Glassmeyer and Smith: Open law: Technology in service of the rule of law

Sarah Glassmeyer and Pete Smith have posted their new article entitled Open law: Technology in service of the rule of law, forthcoming in Legal Information Management, 14(3) (2014).

Here is the abstract:

As law librarians we have ready access to the full range of legal materials – from free sources and powerful commercial legal databases, from medieval times to the modern day. We can have the entirety of primary law (and the secondary materials needed to decipher it) at our fingertips within seconds.

For those without such access- which is the majority of the general public – what are their options? How do those who do not have access to the likes of Lexis and Westlaw, or even a library with printed legal materials, find legal information- and why is it important that they can?

This article will consider these questions, covering the United Kingdom and the United States of America, with a particular focus on the issue of open law. First we will have a short historical overview of access to legal information; we will then turn to the reasons why wide and full access to legal information is important, and look at some examples of systems which aim at providing such access. Some of the issues with such systems are discussed, followed by a brief outline of an ideal open law system. We end with a look at the social and political elements needed to make the technology of open law systems work.

HT @reddite

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Edmond and Vuille : Comparing the Use of Forensic Science Evidence in Australia, Switzerland, and the U.S.

Gary Edmond and Joëlle Vuille have published Comparing the Use of Forensic Science Evidence in Australia, Switzerland, and the United States: Transcending the Adversarial-Nonadversarial Dichotomy, Jurimetrics Journal, 54, 221–276 (2014).

Here is the abstract:

This article compares responses to incriminating expert evidence (that is, forensic science) in Australia, Switzerland, and the United States. It begins with an outline of the three systems. Then, drawing on recent reviews of the forensic sciences, it explains that many of the forensic sciences have not been formally evaluated—that is, never subjected to validation studies. This means that in many cases we do not know if techniques work, nor how well. It also means that standards, claims about proficiency and experience, as well as the expressions used by analysts are not empirically based. These critical findings from a range of peak scientific organizations and commissions of inquiry (for example, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Institute of Standards and Technology) are then used to illuminate the impact of rules, procedures, and the performance of personnel (such as forensic scientists, prosecutors, defense lawyers and judges) across our three jurisdictions. The article explains how three different criminal justice systems each failed to identify or credibly respond to deep structural and endemic problems with many types of forensic science and medicine evidence routinely used by investigators and prosecutors. Serious problems with forensic science techniques and derivative evidence are rarely identified, let alone explained and conveyed in ordinary criminal proceedings. Indeed, there is very limited evidence that lawyers and judges are conversant with emerging critiques or the corrosive impact of speculative expert evidence on criminal proof. The article endeavors to understand these failures and the weakness of processes and safeguards across advanced criminal justice systems that include adversarial and nonadversarial elements. It also considers why many of the problems were initially identified in the United States, although not necessarily in courts, and what might be done in each of these jurisdictions to improve awareness and enhance legal responses to weak and speculative forms of incriminating expert evidence.

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Koehler on errors in probabilistic reasoning about forensic science evidence

Jonathan J. Koehler has published Forensic Fallacies and a Famous Judge, Jurimetrics Journal, 54, 211–219 (2014).

Here is the abstract:

Probabilistic reasoning in the law is replete with well-documented errors and pitfalls. The errors include the prosecutor and defense attorney fallacies, the transposed conditional, the source probability error, the numerical conversion error, the probability of another match error, the false positive fallacy, the base rate fallacy, selection bias, the individualization fallacy, the fingerprint examiner fallacy, the uniqueness fallacy, the conjunction fallacy, disjunctive errors, the imperfection fallacy, misconceptions of chance, and pseudodiagnosticity. These errors arise most often in cases that include forensic science evidence. Because statistical reasoning can be both complex and counterintuitive (for example, application of Bayes Theorem to conditional probability matters), it is not entirely surprising when jurors and attorneys commit these errors. But it is more surprising, and more damaging to the legal system as a whole, when those we trust to get it right commit and perpetuate those errors.

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ICAIL 2015 Mentoring Program announced

Professor Ted Sichelman of the University of San Diego, and Conference Chair of ICAIL 2015, scheduled to be held 8-12 June 2015 in San Diego, California, USA, sends the following information:

The International Association of Artificial Intelligence and Law (IAAIL) is offering a mentoring program for papers being submitted to its [2015] biennial ICAIL conference, the International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law.

The program is intended primarily for junior authors who have not previously published an Artificial Intelligence and Law paper at a conference or in a journal. If you would like help with your submission, you may ask for a mentor ― a person who will help you with your submission to the IAAIL audience through one-on-one advising, usually via e-mail. A mentor can also familiarize you with the standards and deadlines of ICAIL submissions. Mentors are volunteers familiar with successful submissions. To request a mentor, please send email by the Mentoring Program Request Deadline to the organizers: Guido Governatori,; Burkhard Schafer,; and John Zeleznikow, Please include:

  • Your name and the names of your co-authors;
  • The name of your school (or department) and institution;
  • A plain-text description of your work (a title and abstract is a minimum requirement);
  • Any specific questions or areas in which you would like help;
  • But don’t include your draft paper.

Reasonable expectations for a mentor include the following. A mentor may be able to advise you about the most appropriate forum for your work, suggest improvements to your submission, suggest how to deal with language problems, or refer you to relevant research of which you might not have been aware. Typically, a mentor might spend 3-7 hours on a submission. We carefully match mentors to mentees, and wish to support you in developing your work into a high-quality submission with a good chance of being accepted and published.

Note the following:

  • People requesting mentoring must have a complete draft ready for the mentor to review by the Mentoring Program Paper Deadline;
  • If there is an experienced AI & Law-related researcher in your department, it is expected that you would approach her/him first;
  • No notification of mentor/mentee assignments will be made until after the Mentoring Program Paper Deadline;
  • Reviewers will not be informed of whether a paper has been mentored. That is, the fact that a paper was mentored is not considered during the paper selection process.

Important Dates

Mentoring Program Organizers

  • Guido Governatori—NICTA and Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia
  • Burkhard Schafer—Edinburgh University, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  • John Zeleznikow—Victoria University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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PACER says large numbers of U.S. federal court documents are no longer available in its databases

PACER, the fee-based information service for the U.S. federal courts, announced recently that large numbers of court documents are no longer in its databases, as of August 10, 2014.

Journalist John Hawkinson, citing a source at the Second Circuit, said yesterday that the reason was a “system integration issue — didn’t prioritize backwards compatibility”.

Here is the text of the announcement, on the PACER Website:

As of August 10, 2014 the following information will no longer be available on PACER:

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: Cases filed prior to CM/ECF conversion
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit: Cases filed prior to January 1, 2010
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit: Cases filed prior to March 1, 2012
  • U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California: Cases filed prior to May 1, 2001

For further information please contact the court directly. Contact information for each court is available on the Court Locator page.

For more resources related to this issue, please see the comments to this post.

HT @adamliptak

Posted in Applications, Data sets, Policy debates, Technology developments | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments