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Legal XML Face to Face II
These are the meeting minutes from the second Legal XML Face-to-Face meeting. The meeting was held in Atlanta, Georgia at Georgia State University from Wednesday March 1st to Friday March 3rd. This document only contains meeting minutes from the first day of the meeting.
Status of Document
This document is a draft subject to comment and change.
The second face-to-face Legal XML meeting took place on March 1st, 2000. The JTC/Legal XML Court Filing Workgroup met on March 2nd and 3rd. The Legal XML Transcripts, Contracts, and Public Law Workgroups met on March 2nd.
A total of forty-nine (49) people attended the three day conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Thirty-five (35) people attended the March 1st meeting. Forty-five (45) people attended the March 2nd meeting. Thirty-four (34) people attended the March 3rd meeting. Of the forty-nine people who attended, forty-three (43) are current Legal XML members. Six (6) people are not current Legal XML members.
In comparison, sixty (60) people attended the first Legal XML face-to-face meeting following CTC6 in Los Angeles. At that meeting, seventeen people (17) were Legal XML members. Forty-three (43) people were not Legal XML members.
The names of Face-to-Face II attendees are:
Copies of the following written materials were made available to attendees. They are included here in a .zip file (539 KB).
The meeting opened with a short introduction by Todd Vincent. Dean Janice Griffith, Georgia State University and Donald Forbes, Georgia Courts Automation Commission, welcomed attendees.
The formal meeting began with updates from Workgroup chairs instead of a technical and horizontal discussion as published on the original agenda. The technical and horizontal discussion was deferred until after lunch.
3.1 LEGAL Workgroup
Chairs: Rolly Chambers and Donald Bergeron
Rolly and Donald introduced themselves. Rolly went over the LEGAL Charter and discussion ensued. The discussion focused on the role of the LEGAL and HORIZONTAL workgroups in relation to other workgroups, such as COURTFILILING and TRANSCRIPTS.
Donald Bergeron noted that the W3C was on a fast-track for a time with respect to various XML-related deliverables. However, after a year of work the W3C realized that the standards it was creating were widely divergent. As a result, the W3C had to take a step back to harmonize.
Bert Scheingate noted the importance of individual groups. He also said it is important to look at the general flow of legal content. It is important that individual groups don't go off on a tangent. There should be some coherence.
John Grecean said that no one really cares what the tags really are. There are no value judgments (i.e., this is not pro-life versus pro-choice). We only care that the tags be the same and mean the same. He also noted that efiling is moving ahead because "we need it . . . we are building systems that will use this standard and real soon."
Todd Vincent noted that there must be a balance between speed and harmony. The goal is that someday a lawyer will be able to cut-and-paste XML from a document in an application that understands statute mark up into a document in an application that understands court filing mark-up. However, while we want harmony among groups, that does not mean the court filing group should slow down. Todd asked how versioning should play a role in the issue of speed versus harmony.
Davin Fifield explained some of his experience with TRANSCRIPTS. The TRANSCRIPTS Workgroup created a simple document model and punted on difficult issues, just to get something done. He made the point that the first thing we create is not going to last forever. What is important is that the groups that are moving quicker provide their drafts to groups that are moving slower and the slower groups need to look at the horizontal issues and if they don't like it, then let the fast-moving groups know.
John McClure noted that Legal XML does not have a "general architecture" group.
Todd noted that he gave a presentation with Mike Willis from XFMRL (accounting XML) (http://www.xfmrl.org/). Mike explained in his presentation that XFMRL had different groups. The accountants did not do the marketing. The accountants provided the "requirements." Then there was an architecture group (professional technologist) who made the "requirements" a reality in XML.
John Grecean summed up the group thought by agreeing with some of Davin Fifield's comments and saying the LEGAL group's responsibility is to pay very good attention to what is happening in the various workgroups and identify places where there is a lack of coherence. Upon seeing a lack of coherence, the LEGAL group would bring those people together through the HORIZONTAL workgroup. The responsibility of LEGAL and HORIZONTAL is to harmonize. The responsibility of the individual workgroups is to forge ahead.
Ken McKelvey added that the job of LEGAL should also be to give a final stamp of approval to work from the workgroups.
Todd noted that there needed to be a well-known and understood process for this to happen. He said that there were 12-15 pages about process in the original draft of the Legal XML Operating Rules, but no one really commented on it, so it was taken out. This issue probably needs to be revisited.
Chair: John Grecean
John introduced himself. He said the idea behind the joint Court XML project is that the state would build on work by the [New Mexico] federal courts so there would be the same interface. The court filing group has had two meetings. It has been an extraordinary experience "Build it and they did come. We announced we would have a meeting and 60 people showed up."
There is a charter on the listserv which has not gotten unanimous approval. There is more concern in the group about the next phase than about the current phase.
Presently, we are focusing on getting documents to a court; we are not concentrating on what is in those documents, not in Phase I. Phase II is more amorphous; documents will be smart documents containing information that identifies them. There are extraordinary possibilities in a number of areas in Phase II in having XML documents that immediately feed court databases. This really turns some of us on as the wave of the future. In fact, many groups want to work on this, especially in bankruptcy, where forms are completely defined. There is no spontaneity in bankruptcy. Traffic ticket is another example.
Right now, we are not working on that. We are working on identifying information that is sent to the court, so the court can put document into its own processes. Many people think of that as "docketed." We transmit with the document the information in XML.
We have also defined our job as identifying the "what" as Donald mentioned earlier; not the "how". We are leaving to the private sector and to courts to develop applications. This is not our job. We are only defining the data elements and the tags that applications will use.
We have the makings of a DTD for Phase I (version 1.0 may be better term). There have been some spirited discussion of the documents and there is a whole list of things to talk about over the next two days. The major audience is the courts that will accept these documents.
In the court filing group, we are an amalgam of courts organizations working within Legal XML. The court organization is Joint Technology Committee which is the committee for the COSCA and NACM, the two major groups of courts administrators and managers, trail court administrators and state court administrators. It is that committee that initially convened the court filing WG and agreed to work within the Legal XML umbrella. The product with whatever refinements made by March 22 will be presented to JTC on the 22nd in Kansas City. We adopted early on that we needed to get it done fast or it wouldn't' be worth a damn. We have had extraordinary support from the private sector. They are deeply invested in this. Everyone is eagerly awaiting so we can build these applications. Applications built by multiple vendors and multiple courts will be able to transmit document from multiple users and multiple courts using the same front ends for the courts and the vendors. That is what is in it for us. The public and clients of bar are the ultimate beneficiaries. People will be able to communicate with courts. The opposite is a Tower of Babel where no one can communicate with each other.
John Grecean: Rich will you comment on the DTD.
Rich Himes: There is not a lot of discussion on the list about the DTD. I had a day to work over it with Marty. It still needs a bit more work. Various issue will come under discussion. There were some disagreements. The hope is that with John's coordination that we'll have it pretty firm after the next two days.
John Grecean: Robin Gibson has also been very important in the process. Robin do you have an comments.
Robin Gibson: You have said it pretty well.
John: Let me say another word. "BLOB" is central is our vocabulary. In this version one, what is coming to the court is a BLOB without further definition [Rich: There will be sufficient information in XML to identify the BLOB]. In version two . . . three . . . further on down the line the BLOB will be XML. At that point a lot of intersection with other groups will occur.
Chairs, Eddie O'Brien, Davin Fifield
Davin Fifield: I joined Legal XML a bit later than the rest of you. I was back in Australia trying to understand how we would put together transcripts in a forward compatible manner. I work for realLegal.com. We focus on transcript and on court reporting. We are moving to .com world. I've been in the legal industry for 7 years or so. I'm not a lawyer, but at heart a technologist. Eddie is also Australian. The Australian Mafia in the transcript WG. We are the first of the workgroup to attack a legal XML document. This has presented us with some problem.
We met in New York after Legal Tech and made some progress. We went over the charter and found some holes in it. We will vote on it and accept it tomorrow. The charter's purpose it is agnostic on transcripts. We are trying to capture whatever comes from court reporters. We are really just trying to capture content and present it in a way that is useful to people. We aren't just about incorporating courtroom transcripts. We are interested in deposition and anywhere else transcript could occur. All of which fall under "legal" domain.
The document model is an abstraction. Allison Stanfield has looked over this. (Also part of the Australian Mafia.) We are probably weakest in getting all the other stakeholders involved. We want people to really use this.
RealLegal.com, without plugging too much, were already a pseudo-standard in getting the court reports to attorneys. Our product, which is proprietary, can get the ASCII and sign it. But we know the courts are going to require an open standard that the whole industry can adopt.
There are three main ways in which transcript fits into the puzzle. We are doing work on a repository for court reporting and courts. In court filing, if you capture content as part of the efiling anyone can get at it at any time. Transcript, however, is an orphan child. It is not considered part of the docket. You can't get it from the docket. You have to call the court reporter and send a check. There is a required payment because the reporter owns it. There are other business rules. So we are building repositories for court reporting firms and courts. We would ultimately like to integrate this with the courts system. It is something that as you get further along, people are going to ask where is the transcript.
Other things that we've been doing: A key issue for technical: page, line, paragraph, this is a difficult issue. We have reached a decision that page and line, because this is presently so important, will be supported, but depreciated. This makes things backward compatible. Otherwise, the standard would not get used. We've made some progress along that route.
Eddie O'Brien: I represent a vendor. The issue is not anything other than to create a standard and then innovate to create software around it.
I am trying to get stakeholders involved. The NCRA, Mark Golden, then Peter Wacht, JCR, gave us some good thoughts. Michael [Brentano, who was in the audience] is involved. This is very important. We worry if we don't have stakeholder inclusion. We need broad buy in.
I've written a couple articles to expand people's knowledge. I also went off to CAT providers and sent emails. This was a mistake. The marketing was poor. We face challenges. I fear we don't have enough inclusion. There is not enough in place. None of the word processors are supportive. Microsoft has not embraced XML. Word Perfect has something, but people are moving away from it. I a fear lack of coordination. We need to see horizontal clarified. We need to see this a bit more formalized. I am concerned about security issue. The digital signature group is paralleling. Its a good group we've got. Other people are doing good work. One of the things that did not get concluded - marketing - that did not get concluded.
Todd: Toby Brown, from Utah, in the back will be doing a presentation on the COMMUNICATIONS workgroup
Chairs, Nick Finke, Gary Poindexter
[Regrets from Gary Poindexter who is currently on a job in Moscow.]
Nick Finke: The PUBLIC LAW workgroup has the National Center of State Legislatures [SGML draft]. They have looked at bill structure. They have all the elements that anyone uses in any bill construction in the US, at least the 50 states. I just finished attempts at an XML DTD that showed structure. The key structure is really simple. However, there are lots of things that are metadata.
The are many, many, many levels, especially if you look at regulations. You have all heard a citation, "section 302(a)(z)(3)," each one of those is a level. At the moment; one way of looking at that is to have two level nested structure. Divisions are the upper level. They do not contain statute text. Finally you get to the statue and then that goes on down below with a dividing line between division and sections. We number these and you can start these sections 1-7. Once you start sections then you get to section text;, which means you can start in an <DIV> depending on how many you'll need. You can use "type" attributes to use nomenclature to tie into any jurisdiction.
We want some sort of interchange format. We are not going to stop anyone from doing anything they want to do.
Another point of view is the user. The user has printed statutes and online progeny. These are put together by publishers. The publishers that use SGML use it for publication purposes. It is great for publishing, but not good for the user. The focus on the user end is what are the needs of the person to find, use, comment, link to other statutes. These are completely different than someone who wants to give you a printed version. The user requirements are different. I would like to hear from the publishers.
Donald Bergeron [Lexis-Nexis]: The publishers have the same needs. We just don't know it yet. Academic users and professionals are important. Our requirements are the publishers requirements, but publishers have never had to worry about that.
Bert Sheingate User and publishers. It is organic, good or bad. The construction is the creator (comment: not true in all jurisdictions) . . . others have relinquished rights to private publishers. Then the publishers claim a right to the format. But, the actual creation of information rests with the legislature, unless the legislature is the publisher. Assuming they codify their own statutes. The point is, people who are in charge of this should be he people who are doing this.
Dan Greenwood: I am ok with breaking this down, but, then when you get to the user, to relate statutes to each other . . . this is the subtly. The big value is when you can say stuff. This is what will be of great value. This is also the slipperiest, because legislative intent is hard thing to grab hold of.
Todd: [Cut off discussion because we were running out of time before lunch.]
Chairs: Dan Greenwood, John McClure
Dan Greenwood: I am associated with MIT and formerly the State of Massachusetts. I have experience in this huge bureaucracy. My background is more on the legal side -- legal and business requirements. John is the real technical side of the contracts WG.
Our focus on electronic contracts. I am chair of electronic contracts committee, which is part of the American Bar Association Cyberspace law committee. I have also done a lot of digital signatures work including the enforceability of contracts. I am earning a living by doing ecommerce consulting. I see in practice some purely electronic systems and did work for e-Bay. This is more B to B, contractually based. I have been doing work on patient records, some of which would require disclosure. We would want to do it electronically are looking at XML. I have also done work on the NACHA [National Automated Clearing House Association] CARAT [Certificate Authority Rating and Trust Guidelines]. Todd and I worked on the Guidelines together. Todd was reporter for the guidelines which were guidelines on certificates for public key infrastructure. One of the questions was whether certificate policies could be make enforceable with contracts. This comes up in a lot of different contexts.
My focus is on electronic contracts from a legal perspective. Note, the CONTRACTS workgroup is focusing on an area of the law and is within the scope of Legal XML. But contracts are very different than other workgroups. With court filings you know you are dealing with legal industry. It is a closed system. At some point you can look at the universe and look at features of what is supported. It is a big universe but it is relatively closed one party the court -- can determine the rules.
This is very different from contracts. In stark contrast, contract has users who can be very diverse. For instance, two private individuals, most of whom will never see the inside of a court or litigation or a holding. They don't typically have a single way to form a contract. In contrast, contracts with governments are uniquely different. They might look the same, but are actually very different. There are many different subject areas in which clauses mean something different.
Because it is different, our approach may seem a bit different. What you will see in the approach, is that we want to make sure it is capable to filter up, bottom up.
The problem statement: contracts contains significant information. It is locked in formats that are not easy to use. We would like to unlock that information cheaper, faster, better. This is what people want to be able to do. If you were to get into the BLOB of a contract, one quickly discovers that there are infinite levels of granularity. It is not apples to apples. "Acknowledge"means very different things.
One of the things we're doing with respect to scope. We are being very ruthless in limiting scope. We are looking at contracts and a lot of communication that are leading to contracts. We are looking at a world in which there is a contract, what the parties believe is a contact, as envisioned. We will move to the life cycle and to other special issues. Whether something is a contract is a subjective determination. It depends on what law applies and many other things. What other doctrines might apply? What is in and what is out at that point? What is legally semantically meaningful?
Nick Finke: Things that are not semantically meaningful -- as soon as we got into the rathole of doing this. This was not a rathole I wanted to spend some time at this point. Process question: there are options: once one wants to talk about legally semantic elements. We could appoint ourselves and say we know what are all the words and then we'll announce. This will be more or less applicable. There could be a core of elements or they could be user definable. Some things that are common. Users can also define their own. We could create a starter core that you may use, but you don't have to use. You don't have to use our tag for "acknowledgment" but you can do something based on the namespace. Finally, there will be something that is fully user specified.
William Jennings: I was confident of what we are doing with respect to court filing. With contracts I understand much less. Is this not part of the issue.
Dan Greenwood: There are modeling languages, such as UML that allow us to do use cases. The best part is that you identify use cases on how people will use the software, then you know what to do. What are the use cases? We need to do that. Part of why we haven't don't this yes is that we need to contact our colleagues. We need to do some outreach.
After lunch, Todd gave a short update on the Research, Signatures, and (PKI) Policy workgroups. These groups are not presently active. Todd also announced that an Australian workgroup was about to be formed. There is also a possibility that an ETerms workgroup will be formed to further the activity of the International Chamber of Commerce's ETerms working party.
Regrets from John Messing and Neil Iscoe, SIGNATURES co-chairs, who planned to come to the meeting, but could not.
John McClure, co-chair of CONTRACTS, opened up the meeting after lunch. Although he presented with respect to contracts, his message was technical. As a result, his presentation was combined with the HORIZONTAL and TECHNICAL discussion.
The following is not a detailed record of the technical discussion. Discussion was lively. The following reflects the outcome of these discussions.
Chair: Winchel 'Todd' Vincent
The administrative update contained five topics:
The primary theme of the first four topics was that Legal XML is growing. The rate of growth has been increasing. In October, November, and December, 1999, an average of almost twenty-five (25) people joined each month. In January and February, 2000, nearly forty (40) people per month joined.
The good news is that the idea of open, non-proprietary technical standards for the legal industry has a following. However, the process is not simply a technical development effort. The technical volunteers need both administrative and political support. The bad news, therefore, is that growth of Legal XML is resulting in an overwhelming amount of work. Todd is becoming a bottleneck and things are not getting done.
To alleviate the problem and grow Legal XML, an organizing committed should be formed to explore the possibility of forming a non-profit organization. The goal would to be create an organization that could handle increased membership. A number of people who might be on the organizing committee were suggested, given their past and present interest and activity. When asked what role he would play, Todd suggested that it might be best if he acted as an advisor to the committee, rather than being a member of it. The committee would be responsible for determining scope, mission, and governance. A document would be drafted for ratification by Legal XML membership. John Grecean exclaimed loudly, "Let's do it."
The non-profit would need funding and should have a professional staff. There are various funding sources, including volunteers or angel investors (in the short-term), grants, membership and registration fees, partnerships with existing organizations, university sponsorship, or advertising relationships. The value proposition for members, among other things, would be creating and influencing open, non-proprietary technical standards for the legal industry, membership services from full-time, professional staff, marketing, industry exposure, networking, and education.
The audience asked Todd what role he would play in the new organization. Nick Finke asked whether Todd wanted to play a role in the new organization. Todd said it was an open question and would depend on what membership wanted. Todd said that he was exploring various opportunities so it also depends on what Todd wants.
One of the things that is unique to Legal XML is that unlike other vertical industry standards organizations, Legal XML's membership is weighted heavily with public sector entities. Legal XML membership is approximately 50% private companies, 25% public entities, and 25% non-profit and academic. Experience with Legal XML thus far has show that government and private interest are different.
There are four places where government and private interest needed to be harmonized:
Given past experience, government members are most often going to be unable or unwilling to pay membership or registration fees. Government participation is absolutely necessary. As a result, private companies would be the primary financial supporters of a standards organization in which both private and public members participate.
Some government members have expressed concern about private sponsorship. They do not want to feel "beholden" to private companies, especially when negotiating government contracts.
Some government members have expressed an interest in developing "open source" code. "Open source" code is developed by volunteers much in the same what that Legal XML is developing open, non-proprietary "data" standards. Private companies are interested in open, non-proprietary "data" standards because they can build proprietary software on top of them. The ability to communicate with other proprietary products through open "data" standards is therefore good for business. Government, has a potential interest not only in "data" standards, but also in developing "open source" code. LINUX, the operating system that competes with Microsoft's Windows operating system, is developed in this way. A government "open source" effort is, therefore, potentially at odds with private company interests.
Finally, government has the power to dictate. Experience has show that government often wants to "control." The idea of developing open standards is that a community of people with actual or potential adverse interests come together in a group in a cooperative and collaborative environment. The propensity of government to want to "control" is not conducive to a cooperative and collaborative environment.
There are several issues related to the Legal XML website. There are several things that need to be done, but that are not getting done. Content updates to the web site, an ongoing responsibility is not happening as fast as it should. Workgroup chairs have been asking for individual web sites. This project is underway, but is not completed despite best efforts. It is simply a matter of limited time and resources. There is a need to simplify Legal XML password system. There needs to be an automated way to add new workgroups and a more automated way to add new members.
Given that privacy is an important issue, there needs to be feedback from the group about publication of Legal XML membership lists. Several chairs have asked for access to the names and email addresses of the members on their lists. There needs to be feedback about whether we should make membership lists open on the Internet, open only to Legal XML members, or open only to Legal XML participants or chairs. Consensus was that it was acceptable to publish the membership list to Legal XML participants and especially to workgroup chairs. Todd agreed to make this information available on a going forward basis.
Loki Technologies has volunteered to redesign the Legal XML website. Loki has the Legal XML database as well as all files for the Legal XML website. Need feedback on this issue. Consensus was that this relationship is acceptable, but that there should be a formal memorandum of understanding between Loki and Legal XML (Georgia State Research Foundation).
An issue that is potentially very important to the group is that FindLaw (http://www.findlaw.com/) owns the Legal XML domain name and is allowing the continued use of it, provided that the organization continues to support open, non-proprietary standards. The relationship is a good one and there are no immediate concerns. However, membership should be aware that the domain is owned by a private company.
Finally, the software used for the Legal XML mailing lists, L-Soft, costs money. So far, Todd's Electronic Court Filing project at Georgia State University (funded by Georgia Courts Automation Commission) has paid $2,000 for the software license, although there is no money earmarked for this purpose. Each list costs $100 provided there are under 150 people on the list. New lists are being added and two of the lists are approaching 150 people (meaning the cost will double for these lists).
The last portion of the Legal XML administrative update was a proposal by WestFile (WestGroup) and the Federal Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts (AO/USC) (located in Washington, D.C.) to alter the Legal XML Operating Rules and Intellectual Property Policy (the General Public License). Phil Ytterberg (WestFile) delivered the proposal with Robert Boroschoff (AO/USC). The substance of the proposal was that the General Public License should be amended so that users of the standards can unilaterally make "extensions" to core parts of the standard, provided that all "extensions" are published back to Legal XML. A discussion ensued, but no decisions were made. WestFile and AO/USC agreed to follow-up with proposed language. Todd agreed to post the language and poll Legal XML members on the matter.
Sponsored by FindLaw and Georgia State University Electronic Court Filing Project. Copyright © 1999-2001 LegalXML, Inc. All Rights Reserved. General Public Licenses and Disclaimers apply as specified in Legal XML Operating Rules