SCOTXblog will be undergoing some major construction this summer.
The timing is driven by the imminent launch of TAMES in the Texas Supreme Court. The Houston courts have already launched the system, and so I have a better sense of how these changes will affect the websites that I’ve built to follow the Court.
As you’d expect, I will be watching the TAMES rollout as closely as anyone. It will include many of the features I built for DocketDB — along with some others that no one outside of the courts themselves could have implemented (like copies of motions and letters).
They call the internet a “web” for a reason
Here’s a rough sketch of how my Texas court-watching projects fit together:
On this chart, the blog you’re reading is near the middle. My personal court-tracking database is at the bottom, and you can see how some of those connections flow through to public sites (like the blog or the public areas of DocketDB).
As crazy as this chart looks, it seems to work. Some of the scrapers have been running for more than five years with very little modification.
The future of DocketDB and SCOTXblog
While TAMES is a great deal for the public, it has a cost for me. My private court-tracking system is built on a foundation of “scrapers”, tuned to understand the old website. When the new site goes live, the Court’s docket information will be shifted to new pages and put in new formats. The existing scrapers will not know how to find or work with this information, so data will stop flowing into my private database, which in turn will freeze the public version of DocketDB. (( This has happened on a smaller scale at various times this spring, as the Court has made small improvements to its website. Even tiny changes on the Texas Supreme Court website — such as putting the description for a particular kind of docket-sheet entry into plainer language — confuses the scrapers. I’ve been able to make small fixes as these have come to my attention. The TAMES rollout will be an order of magnitude (or two) more complex. ))
For that reason, I anticipate that the public version of DocketDB (including registered accounts) will also wind down soon after the Court switches over to TAMES. That site needs a consistent flow of accurate data, and I won’t have that until I build a new set of scrapers for my own tracking system.
My first priority is fixing SCOTXblog. The easiest approach would be to cut the connections between the blog and my court-tracking software, leaving just a basic blog in place. But that’s not my style.
I’d much rather build a new platform for SCOTXblog that can better support the kind of case updates and articles that I’d like to write — and that, I hope, you’ll want to read.
I’ll update you as I make progress. In the meantime, you may see some longtime blog features start to disappear or stop working (like the feed of news articles or briefing requests). If you see something that looks more broken than usual, please let me know. And, of course, please stay tuned. I look forward to sharing the new site once it’s ready.