A lot of “law & tech” endeavors often widen the gap between the legal haves and have-nots (think “digital dead end“), but this Law Decoded project (in progress) shows real promise, in addition to having a high cool factor, which never hurts. And even if it stalls, the intention, to make the law truly readable and “accessible” to all, should never be forgotten or lost in that legal-tech forest where you find a plethora of fancier A2J endeavors.
“Discover the Code of Virginia: THE LAWS OF VIRGINIA, FOR NON-LAWYERS.
Virginia Decoded provides the Code of Virginia on one friendly website. Inline definitions, cross-references, bulk downloads, a modern API, and all of the niceties of modern website design. It’s like the expensive software lawyers use, but free and wonderful….” [Link to Virginia Decoded.]
This is a quick and dirty guide to free and not-free (usually subscription) databases for this kind of research; it is not a comprehensive list. (And novice researchers should be reminded that the same statutory language is not always used across states to accomplish the same purpose.)
- Lexis Zimmerman’s Research Guide, under “State Laws, generally” for some research tips.
As part of their Open States project, the Sunlight Foundation recently released their Open Legislative Data Report Card. They rated each state legislature’s website on the following criteria: completeness; timeliness; ease of access; machine readability; standards; permanence. You can read more details about the criteria behind the ratings at their blog. The Report Card also offers details on some of the ratings for each state (for example, why Missouri scored highly on permanence). The final tally of grades was:
- A: 8 states
- B: 11 states