Decoder tool promises city laws in "ridiculously useful" open data formats

Fri, 2014-05-16 06:00 -- SCC Staff

AmLegal Decoder is a new tool that promises to seamlessly transform hard-to-use city laws and legal codes into user-friendly open data. It was first deployed in  San Francisco after the Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation, The OpenGov Foundation and American Legal Publishing Corp. teamed up to transform and publish the city’s laws, legal and technical codes at SanFranciscoCode.org. 

“Easy access to laws and legislative information are cornerstones for thriving communities and democracies,” said San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell. “In San Francisco, we live in the global center of technology and innovation, and I believe it’s crucial that legislators and cities find ways for technology to drive and promote further civic engagement – which this partnership helps to accomplish."

AmLegal Decoder, which is open-source software, automatically updates SanFranciscoCode.org and delivers every newly codified city law accessible online for city employees, everyday citizens and anyone else who might need them.

“As John Adams so wisely said, we have ‘a government of laws, not of men.’  How important it is, then, for us all to be able to read and understand the laws that govern us,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and Code for America Director. ”The AmLegal Decoder is a tool for bringing the republic that John Adams and his peers imagined into the 21st century.”

American Legal and The OpenGov Foundation say next up for the Decoder is to enhance and maintain the legal codes of Chicago and Philadelphia, before expanding the America Decoded network to include up to 2,000 additional American Legal client cities.