Fastcase Launches Bad Law Bot to Flag Negative Treatment in Case Law

Today Fastcase announced a free enhancement to their case law identification algorithm that identifies overturned or reversed cases in its Authority Check system. Called "Bad Law Bot," the system uses "new algorithms to identify court cases that are cited with negative treatment and to alert researchers of a case’s negative citation history," according to the company's press release announcing the new service. According to the press release, "Bad Law Bot scours all of the citations in judicial opinions," to locate cases cited as being reversed or over-ruled.  "Bad Law Bot flags the case for Fastcase users, identifying negative history as reported by the courts." Currently in beta, Bad Law Bot will be available to Fastcase users after May 1, 2013.

Fastcase's Bad Law Bot

Fastcase has also posted the following video describing the service.

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“Fastcase’s Authority Check feature is already a very powerful tool for identifying whether your case is still good law,” said Fastcase CEO Ed Walters in the same press release. “Authority Check includes data visualization tools to see the later history of cases, citation analytics and filterable lists of later-citing cases. The addition of Bad Law Bot, to help identify negative history, is a major step forward. This is the first of many additions to Authority Check that we’ll roll out over the next year.”

While Fastcase is the first to offer such a service for free to its users, Casemaker has been providing negative history through its Casecheck+ product for some time - albeit at an additional cost to its users.

In our recent white paper "Are All Citators Created Equal," we compared the citator services of Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, WestLaw, Casemaker, Fastcase, and Google Scholar - looking for indications of how they displayed both negative and positive treatment of published and unpublished cases. In that side by side comparison,  we found that Casemaker, Fastcase, and Google Scholar's citators did not include unpublished cases so they did not let you know if a later published case had reversed or affirmed the unpublished case. While we found that "legal researchers can still use these databases [Casemaker, Fastcase, and Google Scholar] to learn if their cases are still good law by taking the extra step to run a search using the party names as keywords," we recommended "NOT relying entirely on any of [those three]." We concluded that the paid services offered by Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw provided the most comprehensive coverage of this information.

Even in its press release announcing the new service, Fastcase seems to concede that point when the company says, "The new Bad Law Bot feature helps users identify negative treatment of the cases [sic] judicial opinions. However, because it only reports what cases say in citations, researchers should rely on Bad Law Bot as an aid to identifying negative history, not as a comprehensive guide."

We agree that Bad Law Bot is a step forward for free/low-cost case law research databases because rather than just listing all of the cases that cite the case you've searched for, Bad Law Bot points out the negative treatment so you can focus on reading those cases first.  It's important to note however, that Fastcase's Authority Check still does not provide information such as positive treatment of cases or whether an unpublished case has been affirmed by a later published case. We look forward to seeing where the journey leads.

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