service that used to be the sole source of this information. I do not believe that there are any free sources of this information.

The vote margin

Some kind of expert/subjective/automated/experimental measure of the case's influence

Some kind of expert/subjective/automated/experimental measure of the case's political contentiousness

There is no free service that offers this on a comprehensive basis and for that matter, there isn't a paid service that does either.

Professors in the areas of law and political science and sometimes other disciplines, and industry or practice area specific journals sometimes try to do assessments like this and publish journal articles based upon their findings. It might even be possible to contact those professors and obtain their raw data on voting margins from their personal or research group's database.

As a practical matter, one way to locate influential cases in a particular field of law is to look at the case that are included in law school textbooks in that field. Raw citation counts are often a decent indicator as well.

Law review articles of note are often ranked based upon Social Science Research Network (SSRN) downloads and citations.

There isn't any widely accepted objective measure of political contentiousness, although you might be able to find lists made by knowledgable individuals as matters of personal opinion. You might use mentions in newspapers, mentions in books, mentions in political speeches or materials, etc. But figuring out how to flag cases in unformatted text and then consolidate alternative ways of referring to the same case would be a daunting challenge. You might start with a long list of highly cited cases or cases referenced in textbooks and then do a search of those particular case names within that set of cases. You might also try to compile a list of cases referred to on Wikipedia and then then rank them based upon an AI word search for terms indicating controversy and on how many views they have had.

There are plausible ways that someone could do such a ranking, although all of them would involve lots of work (i.e. hundreds or thousands of skilled person hours) to implement, but most of the rankings that are done are of U.S. Supreme Court cases.

There is also a tricky definitional issue in any measure of political contentiousness, which is "to whom"?

Most state and local court decisions, even important ones, are not widely known by anyone other than lawyers. Even if an issue that ultimately has its roots in a court decision is widely discussed and controversial, it is exceedingly rare that a typical likely voter, or even a typical political party official or elected official or political reporter at a media outlet would know that fact or be aware of the case.

Limiting the poll of potentially politically contentious cases to those that people are aware of by name or even more fragmentary details at all would greatly narrow the list.

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