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Law via the internet: free access to law and judicial decisions; solutions and challenges from a Belgian viewpoint

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Public authorities have an important role in guaranteeing a broad and easy access to an objective and representative selection of judicial decisions. In this regard information and communication technology has a facilitating role. Belgian legislation therefore developed a regulatory framework to sustain the electronic availability of court decisions through the portal of the Belgian judiciary. In its analysis, the paper draws attention to the regulatory framework, to privacy concerns that are related to the online publication and to the structure of the database itself. The last mainly concerns the module that enables consultation as well as the module for the decentralised input of decisions. Accessibility of judicial decisions can also be enhanced by standardising the drafting process and thereby enabling an optimal use of information and communication technology. This paper develops arguments regarding the opportunities, for instance in view of facilitating electronic publication and enhancing accessibility, and challenges in this regard. They focus moreover on the question of whether standardisation could endanger a judge's independence, how it could facilitate the 'drafting' as a business process and how labelled information facilitates its interconnection.

Keywords: legal information, e-justice, electronic justice, free access, standardisation, law courts, internet, world wide web, judicial decisions, judgments, Belgium, public authorities, legislation, ICT, information technology, communications technology, regulatory frameworks, portals, judiciary, privacy, online publications, databases, modules, consultation, decentralised input, enhanced accessibility, drafting, judges, independence, interconnections, Juridat, Phenix-I Law, Federal Ministry of Justice, government departments, case law, judgements, business processes

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