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Legal Industry XML Standards: Legal XML

The judicial system has made good use of XML in the past few years. This section cov-ers one of the more notable legal industry–focused standards that helps to simplify the process of exchanging information in the context of law interpretation and litigation.

Legal Industry XML Standards


The judicial system has made good use of XML in the past few years. This section cov-ers one of the more notable legal industry–focused standards that helps to simplify the process of exchanging information in the context of law interpretation and litigation.


Legal XML

Even lawyers need XML. The need to file court papers, exchange documents with other legal authorities and clients, and generally simplify life has resulted in the development of XML vocabularies focused on the legal profession. A number of these efforts com-bined to result in the Legal XML initiative, whose mission is to develop open, nonpropri-etary standards for legal documents and associated applications.


Legal XML began in November 1998 and rapidly grew to over 870 participants by 2001. It is made up of roughly 50 percent private legal companies, 25 percent government insti-tutions, and 25 percent academic or nonprofit organizations, with a mostly United States–based population that is increasingly developing its presence in Australia, Canada, and Europe. Despite the novelty of applying XML to the legal profession, the “Legal XML” idea is actually quite dated. Soon after Charles F. Goldfarb, who himself was a lawyer, developed SGML, Alan Asay, a brilliant lawyer and technologist, created civil and criminal SGML Document Type Definitions (DTDs) for the Utah state courts. It only took the continued development of these original SGML documents, combined with the proliferation of the Internet and XML, to make Legal XML happen.


The issue of what is considered to be a “legal” document is an interesting one. Theoretically, almost every electronic document can be categorized as “legal,” because the law is concerned with the exchange of day-to-day documents in the context of business as well as interpersonal interaction. However, this scope is too wide for any organization to build a credible standards base. Therefore, the Legal XML group has sought to address the legal documents that are of most importance and the need for standardization.


The domain of Legal XML documents is divided into various subdomains by virtue of their horizontal or vertical application. In this context, vertical describes specific legal document domains, such as public law (including legislation, bills, and statutes), private law (including contracts and wills), court filings, transcripts, judicial decisions, and pub-lications (including legal books and law journals). Horizontal vocabulary describes gen-eral information of relevance to most legal documents, such as citations, general names and addresses, and general document structure, such as tables, outlines, paragraphs, and signatures. Legal XML standardizes these various horizontal and vertical vocabulary structures as well as coordinates their efforts within the larger legal community.


The Legal XML effort is divided into workgroups that focus on either horizontal or verti-cal domains, such as court filings and transcripts. These workgroups then develop speci-fications that define the actual technical XML standards. An additional two groups, called “Legal” and “Horizontal,” then synchronize and harmonize the work of these vari-ous groups to make sure no redundant or contradictory work is done. As of this writing, Legal XML has not yet produced a final, “recommended” standard. However, the group has published its first proposed standard in the “Court Filing” area. The general approach that Legal XML takes to its work is the Greatest Common Denominator (GCD)

approach, which solicits feedback from the community at large and then includes as many of those features as possible, making many of them optional. The discussion on the merits of this approach is discussed earlier in this chapter.


The Court Filing document describes the information required for electronic court filing and the structure of that information. It doesn’t include any information that regards the actual content of the pleading, such as contracts, orders, or judgments. As such, the first proposed specification is somewhat basic, but it illustrates well the goals of the Legal XML group. The architecture makes use of a three-tier application model that uses three cooperating applications: the client (consisting of an application on the user’s desk, called the Electronic Filing Provider [EFP]), the server (also known as the Electronic Filing Manager [EFM]), and the Case Management System.


The document specifies a LegalEnvelope element that is the root element of the Legal XML document. The LegalEnvelope element identifies the type of message and routing information as well as indicates the contents contained within. Within the LegalEnvelope element is a Legal entity that in the case of this proposal contains a CourtFiling element that specifies individual Filing elements. A sample of a Court Filing Subsequent Filing can be found in Listing 22.7.


LISTING 22.7 Legal XML Court Filing Example (LegalEnvelope omitted for brevity; it doesn’t validate because it’s an excerpt)


<?xml  version=”1.0”  standalone=”yes”?>


<!DOCTYPE LegalEnvelope SYSTEM “LegalEnvelope.dtd”> <!-- Creation date and time: 10-Mar-00 22:36Z --> <LegalEnvelope Version=”1.0”>










<Actor  ID=”J01”>


<Title>Presiding Judge</Title> <Name ID=”Ref01.n1”>




<FullName>Margret Marly Jefferson</FullName> <FirstName>Margret</FirstName>












<RoleName>Presiding Judge</RoleName> </Role>





<FilingInformation ID=”Ref01.1”> <SpecialHandling/> <CourtInformation>


<Location ID=”D1116”/> </CourtInformation> <CaseInformation>


<FullCaseNumber>D1116-CR-99-218</FullCaseNumber> <CaseTitle>State v. Onereallybadman</CaseTitle> <CaseCategory>criminal</CaseCategory> <CaseYear>1999</CaseYear>




</FilingInformation> <LeadDocument ID=”Ref01.1.d1”>




An Actor is by reference to an Actor in the Filing Actors list. <Actors>


<Actor ID=”Ref01.n1.1” Reference=”Ref01.n1”/> </Actors>


















Order for Pre-Trial Hearing has been scheduled </DocumentTitle>


<DocumentType  DocumentCode=”8251”>







This document content shows a document residing on the web as the input . <DocumentContent ID=”Ref01.1.d1.dc” MimeType=”application/pdf”


href=”ftp://nowhere.com/JudgeJefferson/cr/99/218/Orders/PretrialHearing.pdf”/> <Attachment ID=”Ref01.1.d1.a1”>


An attachment to the lead document. <AttachmentDocumentInformation> <Submitted>














<DocumentTitle>Attached text</DocumentTitle> <DocumentType>Text</DocumentType>



</AttachmentDocumentInformation> This shows text as the document content.


<DocumentContent ID=”Ref01.1.d1.a1.dc” MimeType=”application/text”> The attached image file provides new information in this case. </DocumentContent>


This is an attachment to an attachment. <Attachment ID=”Ref01.1.d1.a1.a1”>


















<DocumentTitle>Attached image</DocumentTitle> <DocumentType>image</DocumentType>




</AttachmentDocumentInformation> This shows a BLOB as the document content.


<DocumentContent ID=”Ref01.1.d1.a1.a1.dc” Size=”8191” MimeType=”image/jpeg” ContentEncoding=”Base64”>jk075pfb3205hafnbci ...


















Legal XML is a small but growing effort and is using its clout to promote its standards efforts. It also uses partnerships with existing organizations, such as the Joint Technology Committee of COSCA/NACM, the National Court Reporters Association, SEARCH, the California Administrative Office of the Courts, and LEXML, to help develop and promote its standards. Other XML efforts on the legal front include UELP, XCI, National Center for State Courts/Lexis, Washington State Bar XML Study Committee, Joint Technology Committee of COSCA and NACM, National Conference of State Legislatures, and Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) for time and billing.

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