As I explored in a previous post, some terrific co-authors and I have written a paper which taxonomizes federal complaints- that is, we find patterns in the kinds of causes of action that attorneys plead. In this post, I’m going to explore those patterns in some more detail.
In our data, spectral clustering revealed eight clusters of causes of action. Each grouping organizes together causes of action that are more likely to be pled together than they are to be pled with others. (This eight-cluster finding is probably not generalizable to all litigation – the paper goes into some detail about the kinds of cases that we included and excluded from our dataset.) When you think about it, that there will be some patterns from this kind of exercise is obvious — there are only a limited number of legally cognizable fact patterns that can cause injury, and attorneys often follow form books/precedent when pleading. Still, we didn’t know what the patterns would be before completing the analysis.
The Figure below provides the most common two or three causes of action per cluster:
This illustrates how, for example, intellectual property claims (like trademark infringement) often travel together with consumer protection claims; civil rights claims (like 1983 allegations) accompany state law torts; and tort claims often fit with contract and fraud claims. This should be old news to anyone who has ever practiced law. Moreover, the Figure doesn’t give us a good handle on how alike or unlike each pattern is from another. Follow me after the jump for the Figure that tries to accomplish just that.