Tech Reports


Developing Legal Knowledge Based Systems Through Theory Construction

Alison Chorley and Trevor Bench-Capon


Bench-Capon and Sartor have proposed that reasoning with legal cases be seen as a process of theory construction, evaluation and application. They have proposed a set of theory constructors to specify the process of theory construction. In this paper we describe an implementation of these constructors as part of a system intended to support the development of a legal Knowledge Based System (LKBS) from a set of cases. The constructors provide a means of building a theory from a background analysis. Once a theory has been constructed, the system generates Prolog code conforming to the theory, including the priorities demanded by the theory. This code can then be incorporated into a shell to provide a simple LKBS, which can be used for testing and evaluation, or upgraded into a usable application. The process is illustrated by showing how the tool could be used to develop a LKBS for US Trade Secret Law, drawing on the analysis used in Aleven's CATO system. This case study raises a number of issues which merit discussion and further exploration.

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