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LawCite is an automatically generated international legal case citator. It is something you use to locate judgments and to see how these have been subsequently dealt with and commented upon. In many ways, LawCite is similar (but is in a slightly different space to) the editorially produced commercial legal citators such as Australian products like CaseBase and First Point and international citators - Sheppard's and Key Cite.
LawCite is being built as part of a three year project that is funded by the Australian Research Council in co-operation with a number of Australian courts and other commercial and non-commercial organisations. It is being developed at AustLII in collaboration with other members of the Free Access to Law Movement - in particular BAILII , HKLII , PacLII , SAFLII , NZLII and CYLAW . See the Acknowledgements section for a (fairly) complete set of people and organisations who are involved or who have helped.
Some of LawCite's features include:
LawCite is free. The code that it uses is also open source and is freely available for non-commercial use.
LawCite is automatically maintained and is therefore up-to-date.
LawCite includes all references to all decisions that it can identify. There is no editorial decision making as to what is included and what is not.
Over 15,000 Law Report and journal series are currently indexed with over two million cases and law journal articles in the database from around the world. The current emphasis is on common law countries, but this is being gradually extended to include civil law jurisdictions as well.
Most commercial citators editorially apply a set of annotations to decisions indicating whether or not a decision has been considered, applied, overruled etc. Without editorial work, LawCite cannot do this and does not currently aim to do so. Given that these sorts of annotations are at an entire decision level (when cases generally make more than one point, of course) and that it is commonly observed that these annotations vary considerably between systems, we think that the usefulness of such annotations is much over-rated.
LawCite tells you about decisions that are widely used and relied on. It will also tell you the extent that a decision relies upon previous decisions. We think that this sort of information is much more useful than a "flag" that simply says "caution" or "considered". Other things that are present in conventional citators that LawCite does not do (and that will be implemented) include identifying catchwords and "words and phrases" discussed. We are also working with a number of courts and tribunals to be able to include antecedent and post-decision case histories.
Whilst we think that the system useful in its current form, the alpha system is largely intended only to demonstrate the potential of what can be achieved through automated means. The ARC Project has two years to run. We are aiming to publish a fairly finalised "beta" version of LawCite in 2009 with the final production version in 2010.
LawCite, like other case citators, is essentially useful in the context of a particular legal decision or law journal article. It will help you to locate and find a copy of a decision, see how a decision has been subsequently dealt with and find other materials such as journal articles about a decision. Some of the things that LawCite does best are:
Decisions can be identified by citation, party names, jurisdiction, court, year or any combination of these. The system includes a relatively complete set of parallel citations and allows for things like alternative spelling of party names and so forth.
LawCite includes most modern (and often not so modern) decisions and some journal articles that have considered a case.
LawCite will always provide a link to a freely available version of a decision if one is available. If there is not a free version, LawCite will indicate a commercial service that may have a copy.
LawCite attempts to provide every parallel citation for a case that has been subsequently used.
LawCite will find most Australian and some international free to air journal articles that discuss a case. Following the implementation of the current ARC LIEF Legal Scholarship project in 2009, this should include at least all Australian scholarly journals, from inception.
LawCite is just starting. As it stands, we think that it is a useful tool that complements the commercial offerings. The system is in rapid development, and if you spot any issues (particularly systemic ones), please send feedback. If you want to read more about the LawCite project, download this paper.
LawCite relies on goodwill and assistance from many people and organisations.
The project is funded by an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage grant with industry partners: the High Court of Australia , the Federal Court of Australia , the Family Court of Australia , the Victorian Civil and Adminstrative Tribunal , the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration , Thomsons Reuters (Professional) Australia and Justis Publishing (UK).
Many of the members of the Free Access to Law Movement are collaborating to provide both data and technical assistance. These include BAILII , HKLII , PacLII , SAFLII , NZLII and CYLAW . Organisations otherwise collaborating on the WorldLII , AsianLII and CommonLII projects also provide data. Data is also used pursuant to public licenses (including from the Supreme Court of Canada (a site operated by Lexum ). Finally the system makes use of a large amount of public domain information (particuarly that provided by the Public Resorces Inc "BulkResources" and AltLaw projects in the US).
In building LawCite, many many public lists of citations have been consulted. All of these are great services. We couldn't live without the wonderful Cardiff University Index to Legal Abbreviations . Other lists that we use constantly include the citations lists from Monash Law Library , the Melbourne University MULR Australian Guide to Legal Citation and the University of New South Wales Law Reports and Abbreviations Database .
A number of individuals have made major contributions to the LawCite project. These include:
Joe Ury, BAILII Executive Director, for his enthusiasm about the project and for providing citation data
Lianne Forster Knight, Knowledge Manager, Mallesons for arranging some early benchmarking of LawCite against the commerical citators
Grant Riethmuller, Federal Magistrate for providing early feedback on various issues
His Honour, Justice Michael Kirby for launching the system in December 2008