University of New South Wales - Faculty of Law - Computerisation of Law

Computerisation of Law

Reading Guide - Public Policy and Standards for Legal Information

Graham Greenleaf

Last updated 27 October 2000
= Required reading. All other links indicate optional reading.

1. Introduction

1.1. Objectives

The objectives of this topic are for you to understand the policy issues concerning public access to legal information, and the significance of standards for the computerisation of legal information.

 Some topics include:

1.2. Resources

2. Public policies on access to legal information

2.1. Australian policies

In 1994 there was virtually no free access to any primary legal information in Australia. Australian courts, tribunals, legislatures and governments now lead the world in providing free access to legal information.

2.2. Other national policies

3. Standards for legal information (introduction)

3.1. General references

4. Standards for XML legal documents

Extensible Markup Language (XML) allows communities of users to define standards for putting structured data into text files such as web pages. XML is widely seen as the best way forward (from HTML) to build more advanced methods of sharing and presentation legal information via the Internet: XML applications to law and legal documents.

 'Legal XML' , however, is used to refer to an organisation which promotes the use of XML for legal documents, and is attempting to develop standards for various types of XML documents for law (court filing standards, judgment standards etc). Details of Lexag XML are below, but the organisation should not be confused with the more general use of XML in law.

 Background to the use of XML for legal documents:

4.1. The 'Legal XML' organisation

Details of the organisation of Legal XML follow, and details of some its standard-setting efforts are in the sections below.

5. Standards for citation of cases

The benefits of a Court-designated method of citing cases (as distinct from citations devised by individual legal publishers) is summarised in Greenleaf, Mowbray and King Need for a court-designated case citation standard (in The AustLII Papers, 1997) (also adopted by Lazberger, 2000, below).

5.1. Australian standards

Australia is one of the most advanced countries in the world in the use of Court-designated citations (medium-neutral and vendor-neutral), due to the adoption by the Council of Chief Justices of Australia and New Zealand (20 October 1997) of a citation standard, following (but not identical to) a proposal put forward to the Council by AustLII. The High Court of Australia was the first court to use the standard, from 1 Jan 1998.

5.2. Other national attempts at standards

5.3. Moves toward global standards

A first step, not yet taken, is to develop a global set of unique Court designators. It may not be possible.

6. Standards for judgments

These standards cover the preparation, distribution and presentation of judgments.

6.1 Australian standards

6.2 International standards

7. Standards for court filing and 'electronic appeal books'

See the Study Guide - Litigation Support and Court Technologies for developments in court filing in Australia.

 There is a very considerable amount of activity in the development of standards for use of XML for court filing in the USA:

8. Standards for legislation

Various Offices of Parliamentary Counsel have had developed SGML DTD (Document Type Descriptions) for legislation, but these have not yet been standardised.

9. Website useability and disability standards