Whenever presented with a large amount of data from courts across the country that is easily searched, the notion of empirical legal research is bound to come up. And while Bloomberg Law may seem to have “everything,” upon further inspection this is not the case. Unlike PACER dockets, which update automatically, Bloomberg Law dockets are only updated either (1) on the request of the user, who clicks “update docket,” or (2) periodic docket refreshing. Beth Applebaum of the Arthur Neef Law Library at Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan reports that Bloomberg representatives confirmed this. Reportedly, Bloomberg Law sweeps through PACER several times a day to update new cases. Then, dockets are refreshed in U.S. District Courts and Chapter 11 Bankruptcies. To ensure the most recent information, users must send a docket update request.
One imperfect solution is to update all cases in a specific jurisdiction within a specific date range, and then keyword search the results. This approach is time-consuming, and far from foolproof. So far other products like RECAP, PacerPro, and Inforuptcy work under similar conditions, making them unsuitable for empirical research as well. This uncertainty is compounded by the court filings no longer available on PACER, as reported on Nota Bene previously. But now that people are noticing, and asking, perhaps in the coming years we will see product enhancement that will allow all the data-mining of an empirical legal researcher’s dreams.