Proposed urn:lex codes for US materials in MLZ

The MLZ styles rely on a urn:lex-like scheme for specifying the jurisdiction of primary legal materials. We will need to have at least a minimal set of jurisdction codes in place for the styles to be functional. The scheme to be used for this purpose is the subject of this post.

The urn:lex scheme is used in MLZ for the limited purpose of identifying jurisdictional scope: it is not a full document identifier, and does not carry information on the issuing institution itself. Even within this limited scope, the MLZ scheme diverges from the examples provided by the Cornell LII Lexcraft pages, in that the “federal” level is expressed as a geographic scope (set off by a semicolon), rather than as a distinct category of jurisdiction (appended by a period).

This difference in treatment is due to pedestrian parsing concerns, rather than any ontological view of the position of the US Federal layer of government. The urn:lex scheme allows the use of domain names to specify international organizations, which (as domain names) are delimited by periods. In parsing, the split required to obtain “us” as the top-level jurisdiction of “us.federal” would also yield “un” as the top-level jurisdiction of (say) “”. While this does not appear to cause any immediate conflicts, such a split does lose information from the domain name, and given the international scope of the MLZ project, there is a potential for namespace overlap down the road. Accordingly, a semi-colon delimiter is used to distinguish Federal from state jurisdiction at the top level.


Top-level Federal (Supreme Court, Congress, national administrative bodies)

Federal District (single district within state)

Federal District (multiple districts within state)


A preliminary list of identifiers is available for review.

Note: The tentative CSV sample has been withdrawn. Please refer instead to the JSON file now hosted on GitHub.

I cheerfully await feedback and rotten tomatoes.

(Update 2012-07-15: Jurisdiction data based on this scheme is included in abbreviation lists now available for use with the Abbreviations Plugin and the Wisconsin Court Style.)

(Update 2012-08-01: Abbreviation lists for all styles are now available.)

Frank Bennett

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4 Responses to Proposed urn:lex codes for US materials in MLZ

  1. It is a good start. However there are many levels of courts that are both judicial and administrative. While I don’t have a handy list for the administrative courts a list of the judicial courts is contained in this PDF report.

    However there have been a few reorganizations since it was released (for example New Hampshire consolidated several courts).

    I would guess that we will need to add the level of state court. For example in Arizona you would need:

    us;az;sc (supreme court)
    us;az;ca1 (court of appeals division 1)
    us;az;ca2 (court of appeals division 2)
    us;az;sup (or something like that for superior court)
    us;az;jp (justice court)
    us;az;mn (municipal court)

  2. Frank Bennett says:

    Good information to have. I wonder, though, whether at this stage of the project the scheme shouldn’t be pushed in the other direction, moving the Federal circuit courts from Jurisdiction and into another metadata field (“Court” in the Zotero UI, mapping to “authority” in CSL). Using descriptive titles for specific courts would make the meaning of entries more accessible to non-lawyers, and would likely be more intuitive to users generally. The project includes an Abbreviations Plugin that can manage user-defined mappings (so that “First Circuit Court of Appeal” and “1st Circuit” can be uniformly mapped to “1st Cir.” in “Uniform System” citations). The data collected through research and authoring projects could later be used as a basis for controlled extension of the MLZ url:lex specifier set down the road, if that proves desirable.

  3. Pingback: Proposed urn:lex codes for US materials in MLZ « Another Word For It

  4. Pingback: MLZ: progress on jurisdictions » — CitationStylist —

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