Thursday, May 6, 2010


Earlier this week I attended an interesting workshop put on by UT Law Library and Public.Resource.Org, to promote "a proposed registry and repository of all primary legal materials of the United States." There were lots of librarians, including those from Tarlton, the Legislative Reference Library, and the State Law Library, people from the legal publishing industry including law bloggers, bar and court representatives, and the conveners. We reviewed the current offerings in Texas at the state legislative and judicial levels,as well as the Administrative Code and several options for viewing municipal ordinances. We talked about authentication and the definition of "primary legal materials"; see the website for their definition of the latter, which I note includes appellate briefs. As for the former, one thing we did not discuss about authentication of primary sources was a project that might be of interest to my friends in the law school world:

"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 at the 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."

The most stimulating part of the day was provided by two practitioners of computational legal studies(TM), who used techniques I cannot pretend to describe, to present topics I could understand, such as "Visualizing Temporal Patterns in the United States Supreme Court’s Network of Citations," "The Development of Structure in the Citation Network of the United States Supreme Court," and "Six Degrees of Marbury v. Madison : A Sink Based Visualization." Fascinating stuff, check it out.

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