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Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act: Conference Summary

February 9, 2015 by

The San Diego Association of Law Libraries held a conference on the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) at the University of San Diego on January 9, 2015. This act passed and will be implemented in California, and below I grossly oversimplify summarize the main ideas from this conference.

Back around 2006 many states had their statutes online (E.G. California and Minnesota). The online copies were not official, and they weren’t authenticated either (certified as being accurate copies of the official ones). So the statutes in a lot of states were available on the web, but you couldn’t be sure that they were accurate, and you couldn’t cite any of them to a court. However, some users did discontinue their subscriptions to the official print statutes, and (what's worse) some states discontinued publishing a print copy because the law was online. This meant that in some states there was no copy of the statutes that was was official (and correct) online, and that made accessing the law impossible if the local copy of the official statutes in print had been cancelled.

In 2007 AALL held a summit with many states' officials to discuss this problem. Afterwards the group now called the Uniform Law Commission, but then called something difficult to remember (NCCUSL), created a study committee and then a drafting committee to work on a model law for states to pass (or alter and then pass the particular state’s own form of it) to address this problem. In February of 2012 the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (or UELMA) was shown to the states.

In California the bill created from this act was introduced in the Senate as SB-1075. By September 2012 the California Governor had signed the bill making it a law, and starting this July all California Statutes, Session Laws, and the California Constitution will be authenticated online. To see the authentication and make sure that the law is correct, you will need to open the PDF file with Adobe Reader. There were different choices on how to authenticate and what format to use, and they discussed that at the conference a bit too. (Other options like the SHA and Hash were discussed by Kenneth Hirsh @KenHirsh, V. David Zvenyach @vdavez, Jason Judt,
and Mendora Servin.) California’s choice of PDF and the digital signature seems to have been made to allow folks to see that the document is authenticated without having to connect to the internet and upload the document — so there is a bit less required of the user, but you have to use Adobe. The authenticated PDF will be marked with a seal at the top margin of the page, and the word “authenticated” will be a prominent part of the seal's design.

Conference Materials and recordings of conference sessions are available here: http://www.sandallnet.org/2015-institute/conference-materials

Hat tip to San Diego Association of Law Libraries for putting together the conference.

Last Updated: February 9, 2015


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I am a storyteller, librarian, and a legal research specialist. This site serves as my blog and online résumé.

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