Matthias Grabmair


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CuSINeS: Curriculum-driven Structure Induced Negative Sampling for Statutory Article Retrieval
Santosh T.y.s.s. | Kristina Kaiser | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

In this paper, we introduce CuSINeS, a negative sampling approach to enhance the performance of Statutory Article Retrieval (SAR). CuSINeS offers three key contributions. Firstly, it employs a curriculum-based negative sampling strategy guiding the model to focus on easier negatives initially and progressively tackle more difficult ones. Secondly, it leverages the hierarchical and sequential information derived from the structural organization of statutes to evaluate the difficulty of samples. Lastly, it introduces a dynamic semantic difficulty assessment using the being-trained model itself, surpassing conventional static methods like BM25, adapting the negatives to the model’s evolving competence. Experimental results on a real-world expert-annotated SAR dataset validate the effectiveness of CuSINeS across four different baselines, demonstrating its versatility.

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ECtHR-PCR: A Dataset for Precedent Understanding and Prior Case Retrieval in the European Court of Human Rights
Santosh T.y.s.s. | Rashid Haddad | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

In common law jurisdictions, legal practitioners rely on precedents to construct arguments, in line with the doctrine of stare decisis. As the number of cases grow over the years, prior case retrieval (PCR) has garnered significant attention. Besides lacking real-world scale, existing PCR datasets do not simulate a realistic setting, because their queries use complete case documents while only masking references to prior cases. The query is thereby exposed to legal reasoning not yet available when constructing an argument for an undecided case as well as spurious patterns left behind by citation masks, potentially short-circuiting a comprehensive understanding of case facts and legal principles. To address these limitations, we introduce a PCR dataset based on judgements from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), which explicitly separate facts from arguments and exhibit precedential practices, aiding us to develop this PCR dataset to foster systems’ comprehensive understanding. We benchmark different lexical and dense retrieval approaches with various negative sampling strategies, adapting them to deal with long text sequences using hierarchical variants. We found that difficulty-based negative sampling strategies were not effective for the PCR task, highlighting the need for investigation into domain-specific difficulty criteria. Furthermore, we observe performance of the dense models degrade with time and calls for further research into temporal adaptation of retrieval models. Additionally, we assess the influence of different views , Halsbury’s and Goodhart’s, in practice in ECtHR jurisdiction using PCR task.

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LexAbSumm: Aspect-based Summarization of Legal Decisions
Santosh T.y.s.s. | Mahmoud Aly | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

Legal professionals frequently encounter long legal judgments that hold critical insights for their work. While recent advances have led to automated summarization solutions for legal documents, they typically provide generic summaries, which may not meet the diverse information needs of users. To address this gap, we introduce LexAbSumm, a novel dataset designed for aspect-based summarization of legal case decisions, sourced from the European Court of Human Rights jurisdiction. We evaluate several abstractive summarization models tailored for longer documents on LexAbSumm, revealing a challenge in conditioning these models to produce aspect-specific summaries. We release LexAbSum to facilitate research in aspect-based summarization for legal domain.

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Mind Your Neighbours: Leveraging Analogous Instances for Rhetorical Role Labeling for Legal Documents
Santosh T.y.s.s. | Hassan Sarwat | Ahmed Mohamed Abdelaal Abdou | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

Rhetorical Role Labeling (RRL) of legal judgments is essential for various tasks, such as case summarization, semantic search and argument mining. However, it presents challenges such as inferring sentence roles from context, interrelated roles, limited annotated data, and label imbalance. This study introduces novel techniques to enhance RRL performance by leveraging knowledge from semantically similar instances (neighbours). We explore inference-based and training-based approaches, achieving remarkable improvements in challenging macro-F1 scores. For inference-based methods, we explore interpolation techniques that bolster label predictions without re-training. While in training-based methods, we integrate prototypical learning with our novel discourse-aware contrastive method that work directly on embedding spaces. Additionally, we assess the cross-domain applicability of our methods, demonstrating their effectiveness in transferring knowledge across diverse legal domains.

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Query-driven Relevant Paragraph Extraction from Legal Judgments
Santosh T.y.s.s. | Elvin A. Quero Hernandez | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

Legal professionals often grapple with navigating lengthy legal judgements to pinpoint information that directly address their queries. This paper focus on this task of extracting relevant paragraphs from legal judgements based on the query. We construct a specialized dataset for this task from the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) using the case law guides. We assess the performance of current retrieval models in a zero-shot way and also establish fine-tuning benchmarks using various models. The results highlight the significant gap between fine-tuned and zero-shot performance, emphasizing the challenge of handling distribution shift in the legal domain. We notice that the legal pre-training handles distribution shift on the corpus side but still struggles on query side distribution shift, with unseen legal queries. We also explore various Parameter Efficient Fine-Tuning (PEFT) methods to evaluate their practicality within the context of information retrieval, shedding light on the effectiveness of different PEFT methods across diverse configurations with pre-training and model architectures influencing the choice of PEFT method.

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Towards Explainability and Fairness in Swiss Judgement Prediction: Benchmarking on a Multilingual Dataset
Santosh T.y.s.s. | Nina Baumgartner | Matthias Stürmer | Matthias Grabmair | Joel Niklaus
Proceedings of the 2024 Joint International Conference on Computational Linguistics, Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC-COLING 2024)

The assessment of explainability in Legal Judgement Prediction (LJP) systems is of paramount importance in building trustworthy and transparent systems, particularly considering the reliance of these systems on factors that may lack legal relevance or involve sensitive attributes. This study delves into the realm of explainability and fairness in LJP models, utilizing Swiss Judgement Prediction (SJP), the only available multilingual LJP dataset. We curate a comprehensive collection of rationales that ‘support’ and ‘oppose’ judgement from legal experts for 108 cases in German, French, and Italian. By employing an occlusion-based explainability approach, we evaluate the explainability performance of state-of-the-art monolingual and multilingual BERT-based LJP models, as well as models developed with techniques such as data augmentation and cross-lingual transfer, which demonstrated prediction performance improvement. Notably, our findings reveal that improved prediction performance does not necessarily correspond to enhanced explainability performance, underscoring the significance of evaluating models from an explainability perspective. Additionally, we introduce a novel evaluation framework, Lower Court Insertion (LCI), which allows us to quantify the influence of lower court information on model predictions, exposing current models’ biases.

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Beyond Borders: Investigating Cross-Jurisdiction Transfer in Legal Case Summarization
Santosh T.y.s.s | Vatsal Venkatkrishna | Saptarshi Ghosh | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2024 Conference of the North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Human Language Technologies (Volume 1: Long Papers)

Legal professionals face the challenge of managing an overwhelming volume of lengthy judgments, making automated legal case summarization crucial. However, prior approaches mainly focused on training and evaluating these models within the same jurisdiction. In this study, we explore the cross-jurisdictional generalizability of legal case summarization models. Specifically, we explore how to effectively summarize legal cases of a target jurisdiction where reference summaries are not available. In particular, we investigate whether supplementing models with unlabeled target jurisdiction corpus and extractive silver summaries obtained from unsupervised algorithms on target data enhances transfer performance. Our comprehensive study on three datasets from different jurisdictions highlights the role of pre-training in improving transfer performance. We shed light on the pivotal influence of jurisdictional similarity in selecting optimal source datasets for effective transfer. Furthermore, our findings underscore that incorporating unlabeled target data yields improvements in general pre-trained models, with additional gains when silver summaries are introduced. This augmentation is especially valuable when dealing with extractive datasets and scenarios featuring limited alignment between source and target jurisdictions. Our study provides key insights for developing adaptable legal case summarization systems, transcending jurisdictional boundaries.


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Leveraging Task Dependency and Contrastive Learning for Case Outcome Classification on European Court of Human Rights Cases
Santosh T.y.s.s | Marcel Perez San Blas | Phillip Kemper | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 17th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics

We report on an experiment in case outcome classification on European Court of Human Rights cases where our model first learns to identify the convention articles allegedly violated by the state from case facts descriptions, and subsequently uses that information to classify whether the court finds a violation of those articles. We assess the dependency between these two tasks at the feature and outcome level. Furthermore, we leverage a hierarchical contrastive loss to pull together article-specific representations of cases at the higher level, leading to distinctive article clusters. The cases in each article cluster are further pulled closer based on their outcome, leading to sub-clusters of cases with similar outcomes. Our experiment results demonstrate that, given a static pre-trained encoder, our models produce a small but consistent improvement in classification performance over single-task and joint models without contrastive loss.

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Zero-shot Transfer of Article-aware Legal Outcome Classification for European Court of Human Rights Cases
Santosh T.y.s.s | Oana Ichim | Matthias Grabmair
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EACL 2023

In this paper, we cast Legal Judgment Prediction on European Court of Human Rights cases into an article-aware classification task, where the case outcome is classified from a combined input of case facts and convention articles. This configuration facilitates the model learning some legal reasoning ability in mapping article text to specific case fact text. It also provides an opportunity to evaluate the model’s ability to generalize to zero-shot settings when asked to classify the case outcome with respect to articles not seen during training. We devise zero-shot experiments and apply domain adaptation methods based on domain discrimination and Wasserstein distance. Our results demonstrate that the article-aware architecture outperforms straightforward fact classification. We also find that domain adaptation methods improve zero-shot transfer performance, with article relatedness and encoder pre-training influencing the effect.

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From Dissonance to Insights: Dissecting Disagreements in Rationale Construction for Case Outcome Classification
Shanshan Xu | Santosh T.y.s.s | Oana Ichim | Isabella Risini | Barbara Plank | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

In legal NLP, Case Outcome Classification (COC) must not only be accurate but also trustworthy and explainable. Existing work in explainable COC has been limited to annotations by a single expert. However, it is well-known that lawyers may disagree in their assessment of case facts. We hence collect a novel dataset RaVE: Rationale Variation in ECHR, which is obtained from two experts in the domain of international human rights law, for whom we observe weak agreement. We study their disagreements and build a two-level task-independent taxonomy, supplemented with COC-specific subcategories. To our knowledge, this is the first work in the legal NLP that focuses on human label variation. We quantitatively assess different taxonomy categories and find that disagreements mainly stem from underspecification of the legal context, which poses challenges given the typically limited granularity and noise in COC metadata. We further assess the explainablility of state-of-the-art COC models on RaVE and observe limited agreement between models and experts. Overall, our case study reveals hitherto underappreciated complexities in creating benchmark datasets in legal NLP that revolve around identifying aspects of a case’s facts supposedly relevant for its outcome.

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VECHR: A Dataset for Explainable and Robust Classification of Vulnerability Type in the European Court of Human Rights
Shanshan Xu | Leon Staufer | Santosh T.y.s.s | Oana Ichim | Corina Heri | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2023 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

Recognizing vulnerability is crucial for understanding and implementing targeted support to empower individuals in need. This is especially important at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), where the court adapts Convention standards to meet actual individual needs and thus to ensure effective human rights protection. However, the concept of vulnerability remains elusive at the ECtHR and no prior NLP research has dealt with it. To enable future research in this area, we present VECHR, a novel expert-annotated multi-label dataset comprising of vulnerability type classification and explanation rationale. We benchmark the performance of state-of-the-art models on VECHR from both prediction and explainability perspective. Our results demonstrate the challenging nature of task with lower prediction performance and limited agreement between models and experts. Further, we analyze the robustness of these models in dealing with out-of-domain (OOD) data and observe overall limited performance. Our dataset poses unique challenges offering a significant room for improvement regarding performance, explainability and robustness.


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Extractive Summarization of Legal Decisions using Multi-task Learning and Maximal Marginal Relevance
Abhishek Agarwal | Shanshan Xu | Matthias Grabmair
Findings of the Association for Computational Linguistics: EMNLP 2022

Summarizing legal decisions requires the expertise of law practitioners, which is both time- and cost-intensive. This paper presents techniques for extractive summarization of legal decisions in a low-resource setting using limited expert annotated data. We test a set of models that locate relevant content using a sequential model and tackle redundancy by leveraging maximal marginal relevance to compose summaries. We also demonstrate an implicit approach to help train our proposed models generate more informative summaries. Our multi-task learning model variant leverages rhetorical role identification as an auxiliary task to further improve the summarizer. We perform extensive experiments on datasets containing legal decisions from the US Board of Veterans’ Appeals and conduct quantitative and expert-ranked evaluations of our models. Our results show that the proposed approaches can achieve ROUGE scores vis-à-vis expert extracted summaries that match those achieved by inter-annotator comparison.

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Deconfounding Legal Judgment Prediction for European Court of Human Rights Cases Towards Better Alignment with Experts
Santosh T.y.s.s | Shanshan Xu | Oana Ichim | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the 2022 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing

This work demonstrates that Legal Judgement Prediction systems without expert-informed adjustments can be vulnerable to shallow, distracting surface signals that arise from corpus construction, case distribution, and confounding factors. To mitigate this, we use domain expertise to strategically identify statistically predictive but legally irrelevant information. We adopt adversarial training to prevent the system from relying on it. We evaluate our deconfounded models by employing interpretability techniques and comparing to expert annotations. Quantitative experiments and qualitative analysis show that our deconfounded model consistently aligns better with expert rationales than baselines trained for prediction only. We further contribute a set of reference expert annotations to the validation and testing partitions of an existing benchmark dataset of European Court of Human Rights cases.

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Attack on Unfair ToS Clause Detection: A Case Study using Universal Adversarial Triggers
Shanshan Xu | Irina Broda | Rashid Haddad | Marco Negrini | Matthias Grabmair
Proceedings of the Natural Legal Language Processing Workshop 2022

Recent work has demonstrated that natural language processing techniques can support consumer protection by automatically detecting unfair clauses in the Terms of Service (ToS) Agreement. This work demonstrates that transformer-based ToS analysis systems are vulnerable to adversarial attacks. We conduct experiments attacking an unfair-clause detector with universal adversarial triggers. Experiments show that a minor perturbation of the text can considerably reduce the detection performance. Moreover, to measure the detectability of the triggers, we conduct a detailed human evaluation study by collecting both answer accuracy and response time from the participants. The results show that the naturalness of the triggers remains key to tricking readers.


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Towards Inference-Oriented Reading Comprehension: ParallelQA
Soumya Wadhwa | Varsha Embar | Matthias Grabmair | Eric Nyberg
Proceedings of the Workshop on Generalization in the Age of Deep Learning

In this paper, we investigate the tendency of end-to-end neural Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC) models to match shallow patterns rather than perform inference-oriented reasoning on RC benchmarks. We aim to test the ability of these systems to answer questions which focus on referential inference. We propose ParallelQA, a strategy to formulate such questions using parallel passages. We also demonstrate that existing neural models fail to generalize well to this setting.


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Sentence Boundary Detection in Adjudicatory Decisions in the United States
Jaromir Savelka | Vern R. Walker | Matthias Grabmair | Kevin D. Ashley
Traitement Automatique des Langues, Volume 58, Numéro 2 : Traitement automatique de la langue juridique [Legal Natural Language Processing]

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How Would You Say It? Eliciting Lexically Diverse Dialogue for Supervised Semantic Parsing
Abhilasha Ravichander | Thomas Manzini | Matthias Grabmair | Graham Neubig | Jonathan Francis | Eric Nyberg
Proceedings of the 18th Annual SIGdial Meeting on Discourse and Dialogue

Building dialogue interfaces for real-world scenarios often entails training semantic parsers starting from zero examples. How can we build datasets that better capture the variety of ways users might phrase their queries, and what queries are actually realistic? Wang et al. (2015) proposed a method to build semantic parsing datasets by generating canonical utterances using a grammar and having crowdworkers paraphrase them into natural wording. A limitation of this approach is that it induces bias towards using similar language as the canonical utterances. In this work, we present a methodology that elicits meaningful and lexically diverse queries from users for semantic parsing tasks. Starting from a seed lexicon and a generative grammar, we pair logical forms with mixed text-image representations and ask crowdworkers to paraphrase and confirm the plausibility of the queries that they generated. We use this method to build a semantic parsing dataset from scratch for a dialog agent in a smart-home simulation. We find evidence that this dataset, which we have named SmartHome, is demonstrably more lexically diverse and difficult to parse than existing domain-specific semantic parsing datasets.