State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources

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March 2007

How trustworthy are state-level primary legal resources on the Web? The American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) is pleased to announce the publication of the State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources that answers this very important and timely question. The comprehensive report examines the results of a state survey that investigated whether government-hosted legal resources on the Web are official and capable of being considered authentic.

The new Authentication Report follows the publication in 2003 of AALL's State-by-State Report on Permanent Public Access to Electronic Government Information that researched and reported what, if anything, state governments were doing to meet the enormous challenges of ensuring permanency and public accessibility of government information on the Web. The Permanent Public Access Report raised national awareness and encouraged states to take steps to ensure permanent public access to electronic state government information. As a result, several states have enacted legislation requiring permanent public access

The trustworthiness of online legal resources is fundamental to permanent public access and is inherently a matter of great concern to the legal community. Thus, AALL undertook its investigation of the authenticity of online legal resources in 2006-2007 as an important follow-up and corollary to the Permanent Public Access Report.

The recently published Authentication Report presents the findings of a survey that targeted six sources of law: state administrative codes and registers, state statutes and session laws, and state high and intermediate appellate court opinions. The summary answer to the question of the trustworthiness of these online legal resources is that a significant number of state online resources are official but none are authenticated or afford ready authentication by standard methods. State online primary legal resource are, therefore, not sufficiently trustworthy.

AALL's Authentication Report raises concerns that must be addressed by the states, both as high-level policy decisions and practical matters. AALL believes that the Authentication Report will serve as a guide for states to correct smaller-scale deficiencies in their current dissemination of online legal resources and to initiate long-term progress toward the all-digital legal information environment that will enhance each state's fundamental interaction with its citizens.

AALL's report is not the only step that the Association is taking to address this issue; it is convening a National Summit on Authentication of Digital Legal Information in Chicago on April 20-21, 2007. Approximately fifty delegates from the judiciary, the legal community, state governments, and interested organizations, all of whom share AALL's concern about ensuring the authenticity of digital legal information, will participate in discussions about the Authentication Report findings and will explore legal and technological solutions to ensure that state online legal resources are authenticated and trustworthy.

March 29, 2007

State-by-State Report on Authentication of Online Legal Resources Report

Executive Summary
State Reports