RECAP is a free extension for Firefox that strives to provide open access to federal court documents. The extension seeks to improve judicial transparency by crowdsourcing the collection of court records from PACER—the electronic public access system for the U.S. federal district and bankruptcy courts. When a RECAP user purchases a document from PACER, the RECAP extension helps her automatically send a copy of that document to the RECAP archive. And RECAP saves its users money by notifying them when documents they’re searching for are already available for free from the public. Thousands of people are actively using the RECAP extension to access over 2 million legal documents. It has been widely reported on in the press (see some quotes here).
Project home: https://www.recapthelaw.org
Project release: http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/blog/harlanyu/introducing-recap-turning-pacer-around
There are many requested features from end users, which are publicly available at RECAP Uservoice page.
Some highly requested features include:
Many law firms and attorneys have large local archives of PACER documents stored on their own systems that they are willing to donate to the RECAP document repository. We need to develop an interface to easily accept these documents, categorize them, and upload them to our repository. (uservoice item)
We've built a nice website that allows users without a PACER account to search and browse the document repository. The site is currently in private beta, and there are plenty of opportunities to add useful features, such as collaborative annotation or case summarization, as we take the site public.
We get hundreds of dockets from RECAP users every day, and we parse these dockets for useful metadata. Better scraping of these dockets will allow us to capture much more information about court documents and make RECAP more useful both to ordinary users and researchers.
Most PACER instances publish a report of all new opinions along with free download of those documents. Unfortunately, these reports are in an obscure location on PACER and the interface is not very usable. We could script a crawler to pull this data out and stick it into the RECAP database for more productive use.
Skills you might need, depending on the project idea: