eLaw

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“The Wikipedia of Law”

eLaw

Introduction

“The eLaw Project aims at a reform of legal text production, creating one continuous electronic production channel with a uniform layout prepared on the same electronic text basis from draft to publication (promulgation) on the Internet. The workflow system includes government bills, committee reports, legal enactments of the Nationalrat and decisions of the Bundesrat.

The eLaw workflow system supports the electronic production of all committee reports, of legal enactments of the Nationalrat and decisions of the Bundesrat. Parliament returns consolidated electronic texts of legal enctments to the Federal Chancellery, ready for publication. The authentic
electronic publication on the Internet (since 2004) is available for everybody free of charge.

The eLaw (e-Recht “Electronic Law”) project aims at creating one continuous
electronic production channel from the invitation to comment on draft legislation to promulgation (on the Internet). As a result, it is only required to enter amendments to the text during the legislative stages (for example by a committee, or in the plenary of the Nationalrat).

As the first result of the project, texts of laws on paper are to be replaced by electronic texts, that is to say, printed government bills, committee reports and other parliamentary printed matter will cease to exist. Technology will make it possible to draw up texts which can be queried electronically while all stages can be tracked in a fully transparent process. Primarily for the purpose of  cost-cutting, the texts of legislation were to be given a uniform layout and were to be prepared on the same electronic text basis from draft to publication in the Federal Law Gazette on the Internet.

As a result, the Federal Chancellery sends government bills to Parliament, Parliament returns the consolidated electronic version of the legal enactment adopted by the Nationalrat once parliamentary procedures have been
completed. The State Printing Office (Wiener Zeitung) is no longer necessary.”(1)

eLaw History

Two Semantic Proyects

“To translate eLaw into reality, two projects were launched by the Administration of Parliament in view of the complex task on hand and the brief period available by decision of the federal government (trial operations were to start as early as on 1 September 2001):

  • the “Implementing E-Law” project (in April 2001) to ensure one continuous electronic channel for the legislative procedure in the Nationalrat and the Bundesrat, as well as
  • the “Roll-out Plan for laptops’ to be used by Members of Parliament” (in December 2002).”(2)

Implementation

“The re-design of the legislative procedure for the ministries was formally adopted by resolution of the Austrian Federal Government of 6 June 2001. The Conference of Presidents of the Nationalrat also advocated the implementation of the eLaw project in 2001. However, at the same time the Presidents called for better IT equipment for the Members of Parliament. The objectives to be met in the reform of the legislative process were defined as follows:

  1. building up on existing databases
  2. ensuring that the high quality requirements for parliamentary business will be fulfilled
  3. taking into account the separation of powers between government and parliament
  4. considering the principle of true costs (no passing on of costs or tasks from the government to parliament)
  5. minimization of the total costs of parliamentary business
  6. considering the special working conditions of parliament.”(3)

eLaw Goals

“The basic ideas of the eLaw project are:

  • To provide an electronic workflow for producing legal texts beginning with the draft bill and ending with the ePublication of the Federal Law Gazette (e.g. law, regulation, announcement, treaty)
  • To replace printed legal texts by digitally signed electronic documents
  • Official publication of the Austrian Federal Law Gazette in the Internet

On the basis of this main ideas, the eLaw project aims to obtain the following
objectives:

  • Publishing and archiving of legislation documents (draft bill, government bill) in the Austrian Legal Information System (RIS) – http://www.ris.bka.gv.at/
  • Documents leaving workflow will be signed electronically on XML basis
  • Easier administration of different versions of documents
  • Implemention of a standard layout of the Federal Law Gazette
  • Support for legislative bodies

The technical and organisational solution chosen is characterised by a high degree of user-friendliness as

  •  the Austrian parliament builds up on existing databases (that is to say, the new e-Legislation process was integrated into the database application “Parliamentary Business”)
  • an independent workflow has been established to account for the special features of parliamentary procedure and the separation of powers.

The exchange of documents with the federal administration, where a separate workflow is in place, is based on compatible formats and an independent interface, and detailed procedures have been developed for the exchange of data between parliament and government.

The system offers the people involved in the legislative process not only electronic information but also participation opportunities; in this context, it has to be mentioned that a special upload mask was created for Members of Parliament and their assistants to enter the electronic versions of motions into the system.

In a competence center established in Parliament, which has meanwhile successfully completed know-how transfer from the State Printing Office and taken up co-operation with the Federal Chancellery, staff supports the rapporteurs of the committees and the committee secretaries of the Parliamentary Administration in preparing the committee reports as well as the staff members of the Parliamentary Administration responsible for executing the legal enactments of the Nationalrat, and is in charge
of quality management and the layout of legislative documents as well as covering the need for additional labour in peak times.

The electronic exchange of data between government and parliament takes concrete shape as follows: the Federal Chancellery sends government bills to Parliament, Parliament returns the consolidated electronic version of any legal enactment adopted by the Nationalrat once parliamentary procedures have been completed.”(4)

Main Components

“The project implementation is based on two main components: Workflow procedures and MS Word templates and macros.

Workflow Procedures

The legislative process of a law is divided into different sub-processes:

  • A draft of a bill is prepared by a Ministry
  • The Ministry sends the draft bill for internal consultation (expert’s opinion) to different interest groups (e.g. trade unions, chamber of commerce)
  • The draft bill can also be put into the Austrian Legal Information System (RIS)
  • Decision of the Council of Ministers (the weekly meeting of the Austrian federal ministers)
  • The draft bill becomes a government bill which must be put into the RIS
  • The government bill is transferred to Parliament which runs an independent system
  • The government bill is debated by Parliament
  • The decision of Parliament is transferred back to the Federal Chancellery
  • Signing of the law by the Federal President and counter-signing by Federal Chancellor on paper
  • Server based electronic signature by the Federal Chancellery
  • Official publication of the Federal Law Gazette in RIS http://ris1.bka.gv.at/authentic/index.aspx

MS Word templates and macros

In order to be exchange within the workflow process, documents are written in MS Word supported by macros. All documents are structured with respect to different legal categories (formats). The correct use of the special templates are necessary for the conversion of the documents to XML (65 templates for paragraphs and 11 templates for illustrations are used). The XML produced by this conversion is a presentation oriented standard, basically a qualified
XHTML able to identify different parts of the documents, in order to associate them with specific presentation stylesheets. Some additional information are provided in terms of metadata, as the title, the date of publication, the number of the Gazette.”(5)

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Project

“The approach proposed by the eLaw project is mainly devoted to electronic workflow implementation. Being addressed to workflow and presentation, such a schema has been conceived to have a low impact on different information systems of different offices. This is probably the main strength of the project, which has led to the definition of a rather simple schema, with respect to others as the MetaLex and the NormeinRete one.

The simplicity of the eLaw schema represent also a point of weakness: using this schema the possibility of implementing advanced reasoning functions on norms is strongly limited.”(6)

Resources

Notes and References

  1. ESTRELLA, European project for Standardised Transparent Representations in order to Extend Legal Accessibility.
  2. Idem
  3. Idem
  4. Idem
  5. Idem
  6. Idem

See Also

  • EUR-Lex
  • AustLII
  • Thomas
  • Semantic Web and Law
  • Semantic Indexing and Law
  • XML Standards for Legislation
  • MetaLex
  • LegalXML
  • SDU BWB
  • Linked Data Principles to Legal Information
  • LexDania
  • NormeinRete
  • AKOMA NTOSO
  • CHLexML
  • EnAct
  • Legal RDF
  • LAMS
  • JSMS
  • UKMF
  • Estrella Project
  • Legal Ontologies
  • Artificial Intelligence and Law
  • CELEX
  • Free Access to Law Movement
  • Legal Information Institute resources

Further Reading

  • Bing, J. 2003. The Policies of Legal Information Services: A Perspective of Three Decades. Yulex 2003.Ed. L. A. Bygrave, 37–55. Oslo: Norwegian Research Centre for Computers and Law.
    • Boer, A., Hoekstra, R., Winkels, R. 2002. MetaLex: Legislation in XML. Proceedings of JURIX 2002: Legal Knowledge and Information System, 1–10.
  • Boer, A., Winkels, R.., Hoekstra, R., van Engers, T. 2003. Knowledge Management for Legislative Drafting in an International Setting. Same as the above document,  91–100.
  • Kay, M.: XSL Transformations (XSLT) Version 2.0. Recommendation, W3C (Jan 2007), http://www.w3.org/TR/2007/REC-xslt20-20070123/. Latest version available at w3.org/TR/xslt20
  • de Oliveira Lima, A., Palmirani, M., Vitali, F.: Moving in the Time: An Ontology for Identifying Legal Resources. Computable Models of the Law, Languages, Dialogues, Games, Ontologies pp. 71 85 (2008)
  • Palmirani, M., Benigni, F.: Norma-System: A Legal Information System for Managing Time. In: V Legislative XML Workshop. pp. 205 224 (2007)
  • Palmirani, M., Contissa, G., Rubino, R.: Fill the gap in the legal knowledge modelling. In: proceeding of RuleML 2009. pp. 305 314 (2009)
  • Presutti, V., Gangemi, A.: Content ontology design patterns as practical building blocks for web ontologies. In: ER2008. Barcelona, Spain. (2008)
  • Valentina Presutti et al.: A Library of Ontology Design Patterns. NeOn project deliverable D2.5.1. (2008)
  • Biagioli, C. and Francesconi, E. (2005). A semantics-based visual framework for planning a new bill. In Proceedings of the Jurix Conference: Legal Knowledge and Information Systems.
  • Jérôme Fuselier et Boris Chidlovskii, Traitements Automatiques pour la Migration de Documents Numériques vers XML, in Document Numérique, vol 9/1 –2006.
  • Ovidiu Vasutiu, David Jouve, Youssef Amghar, Jean-Marie Pinon, XML based Legal Document Drafting Information System, 20th Aniversary Annual JURIX Conference, Workshop on Legislative XML, LIRIS, 12/2007
  • Data models for version management of legislative documents, María Hallo Carrasco,
    Journal of Information Science.
  • V. R. Benjamins, P. Casanovas, J. Breuker, and A. Gangemi, editors. Law and the Semantic
    Web: Legal Ontologies, Methodologies, Legal Information Retrieval and Applications.
    Springer-Verlag, 2005.
  • C. Lupo and C. Batini. A federative approach to laws access by citizens: The Normeinrete system. In R. Traunmuller, editor, Proc. Second International Conference on Electronic
    Government, Berlin, 2003. Springer.
  • Thomas F. Gordon, Guido Governatori, and Antonino Rotolo. Rules and norms: Requirements for rule interchange languages in the legal domain. In Guido Governatori, John Hall, and Adrian Paschke, editors, Rule Representation, Interchange and Reasoning on the Web, LNCS 5858, pages 282-296. Springer, 2009.
  • Long-term preservation of legal resources, Gioele Barabucci et al.
  • Electronic Government and the Information Systems Perspective, Kim Normann Andersen, ‎Enrico Francesconi, ‎Ake Grönlund
  • Arnold-Moore T ,’Automatically processing amendments to legislation’ (1995) in Proceedings of the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence and Law (ICAIL’95).
  • Arnold-Moore T,.’Automatic generation of amendment legislation’ (1997) in Proceedings of the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence and Law (ICAIL’97).
  • Arnold-Moore T, Information Systems for Legislation, Ph.D. Thesis, RMIT, 1998.
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics Press Release, 29 May 1999.
  • Barron D, ‘Why use SGML?’ (1989) 2 Electronic Publishing ? Organization, Dissemination and Design 3-24.
  • Bosak J and Bray T, ‘XML and the Second-Generation Web’ (1999) 280 Scientific American 89-93 < sciam.com/1999/0599issue/0599bosak.html>.
  • Campbell C and McGurk J, ‘Revising statutes with computer support’ (1987) 8 Statute Law Review 104.
  • Corbett M, ‘Indexing and searching statutory text’ (1992) 84 Law Library Journal 759-67.
  • Greenleaf G et al, ‘Public access to law via Internet: the Australian Legal Information Institute’ (1995) 6 Journal of Law and Information Science <austlii.edu.au/austlii/libs_paper.html>.
  • Hoey M, ‘The discourse properties of the criminal statue’(1988) in Walter (ed) Computer Power and Legal Language.
  • International Organization for Standardization, Information processing ? text and office systems ? Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML) ISO/IEC 9979:1986.
  • Robertson J and Merrick F, ‘Proposal for participation in the Workshop on Hypertext Systems and Version Support’ (1994) in Durand et al Proceedings of the Workshop on Versioning in Hypertext Systems, 35-38. <ftp://bush.cs.tamu.edu/echt/vers-wkshp/VWReport.A4.ps.gz>.
  • Schweighofer E, and Scheithauer D, ‘The automatic generation of hypertext links in legal documents’ (1996) in Wagner and Thoma (eds) Database and Expert Systems (DEXA’96).
  • Tapper C, ‘Computers and Legislation’ (1970) 23 Alabama Law Review 1-42.
  • Travis B and Waldt D, The SGML Implementation Guide, 1995.
  • Editorial, ‘Textual amendment’ (1990) 11 Statue Law Review iii-iv.
  • U.K.Command Paper, The Preparation of Legislation (The Renton Report). Cmnd 6053, 1975.

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