Standardisation of Data for the Judicial Intranet - Uniform Case Citation
This is a Commentary published on 30 June 1999.
Citation: Overend S, 'Standardisation of Data for the Judicial Intranet - Uniform Case Citation', Commentary 1999 (2) The Journal of Information, Law and Technology (JILT). <http://elj.warwick.ac.uk/jilt/99-2/over end.html>. New citation as at 1/1/04: <http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/law/elj/jilt/1999_2/overend/>
The advent of the judicial Intranet in 18 months time, coinciding as it does with the postponed implementation of the Human Rights Act, focuses attention on the future electronic landscape to be trodden by the judiciary. Significantly, by then all judges who want them are scheduled to have been provided with powerful computers.
This paper is concerned with maximising the benefit that can be expected from these significant IT developments, by setting out the need for standardisation of both the electronic format and the content of legal material. The benefits that can be expected to flow from such standardisation will be touched on. The factors that may help to maximise these benefits include the fact that the judiciary, through the Court Service, is a large and important purchaser of value-added legal material; this coupled with the fact that all electronic legal material is to be placed into the same Intranet, means that there is an opportunity to create a complete pool of compatible resources, accessible to all users. The goal is one of seamless access to all source material on the Intranet, without the need to pause at proprietary boundaries or search engines.
It is accepted that the impetus for standardisation may come initially from the ECHR implementation, although the problems arising from the format and availability of data are common to many other areas. Solutions that are right for the ECHR scene may also be right 'across the board'.
At present, electronic legal information is available in a variety of forms, including CD-ROM, on-line databases and via the Internet using web-page technology. On the ECHR front, the primary electronic source is the HUDOC database, which is available to anyone with access to the Internet. It is anticipated that a CD-ROM will shortly be issued containing Strasbourg material, using the same interface as that available on-line.
Judges currently have access to a mix of these sources, using electronic materials provided through the Court Service - White Book, Green Book, Red Book, Weekly Law Reports, Archbold, Blackstone, All ER - or through their own private ISP subscriptions to Internet sites, which in turn may provide free or subscription-only access to material that has been collected by the publisher in question.
The current usage of the available electronic material by judges is difficult to assess. There are probably a number of users who are both computer-literate and who have the capacity to make full use of the electronic resources. On the other hand, there are anticipated to be a relatively large number of IT-supplied judges, whose usage of IT is not maximised. It is quite apparent that the majority of judges on Legal Teleforum (Felix) not contribute to the conferences to which they are joined, - they are 'silent watchers'. The extent to which they may use electronic database services such as New_Law is not clear.
Multiplicity of sources and diverse search engines may also have given rise to under-usage, which is not necessarily solved by providing training. Judicial training in IT is however essential.
Development of electronic source material provided by legal publishers to the judiciary has hitherto been supplier-led, rather than judge-driven. Compatibility of source material has not been a criterion; nor has uniformity of search techniques. The judge using a CD-ROM has to learn how to use the All ER search engine, and the White Book search engine, and so on. Neither is the same as the HUDOC search engine, whether accessed through the Internet or via the heralded HUDOC CD-ROM. Updating techniques are also different. Material in one proprietary database is not available to another.
There are some signs of progress. Context is able to provide a link from the name of a case or a reference to a statute in an electronic document (including an e-mail) to a case or statute in its own database. However, its own database is not accessible to case references in material emanating from other publishers - e.g. electronic text-books; nor can the Context service provide links to material provided by other publishers without their permission, such as the HUDOC database. None can link with the Statute Law Database.
This paper is written on the basis that what is available on the Internet will be made available - if it is deemed useful to the judiciary - on the judicial intranet. There are however certain problems associated with the concept of the intranet itself.
If electronic material is stored as a mirror site on the intranet, then questions of up-dating (how, when and by whom) will inevitably need to be addressed. What was current at the time the mirror site was made will rapidly become less than current. This is true not only of static publications (like the current edition of Archbold), but also of on-line, and thus theoretically perpetually up-dated sites, such as the HUDOC database. The intranet version of the HUDOC database can only be as up-to-date as the image that was copied over, as the on-line updating process does not reach the intranet, other than through the individual updating cycles (which may be lengthy - possibly a matter of months).
The problem is less acute when the judiciary have control over the material and the updating procedures. The House of Lords website material can no doubt be made available instantly to the judicial intranet, providing the procedures are put in place to ensure that occurs. Distinct contractual procedures would have to be structured to obtain similar benefits for material in proprietary ownership
It should not be forgotten that mere duplication of Internet sites by creating Intranet mirror sites
Browser technology enables material to be displayed on a variety of different makes of computer, and also allows files to be downloaded with ease. The display of textual material by different computers is possible because the material is 'marked-up' or 'tagged' in a manner that is commonly understood. HTML is understood by browsers, and directs how the text is to be displayed - e.g. its font, size, colour, layout etc.
The browser is located in the user's ('client's') computer. The user requests the central ('server') computer to provide his computer with a marked-up 'page' or 'web-page' of material. The server computer sends the client computer the selected material, where the browser then operates on the web-page and displays it on the user's screen.
As long as there is perceived to be no advantage in providing links between one database of material and another, or in providing cross-database access to over-arching search engines, then there is no need for an HTML or 'marked-up' page of text to exist in the server computer until immediately before it is downloaded to the client computer. In many instances legal source material is stored in a database located in the server computer, which is accessed through a bespoke search engine. Once the desired document has been located, then and only then it is generated in HTML form by the server, and transmitted to the 'client' for display through the remote browser. The life-span of the generated HTML document in the server computer may accordingly be limited to the duration of the search carried out by the user. The latest configuration of the HUDOC material uses this technique.
Static HTML databases are quite different. They exist in HTML form at fixed locations ('URLs') within the server. They have the advantage that once access is gained to them (they may be password-controlled), then they may searched or downloaded by remote computers, quite independently of any additional search facilities that may be provided by the creator of the database.
The features that are available to static HTML databases, which are not available to generated sites are the following:
(a) External access to the material via hypertext link.
It would be extremely useful to be able to create links to the Strasbourg jurisprudence from any other document stored electronically. Indexes of cases, legal articles and textbooks are but a selection of the material whose value could be substantially enhanced if they could contain active links within them to Strasbourg material. It would not be long before skeleton arguments or judgments could themselves be linked to the relevant full text electronic source material. Appendix A sets out part of such an index as an example of what can be done.
Other links would also be useful for those wishing to access the full text using electronic cross-references between citations of proprietary and official
Strasbourg itself produces a number of useful hard copy case summaries of their jurisprudence, prepared by the Court's Registry. The summaries customarily appear at the head of each judgment. They contain a list of all cases which are referred to in the judgment. An example of a Strasbourg case summary (Gregory v United Kingdom ) is attached as Appendix B. Ideally all such summaries should be made available electronically, with links to relevant paragraph numbers of the judgment and directly clickable links to the cases which are referred to in the judgment (which are listed in the summary), without the need to go through an intermediate search engine.
There is a similar hard-copy book, which Strasbourg is presently updating called 'Subject Indexes to the Judgments of the European Court'. This is a list of (approximately 500 pages in length) that sets out indexed topics, Article by Article. The format of the Index is shown in Appendix C. Essentially it is a highly organised card index that permits the user to navigate through Articles, paragraphs and concepts, and thus find references to decided cases
Again, this is material that cries out for electronic presentation, linked to a static HTML database.
It does not take much imagination to contemplate JSB course material being prepared for distribution in electronic form, with direct links to ECHR cases stored as static HTML files. Such a facility would be quite invaluable to a judiciary that is to be supplied with computers and an intranet in the next 18 months. Electronic course notes prepared by an authoritative speaker, with live links to the source material, could provide the judiciary with ready 'take-away' access to the Strasbourg jurisprudence. The advent of the intranet would make it possible to update the course material, without the need for the judge to wait until s/he is able to attend a further course. He or she would simply download the latest version, updating both the 'case book' and the educational material at the same time.
While the above comments are directed at the ECHR jurisprudence, the same is of course true of all case-law and statutory material affecting the judiciary.
Adding value in the ways suggested in some cases involves 'passes' through the HTML pages of differing databases, in order to create links or tables, which may then be added to or accessed by other documents. Examples of this may already be found on the Internet in the context of the Civil Procedure Rules. The Austlii example is already well-known. Appendix D shows excerpts from the beagle CPR website, showing how automatic links can be generated, to provide ease of navigation and 'live' indexing concordances.
(b) Searches of the material by other users.
Provided that the HTML material is coded in a standard way, it is possible to search through it by computer. A universal search engine could be readily devised that would provide the judiciary with a single form of search facility, without the need to become familiar with a variety of proprietary devices.
Indeed, Windows 98 and Windows NT already come with powerful full text searching commands, which can already be used to identify speedily the locations of textual material in large numbers of files. Once located, a list of 'hits' is prepared, which can be saved - and then each hit observed at leisure, by simply clicking on the reference.
The problem of searching across database boundaries is that material may not be stored in the same way by, either in its form or its tagging (if it is marked-up), even though the substance may be the same. Material is not always created with the computer's ability to search it in mind. For example the new Civil Procedure Rules and Practice Directions refer variously to an 'expert report', an 'expert's report' and also to an 'experts' report'.
It is also trite to observe that the law is itself referred to in a potentially confusing manner. A judgment in the same case may start out as a transcript, or a word-processed handed-down judgment. If it is placed on the Internet by the Court, its format may take any number of forms.
The websites that are currently displaying UK decisions are not uniform in their approach. None of them is created in a form that is ideal. The House of Lords' website appears to be run by The Stationery Office. Judgments are accessed by reproducible URLs. Paragraphs are not, however, numbered. There are no headnotes of any sort.
The Court of Appeal website is billed as being part of the Court Service website. The server that is used is however one that is operated by CCTA. The URLs do not appear to be reproducible. The webpages seem to be constructed 'on the fly' from a database. There is an index which is ponderous.
High Court. The Divisional Court is served by the CCTA computer. The few reports appear to have paragraph numbers. Judgments emanating from other parts of the High Court are to be found on other servers. Chancery judgments are to be found in accessible form on both the courtservice.gov.uk domain name and the open.gov.uk/lcd name. Some have paragraph numbering, some do not.
The majority of UK cases are not, however, placed on the Internet by or on behalf of the Court. They fall to be reported, or not, on the decision of legal publishers, who have their own method of citation, by reference to their own organisation, and to their own pagination or referencing system. Thus a case may have a Law Report reference, or an All ER reference, or a specialist publication reference, and so on.
The European Court of Human Rights does not itself appear to have a uniform system of referring to its cases. For example the case of Klass and others v FRG, decided on 6/9/1978, appears in the Court's own 500 page Subject Index as number 28, yet in the HUDOC computer's list of judgments it appears as number 30. The only sure way of referring to a case seems to be by reference to the date on which it was decided. Similarly, Campbell & Fell v UK (28/6/84) is referred to as 80 and 84 respectively.
The advent of electronic publication of legal source material - particularly appellate case decisions - has brought it own pressures. There are three problem areas, two of nomenclature, and one which relates to the identification of the case name and reference material within the body of the electronic material (the 'tagging' problem).
The naming questions are easy to pose, but more difficult to solve in practice. The case reference or citation can be broken down into two components:
(a) the main reference to the case itself - an important question being, should this reference contain the name of a reference to a proprietary series of Law Reports?
(b) the precise location within a judgment of any given text - the question being whether this subsidiary or 'pinpoint' reference be to a page number with side letters, or to some other device such as a paragraph number.
Looked at from a purely technical point of view, there is no reason why either the main or the subsidiary reference to electronically stored material should contain anything that derives its existence from a hard-copy version, let alone one in which there are proprietary interests.
Thus a case could be referred to by reference to the name of the parties, the name (probably abbreviated) of the court handing down the judgment, the year of the decision, and a number indicating where in the sequence of judgments handed down that year the case was decided. The fifth case in 1999 would be, say, (1999) 5. All that is then needed is a court reference and the name of the parties. Further, subsidiary (or pinpoint) references could be by paragraph numbers, since these are easily counted electronically, provided it is known where to start counting.
The technical solution has been considered in other jurisdictions (see Appendices E, F and G). The solution that has been adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada since 1995, and by the High Court of Australia since 1998 is that there should be uniform citation of cases (in a form which is described as 'Medium Neutral'). In the United States of America, the ABA's1996 resolution in favour of Uniform Case Citation has been patchily adopted across some of the States. If the UK adopted the American suggestion, the equivalent England system would result in 'combined' references of the form:
Smith v Jones, 1999 HL 3, '25,  1 AC 257
The uniform reference is contained in 1999 HL 3, '25, where:
1999 is the year in which the decision was reached
The remainder of the reference, i.e.  1 AC 257, is the 'parallel citation' of one form of hard copy, namely here the Law Reports. It is to be noted that there is no page number reference, as it is the intention of the proposed American citation system that 'pin-point' referencing should in future only be by paragraph number.
There have also been suggestions that take the international researcher into account. Not surprisingly, proposals have been made for an International System for the Citation of Court Opinions, which deal with topics such as Decision Numbering, Country or Region Codes, Court Hierarchy Codes, Jurisdiction Codes, Court Codes and Paragraph Numbers.
Use of electronic material formatted for display on browsers using is fast becoming universal. What is not universal, however, is the way in which case references are 'tagged'. Uniformity of tagging means ease of recognition by a computer program that a group of textual material is in fact a case reference, which can then be manipulated by a skilled computer programmer - to perform automatic indexing, cross-referencing and the like.
Roger Horne has suggested that tagging of cases should be in the format:
<case> name of case <ref> case reference </ref></case>
e.g.<case> R v Lewes Crown Court and Chief Constable of Sussex Police ex parte Nigel Weller & Co <ref> QBD Div Ct Transcript 12th May 1999 </ref></case>
If such a procedure were to be adopted, then it would be relatively easy to ensure a high success rate in searching for the names of case in large quantities of text.
The Australian Institute of Judicial Administration Incorporated has recently (Feb 1999) issued the Second Edition of its Guide to Uniform Production of Judgments. It pointed out that there have been substantial developments in the use of computers for text retrieval. It stressed the need for pithy 'topic structures', the problem of pagination, and the need for a suitable means of referring to electronically recorded unpublished judgments. In that respect it recommended:
1.8.3.......There has been a need to develop a system of judgment citation which is applicable to printed and electronic versions of the same judgment alike. Ideally, that citation method should be capable of expression in a manner which is both medium and vendor neutral. It ought also to facilitate citation of specific locations in the text in an efficient and user friendly manner.
The Australian judiciary are required to create their own 'catchwords' and noters-up of cases referred to. Whether the English judiciary will have the time to create their own catchwords, or noter-up of cases referred to there is a good deal that can be adopted from the Australian recommendations. In particular it recommends:
5.7 Where it is desired to refer to a specific numbered paragraph of a judgment, when using a medium neutral citation, that number should be added at the end of the citation in square brackets to indicate that the reference is to a nominated paragraph. This is becoming the accepted protocol for such a reference. Example 'In Smith v Jones  HCA 99 at  the High Court said.....'. This will facilitate searching and translation in data formats.
5.8 For purposes of computerised presentation utilising existing electronic databases, it is desirable for citations to be retained with the name of the judgment, rather than placed in a footnote. ......... footnotes are, with technology currently in use, generally, database unfriendly. Endnotes are far preferable.
5.9 It should be emphasised that, if these protocols are not observed, the development of a truly effective electronic retrieval system becomes both difficult and uneconomic.
The recommendations include the need for consistent word processing styles and/or heading levels on judgment cover sheets and in the body of the document, together with the use of standardised 'tags' when judgments are being marked-up, the intention being that translation into SGML and HTML should be facilitated.
The time has come for the English judiciary to begin to capitalise on the very substantial investment in computer hardware and software that is coming their way. To achieve that end an overview of the ebb and flow of the passage of legal information needs to be obtained, so that obstacles - most of which are entirely man-made - can be foreseen and avoided, before the flow is channelled into unproductive or uneconomic waste-lands.
The assistance of the legal publishers should be sought in order to achieve a large body of readily accessible electronic material, unimpeded by database boundaries and proprietary formats. In particular, so far as HUDOC is concerned:
Standards should now be drawn up that are appropriate for the English legal system, that cover
Organisational structures should be put in place forthwith in order to provide both the strategic overview that is required, as well as the day to day management.
An example of a 'live' list of cases. Necessarily limited, because of lack of 'flat' HTML source files.
[Index of volume is in the form:
This is a list that sets out indexed topics, Article by Article and cross-references all cases that refer to the topic.
The excerpt below is skeletal - to show the form of the index
List of judgments appears first.
Case references within the index are inserted under each sub-topic.
[The 'Excerpt' is included in the download file, but here we feel it is more relevant to link directly to the Beagle site. - Editors]
See <http://www.beagle.org.uk/cpr/crulesfr.htm> click on 'Part 8 - Alternative Procedure For Claims'.
The Canadian Judicial Council issued proposed Standards for the Preparation, Distribution and Citation of Canadian Judgments in Electronic Form in May 1996. It included the following:
Elements of a Citation Standard for Electronically Distributed Judgments
Online Legal Publishers In many ways judgments retrieved from online legal publishers are no different than judgments photocopied from printed law reports. The distinction between a 'reported' and an 'unreported' decision is starting to break down, especially where the online publisher uses the same source material as the the printed version (for example, consider the Ontario Reports database on QuickLaw). It is recommended that judgments retrieved from online legal publishers be treated consistently with existing standards and in a method analogous to that of a printed law report citation:
Style of cause (All italics, including the v. or c.)
Pinpoint reference if any
Larson v. Regal,  F.C.J. No. 210 (Q.L.) (C.A.) at para. 46.
Bulletin Boards, Internet
For judgments posted to an electronic BBS (bulletin board system) or Internet site, the standard proposes a form consistent with the citation of an 'unreported' judgment. Thus the following elements should appear:
Style of cause (all italics, including the v. or c.)
Canadian Supreme Court decisions (S.C.R.) since 1989 are available on the Internet through a joint project between the Supreme Court of Canada and the LexUM team of the Centre de Recherche en Droit Public at the University of Montreal. They are fully searchable.
The Australian High Court incorporated paragraph numbers into the body of judgments with the delivery of the first judgment in 1998. It gave a further guidance on the use of 'medium neutral' citation in the following terms:
Coupled with this initiative the Court will allow the citation of High Court decisions in a 'medium neutral' way where the decision itself has not been published in the printed law reports. In proceedings before the Court, the Commonwealth Law Reports (CLR) remain the required citation for the Court's published judgments.
The Court went on to illustrate how such Medium Neutral citation would look
Gray v Motor Accident Commission  HCA 70 at 
which is a reference to paragraph 26 of the 70th decision of the High Court of Australia in 1988.
Readers will be familiar with the extensive electronic library of Australian legal resources.
The American Bar Association resolved in 1996
All jurisdictions adopt a system for official citation to case reports that is equally effective for printed case reports and for case reports electronically published on computer disks or network services, that system consisting of the following key elements:
A. The court should include the distinctive sequential decision number described in paragraph C below in each decision at the time it is made available to the public.
B. The court should number the paragraphs in the decision.
C. The court should require all case authorities to be cited by stating the year, a designator of the court, the sequential number of the decision, and where reference is to specific material within the decision, the paragraph number at which that material appears.
D. Until electronic publications of case reports become generally available to and commonly relied upon by courts and lawyers in the jurisdiction, the court should strongly encourage parallel citations, in addition to the primary citation described in paragraph C above, to commonly used printed case reports. When a cited authority is not available in those printed case reports, the court should require counsel to provide printed copies to opposing counsel and to the court. The parallel citation should only be to the first page of the report and parallel pinpoint citations should not be required.
E. The standard form of citation, shown for a decision in a federal court of appeals, should be:
Smith v. Jones, 1996 5Cir 15, &18, 22 F.3d 955.
1996 is the year of the decision; 5Cir refers to the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit; 15 indicates that this citation is to the 15th decision released by the court in the year; 18 is the paragraph number where the material referred to is located, and the remainder is the parallel citation to the volume and page in the printed case report where the decision may also be found.
Adoption of Uniform Citation - or permission to use it - has taken place in 11 states. It has been 'considered' on the 6th Circuit and in Florida.
1. pace the Court of Appeal in R v DPP ex p Kibeline (Times 31.3.99).
2. Legal Teleforum is the e-mail and electronic conferencing network used by the judiciary. It is a sub-set of the CIX service provided by Compulink. Felix is the off-line reader (OLR) provided to the judiciary by the LCD - the CIX equivalent is AMEOL.
3 . The judiciary are provided with electronic summaries of cases distributed by New Law, which they access via Legal Teleforum conferences.
4. Context - who have read this article - say 'it is possible for our J-Link software to pick up a reference in another publisher's data and move from there to the document in a Context database'.
5. The SLD is an electronic database of recent statutes and statutory instruments, which when complete will permit a user to access and retrieve the legislation in force on any given date. It is being created for use initially by Government Departments and the judiciary.
7. HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is one of a number of mark-up languages, many of which are subsets of SGML, which creates generic standards. New generations of word-processor - eg WordPerfect 2000 - provide for the creation of documents marked up in XML (another sub-set of SGML).
8. Until the HUDOC computer was turned into a database service in the last few months, its recent decisions (from October 1996) were available as static HTML files, which were at fixed locations (URLs), and were thus accessible by direct links from external computers.
9. Eg. the House of Lords, Court Service and LCD websites.
10. Uniform Resource Locators - or more simply addresses where webpages can be found.
11. e.g. <http://www.hrothgar.co.uk/YAWS/index.htm> and <http://www.beagle.org.uk/cpr/> both of which relate to the newly emerging Civil Procedure Rules, and which contain added value in the form of computer-generated links, enabling indexes or cross-references to be made across approximately 1000 pages of constantly changing text. None of this would be possible without access to the static HTML files made available by the LCD to all comers.
13. For example, the recent House of Lords judgment of Dawson v Wearmouth is to be found at < http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/ld199899/ldjudgmt/jd990325/d awson1.htm>.
14 . The Court of Appeal report of Arthur JS Hall & Co v Simons was recorded as <http://tap.ccta.gov.uk/courtser/judgment.nsf/<two lines of numbers and letters>?Open Document. It takes some time to create and is presumably not accessible other than through the database search engine that created it.
15 . For example there are two Chancery Division judgments: <http://www.courtservice.gov.uk/younrob.htm> - with paragraph numbering; and <http://www.open.gov.uk/lcd/scott.htm> without paragraph numbering.
17. The search page is < http://www.droit.umontreal.ca/doc/csc-scc/en/index.html >. Each case is available in 8 different versions (HTML, Text, RTF, WP6.1 - English and French version). An example is to be found (Merck Frosst Canada Inc v Canada (Minister of National Health and Welfare)  2 S.C.R. 193 at < http://www.droit.umontreal.ca/doc/csc-scc/en/pub/1998/vol2/html/1998scr2_0193. html>.
19. The Australian formula for Medium Neutral Citation is (The parties)[the year of the decision](the Court abbreviation)(the sequential number of the judgment) at [the paragraph number]
20. An example of an electronic report of the High Court of Australia is to be found at < http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/high_ct/1999/4.html>.
22. Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin - see for example the Arizona order at <http://www.abanet.org/citation/ariz.html>.