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Reasoning Structures in Legal Texts (RSLT) is a collaborative project between the Law, Logic and Technology Lab and the Digital Research Center at Hofstra University. The project is dedicated to studying, and making accessible to others, the reasoning structures that we find in legal texts, primarily in judicial and administrative decisions. It has the following goals:

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

Currently, annotated texts are available from two legal areas.

First, texts are drawn from the VetClaim Corpus of the LLT Lab. Documents consist of illustrative excerpts of reasoning from decisions of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals (“BVA”). The BVA is an administrative appellate body that is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and it has the statutory authority to decide the facts of each case based on the evidence. The BVA must provide a written statement of the reasons or bases for its findings and conclusions. That statement (or decision) must analyze the credibility and probative value of all material evidence submitted, and it must provide reasons for its evaluation of such evidence. Such reasoning (“fact-finding reasoning”) is based on evidence from service records, medical records, fact testimony, and other types of evidence. Learn more about these decisions, and access the annotated texts.

Second, texts are drawn from the V/IP Corpus of the LLT Lab. Documents consist of illustrative excerpts of reasoning from vaccine-injury compensation decisions of the United States Court of Federal Claims. In a petition for vaccine-injury compensation, a petitioner claims entitlement to compensation by proving, among other things, that a vaccination covered by the program played a causal role in bringing about an alleged injury. If the government contests a claim, “special masters” attached to the Court of Federal Claims decide which evidence is relevant to which issues of fact, evaluate the plausibility of the evidence in the legal record, organize that evidence and draw reasonable inferences, and make findings of fact. This fact-finding reasoning is typically based on evidence from fact testimony, expert testimony, medical records, scientific and medical publications, and other sources. Learn more about these decisions, and access the annotated texts.

You can use these same texts for course work or other collaborative projects, by registering with Annotation Studio. Be sure to join the appropriate group or team: “RSLT-BVA” (for Board of Veterans Appeals decisions) or “RSLT-VacCt” (for Court of Federal Claims vaccine decisions).

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