You are here

Big Data and the Law: Applying NLP to Supreme Court Decisions

July 19, 2013

Big Data and the Law:  Researchers at MIT and Harvard have applied Natural Language Processing to Supreme Court decisions to determine authorship in cases where the justices have decided not to sign the opinions.

"A U.S. Supreme Court mystery drew them together: the Harvard 3L, the engineer, the Jenner & Block
associate, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and a team of MIT doctoral students. The
mystery: Who actually wrote the joint dissent in last year's health care blockbuster?


... Words and phrases common to each justice's writing style offered the clues to unraveling, with what the
investigators claim is a high degree of accuracy, that mystery and eventually all of the per curiam—unsigned—
opinions of the Roberts Court.


William Li, a doctoral student in MIT's computer-science and artificialintelligence laboratory, approached his
professor and principal investigator at the laboratory, Andrew Lo, about whether they could resolve the
speculation using natural language-processing tools...."

 -- ref:  by Marcia Coyle "The National Law Journal", 15 July 2013, Vol 35; Issue 45

Publication:  Stanford Technology Law Review, Vol 16, No 3, Spring 2013; http://stlr.stanford.edu/pdf/algorithmicattribution.pdf