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September 2, 2013 / carlispina

Casetext – Combining Legal Research with Crowdsourced Annotations

Casetext LogoCasetext is an interesting new web tool for lawyers and law students that combines the ability to search for the full-text of cases along with features that allow users to add notes, tags, annotations and other content to the cases. While many tools exist to help researchers find the full text of legal cases, Casetext seems focused on setting itself apart through these annotation features that add additional information and analysis to each of the cases.

Currently, Casetext offers access to all U.S. Supreme Court cases, as well as federal circuit court cases published in F.2d, federal district court cases since 1980 and some Delaware cases (see the full list and when cases were last added under Research in the FAQ). All cases are searchable using the search bar which is at the top of each page on the site, which searches not only case name but also full-text of the cases. Search results are automatically sorted by relevance, but there are also facets at the left of each screen of search results which allow users to easily navigate between courts to find the desired results. There is also an option to resort results by date or to narrow the results through additional terms.

When viewing each case, users are first presented with the contextual material that has been added by Casetext and its users. There are “Quick Facts” for the case, including information such as holding, justices who wrote and/or joined the majority, concurrence and dissent, the jurisdiction, citation and other factual information, tags, a “wiki” of information along with attributions identifying who created this background information and links to the top annotations on the case. Annotations can be easily added from a drop down menu at the top right of the case that links a user to the option to add tags, related cases, secondary sources, analysis and records. These are a major focus of Casetext, so they are central to the page and are also part of a persistent top menu that makes it easy to add this information at any point in the case and associate it with a specific paragraph in the text.

To encourage and acknowledge annotations from users, Casetext offers a leaderboard of top annotators that highlights their reputation points. These reputation points are earned by completing tasks on the site, such as adding tags, categories or annotations to cases, but they also include an element of community approval of your content since you can earn points if your contributions are upvoted by other users and conversely you can lose points if your content is downvoted. Moreover, you can expend your points to downvote other users’ content. This system is designed to make the reputation points more meaningful by ensuring that reputation is based on more than just the number of contributions a user makes and by requiring users to “pay” in reputation points if they want to downvote other users. Casetext has also put thought into how content contributed to the site is licensed, attempting to strike a balance that will be attractive to academics and lawyers, especially in the way that it explicitly allows users to reuse content that they have created.

In addition to free accounts, Casetext also offers subscriptions that provide access to more advanced features, such as heatmapping, email alerts when new annotations are added to a case and the ability to save cases, copy content from them with citations and print them as PDFs, as well as a one month search history, with more features to come in the future. For now, users who want to try out these advanced features can do so to see if it is worth subscribing. While Casetext is still very new and therefore a bit limited in terms of the content that is available, it is an interesting new tool for legal research and worth trying out if you are interested in sampling one approach to crowdsourcing contextual information about court cases. The video below gives more insights into how Casetext works:

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