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Subject: Re: [legalcitem-courts] Usecase--US Federal Courts draft


Looks like a good start!

This raises some questions about scope, I think. (The questions
themselves are at the end.)

Printed citation forms identify the resource, but involve a step of
interpretation for several of the elements. We would need to know
those should be cast in the electronic representation of the
reference. Taking the first example ...

(1) case name string
    Is there a formula or a set of constraints for deriving this from
the header information in a judgment? If it must be uniform across all
citations to the case, it should either be possible to derive it
programmatically, or there should be a canonical version of the case
name somewhere that can be acquired via a resolver, using other
elements that uniquely identify the case (I guess that's the middle
layer in FRBR).

(2) volume number
    This would be an integer for this category of citation. Is it safe
to specify it as an integer, or are there exceptions that would
require more flexibility?

(3) reporter abbreviation
    As the LRR shows, there is a lot of variation in reporter
abbreviations used in the wild (spacing, punctuation, abbreviations).
If it is used as an element in an electronic representation of the
reference, the abbreviation will need to be consistent across all
references. How is it to be derived? The choice would seem to be
between a canonical list of reporters and corresponding abbreviations,
or the full name of the reporter. A secondary consideration would be
whether the elements embedded in a reporter abbreviation (journal +
series) should be broken out and represented separately.

(4) first page number
    This seems an integer. Same question about constraints as for volume number.

(5) pinpoint page numbers
    Pinpoints can include references to page numbers, note numbers,
and possibly other document elements. Should these elements be
specified, or is a dumb string sufficient?

(6) circuit justice if applicable
    This raises a question of whether the spec is aimed at full
description of the resource, or at pinning down the essential
information needed to unambiguously identify the resource. If the
latter, this would not be needed.

(7) year of decision
    In this citation form, are the year of decision and the year of
publication always aligned?

(8) parenthetical information such as judge, type of document, weight
of authority
    This raises the same question as (6).

(9) the court
    SCOTUS citations are to a dedicated reporter, so the court is
implicit. Should this be made explicit in an electronic citation?
Alternatively, should reporters be made a separate domain in the
specification, so that such information can be attached to each?


I guess a threshold question is the scope of the spec:

  (a) Does it aim to express the elements of all existing printed
citations (this is also Brian's question, I think); or
  (b) Does it aim to specify only the elements of all printed
citations needed to uniquely identify the resource; or
  (c) Does it aim to specific only the minimum elements (or
combination of elements) needed to uniquely identify the resource?

If the aim is the enrichment of document content with RDF-style links
to meaningful text elements, that suggests (a).

If the aim is to support parsers capable to linking specifically to
cases, that suggests (b) -- this is the aim of the CourtListener
database from which the LRR is derived.

If the aim is to provide guidance for the construction of resolvers
and data to feed to them, that suggests (c). My understanding is that
this is what we're aiming for, but I could be wrong.


On Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 6:34 AM, John Quentin Heywood
<heywood@wcl.american.edu> wrote:
> Hey folks,
> Following our meeting last week, and John Joergensen's gentle chiding
> that perhaps we were getting too much into the weeds and needed to be
> much simpler in approach, I said I would undertake an attempt to write
> something up about US federal court citations. I have made a stab at it,
> which is attached below. Please let me know what you think, good or bad.
> Am I on the right track? I will post it to the doc depository on OASIS
> as well.
> John
> --
> John Quentin Heywood
> heywood@american.edu
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