SCALES-OKN Featured in AALL’s CRIV Sheet

The American Association of Law Librarians (AALL) is a non-profit organization that supports the mission of promoting and enhancing the value of law libraries to the legal and public communities. The CRIV Sheet is the triannual newsletter of the AALL Committee on Relations with Information Vendors.  In this November’s issue, Andrew Christensen, Head of Digital Initiatives and Outreach, interviewed part of the SCALES team. An excerpt from the feature is below and the rest can be found here, https://www.aallnet.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-CRIV-Sheet-Vol.-44-No.-1-FINAL.pdf (see page 7)


“In early September, I received an unexpected request to participate in “User Testing for Non-Profit Docket Search Software.” The brief email was from law professor Chris Cotropia at the University of Richmond, and mentioned that Roger Skalbeck, director of their law library and a former colleague of mine at Georgetown, had suggested me—in my capacity as a law librarian—as a good test-user of a new platform called SCALES-OKN.

I was unfamiliar with the name, but a visit to the SCALES-OKN website (and their YouTube video) quickly informed me of their worthy and ambitious cause, and the value that the project promises to bring to legal information seekers from professional fields and
the public at large.

I agreed to try it out, and the next day spent nearly an hour on Zoom with Dr. Rachel Adler of the C3 Lab at Northwestern University kicking the proverbial tires of the SCALES-OKN platform, running searches of court records through various interface versions, and evaluating results for consistency and presentation. My input from a professional perspective was sought and noted and the experience was impressive. The potential for the system seemed enormous.

What system is this, and why is it so interesting and promising? In their own words, SCA LES –OK N seeks to “build an A I-powered data platform that makes the details of the federal judiciary and insights into how it works available and accessible to every single person.” The elements of its acronym further state their mission: Systematic Content Analysis of Litigation EventS Open Knowledge Network.

Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant since August 2020, SCALES-OKN is led by a team of computer and data scientists, legal scholars, journalists, and policy experts, who strive to develop a suite of tools to enable access to court records and analytics. Six working groups are currently focused on exploring issues in criminal justice, complex litigation, environmental law and policy, intellectual property, journalism and public policy, and judicial administration. Considering the team roster, there is little question that they will succeed on all fronts.

The positive experience I had testing the SCALES-OKN court records portal, and the clear utility of such a legal research tool on the open web, convinced me that more people, in particular law librarians, need to know about this nascent platform, track and potential for the system seemed enormous.”


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