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Research & Litigation

An Interview with Sahar Saqib, Foreign Law Intern

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 08/31/2016 - 9:58am

Today’s interview is with Sahar Saqib, a foreign law intern. Sahar, who recently earned her Master of Laws (LL.M.) in International and Comparative Law from the George Washington University Law School, is currently working with Tariq Ahmad on research related to the laws of South Asian countries.

Describe your background

I was born in Islamabad, Pakistan, and so were my two younger siblings. We grew up with a nomadic lifestyle, moving every three or so years with our parents across the globe because they were diplomats. I’ve lived in eight different countries and speak three languages. My experiences abroad and at home have shaped me into the person I am today, and influenced me to see the world through a broader lens.

I have consistently been blessed with remarkable teachers who have guided and encouraged me to continue to grow and challenge myself, and to aspire to be better. It is through their investment and the passion that they have for their craft that I decided to one day become an educator myself. My love for learning, reading and the arts was a direct result of their efforts.

What is your academic/professional history?

Photo by Sahar Saqib.

I received my LL.B. (Hons) from the University of London International Programmes in Pakistan. I focused my studies on jurisprudence, Shariah law, conflict of laws, and European Union law. I have just graduated with an LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from the George Washington University Law School, focusing on international law and international human rights law. I plan to continue with further postgraduate and doctoral studies.

I have previously interned at the Ministry of Law and Justice in Pakistan, where I compiled a report on the living and human rights conditions of prisoners; at the Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS), where I conducted legal research for Members of Parliament and responded to queries on drafting bills and assessing the impact of recently passed laws; and at the office of Senior Supreme Court Advocate Mr. Syed Naeem Bokhari, from whom I learned how to draft petitions on family law and custody cases as well as how to litigate by attending and assisting in Supreme Court and High Court hearings. During my studies at GWU, I worked pro bono for the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) by responding to questions of multi-state statutory law from domestic violence victims and survivors through the Spanish hotline.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I research foreign laws and legal systems on varied issues in response to inquiries from the U.S. Congress, federal agencies, the judiciary, members of the bar, and the general public.  I have worked on requests involving a number of South Asian jurisdictions on issues ranging anywhere between international law, Shariah law, and human rights issues.  My recent reports covered issues involving drug trafficking laws in Pakistan and the treatment of religious minorities in Bangladesh. I am currently working on a comparative analysis of judicial decisions and laws revolving around the “triple Talaaq” (three pronouncements of divorce under Shariah law) in South Asian countries.

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

I have always loved research work, and I knew that working with and learning from colleagues and peers who have extensive knowledge of laws from all over the world would not only enhance my understanding of the multitude of customs and law practices, but also introduce me to many topics in the areas of their legal expertise, which has led to some engaging discussions. It is also a wonderful opportunity for me to sharpen my legal research and writing skills and contribute to the Law Library’s ever growing database of knowledge; a personally rewarding experience.

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

I learned that the Law Library has the biggest, most thorough and comprehensive collection of law books from all over the world, and stores and preserves copies of publications in larger-than-football-field-sized stacks to ensure that laws of all countries in the world are safe and can be made readily available. I think that that is a commendable feat and an extremely useful service to every country whose legislation is being safeguarded in this manner.

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

Probably that I am an artist and a poet–I write, sketch, and paint whenever I can find time. I am an avid fan of British comedies such as Monty Python and Blackadder. My favorite book is The Little Prince. I collect recipes even thought I don’t know how to cook.

Categories: Research & Litigation

How to Contact Your Representative or Senator: A Beginner’s Guide

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 08/30/2016 - 8:49am

This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis, instructional librarian, and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialist

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We frequently receive questions and comments from patrons who want to exercise their First Amendment right by making their position known on a piece of legislation. When patrons ask us what they can do to be heard regarding a piece of legislation, we will often suggest that they contact their senators and representatives directly.  Because this process can seem somewhat overwhelming at first glance, we wanted to provide this quick and easy guide regarding how to determine who your members of Congress are and how to contact those members.

National Archives to get 1892 petition for building of better roads. Photograph by Harris and Ewing. (Created April 30, 1937). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

I. Locate Your Members of Congress

As explained on

Established by Article I of the Constitution, the Legislative Branch consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which together form the United States Congress….The House of Representatives is made up of 435 elected members, divided among the 50 states in proportion to their total population. In addition, there are 6 non-voting members, representing the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and four other territories of the United States….The Senate is composed of 100 Senators, 2 for each state. Until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, Senators were chosen by state legislatures, not by popular vote. Since then, they have been elected to six-year terms by the people of each state. Senator’s terms are staggered so that about one-third of the Senate is up for reelection every two years.

As such, you will likely have three members representing you in Congress: two senators and one representative.

We will first address how to find your senators, as they are easiest to find by state.  To locate your senator using, simply visit the homepage, scroll to the bottom of the screen, and under “Current Members of Congress,” choose your state from the drop-down menu. Next, on the left-hand side of the screen, click “Chamber” and “Senate.”  If you click on a member’s name in the results list, you will be taken to their Member page, which contains information about what legislation the member has sponsored or cosponsored, service dates, party affiliation, a picture (when available), and a link to remarks made in the Congressional Record, among other things.  You can also use this process to locate a non-voting member of Congress (also known as a “delegate,” or, in the case of Puerto Rico, a “resident commissioner”). Simply select the district or territory of interest from the drop-down menu underneath “Current Members of Congress,” and select the member’s name from the results page to open their member page. In addition, you can visit the Senate’s “Our States” page, click on the state of interest, and you will be taken to a page that links you to the official pages of the two senators from that state.  The Senate also has a “Contact Information” page that lists all the senators of the current Congress alphabetically, and can be sorted by state.

To find your representative, you will first have to determine what congressional district you live in. To do this, visit the House of Representatives’ “Find Your Representative” page, type your zip code in the search box, and click the “Find your Rep by Zip” button. If more than one congressional district is contained in your zip code, you can look to the map on the results page to see where the borders of each congressional district are located.  Once you select a congressional district, you will see the name of the representative from that congressional district, as well as a link to their official website.  If you want more information about the representative, you can also search for their member page on by selecting “Members” from the pull-down menu at the top of every screen, typing the representative’s name into the search box, and clicking enter.

You can also obtain detailed contact information for members of Congress by using the Congressional Directory, which is prepared by the Joint Committee on Printing and published by the Government Publishing Office.

II. Petitioning for Redress of Grievances

Once you find the official websites of the pertinent members of Congress, you will note that there is often a “Contact” link found at the top of the homepage.  Each contact page will likely have mailing, phone, and fax information for the member’s D.C. and local state offices.  In addition, most members of Congress provide a web form, which allows constituents to type out their messages to the member, and leave their own contact information so that the member (or someone from the member’s staff) can get in touch with the constituent to discuss the issue.

For constituents wanting a little more guidance regarding how to frame their feedback to members of Congress, they might consider looking to one of the several books available on the topic, such as:

As we have mentioned in some of our other Beginner’s Guides, you can find these, and other similar resources in a library near you by using the WorldCat catalog. When you select a resource from your search results list in WorldCat, scroll down to the “Find a copy in my library” section, enter your zip code (or city and country, for those not in the United States), and WorldCat will list the closest libraries to you that own that resource.  You can then click on the library’s name to be taken to the resource’s entry in that library’s catalog.

We hope this guide has been helpful. If you have any legal research questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Approaches to Narcotics in Sixteen Countries

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 08/29/2016 - 10:59am

The following is a guest post by Peter Roudik, director of legal research at the Law Library of Congress. Peter has previously written a number of posts related to Russia and the former Soviet Union, including posts on the Soviet investigation of Nazi war crimes, lustration in Ukraine, Crimean history and the 2014 referendum, regulating the Winter Olympics in Russia, Soviet law and the assassination of JFK, the treaty on the creation of the Soviet Union, murder as statecraft, and the Russian Spring holiday.

Narcotic poisons / G.E. Madeley, lithog., Wellington St[ree]t, Strand. (George Spratt, artist. Published by John Wilson, Princes Street, Soho; and C. Tilt, Fleet Street, London [1843].) Illustration shows plants classified as narcotic poisons, including Deadly Nightshade, Birthwort, White Poppy, Woody Nightshare, Tobacco, Thorn Apple, Water Hemlock, Foxglove, Strong Scented Lettuce, Hemlock, Herb Paris, and Henbane; also descriptions of plants. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Tourists who go to Amsterdam and decide to try some drugs in coffee shops may not know that the shops are actually prohibited from selling drugs to them under Dutch law, and that nonresidents of the Netherlands are not allowed even to enter the premises of the coffee shops. Establishments where drugs are used can be closed by local mayors for not adhering to the rules. However, because coffee shops rely on income from tourists and contribute to local economies, mayors do not enforce the Dutch residency requirement and tolerate the sale of certain “soft” drugs to foreigners. Due to public health and safety concerns, the mayors also refrain from prosecuting the so called “user rooms” where drug addicts may use their own drugs and not become a nuisance for the public.

If someone is caught by police in Germany, it does not matter for law enforcement purposes whether soft or hard drugs are involved. Police treat all narcotics equally and the distinction between soft and hard drugs can only be considered at sentencing. It is equally illegal to use drugs in Portugal, which is often named as the European success story in the fight against drugs. Laws passed about 15 years ago did not legalize narcotics but reclassified drug use, possession, and purchase as administrative offenses while maintaining criminal sanctions for the cultivation of drugs for consumption. Penalties for drug use in Portugal may include a prohibition on certain professional activities, a ban on visiting some places, restrictions on meetings with specific individuals, or revocation of a gun license.

While some nations (Canada, Ireland, South Africa) have considered legalizing marijuana, it appears that the only country where it is really legal to produce and use cannabis is Uruguay, although even there it is a highly regulated process involving registration of users.

These and many other interesting facts related to the legalization, decriminalization, or other forms of regulation of drugs and psychoactive substances can be found in a recently published Law Library of Congress report on decriminalization of narcotics in 16 countries. Individual country surveys demonstrate how history, legal traditions, and social and economic developments define each country’s specific approach to prosecuting and regulating the manufacture or cultivation, possession, sale, purchase, and use of traditional (hard and soft) drugs, as well as so-called “new psychoactive substances,” such as party pills and synthetic cannabis (as has occurred in New Zealand).

The report finds that while most of the surveyed countries either do not prosecute some individual drug users or have options for avoiding their criminal prosecution, in general, possessing, manufacturing, and trading in narcotics is prohibited. Countries where decriminalization of drug-related activities has occurred state that this was done to protect the health and safety of individuals and the public. They allow treatment and alternative punishments for minor drug offenses.

Among other aspects, the report reviews the parameters used to define what is legally considered to be large and small quantities of drugs, outlines the role of the police, prosecutors, and courts in drug-related cases, describes recognized addiction treatment programs, analyzes major court rulings, and summarizes legislative proposals currently under consideration in foreign parliaments.

We invite you to read this report, which is one of many other Law Library research products addressing the legal treatment of narcotics. These include a multinational report on the legal status of khat, a plant whose leaves have a stimulant effect when chewed, blog posts on punishments for drug trafficking and the execution of drug offenders in Indonesia, as well as Global Legal Monitor articles on drug trafficking, narcotics and drug abuse, and prescription drugs.

Destroying narcotics, Bureau Internal Rev. [ca. 1920]. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Categories: Research & Litigation

Today is Women’s Equality Day!

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 08/26/2016 - 2:00pm

On August 26, 1920, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the 19th amendment of the United States Constitution, which gave women the right to vote. Thanks to Congresswoman Bella S. Abzug, this landmark moment, and women’s continuous achievements and challenges on the path toward equality under the law are commemorated every August 26 on Women’s Equality Day.

Head of suffrage parade, Washington, D.C., Bain Collection, March 3, 1919.

As a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, a historic liberal arts college for women, I have a deep appreciation for women’s history. Therefore, it is with great enthusiasm that I share some background information on Women’s Equality Day and highlight resources from the Library of Congress collection related to the women’s suffrage movement.

In 1971, Congresswoman Abzug introduced H.J. Res 808 to designate August 26th as Women’s Equality Day. Although this joint resolution did not pass, in 1973 Congresswoman Abzug again introduced a bill for Women’s Equality Day. On August 16, 1973, the 93rd Congress passed H.J. Res. 52, which became Pub. L. 93-105. Every president since Richard Nixon has issued a proclamation designating August 26 as Women’s Equality Day. Nixon stated in his proclamation that he “firmly believed that women should not be denied equal protection of the laws of this Nation,” affirming his support for the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. President Obama addressed the continued struggle of women to earn equal pay for equal work and the importance of women having access to affordable health care, and protections against domestic and sexual violence in his 2015 proclamation.

The Law Library of Congress and the greater Library of Congress have some wonderful resources dedicated to women’s history and the women’s suffrage movement. For example, you can read about the history of women’s rights worldwide in the In Custodia Legis blog post, Women in History: Voting Rights and our Women’s History Month commemorative page, which links to the public laws and proclamations that designate March as Women’s History Month.

The Library of Congress also has fantastic images of the women who championed women’s voting rights in its collection, The Struggle for Women’s Suffrage. Additionally, the Library of Congress has over 500 images that document the work of the National Woman’s Party in the collection, Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party.

We invite you to view these resources today as we commemorate Women’s Equality Day!

Categories: Research & Litigation

On this day: The National Park Service Celebrates 100 Years

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 08/25/2016 - 2:42pm

National Park Service

As a frequent visitor to national parks, I have been watching the anticipation build over the last few years as we approach the centennial of the National Park Service (NPS). Today marks 100 years since the passage of “An Act To establish a National Park Service, and for other purposes” (64 Stat. 408), signed into law by Woodrow Wilson on August 25, 1916. Today in History provides information about a hearing before the House Committee on Public Lands on April 5 and 6, 1916 that helped pass the law. The purpose of the law is “to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

In 1916, there were already 35 national parks and monuments including Yellowstone, Mackinac Island, Yosemite, Mount Rainer, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, Devils Tower, El Morro, and Montezuma Castle. Today there are 413 areas with designations such as national parks, monuments, preserves, reserves, lakeshores, seashores, rivers, wild and scenic riverways, scenic trails, historic sites and parks, military parks, memorials, recreation areas, and parkways.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument. Photo by Fernando O. González.

The NPS is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Our historical Statutes at Large collection has the laws that founded national parks after the creation of the NPS, including Grand Canyon National Park.  You can use to track the status of the legislation about the NPS. In particular, there is a current pending bill called the National Park Service Centennial Act and you can get alerts to track its progress through Congress.

Within National Parks, United States Park Police protect the parks and enforce the rules. The Park Police are located in Washington, D.C., New York City, and San Francisco, working with park rangers in all national parks. The current rules and regulations are in Title 36 of the CFR: Parks, Forests, and Public Property, volume 1, chapter 1, part 1.

National Park Service Centennial

Interested in learning more? The Library of Congress has a Pinterest board celebrating America’s parks. A search for “National Park Service” on will show current and past legislation. And the NPS website is of course celebrating!



In 2015 the NPS saw more than 307 million recreation visitors. Will you “find your park” in 2016?


Categories: Research & Litigation

On Describing the Law Library’s Hispanic Legal Documents Collection

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 08/24/2016 - 3:29pm

This is a guest post by Patience Tyne. Patience is working in the Collection Services Division of the Law Library of Congress as part of the Library of Congress’s Junior Fellows Program. The program’s focus is to increase access to our collections for our various patron groups.

Twenty-one document boxes housing part of the Hispanic Legal Documents Collection

The project that I am working on in the Junior Fellows Program this summer is called the Hispanic Legal Documents Collection Description Project. Seventy-five years ago, the Law Library of Congress purchased a massive collection of Hispanic legal documents from a dealer in Barcelona. The collection contains a broad selection of documents from Spain and its colonies during the 15th-19th centuries. It includes correspondence, civil, criminal, and ecclesiastical legal proceedings, newspapers, royal decrees and seals, educational promotions, charts, maps, and other previously inaccessible rare documents housed in 96 document boxes. The purpose of the project is to create metadata for these Hispanic documents. This means that I have been asked to go through the documents in the collection and record certain targeted pieces of information about each one that will help future researchers estimate the documents’ research potential. The description I provide includes a summary, location, date, personal names, signatures, stamps, and other pertinent information. The information will later be compiled to create a finding aid that will make these documents, which until now have been mostly invisible to researchers, visible.

Pages from an item in the Hispanic Legal Documents Collection, Law Library [Photo Credit: Donna Sokol]

The project has presented me with some real challenges and opportunities to learn. Since the collection is mostly made up of handwritten documents, the first obstacle in describing them has been interpreting and reading the historic handwriting styles. The distinct handwriting styles of the documents reflect the styles of their eras. You can find in the collection handwriting samples showing a wide diversity of letter-forms, spelling variations, and ornate abbreviations. I was able to interpret these with the use of the Library’s holdings on Spanish paleography. No less of a challenge was the content of the documents, which proved much more difficult than I had anticipated. In this area also, thanks to unlimited resources available at the Library of Congress, I found materials to help with my research.

In addition to creating metadata, I had the opportunity to present items from this collection at Display Day. Display Day is the culmination of the Junior Fellow internship program during which fellows from every participating division in the Library of Congress present interesting collection items that they found in the course of their projects. In my selections for the display, I tried to represent the significant categories of documents that you might find in the collection I am working with. The overall theme of the presentation I put together was “Threats to the Public Tranquility.” Here are the items I presented: State Department correspondence concerning local bandits in Michoacán (1848), treasury allocation for military expenses in Veracruz (1822), an imperial tax decree from Córdoba (1757), a civil case recorded in ornate handwriting (1607), a nineteenth century handwritten map of Chihuahua, and the record of a criminal investigation of a licentious priest with a scandalous portrait (1849).

Pages from the dossier recording the investigation of Presbyter Acosta of Morelia over allegations of adultery, Hispanic Legal Documents Collection [Photo Credit: Donna Sokol]

The last of these items, the investigation of a licentious priest, is especially interesting. It surrounds accusations in the late 1840s that Presbyter Crecencio Acosta of Morelia, Mexico, was engaging in immoral liaisons with the wives of several members of his parish. The investigation, at which several counts of the criminal charge of adultery were alleged against Acosta, took place in the criminal court of Morelia, with notaries taking the testimonies in Santa Clara. The documents associated with the investigation include twelve letters, some formal and some informal, that accompanied the court documents as they circulated among the court officers during the pretrial phase, and a series of documents recording the testimony of the persons concerned in the accusations against Crecencio.

Over the course of a series of affidavits, this story unfolds like a modern telenovela. The first testimony is the most intriguing, as well as the most risqué of the investigation. Francisco Saenz, one of Crecencio’s parishioners, had heard rumors about Father Acosta’s frequent visits to the homes of women in the community. However, his suspicion increased when he saw the priest one day wearing a ring identical to one Francisco had given his wife engraved with her initials. After a frenzied search of his wife’s jewelry box, Francisco confronted Acosta demanding to see the ring. But word of Francisco’s suspicions must have gotten to Acosta who now wore a different ring, while his wife’s ring mysteriously had been returned to the box. Francisco now was on high alert and when sometime later he saw Acosta caress his wife’s face, he devised a plan to catch them in the act. Announcing that he had an obligation across town, he pretended to leave the house but instead doubled back and hid by a hole in the wall waiting to see whether they would take advantage of the opportunity to meet. His testimony covered everything that he witnessed. In one letter to the court, Francisco mentioned a painting that Crecencio had given to his wife, describing its contents: a colorful champagne ad that was “very indecent, very lascivious, very scandalous” as it depicts a woman in a revealing dress drinking champagne and is captioned in French, saying: “Champagne with dessert promotes folly, and a woman who is a little foolish is always more lovely”. Nine other townsmen testified similar stories accusing Acosta of flirtatious behavior, but Francisco’s wife María Castañeda testified in favor of Acosta and swore that her husband was confused and crazy. Ultimately, the tribunal acquitted Acosta of the criminal charges because even with the overwhelming evidence, the husband and wife had created reasonable doubt with their contradictory testimonies. The bishop ordered Acosta to be transferred to a nearby parish and decreed a monition to end his vices.

Patience Tyne presides over the display she created for Display Day, July 27, 2016 [Photo Credit: Donna Sokol]

Categories: Research & Litigation

Law Library of Congress to Commemorate Constitution Day

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 08/23/2016 - 2:43pm

At noon on Wednesday, September 7, 2016, the Law Library of Congress will host an event featuring board-certified forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert Maman. Dr. Maman will discuss the rights of persons living with mental illness in the United States.

Credit: Smart

The discussion will take place in room LJ-119 of the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

This public event will serve as the Law Library’s annual commemoration of Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. Although officially established in its current form in 2004, Constitution Day and Citizenship Day traces its roots back to 1952, when Congress passed H.J.Res 314. This law (ch. 49, 66 Stat. 9) designated September 17th of each year as Citizenship Day in commemoration of the signing of the U.S. Constitution and “in recognition of all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have attained the full status of citizenship.” This law also directed the president to annually issue a proclamation honoring this day and calling citizens to observe the day with appropriation ceremonies. As directed by this law, President Truman issued Proclamation 2984 on July 25, 1952.

Dr. Maman will address modern-day perspectives on the care and treatment of the mentally ill in terms of their status within the criminal justice system, and new developments—driven in great part by constitutional concerns—to ensure that the mentally ill are treated with proper medical care.

He will also discuss issues of privacy and security relating to the mentally ill within the criminal justice system. Finally, he will explore how social issues relating to trauma of combat and abuse of prescription drugs are being handled in light of civil-rights considerations.

Dr. Maman has held various posts in the areas of mental health and criminal justice. Originally from France, Dr. Maman completed his residency in psychiatry at Temple University in Philadelphia and a fellowship in forensic psychiatry at the Oregon Health Science University in Portland.

He is a graduate of the Washington College of Law at American University and is admitted to the District of Columbia and the United States Patent bars. He is member of the American Bar Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Dr. Maman has had a longstanding interest in areas such as addiction and mental health, and was the founder of an innovative addiction treatment program called “Blue Gate” for the State of Maryland. He was also the medical director at the Patuxent (Maryland) correctional facility. Recently, Dr. Maman served on a Montgomery County, Maryland, task force that was directed to develop a mental-health adjudication process for the county. Dr. Maman retired from state service in December 2015, and currently directs the outpatient clinic of Omni House in Glen Burnie, Maryland.

We hope you can join us! For those not able to attend the program, we will have a member of the In Custodia Legis team live tweet the event via @LawLibCongress, using #ConstitutionDay.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Inside the New Mexico Supreme Court – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 08/22/2016 - 3:36pm

As a law librarian, I always try to spend some of my vacation time visiting local law libraries.  This year, while visiting the New Mexico Supreme Court Library, I was also able to take a peek at the New Mexico State Supreme Court courtroom, although the court was not in session.  The New Mexico State Supreme Court has five justices who each serve eight year terms.

New Mexico State Supreme Courtroom / Photograph by Anne Kelly

The courtroom, like the library, is housed in the state Administrative Office of the Courts.  The hallways include portraits, both painted and photographed, of previous justices.

New Mexico Administrative Office of the Courts building hallway / Photograph by Anne Kelly

Categories: Research & Litigation

Codrington Library – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 08/19/2016 - 10:00am

Photograph by Kurt Carroll.

Earlier this month I attended the International Association of Law Libraries (IALL) annual course on law and legal information. This year’s course was held at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and the theme was Common Law Perspectives in an International Context. In addition to excellent lectures on common law in the UK, there were comparisons to civil law systems and issues in international law. A last minute addition on Brexit was a big crowd pleaser, no surprise there.

Outside the lecture hall, I was able to visit two Oxford libraries. The first, the Bodleian Library, is highly trafficked with gallery space for special collections but did not allow pictures. The second, the Codrington Library at All Souls College, is a little more obscure but welcomed the camera. The latter is the subject of this week’s Pic of the Week.

Unusual for Oxford, All Souls College does not have its own students but it does accept fellows. From an American perspective, this would be equivalent to being a research institution without any undergraduates. Fellowships here are quite competitive, averaging only two awarded each year. Also unusual for Oxford, the Codrington Library does admit all members of the university to access its reading room and collections.

Upon entering the main quadrangle of the college, one immediately sees a Christopher Wren-designed sundial above the main entrance to the library. Beyond the walls looms the Radcliffe Camera, part of the Bodleian Libraries.

All Souls College quadrangle. Photograph by Kurt Carroll

Codrington Library main reading room. Photograph by Kurt Carroll.

Sir William Blackstone. Photograph by Kurt Carroll

I was interested in this library as it is known for its law collection and because William Blackstone was a Fellow of All Souls College. In addition to his interest in law, Blackstone had a keen interest in architecture and is credited with the completion of the Codrington Library’s main reading room in 1756. It is believed Blackstone initiated the organization of books in the reading room according to his own classification system.

The collection numbers approximately 185,000 volumes, one-third of which are considered rare, i.e., printed prior to 1800. The main subjects are law and history. Collection development is responsive to the needs of All Souls’ Fellows. Attempts are made to avoid collection duplication with other Oxford colleges, especially the larger Bodleian Law Library. The Codrington has been known to acquire titles that are out of reach of other Oxford libraries, thanks in part to a well-endowed book budget.


Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Felix Beulke, Foreign Law Intern

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 08/18/2016 - 10:00am

Describe your background

Photograph by Jenny Gesley.

I am from Germany and grew up in a town called Passau which is located on the outskirts of the Bavarian Forest and is characterized by its university and student life. In 2008, I moved to the German capital Berlin and went to law school at the historic Humboldt University.

What is your academic/professional history?

After I completed my first two years of law school in Berlin, I spent a year abroad at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, where I studied Irish and European law. Back at Humboldt University, I focused my studies on intellectual property law, in particular trademark, patent, and copyright law. I am currently finishing my two year postgraduate judicial service in Berlin. Before I came to the Law Library, this postgraduate training allowed me to clerk at the District Court of Berlin and work for the Public Prosecutor’s office as well as the research services of the German Bundestag (parliament).

How would you describe your job to other people?

Working at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress is a great experience and offers a variety of valuable new insights. Conducting legal research on all German-speaking jurisdictions gives me the unique opportunity to get know the legal systems of Austria, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein which were largely unfamiliar to me before. I get the chance to write about current legal topics for the Law Library blog In Custodia Legis, for example the legal issues surrounding Brexit and anti-doping rules. The Law Library of Congress is also the perfect workplace to enhance my legal research skills.

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

I am fascinated by the unique role of the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library and the way it provides research on foreign jurisdictions from all around the world. The close connection to current political issues when providing research for the U.S. Congress is especially appealing.

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

I learned about the Indigenous Law Portal, a project of the Law Library that classifies and provides access to American indigenous legal materials.

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

I enjoy skiing and try to go on skiing trips at least once a year.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Jasmine Stewart, Collection Services Intern

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 08/17/2016 - 7:49am

Photo by Betty Lupinacci

Today’s interview is with Jasmine Stewart, one of this year’s stellar summer interns in the Collection Services Division.  Jasmine has been busy inventorying and creating metadata for a collection of no-longer-available-in-print National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) decisions.  She is also continuing work on accessioning our collection of foreign legal gazettes gifted by the Dag Hammarskjold Library.  We are very happy to have her with us this summer.

Describe your background

I was born in Washington, D.C. and raised in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I enjoy watching TV series and movies from the 90’s, cooking, learning to draw and reading, specifically about food and its impact on the world.

What is your academic/professional history?

I graduated from CH Flowers High School in the summer of 2015 and decided to go to Towson University. I am currently majoring in exercise science and plan to go to graduate school to become a physical therapist.

How would you describe your job to other people?

For my first project, I would describe my job as sort of a book detective (or gazette detective to be more specific) because I look through books and search for anything missing, then see if I can find the missing piece. And for my second project, I would describe my job as sorting and processing documents published by the NTSB.

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

I wanted to gain perspective of the Law Library as an employee instead of just a guest. I visited a lot growing up because my Aunt (Tanya London) has been here for as long as I can remember. Every visit was fun because there is so much always going on. So naturally working here seemed like an opportunity I could not resist.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

I am amazed at how everyone knows everyone here. It’s pretty much a family environment even though there are so many employees and mostly everyone works at their desks all day. Yet I still see people take time out of their day to talk to someone who they do not see on a day-to-day basis. And I’m glad to say I have had great encounters with people here.

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

I am the biggest football fan; not American football but futbol (known as soccer in the U.S.). I am a proud Chelsea FC fan despite the season we just had and one of my favorite players is Paul Pogba. This summer I tried my best to watch every game at the Euros (heartbroken for France) and cannot wait for the Olympics to see the U.S. women’s team play.  [Note to readers, this interview was conducted before the U.S. women’s team played in Rio.]


Categories: Research & Litigation

On the Shelf: Saint Pierre & Miquelon

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 08/16/2016 - 7:30am

For this edition of On the Shelf, we travel to one of the lesser-known French overseas collectivities, Saint Pierre & Miquelon.

This material was brought to the forefront by a combination of projects in the Collection Services Division.

As we have mentioned before, we are still chipping away at classifying over a million volumes that the Law Library collected before the Class K schedule was introduced in the late 1960s. Also, as we have previously noted, we are having new shelving installed in the first quad of our stacks. So the focus of the classification project has been on titles located in the new shelving area.

Photo by Betty Lupinacci

And from there we came across a small collection from Saint Pierre & Miquelon.

Actually it’s a single title, namely the Journal Officiel des Iles Saint-Pierre & Miquelon.

I am sure we have other materials within our French collection that include laws for these small islands, but in terms of titles with their own call number designation (KDZ), the official gazette is our lone item.

The title moved onto microfilm in the Law Library during the mid-20th century and is now published online with archives going back to 1995.

But if anyone from St. Pierre & Miquelon or the French government is reading this, we would love to have more titles to keep this little gem company on the shelf.


Categories: Research & Litigation


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