!DOCTYPE html> Law Via the Internet Conference 2017, Newark, N.J. U.S.A.

Law Via The Internet Annual Conference 2017

Sessions Descriptions

Alphabetical by Presenter

Linda Awuor National Council for Law Reporting (Kenya Law)

Link to Paper


The right to be forgotten is a concept discussed and put into practice in the European Union (EU) and Argentina since 2006. The issue has arisen from desires of individuals to determine the development of their life in an autonomous way, without being perpetually or periodically stigmatized as a consequence of a specific action performed in the past. The term refers to the European Union law that aims to protect privacy by requiring search engines to remove links to certain personal data. This right by design, limits public access to information.

Kenya Law is a state corporation in the Judiciary of Kenya mandated to report on Kenya's jurisprudence through the publication of the Kenya Law Reports, to publish the laws of Kenya and other related publications. It is a focal point institution in providing access to Kenya’s public legal information – which includes the judgments delivered by the superior courts and the Laws of Kenya. In partnership with the Kenya National Assembly and the Government Press, the Council also publishes parliamentary proceedings (the Hansard) and the Kenya Gazette on its website. Kenya Law has a constitutional and legal obligation to provide access to public legal information to all citizens. Other than its website, Kenya Law uses various online platforms for sharing and exchange of information like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube.

Over the years, Kenya Law has received very many requests to pull down information, most usually judicial opinions from its website, www.kenyalaw.org and to have the cases deleted from Google search engine. The requests range from cases listed for hearing on the daily cause lists published on the Kenya Law website, judicial opinions which had previously been heard but were later dismissed and cases that had not been redacted. This makes us realize that in as much as the concept of the right to be forgotten has not yet made it across the Atlantic, it is already at play in Kenya in a limited way.

Kenya Law has developed guidelines to aid the National Council for Law Reporting staff in anonymizing judgments prior to publication of the Kenya Law Reports. However, this seems to not be sufficient to deal with the issue as Kenya Law only seeks to redact certain judgments off personal and private details to protect the identity of vulnerable groups in society. Kenya Law has taken the approach that decisions on whether information should be removed from search engines depend on the nature of the information in question and its sensitivity and the interest of the public in having that information availed.

This is something Legal Information Institutes (LII’s) are going to be dealing with more and several considerations, legal or otherwise need to be factored in the decision to delete information from websites and search engines.

This paper seeks to look at the challenges Kenya Law has faced with regard to balancing universal accessibility and open access while at the same time ensuring private interests are protected. The paper will conclude with a summary of where Kenya Law is today and where it anticipates the open access debate will go next. This will end up in an open discussion on good practices that LII’s can adopt while enhancing open access.

Frank Bennett, University of Nagoya, Japan

Link to Paper

Jurisdiction Identifiers for Managing Multinational Resources

Legal research and writing in the modern environment is a multinational affair, and frequently requires reference to materials from multiple jurisdictions. Legal resources are complex by nature, [1] and reference management tools commonly used in other fields are typically unable to cope with the metadata requirements of legal research, even in the context of a single national system in a satisfactory way. The demands of "globalization" have further outstripped the capabilities of what are normally considered common-or-garden authoring and office automation tools.

The Juris-M reference manager, a variant of the widely used Zotero platform, is a University- developed project that aims to support the work of legal research that spans multiple jurisdictions and languages—a need that is particularly pressing in Asia, but shared by many other regions undergoing economic or political integration. The project is now in its seventh year. Development of Juris-M required a solution to the problem of spiraling metadata complexity in pooled legal resources.

The natural solution is the introduction of a system of identifiers. Previous efforts in this line have shared two characteristics that are a poor fit to the requirements of a generic reference manager such as Juris-M. First, working identifier systems have been driven by the needs of archival integration, which is turn is a side effect of direct regulatory demand. The ECLI and ELI systems of Europe, as well as the stable identifiers offered by services in the US, Canada and other federal jurisdictions, are independent responses to regulatory forces that apply in specific jurisdictions only. [2] Much of law in the wild lies outside the boundaries of these initiatives. Second, such identifier schemes are designed to pinpoint specific documents by a single, unique, canonical URI or URN. This is possible to achieve in a comprehensive archive; but not in a tool intended for decentralized collection of materials from diverse sources.

The approach adopted, inspired in part by discussions in the OASIS LegalCiteM working group, is embodied in the independently managed Legal Resource Registry (LRR). [2] The structure of identifiers follows the prescripts of the URNLex specification with respect to "jurisdiction," [3] with one exception: the LRR identifiers are cast in response to researcher demand, rather than official policy of the target jurisdiction. The URNLex structure expresses the hierarchy of jurisdictional levels, and can be extended to cover institutional units within the jurisdiction.

The data structures of the LRR currently cover the United States, China, Japan, and Vietnam, with top-level identifiers for the (current) nations of the world and major international organizations. Storage is currently primitive and slow, as a simple hierarchy of structured files in GitHub. This has been sufficient for proof-of-concept work, including a comprehensive mapping of jurisdiction identifiers served by CourtListener, and automated generation of hierarchical jurisdiction menus for the Juris-M client and related tools. Prospects for further development include recasting the data set in proper database form, and deployment of an authenticated user interface for submission and maintenance of data by contributors well versed in particular jurisdictions.

Sophie Bussmann African Innovation Foundation

Link to Paper

Sustainability of Open Access to Law Initiatives: "The African Law e-Library"

Abstract: Most initiatives on the continent to capture Africa’s legal knowledge by bringing it online are either country or thematic focused, supporting technology and financing remain a challenge for the sustainability of more than 90% of them. In 2013 the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) had launched the ongoing "African Law e-Library" (ALL) to facilitate access to legal information for ordinary people in Africa and the Diaspora through an online portal. ALL system as implemented is registration free and provides full text documents, downloadable and printable, searchable by subjects, keywords, country, type of document, free-of-charge. Documents are available in their original languages (e.g. English, Afrikaans, Amharic, French, Portuguese or Arabic). The underlying technology is a mix of proprietary development and open source digital asset management software. AIF now aims to change the current ALL system to an open software repository enabling partner governments and institutions, as content providers, to make their legal information available publicly under in sub-domain portals under a federated view, this without the need to invest massive budgets. For the first time ever, any governmental or institutional content providers on the continent will control the full process of bringing legal knowledge online, the related spending and tap into the sophisticated networks within a unique self-serve platform.

Stephen Chapman Harvard Law Library Innovation Lab

A Case for a Caselaw Commons

In collaboration with Ravel Law, the Harvard Law School Library digitized its collection of 39 million pages of US case law, documenting official decisions from all jurisdictions from pre-statehood through 2016.

The speaker will recap the mass-digitization methods, open standards, and team-based workflows adopted by the partners in the Caselaw Access Project, then cite key challenges in sharing, sustaining, enriching, and growing this free corpus of primary law. The Harvard Law School Library staff hope this project will spark dialogs among community stakeholders, particularly librarians, in open access, ultimately leading to sustained governance of one or more repositories of authoritative and persistent versions of US decisions.

Philip Chung,
Andrew Mowbray
and Graham Greenleaf
Australian LII

AustLII Communities: A platform for collaboratively generated content

'AustLII Communities' is a platform for the creation and dissemination of collaboratively generated content.This presentation discusses the way the platform works and some of the applications being developed. These currently include plain language guides and commentaries, and textbooks. A major initial deployment of the platform has been to support the development of a number of 'law handbooks'. The first of these was the Northern Territory Law Handbook which was launch in 2016. Since then funding has been obtained to develop a similar resource in Western Australia. Handbooks for the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania are also being created. This presentation will describe the work to date and also explore some of the planned and potential uses of the platform.

Philip Chung,
Andrew Mowbray
and Graham Greenleaf
Australian LII

New standards for case law publishing: the 'Signed by AustLII' format

Over the past three years, AustLII has been conducting research as part of an Australian Research Council grant to reconsider the mechanisms for publishing authentic and authoritative versions of judgments and other legal documents. As a result of this work, AustLII has developed a new format incorporating digital signatures and other visual indicators of authenticity for Australian judgments and treaties (the 'Signed by AustLII' format). This has been deployed for over 650,000 decisions and the format has been officially 'accepted' for use in proceedings by nine Australian courts and tribunals. This presentation discusses the lessons learnt in the course of the research and reflects upon the implications for law reporting in Australia and internationally.

Okechukwu Effoduh Law2Go, Nigeria

#Law2Go: Digital tool for facilitating free access to human rights law and legal services in Nigeria

#Law2Go is leveraging on the extraordinary growth in the use of smart phones and the internet in Nigeria. By the end of 2017, there will be 18 million smart phone users in Nigeria with 38 million smartphones projected to be in used in Nigeria by 2018 – a growth like no other on the continent. This platform can be utilized to address one of the most crucial problems in Nigeria's human rights justice sector which is access. Access to justice in any society is critical and fundamental. Indeed, it is not only the most basic requirement of any system of justice but also the hallmark of any sane and civilized society. The relationship between access to justice and human rights protection stems from the fact that it is only when individuals have access to legal information and representation, that they can advance towards obtaining adequate protection of their basic rights and fundamental freedoms.

Research has shown that 72 percent of Nigerians are unable to access legal services for human rights issues and this is due to a range of factors, one of which is the low level of public knowledge and awareness on human rights law and their applicability. Also as laws are only written in English, language and literacy barriers are extant. Law libraries are also mostly owned by major universities and big law firms. As mobile technology grows exponentially in Nigeria and permeates both classes of the rich and poor, this knowledge gap and access gap is still problematic for human development especially on issues of human rights which affects the day-to-day lives of people. #Law2Go seeks to utilize mobile technology and the internet to reduce this gap.

Sara Frug,
Sylvia Kwakye
and Nic Ceynowa
Cornell LII

The Graph Expands: Lessons from the Docket Wrench project

This paper presents the case study of the Docket Wrench project and describes how LII is using language technologies to bring legal information to ever-broadening communities of interest. A month before the 2016 presidential election in the United States, LII adopted Docket Wrench, an application that analyzes participation in the notice-and-comment rulemaking process by which federal regulations in the United States may be promulgated under the Administrative Procedure Act. The paper discusses strategic concerns, including the criteria for selecting the project, the risks entailed in adopting it, and the challenges it created given the small core staff at LII. On the technical side, the paper addresses the techniques brought to bear on the data, the previous data integration work upon which the project relied, the advances made by the team who repaired the software, and the ways in which the work of the project expands the connections LII is able to make between the legal documents that constitute our primary data, and the real world objects and phenomena with which our audience is frequently concerned.

Njeri Githang'A National Council for Law Reporting(Kenya Law)

Strengthening the Kenyan judicial system through the CaseBack Service

Access to legal information, justice and the law is a central tenet for building societies and communities that are actively involved in the governance and democratic processes of their said societies. National Council for Law Reporting (Kenya Law) with this realization is the agency through which Kenya's robust, indigenous, patriotic and progressive jurisprudence is monitored and reported. In practice and in response to the needs of the public, the National Council for Law Reporting redefined law reporting to include not only the reporting of developments in judge-made law but the broad range of legal information that defines the legal system - Bills and Acts made by parliament, rules and regulations made under those laws, international treaties and agreements, legal and gazette notices and also scholarly articles and commentaries on the law. Kenya Law strives to engage the public by having open access to legal information, in a manner that allows for discourse, re-use, and replication. It is indeed said to be the hub of legal information in Africa.

More often than not, when one conducts legal research on the Kenya Law's website, one does so by inquiring into the body of existing legal knowledge as a basis for reaching an understanding and/or finding a solution to a legal, social, economic, cultural or political question with the ultimate purpose of progressing or advancing a civilized society.

With the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenya Law has an understanding of its mandate which is not merely a provider of public legal information but the people’s fountain of knowledge and understanding of the law for the promotion of the rule of law and the advancement of a civilized society. This sense of obligation is captured in its corporate slogan “Where Legal Information is Public Knowledge”. Kenya Law’s strategic approach has now shifted from merely providing legal information to creative and innovative organization of data and information to generate and develop legal knowledge.

Kenya Law realized that one of the challenges with the judicial system was that once a judicial officer delivered a judgment; there was no way for the judicial officer to track the outcome of the case especially where an appeal was filed. Having access to all judicial opinions of all superior courts of records, Kenya Law rolled out a service where a judicial officer would receive an email alert together with case where an appeal had been filed. The service is known as "CaseBack Service"

CaseBack is a service provided by the National Council for Law Reporting to Judicial Officers (Court of Appeal Judges, High Court judges and Magistrates). CaseBack alerts a judicial officer when his or her decision has been considered by a court of higher jurisdiction or where a case is partly heard by one judge and later concluded by another judge. Such a judicial officer receives an email alert along with the decision of the higher court immediately that decision is received by the Kenya Law.

The CaseBack service aims to contribute to the rule of law and the development of jurisprudence by providing an information loop in which judicial officers continually develop and improve upon their understanding and application of the principles of law. It also contributes to quality decision-making by judicial officers and aids in the development and evolution of the law.

Kenya Law is also exploring initiatives in which it can aid the Judiciary's capacity to make accurate and informed planning and management decisions by designing and deploying a business intelligence solution for judgments and rulings like the Case Back service. Ultimately, the purpose of the solution is to drive service and business value for the Council and the Judiciary by providing essential business functions. The presentation will therefore focus on the various efforts by Kenya Law that aim to facilitate access to Justice and strengthen the Kenyan judicial system like the CaseBack service.

John Heywood American Univeristy, Washington College of Law

Conducting a Citation and Semantic Network Analysis of International Criminal Law Decisions

International legal jurists, scholars, and practitioners have long considered legal dispute resolution in their sphere to follow the civil law tradition of denying judge-made common law a status as a primary source of law. The best exemplar of that is the language in the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, repeated in the Statute of its successor, the International Court of Justice, in article 38: "The Court . . . shall apply . . . judicial decisions . . . as a subsidiary means for the determination of rules of law."

In the relatively new and emerging area of international criminal law, however, what may possibly be described as judge-made law has appeared in the judicial decisions of the various international criminal tribunals. The semantic network analysis being undertaken is an attempt to understand the nature of the reliance of the judicial decision-makers on the sources of law they cite, especially those citations to the decisions of other judges.

The corpus will be limited to a single court to begin with: the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. This tribunal has the most developed international criminal case law, is near the end of its existence, and has a defined and manageable corpus of decisions. It is hoped that upon completion of the analysis of this corpus, the lessons learned and tools created will be then applied to the other international criminal tribunals and courts.

This paper describes the practical aspects of conducting this analysis. It will describe the theoretical basis for the analysis, obtaining the relevant judicial decisions, the techniques for parsing and coding the selected decisions, and the analytical process. The author hopes to stimulate a discussion of the merits of the proposed analysis, and to garner suggestions from those attending the conference.

Paul Hjul Crystal Web (Pty) Ltd South Africa

How rich is our data: enriching the collection of non-precedent legal information

In the Anglo-American legal tradition courts are required to maintain records of their proceedings and to deliver rational reasons for their decisions. Written judgments of superior courts systematically develop into a body of case law diligently collected, annotated, and indexed both by proprietary publishers and by FALM LIIs. However, the majority of, encounters by individuals with a legal system does not take place through the superior courts or in a manner where the records kept consist of written reasoned precedent forming decisions. Instead, the majority, of exercises of state power take place through processes which are routine and while recorded are not documented in a manner promotes research of either a statistical or substantive character.

The outcomes of proceedings in inferior court systems (particularly magistrate's courts in various jurisdictions) are under-researched. While certain significant decisions of inferior courts are circulated and commented upon in an ad hoc basis the dearth of legal scholarship on subjects which directly impact on daily lives remains. The challenges of comparative legal scholarship are magnified when lower courts are included in consideration as different jurisdictions have notably different procedures and proceedings. Working with big data introduces additional considerations than traditional informatics.

In this paper, I consider: (a) whether a prescriptive structured approach to developing open data collections that are of value to researchers of various legal and social science disciplines or whether a cornucopia that organically ferments is a better goal and objective; (b) who has the primary responsibility for collecting and collating data that is of public value; and (c) whether "open big data" should be viewed as a component of the disciplines of legal informatics or as part of non-legal orientated social sciences.

In considering these questions I advocate for both the development of LIIs that focus on collating open data of legal relevance without performing the role of collating case law and the expansion (where resources are available) of existing LIIs.

Consideration is also given to the challenges of ensuring that data is collected and collated by often under-capacitated public entities in a manner that enables researchers to be able to meaningfully promote the best interests of the proper administration of justice.

Daniel Hoadley Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales

Link to Paper

Mission Impossible? Perfecting Free Access to Case Law in England and Wales

In November 2012, the former president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lord Neuberger, delivered the first British and Irish Legal Information Institute (BAILII) annual lecture to a crowded auditorium deep inside Freshfield's offices on London's Fleet Street. Citing Lord Hewart CJ's famous maxim that "justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done", Lord Neuberger held:

Without judgement there would be no justice. And without Judgments there would be no justice, because decisions without reasons are certainly not justice: indeed, they are scarcely decisions at all. It is therefore an absolute necessity that Judgments are readily accessible. Such accessibility is part and parcel of what it means for us to ensure that justice is seen to be done…

That free and ready access to the decisions of judges supports the rule of law is beyond argument. However, it is interesting to note that until BAILII's inception in 2000, free and ready access to the decisions of judges was all but non-existent. Prior to the moment BAILII's servers went live, access to case law in any comprehensive form was confined to those who had amassed vast collections of printed volumes or had paid handsomely for a subscription database.

The Internet, and only the Internet, was capable of supplying the mechanism through which Lords Hewart and Neuberger's ideals of judicial transparency and accessibility could be realised. The economic, physical and temporal constraints of print publishing could never come close to delivering the levels of accessibility that lawyers, judges, academics and students now take for granted.

The fusion of new technology with the talent and dedication of the open law movement gave rise to the free access services we use everyday to analyse, share and evaluate the decisions of judges. BAILII, along with its sister LIIs around the world, have transformed the way we consume and share primary legal information: in 2012, BAILII reported that it received something in the order of 45,000 requests per day. It is safe to assume that the average rate of daily requests is even higher in 2017.

Notwithstanding BAILII's rapid ascension in popularity, the mission to provide comprehensive free access to the constituents of the English common law is not yet complete.

This paper aims to shine the spotlight on the obstacles facing BAILII and the provision of free and comprehensive access to case law in the English jurisdiction generally. Five specific obstacles hampering the attainment of universal free access to case law in England and Wales are identified: (i) the antiquity of the English common law tradition and the scale of the legacy case law archive; (ii) the peculiarities of the laws of copyright applicable to judgments and collections of judgments; (iii) the complexity of the case law supply chain; (iv) the reluctance of the private sector to open source more of the content under their control; and (v) lack of resources to expand and develop open law platforms.

Pierre-Paul Lemyre LEXUM, Montreal

Link to Paper

State Administrative Decisions Census: Demonstrating the Need for More Openness

This article includes findings and recommendations resulting from a survey of the status of online access to administrative decisions across the fifty states of the U.S.. This survey was conducted over the course of September 2016 and is based on and replicates the methodology developed by Sarah Glassmeyer for her State Legal Information Census, published in 2015. The main objective of this initiative is to expand our understanding of the level of online access to legal information in the U.S. to the field of administrative law. It demonstrates that access to administrative appeals suffers from the same barriers to access as judicial opinions, although at a more acute level. The reliance of many states on third-party commercial publishers for the provision of primary access is particularly problematic in the context of the current access to justice crisis, especially considering the potential for enhanced transparency provided by the Internet. To improve the situation, central panels and agencies should systematically self-publish administrative appeal decisions on their own websites (which may require redaction) and put emphasis on making them available "openly", which involves taking steps beyond the simple provision of physical access.

Susan Nevelow Mart U. Colorado, Boulder

Link to Paper

Link to Presentation

The Algorithm as a Human Artifact: Implications for Legal {Re}Search

When legal researchers search in online databases for the information they need to solve a legal problem, they need to remember that the algorithms that are returning results to them were designed by humans. The world of legal research is a human-constructed world, and the biases and assumptions the teams of humans that construct the online world bring to the task are imported into the systems we use for research. This article takes a look at what happens when six different teams of humans set out to solve the same problem: how to return results relevant to a searcher's query in a case database. When comparing the top ten results for the same search entered into the same jurisdictional case database in Casetext, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Lexis Advance, Ravel, and Westlaw, the results are a remarkable testament to the variability of human problem solving. There is hardly any overlap in the cases that appear in the top ten results returned by each database. An average of forty percent of the cases were unique to one database, and only about 7% of the cases were returned in search results in all six databases. It is fair to say that each different set of engineers brought very different biases and assumptions to the creation of each search algorithm. One of the most surprising results was the clustering among the databases in terms of the percentage of relevant results. The oldest database providers, Westlaw and Lexis, had the highest percentages of relevant results, at 67% and 57%, respectively. The newer legal database providers, Fastcase, Google Scholar, Casetext, and Ravel, were also clustered together at a lower relevance rate, returning approximately 40% relevant results.

Legal research has always been an endeavor that required redundancy in searching; one resource does not usually provide a full answer, just as one search will not provide every necessary result. The study clearly demonstrates that the need for redundancy in searches and resources has not faded with the rise of the algorithm. From the law professor seeking to set up a corpus of cases to study, the trial lawyer seeking that one elusive case, the legal research professor showing students the limitations of algorithms, researchers who want full results will need to mine multiple resources with multiple searches. And more accountability about the nature of the algorithms being deployed would allow all researchers to craft searches that would be optimally successful.

Peter Martin

Link to Paper

Link to Presentation

Cornell Law School

U.S. District Court Opinions that Remain Hidden Despite a Congressional Mandate of Transparency

The U.S. E-Government Act of 2002 requires all federal courts in the U.S. to begin furnishing online access "to the substances of all written opinions ... regardless of whether such opinions are to be published in the official court reporter". It set a deadline of April 2005 and specified that these online opinions had to be in "text-searchable format". Over a decade later, effective and comprehensive access to U.S. District Court opinions remains an elusive goal. Large numbers remain hidden from lawyers, academics, and the general public. The papers explores how radical decentralization of the courts, judicial autonomy, and indifference have produced this result.

Elmer Masters CALI, USA

eLangdell Press: a model for sutainable OER in legal education

The cost of textbooks continues to rise and traditional textbooks are locked into proprietary systems. As an alternative, CALI began producing no-cost eBooks for law students under the eLangdell Press imprint. Our titles are written by teaching law faculty, peer reviewed, and made available freely in multiple formats with a Creative Commons license.

The development of open educational resources with minimal staff is an exciting project. It allows interested faculty to create affordable and innovative course materials. This session will address CALI's model for creating legal casebooks. Topics discussed will include an overview of the 180 point checklist used for this project, author selection, selection of the Creative Commons' license, peer review, creating print and eBooks versions, including the use the Pressbooks platform for remixing materials, and the common tools that CALI uses. This is a model for creating OER textbooks that other organizations can replicate.

Jessica Frank and John Mayer CALI

Link to Presentation

A2J Author: A Decade of Using Document Assembly to Facilitate Access to Justice

The Legal Services Corporation ("LSC"), which funds legal aid organizations across the country, will receive requests for assistance from low income Americans with almost 2 million civil legal problems this year. "More than half (53% to 70%) of the problems that low-income Americans bring to LSC grantees will receive limited legal help or no legal help at all because of a lack of resources to serve them." (Legal Services Corporation. 2017. The Justice Gap: Measuring the Unmet Civil Legal Needs of Low-income Americans. Prepared by NORC at the University of Chicago for Legal Services Corporation. Washington, DC. (page 13)) When they cannot get the assistance of an attorney, these millions of people are forced to represent themselves. One of the great barriers for these self-represented litigants are the forms necessary to initiate, answer, or complete their legal issues. For the past 13 years, LSC has funded innovative technological approaches to bridging this justice gap using statewide legal aid websites and automated document assembly projects to give pro se litigants the information and assistance they need to complete their court forms. This paper will look at one of the most successful of these projects, A2J Author.

A2J Author was created in 2004 as a partnership between the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI) and IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. A2J Author allows non-programmer attorneys, court staff, or law students to create interactive A2J Guided Interviews which present complicated forms one question at a time to the end user. Authors of these A2J Guided Interviews can add in definitions, heuristics, videos, audio, and graphics just at the point in which the end user may need it. Since its launch in 2005, A2J Guided Interviews have been run over 4 million times and have resulted in over 2.5 million documents being generated.

Beyond literally millions of generated documents, A2J Author has the data to prove that these A2J Guided Interviews are making a positive real world impact on pro se litigants. The New York Courts Access to Justice Program has collected survey results from over 14,000 pro se litigant users of their A2J Guided Interviews since 2009. There were over 6,000 handwritten comments about the software program and 93 percent of them were positive. The comments, publicized on the NY Courts website, include ones like "[t]his program saves so much time. It is very efficient;" "Excellent self-service tool and relatively easy to use. Please expand DIY availability to other forms and petitions;" and "This is a great program. It simplifies everything, so it is easier to understand." (http://www.nycourts.gov/ip/nya2j/diytestimonials.shtml) A2J Author was the first tool specifically built to assist self-represented litigants complete their court forms. In the past decade, dozens of other tools have sprung up in this niche market, but none have the numbers, buy in from legal aid organizations and courts across the country, or staying power of A2J Author. There are A2J Guided Interviews in use in 42 states, 3 foreign countries, and 4 federal district courts systems.

While A2J Author began as the pro se friendly interface for document assembly, it has expanded into a complete solution for document automation projects. The software underwent a major re-write, transforming it into a completely cloud based authoring system with a mobile responsive viewer. A back end document assembly tool with form creation was added in 2016, with enhanced features to allow for automation of existing pdf forms expected to be completed by fall 2017. A2J Author allows anyone to use its authoring platform for non-commercial purposes. It offers its viewer and pdf generator through a Github repository for those that want to self-host, but also has a hosted solution available for those that just want to plug and play.

With 13 years of experience in designing a tool for the pro se litigant, the A2J Author team has developed expertise in using technology to facilitate access to justice. A2J Author is more than just a document assembly tool. Behind every A2J Guided Interview is a decision tree - a series of pages and branches based on a user’s answers. Most of the issues the average person faces, be it legal processes, government interactions, and many other transactions could be looked at in the same way - a series of decision trees that adapt based on a user's input.

This turns what was born as a simple document assembly interface into potentially an expert system. With the level of advanced logic scripting open to authors, A2J Author could be applied in a number of markets, including alternative dispute resolution/online dispute resolution and any time a user needs to interact with the government (ex. applying for Social Security or Veterans’ benefits or getting a driver’s license or a zoning permit). The possibilities are wide open for the application of the principles and technology embodied in A2J Author to a wide range of everyday interactions. This paper will discuss how A2J Author has been a tool for facilitation access to justice for over a decade.

Elizabeth Moll University of Cape Town

Link to Paper

Link to Presentation

The use and perceptions of Open Access resources by Legal Academics at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa

Although access to primary legal materials in South Africa is now easily accessible as a result of the Free Access to Law movement, access to legal scholarship is not as easy. Through using the University of Cape Town (UCT) as a case study, due to its research intensive nature, it is possible to see how academics are publishing their legal scholarship through the use of bibliometrics and data mining. After the success of a Research Visibility month, law librarians were able to attest to the perceptions of legal academics around the importance of the openness and visibility of their research. The author contrasts these two to see if the perception of legal academics around the visibility of their resources reflects their publishing practices. It is seen that although academics at UCT publish mostly in closed journals, the publishing in open and hybrid journals has slowly increased during the period 2011-2015. Further it is evidenced that legal academics are exploring other avenues, including that of self-archiving, to boost the visibility of their work. Law Librarians are able to assist in boosting at least the visibility, if not the openness of legal academics' work.

Craig Newton Cornell LII

When Law Goes Viral: The Implications of Social Media for Online Law Publishers

This paper presents data from more than 28 million user session on the website of Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute (www.law.cornell.edu) from January through June of 2017. The paper explores the unique aspects of traffic arriving from social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter compared to traffic arriving by way of search engines such as Google. After establishing a baseline for traffic to the website from social media, the paper presents five scenarios where the pattern significantly deviated from the norm—that is, social media presented a much higher than typical percentage of referred traffic to the LII website. Each of those five events can be attributed in large part to a spike in interest in a particular page on the LII site: three were sections of the United Stated Code collection, one was a federal regulation, and one was a recent decision of the United States Supreme Court. Each of the five events are specific examples of user behavior on a discrete page of the website that conforms to the general long-term and site-wide observation that visitors arriving from social media are for more likely to leave the site quickly without visiting other pages on the website to gain additional context for the page on which they arrived. The paper then explores the implication of that hypothesis for publishers of free, online legal information such as Cornell's Legal Information Institute and its namesakes around the world.

Michael Lissner CourtListener


As Executive Director of Free Law Project, I maintain the RECAP Initiative and conduct research on PACER/ECF, the federal e-filing and public access system operated by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO). The RECAP Initiative is a project to get as much information from PACER/ECF as possible and provide it to the public in a searchable archive.

In this talk, I propose discussing both the progress that we have made with the RECAP Initiative over the past several years, and the directions we plan to take the project in the near future. I will do this against a backdrop explaining as much as possible about what is publicly known about the PACER/ECF system.

The topics about the RECAP Initiative may be slightly technical and include:

  1. Rebuilding the RECAP infrastructure for robustness and efficiency;
  2. Recreating the RECAP extensions to work across a variety of browsers;
  3. Creating a new archive of PACER documents at https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/, where we have information about more than 20M documents;
  4. Our recent addition of over 3.4M free opinions to the RECAP Archive, as harvested from PACER (explained here: https://free.law/2017/08/15/we-have-every-free-pacer-opinion-on-courtlistenercom/);
  5. Creating new APIs for the extensions, startups, and the public to use to access the RECAP collection.

For the explanation of the PACER/ECF system, I will draw on several sources including:

  1. Public financial filings from the AO as they relate to PACER/ECF;
  1. The 2014 Supreme Court Annual Report;
  2. An article in the International Journal for Court Administration, entitled, "E-Filing Case Management Services in the US Federal Courts: The Next Generation: A Case Study;"
  3. Our database of PACER/ECF documents, from which we can gain new insights; A handout provided to panel members at a recent House Judiciary Committee meeting on the topic of PACER/ECF.

Timothy Stanley Justia.com

Sustainable Business Models for Free Law

This presentation will cover sustainable subscription revenue models for free law organizations and non-profits and it will outline a number of revenue opportunities that can be used to support free law around the world. The talk will focus on marketing services for law firms and individual lawyers, and will include a discussion of lawyer directories, white paper and article archives, lead generation programs and other on-site advertising opportunities. The talk will cover the benefits, costs and the political and support issues that arise when implementing these different business models. Finally, we will discuss Justia and LII’s experience working with our own lawyer directories and other on-site advertising as a real-world example of how such projects can be implemented and run.

Kshitiz Verma LNM Institute of Information Technology, Jaipur India

Link to Paper

Modernization of Indian Judiciary with a Goal to Reduce Backlog of Court Cases

This paper enumerates the efforts made by the Supreme Court of India and proposes a road map of how the existing Information and Communication Technology (ICT) can help to build a better judicial system in India. The main drive behind the efforts made by the Supreme Court and the funds released by the Government of India is to enhance the rate of justice and reduce the piling up of huge number of cases in the courts in India. Various steps have been taken to utilize the power of the Internet to ease the life of the litigant, that is targeted to help the poor. The e-Courts project has led to the development of National Judicial Data Grid, scanning, digitization and digital preservation of case records, enabling video-conferencing for courts and jails.

This paper also provides insights in the potential of ICT to be able to go far beyond than what is proposed in the e-Courts project. The e-Courts project has mainly provided a platform for consolidation of the ICT infrastructure in the courts. In order to be able to use all this computing machinery efficiently, more services, beyond as envisaged in the e-Courts project have to be developed.



The technology prowess of Indian IT industry requires no introduction to the world- with a market size of 140+ billion dollars of combined domestic and international market and employing more than 10 million technical work force - it leads the GDP growth of the country contributing to 10% of GDP. While servicing the world in all segments – utilizing such prowess in Justice Delivery system within India is not a impressive story to be written about. For a decade there were deliberations, planning, reports and efforts to use ICT in Justice Delivery system and yet the implementation has been a far cry of the goals. The ICT as a tool for access to Justice has been in the list of laggards. The new push of ‘Digital India’ by the current Government requires leap frogging to augment the technology prowess to have its due share in Justice Delivery system. The recently implemented Integrated Case Management Information System (ICMIS) by the Supreme Court of India has promised a new era of facilitation of Access to Justice .

The ICMIS is set to bring all records of a particular case-at various stages—at the district court or high court will be integrated with the system to offer the complete record in digital form. In the future, linking of information on jail inmates and under-trials may be integrated into the system.

The system promises to set right the speed of the Justice delivery system on one hand and to bring in transparency on the other hand. However the critiques are looking forward to a balance in terms of the access to those who will be impacted in the Criminal side of the ICT processes. This paper aims to take a critical look of auditing the efforts, issues and direction of 'Justice via Internet' with the issues of Right to Information, Privacy issues and related fallouts in Indian context and the lessons for other Jurisdictions.

Sue Ann Yap JADE, Australia

Link to Paper

Equal access to law reports in a new publishing commons: 3 case studies from Australia

Wider access or "democratisation" of technology emerges as one of the most powerful force of change in the way we think, learn, exchange information and knowledge, and most importantly, in inspiring new ways to effect social change. With specific reference to the Internet, the very characteristic of being a free-to-all environment and that it crosses boundaries, have made it the prime post-modern means to improve social reality on a local and global level. The affordability of Internet connection however, has not meant equitable access to legal information. In fact, the Internet's dynamism is predominantly driven by private sector and private individual innovation. Private sector interests are in turn driven by the imperative to increase shareholder value and lucrative monetisation strategies, while crowd-sourced sites only last as long as the entrepreneurial drive is sustained or when equity funding is located.

In Australia, the legal profession traditionally sources its information from primarily commercial legal resources like LexisNexis and Thomson Reuters and non-profit publishers like AustLII and JADE. In the last 3 years, the profession has increasingly resorted to smaller, specialised publishers in light of cheaper access, more agile technology and more flexible access points.

In this paper, I will discuss that the advancements and emerging community outcomes as witnessed in the law-reporting field in Australia in the last 2 years. I will be focussing on the impacts to legal community following the introduction of equitable access by the Victorian Reports, New South Law Reports, JADE and UK Reports.

I further argue that the next stage of evolution for online legal publishing has to include the collaboration of private sector, private citizens and public sector to facilitate equitable access. This approach means that every stakeholder level will not only have a say, but has an obligation to effect a change in the commons: may it be in enforcing civic rights or pursuing commercial pragmatism. If the public sector and private citizens remain a passive voice in "netizenship" then the paradigm will always be one, which prioritises commercial interest.