Towards enhanced public access to legal information: a proposal for official networked one-stop legal information websites
This article identifies the publishing of fragments of legal information on multiple, isolated official legal information websites (OLIWs) as the major factor underlying the existing problems in locating the available official online legal information of all levels of government (national, state, and local). Given this situation, knowledge of the administrative divisions and legal system of a country is often necessary to perform any reliable search for the websites of each legislature, court, government department or agency that contain legal information. Such knowledge usually requires research, which is more demanding should a person wish to know the laws of other countries for transnational academic research, business transactions, migration, tourism, etc. Examination of the OLIWs of the 51 countries included in this study reveals the existence of this problem in both developed and developing countries. As a response, a novel system of official networked one-stop legal information websites (‘the ONOLIWs system’) is developed in this article, and argued to be the definitive solution to the global problems outlined. The ONOLIWs system guarantees the availability of the whole stock of the legal information of a legislative jurisdiction on one single website (the ONOLIW for that jurisdiction) and also easy accessibility of all the ONOLIWs of a country via an exhaustive index. Therefore, the ONOLIWs system will provide optimum access to the official online legal information of any country, the aggregation of which is seamless access to global legal information. It will thereby promote good knowledge of the law, which has many benefits for individuals, organisations, and the state itself. Governments at all levels, intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) that create legal information, and developers of their OLIWs will benefit immensely from the ONOLIWs concept, its implementation mechanism, and the policy framework proposed in this article.
Keywords: Right of public access to legal information; Official networked one-stop legal information websites; Legal Information Top-Level Domains (gTLDs); Law website design; Legal informatics; ICANN