Several public officials have indicated a desire to see the results of this process, a reprt on the feasibility of creating a law.gov system. Please note that this interest in seeing the results of the workshops should not be taken as a commitment by any officials to create law.gov, merely a willingness to listen to what comes out of this process.
A Nation of Laws
Law.Gov is an effort to create a report documenting exactly what it would take to create a distributed registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States.
By primary legal materials, we mean all materials that have the force of law and are part of the law-making process, including: briefs and opinions from the judiciary; reports, hearings, and laws from the legislative branch; and regulations, audits, grants, and other materials from the executive branch. Creating the system from open source software building blocks will allow states and municipalities to make their materials available as well.
Law.Gov would be similar to Data.Gov, providing bulk data and feeds to commercial, non-commercial, and governmental organizations wishing to build web sites, operate legal information services, or otherwise use the raw materials of our democracy.
Anybody who cares to submit concurring opinions, dissenting opinions, appendices, specifications, or others materials to this report will be invited to do so. It is understood that on a subject as complex as the functioning of our system of justice and our system of legal education there will be many views, and our hope in this process is to stimulate a robust discussion and dialogue on how to move our legal system forward.
Can an effort of workshops, a report, and briefings spur real change in Washington, D.C.? We won't know if we don't try.
This is an opportunity for citizens to help change the way we distribute America's Operating System.
Co-conveners will assist by hosting workshops, symposiums, and other activities during Q1/2010 that will be used as input to the report process. Confirmed co-conveners presently include:
Contact carl at media.org or @carlmalamud on Twitter for more information on workshops. Materials and opportunities to participate will be posted Q1/2010.
TECH TALK: A Note On Authenticity. With the law, close just isn't good enough. Primary legal materials need to be authentic and digitally signed. As the American Association of Law Librarians said in their ground-breaking report and AALL National Summit on Authentic Legal Information in the Digital Age, “it is time to save the legal information system.” We propose to enlist the law students of America as auditors during the startup phase of Law.Gov, asking students to systematically compare on-line to printed materials. The students would gain reputation points in the registry, which they could use to demonstrate their public service when applying for jobs or clerkships. Would such a system work? When we tour the law schools, we intend to dig in and ask that very question.
Deliverables For the Law.Gov Report:
It is our goal to deliver, by mid-2010, a detailed report to policy makers in Washington, D.C., including at a minimum:
- Detailed technical specifications for markup, authentication, bulk access, and other aspects of a distributed registry.
- A bill of lading defining which materials should be made available on the system.
- A detailed business plan and budget for the organization in the government running the new system.
- Sample enabling legislation.
- An economic impact statement detailing the effect on federal spending and economic activity.
- Procedures for auditing materials on the system to ensure authenticity.
Via this post yesterday on the ABA Journal's "Law Libraries" site, we came across the interesting "Law.gov" initiative now underway by an organization called Public.Resource.org.
According to its Web site, Law.Gov is an effort to create a report documenting exactly what it would take to create a distributed registry and repository of all primary legal materials in the United States.The report clarifies that "by primary legal materials, we mean all materials that have the force of law and are part of the law-making process, including: briefs and opinions from the judiciary; reports, hearings, and laws from the legislative branch; and regulations, audits, grants, and other materials from the executive branch." It is intended to be an open source project that will allow states and municipalities to make their materials available, as well.
Law.Gov would also provide bulk data and feeds to organizations wishing to build web sites or operate legal information services. Public.Resource.org. plans to deliver the final Law.Gov report to policy makers in Washington, D.C., by mid 2010.
In a letter dated October 13, 2009, Sen. Joseph Lieberman commended the Law.Gov effort, and expressed his concern with the current state of systems such as PACER. Sen. Lieberman stated that despite a mandate in the E-Government Act to move to a system where information would be freely available to the greatest extent possible, PACER still involves a charge per page and does not allow documents to appear in commercial search engine results. Senator Lieberman pledged that he would provide a copy of the final Law.Gov report to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs that he chairs.