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Cornell Law School Invited to Participate in European Meetings Regarding Global Access to Legal Information

The Hague Conference on Private International Law invited Cornell Law School's Thomas R. Bruce and Claire Germain to join 26 other experts in a discussion about how to provide judges with clear and useful information, particularly in the context of transnational litigation issues.

The Hague Conference on Private International Law is a global inter-governmental organization with 68 member states. Essentially, the Conference builds bridges between legal systems, such as civil or common law, religious or secular law, and others. The agenda of the October meeting was to work toward a multinational convention, which, if approved, will become a binding instrument for countries that ratify it.

Bruce, the Director of Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, was invited because he (with Peter Martin) developed the world's first web site that provided free access to legal information, and because he has written extensively about information policy. The other invited speakers included representatives from the three leading Legal Information Institutes, Cornell Law School's LII, the Australasian LII, and the Canadian Legal Information Institute.

Also participating were law librarians including librarians from the Global Legal Information Network of the U.S. Library of Congress; commercial litigators, academics, and judges specializing in transnational commercial litigation; and people who design transnational legal information systems such as the Italian National Research Council's Institute of Legal Information Theory and Techniques. Germain, the Edward Cornell Law Librarian and Professor of Law at Cornell Law School participated as an expert on comparative law. [Further information on Germain's participation may be found at the Law Library site.]

The meetings concluded with proposed articles in a convention that will be further developed by The Hague Conference. The proposals calls for free access to law worldwide, encouraging national governments to provide authoritative versions of their digital law documents, legislation, court decisions, and regulations. Principles of the convention also included providing translation of the materials, adopting internationally consistent and medium-neutral citation methods, and encouraging other parties to reproduce their legal materials for free public access.

After the meeting at the Hague, Bruce went on to the ninth international conference on "Law Via the Internet: Free Access, Quality of Information, and Effectiveness of Rights" in Florence, Italy, October 30 and 31. Professor Peter Martin, co-founder of Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, also attended the meeting. Bruce and Martin joined similar experts who focused their attention on emerging problems related to new technologies and law. Participants came from all over Europe, as well as from South Africa, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, and Argentina. Bruce chaired the 3rd Plenary Session, titled "Strategic Solutions and Sustainability Models for the Diffusion and Sharing of Legal Knowledge," and presented a paper, "Foundlings on the Cathedral Steps: Public Search, Domain-Enhanced Search, Metadata, and End Users."