Access to case law in "Legislation" dataset



The “Legislation” dataset doesn’t include case law. And yet that’s an important aspect of the law, especially in common law countries,

Moreover, court judgments are owned by private entities in a lot of countries. For instance in the UK (that ranks 1st in the legislation dataset): “an important part of English law is entirely owned by a private charity, the Incorporated Council of Law Reporting” ( ).

Also, access to court decisions is a human right issue. Indeed, according to the European Parliament ( ):

  • “Greater access to court files for third persons is not only recommended, it is necessary in view of the above mentioned problems ranging from some inconveniences to infringements of procedural rights, acknowledged as a fundamental human rights (i.e. right to fair trial and equality of arms).”
  • “Certain aspects of (in)accessibility of Court files cause serious legal problems, and may, arguably, even violate internationally recognised fundamental human rights, such as equality of arms.”
  • “It can be argued that, in a case where one party has access to a certain document to which she also refers, but to which the adversary party does not have access, the right to a fair trial is violated.”

The European Court of Human Rights also found that there’s a violation of the article 6 (fair trial) when “the full texts of their judgments openly available to the public in their registries”: Werner v. Austria, Szucs v. Austria, Sunday Times v. United Kingdom 1979.

At the international level, the Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that: “any judgment rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public”.

How could we improve access to court documents? Would it be possible to create a new dataset or to include it as a new criterion of the “Legislation” one?



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No reply?
This is very important issue and it should be tackled by Open initiatives.

The start could be including the access to case law as one of the criteria in Global Open Data Index:
and other similar indexing pages.

You made very convincing arguments, just send it to administrators of the Census.



Having it here in the forum helps to the Index team to learn about the topic, and maybe even consider it to the next Index. Do notice, that the Index is limited in the new datasets it can add every year, so we can’t guarantee we can add it this year.


Thanks @ivobab!

How can I contact an administrator?

Moreover, there’s already documentation available on the access to court decision, which may help to realize an index. For instance:

I think that all, or most of, court decisions are already available in Open Data in Bulgaria, Lithuania, Estonia. And maybe also Belgium, Spain, Romania, and Austria. (On the other hand in France, decisions from the supreme courts are available, but for the appeal courts and lower juridictions, only 1% ara available. The other 99% are sold by the courts to private publishers).




Here is the article I wrote about open data and case-law: :slight_smile:


It is a great blog post!
Thank you for writing it!



A comprehensive study of case-law open data has been done in the European Union:

For instance, the UK is among the worst in the EU (page 20), whereas case-law is especially important in a common law country. On the other hand, the UK ranks pretty well in the “National Laws” category:

The EU study includes a questionnaire (on page 154) that could be reused to assess openness of non-European countries.

One year after, I still think access to case-law should be included in the Open Data Index, for instance as a new category with “National Laws” and “Draft Legislation”, and this EU study may help because it provides a great analytic framework to evaluate the open data policy regarding court decisions.

What do you think? How could we add case-law to the 2017 Index?





Here is a recent article on the situation in the UK:

“Given the significance of case law in the UK’s common law legal system, the inaccessibility of judgments for entrepreneurial reuse seriously inhibits the development of a competitive legal education technology sector in the UK.”

(And yet the UK ranks 11th in the National Laws Index: )