With the appearance of “RosPravosudie” (RusJustice), Russians have gained a comprehensive database of information about lawyers, attorneys, judges, and judicial decisions. This project not only collects updated information about these topics, but also maintains its own statistics reflecting the situation inside the judiciary.
Gleb Suvorov, founder of RosPravosudie, recently spoke to Evgeny Voropai of Greenhouses of Social Technologies [ru] about what can be achieved in just 100 days of online existence and about ways to improve the judicial system.
Evgeny Voropai (EV): RosPravosudie is a fairly niche project. How did this idea arise?
Gleb Suvorov (GS): The idea came up about a year ago. As is often the case, ideas form in response to a person's own needs. That's what happened with RosPravosudiea — unable to find the necessary information about a particular verdict, the idea for such a project came to my partner and me. I'm certain that most good ideas are born when people want to do something for themselves. It's only then when you start to understand what specifically needs to be done and where to go. It is impossible to understand the needs of others, if you haven't experienced these needs yourself.
About a year ago, the courts began to publish their decisions, en masse, on their own websites, but there was one major problem: it was extremely hard to find the information that you needed. Users who were unfamiliar with the system spent a lot of time searching. What was needed was a mechanism that could systematically organize information by ruling and offer some kind of statistical data. RosPravosudie was conceived of as a service for average people. In creating it, we wanted the pretty stories told by lawyers to be backed up by real court decisions and hard statistics.
EV: On the Internet, one can already find registries of attorneys and lists of judges. What is unique about RosPravosudie?
GS: When we were working on the project, we didn't really think about what was already available on the Web. It was only afterwards that we had a look at other existing projects. There were some search-engine websites for judicial decisions, but — even at the conceptual level — these were different from our idea. RosPravosudie was intended to be a reflection of the judicial system's current situation. Our project was intended to show the current state of affairs in real courts and in specific cases. We weren't particularly concerned about the uniqueness of the concept. There was no point in specifically comparing it with or differentiating it from other existing projects. We knew what we want and so, to us, these other projects were of secondary importance. As a result, RosPravosudie now has the largest database of court decisions on the RuNet.
Moreover, all of these other projects serve commercial purposes. Their goal is to make money from either lawyers or judges. They are very dependent on the interests of these communities. RosPravosudie, by contrast, considers the interests of ordinary citizens.
EV: How does the RosPravosudie system work?
GS: First and foremost, it's a database. Judges, lawyers, court decisions — not all of the information that's out there about these topics is openly accessible. Our project provides the user with a real search mechanism for data concerning judicial decisions and other related information. The system is set up simply enough: information about judicial decisions is first uploaded to the database, where it is then indexed and sorted into the appropriate categories.
EV: What kind of issues can users bring to your attention, and what kind of assistance can they expect?
GS: Any users who have dealt with the court system will be able to find comprehensive information on RosPravosudie about issues of interest. They will have at their disposal lists of lawyers, judges, court cases, and verdicts. Our project's entire audience can basically be divided into two categories: people who have had positive and negative experiences with the justice system.
It seems that the difference between these categories of people lies in their level of understanding. If a person is well-informed and knows what's what, then he will most likely be more objective in his expectations and estimates. Ignorance breeds prejudice and suspicion. The purpose of RosPravosudie is to inform.
People who have been put through the justice system have no idea what other citizens experienced in similar cases. Our resource provides real information about who led which cases, what decisions were made, and which judges made them. And our users are interested in this — some of them browse as many as 200 pages on the site, studying the verdicts.
EV: How has the professional community reacted to the creation of RosPravosudie?
GS: Many judges have reacted positively to the idea of the project. In fact, to some extent, we are actually making their job easier. The reaction of lawyers has been mixed. To large extent, it depends on their attitude towards their customers and their work. RosPravosudie allows every user to evaluate the performance of any lawyer listed in the database. Not everyone may like this, but good lawyers do.
EV: How do you work with the information?
GS: Some of the information had to be collected manually. Later on, the process was transformed into a system of collecting and processing court decisions. The data is originally posted on the courts’ websites. Our job is to collect it, process it, and add it to the database. It was in this way that the lists of judges, lawyers, and rulings first started to appear. RosPravosudie works with judicial decisions and uses data found within them. Every few days, we review the courts’ websites and upload any new decisions to our system. One instance of such monitoring adds roughly 100,000 court rulings. Today, RosPravosudie contains 16 million judicial decisions (the database is regularly updated with new decisions and is thus growing quantitatively).
EV: In order to maintain user interest, the portal will need to continue to develop and offer new services. What is the RosPravosudie team working on now?
GS: At this stage, we are moving towards increasing the comprehensiveness of the resource. We would like to develop the database both quantitatively and qualitatively. We will certainly continue to develop statistics concerning court rulings and other judicial and legal professional activities. We would like to make the resource more visual. We also want to increase traffic to the resource. Every citizen should be able contribute to the development of the portal, but for this to be possible there must be a database through which users can participate. That's what we are doing now — creating the foundation for such involvement.