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{ Category Archives } Code / Code

Codelaw (an essay for “Rebooting America”)

Allison Fine invited me to submit essays for the Rebooting America project. This one’s an overview of codelaw: As a lawyer-cum-techie at Massachusetts Law Reform Institute in the mid-2000s, I became aware of computer system called Beacon used by the MA Department of Transitional Assistance (a/k/a “welfare”) to distribute various benefits such as food stamps […]

Accountability in government code: the need for due process

In the Terminator movie series, an artificially intelligent defense network concludes that the greatest threat to world peace is human beings and proceeds to launch preemptive world-wide nuclear strikes. This Oedipal fear that our silicon-and-code children might one day overthrow us – a favorite among dystopic science fiction authors – may be closer at hand […]

Coding gun control

A report in today’s New York Times illustrates both the promise and the difficulties of (legal) code as (software) code (U.S. Rules Made Killer Ineligible to Purchase Gun). Apparently, slight discrepancies between the wording of Virginia and federal laws that disqualify the “mentally defective” from purchasing a handgun created a gap that enabled Seung-Hui Cho […]

(software) code is (administrative) code

My first job out of law school was helping the Massachusetts legal aid program set up a knowledge management website. As one of the technically-knowledgable employees of Mass. Law Reform Institute, a statewide poverty law organization, I found myself in many conversations with MLRI attorneys about various technology-related issues. Many of these involved problems with […]