Civil Justice Data Commons

Civil Justice Data Commons

The Civil Justice Data Commons (CJDC) aims to create a secure, robust repository for civil legal data gathered from courts, legal service providers, and other civil law institutions.  CJDC enables stakeholders, researchers, and the public to better understand the civil legal system in the United States. We harmonize and categorize court data, focusing on eviction and consumer debt cases, and provide data access to authorized researchers on a secure data platform.  We also produce reports and visualizations to help courts and communities gain insights from their data.

Our Work

Research, planning, and design for the Civil Justice Data Commons (CJDC) is supported by our
generous funders – the National Science Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Pew
Charitable Trusts, and JPB Foundation, as well as the Georgetown University Law Center and
the McCourt School of Public Policy.

CJDC Design and Planning

With support from the National Science Foundation, we gathered information about the needs for a civil justice data commons.  We engaged with civil justice stakeholders in communities across the U.S. to understand their interests and concerns, and collaborated with academic data scientists about the technical requirements and best practices for the creation of a viable data commons in the civil justice field.

With support and expert facilitation from Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2020-2021, we conducted three Design Sprints to refine the scope and purpose of the CJDC, involving researchers, court officials, and legal service providers.  We continue our collaboration with AWS to improve our data management practices and further automate data standardization and harmonization.

CJDC Demonstration Project

In partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts with support from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the CJDC conducted a pilot project to design a civil justice data commons.  We developed and refined a data governance model, obtained seventeen court datasets, and established a secure compute space for the authorized researchers in the pilot.  The project addressed the challenges of data acquisition, data cleaning and standardization, development of data governance protocols, matching a data infrastructure to user needs, and provisioning analytic tools for researchers.

Education and Outreach

Through the support of the McCourt Impact Initiative, the CJDC team is studying the legal, ethical, and technical issues associated with quantitative research on civil justice records.  We share our findings through seminars and publications.  See our Publications page for our growing scholarship in this field.

Using the CJDC

With support from the JPB Foundation, the CJDC team is demonstrating how civil court data can be linked to other sources to understand disparities in access to justice and outcomes.  Through our research on defendants in eviction and plaintiffs in medical debt, we will document best practices and limitations of methods that add race, ethnicity, and business characteristics to studies of civil justice outcomes.

How Can I Get Involved?

If you’d like more information about the CJDC or if you’re interested in getting involved, we’d love to hear from you! Email us at CJDC@georgetown.edu or connect with us on LinkedIn– we will be in touch soon!