Living Report: Crosswalking PACER to the IDB

The SCALES team is excited to announce a new addition to our living reports page, the public directory where we compile summaries of our research and interactive tools for exploring our database. Our latest report dives into the FJC’s Integrated Data Base, exploring its strengths and weaknesses through a systematic comparison to PACER docket sheets.

Although the IDB is one of the only comprehensive sources of aggregate data about federal court cases, gaps and errors in its data often plague legal scholars’ attempts at large-scale research work. To quantify these shortcomings, we attempted to match each PACER docket in our database to its corresponding IDB row. As an additional measure of the IDB’s accuracy, we profiled in forma pauperis activity within the docket sheets and compared the results to the IDB’s ‘ifp’ flag for each case.

Our PACER-IDB crosswalk reveals a minor yet pervasive incompleteness in the IDB’s case records: overall, 1.5% of PACER cases within the scope of our crosswalk cannot be found in the IDB. Our in forma pauperis analysis suggests even more extensive inaccuracy in the IDB, as 8.5% of the values in the IDB’s ‘ifp’ column conflict with the PACER docket sheets; furthermore, we find that this inaccuracy is correlated with nature of suit.

The full report is live at https://livingreports.scales-okn.org/#/idbCrosswalkReport. As always, feel free to contact us with questions or feedback about our ongoing research work, and let us know if you are interested in getting involved with the SCALES OKN project!

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