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KU News Release

April 28, 2009
Contact: Michelle Ward, Information and Telecommunication Technology Center, (785) 864-4776.

New online search tool developed for legal researchers

LAWRENCE — The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center and the School of Law at the University of Kansas have developed a powerful online search tool for legal researchers. MetaJuris, a metasearch engine, simultaneously searches various legal databases for cases, statutes and literature citations. The free service, metajuris.ittc.ku.edu/, is open to the public.

Subscription-based databases dominate online legal research. In addition to their prohibitive costs, Michael Hoeflich, the John H. and John M. Kane Distinguished Professor of Law, notes the software requires special training. Hoeflich envisioned a user-friendly “one-stop shop” for legal research and approached ITTC because of its expertise in software development.

“My purpose was to provide a fast, free search capability which would permit not only lawyers, but everyone access to crucial legal documents,” Hoeflich said. “Metajuris, I believe, does that.”

“Professor Hoeflich had a great idea, and with ITTC expertise, the technology was developed into a working prototype. As the technology matures, we hope to find a commercial partner to further develop its utility,” said Keith Braman, director of technology commercialization for ITTC.

ITTC Lead Software Engineer Danico Lee designed and developed MetaJuris. Users enter search words from which MetaJuris creates and submits queries to targeted legal databases, she explained. Version 2.0 searches six databases: PreCYdent, which contains U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals cases; PLoL (Public Library of Law), which includes those cases plus cases from all 50 states since 1997 and other law, codes and regulations; kscourts, which searches state cases; Legalbitstream, for its capacity to search both tax cases and Internal Revenue Service rulings; and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings Web site. MetaJuris then parses and integrates the hits, sorting them in reverse chronological order. For each result, the case name, its date, a synopsis and a link to the relevant citation are given.

In fall 2008, law students in two different classes, Contracts and Professional Responsibility, were asked to use and evaluate MetaJuris. Lee said students frequently used the metasearch engine, and it received positive comments.

“MetaJuris helps me find the most influential and authoritative cases on a particular issue,” said Brian Jansen, a first-year law student who used the metasearch last fall.

The Information and Telecommunication Technology Center advances knowledge and creates innovative technologies in telecommunications, information systems, bioinformatics and radar. As one of KU’s most high-profile research centers, ITTC’s resources, affiliated faculty members and state-of-the-art facilities support a variety of multidisciplinary projects. As a KTEC Center of Excellence, ITTC is committed to the continued growth and diversity of the state’s economy. Under faculty guidance, graduate and undergraduate students in ITTC conduct fundamental research and develop strategic solutions for Kansas companies and national industries.

Hoeflich holds degrees from Haverford College, Cambridge University and Yale Law School. He taught at the University of Illinois from 1980-1988, was dean of the Syracuse University College of Law from 1988-1994 and was dean at the KU School of Law from 1994-2000. Hoeflich is the author or editor of seven books and more than 70 articles. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of the American Antiquarian Society and the Kansas Correspondent of the Selden Society.

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