Visually clustering case law

I’ve been experimenting with a Python package called Yellowbrick, which provides a suite of visualisers built for gaining an insight into a dataset when working on machine learning problems.

One of my side projects at the moment is looking at ways in which an unseen case law judgment can be processed to determine its high level subject matter (e.g. Crime, Tort, Human Rights, Occupiers’ Liability etc) with text classification.

I did a quick experiment with Yellowbrick to visualise a small portion of the dataset I’m going to use to train a classifier. And here it is:

tSNE projection of 14 case law topic clusters using Yellowbrick

tSNE projection of 14 case law topic clusters using Yellowbrick

The chart above is called a TSNE (t-distributed stochastic neighbour embedding) projection. Each blob on the chart represents a judgment.

I was pretty pleased with this and several quick insights surfaced:

  • Crime may be a bit over represented in my training data, I’ll need to cut it back a bit

  • Some of the labels in the data may need a bit of merging, for example “false . imprisonment” can probably be handled by the “crime” data

  • There are a couple of interesting sub-clusters within the crime data (I’m guessing one of the clusters will be evidence and the other sentencing)

  • Human Rights as a topic sits right in the middle of the field between the crime cluster and the clusters of non-criminal topics

The code


from yellowbrick.text import TSNEVisualizer
from import set_palette
from sklearn.feature_extraction.text import TfidfVectorizer
import os

from sklearn.datasets.base import Bunch
from tqdm import tqdm
import matplotlib.pyplot as plt


Load the corpus

def load_corpus(path):
    Loads and wrangles the passed in text corpus by path.

    # Check if the data exists, otherwise download or raise
    if not os.path.exists(path):
        raise ValueError((
            "'{}' dataset has not been downloaded, "
            "use the module to fetch datasets"

    # Read the directories in the directory as the categories.
    categories = [
        cat for cat in os.listdir(path)
        if os.path.isdir(os.path.join(path, cat))

    files  = [] # holds the file names relative to the root
    data   = [] # holds the text read from the file
    target = [] # holds the string of the category

    # Load the data from the files in the corpus
    for cat in categories:
        for name in os.listdir(os.path.join(path, cat)):
            files.append(os.path.join(path, cat, name))

            with open(os.path.join(path, cat, name), 'r') as f:

    # Return the data bunch for use similar to the newsgroups example
    return Bunch(
    corpus = load_corpus('/Users/danielhoadley/Desktop/common_law_subset')

Vectorise and transform the data

tfidf  = TfidfVectorizer(use_idf=True)
docs   = tfidf.fit_transform(
labels =

Generate the visualisation

tsne = TSNEVisualizer(size=(1080, 720),title="Case law clusters"), labels)