The past two months have seen a flurry of innovative activity in the corner of the legal technology world that concerns free access to law and open legal information. Here are some developments that seem noteworthy:
Open Legal Educational Resources
New, free, and open versions — in ePUB and .mobi formats — of U.S. federal court rules have been published, jointly by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School and CALI, The Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction. This is the latest addition to the ePUB-based open legal publishing endeavor that John Mayer describes in this recent post.
Many developers dealing with open legislative data or systems — such as Waldo Jaquith and his State Decoded system, and Dr. Rinke Hoekstra and the Leibniz Center for Law‘s MetaLex Document Server — are implementing Rick Jelliffe’s PRESTO model for legislative information systems, featuring of RESTful APIs and human-readable URIs.
Legal Bulk Data
New collections of legislation and related information have been published as machine-readable bulk data:
- Michael Bommarito has published Michigan Compiled Laws in XML;
- New Mexico, Idaho, and Illinois have been added to Sunlight Labs‘ Open States Project.
Innovators are embracing standards — technical, stylistic, and administrative — for open legal data:
- Sean McGrath has initiated The NIEM EDemocracy Initiative, an effort to develop “technological standards based on the” U.S. National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), as applied to law-related e-government functions;
- Professor Peter Martin and John Joergensen, through their organization UniversalCitation.org, are renewing the effort to persuade U.S. legal authorities to adopt a universal legal citation standard;
- Courtney Minick recently wrote a post about Justia‘s implementation of universal legal citation. That post led Waldo Jaquith to decide to build universal citation into The State Decoded;
- Professor Frank Bennett has opened Citation Stylist, a new Website that provides information and tools related to the legal citation “features of the citeproc-js citation formatter” used by Zotero and Mendeley;
- The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act, for which Professor Barbara Bintliff was the reporter, and which creates a uniform legal standard for the authentication and preservation of digital legal resources — has been approved by the Uniform Law Commission.
Several new developments have arisen in the eParticipation world:
- OpenCongress has launched two new eParticipation resources: Contact Congress, a tool for emailing members of Congress; and MyOCGroups, “an open source social network” that lets citizens share ideas and organize to take action about legislation;
- The UK’s e-petitions system has begun operations;
- President Obama’s Administration has launched We the People, an ePetition system for the U.S. federal executive;
- POPVOX‘s eparticipation widgets have begun to be used by a number of U.S.-based civil society organizations and political campaigns, such as The Abolish Child Trafficking Campaign.
Scholars and Developers Are Sharing Expertise
Knowledge developed by legal informatics scholars is being made available in forms that legal information systems developers can use and apply:
- Dr. Núria Casellas has published Legal Ontology Engineering: Methodologies, Modelling Trends, and the Ontology of Professional Judicial Knowledge, a study of legal ontology development that offers valuable guidance for practitioners;
- Another important recent example is Legislative XML for the Semantic Web: Principles, Models, Standards for Document Management, co-edited by Professor Dr. Giovanni Sartor, Professor Dr. Monica Palmirani, and Professor Dr. Enrico Francesconi. This book is based on materials presented during the past several years at The LEX Summer School, at which legal informatics scholars train e-government administrators and civic entrepreneurs in XML and Semantic Web technologies for legislative information systems.
Those are the notable free law developments of the past two months, as I’ve seen them. What developments in the free law space do you think we should be watching?