The post describes the online publication of U.S. federal court decisions on the U.S. Government Printing Office’s FDsys platform, and recommends ways to improve FDsys‘s publishing practices.
Here is an excerpt:
On January 30th, the House of Representatives held a public meeting on its efforts to release more legislative information to the public in ways that facilitate its reuse. This was the second meeting hosted by the Bulk Data Task Force where members of the public were included; it began privately meeting in September 2012. (Sunlight and others made a presentation at a meeting, in October, on providing bulk access to legislative data.) This public meeting, organized by the Clerk’s office, is a welcome manifestation of the consensus of political leaders of both parties in the House that now is the time to push Congress’ legislative information sharing technology into the 21st century. In other words, it’s time to open up Congress.
The meeting featured three presentations on ongoing initiatives, allowed for robust Q&A, and highlighted improvements expected to be rolled out of the next few months. In addition, the House recorded the presentations and has made the video available to the public. The ongoing initiatives are the release of bill text bulk data by GPO, the addition of committee information for docs.house.gov, and the release of floor summary bulk data. It’s expected that these public meetings will continue at least as frequently as once per quarter, or more often when prompted by new releases of information. [...]
The Bulk Data Task Force was formed in part in response to the #freeTHOMAS movement. That movement seeks free public bulk access to the contents of the THOMAS U.S. federal legislative database, which is gradually being superseded by a new database called Congress.gov.
For more details, please see Daniel’s complete post.
Currently, only bills from the current Congress are included.
Release of the bills in bulk XML is a key goal of the #freeTHOMAS movement and a longstanding goal of the open government data community.
The House bills are the second major Congressional data set to be released in bulk XML this month; the first was the House floor proceedings in bulk XML.
Here are links to selected posts about the availability of this new legislative data set:
Please see the comments to this post for links to additional resources about this issue.
Two new resources provide metadata describing U.S. state legal resources available on the Web:
- [The American Association of Law Libraries' (AALL’s)] Digital Access to Legal Information Committee and Government Relations Office analyzed 6 primary online legal resources [Administrative Code, Administrative Register, Statutes, Session Laws, High Court Opinions and Appellate Court opinions] included in AALL’s state legal inventories to answer the following questions about each title:
- Is it official?
- Is it authenticated?
- It is preserved?
- Is permanent public access mandated by statute?
- Is there a copyright assertion or other use restriction?
- [...] whether the state is employing universal citation
- [whether the state has] introduced or enacted the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA)
Here is an excerpt from the post:
Last August, I released an XML copy of the Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL). [...] In preparation for some upcoming projects, I’ve since updated both the XML and HTML versions. You can consume these documents in the following ways:
- In one giant HTML file over the web.
- In one giant HTML file on your desktop via ZIP or BZ2.
- In one giant XML file on your desktop via ZIP or BZ2.
Please feel free to use, improve, or comment!
For more information, please see the complete post.
Waldo Jaquith of the University of Virginia’s Miller Center has made available for bulk download, in HTML format, all Virginia legislative bills introduced from 2006 through 2012, at Richmond Sunlight, the free-access-to-law and transparency service for Virginia.
New feature: Text of all bills available for download…unfortunately, as screen-scraped HTML. That’s all we’ve got!
Michael J. Bommarito II of Systematic Global Macro and Computational Legal Studies has posted an XML version of Michigan Compiled Laws — the official codification of Michigan legislation — for bulk download.
According to his post, Mr. Bommarito also “improved the underlying data [of the code] by adding tags and correcting indentation as best as possible.”
Mr. Bommarito says that this effort was prompted by Ari Hershowitz’s effort to organize a hackathon to create better digital versions of California legislation.
For bulk access to the XML version of Michigan Compiled Laws, a sample of the XML, or for more information about this project, please see Mr. Bommarito’s entire post.
Professor McKeever proposes mandating end-user access to primary legal materials of the U.S. federal government — on the model of U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)’s Federal Register on GPO Access, but not requiring the U.S. federal government to provide access to those materials in bulk XML free of charge. Further, he proposes refraining from requiring state governments to provide access to primary law, and urges instead the development of “a program … to guide and help the individual states achieve the same level of publication.” Professor McKeever’s proposal does not appear to mention local governments.
I agree with many aspects of Professor McKeever’s vision for Law.gov at the federal level, but I disagree with the view that Law.gov should be scaled back. In particular, I disagree with Professor McKeever’s arguments respecting bulk XML access, and respecting whether Law.gov should seek to require state and local governments to provide free public access to legal materials.
Respecting bulk XML access, I offer three points. First, Professor McKeever’s proposal does not appear to mention the needs of scholarly researchers for access to large sets of legal information in machine readable formats, which needs have been expressed at previous Law.gov workshops (see, e.g., here and here).
Second, Professor McKeever’s proposal does not appear to consider whether government entities that engage in XML-based publishing — such as GPO — would incur substantial additional cost by providing the same XML files with which they generate legal materials for individual end-users, in bulk to the public free of charge, as GPO in fact now does respecting the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations, and as the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does respecting patent and trademark records.
Third, Professor McKeever’s proposal does not consider how bulk access to primary legal materials in XML spurs innovation in egovernment technology that can benefit citizens. For example, GPO’s decision to provide bulk access to the Federal Register in XML, free of charge, enabled research institutions to create innovative prototype erulemaking systems — including the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy‘s FedThread, the Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative‘s Regulation Room, and WestEd‘s GovPulse. The purpose of these projects is to develop technology to facilitate citizens’ participation in the creation of law and policy. Such technology is intended to benefit end-users — i.e., citizens — not “information re-packagers.”
Respecting whether the Law.gov project should seek to require state and local governments to provide free public access to their primary legal materials, I would argue that it should, because: