ULC

News

Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act Approved

(July 12, 2011) -

 

Uniform Law Commission
111 N. Wabash Ave., Suite 1010, Chicago, IL  60602
312-450-6600, www.nccusl.org

Contact:                 Katie Robinson, ULC Communications Officer, Katie.robinson@uniformlaws.org 
                                Michael Kerr, ULC Legislative Director, michael.kerr@uniformlaws.org

For Immediate Release:

New Act Provides Procedures for Authenticating Official State Online Legal Material 

July 12, 2011 — A new act approved today by a national law group establishes an outcomes-based, technology-neutral framework for providing online legal material with the same level of trustworthiness traditionally provided by publication in a law book.  The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act was approved today by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) at its 120th Annual Meeting in Vail, Colorado.

Increasingly, state governments are publishing laws, statutes, agency rules, and court rules and decisions online.  In some states, important state-level legal material is no longer published in books, but is only available online.  While electronic publication of legal material has facilitated public access to the material, it has also raised concerns.  Is the legal material official, authentic, government data that has not been altered?  For the long term, how will this electronic legal material be preserved?  How will the public access the material 10, 50, or 100 years from now?  The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act provides a consistent approach to solving these problems.

The Act requires that official electronic legal material be: 

  • Authenticated, by providing a method to determine that it is unaltered;
  • Preserved, either in electronic or print form; and
  • Accessible, for use by the public on a permanent basis.

If a state preserves legal material electronically, it must provide for back-up and recovery, and ensure the integrity and continuing usability of the material. 

At a minimum, legal material that is covered by the Act includes the state constitution, session laws, codified laws or statutes, and state agency rules with the effect of law are covered.  In addition, states may choose to include court rules and decisions, state administrative agency decisions, or other legal material.  

For each type of legal material, the state must name a state agency or official as the “official publisher.”  For official electronic legal material of that type, the official publisher has the responsibility to authenticate, preserve, and provide access.

If legal material defined by the Act is published only electronically, then it must be designated “official” and meet the requirements of the Act.  If there is a print version of the legal material, an official publisher may designate the online version “official,” but the requirements of the Act to authenticate, preserve, and provide access must be met.

The Act does not affect any relationships between an official state publisher and a commercial publisher, leaving those relationships to contract law.  Copyright laws are also unaffected by the Act.  The Act does not affect the rules of evidence; judges continue to make decisions about the admissibility of electronic evidence in their courtrooms. 

Further information on the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act can be found at the ULC’s website at www.uniformlaws.org.

The drafting committee on the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act was chaired by Michele Timmons of St. Paul, Minnesota.  Other committee members included:  Jerry L. Bassett, Montgomery, Alabama; David D. Biklen, Hartford, Connecticut, Diane F. Boyer-Vine, Sacramento, California; Stephen Y. Chow, Boston, Massachusetts; Vincent C. DeLiberato, Jr., Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Gene H. Hennig, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Steven L. Willborn, Lincoln, Nebraska.  Barbara Bintliff of Austin, Texas, served as the committee’s reporter.

The Uniform Law Commission, now in its 120th year, comprises more than 350 practicing lawyers, governmental lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Uniform law commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws that are designed to solve problems common to all the states.

After receiving the ULC’s seal of approval, a uniform act is officially promulgated for consideration by the states, and legislatures are urged to adopt it.  Since its inception in 1892, the ULC has been responsible for more than 200 acts, among them such bulwarks of state statutory law as the Uniform Commercial Code, the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Partnership Act, and the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act.

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