Link Round-Up: Mar. 11, 2016


‘Link Round-Up’ gives you a glimpse into the articles that got the most airtime around the Loom Analytics water cooler this week. Published every Friday, article topics include access to justice, big data, legal technology, and what’s happening in the Canadian legal landscape.

  • Over on FiveThirtyEight, Rob Arthur points out that we now have algorithms to predict police misconduct:

    “The researchers, a mixed group of graduate and undergraduate students working together at the University of Chicago with backgrounds in statistics, programming, economics and related disciplines, are trying to build a better kind of early warning system. They began their task last summer with a request from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department: Predict when police officers would participate in adverse interactions with civilians.

    To build their early warning system, the University of Chicago group first looked for signals in the data that an officer might be going astray. They used a comprehensive data set of interactions between cops and the public gathered by Charlotte police officials over more than a decade. The researchers found that the most potent predictor of adverse interactions in a given year was an officer’s own history. Cops with many instances of adverse interactions in one year were the most likely to have them in the next year. Using this and other indicators, the University of Chicago group’s algorithm was better able than Charlotte’s existing system to predict trouble.”

    While it’s too early to tell if the algorithm will reduce the number of detrimental police-civilian interactions, three separate studies have shown that police agencies that implement an early warning system can reduce the number of civilian complaints against officers -- sometimes by as much as 66% over two to three years.
  • Speaking of data analysis, Hannah Augur at Dataconomy discusses how trends in big data reveal a gender gap in a variety of industries:

    “Good data storytellers are necessary to uncover exactly what is going wrong in the pipeline. One cheeky example from Sky Analytics' legal study includes the slap-in-the-face of which employees control the “large” matters in a company, and which get the “small.” Scenarios involving twenty or more timekeepers, meaning they are more important and involve a lot more staff, were labeled as “large matters.” 93% of large matters were handled by mostly male groups. “Small” matters, on the other hand, were comprised of less than five timekeepers, making seem almost trivial in comparison. 81% of “small” matters were handled by women.”

    The article goes on to discuss the stark gender disparity in the investment industry with only 7.4 of angel investors who are women.
  • The CBC reports that those who are middle class are potentially unable to access legal aid. “Too wealthy for legal aid, too pinched for ‘average’ lawyers’ fees,” Laura Fraser reports, that an average 5-day civil trial costs about $56K which is roughly $16,000 more than the median take-home pay in a single-parent family:

    “In 2015, Legal Aid Ontario saw its first increase in 20 years. But at $22,253 for a two-person family, as of April 1, 2016, the threshold for a legal certificate still falls about $7,000 below the 2013 low-income measure for single parents.

    On the other end of the spectrum, people who can pay for top dollar are more likely to get a better outcome, says McGill University law professor Richard Janda, whether that's an acquittal, custody of their children, or more money in a lawsuit.

    It's a level of justice that is often out of reach for those in Ontario Family Court, where 57 per cent of litigants did not even have a lawyer.”

  • John Mininno, a New Jersey lawyer running the National Healthcare Analysis Group, uses open data from the government to catch fraudulent Medicare billing practices. What’s novel here is that Mininno’s company uses their analysis to identify potential whistleblowers -- such as highly qualified yet newly-employed nurses -- who work for the fraudulent health care provider. If the company is successful in finding a whistleblower, it and the whistleblower get to keep a percentage of the settlement.
  • Omar Ha-Redeye, in his piece on rethinking the judicial appointment process, entertains the idea that electing judges could present an alternative to the current appointment process:

    “[E]lected judges tend to act more like politicians, since they provide services to voters. The judges who are appointed tend to focus on their legacy within the legal system, and understand their role is to generate precedent. Neither [the elected or appointment process] is really better; they just serve different functions.”

    However, the elected process presents a challenge that has long been a difficulty for the bench -- diversity:

    “Perhaps the most important function of the judiciary in the era of the Charter is to safeguard society’s most vulnerable members. These individuals rarely have the ability to influence any political process. Electing judges would likely result in even less diversity on the bench.”

    Ha-Redeye suggests that creating an independent commission to ensure diversity on the bench when appointing judges can go much farther than the current process. He notes that Canada’s diverse cabinet -- with its gender parity and first Aboriginal minister -- is a good first start in reflecting the life experiences of marginalized groups in the justice system.