The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act

by Brian Lewis — Friday, May 26, 2017

Uniform Law Commission Acts and Projects

Part 2

The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act

Increasingly, state governments are publishing laws, statutes, agency rules, and court rules and decisions online.  In some states, important state-level legal material is no longer published in books, but is only available online.  While electronic publication of legal material has created public access to the material, it has also raised concerns.  One concern is whether the legal material is official, authentic, government data, which has not been altered.  An additional concern is how will electronic legal material be preserved?  How will the public access the material ten, fifty, or even 100 years from now?

The Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA), which was promulgated by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) in 2011, provides states with an outcomes-based approach to the authentication and preservation of electronic legal material.  The goals of the authentication and preservation program outlined in the act are to:  enable end-users to verify the trustworthiness of the legal material they are using and provide a framework for states to preserve legal material in a way that allows for permanent access.  The UELMA has been enacted in Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington, and West Virginia.  The act has also been introduced in the 2017 legislative session in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Texas.

The UELMA requires that official electronic legal material be:

  1. Authenticated, by providing a method to determine that it is unaltered;
  2. Preserved, in either electronic or print form; and
  3. Accessible, for use by the public on a permanent basis.

If electronic legal material is authenticated, it is presumed to be an accurate copy of the legal material.  The UELMA creates the presumption that authenticated electronic legal material is accurate and that this applies in every other state that has enacted the UELMA.  If one state enacts the UELMA, and authenticates its electronic legal material, its legal material is presumed to be an accurate copy for use in another state that has enacted the UELMA.

The UELMA requires that if a state preserves legal material electronically, it must provide for back-up and recovery, and ensure the trustworthiness and continuing usability of the material.  In recognizing all of the years of experience that states have gained in the preservation of print material, the act places no special requirements on a state that chooses to preserve its legal material in print format.

State policy and preference allow each state to determine which categories of legal information will be included in UELMA’s coverage.  For each category of legal information, an official publisher is named.  The act requires that the official publisher be responsible for executing the terms of the act, regardless of where or by whom the legal material is actually printed or distributed.  The UELMA allows only a state agency, officer, or employee to be the official publisher, although state policy may allow a commercial entity to produce an official version of the state’s legal material.  The UELMA does not interfere with the contractual relationship between a state and a commercial publisher with which the state contracts for the production of its legal material.

Furthermore, the UELMA does not require specific technologies, leaving the choice of technology for authentication and preservation up to the states.

For further information about the UELMA, please contact ULC Legislative Staff, Brian Lewis, at (312) 450-6619 or blewis@uniformlaws.org; or Katie Robinson at (312) 450-6616 or krobinson@uniformlaws.org.

 

This entry was tagged .

About Brian Lewis

Brian Lewis serves as Legislative Counsel for the Uniform Law Commission, a national non-profit whose purpose is to draft state legislation in areas in which uniformity is practical and desirable. Brian works with uniform acts regarding unincorporated business entities, criminal law, and military law. Before joining the Uniform Law Commission, Brian practiced personal injury and criminal law at the Law Office of Tamela T. Walla, PA and served on U.S. Congressman G. K. Butterfield’s congressional staff as Executive Assistant and Grants Manager. Brian is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina Central University School of Law. Brian is licensed to practice law in North Carolina and is also an active member of the American Bar Association Business Law Section and Criminal Justice Section.

Cite As: Author Name, Title, Yale J. on Reg.: Notice & Comment (date), URL.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *