The Courts’ Big Data: What If Only?

Close to 2.5 quintillion bytes of new data are created daily. ....Organizations know this data is rich in information and potential insight, but it’s as if they receive a fresh-minted library daily with answers to all their questions, except the books are written in languages they cannot understand. 

The above words appeared in a full-page ad by IBM in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal under the headline “Watson Goes To Work.” The ad touted IBM’s Watson, the supercomputer Jeopardy! champion over two human challengers in a pop culture event in February 2011.  Watson’s performance improved as the game progressed as it built on each bit of information acquired from each new clue and answer.  Watson demonstrated the advanced form of computing IBM calls a cognitive system, “a system that is not simply programmed but is trained to learn based on interactions and outcomes.” 
The ad brought to mind a “what if” question my National Center for State colleague Jim MacMillan and I have been pondering for while now. 
What if we could tap into the massive amount of data that is entered and stored in a court’s case management system, and other data systems like states’ criminal justice repositories?
For example, an approach – I believe first suggested by Jim McMillan and Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas Judge Carolyn Engel Temin, which already may be in the experimental stages of development by judiciaries outside of the U.S. -- uses information in modern automated case management systems to measure case complexity and dynamically create and adjust the individual case weights and the total case weights for individual judges and staff, departments, and courts. Potential factors and data elements related to case complexity in criminal cases, for example, might include the number and seriousness of criminal charges, the number of defendants, criminal history of the defendant, number of documents submitted in evidence, number of witnesses, witness availability, and the number of exhibits.  Workload assessments and assignment of cases, among myriad other functions, would be based on up to date adjustment in real time. 
Which brings me to the the takeaway question: Why not a Watson in the courts?  No doubt the courts today have Big Data that a “Justice Watson” could devour fur lunch. 
My wish is that a case management system company or a business intelligence vendor with court or justice system interests would throw some skin into the research and development (R&D) game for this exciting prospect.  It might begin modestly with dynamic workload assessment.  The R&D could be funded directly or by means of some leveraged development in cooperation with an individual court or court system.  
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