MC Law Judicial Data Project —
A Research Tool to Help Improve Your Practice
By Brian Barnes

Legal online resources continue to change as evidenced by new looks for Westlaw, Lexis, Casemaker, and the Mississippi College School of Law’s Judicial Data Project (MC Law JDP). The last item in that list probably made you do a double take as you may not be familiar with this new resource. I predict it will steal some of your research time from the other products and I am confident that trial attorneys will find the MC Law JDP to be a helpful research tool – not only for finding legal precedent but also to see how various trial judge’s rulings have fared on appeal and how appellate judges have opined on certain issues.

The MC Law JDP (located at http://judicial.mc.edu) provides a comprehensive view of Mississippi appellate cases. It is an outgrowth and expansion of several products many bar members already use. These products include Dean Mary Miller’s MLI Press Summaries and the Mississippi Appellate Court Video and Brief Archives. A major feature of the MC Law JDP that sets it apart from other services is the ability to perform statistical analysis and quickly search for specific data such as the number of opinions written by a specific appellate judge or many other more complex appellate statistical measures. New cases and information are added weekly, along with improved features such as statutes of limitation, trial court information, and judicial biographies. The JDP serves as a one-stop shop for those wishing to view a case from its beginning to end. 

The brief archive portion of the database--a resource that practitioners have used in the past (the Mississippi Appellate Court Brief Archive)--also has a new look and more resources than before as the collection dates from 2007 to present day. From the front page of the MC Law JDP, one can select Videos & Briefs and then input information to find a specific brief or do a general search for briefs one might be interested in viewing.   When looking for a specific brief, searchable fields include party name, party attorney, docket number, date range, and topic (as defined by Dean Miller’s MLI Press Summaries). Briefs are uploaded to the database within two weeks of a final ruling by the Court.

If a more generalized search is desired, the MC Law JDP provides a Google powered search box that searches all briefs in the database. This search is independent of the other more specific brief search, but provides an excellent tool using the best in search technology when examining approximately 20 million words from over 4,500 brief documents (as of September 1, 2010) in pdf format. Additionally, the MC Law JDP provides a Google powered text search of the opinions from the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals as posted on the Court’s website. One may search the opinions to find a case that fits the researcher’s needs and then return to the MC Law JDP home page to seek out briefs for that case. The buttons for these searches can be found at the bottom of either the Video and Brief page or the Statistical Research page.

In addition to the briefs provided by the MC Law JDP, over 575 appellate oral argument videos are provided for viewing. The video archive portion of the database begins in 2004 and is current through the last complete sitting of the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals. The videos of oral arguments may be searched for in a fashion similar to the search for briefs and can be played using a variety of internet browsers.

A new resource for, practitioners, researchers, and the public is a database that permits the extraction of statistical information. This portion of the database has forty searchable fields (this number will continue to grow) that allow for referencing and cross referencing any number of possible data sets involving Mississippi appellate cases. Currently the data for statistical purposes is available for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals for 2008, 2009, and 2010. Cases dating back from 2007 to 2000 will be online soon.

The flexibility of searches using this database can be illustrated by some examples: 
Example #1   Searching for all 2009 and 2010 case opinions authored by Chief Judge King and concurred with by Judge Griffis, this search results in 52 cases which are listed. One can also restrict the search by placing (KA) in the docket number indicator field and restrict to only criminal cases.

This result is obtained simply by filling out the information in the proper field--in this case the search blocks for the opinion author, concurring author, date, and docket identifier.  Before the creation of the MC Law JDP, getting this information was very difficult. Additionally, the JDP contains the filed briefs for 51 of the 52 cases and oral argument video for those cases in which oral argument was held.

Example #2    Searching for a case where you know limited information is also possible. Information such as the party name of Double Quick and the attorney, Joe Tatum, and decided by either the Supreme Court or Court of Appeals in 2010 can be enough to find the case for which you are looking. Finding this case can be easily done by searching in the party field for “Double Quick”, the attorney field for “Tatum” and restricting the date to 2010. We recommend only putting the last name for an attorney as sometimes attorneys are listed with middle initials by the Court and other times they are not. This search yields the result for 2008-CA-01713-SCT, Double Quick, Inc. v. Ronnie Lee Lymas, which while it has not been decided (as of the writing of this article) we currently have the archived video available and will have the briefs archived online within two weeks of the Court’s decision. [Editor's Note: The Double Quick decision was handed down on September 23, 2010.]

In addition to some of the features described above, the MC Law JDP serves the needs of practitioners as well as the public. The database provides access to case information quickly, in an easy to search and use format.  An example of this is that one may search by “Topic” (as determined by Dean Miller’s MLI Press Summaries) or “Nature of the Case” (as determined by the Court in their opinion). Additionally, allowing full text Google powered searching of briefs and opinions allows for a user to apply keywords to search these crucial documents of appellate practice. As a note, the MLI Press Summaries are available for improved database searching but the summary itself may not be viewed in full for one full year after the release to subscribers (one may purchase a subscription to this MLI case hand down service by writing Dean Mary Miller at MMiller@mc.edu).

The MC Law JDP provides the bench, bar, and public with a resource that allows for broad access to the common law and its procedural elements, and provides transparency into the judicial process. With these goals in mind, Mississippi College School of Law invites you to explore this powerful new research tool and welcomes your suggestions to add to the capability of the MC Law JDP as well. Access to the MC Law JDP is provided free of charge in recognition of the generous support the legal community continues to provide the Mississippi College School of Law.