AfricanLII is a programme of the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town. We help individuals, organizations, and governments build and maintain sustainable free access to law portals, and reach the people of Africa and beyond. We convene a network of 16 African LIIs - a collaborative group of organizations and individuals in Africa, dedicated to free access to law on our continent. AfricanLII is acutely aware of the difficulties of legal research, and the importance of facilitating search. We decided to embark on three projects to add value to the raw data in our database by making our content easier to find and use. These we the Citator, Summarizer, and Classifier.
About the application
Citator. Summariser. Classifier.
A Citator is a tool which allows you to track the history of your case and the treatment of your case by subsequent courts. Citators allow you to determine if your case is still good law and it acts as a research tool allowing you find other cases (and other secondary materials) which cited your case. Read more about this invaluable legal research tool at UWash. The Citator application automatically extracts references to other cases from the body of a judgment. It does this by looking for patterns in the text that look like a case reference. The AfricanLII citator looks up references to case names, case numbers and case citations, thus being able to overcome the difficulties presented by the sporadic and unreliable law reporting practices of many African countries. We are then able to match up these extracted citations with cases in our database, and external URLs where available to us, to provide links to cases referred to and noter uppers. AfricanLII would in particular like to express our gratitude to BAILII, who kindly allowed us to make use of their URI resolver, for providing some of these links. We would also like to thank RenderIntent for their work on the user interface of the citator.
LIIs have accumulated large collections of judgments, which are often presented in non-edited form. Users have asked us time and again to provide short summaries and assist them to to determine whether or not a precedent is applicable to their matter. The Summariser application automatically summarises judgments to allow users to quickly determine whether or not a case is of interest to them when searching. The summariser application works by extracting key phrases from the document, and also using Artificial Intelligence to look for sentences in the judgment that cover the key topics in the judgment.
Classifying documents into a taxonomy can make search easier by:
- Allowing users to filter search results by topic.
- Allowing users to subscribe to updates from a particular topic
- Being used along with the summarizer to help users determine whether or not a judgment is of interest at a glance
AfricanLII recently completed our proof-of-concept classification algorithm, which has demonstrated substantial success. We will be launching the full product soon.