Analytics Now Being Used to Track Judges

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By Mark Wilson, Esq. on April 22, 2015 3:52 PM

"Analytics" is everywhere these days, from social media to baseball. It's the process of aggregating a bunch of data and then using those data to formulate trends or come to conclusions.

The legal world is embracing analytics, too -- and in some interesting ways. A startup company called Ravel Law just debuted a platform called Judge Analytics, which seeks to aggregate data about state and federal judges so that litigants can fine-tune their strategies for specific judges.

Billy Beane, for the Prosecution

Tracking judges is nothing new; firms have been doing it for years to determine where they want to file lawsuits. That's partially the reason why so many patent lawsuits are filed in the Eastern District of Texas, says TechCrunch: Historically, juries there have been friendly to patent plaintiffs.

But no firm could possibly track every judge everywhere in the country. That's where "big data" come in, along with the notion that anything can be quantified and stored in a database. It's like "Moneyball," but with judges instead of baseball players.

Actual analytics are more reliable than anecdotes, as reflected by some of the websites that rate judges. Those sites aren't terribly useful, as the reviews appear to be written by the parties themselves, who generally dislike the judge if he or she decides against them.

Analytics, though, take into account all of a judge's cases and even get into the minutiae of how long submissions are. Information like this could prove valuable when it's time to write a motion for a judge who, based on the data, tends to decide in favor of motions that are shorter. (And it's unlikely that attorneys at a firm are counting how long submitted documents are.) Judges have their favorite "go-to" cases for certain issues, which would be reported by the analytics software. "Armed with that information, an attorney arguing before that judge could be sure to mention such a case," said TechCrunch.

Mutually Assured Destruction

Of course, phrases like "big data" and "analytics" are also lampooned because they're viewed as a panacea -- which, of course, they're not. Analytics involves predictions, not certainty, but lawyers who already don't know how technology works could be fooled into thinking a judicial prediction was something more than just a prediction.

And just as there's been a game of brinksmanship between online content creators and the companies that determine their value (i.e., Google), expect judges to try and shake things up once they realize that they're becoming predictable. While they can't change their deeply held opinions (Judge Kozinski is always going to be a libertarian), they can randomize some of the minutiae that analytics software thinks is important -- like what time of day they hold their hearings.

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