Digital Research Center at Hofstra MENU

Finding Digital Solutions to Problems in Scholarship and Learning

Reasoning Structures in Legal Texts

The Reasoning Structures in Legal Texts (RSLT) project is dedicated to studying the reasoning structures that we can find in legal texts, primarily in judicial and administrative decisions.

This research should be valuable from a number of perspectives, because:

  1. There is not an adequate standard theory of legal reasoning that covers rule-based reasoning, evidence-based factfinding, and policy-based reasoning;
  2. There is not a methodology for natural language processing that can automatically identify and extract such reasoning from legal texts (as an application area of argumentation mining);
  3. There are too few linguistic corpora that annotate legal texts for their associated reasoning structures; and
  4. There are too few educational materials for teaching law students, non-law students, and other interested people the distinctive patterns of reasoning found in law.

The RSLT project therefore has the following goals:

  1. To provide texts excerpted from legal decisions that represent typical patterns of legal reasoning;
  2. To display the logical structure inherent in those representative texts;
  3. To formalize the logical structures or reasoning patterns found in those texts; and
  4. To systematize those various reasoning structures into a general theory.

The project will make publicly available excerpts of legal texts that are annotated to highlight their reasoning structures. This corpus of annotated materials will provide educators with examples to use in academic courses, computational linguists with corpora for research, and legal practitioners and others with insights into the deeper inferential structures found in legal documents.

Project Director:

Vern Walker