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Research & Litigation

FALQs: Cuban Legal System

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 4:01pm

The following is a guest post by Gustavo Guerra, a foreign law specialist covering a number of Spanish-speaking jurisdictions at the Law Library of Congress.  It is the second post in our “Frequently Asked Legal Questions” series, following on from our post yesterday on French terrorism laws.  As always, we welcome your feedback and suggestions for this series!

Photo by Flickr user Stewart Cutler, Sept. 1, 2009. Used under Creative Commons License,

In light of initiatives to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, and the recent visit of a U.S. government delegation to Havana, I decided to provide answers to a few questions about the Cuban legal system and where one could locate Cuban laws and information about them. Most of the links used in this post lead to websites maintained by the Cuban government, and we cannot be sure that all information is recent or up to date. Please use this post for information purposes only.

1.  What are some of the major principles of the Cuban legal system?

Cuba is governed by a legal system based on principles derived from European Continental law, also known as civil law, which has been adapted to the socialist system. According to the Cuban Constitution, major principles include strict regulation of personal property, an economic system based on the “socialist property of the people over the fundamental means of production” (arts. 14, 21), government control of the economy (art. 16), and certain rights for citizens, including the right to education and health (Chapter VII, arts. 50, 51). The Constitution states that the Communist party is the leading and guiding force in the Cuban society (art. 5). The Constitution of Cuba was passed in 1976, and then substantially amended in 1992 and 2002. Among other major principles, the Cuban government states that the legal system includes:

  • Independence of judges;
  • Administration of justice by professional judges with support from citizens; and
  • Availability of an appeal process for all disputed judicial decisions.

2.  How are legal disputes resolved in Cuba?

Disputes are adjudicated by Cuba’s judiciary, which is comprised of courts at the municipal and regional levels with authority to hear cases on criminal and civil matters, and by the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the country.  The Supreme Court has the authority to hear appeals derived from cases originated in the lower courts as well as having original jurisdiction for certain cases that fall under its authority. Information on the Cuban judicial system is available on EcuRed, a website maintained by the Cuban government.

We are often asked for help locating information on cases adjudicated by the Cuban Supreme Court. The Supreme Court publishes select recent decisions on its website. Additionally, the Court publishes a biannual review of its rulings and practices in applying and interpreting the law. It is mandatory for all lower courts to follow guidance issued by the Supreme Court.

3.  How are Cuban laws codified?

Cuba has enacted a number of codes that compile rules on specific topics and serve as major legal acts regulating a particular area of law. For example, personal and real property, intestate successions, wills, and contracts are governed by the Civil Code.

The Family Code regulates domestic relations, including marriage and parentage, and is available in Spanish on the website of Cuba’s Supreme Court.

The Criminal Code defines acts that constitute criminal offenses and provides for applicable penalties.

Cuba’s Labor Code is the main body of law on labor matters in Cuba. It regulates unions, labor contracts, salaries, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, dispute resolution procedures, master labor agreements. This code is available on Cubadebate, an online news service maintained by Cuban journalists.

In addition to codes, the body of Cuban legislation consists of laws passed by the National Assembly of the People’s Power (legislature), regulations, executive resolutions, and circulars issued by the government.

4.  What laws are relevant to doing business in Cuba?

Those who are interested in doing business in Cuba have to comply with a number of statutes, including Law No. 118 on Foreign Investments, which includes guarantees for investors, a special tax regime applicable to foreign investments, and dispute resolution procedures. Additional information can be found on the website of the Cuban Center for Promoting Foreign Investment.

Technical requirements applicable to food products, agricultural machinery, environmental protection, etc., are included in a catalog of Cuban technical standards.

Authority over intellectual property issues is exercised by the Cuban Office on Industrial Property (OCPI). A comprehensive list of statutes and regulations on industrial property, including patents, trademarks and relevant treaties, is available on OCPI’s website (click on “Legislación”).

The Cuban Customs authority has published a list of customs regulations in force.

5.  Can Cubans receive money transfers from abroad?

Cuba’s financial rules can be found in the Banking Regulation Manual, which is a comprehensive compilation of financial regulations issued by Cuba’s Central Bank. The Manual governs several aspects of Cuba’s financial system, including monetary policy, banking oversight, and bank accounts.

The website of Cuba’s Savings Bank (Banco Popular de Ahorro, a Cuban commercial bank) provides information on the steps that must be followed by Cuban nationals in order to receive monetary transfers from abroad.

Money transfers sent to Cuba from the United States or from individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are governed by applicable U.S. regulations. More information on this topic is available on the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Frequently Asked Questions Related to Cuba, January 15, 2015. IV. Remittances, page 8) and on the website of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

6.  Are statistics on Cuba available online?

Yes. Cuba’s National Office on Statistics publishes statistical information on a wide variety of topics, such as population, jobs and salaries, education, etc., on its website.  This includes information related to the 2012 Census of Population and Housing.

7.  Where can I find more information on Cuban law?

A good starting point for a research on Cuban laws is the Law Library of Congress’s Guide to Law Online, an annotated collection of government and legal sources of information. A collection of short articles on legal developments in Cuba can be found in the Law Library’s Global Legal Monitor. Another blog post that will highlight the Law Library’s collection of Cuban legal materials will be published soon. Also, our readers can always submit reference requests through our Ask A Librarian Service, and we will respond.

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: Terrorism in France

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 01/26/2015 - 10:10am

Today we start a new series on In Custodia Legis!  “FALQs” are “Frequently Asked Legal Questions.”  We will briefly discuss interesting and useful information on laws and legal issues related to events from around the world.  Please feel free to let us know in the comments if there are particular global events or issues that you would be interested in learning about from a legal perspective (noting of course that we can’t provide legal advice on private matters).

Our first post is by Nicolas Boring, the French law specialist at the Law Library of Congress.  He has previously written posts for In Custodia Legis on “How Sunday Came to be a Day of Rest in France,” “Napoleon Bonaparte and Mining Rights in France,” and “French Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights.”

Photo by Flickr user Ma Rui, Jan. 27, 2007. Used under Creative Commons license,

In the wake of the tragic attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher supermarket that occurred in Paris on January 7-9, we thought it would be useful to give a brief explanation of certain legal issues related to terrorism in France.  The attack on Charlie Hebdo has also put the spotlight on the issue of freedom of speech in France, an issue which will be the subject of a future blog post on my part.

1.  How does French law define terrorism?

The French Code pénal (Criminal Code) defines terrorism as a number of listed acts – including intentional homicide, assault, kidnapping, hijacking, theft, extortion, property destruction, membership in an illegal armed group, digital crimes, forgery, and more – carried out with the goal of “seriously disturbing public order through intimidation or terror.” Preparing to commit an act of terrorism, and seeking, obtaining, and keeping material to be used for an act of terrorism, is also considered an act of terrorism in and of itself. Intelligence gathering and training for the purpose of carrying out an act of terrorism also falls under that definition, as does the habitual access to websites that encourage or justify terrorism. (Code pénal, arts. 421-1 to 421-6.)

French law has long dealt with terrorism. Much of the current law on this issue is fairly recent, however, and stems from a 2012 law (Loi n° 2012-1432 du 21 décembre 2012 relative à la sécurité et à la lutte contre le terrorisme [Law No. 2012-1432 of December 21, 2012, Regarding Security and the Fight Against Terrorism], and an even more recent 2014 law (Loi n° 2014-1353 du 13 novembre 2014 renforçant les dispositions relatives à la lutte contre le terrorisme [Law No. 2014-1353 of November 13, 2014, Reinforcing Provisions Regarding the Fight Against Terrorism].

2.  What is the penalty for acts of terrorism under French law?

Terrorism appears to be generally considered an aggravating circumstance to the underlying offense. For example, money laundering is ordinarily punishable by up to five years of imprisonment (Code pénal, art. 324-1), but this is increased to seven years if the money laundering was related to terrorism (id., art. 421-3). Absent any aggravating circumstance, murder is punishable by thirty years of imprisonment (id., art. 221-1), but if the murder was committed as an act of terrorism, the punishment is increased to life imprisonment (id., art. 421-3).

3.  What law enforcement agencies are involved in the fight against terrorism in France?

All French law enforcement agencies are involved, to some degree or another, in the fight against terrorism. One of the most important agencies in that fight, however, is probably the Direction générale de la sécurité intérieure (General Directorate for Internal Security, or DGSI), which is essentially a domestic intelligence agency.  The Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (General Directorate for External Security, or DGSE), France’s external intelligence agency, has a strong role in fighting terrorism on an international level.

France’s two “generalist” law enforcement agencies, the National Police and the Gendarmerie, also have an important role in the fight against terrorism. In particular, both of these agencies have SWAT units that are specialized in dealing with hostage situations and other terrorist attacks: the RAID (which is a unit of the National Police), and the GIGN (which belongs to the Gendarmerie). Both of these groups intervened on January 9. The GIGN led the assault against the Kouachi brothers, who had attacked Charlie Hebdo two days earlier. Simultaneously, the RAID led the assault against Amedy Coulibaly, who had attacked the kosher supermarket in which he was holding hostages.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Norwegian Constitution – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/23/2015 - 9:01am

The following is a guest post by Brian Kuhagen, now the law serials cataloger in the Collection Services Division at the Law Library of Congress.  Brian mostly works on classifying older serial titles in our foreign law collections.

Norwegian Constitution – Photograph by Brian Kuhagen

In mid-December, I traveled to Oslo for the holiday season. While there, I was able to take a tour of the Norwegian Parliament, which included a special display of the Norwegian Constitution.

The constitution was on display because 2014 was the Bicentenary of the Norwegian Constitution, as Elin Hofverberg wrote about in an earlier blog post. The picture above is of the first two signature pages of the original 1814 constitution.

If you want to get a closer look at the signatures, wax seals, or simply want to practice your Norwegian by reading the constitution, the Norwegian Parliament has posted a high quality scan of the original 1814 constitution.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Magna Carta Lecture Series: Law in the Lives of Medieval Women

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 01/22/2015 - 5:21pm

The lecture delivered by Professor Ruth Mazo Karras, medievalist and chair of the Department of History at the University of Minnesota, was the fourth of the Law Library’s series of complementary lectures to the exhibition:  “Magna Carta:  Muse and Mentor.”

Prof. Ruth Mazo Karras speaking about the Fourth Lateran Council Photo by Shawn Miller














The focus of Prof. Karras’s scholarship is the history of women, gender, and sexuality in medieval Western Europe.  Among her most renowned works are Sexuality in Medieval Europe:  Doing Unto Others; Common Women:  Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England; From Boys to Men:  Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe; and Unmarriages:  Women, Men, and Sexual Unions in the Middle Ages among others and a vast number of essays on these same subjects.

During this vigorous and entertaining lecture, Prof. Karras clarified that “women are not one class of people any more than all men are.  The lives of women in the aristocracy in many ways were more like those of men in the aristocracy than like men of the peasantry.  Women’s legal status was also different in different regions.”  But her strongest point was that “women’s status under the law differed significantly depending on their marital status.”

The Mumford Room was brimming with a multi-generational audience as Prof. Karras delivered her analysis.  She contends that “across the central and later Middle Ages in England, women were able to do much more than you might think their legal disabilities would let them.”  She further clarified that it was not that “women enjoyed equality to men, even a ‘rough and ready equality.'”  Certainly, “women of any social status had major legal, economic and social obstacles compared to their brothers.”  She stated:  “However, as we look at how individual women interacted with the Law in the areas of land ownership, marital choice, and commercial activity, […] they were able to create some freedom  for themselves within the constraints of the law as they knew it.”  Her point, with respect to the question of the legal status and rights of women in the Middle Ages, was simply that these “are more complicated than they might seem.”

Prof. Karras noted that “ownership and control of property was a source of income and support for women, particularly at the higher echelons of society and particularly those who were left widowed.” On that matter, she conceded that the “fact that the legal system was based on property and the defense of property” held women back as a group; however, “it allowed individual women, mainly widows, who gained control of property, to exercise a good deal of power.”

The lecture was seasoned with great bits of information.  There were interesting anecdotal examples of historical figures like Matilda “Maud” of Gloucester, Countess of Chester and Ranulf de Gernon.  Prof. Karras explained how “groups who were considered to be foreigners–within a particular jurisdiction (Italian merchants in England, Jews wherever they were found across Europe)–had their own bodies of law and were allowed to decide disputes among themselves, according to it.”  She went on to explain how “Medieval Europe had a whole separate legal system also of church courts–from the level of the rural archdeaconry on up to the bishop courts and appeals to the papacy.  Canon Law still exists in several churches, but today you can opt out of it by choosing not to belong to that church.  In the Middle Ages, you couldn’t opt out of it.  You were subject to it whether you wanted to or not.”

While discussing the legal rights of women, Prof. Karras mentioned that this year was not only the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.  She said that “we are also celebrating the 800th anniversary, this year, of the Fourth Lateran Council [1215], which is perhaps the most important church council before the 16th century.  And one of the things that the Fourth Lateran Council did was to put together a list of Canons on theological and disciplinary topics that created standard church law for hundreds of years.”

Prof. Karras made a reference to Decretum (Concordia Discordantium Canonum), which she said was “the most important milestone in Canon Law,” as it “collected the authorities on each point and decided among them.”  She explained that “this was a text book […] not a legislative act, but it became the basis for Canon Law as it developed throughout the middle ages.”  She explained that its importance rested in that

Canon Law governed marriage.  And marriage is critical to medieval women, especially.  Marriage was not a matter for the state at this time.

Marriage was important to men too, but it didn’t change men’s status drastically.  Men didn’t gain new rights because they were married, or lose rights because they were married.  Indeed, Janet Loengard, suggests that in terms of property rights the real distinction–in medieval England–was not between men and women but between men and single women on the one hand and married women on the other.  And married women are the ones who didn’t have property rights.  So, while the legal rights of a woman in relation to property were determined in part by the secular power under whose jurisdiction the property was located, her personal rights were deeply affected by whether or not she was married.  And that was determined by Canon Law.

The lecture was filmed and will be available soon on the Library of Congress YouTube Channel.

The exhibition “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” celebrated the 800th anniversary of the first issuance of Magna Carta. Opening November 6, 2014 and running through January 19, 2015, the 10-week exhibition featured the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215, along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of Magna Carta’s influence on the history of political liberty. 

Categories: Research & Litigation

A Interview with Kelly Yuzawa, Specialist in Legislative Information Systems Management

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 01/21/2015 - 8:54am

Kelly Yuzawa is a specialist in legislative information systems management within the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress.  Kelly works with Amy, who was interviewed last week, in CRS.  This continues our interview series that also included MegRich, BarryRohit, AndyVal, and Stephen.

Describe your background.

I grew up in California and Oregon. I was a Japanese/Asian Studies major and spent my senior year of college and thirteen subsequent years living in Japan. I worked at a law firm library while getting my master’s degree in library and information science (MSLIS) from The Catholic University of America, then got a job as a contractor working with Japanese material here at the Library of Congress. I was in the Northeast Asia section of Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access before coming to CRS on a detail to work on the team in 2013.

How would you describe your job to other people?

My job centers around, the new legislative database. Legislative data has many moving parts, and much of my work is checking to make sure that all the parts arrive in the correct form and in a timely manner from our data partners. Since it is a new system that is still being developed, users are getting familiar with it and have lots of questions. I work with the team to answer those questions and provide training to information professionals and Congressional users.

What is your role in the development of

I help the CRS point person and other team members in planning and implementing improvements. As new functionality is added, I test the system to see that it behaves in the expected manner and provide examples and feedback to the developers if it doesn’t. I also help create and maintain resource pages and do cleanup work on records to make them more accessible in the new system.

What is your favorite feature of

I love the durable URLs. You can build a search in and email it to someone who can open the results page and see how the search was put together on the search form.

Another favorite thing is that each member of Congress has a landing page with links to biographical information, committee assignments, and contact information. The landing page also collates bills sponsored or cosponsored by the member. Users can click on the policy area subject facet to see what kind of legislation their senator or representative is supporting.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on

I think the “commemorative” legislation is fascinating, both for the volume of it and for the range of its content. Until I worked on, I hadn’t realized that there are hundreds of bills introduced each year to honor historical figures, name post offices, commend sports teams, and mark every kind of anniversary imaginable.

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

I write a weekly English conversation column for a Japanese newspaper. I’ve been doing it for 20 years, and I’m running out of ideas. What my coworkers don’t know is that I sometimes borrow their names and bits of their conversations to use in my dialogues. 

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legislative Data Challenges, One Year Later

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/20/2015 - 8:02am

The following is a guest post by Jim Mangiafico. Jim is the winner of our Legislative Data Challenges and has been working with our partner, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, for the second challenge to further the work he began during our challenges. He has graciously agreed to provide an update on his exciting progress with Akoma Ntoso and Legislative XML.

It has been a year since the Library’s Legislative Data Challenges, and we have learned much from the comparative study of legal markup. The Data Challenges asked participants to develop tools to translate legislative documents from their native XML formats into Akoma Ntoso, a newer XML schema currently in the process of standardization by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). In the past year, I have continued the work begun during the Challenges, writing code for the National Archives of the United Kingdom to generate Akoma Ntoso versions of the laws available at An Application Program Interface (API) for UK legislation in Akoma Ntoso will soon be made public. In the process, we had to confront fundamental design decisions about the structure of legislative markup, and we developed some new tools that we hope will improve access to legislation.

The biggest difficulty I encountered when translating UK legislation into Akoma Ntoso stems from the differing paragraph models in the two XML formats. The native XML schema governing UK legislation, called the Crown Legislative Markup Language (CLML), follows what it calls a “true” paragraph model, according to which all elements associated with a paragraph are represented as children of the paragraph element. (This is in contrast to, say, HTML, in which lists and other elements are frequently represented as siblings of the <p> elements with which readers naturally associate them.) Consequently, it is possible in CLML to have a section of an act with multiple paragraphs of text, only one of which is grouped with the section’s subsections. For example, the following pattern is not uncommon in CLML:

CLML (<P1> denotes a section, <P2> a subsection) <P1> <Pnumber>1</Pnumber> <P1para> <Text>some text</Text> </P1para> <P1para> <Text>some more text</Text> <P2></P2> <P2></P2> </P1para> </P1>

Markup such as this is not easily translated into Akoma Ntoso, which does not contemplate an association between a subsection and any one textual component of its parent section. Akoma Ntoso permits introductory paragraphs before a section’s first subsection and concluding paragraphs after its last, but all subsections must be direct children of their parent section, and there can be nothing between them that is not their sibling. Consequently, we have chosen to translate CLML like the above as follows:

Akoma Ntoso <section> <num>1</num> <intro> <p>some text</p> <p>some more text</p> </intro> <subsection></subsection> <subsection></subsection> </section>

As you can see, the semantics of these two fragments is different: the association between the second paragraph of text and the subsections has been lost. We take some comfort in the fact that both will likely be displayed identically to readers, but it remains for us an open question the extent to which legislative markup benefits from the ability to group subsections within a section.

Another challenge we faced relates to the need in the UK to specify the territorial applicability of individual parts of legislation. Legislation in the United Kingdom often contains alternative versions of individual sections, each with a geographical restriction. For example, an act may have two versions of Section 1, the first applying to England and Wales and the second to Scotland. CLML has a dedicated attribute for such cases. Akoma Ntoso allows authors to define jurisdictional restrictions in the metadata and to link them to sections of the document body, but to my mind this mechanism is not as elegant as Akoma Ntoso’s vocabulary for capturing temporal restrictions.

On the whole, however, we have grown quite fond of the simplicity of the Akoma Ntoso data model, and we have borrowed ideas from it for other projects. For example, The National Archives is very interested in supporting HTML5. We have been experimenting with a near one-to-one serialization of Akoma Ntoso in HTML5 and have produced HTML5 versions of all legislation available on The goal has been to follow the structure of Akoma Ntoso as closely as possible, while using all of the native semantics of HTML5. The core nodes of the document tree–parts, chapters, sections and other high level “hierarchical containers” in Akoma Ntoso–are represented as nested HTML <section> elements, allowing the document outline to be parsed faithfully by HTML5 validators. We had a lively debate about the best use of HTML’s <section> element in legislative documents, ultimately deciding not to use it to represent hierarchical levels beneath the subsection, such as clauses. Also, we mirror the rich Akoma Ntoso metadata structure with native HTML elements using RDFa Lite.

Lastly, in the course of developing testing procedures for our document conversions we began thinking about ways to count elements within legislation and the relationships between them. Now, as part of The National Archives’ Big Data for Law project, we will conduct a “census” of the UK statute book and release data about the frequencies of structural patterns within legislative documents and the changes in those frequencies over time. We’re also using natural language processing to trace changes in statutory language. Look for this soon on

I would like to thank John Sheridan, Head of Legislation Services at The National Archives, for giving me the opportunity to do the kind of work I find so rewarding. I hope it proves to be useful.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Our Reading Room Redo Continues

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/16/2015 - 9:49am

The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) has been very busy gutting our old Reading Room.  In the last update, the furniture and shelves had been removed.  Now the carpet and ceiling tiles are gone.  It is starting to be easier to imagine what the new space might look like.

Photo by the Architect of the Capitol.

Photo by the Architect of the Capitol.

Photo by the Architect of the Capitol.

Photo by the Architect of the Capitol.

They have started to install new ports and are patching up the old ones.  After this batch of photos, I am excited to see what the AOC sends next!

Categories: Research & Litigation

Gallery Talk – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 01/15/2015 - 1:24pm

Robert Brammer co-presenting at the Gallery Talk on Military Authority and the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II / photograph by Donna Sokol

This week I had the pleasure of attending a gallery talk on “Military Authority and the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II,” which was given by Robert Brammer of the Law Library and Eiichi Ito from the Library of Congress Asian Division.  This gallery talk was one of several that have been given in connection with the Library’s Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition.  The talk covered a time period spanning over a hundred years, tracing the experiences of Japanese Americans in the United States.  Eiichi talked about the restrictions and prejudices first and second generation Japanese Americans faced.  First generation Japanese Americans could not become citizens while even second generation Japanese Americans who were citizens were not allowed to attend public schools, churches or public facilities.  Restrictions on Japanese Americans grew as World War II began and accelerated with the entry of the United States into the war.

In 1940 Congress passed the Alien Registration Act (54 Stat. 670), which required all aliens resident in the United States to be registered.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of War Stimson persuaded President Franklin Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, which led to the establishment of Japanese internment camps.  Congress supported this Executive Order and in March 1942 passed Public Law No: 77-503, which provided penalties for anyone who violated EO 9066.

Robert then discussed the 1944 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Korematsu v. United States in which the court ruled that an exclusion order issued pursuant to Executive Order 9066 was constitutional and that the need for the government to protect itself in wartime outweighed the individual rights of Fred Korematsu, and by extension other Japanese Americans.  Robert concluded his talk by noting that although we have been guaranteed various individual rights by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, each generation must fight to ensure these are indeed upheld.

There will be two more gallery talks before the Magna Carta exhibit closes on January 19th:

January 16, 2015–Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition, noon-1pm, Heather Wanser, Preservation Directorate, discusses the conservation of George Washington’s copy of the U.S. Constitution.

January 19, 2015–Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition, 10am-11am, Chris Woods, Director, National Conservation Service (United Kingdom), discusses the care and conservation of Magna Cartas, including the Lincoln Cathedral 1215 manuscript copy in the exhibition.

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks.  Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty. 

Categories: Research & Litigation

A Interview with Amy Swantner, Specialist in Legislative Information Systems Management

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 01/14/2015 - 11:21am

This week’s interview is with Amy Swantner, specialist in legislative information systems management within the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress.  Our interview series highlights some of the people who have contributed to the legislative information system (including MegRich, BarryRohit, Andy, Val, and Stephen).

Describe your background.

I am an information professional with many years of experience developing online information products for professional users.  Prior to coming to the Congressional Research Service in 2010, I worked for a publishing company serving legal, tax and accounting professionals.  I also worked for a government contractor while pursuing my master’s degree in library and information science (MSLIS) at The Catholic University of America.

How would you describe your job to other people?

As a specialist in legislative information systems management, I help ensure our users can find what they need whether it’s the text of a recently introduced bill or a list of public laws from a past Congress.  I do this not only by supporting individual researchers directly with search tips and other research guidance, but also by proposing enhancements to the site to benefit all users.

What is your role in the development of

I’m an advocate for end users, helping to articulate why a particular feature or functionality is important enough to spend limited resources on developing.  I do a lot of user acceptance testing (UAT) for each new release of the site, and I help to troubleshoot issues we discover during our testing.  I also create help pages and other user-support and training materials.

What is your favorite feature of

Good question. has several notable improvements over THOMAS and our internal legacy system, such as the ability to search across all document types and congresses at once, to refine search results using facets or search within, and to sort results in different ways.  I also really appreciate the durable, predictable URLs for every page on the site. 

But if I have to pick a favorite, it is the committee profile pages.  Committees are at the heart of the legislative process and this new feature makes it easy to find in one place everything you need to know about the activity of a particular committee.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on

I’ve learned that while there is a natural inclination to talk about the legislative process in hard and fast terms, it is important to not forget there are many ways the process can vary.  It makes it a little difficult to establish what are known as business rules for the software that ingests, stores and retrieves the bits of data that come to us from multiple sources.  We are fortunate to have developers who are very good at programming around the quirks of the legislative process.

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

I love to dance and have taken classes in ballet and tap since I was 3 years old. My current passion is Egyptian belly dancing

I also once worked as a florist, and I can still make a mean corsage!

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Zealand Constitutional Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/13/2015 - 12:07pm

Next week we will be saying a sad farewell to the Lincoln Cathedral’s 1215 Magna Carta that has been on display here at the Library of Congress since last November.  Needless to say, we’ve all learned a lot about the history of this document and its impact in England, here in the U.S., and around the world.  In discussing this impact with colleagues, I noted that in New Zealand one clause from the 1297 restatement of Magna Carta officially remains on the statute books, being chapter 29:

Imprisonment, etc contrary to law. Administration of justice

NO freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his freehold, or liberties, or free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will we not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either justice or right.

New Zealand administrative divisions. (Central Intelligence Agency, 2006.) (Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.)

Of course it is this clause (chapters 39 and 40 in the original 1215 Magna Carta) that is perhaps the most famous of the Magna Carta chapters.  Note that this clause, among a handful of others, is also part of the statute law of the United Kingdom.  New Zealand, like the United Kingdom, does not have a sole document that forms a codified, entrenched constitution that is supreme law.  Instead, the current constitution developed over time and is made up of a number of sources, including particular statutes, court decisions, and unwritten constitutional conventions, and it “increasingly reflects the fact that the Treaty of Waitangi [between the British Crown and Māori chiefs] is regarded as a founding document of government in New Zealand.”  Therefore, while it includes aspects of the British constitution, New Zealand’s constitution is unique.

The statutes include modern laws passed by the New Zealand legislature, such as the Constitution Act 1986, the Electoral Act 1993, and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, as well as several English and United Kingdom statutes.  In addition to Magna Carta 1297, these include the Bill of Rights 1688 and the Act of Settlement 1700.  The application of these and other statutes was confirmed by the Imperial Laws Application Act 1988.

In 2011, the New Zealand government announced the establishment of a Constitutional Advisory Panel to engage people throughout the country in a conversation about the current constitutional arrangements and to share ideas about various issues.  The panel completed its report in November 2013 and recommended that the government actively support a continuing conversation about the constitution.  The panel’s website contains various fact sheets and other resources about aspects of the constitution.

The Law Library of Congress holds a number of items on New Zealand constitutional law, including:

Some important readings are also held in other Library of Congress collections, such as Geoffrey Palmer & Matthew Palmer, Bridled Power: New Zealand’s Constitution and Government (2004) and the earlier work by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Unbridled Power: An Interpretation of New Zealand’s Constitution and Government (1987).

Bonus tips!

By using the advanced search function on the New Zealand Legislation website, you can find and read all of the “Imperial” “Principal Acts In Force” as well as see the “Imperial” “Repealed Acts” by checking the relevant options and clicking search.  The results of the latter search show that a number of the laws were repealed within the last twelve years by new statutes that established the New Zealand Supreme Court and abolished appeals to the Privy Council in London, and modernized the country’s property law provisions.  You may also be interested to note that some constitutional provisions in Imperial laws were amended recently by the Royal Succession Act 2013.

If you would like to see how these laws are referenced in court cases, you can search the databases of the New Zealand Legal Information Institute at  Searching for “Magna Carta” in all case law databases, for example, returns about 70 results.  However, some of these results are actually citations for a 1991 book titled The Māori Magna Carta: New Zealand Law and the Treaty of Waitangi, which we also hold here at the Law Library of Congress.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Magna Carta – a Love Story

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 01/12/2015 - 8:00am

The Schryver Clan touring the Library of Congress and Magna Carta – photo by Betty Lupinacci

Armed with the extensive research on the background, content and effects of Magna Carta provided to docents, coupled with the “road map” provided by Nathan Dorn in his Gallery Talk, I have truly enjoyed giving tours of the Law Library’s Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibit.

None so much though as the one I gave last Tuesday.

When I was initially asked to give the tour, I was told it was for a couple who had met at the Library and were now celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. I assumed that they must be former Library of Congress employees.

The real story is so much better.

She was a native New Yorker studying history at Trinity College. He hailed from Cleveland (for which I forgave him after he admitted that, at least this year, my Steelers were better than his Browns) and was a law school student at Georgetown.

Both had come to the Library’s Annex (now known as the Adams Building Science, Technology and Business Reading Room) one fateful day to do research. She ordered a multi-volume French history title that was delivered to a desk that she had been using. He was seated at that desk, not knowing it had been reserved. When the books arrived, he realized he had to move and as he gathered his research material, she came to claim her desk and the newly arrived books.

Evidently he saw something he liked because he stole the copy of her call slip that arrived with the books and, well, called her. He claimed that it was all by her design and that he had not really picked her up (my initial question to him).

They told the story in tandem, smiling at the memory. I was hooked.

After moving around a bit, the Schryvers settled in Northern Virginia. He practiced law, first in the steel industry and later international law for a major DC law firm. She was a librarian in the Fairfax County School system.

He told me that the spelling of their surname is from his Dutch ancestry, though both of them are also half Italian – which endeared them to me even more.

The couple was accompanied by their three children, their spouses and their seven grandchildren – all of whom wanted to be part of the celebration and some of whom wondered why the happy couple couldn’t have met somewhere normal, like in a bar. Whereupon Mr. Schryver and I joked with his eldest grandson on the virtues of using libraries for study and to meet women.

It was a thoroughly delightful morning. And yes, we did tour the Magna Carta exhibit, which they all seemed to enjoy. I managed to pull the younger grandchildren in by presenting them with Magna Carta gavel pencils which they promptly used to call their siblings and cousins “out of order”.

But as enjoyable as it was conducting the tour, I found chatting with the Schryvers and their family even more so.

Happy anniversary Mr. and Mrs. Schryver.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Proposed Anti-Sect Legislation in Italy: An Ongoing Debate

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/09/2015 - 10:49am

The following is a guest post by Dante Figueroa, senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress.  Dante has written a number of In Custodia Legis blog posts related to Italian, Roman, and Canon law.

Statue of Good and Evil, part of the Peace Fountain outside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, New York, New York (Photo by Carol M. Highsmith) (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

In recent times, Italy has witnessed the growing influence of certain sects and cults and of crime associated with these developments.  A Ministry of the Interior report in 1998 separated the movements in Italy into two basic types: “magic” and “religious.”  The groups include, for example, satanic cults.  Various crimes, including sexual abuse, human sacrifice, and abuse of children, have been widely reported as being practiced by multiple sects.

To combat this phenomenon, in 2006 the Italian State Police created La Squadra Anti Sette (SAS), also known as the “Anti-Sects Team,” to investigate and prosecute crimes related to the proliferation of such sects and cults.  The SAS operates within the Analysis Division of the Central Operations Service, which is one of four units in the Italian Anti-Crime Directorate.

In addition, several legislative measures have been presented to the Italian Parliament that seek to combat the mental manipulation used by some sects and cults to persuade members to commit crimes.  Most recently, a bill introduced in March 2013, Bill No. 190, would add an article to the Criminal Code. The proposed article states:

Art. 613-bis. – (Mental Manipulation). – Unless the act constitutes a serious crime, anyone who, with violence or threats or by using conditioning techniques of the human personality or charms, puts someone into such a state of subjection that it impedes judgment and the ability to evade the impositions of the will of others, thus excluding the freedom of self-determination, is punished with imprisonment of four to eight years.

If the act is committed within the context of a group that promotes or practices activities designed to create or exploit the psychological or physical dependence of the people who participate in such activities, or if the offender has acted in order to perpetrate a crime, the penalty established in the previous paragraph is increased by from one-third to one-half.

The examination of Bill No. 190 was assigned to the Commission of Justice of the Chamber of Deputies on May 7, 2013, but no report on it has been issued to date.

During the last decade, different legislative proposals dealing with the increasing numbers of religious sects have been submitted to the Italian Parliament, but they did not become law. These include:

  • Bill No. 569, Provisions Concerning the Crime of Mental Manipulation (May 15, 2008).
  • Bill No. 1777, Provisions Concerning the Crime of Mental Manipulation (Mar. 8, 2004).
  • Bill No. 5440, Provisions to Fight Mental Manipulation (Nov. 23, 2004).
  • Bill No. 551, Introduction to Article 613-bis of the Criminal Code, Concerning the Crime of Mental Manipulation (Dec. 22, 2004).
  • Bill No. 800, Norms to Fight Psychological Manipulation (Nov. 6, 2001).

These bills were submitted by different legislators who felt that the existing legislative framework in Italy is insufficient to deal with what they perceive as the threats posed by certain sects and cults.  Currently article 613 of the Italian Criminal Code punishes anyone who “through hypnotic suggestion or [while the person is] in a state of wakefulness, or through the administration of alcohol or narcotics, or through any other means, places a person, without his consent, in a state of incapacity to understand or to exercise his will.”  However, article 613 does not address the situation in which only psychological influence is exerted over the victim, or when mental manipulation is used as a medium to commit other crimes.

There has been extensive public debate in Italy on the appropriateness of legislation to fight sects and cults and any crimes in which they are involved.  Article 19 of the Italian Constitution guarantees that everyone has the right to practice his or her own beliefs in whatever form, either individually or collectively, and to propagate the same.  This right can also be seen to encompass the right, in article 21 of the Constitution, “to freely express their thoughts in speech, writing, or any other form of communication.”  However, article 19 also imposes a limit to the exercise of freedom of religion and belief and the rites connected with them, requiring that they not be “offensive to public morality.”  Under the Constitution, there is also separation of religion and the state, there is not a state religion, and all religious cults are permitted.  Italian law grants all religious groups the right to be recognized and to enjoy tax-exempted status and other fiscal benefits.

The dilemma faced by the Italian legislature concerning the regulation of cults resides in the difficulty of balancing the aforementioned constitutional rights and liberties, and the prevention of crimes that have been associated with a number of religious sects in Italy.  Historically, the Italian Criminal Code regulated the crime of “plagio,” which punished those who subjected a person to their power “in order to reduce the victim to a state of total subjection.”  However, this provision was declared unconstitutional and struck down by the Constitutional Court in 1981.  The Court reasoned that the imprecision of the provision could create a risk of arbitrary prosecution, and that such imprecision was contrary to the constitutional principle reflected in article 25 of the Italian Constitution that there should be express and precise description of what constitutes an offense (principio di precisione and principio di tassatività).  Several commentators have raised the concern that the criminalization of certain unlawful conducts may trigger a sort of “resistance to cults,” and a sort of persecution against certain cults that do not fit into the mainstream religious practices.

The Italian scientific community has also weighed in on this debate.  Opponents of anti-sect proposals criticize the broad definition of “sects” contained in the draft provisions, arguing that these tend to classify in the same category diverse creeds such as “new age,” “esoteric movements,” “Satanism,” “occultism,” and others.  Opponents also criticize the lack of scientific rigor in the notion of brainwashing or mental manipulation utilized by anti-sect proponents, arguing that such notions lead to individuals involved in criminal conduct not being seen as responsible for their actions.  On the other side, proponents of the amendments cite various precedents of the damage caused by such cults and sects, and argue that many cult members are “influenced to do things that go against their nature, rational convictions, and good sense.”  Again, opponents reply that a multi-religion and pluralistic world requires a high level of tolerance of ideas that do not conform to traditional ways of thinking, and that most sects are not involved in criminal activities.

In the United States, the American Psychological Association (APA) has also discussed the topic of sects and what it calls “destructive cults.”  In 1991, the APA’s Psychology of Religion Division issued a resolution stating that “there is no consensus regarding whether or not scientific research demonstrates that certain religious groups practice ‘brainwashing.’ ”

The problem of the association between cults and criminal behavior has long been documented in Europe. The European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects was created in 1994 to serve as “an umbrella organisation for associations which defend victims of cultic excesses in more than 30 countries to date.”  An extensive comparative study on “Governments and the Cult Phenomenon” was conducted in 2006 at the European level.  France, for example, enacted a controversial law related to mental manipulation in 2000.

Even before parliamentary debate begins on Bill No. 190 in Italy, the controversy on what has been called “Europe’s Cult Wars” will probably continue during the near future.

The Library of Congress collections contain several items related to this issue, for example:

Categories: Research & Litigation

Alaskan Tribes Added to the Indigenous Law Portal

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 01/07/2015 - 8:27am

The Law Library of Congress Indigenous Law Portal Map of Alaska

Alaska has now been added to the Indigenous Law Portal on As I mentioned last summer, the Indigenous Law Portal is a free resource that brings together digitized collection materials from the Law Library of Congress as well as links to tribal websites and primary source materials found on the web. We have added over 200 tribes with this update, and we will continue to add more.

Because of the number of tribes residing in Alaska, we have broken the geographic area up using the boundaries of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations established under Chapter 33 of Title 43 of the US CodeAhtnaAleutArctic SlopeBering StraitsBristol BayCalistaChugachCook InletDoyonKoniagNANA, and Sealaska.

We have also improved the linking across the portal, enhanced our alphabetical, region, and state index pages to make it easier to locate tribes and tribal information on the site, and created comprehensive regional tribal resource lists for each individual region in the portal. The portal continues to use the Library of Congress Law of the Indigenous Peoples in the Americas classification schedule developed by Jolande Goldberg for its basic underlying structure, and we are adding and updating tribe names and organizations in the Library of Congress Name Authority File as we add each new region.

We hope you continue to find this resource useful, and we welcome your feedback and comments. We are planning to add laws and legal information about the Aboriginal peoples of Canada next, so we will be hard at work gathering information and building that part of the North American portal over the next few months.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Oath of Office

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/06/2015 - 8:51am

On January 6, 2015 434 representatives and 33 senators will take the following oath: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

An Oath of Office is prescribed by the Constitution of the United States, Article VI, clause 3: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, … shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution;”  Although the U.S. Constitution directed that Congressmen should be bound by an oath, the Constitution did not explicitly lay out the text of this oath.  By contrast, the oath the president takes appears in the Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Not surprisingly perhaps, the first law passed by the first Congress was “An Act to regulate the Time and Manner of administering certain Oaths” (1 Stat. 23).  The oath prescribed in this law was quite simple: “I, A.B. do solemnly swear or affirm (as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States.”  Congress directed that within three days of the passage of this law (June 1, 1789) the oath should be administered to one of the Senators who would then administer the oath to the President of the Senate who would swear in the other senators.  The Speaker of the House was directed to administer this oath to the representatives in the House.  This simple version of the oath remained in effect until 1862 and the Civil War.

Washington, D.C., the scene at the opening of the 81st Congress as Speaker Sam Rayburn (c) of Texas administered the oath of office to Congressmen convened for the opening session of the lower house AM 1.3.49. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

In July 1862, Congress passed a law prescribing a new oath of office which sought to ensure the loyalty past, present and future, of all persons appointed or elected to office in the U.S. government (ch. CXXVIII, 12 Stat. 502).  This law became known as the Ironclad Test Oath.  The first section of the law required the oath takers to swear they had never voluntarily borne arms, or given aid to those engaged in armed hostility against the United States, or supported any pretended government within the United States.  The affirmation section of the oath was also longer:

And I do further swear (or affirm) that, to the best of my knowledge and ability, I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God;

This law also included penalties for those who swore falsely, “shall be guilty of perjury” and more ominously that they should be “rendered incapable forever after of holding any office or place under the United States.”  This of course, meant that no one from the Confederacy could ever hold office in the Union.  Congressmen themselves were initially not required to take this oath although many did so voluntarily.  However, by 1864 the Senate under the prodding of Senator Sumner, made the Test Oath mandatory for all senators and the House likewise followed suit.

In practical terms, the oath had to be amended after the conclusion of the Civil War and the return of the Confederate states to the Union.  Congress took a first step towards modifying this oath in 1868.  On July 11, 1868 Congress passed a law (ch. CXXXIX, 15 Stat. 85) which modified the 1862 oath.  This modified oath was to be administered to those for whom all legal disabilities arising from their participation in the late rebellion had been removed.  This removal could only be achieved by an act of Congress – and an act passed by a two-thirds vote of each chamber.  This oath omitted the sections requiring the oath taker to swear he had never been in rebellion or aided a rebellion against the United States.  The oath simply repeated the ‘affirmative’ section of the 1862 oath.  It is interesting to note that Congressmen from Union states were still required to use the 1862 version of the oath.

The Revised Statutes, published in 1873-74, reflected this split.  Sections 1756 and 1757 cover “[e]veryone person elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit … excepting the President.”   Section 1756 reiterates the terms of the Ironclad Oath – requiring the oath taker to affirm he has never borne arms against the United States since he was a citizen, nor supported any hostile government.  Section 1757 reflects changes made in 1871.  In this section anyone who is not disqualified from office by the terms of the Fourteenth Amendment but who on account of “his participation in the late rebellion” cannot take the oath in section 1756, may  take a modified version of the oath of office:

I, A.B., do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.  So help me God.

Again, those who had not participated in the rebellion, were required to take the more extensive version of the oath as laid out in section 1756.  However section 1756 was repealed by Congress in a law passed on May 13, 1884 (ch. 46, 23 Stat. 21, 22) and section 1757 was the oath to be taken by all persons elected or appointed to an office excepting the President. When Title 5 of the United States Code was enacted into positive law, the oath as it appeared in section 1757 of the Revised Statutes was included and can be found today in section 3331.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Twenty Years of THOMAS

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 01/05/2015 - 9:41am

Even though we are working to retire THOMAS, I thought we should celebrate the fact that it has now been online for twenty years!  THOMAS was a pioneer when it was launched on January 5, 1995.  It was even noteworthy that THOMAS was “available 24 hours a day.”  I have been at the Library of Congress for just over ten years and have worked on THOMAS (and now for part of that time.  The Library’s website is like the Library itself — there is a lot of content and sometimes one finds surprises while doing research.  Did you know that THOMAS was once defaced?  Or did you know there was a page with Legislation Related to the Attack of September 11, 2001?

One of the more detailed reports about the launch of THOMAS is from the Library of Congress Information Bulletin article, Congress on the Internet.  Then there are various links about the history of THOMAS.  I am primarily focusing on the last few years (the part I am most familiar with).

I combed the web archive and found a few images of THOMAS at various points in time.  The earliest version of the homepage I saw was this one from 2004.

The THOMAS homepage, January 2004

With the update in November 2005, THOMAS changed from the above image to the one below.

THOMAS homepage, Nov. 2005

For two years between 2006 to 2008, this beta version of THOMAS was available from the homepage.  With the start of the 111th Congress, the link to the beta was removed.

Beta version of THOMAS, available Dec. 2006-Dec. 2008 from the homepage

Happy 20th birthday, THOMAS! I am counting down the days until you retire to Monticello, just like your namesake.

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Year’s Greetings from the Law Librarian of Congress

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/02/2015 - 10:53am

This is a guest post by the Law Librarian of Congress, David Mao, who has previously written about the Supreme Court of the United Kingdomfederal architecture, state government contracts, speed limits, and cruise ship food rules, among other topics.

The New Year’s Greeting for 2014 is available for download in PDF format.

David S. Mao, Law Librarian of Congress


In Fiscal 2014, the Law Library Laid the Groundwork for Several Major Projects

I am pleased to deliver a snapshot of the Law Library’s successes in 2014.  The Law Library of Congress embarked on several major projects in fiscal 2014: renovated Law Library Reading Room; the construction of a secure vault for rare items; and a Congressionally-sponsored legislative data challenge. The fruits of our labor will have immediate and longlasting positive effects on our service to Congress and the public.  Best wishes to all for a new year filled with good health, fortune, and cheer.


In fiscal 2014, the Law Library prepared 364 legal research reports, special studies, and memoranda in response to inquiries from Congress. The reports related to many pressing US legislative issues, including the regulation of virtual currencies, definitions of marriage under the laws of foreign countries, laws related to granting asylum for children in other countries, methods used by foreign governments to avoid frivolous claims in procurement processes, the financing of highway infrastructure construction, privacy protection in the European Union, and military procurement practices. Many of these reports are available to the public on the Law Library’s website,

In December 2013, the Library named Jim Mangiafico as the first Legislative Data challenge winner for his submission, “Four US Legislative Documents in Akoma Ntoso.” In February 2014, the Library announced winners of the second challenge. First place went to Jim Mangiafico for his submission, “Akoma Ntoso Converter.”  Second place went to Garrett Schure for his submission, “Translate of UK and US Legislative Documents to Akoma Ntoso.”

At the close of the fiscal year, Library staff were putting the finishing touches on the Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition, as well as preparing for the opening ceremony and the visit of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal.


  • Presented the Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture on Jurisprudence, “Justice: Disagreement and Objectivity,” featuring Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University.
  • Celebrated Human Rights Day with a panel on refugee rights, including Olivia Bueno, associate director of the International Refugee Rights Initiative; author Linda Rabben; and George Sadek of the Law Library of Congress.
  • Hosted a Law Day lecture, “American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters,” by Jeffrey Rosen of the National Constitution Center.
  • Interviewed former U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder about her career as the first woman elected to Congress from Colorado.
  • Launched a Magna Carta lecture series to generate interest in the Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor exhibition.
  • Held the annual Constitution Day event, featuring Dr. Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, who addressed the grand project of American constitutionalism, past, present, and future.


364 Legal research reports, special studies, and memoranda created for Congress

4,086 Congressional inquiries answered

365 Inquiries answered for other agencies

3,550 Inquiries answered through “Ask a Librarian

421 Articles written for the Global Legal Monitor

35,072 Users served in person, by phone, by correspondence, or electronically

15,777 Items from the Law Library’s collection circulated


2.91 Million volumes in the Law Library

17,003 Items sent to Fort Meade

408,088 Volumes reclassified from in-house system to the Library of Congress classification system


18,778 @Congressdotgov Twitter account

41,669 @LawLibCongress Twitter account

20,629 “Likes” on Facebook

217 Blog posts published on In Custodia Legis blog

295,352 Page views for In Custodia Legis blog

Categories: Research & Litigation

A Wealth of Law Library Reports in 2014!

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 12/31/2014 - 2:26pm

The foreign law specialists and legal analysts at the Law Library of Congress have had another busy year writing reports and other responses to requests from a wide range of patrons.  Some of these were detailed multinational studies, such as our reports on police weapons in select countries and on the regulation of genetically modified organisms, while others were shorter surveys that looked at the laws of a large number of countries on a specific issue, such as the criminalization of homosexuality in African jurisdictions and the regulatory responses to virtual currencies around the world.  Some reports were just on single countries, such as on rules related to the slaughter of domestic animals in Sweden.

We’ve made a real push this year to make more of our reports available to the public, and it appears our efforts have paid off!  Last December Hanibal highlighted the nine reports that we published on our website during 2013.  Since that time we have not only published eight more reports that were completed in 2013, but also added another 27 new reports to our Legal Topics page!  Here’s the full 2014 list in date order:

There are also many older reports on our website that remain a great resource for anyone interested in learning about how different countries have sought to address various legal and policy issues.  Published in 2007, our report on children’s rights is still one of our most visited, with the entries on China, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and relevant international law proving particularly popular.  Our 2013 report on firearms control laws, particularly the entries on Australia, South Africa, and Great Britain, was also viewed by a large number of people.  Within other reports, an entry on laws related to sex selection and abortion in India was among our most viewed, as were pages on Canadian laws related to medical malpractice liability and points-based immigration.

Several of the information pages related to US constitutional law were also well-used during 2014, including those on gun ownership and the Supreme Court; the War Powers Act; and presidential signing statements.

We look forward to seeing what interesting topics we will research and publish reports on next year!  We often write about our new reports on this blog under the Global Law category.  You can also sign up to receive alerts whenever a report is published.  Just click the “subscribe” button at the top of any page on our website and select an option under “Legal Research Reports.”

Categories: Research & Litigation

Global Legal Monitor: 2014 Year in Review

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 12/30/2014 - 9:57am

The Global Legal Monitor (GLM) had a great 2014.  One of the Law Library of Congress premier online sources, the GLM published 431 articles in 2014 covering legal developments around the world, particularly parliamentary acts and court decisions on a variety of issues.

When writing for the Global Legal Monitor, we try to focus on issues that we believe will interest our readers.  One of the ways to gauge this is by looking at which GLM articles attract the most traffic.  By this standard, our readers have a wide range of interests both in terms of geography and areas of law.  This is manifested in the following list of the 15 most viewed GLM articles for 2014 arranged in order of their popularity:

Globe, 2nd Floor, Main Entrance, Madison Building, Library of Congress. (photo by Chris Carlson)

  1. China: Maternity Leave Extended from 90 Days to 98 Days
  2. South Korea: Permanent Dual Nationality Allowed after 60 Years
  3. Kenya: Parliament Passes Comprehensive Marriage Bill, Changes Process for Contracting Customary Marriages
  4. India: New Anti-Corruption Law
  5. Australia: Former Student Wins Negligence Case Against School for Bullying
  6. U.N. Human Rights Council: First Resolution on Internet Free Speech
  7. Kenya: Parliament Passes Matrimonial Property Bill, Affects Equal Sharing of Assets in Divorce
  8. Taiwan: Law on Food Safety Amended
  9. France: Charter Listing the Rights and Duties of the Citizen
  10. Thailand: Crisis in Thai Rice Pledging Scheme
  11. Japan: New Revenge Porn Prevention Act
  12. Georgia: New Visa and Migration Rules
  13. China: Amendment of Criminal Procedure Law
  14. Indonesia: Universal Health Care Program Implemented
  15. Uganda: Women Judges Voice Concern over Domestic Violence

There are several ways to access the Global Legal Monitor articles.  You can do so by visiting the Law Library website, via email alerts, or subscribing to the RSS feeds.  In addition, you can get updates by following the Law Library twitter account, @lawlibcongress, which often tweets links to GLM articles or by searching the hashtag #GlobalLegalMonitor.

Thank you for reading the Global Legal Monitor.  We will strive to bring you accurate and timely updates on global legal developments in 2015 as they happen.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Top 10 New In Custodia Legis Posts of 2014

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 12/29/2014 - 9:45am

What an exciting year it has been for In Custodia Legis!  We added Jennifer and Betty to our blog team.  We published over 200 posts (go back and read any of them you might have missed, I’ll wait).  The three most-viewed months in our blog’s four year history came in September, October, and November.  Towards the end of November, we found out that In Custodia Legis was selected for the ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 from their directory of more than 4,000 legal blogs.  Then, in December, DigitalGov took a look behind the blog.

What were our most-viewed posts of 2014?

  1. Advanced Search, Browse, and Appropriations Tables Added to
  2. Free Public Access to Federal Materials on Guide to Law Online
  3. Magna Carta is Coming to the Library of Congress
  4. Nominations, Accounts, Saved Searches – Continues to Grow
  5. Spring forward, fall back – it’s daylight saving time
  6. Removing the Beta Label and New Enhancements
  7. How to Trace Federal Legislation – A Research Guide
  8. What Do I Wear to Court?: Courtroom Appearance and Decorum Standards
  9. Introducing the Indigenous Law Portal
  10. The Law Library Reading Room Is Moving

The In Custodia Legis Blog Team, December 2014 (not pictured, our incredible editor, Kimberly Allen)

Several of our older posts remained popular well after they were published.  For comparison, you can read last year’s list.  Some posts spike seasonally, such as those on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and Cinco De Mayo.  Reviewing what remains popular is a good opportunity for us to consider what to blog about next year.  Here are the top 10 older posts:

  1. Frequent Reference Question: How Many Federal Laws Are There?
  2. The Articles of Confederation: The First Constitution of the United States
  3. How to Locate Free Case Law on the Internet
  4. Civil War Conscription Laws
  5. The History of the Mexican Constitution
  6. How Robin Hood Defied King John and Brought Magna Carta to Sherwood Forest
  7. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  8. Cinco de Mayo is Not Mexican Independence Day?
  9. Slavery in the French Colonies: Le Code Noir (the Black Code) of 1685
  10. No Taxation Without Representation Circa 1215 AD, or, Magna Carta: A Beginner’s Guide

It’s nice to see Magna Carta posts in both lists.  The exhibition at the Library of Congress (on display now through Monday, January 19, 2015) and its surrounding festivities have been outstanding.  Our most-viewed Pic of the Week, Keeping Time in the Middle Ages, fits in with this theme.

Magna Carta stands at the head of this collection of English Statutes of the 13th century.

Is there a post that you loved that did not make the list?  If so, please share it in the comments below.  Thanks for reading In Custodia Legis and have a happy New Year!

Categories: Research & Litigation

On Break for the Holidays – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 12/24/2014 - 9:00am


An ornament on the LC holiday tree – in the shape of the U.S. Constitution. [Photo by Donna Sokol]

In Custodia Legis will be on break for the upcoming holidays – Thursday, December 25 and Friday, December 26 (a holiday by executive order).  We will be back next week – except on Thursday, January 1 – with some end-of-the-year posts!

Just last week, the Library of Congress set up its annual holiday tree in the Great Hall.  Many of the ornaments on the tree are handpainted books representing the 50 states.  An appropriate theme for a library!  Here are some of the other ornaments from the tree.

One of Washington State’s ornaments on the holiday tree. [Photo by Donna Sokol]

An ornament in the shape of the Icon and the Axe – a book by the Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington. [Photo by Donna Sokol]

A book-shaped ornament representing the state of Michigan. [Photo by Donna Sokol]

Categories: Research & Litigation


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