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Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act

Another note-worthy item from this past summer is the approval of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) by the Uniform Law Commission, also known as the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), at its annual meeting in July.

A uniform law is a legislative proposal drafted by NCCUSL, a non-governmental body. Once approved, state legislatures are urged to enact the law, thus developing a uniformity of law across the states (think Uniform Commercial Code).

UELMA takes an outcomes based approach, and requires that official electronic legal material be authenticated, preserved, and accessible for use by the public. For purposes of the Act, legal material includes the state constitution, session laws, codified laws or statutes, and state agency rules with the effect of law. States may also choose to include other types of legal material such as court rules, judicial decisions, and administrative decisions.

NCCUSL’s approval of the UELMA is a particularly exciting development, full of possibility. The extent of the impact will, of course, depend on what happens now in the 50 states. Librarians, library associations, and all supporters of permanent public access to legal information should pay attention, make their voices heard on the state level, and work with their legislators.

In my view, UELMA is a positive step toward permanent public access to state law.

For more, see the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act committee page, which includes approved text, drafts, and issue memoranda.