McGeorge School of Law

Finerty's UELMA Efforts About to Pay Off

June 25, 2012

Michele Finerty

Michele Finerty

Michele Finerty, Assistant Director for Technical Services at McGeorge's Gordon D. Schaber Law Library, was asked by the American Association of Law Libraries to be the point person in Sacramento to support the enactment of the Uniform Electronic Legal Material Act (UELMA) in California and her work is moving toward fruition.

Finerty established a core group, comprised of her and three other experienced law librarian legislative advocates, representing northern, central and southern California. Their work supports the advocacy of Diane Boyer-Vine, Legislative Counsel of California, to get the bill to enact UELMA in California, SB 1075, passed.

UELMA is a unique development in the delivery of primary legal information. State governments publish primary legal materials online in order to promote access and transparency.

Many such sites offer disclaimers that the accuracy and currency of the information cannot be guaranteed. The problem remains that unless the online legal material is required by rule or statute to be authentic, there is no certainty that it is in its original form, up to date, accurate and permanent.

Following up on the American Association of Law Libraries 2007 State-by-State Report on the Authentication of Online Legal Resources, the Council of State Governments surveyed legislative websites in each of the 50 states. Their findings indicated that in the majority of the states, online legal documents are not official. To counter this, the Uniform Law Commission approved UELMA in July 2011, and recommended that it be enacted in each state. UELMA was approved by the ABA at its meeting in New Orleans in February 2012.

UELMA provides what the commission terms "an outcomes-based approach to the authentication and preservation" of online primary legal materials. Each state would be required to assure the information's integrity. To facilitate this initiative, UELMA allows the individual states to choose the most cost-effective and best method for authentication and preservation. As technologies evolve over time, this will permit individual states to respond to the changes as needed. Colorado recently enacted UELMA, and it is currently moving forward in Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

SB1075, sponsored by the California Senate Committee on Rules, has passed the Senate, and is now in the Assembly. The bill provides that the California Constitution, the state statutes, and the California Codes will be the authenticated online documents. The bill leaves open the option to include additional categories of legal material through amendment, and it establishes that the official publisher of the electronic legal material is the Legislative Counsel Bureau of California. SB1075 is slated to become operative on July 1, 2015.