International Law

France bans publishing of judicial analytics and prompts criminal penalty

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France has banned the publication of judge analytics, and breaking this law carries up to five years in prison.

The new Article 33 of the Justice Reform Act reads: “No personally identifiable data concerning judges or court clerks may be subject to any reuse with the purpose or result of evaluating, analyzing or predicting their actual or supposed professional practices.

“The violation of this law shall be punished by the measures outlined in articles 226-18, 226-24, and 226-31 of the penal code, without prejudice of the measures and sanctions provided for under the law 78-17 of 6 January 1978 concerning data processing, files and freedoms,” as translated by Rebecca Loescher, a professor of French at St. Edward’s University at the Angers, France campus.

The law appears to apply to anyone—individuals, researchers, technology companies.

“This new law is a complete shame for our democracy,” says Louis Larret-Chahine, the general manager and co-founder of Prédictice, a French legal analytics company.

This change is a reaction to a nationwide push to make French case law more accessible to the general public, according to a Tuesday story from the Artificial Lawyer. With this robust, public dataset, it became relatively easy to analyze and track judicial decision-making.

Larret-Chahine says the law will not impact his company’s clients, which includes 2,000 lawyers, major insurers and other companies. He says its mission will stay the same, and it likely will provide analysis of courts instead of individual judges to work around the law.

As court data has become more available across the globe, the area of judicial analytics has grown exponentially. Lex Machina, founded about a decade ago, and Ravel Law, founded in 2012, were acquired by LexisNexis in 2015 and 2017, respectively. It’s biggest competitor, Westlaw, announced Westlaw Edge, an updated, artificial intelligence-assisted legal research platform, last year. At the same time, scrappier startups, such as Fastcase, have been putting pressure on the legacy legal research companies with more analytical power.

Correction: A previous version stated Professor Loescher worked at the Austin, Texas campus.

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