Recent activity in the legal informatics world has been characterized by numerous efforts to make legal documents and technologies more openly available, and to make legal information more interoperable. Here are some examples:
- Núria Casellas, Joan-Josep Vallbé, and Tom Bruce of the Legal Information Institute discussed their recent work applying Linked Data technology to the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), in their new paper entitled "From Legal Information to Open Legal Data: A Case Study in U.S. Federal Legal Information", presented at the Open Government Knowledge 2011 conference. The paper described their experiments with marking up the text of the CFR as RDF Linked Data, marking up the CFR Thesaurus of Indexing Terms in SKOS Linked Data, and annotating the CFR text with the Linked Data CFR Thesaurus terms. This application of Linked Data technology is aimed at rendering the CFR Thesaurus, and much of the content of the CFR, interoperable with a wide range of systems and data on the open Web.
- Professor Barbara Bintliff, reporter for the recently approved Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA), explains — in her recent post at VoxPopuLII — how the Act would increase public access to digital legal information published by U.S. state governments, and encourage citizens to make more use of such information. UELMA furthers these goals by creating uniform standards for the authentication, preservation, and provision of permanent public access to electronic legal information that states publish.
- Legal informatics scholar Christine Kirchberger, in her recent article entitled "The 'I' in Legal Information Retrieval", argues that governments should increase access to and interoperability of the legal information they publish, by making the metadata associated with that information compliant with open standards.
- Legislative information systems developer Grant Vergottini has recently published his XML model for legislation — called SLIM: Simplified Legislative Information Model (click here for the schema in .xsd format) — openly under a Creative Commons license. In addition, he has developed a new legislative identifier model, based on the open URN:LEX standard. He has begun writing about open XML- and Semantic Web-based legal technologies, and open legal data, at his new Legix.info blog.
- The NIEM EDemocracy Initiative, led by legislative information systems developer Sean McGrath, has begun work on an open model for legislative bill status information, consistent with the open National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). The Initiative's goals include increasing the public availability of such information, and using XML-based metadata to render that information interoperable with other data and systems.
- Adam Wyner and Wim Peters have posted their new paper, entitled "On Rule Extraction from Regulations," which describes a new method for automatically extracting legal rules from digital legal texts, by applying the open source GATE natural language text processing software. Legal rules extracted using the authors' method can then be made interoperable by marking the rules up in Legal RuleML or another open rule markup language, and then outputting the marked up rules in open XML.
- Legal RuleML is the topic of a new article — entitled "LegalRuleML: XML-Based Rules and Norms" — by Professor Dr. Monica Palmirani, Dr. Guido Governatori, and colleagues. The article explains how marking up legal rules in the open Legal RuleML markup language renders such rules interoperable with a wide range of data and systems, including e-Government systems accessible by the public, internal public administration systems, and private sector business-rule-based systems, such as compliance systems.
- My new article, entitled "The Use of Non-MARC Metadata in AALL Libraries: A Baseline Study", describes the efforts of many North American law libraries to create interoperable, non-MARC metadata with the Dublin Core schema. The article also explains that many of these law libraries make their metadata open and interoperable by employing content- or metadata-management systems that comply with the OAI-PMH standard.
- Rinke Hoekstra describes in a recent post his new legal information project, the MetaLex Document Server. This system automatically marks up Dutch legislation and regulations in the open CEN MetaLex XML format; adds identifiers based on the Legislation.gov.uk URI model; creates RDF Linked Data for the legal content as well as for legislative and regulatory events associated with each document; and then publishes all of this enhanced, interoperable data and metadata free of charge on the open Web. The resulting data can be re-used by citizens, the private sector, civil society organizations, and government agencies.
- Professor Frank Bennett has added support for legal citations in Bluebook and OSCOLA formats to the open source Citation Style Language, which powers Zotero and other open citation management systems. He has also created a new "Zotero for Law" discussion forum on his CitationStylist site.
- The Colorado Supreme Court took another step towards adopting an open legal citation standard for Colorado court decisions, by issuing a request for public comment on its "Proposal to Adopt a Public Domain Citation Format" (HT @AlliGerkman). These steps by the court are part of a broader movement urging widespread use of open legal citation standards, as reflected in Justia's open legislative citation initiative, and the new UniversalCitation.Org project.
Considered together, these efforts reflect tremendous energy among developers, policy makers, information professionals, and scholars, focused on opening up legal information and making that information interoperable with other data and systems. Remarkably, individuals and institutions from all of these sectors are pursuing their goals by crossing traditional boundaries, partnering with colleagues in other sectors, and sharing research results, expertise, and ideas. The coming months promise even more of this high-intensity information sharing and innovation. Hold onto your hats!