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Focus on Free Law:  Brown.Oyez.Org

[Editor’s Note:  We close this newsletter with a recent press release. Cornell University, in partnership with Justia, Inc. co-owns the Oyez Project website on which this project is hosted.]

Hear Thurgood Marshall, Earl Warren and others for the first time in Brown v. Board of Education Revisited

FOR RELEASE: May 15, 2024

Medill’s Knight Lab partners with to bring landmark 1954 case to life on its 70th anniversary

EVANSTON, Ill. — Seventy years ago, on May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the end of legally enforced racial segregation in public schools. But since Chief Justice Earl Warren read the unanimous decision in its entirety, Brown v. Board of Education has lived only in memory and in text.

There is no audio recording because the case predates the Court’s recording system. Now, for the first time, “Brown Revisited,” brings to life the oral arguments and opinion in the voices of the original figures who changed American history using voice-cloning technology combined with actor performances and innovative visual design.

Northwestern University professor emeritus Jerry Goldman is the founder of Oyez, a multimedia relational database devoted to the Supreme Court. Inspired by recent advances in AI, Goldman partnered with the Knight Lab and, with Joe Germuska, director of the Knight Lab at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, formed a team of scholars, technologists, designers and journalists to recreate the iconic SCOTUS case in “Brown Revisited,” launching May 15 at

“We hope this fosters a deeper public understanding and appreciation for this pivotal moment in the fight against racial segregation, especially on the 70th anniversary of the Brown decision,” Goldman said. “It was a great opportunity to join forces with the Knight Lab, Spooler and Ukraine-based AI firm Respeecher to bring the transcripts to life in the voices of the actual participants.”

Goldman also tapped design firm Idib Group and interactive audio company, Spooler.

“The Spooler team jumped at the chance to use state-of-the-art voice cloning AI on historically accurate transcripts. The result is a thrilling, ‘deeptrue’ audio record of this iconic moment in U.S. history,” said Spooler CEO James Boggs, an alum of Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The project began with development of a well-researched and journalistically sound script, which includes transcript excerpts of the most important elements of the more than 18 hours of oral arguments and the SCOTUS decision.

The project team collaborated with leading deep learning AI engineering company, Respeecher, based in Kyiv, Ukraine, to create synthetic voice models of key figures in the case. Human voice actors, including award-winning audiobook narrator Dion Graham, delivered initial character readings. The voice models were then applied to the pre-recorded audio. Finally, the human-voiced, synthetically enhanced output was edited, and mastered in post-production by Spooler. Award-winning Sicilian design firm Idib Group provided innovative user experience web design to deliver the audio.

The project celebrates Brown’s 70th anniversary with this accurate, emotive audio representation created by mixing excellence in journalistic storytelling, innovation in web interface design and advanced media technology.

It is dedicated to the brave plaintiffs and their families who sacrificed so much through the Brown litigation for the benefit of all Americans, Goldman said.

Funding for the project came from a collective of individual contributors, national law firms and other public-spirited organizations.

Experience “Brown Revisited” at 

About Knight Lab

Northwestern University’s Knight Lab at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications brings together a community of designers, developers, students, and educators working on experiments designed to push journalism into new spaces.

About Spooler

Spooler builds and delivers an atlas of the world’s stories. Its publishing platform enables immersive experiences, casual games, and personalized information for users when and where they go. Its technology is always informed and infused with human empathy and creative storytelling. Spooler produced “Brown Revisited,” providing creative services, project management, and engineering.

About Idib Group

Idib Group, a boutique design agency with over 20 years of experience in digital innovation, played a pivotal role in “Brown Revisited.” The agency conducted extensive research to define the optimal user experience, developed user flows, interaction and motion designs, and created the User Interface design and style guide. Additionally, the agency contributed to the photo restoration process.

About Respeecher

Respeecher provided Voice Conversion services for the project. Respeecher uses proprietary deep learning (artificial intelligence) techniques to produce high-quality synthetic speech.

Student Spotlight

This time of year brings both the end of the Supreme Court’s argument calendar and the arrival of a new student staff to lead our Supreme Court Bulletin project. As usual, we wanted to introduce the leadership team responsible for bringing you our comprehensive and viewpoint-neutral analysis of each case before it’s argued during the 2024 – 2025 Supreme Court term:

Editor in Chief Anna Temchenko earned her BA in Psychology from Barnard College.  In addition to leading the Bulletin crew, she is also the Articles Selection Director for the Law Review. She is currently a Summer Associate in the Dallas office of Winston & Strawn and previously worked as a summer intern in the US District Court in Dallas.  

Executive Editor John Orona graduated from the School of Industrial Relations at Cornell where he also played linebacker on the sprint football team. He is currently a Summer Associate in the New York office of Sidley Austin LLP and spent last summer interning at the US Attorneys’ Offices, District of Colorado.

Executive Coordinator Grace Braider majored in Psychology at the University of Miami, where she co-founded and led the campus’ IGNITE chapter. She is currently a legal intern in the Office of the Federal Public Defender, Northern District of New York and was previously a summer legal intern at the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.  
Anna, John, and Grace will lead a team of 36 students comprising the Bulletin Previews staff (12 third-year and 24 second-year students). If you don’t already subscribe to this free service, you can sign up here:

M.Eng. Projects

Once again this semester, LII hosted a team of M.Eng. students, who explored the application of human language technologies to legal information retrieval tasks. Under the guidance of LII’s Language and Data Scientist Dr. Sylvia Kwakye and recent M.Eng. graduate Adrian Hilton, the students began with work-in-progress and refined data, techniques, and visualizations to get the data ready for the public to use on the LII website.

The students met weekly, sharing the results of their work, comparing notes on techniques and challenges, and reaching consensus on what looked most promising to try next. As they worked, they encountered — and became adept at untangling — difficulties with source datasets and pretrained models, alongside the usual software engineering challenges they were more accustomed to encountering from their other coursework.

There was broad agreement that this experience would be particularly relevant to the work they are about to take on at their first jobs in the tech world. These days it seems as though every week there’s a new language model, approach, or tool to try out, and nearly as often, a new flurry of headlines about less-than-credible results from a big technology company’s latest product or feature. The ability to reality check — efficiently — has never been more important, and this semester’s project gave the students opportunities to apply their considerable creativity to answering the question “are we there yet?”.

As a bonus, the students’ in-depth exploration of alignments between a general legal ontology, corpus-specific topical indexes, and a topic model derived directly from the language of legal texts provides a strong foundation on the data side for systematizing topical organization and evolving search for LII’s original content, including the Wex legal dictionary / encyclopedia, which was the focus of LII’s first hackathon.

LII’s First Hackathon

We held our first hackathon on Sunday March 24, 2024. Students from various schools came together at Cornell Law School for the event, forming five interdisciplinary teams to answer the question: How would you organize the content in Wex, our free legal dictionary and encyclopedia?

Before they arrived in Myron Taylor Hall on Sunday morning, we provided the students with a “Welcome Packet” containing a brief history and description of both LII in general and the Wex collection in specific. During the hackathon event, the teams had just over 6 hours to work together to prepare and propose their answer. All five teams came up with incredibly creative and unique ways to organize the content in Wex and to make the content more accessible to users. While it was difficult for judges to choose an overall winner–and all teams won a prize–our panel of judges ultimately awarded the grand prize to Team 5 – “ALIIGN.” Team ALIIGN consisted of Anurag Koyyada – a JD student from Cornell Law School, Jasmine Li – a Computer Science and Philosophy major from the College of Engineering, and Adler Weber & Christopher Price, both Computer Science majors and from the College of Arts & Sciences. ALIIGN was an initiative to streamline the Wex organization to:

  • Reorganize Wex Browse, replacing the traditional alphabetical searching system with a content tag and metadata tag-based tree hierarchy
  • Enhance the “Wex Search” capability – replacing our current CMS with a robust, fast ad-hoc vectorized search, and
  • Modernize the user interface.

All teams made wonderful pitches to our panel of judges: Cornell Law School’s Edward Cornell Law Librarian Kim Nayyer; Vanderbilt AI Law Lab Co-Director Mark Williams; Law Library of Congress Senior Legal Information Specialist Jennifer González; Adjunct Professor of Law, Managing Director of Justia’s Verdict, and Editor-in-Chief of the Oyez Project David Kemp: and LII’s own application programmer Matt Carey. We are grateful to our contestants and judges alike for their intellect and inspiration.

The prizes and event were funded by generous gifts from Barbara Lewis, B.S. ’65, M.A. ’67, and Jack Lewis, J.D. ’69, as well as Justia.

Images and video by Alexandra Bayer and Paul Newman / Cornell University.