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Will Lawyers Favor Judge Database?

It’s common practice for trial attorneys to ask the advice of peers who have argued before a particular judge in order to avoid making a procedural faux pas that could cost them a case.

Gavelytics of Santa Monica is trying to make that process more scientific by statistically measuring judicial preferences, thereby removing personal bias and getting a more accurate view of court rulings.

The firm plans to launch its database on Los Angeles Superior Court judges next month and aims to provide information on nearly all California Superior Court judges by next summer.

“There are 600 judges in L.A. County; each of which hears 3,300 cases per year,” said Rick Merrill, co-founder and chief executive of Gavelytics. “Your opinion of the judge based on your personal experience may not have any correlation with the true nature of the judge.”

The company’s software shows lawyers a range of data, including why a particular judge tends to grant or deny particular motions, whether the judge tends to rule more or less often for plaintiffs or defendants, how a particular judge compares to others in the jurisdiction and the types of motions presented by other lawyers in their court.

Gavelytics is chasing a big market: The California Superior Court system is the largest state court system in the country and serves more than 39 million people.

“There are over 42,000 law firms in California,” said Merrill. “In California alone, we think this is up to a billion-dollar opportunity.”

A subscription to Gavelytics’ database starts at $35 a month and can cost up to $65 for information on multiple types of cases.

But don’t expect attorneys to give up quickly on old habits.

“I would never just take that (statistical) information and go, OK, now I know everything about this judge,” said Brian Kabateck, a plaintiff’s attorney with downtown’s Kabateck Brown Kellner. “I’d want to do more due diligence and talk to lawyers who appear in front of the judge.”

Nonetheless, Merrill said he believes large law firms would be willing to pay for the extra information, especially as a way to distinguish themselves from the competition when wooing clients.

“You can speak very knowledgably about a judge in a way others can’t,” he said. “In litigation, at the big law firm level, there should be no surprises. You should know everything about the judge.”

Gavelytics has raised about $2.5 million since its founding in 2015. Investors include Merrill’s brother Marc, co-founder and president of West L.A.’s Riot Games, as well as Riot’s chief executive, Brandon Beck. (For more on Beck and his investment in Los Angeles Football Club, see his Q&A on page 16.)

Rob Rodin, managing director of Westwood’s Riordan Lewis & Haden, has also backed the company.

– Garrett Reim

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