Artificial Intelligence and Law

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 45–76

Identification of Rhetorical Roles for Segmentation and Summarization of a Legal Judgment


DOI: 10.1007/s10506-010-9087-7

Cite this article as:
Saravanan, M. & Ravindran, B. Artif Intell Law (2010) 18: 45. doi:10.1007/s10506-010-9087-7


Legal judgments are complex in nature and hence a brief summary of the judgment, known as a headnote, is generated by experts to enable quick perusal. Headnote generation is a time consuming process and there have been attempts made at automating the process. The difficulty in interpreting such automatically generated summaries is that they are not coherent and do not convey the relative relevance of the various components of the judgment. A legal judgment can be segmented into coherent chunks based on the rhetorical roles played by the sentences. In this paper, a comprehensive system is proposed for labeling sentences with their rhetorical roles and extracting structured head notes automatically from legal judgments. An annotated data set was created with the help of legal experts and used as training data. A machine learning technique, Conditional Random Field, is applied to perform document segmentation by identifying the rhetorical roles. The present work also describes the application of probabilistic models for the extraction of key sentences and composing the relevant chunks in the form of a headnote. The understanding of basic structures and distinct segments is shown to improve the final presentation of the summary. Moreover, by adding simple additional features the system can be extended to other legal sub-domains. The proposed system has been empirically evaluated and found to be highly effective on both the segmentation and summarization tasks. The final summary generated with underlying rhetorical roles improves the readability and efficiency of the system.


Document segmentationRhetorical rolesConditional random fieldDocument summarizationK-mixture

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Computer Science and EngineeringIIT MadrasChennaiIndia