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Subject: Re: [legaldocml] Bills and Acts

Hi Monica, Tom, Fabio, Flavio, and all,
I am sorry to be bringing this up at this point. I am working across five different legal traditions and it consumes a lot of my time. This distraction has kept me from bringing up issues that arise at the right point in time along the TC timeline. But I still try very hard to make as much time for the TC as I can and I am very committed to make Akoma Ntoso a success.

Through all my projects, I am getting a lot of experience in both the technical and people aspects of introducing a schema. I have learned, the hard way, of the pitfalls of trying to force terminology on someone when it is in conflict with what they already know. When a proposal requires someone to rethink the very models that define the value of their job, it creates a crisis in their lives. They question there own qualifications to be there. They will come to the point where either you and your overly complex ideas or they themselves must go. Chances are, they'll choose to keep their own job. We cannot offer up a standard that, while abstract and self-consistent, is perceived as too different from what people already think they know to be adopted.

For me, there are four broad categories of legislative output and similar output from related but non-legislative agencies. I can see how to handle two of these categories (1 & 3 below), but not the other two.  The four categories are:
1) Proposed Law. These documents become law upon approval. Proper bills, initiatives, propositions, and US joint resolutions are all examples. Broadly categorizing them all as an abstract notion of a bill is acceptable to me - but with a clear mapping to local terminology.
2) Statements and Opinions. These documents do not become law upon approval. This includes most types of resolutions including, but not limited to, constitutional amendments. Commendatory or commemorative resolutions are other more obvious examples. They will recognize a person's accomplishments or an important event in history, but they don't change the law for anyone. These are not bills! They need a term that does not imply they become law.
3) Enacted Law: These are the law. Acts, "positive law" codes, ordinances, regulations, and constitutions are examples. I suppose that proclaimed law such as executive orders and decrees will also fall into this category too. Of course, there will be a good dose of controversy as to the validity of these documents, but that is not for us to debate. Broadly categorizing all of these documents as an abstract notion of acts is acceptable to me - but only with a clear mapping to local terminology.
4) Informative classifications or compilations of the law: These are evidence of the law, but are not law. The obvious example are the non-positive titles of the US Code. These documents have never been enacted and are not acts. In fact, I don't believe that the non-positive titles of the US Code are subject to any scrutiny by Congress itself. They're simply the output of the Law Revision Counsel. They're an index of sorts. I believe that some jurisdictions build documents that consolidate amendments to produce a new informative, but not authoritative, document. I would guess that this document would also fall within this category as it is not enacted.
I am of the opinion that all four categories need to be treated distinctly in order that a system may correctly interpret how these documents relate to law without having to understand localized meaning. For instance, a constitutional amendment reads as an amendment to the constitution. In fact, it looks quite a bit like a normal bill. But upon passage, it does not change the constitution. It is a recommendation to the people only. In the somewhat unlikely event that the proposition that results passes a general election, only then will the constitution change. How can a system, without any special knowledge of local terminology, understand that the amendments contained with a constitutional amendment do not apply despite passage of the document?
Secondly, I believe that there needs to be a simple and clear way to map familiar local terminology into the tags used by Akoma Ntoso. You might be tempted to refer to "normative" tags and developing ontologies or taxonomies that map into them in some elegant fashion, but that is going to fly over the heads of the people most resistant to the use of abstract terminology. The solution must be obvious to someone whose focus is a day-to-day job within a single legislature.
Thanks for taking the time for hearing my concern,

On Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 6:43 AM, Thomas R. Bruce <tom@liicornell.org> wrote:
On 2/7/13 6:31 PM, monica.palmirani wrote:
Dear Grant,

So we decided in AKOMA to use a different approach: to use neutral categories coming from the theory of law and not from a list of document nomenclature, list that each country could interpreted in different way. Example: US uses "bill" with a particular meaning in a such particular step of the process, but in Australia bill has a different meaning, and also in California bill is different respect House of Representative bill, and in UK the same, without to speak in Italy (we have several different bills: from government, from parliament, from people, from regions).

So let me start on the fact that we used more abstract categories coming from the theory of law: LAW, ACT and BILL (uppercase) belong to general theory of law definitions in this sense and not represent "the bill" "the act" as concrete document in a country tradition.

Sorry, but I must agree with Grant on this matter -- to the point of insistence.  This is not a philosophical point; it's a pragmatic political issue.  The people that we wish to adopt AkomaNtoso need to find it recognizable. You may argue all you want that you have, for sound reasons, chosen a single term to serve as an abstraction covering many.  But if they hear something used generally for which there is a specific meaning, they will doubt your expertise and the soundness of the standard.  To them, it sounds as though you're pointing at a cow and telling them it's a chair, when in fact you've chosen "chair" to mean "all things beginning with the letter c".

That is particularly so when you jump branches. Grant has a horror of referring to resolutions as "bills";  I suspect it will be even worse if you refer to an executive branch document like a proposed rule (regulation) or an ANPRM (advance notice of proposed rulemaking) as a "bill".

Put another way, all the arguments that have led you to allow localization of the names of nested elements for text structure (parts, sections, chapters, etc) apply to this as well.

I believe it needs to be fixed, not as an intellectual matter, but as a matter of credibility with the people we are trying to persuade to use the standard.

All  the best,
Thomas R. Bruce
Director, Legal Information Institute
Cornell Law School
twitter: @trbruce

Grant Vergottini
Xcential Group, LLC.
email: grant.vergottini@xcential.com
phone: 858.361.6738

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