Harvard project gives free access to millions of US cases dating back to 1658

A partnership between Harvard Law School and Ravel Law gives free online access to 360 years of American court cases

Harvard project gives free access to millions of US cases dating back to 1658

An innovative tech initiative has made it a lot easier for lawyers and researchers to access US court cases. It’s called the Caselaw Access Project, and it gives the public free online access to 6.4 million digitally-scanned American court cases dating from 1658 to June 2018. The online database contains 40 million scanned pages for a total of 200 terabytes of information.

The project is a partnership between Harvard Law School’s Library Innovation Lab and San Francisco-based legal research service Ravel Law. Over the past three years, the project team digitised court decisions from approximately 40,000 bound volumes maintained by the Harvard Law School Library.

The result is the most comprehensive database of its kind outside the US Library of Congress, and includes all official, book-published court cases from every US state. It also includes cases from US federal courts, and the territorial courts of American Samoa, Dakota Territory, Guam, Navajo Nation, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Researchers may access the database through either Application Program Interface (API) or by bulk download. While there is no limit to the amount of case metadata (such as case name, citation, or court, date) that may be accessed, there is a daily 500-case limit for full-text access.

Bulk access is limited to 500 full-text cases due to Harvard’s agreement with Ravel, which controls the commercial use of the database through March 2024.

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