How open data helps citizens to know the law

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Projects in the UK and US give people easy access to court judgments so they know their rights before seeking legal advice

When Callum Murray’s painting contractor’s business was owed a considerable amount of money by two clients seven years ago, he uncovered a problem with the law familiar to many. Nobody intuitively knows which statute might apply to their issue. Even if they do find out, they have no way of discovering how judges have interpreted the law in similar cases.

Without any free information available, discovering your legal rights can be very costly, even before you have exercised that right in court. It meant Murray, like anyone else, was forced to pay for legal advice from the very start of the process and, although he won both cases, the first debtor liquidated without paying a penny and the second ruined him financially by stringing out the legal process with a subsequent counter claim.

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