Which Arkansas counties are the most litigious?

I’ve posted before about the upcoming launch of Docket Dog, a case watching service for Arkansas state court cases. To me, one of the interesting things coming out of Docket Dog is the ability to look at different metrics for case filings in Arkansas.

I have been learning the Python programming language, which has some good visualization tools available for it. My latest exploration has been using Python to create state maps. I found this awesome tutorial by a guy with an equally-awesome name (Nathan, of course!). I also wanted to view metrics per capita, so I downloaded the latest US Census data.

I wanted to figure out which Arkansas counties were the most sue-happy. So, looked at the total number of cases filed in each county, divided by the population, and plotted the result. Each color band is a multiple of the average for that year.

2015 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2015 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2014 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2014 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2013 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2013 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2012 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2012 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2011 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2011 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2010 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.
2010 cases per capita. Click to enlarge.

What do you make of this? Clark County, my old stomping ground, is average from 2010 to 2012, but is well above that the last couple of years.

Why do you think certain counties are more litigious than others?

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.

Background:

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?

How-to: Hyperlinks in federal court documents on a Mac

I follow Hercules and the Empire, a blog written by a federal trial judge in Nebraska. I was poking around the archives today and found a couple of gems on legal writing, including a list of “Top ten legal writing hints when the audience is a cranky federal trial judge“. Judge Kopf suggests we make life easier on law clerks by inserting hyperlinks to caselaw and the electronic record.

I appreciate good legal writing, so I immediately started exploring the process. The Nebraska USDC ECF page has several links and tutorials on how to create hyperlinks in e-filed documents. The tutorials are a really good starting place on the mechanics of how to create hyperlinks. For instance, I never knew you could link to particular pages of PDF documents online simply by adding ?page=<pagenumber> to the end of the link. However, the tutorials identified a few issues that our particular Mac-based workflow would cause, so I thought I’d write up how I addressed the problems.

We use Macs and Microsoft Word in our office. We have Adobe Acrobat 11. Lexis is our legal research provider. From what I can tell, this setup creates at least two issues that requires alternative solutions to that posted in the Nebraska USDC hyperlink manual.

Problem 1: Clean Lexis Links

Solution: Use the Copy with Cite link from your Lexis case page to get a permalink to the document.

Pro Tip: Instead of the page number of the beginning of the opinion, you can use the page number for the pinpoint cite. So, instead of: “http://www.lexis.com/research/xlink?app=00075&view=full&searchtype=le&search=347+Ark.+423”, the last part becomes “347+Ark.+429″.

Explanation: For Lexis links, the tutorial suggests copying and pasting the link from the address bar in the browser; however, the tutorial also notes some attorneys have difficulty using this method. In looking at the url for a case I pulled up in Lexis, I can tell it will cause problems simply because it contains a lot of HTTP session information that will expire in a few hours.

The hyperlink needs a permanent link to the Lexis document. The workaround is to click the (Copy w/ Cite) link at the top of the Lexis page for your document. This will open a popup window. Make sure the Copy reference as hyperlink box is checked, and you can then click the text and copy the citation with the hyperlink embedded. Here’s a screenshot showing the Copy w/ Cite link and the popup:

When you paste into Word, you might have to click the little clipboard icon that pops up and select “Match destination formatting…”, like this:

You’ll need to work on the cite to get it in Bluebook format (de-bold and italicize the caption), unless your an anarchist. This will give you a permanent link to Lexis in your Word document.

Problem 2: Exporting Links to PDF

Solution: This requires a couple of different workarounds for me, as follows:

  • Upgrade Adobe Acrobat to version 2015 (this is the Document Cloud version).
  • Use File > Save As Adobe PDF… in Word 2011, not Word 2016 Preview.
  • Don’t put hyperlinks in footnotes for now.

Explanation: While reading through the Nebraska USDC tutorial, I saw that you can’t simply do a File > Print > Save as PDF from Word because it doesn’t preserve the links. I tried it, and sure enough, the links didn’t work. I also tried the Save as Adobe PDF from the File > Print > Save as… menu, but that didn’t work either. Finally, File > Save As… and selecting PDF was a dud too.

I found this Adobe support page discussing the link exportation issue. I wound up upgrading Adobe Acrobat to the latest version in order to able to embed links in a PDF created from Word. They now work in the body of the document, but not the footnotes. I like using footnotes for citations, but I’ll have to modify my behavior until this problem gets fixed.

Of the three ways to create the PDF from Word suggested on the Adobe forum, I could only get one to work. I figured out this is due to having the Office 2016 Preview installed on my computer. The File > Save as Adobe PDF link works in the 2011 version of Word, but the link between the programs appears to be broken in the 2016 preview.

Other Features…

According to the Nebraska USDC tutorial, you can link to particular documents previously filed in your case simply by inserting the link from the email you received when the document was filed.

The really cool feature, I think, is linking to documents you’re currently filing. I haven’t tried this yet. If you’ve been able to do it, or have discovered any issues with the process on a Mac, please drop me a line @chaneylawfirm on Twitter. We’d also appreciate a follow on our blog at http://www.chaneylaw.com/blog. Thanks for reading.