Center for Empirical Research in the Law

Project Details
php, mysql, css, x/html
database : 59 tables / 137K+ records
backend site : 11,519 lines of code
public site : 10,035 lines of code
data cleansing : 3 ft / 2 months
backend site : 1 ft / 2 months
public site : 1 ft / 2 months
View the Clearinghouse's original DESIGN suggestions:
The Backend Administrator
The Public Site
Visit the
Clearinghouse PUBLIC site
Project Overview
The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse is a collection of legal documents related to civil rights litigation. Because the cases and documents have been "coded" (or indexed), users can search the collection in a large variety of ways. The culmination of this effort provides a useful resource for policymakers, advocates, scholars, educators, and students interested in American civil rights litigation.

The collection began nearly a decade ago when the principal investigator, Professor Margo Schlanger ( site ), through her research and scholarship, amassed a significant number of genre-specific court documents. While the documents are considered part of the public domain, Professor Schlanger found that locating and/or gaining access to them was not always as straightforward as one might expect. Additionally, the sheer volume of public data was beginning to stress many storage facilities, which in turn forced them to begin to consider strategies to cull documents from their shelves. Some consequential legal documents would undoubtedly be lost if documents are destroyed. This risk makes alternative and intelligent warehouses such as the Clearinghouse all the more vital to future scholarship and understanding of past and pending litigation.

In the beginning, Professor Schlanger was the sole keeper of this burgeoning collection. In time, the archive became too immense, and Professor Schlanger sought support from relevant institutions. Washington University's School of Law and CERL saw the merits of Schlanger's endeavor and invested in the initiative through funding and resources. During a six month period, over twenty students and technicians collaborated to build a web-based repository and information source accessible throughout the world. With support generously provided by the National Science Foundation, CERL was able to develop the framework into which researchers coded the targeted variables. The Clearinghouse is now housed at Professor Schlanger's current institution, the University of Michigan Law School. The work is ongoing, and the clearinghouse will continue to grow, covering new case categories, new cases, and new search methods.
  Washington University / School of Law / Campus Box 1120 / St. Louis MO 63130