Friday, March 9, 2012

A Glimpse of Linked Legal Data: U.S. Named Statutes

At tax26.com, we are trying to push the envelope of digitization of primary tax law. Early on, we worked to convert references in documents to other parts of the law, regulations, etc. This gets us closer to a digital linked data set, but anyone who has looked at legal citations can tell you that this is a never ending task. One of the challenges is to convert the references that are made to individual statutes, as opposed to the U.S. Code. So, for example, references may be made to the Olympic Commemorative Coin Act, but where has that been classified in the U.S. Code? The Law Revision Council maintains an amazing Popular Names table, that points to the classification of named statutes, where possible. (See here) However, that table is in pdf format and, as far as I could find, there is no spreadsheet or database representation connecting a statute with its place in the code. So Serge Ulitin, the talented data whiz who I work with, took on this task and has converted the Popular Names table to digital form: http://www.tax26.com/laws/named-acts This provides a listing of the statutes and, where possible, the source in the U.S. Code has been linked. This allows us to capture many more of the references to these "Named Acts" in the Code itself. The conversion is not perfect, and a lot of clean up is still needed, but this is one more of the steps that is needed to fulfill the promise of digital law I spoke of in the last post. I welcome your thoughts and comments.