Seminar on Artificial Intelligence and Law
Syllabus: Updated, February 26, 2007

Class URL:

Time and Place: Spring Semester, 2007: Tuesdays, 4:00 - 5:50 PM, Law Bldg G13

Professor: Kevin D. Ashley

Law Bldg, 3900 Forbes Ave., Room 525, 648-1495
Learning Research and Development Center, 3939 O'Hara St., Room 519, 624-7496

Materials: Readings will be distributed electronically. Class handouts and other materials will be posted here.

Evaluation and Requirements:

Attendance will be taken on a regular basis throughout the semester. The two main requirements are (1) a seminar paper and short presentation and (2) classroom participation.

Seminar papers and short presentations:  Students will be asked to write a fifteen-to-twenty page paper on a topic of their choice approved by the instructor. A non-exhaustive listing of possible paper topics may be found at sampletopics07.htm. Students should contact the instructor early in the term to discuss appropriate paper topics. This is especially true for those who intend the paper to satisfy their law school writing requirement. Whatever paper topic a student chooses, a student should plan to develop an extended specific example to illustrate his/her point. Graduate students are invited to propose paper topics connecting the seminar material to their own research interests in AI or computer science.


The first draft of each paper will be submitted to the instructor and distributed for peer-review by a small set of other students in the class. The SWoRD program will be used to facilitate the peer-review process. For each paper to review, the peer reviewer will write a brief commentary of the paper evaluating it in terms of a small set of criteria to be posted. The commentaries will be sent to the original author and to the instructor. After receipt of the commentaries, students will prepare a final draft of the paper and submit it to the instructor.


Each author will be asked to make a short oral presentation of his or her paper later in the semester.

Classroom Participation: Students will also be evaluated on the basis of class participation. In order to stimulate classroom discussion and foster understanding of the readings, students will be asked to prepare and submit short (1 page) critiques of assigned readings. Typically, the critique should include four parts: (1) a brief statement of what the paper is about, short descriptions of (2) the strengths of the approach, (3) its weaknesses, and (4) the relevance of the paper to the student’s seminar topic, research project, or something else of interest to the student. These should be submitted electronically to the instructor by noon of a class day.

The instructor will assign individual students responsibility for being prepared to lead discussions of particular readings at the next class. 

Grades will be based on the final draft of a student’s course paper, oral presentation, submission of a substantial first draft for peer review, preparation of peer review commentaries, and classroom participation.

Schedule of Topics and Readings:

[Note: On any given week, the instructor will assign which students should read which papers for the following week’s class.]

I. Introduction to AI & Law Seminar

Date: January 9
Course introduction and discussion of possible paper topics.


II. Overview of AI and Law Research

Date: January 16

AI & Law overview PowerPoint presentation.


  • Buchanan & Headrick. (1970) "Some Speculation about Artificial Intelligence and Legal Reasoning". 23 Stanford L. R. 40-62.
  • Edwina L. Rissland. (1990) "Artificial Intelligence and Law: Stepping Stones to a Model of Legal Reasoning". 99 Yale L.J. 1957-1981.


III. What is Legal Reasoning? What is AI?

Date: January 23

AI & Law PowerPoint presentation


  • Edward H. Levi. (1949) An Introduction to Legal Reasoning. pp. 1-27. University of Chicago Press.
  • K. D. Ashley and S. Brüninghaus (2006) “Computer Models for Legal Prediction.” Jurimetrics Journal Vol. 46, pp. 309-352.

Background Readings on legal reasoning and AI [optional]:

  • K. N. Llewellyn. The Bramble Bush: On Our Law and Its Study. pp. 19-76. Oceana Publications, Dobbs Ferry, NY, 1960 edition, 1930. [At Reserve Desk.]
  • Edwina L. Rissland. "Artificial Intelligence: Knowledge Representation", "Artificial Intelligence: Search, Control and Learning". Chapter 4 and 5 of Cognitive Science, an Introduction. 2d Edition. pp. 139-214. Bradford Books / MIT Press. 1985. Cambridge, MA. [At Reserve Desk.]


IV. Legal Production Rule Systems and Logical Representations of Statutes

Date: January 30


  • D. A. Waterman and M. Peterson. Models of Legal Decisionmaking. Technical Report R-2717-1CJ. pp. v-xii, 1-55. Rand Corporation. Santa Monica, CA. 1981.
  • M. J. Sergot, F. Sadri, R. A. Kowalski, F. Kriwaczek, P. Hammond, and H. T. Cory. "The British Nationality Act as a Logic Program". Communications of the ACM, 29(5):370--386, May 1986


V. Problems with Logical Representations of Statutes

Date: February 6


  • Layman E. Allen and C. R. Engholm. "Normalized Legal Drafting and the Query Method". 29 Journal of Legal Education 380-412. 1978.
  • Layman E. Allen and Charles S. Saxon. "Some Problems in Designing Expert Systems to Aid Legal Reasoning". In Proceedings of First International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law, pp. 94-103. Northeastern University, Boston, 1987.
  • Donald Berman and Carole Hafner. "Obstacles to the Development of Logic-Based Models of Legal Reasoning" in Computer Power and Legal Language. Walter, C. (ed.) pp. 183-214. Greenwood Press. 1986.


VI. Identifying Legal Issues

Date: February 13


  • Anne. vdL. Gardner. An Artificial Intelligence Approach to Legal Reasoning. pp. 1-16, 33-66, 84-188. MIT Press, Cambridge, 1987.


VII. Representing Legal Concepts

Date: February 27


  • L. Thorne McCarty (1995) "An Implementation of Eisner v. Macomber" In Proceedings, 5th Int’l Conf. on Artificial Intelligence and Law. pp. 276-286.
  • Kevin D. Ashley (1991) “Reasoning with Cases and Hypotheticals in Hypo”. In International Journal of Man‑Machine Studies, Vol. 34, pp. 753‑796.


[Note: No class on March 6, Spring Recess]


VIII. Arguing with Cases and Hypotheticals; Structured Legal Analogies

Date: March 13


  • Vincent Aleven (2003) “Using Background Knowledge in Case-Based Legal Reasoning: A Computational Model and an Intelligent Learning Environment”. 150 Artificial Intelligence 183-238.
  • L. Karl Branting, "Building Explanations from Rules and Structured Cases". International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 34(6):797--837, 1991.


X. Integrating Cases, Statutes, Rules, and Values

Date: March 20


  • Edwina L. Rissland and David B. Skalak "CABARET: Statutory Interpretation in a Hybrid Architecture" in International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 34(6):839--887, 1991.
  • Donald H. Berman and C. Hafner (1993) "Representing Teleological Structure in Case-Based Legal Reasoning: The Missing Link" in Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law. pp. 50-59. Association for Computing Machinery. New York. June.
  • Trevor Bench-Capon and Giovanni Sartor (2003) “A Model of Legal Reasoning with Cases Incorporating Theories and Values”. 150 Artificial Intelligence 97-143.


XI. Legal Information Retrieval from Text

Date: March 27


  • David C. Blair and M. E. Maron. "An Evaluation of Retrieval Effectiveness for a Full-Text Document-Retrieval System". Communications of the ACM, 28(3):289-299, March 1985.
  • Howard R. Turtle. 1995 "Text Retrieval in the Legal World" in Artificial Intelligence and Law, 3: 5-54. Kluwer: Dordrect, The Netherlands.
  • Daniels, J.J. and Rissland, E.L.(1997) Finding Legally Relevant Passages in Case Opinions. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law. ICAIL-97 pp. 39-46. Association for Computing Machinery. New York.
  • Bruninghaus, S. and Ashley, K.D. (2006). “Progress in Textual Case-Based Reasoning: Predicting the Outcome of Legal Cases from Text,” in Proceedings, Twenty-First National Conference on Artificial Intelligence (AAAI-06) pp. 1577-1580. Boston. July.
  • Peter Jackson, Khalid Al-Kofahi, Alex Tyrrell, and Arun Vacher (2003). “Information Extraction from Case Law and Retrieval of Prior Cases.” 150 Artificial Intelligence 239-290.


XII. Graphically Representing Legal Arguments

Date: April 3


  • Niels Pinkwart, Kevin Ashley, Vincent Aleven and Collin Lynch. (submitted) “Reflective Argument Mapping in LARGO.”
  • Carr, C. (2003) “Using Computer Supported Argument Visualization to Teach Legal Argumentation.” In Visualizing Argumentation, 75-96. London, Springer.
  • Reed, C., and Rowe, G. (2004) “Araucaria: Software for Argument Analysis, Diagramming and Representation.” International Journal of AI Tools 13(4):961-980.
  • Verheij, B. 2003. “Artificial Argument Assistants for Defeasible Argumentation.” Artificial Intelligence 150(1-2):291-324.


XIII. Helping Judges and Legal Professionals: Document Drafting, Decision Making, Sentencing  

Dates: April 10


  • J. Karl Branting, J. Lester, and C. Callaway (1998) "Automating Judicial Document Drafting: A Discourse-Based Approach" In Artificial Intelligence and Law 6: 111-149. Kluwer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
  • John Zeleznikow and A. Stranieri, 1995 "The Split-Up System: Integrating Neural Networks and Rule-Based Reasoning in the Legal Domain" in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law. pp. 185-194. Association for Computing Machinery. New York. May.
  • Uri Schild, 1995 "Intelligent Computer Systems for Criminal Sentencing" in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law. pp. 229-238. Association for Computing Machinery. New York. May.
  • Graham Greenleaf, A. Mowbray and P. Van Dijk 1995 "Representing and Using Legal Knowledge in Integrated Decision Support Systems: DataLex Workstations." Artificial Intelligence and Law. 3: 97-142. Kluwer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands.
  • Edwina L. Rissland and M. Timur. Friedman, 1995 "Detecting Change in Legal Concepts" in Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Law. pp. 127-136. Association for Computing Machinery. New York. May.
  • Daniel E. Rose and R. K. Belew, "A Connectionist and Symbolic Hybrid for Improving Legal Research". International Journal of Man-Machine Studies, 35: 1-33, 1991.


XIV. Student Short Presentations of Seminar Papers

Dates: April 17

Readings: Not applicable