Iperinflex: A Hypertext for Legislative Drafting

Autore:Pietro Mercatali

1. Hypertexts and Legislative Drafting - 2. Legislative Drafting - 3. Automated- Legislative Drafting (Legimatics) - 4. Early Automated Legislative Drafting Systems - 4.1. Lexedit - 4.2. Lexeditor - 4.3. IRI-AL - 4.4. LEDA - 5. Structure and Function of an Automated Legislative Drafting Tool - 6. Iperinflex Description - 6. Glosses - 7. Iperinflex Prospects - References


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@1. Hypertexts and Legislative Drafting

Difficulties in consulting and understanding legislative texts are the major concerns of an extensive literature dealing with accurate analyses and widely rooted commonplaces. Highly qualified research has indicate that there are four main problems experienced with legislation resulting from statutes lacking simplicity and clarity.1

- Language, The language of statutes is obscure and complex, its meaning elusive and its effect uncertain.

- Over-elaboration. Statutes are often Over-elaborated in their quest for certainty in the expression of the legislative intention.

- Structure. The internal structure and sequencing of clauses within statutes is poorly arranged and often illogical.

- Arrangement and Amendment Statutes are enacted and amended in a form that makes it frequently impossible to ascertain the current state of the law with respect to a given subject.2

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This article concerns the description of IPERINFLEX a computer-based tool aimed at reducing reading difficulties deriving from the bad structure of the text and especially from the complex integration amongst legislative texts. Paper (namely printed paper) is the most used support for divulgating and consulting statutes. The paper support in an easy and user-friendly way for reading a text in a continuous and sequential form. If the law, also in consideration of how it is divuigated, has assumed the form of a continuous and sequential text, the same cannot be always stated for its contents. The norm is a whole changes, integrations and intetpretations intercross and where, normally (that being a rule with many exceptions), a new utterance does not replace (or does not completely replace) the previous, one but is addedf integrating or modifying it.

So far computer-aided systems have reproduced and maintained the sequential structure of the paper support but unfortunately, have broken continuity. In fact displaying a spread sheet document on a computer screen implies a fragmentary consulting mode. Normally, in the case of an act, the screen shows only one article thus hindering both the comprehensive view and the possibility of moving from on point of the article to another like in a book,

Moreover, the printing quality of documents in computer files is poorer than in printed texts. Very often, only capital letters are utilized, the use of heavy and italic type is very uncommon, special printing signs are not available, text identing is not accurate, etc. These deficiencies may be considered as nonessential aspects but our belief is that, due to this organizational and display approach of the computer-based document preference is still given to printed documents. Nobody would be particularly excited about reading a novel on a computer screen!

Informatics has now found two solutions for these reading and consulting drawbacks.

  1. Improvement in input tools and word processing systems is positively affecting the print quality of stored documents. Tanks to text recognition programs, it is possible for a text to be quickly stored with all its printing features. Word processing and desk top pulishing programs can manipulate the text structure by improving its formal quality and adjusting it to computer editing,

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  2. Hypertext-oriented systems allow links and navigation amongst the pieces of one document or different documents. Hypertext Is a tool - or a whole of computer-based tools - that can Interlink two or more texts according to a semantic network-like structure matching the human brain. Links can be activated by anchoring them to any data (a word, a sign, an Image, an expression...) and this tool, starting from that datum, allows other Information or documents to be retrieved* Therefore, this makes It possible to draft a virtual text based on a set of Information linked together on a conceptual basis In an easy way.

    This system makes consulting a non sequential legal text easier in that it is formed by subsequent clusters, linked by conceptual of formal recalls. We want to underline that the difficulty due to the sequential structure for both traditional computer-based and paper supports Is Overeorae; the lack of physical continuity for the computerized text Is overwhelmed by providing a conceptual continuity; the limited possibility of moving from one point to the other of a document Is Increased; the difficulty of moving Inside a document and among documents (also difficult for paper) Is easily ensured by browsing and navigating activities.

    @2. Legislative Drafting

    Legislative drafting or legistik3 is a special legal discipline for drafting legislative texts and making them clearer and more easily applicable, thus overcoming the reading and understanding obstacles mentioned above.

    In Italy, origins of the technique, or better, of the "modern" science of legislation, date back to the stuthes conducted by illuministic jurists, such as Muratori [Muratori 1780] and Pllangleri [Pllangleri 1742], In the last century and the beginning of this century, under the Influence of Empirism of the British School, "the Ideale of a legislation science as it was conceived by Filangieri and supported by the other illuministic thinkers, was gradually replaced, In the contemporary legal culture, by a model of 'legislative draftings' intended as an operational method for drafting and communicating "the legal message""[Frosini 1988].

    In recent years, the work carried out by the Barettonl Committee [Ba-rettoni, 1983] has given impulse to legislative drafting techniques. This layed the basis both for providing a series of rules for national and local Page 88 law makers and for drawing deeper attention to legal authority through stuthes and seminars, university courses and specialized schools.4

    In 1986 a Ministerial circular was issued that gathered and extended the suggestions indicated by the Barettoni Committee. This circular elaborated by the draftsmen of the Chamber of Deputies and? at the same time, issued by the Prime Minister and by the Speakers of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, thus becoming an integrated part of the internal regulations of the Chambers [Fusaro 1986],

    Afterwards, the structure of Parliament and Government, entrusted with the activity of legislative draftings was better defined and trengthened. A proper drafting office was set up at the Senate, while the Chamber of Deputies was assigned with new tasks and tools for assisting Parliament Commissions in drafting legislative texts [Manzella 1991]. The statute no. 400 of 1988 established that a central office for coordinating Government legislative activities and initiatives should be set up at the Premier's Office. This statute requires to indicate any normative incongruities and antinomies in the annual reports to be presented to the Prime Minister and to the relevant Ministers and to be transmitted to the Speakers of the two Chambers.5

    This activity led about ten Regional Councils to adopt some rules and suggestions related to legislative drafting techniques and to enact regulations, circulars, recommendations.

    Thanks to these instructions, the Handbook of Rules and Suggestions for Drafting Legislation was issued6. In 1989, in Palermo, a work team promoted by the 'Osservatorio Legislative Interregionale' under the direction of Prof. G.U. Rescigno, presented this new Handbook. Afterwards, it was reviewed by a proper Committee formed by Regional, Parliament and Government draftsmen and by experts in legislative techniques and in legal informatics. The Handbook is currently used by Regional legal drafters as an official and homogeneous Manual and is a reference point for Parliament and Government which should finally adopt it.7

    Thanks to these numerous initiatives affecting various fields of appli- Page 89 cation, Over a ten years' period, a series of normative, technical and cultural tools have been issued to offer a helpful support to the legislator.8

    @3. Automated- Legislative Drafting (Legimatics)9

    Over the past years, legslative drafting has gained strenght after being outshone by the supremacy of the interpretation theory.

    Informatics provides legislative' drafting with new algorithms, new tools and legslative drafting is discovering informatics as a suitable tool to manage the models it has produced. All the more so because, if these models are computer-compatible, they prove being technically valid; it can also be stated that the more these models are valid, the more they are computer-compatible. However, it is not advisable to rely on informatics for creating the models and structures of the legislative text or, better, for delegating the solutions connected with al the problems of vagueness uncertainty and non-coordination of norms, It is the 'legislative engineer' who has to face there tasks with, legal, linguistic, logical and political expertise, Informatics will allow most users - even if they lack this knowledge compared with the expert in legislative drafting - to apply and manage adequate solutions in a more sure, quick, updated and homogeneous way.

    Rescigno indicates the nature of the relationship between informatics and legislative drafting10: "from now on, those who discuss topics related to legislative drafting techniques should constantly be in contact with those who can provide computer-aided tools. This does not mean that we must Page 90 all become experts in legal knowledge based systems: it means that the law expert collaborates with the expert in legal knowledge based systems and vice versa..." [Rescigno 1990].

    Over the past years, this resulted in a coooperation that has never stopped. From one side, lawyears with computer knowledge have helped issuing rules for drafting legislation which were contained in the final drawing of the Handbook. It has not been an easy task to conciliate computer needs with the draftsman and legislator demands. Obviously, where conciliation was not possible...

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