Announcing the AmLegal Decoder: A Free Tool to Publish Laws Seamlessly Online in Ridiculously Useful Open Data Formats

Benefits of “Decoded Law” Now Available to Residents of All 2,000 American Legal Cities

May 7, 2014

CINCINNATI, OH / WASHINGTON, DC—The American Legal Publishing Corporation and The OpenGov Foundation today announced the creation of the AmLegal Decoder, a new tool that seamlessly transforms hard-to-use municipal laws and legal codes into modern, restriction-free and user-friendly open data accessible via the growing, nationwide America Decoded network of legal websites. A historic collaboration between American Legal—the leading open government codifier in the United States—and the non-profit OpenGov Foundation produced the new tool at $0 cost to San Francisco, where the Decoder was first deployed. This new open-source software automatically updates and delivers every newly-codified city law to all city employees, everyday citizens and job creators who need them, in the fastest, most cost-effective, useful way possible.

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American Legal and The OpenGov Foundation will next employ the Decoder to enhance and maintain the legal codes of Chicago and Philadelphia, before expanding the America Decoded network to include up to 2,000 additional American Legal client cities.  But there is no need for any American Legal client to wait: all 2,000 municipalities on this map can get started decoding their laws today.  

American Legal has always believed that the laws that we codify for our municipal clients are owned by the local government itself as guardian for the people,” said Stephen G. Wolf, President of American Legal Publishing Corporation.  “For that reason, rather than hold such information hostage for commercial benefit, we have always freely provided electronic records of our codes to our client communities. We also provide free access to our online codes and the ability for anyone to search all of our online codes simultaneously at no cost!  We are proud of our commitment to user-friendly open data and even prouder to partner with The OpenGov Foundation to further increase transparency in local government through enhanced accessibility to municipal laws.”

Last September, the San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, The OpenGov Foundation and American Legal teamed up to transform and publish the city’s laws, legal and technical codes at  The road to becoming the second open law city to join the America Decoded network began at an August 2013 legal hackathon hosted at Code for America’s San Francisco headquarters.

“Easy access to laws and legislative information are cornerstones for thriving communities and democracies,” said San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell. “In San Francisco, we live in the global center of technology and innovation, and I believe it’s crucial that legislators and cities find ways for technology to drive and promote further civic engagement – which this partnership helps to accomplish. We’ve already taken steps here in San Francisco with ReimaingeSF, and introducing new laws from direct citizen feedback on to update outdated city laws and improve current policies as well.”

"As John Adams so wisely said, we have 'a government of laws, not of men.'  How important it is, then, for us all to be able to read and understand the laws that govern us,” said Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media and Code for America Director.  The AmLegal Decoder is a tool for bringing the republic that John Adams and his peers imagined into the 21st century."

This technical achievement makes radically better access to legal information possible for every single one of American Legal’s 2,000 client cities.  Interested cities only have to take two steps to get started: indicate interest to their American Legal account manager, and click here to connect with The OpenGov Foundation.  Bottom line: the new Decoder smooths the path for potentially every city in the United States to join the America Decoded network of municipalities and states committed to harnessing technology to do more for their citizens, while spending fewer hard-earned tax dollars.

“This is a tremendous advance for open legal data, really without precedent. American Legal and the OpenGov Foundation have provided a gift to 2,000 cities, the gift of raw material for innovation,” said Waldo Jaquith, Director of the U.S. Open Data Institute. This data is being released just as many municipal governments are turning their attention to publishing open data, in response to national, community-rooted organizations like Code for America clamoring for that data. It will be exciting to see new legal data websites and apps popping up around the nation, every one in a municipality that’s an American Legal customer.”

“In order to promote a culture of open data and encourage widespread adoption, major players in the field need to connect and help develop standards that will make this data more useful and accessible,” said Michael Maness, vice president of journalism and media innovation for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. “This partnership pushes forward these goals— combining the work of the OpenGov Foundation and American Legal to increase transparency and create avenues for more citizen engagement.” The Miami-based Knight Foundation, which believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged, recently provided support to the OpenGov Foundation's Project Madison initiative.

Learn more about the benefits of decoding the laws, legal codes and technical rules of your city or state.  The America Decoded network is powered by the State Decoded open-source software project.

Click here for the GitHub repository for the AmLegal Decoder and


OpenGov: Seamus Kraft,, +1-760-659-0631

AmLegal: Ray Bollhauer, Vice President of Client Relations,, +1-800-445-5588