A prison term of up to five years awaits anyone who publicly reveals data about how judges in France are likely to decide based upon their past rulings.
As court data has become readily available the business of judicial analytics has grown tremendously over the past decade and this prompted the latest reaction. US legal tech experts say, however, that a similar ban is unlikely to gain traction in the United States. “Big data is here to stay,” Bloomberg quoted legal adviser Ralph Baxter. “With law, it’s at an early stage, but it’s coming.”
Simon Taylor reported on the legaltech backlash in France for Law.com:
The new law, Article 33 of the Justice Reform Act, is aimed at preventing anyone – but especially legaltech companies focused on litigation prediction and analytics – from publicly revealing the pattern of judges’ behavior in relation to court decisions.
“The identity data of magistrates and members of the judiciary cannot be reused with the purpose or effect of evaluating, analyzing, comparing or predicting their actual or alleged professional practices,” the legislation states.
The new law was written as a direct result of an earlier effort to make all case law in France easily accessible to the general public, which included the publication of judges’ decisions – part of a move toward greater transparency in the French judicial system.
At the time, France’s judges did not anticipate the existence of a burgeoning legaltech sector, comprised of companies that can easily use public data to analyse how judges respond to certain types of legal matters or arguments, or how they compare to other judges.
Judicial decisions will still be publicly available and judges’ names will not be redacted. But the new law means that companies will be barred from analyzing a total body of rulings associated with a judge’s name. They will not be able to aggregate data on verdicts and create a record about a specific judge.
The law also could affect corporate legal departments and law firms that rely on third-party data analytics for case assessment and appellate work.