Research interests: Authoritarian law, lawyers, legal mobilization, law and technology.
Open Access Justice: China, France and the United States in an Age of Big Data and Predictive Justice
Across law, sociology and political science, an interdisciplinary conversation is starting to emerge about the rise of big data, and the implications for law and governance. But the rise of big data is a global story. Rather than focus on a single country, Open Access Justice looks at judicial transparency and the emergent market for court data as a transnational phenomenon, best viewed in comparative perspective. Like many comparative projects, the goal will be to understand divergent national responses to technological convergence. This project also turns to a form of legal data that has received relatively little attention to date: public reservoirs of millions of civil court decisions. Courts produce a great deal of text, and this is rapidly becoming another key arena in which private firms try to capitalize on state data.
A project about the politics of regulating, analyzing and selling court data also opens a window onto the link between information and power in the twenty-first century. Certainly, the rise of legal technology firms capable of converting reams of text into data marks a dramatic change in the format and availability of legal information, Yet for all the consensus that an important shift is underway, it is far less clear who stands to benefit and, more immediately, how political contestation is shaping access to legal information.
Rachel E. Stern is a Professor of Law and Political Science in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at Berkeley Law, where she also currently holds the Pamela P. Fong and Family Distinguished Chair in China Studies. Her research has focused on law in Mainland China, especially the relationship between legal institution building, political space and professionalization. Stern is the author of Environmental Litigation in China: A Study in Political Ambivalence, as well as numerous articles on legal mobilization and lawyers in contemporary China. Stern was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and currently serves as series editor for the Law and Society series at Cambridge University Press.