Sunday, July 15, 2018

What happened to the "Cases" link in person/entity details?

Last week, we eliminated the "cases" link in the details for people or entities associated with a case.

In brief, we removed this link because we decided it was confusing at best and misleading at worst.

Here are the details:

When we receive court information for a party's name, it is always associated with at least one case. However, in some situations, the court will know that the same party is associated with another case. In that situation, they will connect multiple cases to the same party. When they do that, the "Cases" link showed all of the associated cases.

But here's the hitch: Sometimes the court doesn't have enough information to know that two people with the same name are really the same people. It would be a serious mistake to associate the "Jane Smith" who has a traffic infraction case with the "Jane Smith" with a murder case. So, if the court is not absolutely sure these are really the same people, they just enter a new record for Jane Smith, so each case has a separate "person" record. If you search for Jane Smith and find 20 records, they may all be for the same person, or they may be for 20 different people who happen to have the same name.

Entering the extra record is how the court indicates "We don't know that these two Jane Smiths are the same people."

The problem is that when we displayed the "Cases" link for a party record, we could only show the cases the court associated with this party record. However, the people clicking on these links might assume that if only one case shows up, there are no others for the name "Jane Smith". That is often incorrect, so we stopped showing the link to avoid confusion.

If you need to check out every case for a person, the best way to do that is to search for the person's name, which will then show all cases associated with a person who has that name. Then look at the case details for every case and check the details carefully so you can make your own informed decision about whether this case is for the person you are researching. 

There may be situations where there just isn't enough information to tell. In that situation, you should be very careful not to draw a conclusion that isn't supported by the information.

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