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Research & Litigation

Hospital Intensive Care Unit Staffing Law

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 7:00am
A new law, H4228, passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor on June 26, became effective this week. The law restricts the number of patients that can be assigned to registered nurses who work in hospital intensive care units.  " all intensive care units the patient assignment for the registered nurse shall be 1:1 or 1:2 depending on the stability of the patient as assessed by the acuity tool and by the staff nurses in the unit, including the nurse manager or the nurse manager's designee when needed to resolve a disagreement."

The state's Health Policy Commission will promulgate regulations associated with the new law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Police Weapons Around the World

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 12:48pm

The following is a guest post by Nicolas Boring, a foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress.  Nicolas has previously contributed posts on French Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights, Napoleon Bonaparte and Mining Rights in France and How Sunday Came to be Established as a Day of Rest in France.

While for some people, especially students, the library might be the last place they want to be during the summer months, here at the Law Library of Congress we were busy researching many interesting legal topics related to countries around the world.  For example, we recently published a report on the types of weapons and equipment that police forces use in several jurisdictions.  This involved looking at the laws and policies of eighteen countries, as well as of the Council of Europe, regarding the arming of police officers, including rules about how they are supposed to use their weapons.

Latest news from the steel district – State troopers ready for a hurry call at Farrell, Pa. (1919). Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Parts of this report were difficult to research.  While the relevant information was readily available for some countries, for others we needed to rely on a range of secondary sources.  Nonetheless, we found a great deal of useful information, from which some interesting conclusions could be drawn.

In the vast majority of the countries we surveyed, police officers generally carry a firearm while on routine patrol.  Only the United Kingdom, China, and New Zealand stood out as exceptions. Beyond this general trend, however, the types of weapons and equipment available to police agencies seem to depend to some degree on how the country’s law enforcement apparatus is structured.  In countries where law enforcement is highly centralized at the national level, local police forces tend to be relatively lightly armed, while the units that have a more regional or national scope have more heavy weaponry available to them. In contrast, countries where law enforcement is less centralized — which often seem to be federal states — tend to give local police authorities more leeway in acquiring powerful weapons.

It appears that questions about the types of weapons that should be available to police forces have emerged in a number of countries, particularly when it comes to military-style firearms and other equipment.  On that topic, it is interesting to note that several of the nations surveyed have a major law enforcement organization that is actually part of the military.  The French Gendarmerie and similar organizations in other countries are mainly tasked with civilian law enforcement duties, yet are actually a branch of the military.  As such, they have access to military weapons and equipment, even if their day-to-day outfits largely resemble that of their civilian counterparts.

Finally, it is quite clear that issues related to how the police are armed, and to when and how police officers can use their weapons, are controversial subjects in many countries.

We frequently publish reports on foreign, comparative, and international law topics on our website.  Some of our recently published reports covered very topical issues, including the regulation of bitcoin, laws criminalizing apostasy, and restrictions on genetically modified organisms.  You can be among the first to know when we publish a report by subscribing to email alerts or by reading this blog (the Global Law category).  You can subscribe to an RSS feed for specific categories on this blog, or get email updates whenever a post is published.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Changes to Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 8:00am
In August the statute of limitations for bringing a criminal or civil action under the Massachusetts wage law was changed.  Chapter 292 of the Acts of 2014 increased the statute of limitations from two years to three years by amending Mass. General Laws chapter 151 section 20A.   If a employee files a wage complaint with the Attorney General's Office, the three year period is tolled from the date of the complaint until the Attorney General issues a letter authorizing the employee to bring an action or the date an enforcement action becomes final.  On January 1, 2015, the minimum wage in Massachusetts will increase to $9.00 per hour.  This change was made pursuant to chapter 144 of the Acts of 2014.  For more information on the Massachusetts minimum wage law, visit the website of the Office of Workforce and Labor Development or our law about page on minimum wages
Categories: Research & Litigation

What's Wrong with this Picture

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Sat, 10/04/2014 - 7:30am
A selfie is a self-portrait photograph, typically taken with a hand-held digital camera or camera phone and shared on social media. When this photo is of their marked election ballot it is illegal.  According to Brian McNiff, spokesman for Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin,  Chapter 56, section 25 of Massachusetts General Law forbids sharing a marked ballot to social media where others can see it.   
“Whoever, at a primary, caucus or election, places any distinguishing mark upon his ballot, or makes a false statement as to his ability to mark his ballot, or allows the marking of his ballot to be seen by any person for any purpose not authorized by law…shall be punished... “
The ballot selfie ban isn’t a statement on the dubious quality of those photos, but as a way of stopping people from selling their ballot.  By not allowing voters a way to proved who they voted for with a picture, the law’s reasoning goes, there will be fewer instances of vote-buying as stated by Eric Levenon,

Categories: Research & Litigation

Crossing State Lines to Settle Squabbles – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 2:48pm

Today’s guest post is by Janice Hyde, director of the Law Library Global Legal Collection Directorate.

In a previous post prepared by my colleague Robert Brammer, he noted that Kentucky outlawed dueling in 1799. I learned recently that this practice was legal for many more years in the District of Columbia and for even longer in my home state of Maryland.  On August 24, 1814, the British burned the Capitol building in Washington, DC.  But before the British marched to Washington, they fought American forces in a battle in Bladensburg, MD.  On the two hundredth anniversary of this battle, I was following in the footsteps of the British and stumbled upon this marker which sits on a spot in Maryland just over the border from the District of Columbia. Dueling in the District was outlawed in 1839 but continued to be legal in Maryland for some time. Law-abiding gentlemen wishing to settle their differences by way of a duel had no choice but to cross the border, and this plaque marks their preferred site. Two members of Congress were reputedly among the first to duel here.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Guidance on abusive pro se litigants from Indiana Supreme Court

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 12:40pm
The Indiana Supreme court recently dealt with a self represented litigant that was deemed abusive, after filing 123 civil law suits since 2008.  In the case, Zavodnik v. Harper, the court has empowered the lower courts to issue sanctions or restrictions and offered specific guidance.

  •  Require the litigant to accompany future pleadings with an affidavit certifying under penalty of perjury that the allegations are true to the best of the litigant's knowledge, information, and belief.
  •  Direct the litigant to attach to future complaints a list of all cases previously filed involving the same, similar, or related cause of action.
  •  Direct that future pleadings will be stricken if they do not meet the requirements that a pleading must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief" and that "[e]ach averment of a pleading shall be simple, concise, and direct." T.R. 8(A)(1) and (E)(1).
  •  Require the litigant to state clearly and concisely at the beginning of a motion the relief requested.
  •  Require the litigant to provide specific page citations to documents alleged by the litigant to support an argument or position.
  •  Limit the litigant's ability to request reconsideration and to file repetitive motions.
  •  Limit the number of pages or words of pleadings, motions, and other filings.
  •  Limit the length of the title that may be used for a filing.
  •  Limit the amount or length of exhibits or attachments that may accompany a filing.
  •  Instruct the clerk to reject without return for correction future filings that do not strictly comply with applicable rules of procedure and conditions ordered by the court.

Zavodnik made repeated attempts to disqualify judges for unfounded accusations.
At the end of the decision, to make it very clear, they state "No petition for rehearing is permitted."

You can read a summary of the decision and the order at the IndyStar.
Categories: Research & Litigation

Sealing Multiple Criminal Records Revised

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 2:45pm
Boston Municipal Court Standing Order 1-09, regarding petitions to seal multiple criminal records, has been revised in light of a recent SJC decision in Commonwealth v. Pon, SJC-11542 (August 15, 2014). The Court in this case announced that a new substantive standard is necessary to achieve the legislative purpose of discretionary sealing and modified the procedure currently in place for reviewing petitions for sealing. 

This Standing Order established the procedures to be followed by all court divisions of this Department in those instances when a person seeks to seal three or more criminal records from two or more court divisions within this Department where a dismissal or nolle prosequi or finding of no probable cause has been entered, or the defendant was found not guilty. 

In addition, the Court did away with the two-step hearing process required when a defendant files a petition for sealing under G. L. c. 276, § 100C. Now, where a defendant files a petition and accompanying documents setting forth facts that demonstrate good cause for overriding the presumption of public access to court records, a judge may determine on the pleadings whether a prima facie showing has been made. If such a showing is made, the petition should proceed to a hearing on the merits. Notice of the hearing must be provided to the public and other interested parties. After hearing the arguments and balancing the interests at stake, if the judge is satisfied that good cause merits sealing, the judge must make "specific findings on the record setting forth the interests considered by the judge and the reasons for the order directing that such sealing occur."

Categories: Research & Litigation

Establishing the Smithsonian Institution

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 9:48am

NORTH FRONT, FROM THE NORTHWEST – Smithsonian Institution Building, 1000 Jefferson Drive, between Ninth & Twelfth Streets, Southwest, Washington, District of Columbia, DC. [Photo courtesy of Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress]

The sight of construction cranes in Washington DC is nothing new; the city is constantly changing and renewing.  The cranes and I-beams peeking above the trees near the Washington Monument hearken the arrival of the newest Smithsonian museum: the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NAAHC).  In the 15 years I’ve been in DC, I’ve only seen two other projects from start to finish – that of the National World War II Memorial and the National Museum of the American Indian (not counting the terracing around and restoration of the Washington Monument).  It got me wondering what legislation might be involved in the establishment of a new museum. 

You may know the story of James Smithson, the English scientist who bequeathed the equivalent of US$541,379.63 to the United States for the founding of the Smithsonian Institution, “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”  This donation came as a surprise because the Englishman had never traveled to the United States.

Congress established a Board of Regents in 1894 to conduct the business of the Institution and specifically named titled officials and other people to compose the group: “the Vice President; the Chief Justice of the United States; three Members of the Senate; three Members of the House of Representatives, and; nine other persons other than Members of Congress, two of whom shall be resident in the city of Washington, and seven of whom shall be inhabitants of some State, but no two of them of the same State.”  The President of the United States selects the Senators who will serve; the Speaker of the House selects the Representatives; and Congress selects the other nine individuals via a joint resolution.

In a given law, Congress establishes each new museum, sometimes describing with detail the designated site for the new building and granting powers to remove any existing structures from the site.  Among the laws establishing the museums in the early to mid-twentieth century, no consistent pattern of legislating appears.  For example, only a few of the laws mention the establishment of a governing body for the individual museum (a commission, a board of trustees, or council – the exact term has changed over the years and depended on the extent of the body’s governance), its authority and duties, and some specifics about its membership composition.

I am finding that in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century the laws establishing a new museum tend to be much more detailed in the creation of the new entity.  The law establishing the National Museum of the American Indian, for example,  includes details on the square footage of the finished building, the handling of Indian human remains, and the transfer of assets from the Heye Foundation (which made up the core of the collections).  The law establishing the NAAHC was approved December 16, 2003, and it includes the initial amount of appropriations, percentage of cost-sharing (federal versus non-federal funds), specific educational program priorities, and the nine organizations and Congressional committees that must be consulted during the siting of the building.

Establishing the entity through law is just one part of what it takes to raise a new museum.  Indeed, it is dizzying to think of the effort from all sides – fundraising, architecture and construction, exhibition curation, visitor management, and more – involved in creating a national institution to preserve cultural heritage.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legacy Libraries on

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Thu, 10/02/2014 - 6:00am
Legacy Libraries are the catalogs of  libraries of historical people, assembled by volunteers from a variety of sources including published bibliographies, auction catalogs, probate inventories and the like.
The first Legacy Library catalog to become part of the do-it-yourself library catalogs on was,  appropriately enough, a list of the books belonging to Thomas Jefferson. This list is now maintained by librarians at Monticello. After the destruction of the first Library of Congress by the British in the War of 1812, Jefferson sold 6,487 books from his personal library to form the core of the new Library of Congress. Congress paid him $23,950 for these books. The Library of Congress is attempting to reassemble Jefferson’s library as it was sold to Congress, with the exact editions that he owned. “On the Hunt for Jefferson’s Lost Books” gives details about the search.
In 2008, LibraryThing launched the Libraries of Early America project, an effort to create an as  comprehensive as possible database of early American private libraries through 1800. It is not surprsing to find lawyers among  the list of early Americans with libraries, and it is interesting to note what law books they may have owned and used. Catalogs of the libraries of John Adams, Francis Dana and Joseph Story  provide examples of Massachusetts lawyers' Legacy Libraries.
In 1978, Herbert A. Johnson published Imported Eighteenth-Century Law Treatises in American Libraries 1700-1799. Like Legacy Libraries, “this is a composite bibliography developed through the examiniation of extant eighteeth-century law libraries and the reconstruction of other libraries from surviving lists or estate inventories showing library holdings.” It “attempts to assemble in a convenient form a list of imported law books that were in active use in eighteenth-century America.”
When talking about early American law books, one would be remiss not to mention Morris L. Cohen’s seminal 7 volume work, the Bibliography of Early American Law, popularly known as BEAL. With over 14,000 entries, BEAL "lists and describes the monographic and trial literature of American law published in this country or abroad, from its beginnings to the end of 1860."
Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Goran Seferovic, Scholar in Residence

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 1:40pm

This week’s interview is with Goran Seferovic who has been our scholar in residence at the Law Library of Congress this past summer. This interview is part of a series that introduces our scholars and summer interns to In Custodia Legis readers. Dr. Seferovic is a senior research associate at the University of Zurich’s Institute of Law. It has been a pleasure interacting with Dr. Seferovic and learning from him about comparative aspects of direct democracy, a subject he is currently researching extensively for a book.

Describe your background.

I studied law at the University of Zurich Switzerland, where I obtained my doctorate in 2010, for my dissertation, Das Schweizerische Bundesgericht 1848-1874: Die Bundesgerichtsbarkeit im frühen Bundesstaat, on the history of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (1848-1874). After passing the Zurich bar exam, I joined the Institute of Law at the University of Zurich in 2012, where I am now a senior research associate.

As a senior research associate I teach Swiss constitutional law and conduct research. I am currently engaged in a comparative study of the incorporation of direct democracy into the system of representative government in Switzerland, the United States and Germany.

How would you describe your job to other people?

In addition to researching for my own study I have been working for the Global Legal Research Center which is the unit of the Law Library of Congress that provides research on foreign jurisdictions. In that position I participated in answering requests from the United States Congress, the federal government and even private persons, covering the jurisdictions of the German speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). I also contributed some posts to the Global Legal Monitor, a Law Library of Congress online publication that covers legal developments around the world.

Why did you want to do research at the Law Library of Congress?

Since I am comparing Switzerland, the U.S. and Germany in terms of direct democracy, I was looking for a place to access American legal resources. The vast collection of the Law Library and the attractive scholarly program that it offers inspired me to apply for a position as scholar in residence at the Law Library.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

Unlike the Swiss Parliament, the United States Congress has its own library and research services. While the Swiss Parliament has a library, the majority of legislative research is done by the federal administration, which is part of the Executive Branch. This reflects a different understanding of the principle of separation of powers in the United States and Switzerland. I was surprised to learn that the Library of Congress not only provides services to Congress and other government institutions, but also provides reference services to the public for free.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

Before my career in law, I did an apprenticeship as a lab technician and worked at the research department of a chemical company that produces flavors and fragrances for three years.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Worried about the recent data security breaches at your local department stores? What are the current laws protecting us from identity theft?

Massachsuetts Trial Court Law Library - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 7:45am

Take a look at our webpage on Massachusetts Laws about Identity Theft by clicking here.

Within that page is the link to the Attorney General’s Guide on Identity Theft for Victims and Consumers.

Do you have a Massachusetts Trial Court Law Library card? If so, you can access the HeinOnline journal database to read the following law journal articles:

·       Cybersecurity in the Payment Card Industry, by Richard Epstein and Thomas P. Brown, 75 University of Chicago Law Review 2008, pages 203 – 224.
·       Government and Private Sector Roles in Providing Information Security in the U.S. Financial Services Industry, by Mark MacCarthy from I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, 8 ISJLP 1 2012-2013, pages 242 - 276.
·       State Responsibility for Cyber Attacks: Competing Standards for a Growing Problem, by Scott J. Shackelford and Richard B. Andres, 42 Georgetown Journal of International Law, 42 Geo. J. Int’l L. pages 971 - 1016, 2010-2011.
Don’t have a Law Library card yet? It’s easy to apply for one at any of our 17 Trial Court Law Libraries. Click here for the link to our locations and hours of operation.Interested in reading some additional articles? These are from the Bloomberg Businessweek’s website: 
Categories: Research & Litigation

Accessing Reading Room Materials During Our Move

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 5:15pm

This is a guest post by Anne Guha, legal information analyst with the Law Library Public Services Division.

As Margaret explained in a previous blog post, recently we have been preparing the Law Library Reading Room, located in Room 201 in the Madison Building of the Library of Congress, for a much-needed renovation.  In order to allow the room to be renovated, our staff is in the process of moving Reading Room collections into a temporary space on the Ground Floor of the Madison Building.  This temporary space will be open to the public in mid-October.

Over the next couple of weeks while the move is taking place, there are some items in our Reading Room collection that will be inaccessible until we are settled in the temporary Reading Room.   The majority of the Law Library’s collection, which is in closed stacks, is still retrievable and available during this move. This post describes our policies for accessing Reading Room collections as we complete our transition over the next couple of weeks.  For questions, clarification, or assistance, please feel free to contact the Law Library Reading Room at (202) 707-5080.

Using the Catalog to Identify Reading Room Items

Before visiting the Law Library Reading Room, we recommend that patrons search for the items they are interested in by using our online catalog. Once you have located the record for an item of interest, click “Where to Request” in the upper right-hand corner or scroll down to examine the shaded “Where to Request” area.

Example One: There are two copies available of this item. Copy 1 (marked “RR”) is the Reading Room copy. Copy 2 is located in our closed stacks.


From this area, you will learn which Library of Congress Reading Room services the item (next to “Request in”) and you also will find a list of the copies of that item in our collection, including a call number for each copy.  If you are familiar with our catalog, you’ll know that Law Library items with an “RR” at the end of their call numbers are located in the Reading Room, whereas items without an “RR” are, generally-speaking, located in our closed stacks.  In Example One, above, you can see that “Copy 1″ is located in the Law Library Reading Room because of the “RR” designation in its Call Number, and you can also see that there is an additional copy, “Copy 2″, which is located down in the closed stacks.

Policies for Accessing Reading Room Items During our Move

During our transition, only the Reading Room (“RR”) items that remain in Room 201 at the time of request will be accessible to patrons.   For safety and security reasons, the Law Library Reading Room will not be servicing any Reading Room copies that are in the process of being moved or transitioned.  For “RR” items having an additional copy in our stacks (as in Example One, above), the additional copies can be ordered through ACS as usual for delivery to Room 201.  For “RR” items having only a single Reading Room copy (as in Example Two, below), if these materials have been removed from Room 201 they will not be accessible to the public until our transition into our temporary location on the Ground Floor is complete.

Example Two: There is only one copy available of this item, and it is a Reading Room copy. If this item is still located in Room 201, it will be accessible to patrons. If this
item has been moved, it will not be accessible until our temporary Reading Room is open to the public.


As soon as the temporary Reading Room is cleared for safety and open for business, complete service will resume, and all “RR” items will be retrievable for patrons. If you have interest in an “RR” item in the meantime, we recommend that you call the Law Library Reading Room first at (202) 707-5080 to learn whether that item will be available. We will also provide an update on this blog when our temporary Reading Room opens.

Alternative Options

For items that cannot be serviced during our transition, we refer patrons to other local law libraries that may have the materials they need.  The following is a selective list of law libraries located in the D.C. metro area which are open to members of the public.  Prior to visiting, we recommend that patrons call or review the websites of these libraries to learn their policies, confirm their hours, and see whether the items needed are in their catalogs.  A more complete list of local law libraries is provided on the George Mason Law Library website.

Virginia Public Law Libraries

Arlington County Walter T. McCarthy Law Library
1425 N. Courthouse Rd, Suite 1700, Arlington, VA
(703) 228-7005
Hours: Mon – Fri: 8:30 am – 4 pm
Closest Metro Stop: Courthouse (Silver/Orange)

Alexandria Law Library
520 King St., LL34, Alexandria, VA
(703) 746-4077
Hours: Mon-Fri: 9 am-2 pm
Closest Metro Stop:  King Street (Blue/Yellow)

Fairfax County Courthouse Public Law Library
4110 Chain Bridge Rd., Suite 115, Fairfax, VA
(703) 246-2170
Hours: Mon & Thurs: 8 am – 7 pm; Tues, Wed & Fri: 8 am – 4:30 pm
Closest Metro Stop: Vienna-Fairfax-GMU (Orange)  (4.6 miles away)

Maryland Public Law Libraries

Montgomery County Circuit Court Law Library
50 Maryland Ave, Rm 326, Rockville, MD
(240) 777-9120
Hours: Mon – Fri: 8 am – 5:30 pm
Closest Metro Stop: Rockville (Red)

Prince George’s County Law Library
14735 Main Street, Rm M1400, Upper Marlboro, MD
(301) 952-3438
Hours:   8:30 am – 4:30 pm on regular court days

Anne Arundel County Public Law Library
7 Church Circle, Suite 303, Annapolis, MD
(410) 222-1387
Hours: Mon – Fri: 9 am – 4:30 pm

Academic Law Libraries

Pence Law Library (American University Washington College of Law)
4801 Massachusetts Ave., NW, Washington, DC
(202) 274-4300
Hours: Mon – Fri: 8 am – 8 pm; Sat & Sun: 9 am – 5 pm
Closest Metro Stop:  Tenleytown-AU (Red)

Judge Kathryn J. Dufour Law Library (Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law)
3600 John McCormack Rd., NE, Washington DC
(202) 319-5156
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 7:30 am – 11:45 pm; Fri: 7:30 am – 8:45 pm; Sat: 9 am – 8:45pm; Sun: 9 am – 11:45 pm
Closest Metro Stop:  Brookland-CUA (Red)

George Mason Law Library (George Mason University School of Law)
3301 N Fairfax Dr., Arlington, VA
(703) 993-8100
Hours: Mon-Thurs: 8 am – 11 pm; Fri: 8 am – 10 pm; Sat: 10 am – 10 pm; Sun: 10 am – 11 pm
Closest Metro Stop: Clarendon (Silver/Orange) or Virginia Square-GMU (Silver/Orange)

Charles N. and Hilda H. M. Mason Law Library (U.D.C. Clarke School of Law)
4200 Connecticut Ave, N.W., Washington, DC
(202) 274-7310
Hours: Mon-Fri: 8 am-11 pm; Sat: 10 am-6 pm; Sun: Noon-8 pm
Closest Metro Stop:  Van Ness-UDC (Red)

Howard University Law Library (Howard University Law School)
2929 Van Ness Street, NW, Washington, DC
(202) 806-8045
Hours: Mon – Fri: 7 am – 11 pm; Sat: 9 am – 10 pm; Sun: 11 am – 11 pm
Closest Metro Stop:  Van Ness-UDC (Red)

Categories: Research & Litigation

Researching Norwegian Law Online and in the Library

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 1:53pm

The following is a guest post by Elin Hofverberg, a foreign law research consultant who covers Scandinavian countries at the Law Library of Congress. Elin has previously written about the bicentenary of Norway’s constitution and a boarding school scandal in Sweden for In Custodia Legis.

Storthings Bygningen (i.e., Stortingsbygningen, the Norwegian Parliament Building) Christiania (now Oslo), Norway (between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900). Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

When I conduct research on Scandinavian jurisdictions here at the Law Library of Congress I am often amazed by how easy it is to access a lot of the material. The country that has really gone above and beyond to make researching its laws easier is Norway.

In 2001, Norway was the first country in Europe to make the online publication of its laws an official version. Now the National Library of Norway is bringing the country’s whole history into the 21st century by working towards digitizing its entire collection, providing free access to any person with a computer and a Norwegian IP address. Soon people in Norway will be able to read these materials on their smartphones while riding the bus to work or drinking their morning coffee!

For the rest of us located outside of Norway, we are still able to access the main sources of Norwegian law for free. All current legislation is available at Of course, it helps to be able to read Norwegian, but thankfully the University of Oslo makes (unofficial) translations of legislation available on its website. You can search in English and, if you just want to browse, clicking search without entering any information will give you a long list of translated acts to go through. Be careful to check that the act you are looking at contains all the amendments – Scandinavian laws are amended quite frequently. It is also great that English summaries and translations of recent Supreme Court cases can be found on the Court’s website.

You might be able to access the National Library of Norway’s collection while sitting here!
Raftsund, Lofoten, Norway (between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900). Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Another useful source is the Norwegian Parliament (Storting) website, which has recently made parliamentary material from 1814 to 2001 available online (in Norwegian only). The Norwegian government homepage is also a good starting point for researching laws and regulations and their broader context.

There are also a number of physical resources here at the Law Library that can help you get a better feel for the context of Norwegian legislation. Reading the 1814 independence material online is efficient and handy but the fact that the text has survived 200 years becomes very real when turning the frail pages of a 19th century book. Although I would never dare read it while drinking my morning coffee!

The Library of Congress has several books on the history of the 1814 events:

Resources about the legal relationship between the Scandinavian countries in general include:

Another interesting historic title is: Snorre Sturlasson, Heimskringla; or, the Lives of the Norse Kings (1932). In addition, some of the earliest laws of Norway have been translated into English in a 1935 book that was recently republished in 2008.

In terms of primary legal resources, the Law Library has both current and historic versions of Norway’s legislation: Norges Lover. Copies of the laws from the official gazette, Norsk Lovtidend, are also available to researchers.  Digitized copies of the gazette published after 2001 are provided on the Lovdata website.

There is a guide to online resources for Norwegian legal research on the Law Library’s website as part of the Guide to Law Online. The Law Library has also published a report that discusses the laws related to the massacre that took place in Norway in 2011.

For select Norwegian legal news see the Law Library’s Global Legal Monitor.

Please stop by to use our collection and let us know if you need help finding anything related to Norwegian law.

Categories: Research & Litigation


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