How long will my case take?

Nathan here. I’m back for a guest post with some new tricks I’ve learned at my new job from some of the researchers at UAMS. I’ve having a blast getting an inside look at cutting-edge biomedical research. This post looks at some data visualization about the time it takes to resolve civil tort cases in Arkansas.


One of the researchers has a master’s degree in computer science, and I picked his brain a little bit about what software packages he likes to use. He prefers python to Perl (which I like) because python’s research libraries are easier to use.

I took his recommendations to heart, and I’ve been tinkering around with the Anaconda python distribution with data I’ve gathered for another project I’m working on releasing very soon: Docket Dog. It’s an Arkansas state court notification system. I used the data mining application Orange to perform some data visualization on the types of civil cases my dad and brother handle.

Arkansas Tort Case Length Analysis:

I took a look at over 98000 tort cases available electronically from the Administrative Office of the Courts for which I could calculate an end date. This is what the time frames look like:

Pendency of Arkansas tort cases in years. The scale is 20 years wide. Click to enlarge.
Pendency of Arkansas tort cases in years. The scale is 20 years wide. Click to enlarge.

As you can see, civil court cases can take several years to resolve. We’ll see what the averages look like here in a few minutes with another chart.

In the meantime, there are several interesting patterns that appear in this chart. For instance, on the first line for product liability cases, there are several vertical bands around 9, 12, and 14–16 years. I haven’t looked into this, but I suspect each band probably represents a settlement of a specific type of cases, like Firestone exploding tire cases, Pinto exploding car cases, or something similar.

The declaratory judgment (dec action) line is notably shorter overall than the others. Again, I haven’t researched this further, but I would expect this is due to the fact that dec actions don’t involve juries and are usually about a specific question of law. For instance, lots of dec actions involve whether there is insurance coverage for a particular event or not (the hilarious Luther Sutter v. Dennis Milligan dec action notwithstanding). 

Now, on to the next chart. This is called a box chart:

Comparison of median Arkansas tort case values over the last 20 years. Click to enlarge.
Comparison of median Arkansas tort case values over the last 20 years. Click to enlarge.

This chart is broken up into quartiles. The light blue box represents 50% of all cases. So, 50% of motor vehicle collision (MVC) cases are decided within 2 years, with the median value being 1.6 years. (Median means the middle value; if there were 101 cases, for instance, the median value would be the 51st value). The average MVC case length is shorter at just over 1 year.

The dark blue lines represent maximum values, excluding outliers. The dots out to the right of the graph represent those outliers, which extend out to 20 years.

What’s the bottom line? For 3/4 of tort cases, you can expect resolution to take at least 6 months to 3 years. Another quarter of cases take up to 4 years or so. And, there are always outliers that can take many, many years to reach ultimate resolution.

What questions do you have about this analysis?

The Ultimate Tailgating List

I like to tailgate at Arkansas Razorback games, especially in Little Rock, even though we’ve been abysmal there the last 6 years or so. Over the years I’ve developed a list for my tailgating gear so (hopefully) I don’t forget anything. I’m sharing it here (download link here) to see if you have any suggestions. Please let me know in the comments. 

How to read .ptx transcript files on your Mac – Yosemite update

Last year I wrote up a how-to guide installing a .ptx viewer on a Mac for Mavericks and previous versions of OS X. Some steps in that process changed in Yosemite, so here are the steps.

Remember, this is a fairly involved process that takes tinkering under the hood of your Mac. Make sure you’re comfortable using the command line. Some of the commands will take a while to run, so it’s best to try and multitask while this is going on.

First, install XCode from the App Store. Then, open the Terminal applications (found at /Applications/Utilities/) and run the following command, which installs some command line tools you’ll need:

xcode-select --install

Run the following command to agree to the XCode license:

sudo xcodebuild -license

Scroll to the end using the spacebar and type ‘agree’ to accept the license.

Next, you’ll need the Macports package installation manager, available here. Choose the version that corresponds to your operating system, and install the package. When it’s finished, run the following command to update Macports to the latest release (warning: this step can take a while, because it has to compile a bunch of code):

sudo port -v selfupdate

You’ll also want to upgrade the installed ports (which can also take a while), as follows:

sudo port upgrade outdated

After this, you’ll want to make sure MacPorts knows where to look for its files, which are in the /opt directory. Run this line of code to do so (H/T David Baumgold, whose great Wine on Mac tutorial I just discovered):

echo export PATH=/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:\$PATH$'\n'export MANPATH=/opt/local/man:\$MANPATH | sudo tee -a /etc/profile

Next, we’ll use Macports to install Wine:

sudo port install wine

This will take a few minutes for the files to download, compile, and install. After that, we’ll have to install a couple of extensions for wine: (1) Mono, an open source version of the .NET framework; (2) a helper application, winetricks; and (3) Windows Media Player. (1) and (3) are required by E-Transcript Viewer 6.2, and (2) installs (3).

sudo port install mono
sudo port install winetricks
winetricks wmp10

During this process, you’re going to have some Windows windows pop up, as you would when installing software on a Windows machine. Make the appropriate selections (the default, preferably) to install the software. 

Then, download and install the e-Transcript Viewer app, available here. Download the file, then type the following commands into your Terminal: as follows:

cd ~/Downloads
wine E-Transcript_Bundle_Viewer-6.2.exe

(Pro tip: when you’re typing a file name into the Terminal, you can hit the tab key to auto-complete the name). Once you run this program, you’ll get a popup telling you to install a couple of prerequisites. Click ‘Install’. Check the default values for installation of the E-Transcript Viewer, and complete the installation.

Finally, we’ll need to create a shortcut to the installed E-Transcript Viewer application, which is hidden. Open the TextEdit application, and click New Document. Copy and paste the following lines into the document:

wine ~/.wine/drive_c/Program\ Files/RealLegal/E-Bundle\ Viewer/EBundleViewer.exe

Click Format > Make Plain Text. Save the file in the Applications Folder as “E-Transcript Viewer.command”. Finally, go back to the Terminal window and enter the following commands so that the script we just created can be executed:

chmod +x /Applications/E-Transcript\ Viewer.command

Now, you should be able to double-click the ‘E-Transcript Viewer.command’ file in the Applications folder any time you need to open a .ptx file. Here’s the result:

If you get stuck at any point in the process, please let me know in the comments and I’ll try to help. You can also holler at me @chaneylawfirm on Twitter. We’d also appreciate a follow on our blog at if you found the tutorial helpful, as I put these out from time to time. Thanks for reading.

UPDATED 6-25-2015: Genericized the home directory in the bash script per the comments.