@SCOTUS_Servo – Automatically Highlights Changes in SCOTUS Opinions

June 12th, 2014

Kudos to David Zvenyach, who recently launched @Scotus_servo, which alerts on Twitter anytime the Justices deem fit to change an opinion.

The process is fairly simple. As Zvenyach explained in a phone interview, it uses Node, an application written in JavaScript, to crawl the “slip” opinions posted to the Supreme Court website. If the application, which performs a crawl every five minutes, detects a change, it notifies the automated Twitter account, which tweets out an alert.

Shortly after, Zvenyach sends out a manual tweet that calls attention to the change — something he has already had to do, flagging a small change to a patent opinion this month:

His tool even highlights where on the PDF the change was made.



This is an awesome tool that provides an awesome public service.

Though I fear that the Court, which has generally been open to scrapers (this is how CertPool, SCOTUSBlog, and other sites get their info), this may give them pause. I hope they don’t block crawlers. Zvenyach isn’t worried.

Given courts’ frequent misunderstanding of technology, I asked Zvenyach if there’s a risk that the Supreme Court might block his tool from crawling the decisions. He says that he checked the court website’s terms of service, and that he doesn’t anticipate a problem (nor should he, I would add, since the decisions are public domain documents).

Well done!