Al Podboy, Director of Library Services, authored an article titled "Law Without Walls" for the July 2007 edition of Practice Innovations magazine, published by Thomson West.
The article focuses on "the rule of law," defined by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights almost sixty years ago, as "the supremacy of regular as opposed to arbitrary power." The American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative has also recognized the importance of the rule of law, according to Podboy. "The Initiative believes that 'rule of law promotion is the most effective long term antidote to the most pressing problems facing the world community today, including poverty, economic stagnation, and conflict.'"
Podboy continues: "While the ABA also recognizes that the rule of law can be much more than American law, it does offer our legal system as a model." The article will "look at how we can encourage the rule of law and aid our individual law firm practices by examining the need, some history, technology, and a methodology."
Podboy's article notes that "since the 1930s, we in the United States have recognized as a corollary to the rule of law the unfairness of imposing a penalty without knowledge of the law." He goes on to note two cases which led to the adoption of the Federal Register Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, which "expanded the basic rule to include the premise that no penalty should be assessed without an individual's knowledge of the law. These acts serve as a model of why legal information must be available to all."
With the advent of technology, Podboy writes, "our law firms now have daily contact and practice in many national venues. These locales are in both the developed and developing world. In all instances, the practice of law requires access to accurate and complete legal resources. Our resource need can complement the development of the rule of law. To do this we have the resources of the organized bar, international law firms, international legal information vendors, international governmental organizations, and national governments. Together we can build the necessary national legal information databases. We will make no value judgments. We will simply develop an authoritative source for legal information and provide access to the citizens of the countries. We will not interfere with local culture or traditions. But we can teach the value of access to the law and evolutionary procedures. By our providing the resources to the individuals, they can then frame and decide their own laws."
Podboy concludes: "Today, we have the knowledge, technology, and resources to help effectuate the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19, which provides, 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.' If we have the will, we can help to provide law to the world without walls."