Grey Tales


Tales from an Instructional Technologist in the world of legal education and beyond…

CALI ’08: Case Corpus, Free Case Law, OAI and the Kitchen Sink

Elmer Robert Masters, Director of “Internet Fun” 🙂 or Internet Development for CALI,

Elmer Robert Masters

Presentation slides

So what can I do with 710,000 cases? :


  • Cases and more
  • Open for anyone to use


You can get GPO, patent, trademark, etc., at this Web site. It is a snapshot of opinions, but they are not committed to keeping it up to date (they are thinking about it though). It answered a threshold question…whenever we have ever wanted to do something with case law, where are we going to get all that case law. That was really a hard question to answer. We were left having to buy them but they were poorly marked up.


If you look at these in Firefox you will get a better visual.


Thomas Bruce

Tom Bruce

Does the wisdom of crowds work for law? Who’s really authoritative with regards to tagging?

Open access to law isn’t new. As a concept it goes back to Edward cook in 1628. What cook was talking about an intellectual access issue. It was in French and most couldn’t ready it. In 1780 Bentham was in favor of public access to law. There were all sorts of people thinking about this topic. Open access isn’t new as an Internet activity either (e.g., Hermes Freenet/LII).

There are three points that legal OA architecture must consider. For 90% of the audience, case law isn’t the main point, the audience isn’t the same and they do not do comprehensive research like it is taught in law school.


Who’s in the new legal infospehere? In the research community we have engineers, business schools, political scientists, computer scientists, information scientists and law schools. Who is online running Web sites? All federal courts (per the e-Gov act of 200, state courts (highest appellate courts now completely online, lower levels are lagging behind), legislatures were always ahead of the pack, agencies riding the e-government wave (the DMV model, Intragovernmental business processes, meaningful dialog with public less common, but there). Overall, none of these legal information blogs are entirely distinct from one another anymore and different audiences start in different places.


Many more LIIs (, advocacy organizations (, OMB watch, sunlight foundation), new academic players and Law-sort-coms (Justia, FastCase).


Differently motivated, decentralized, administratively independent, differently funded, operating in a wide variety of national settings. Everyone’s situation is very different and thus taking different approaches.

There is a need for standards and interoperability. We need some set of agreements about a set of meta-data. It must be standardized to a degree and sensitive to cost factors.  Metadata is cheap and Classificactory metadata is pricey. Language technologies will help with this. We need to find a way of finding out what’s where. We need a way of linking to newly available resources online from legacy documents and via familiar namespaces/citations. We need some sustainable funding models. The set that exist is extremely diverse.

Things that are not essential exist too. We don’t need everything under one roof. We also don’t need standardized case markup. On the other hand, XSLT answers most needs and some regional standards are emerging in Africa and Europe.


OAI4Courts guided tour

OAI based repositories should answer who I am, what have you got and how is your repository organized. OAI provides for sets



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