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Research & Litigation

An Interview with Endia Sowers Paige, Legal Reference Librarian

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 04/19/2016 - 5:01pm

This week’s interview is with Endia Sowers Paige, a legal reference librarian with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background

I am from South Carolina, but I grew up living in several places including North Carolina, Michigan and Germany. I spent childhood summers at my grandmother’s house in rural South Carolina. My cousins and I would spend our days picking blackberries, milking honeysuckle flowers, and chasing fireflies. I believe those summers helped to develop my deep love of nature and being outdoors. I was also one of those kids who would read in bed under the blankets with a flashlight, so I guess it’s fitting that I chose a career surrounded by books.

What is your academic/professional history?

I earned my Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education from the University of South Carolina. After a stint in the Peace Corps, I went to law school and completed the Juris Doctor/Master of Library Science joint degree program at North Carolina Central University. I knew that I wanted to be a law librarian after just one semester of law school, so I was grateful that I could earn both degrees at the same time and work in the law library there for two years before graduating.

In addition to working at the Law Library of Congress, I am also the Reference and Outreach Services Librarian at George Mason University’s law library. I previously worked at the Howard University School of Law as a Reference Librarian and Legal Research Instructor.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I help people find the resources that they need to understand the law and other legal topics.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

It’s the biggest collection of legal materials in the world. Having access to such a vast collection to assist patrons is a librarian’s dream. I enjoy that each shift at the reference desk brings new opportunities to learn about new areas of law. My legal research skills have grown tremendously in my time here.

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

There are too many to name, but one thing that has been amazing to learn is how many global legal specialists work in the law library. Whether you need an expert in Mongolian law or are seeking a legal research specialist who speaks Amharic or Hindi, we have someone to help. My colleagues here are brilliant.

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

I am in divinity school. I am currently three classes away from completing a Master of Arts in Religious Studies with a concentration in Ethics and Social Justice. I am interested in the intersection of law, religion, and ethics.

Outside of work and academics, I am really fascinated with natural living and holistic health so my hobbies include soap making, herbalism, and aromatherapy.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Ghidaa Bajbaa, Foreign Law Intern

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 04/18/2016 - 10:30am

Today’s interview is with Ghidaa Bajbaa, a foreign law intern currently working with George Sadek on research related to the laws of various countries in the Middle East.

Describe your background.

I was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  I obtained my bachelor degree in law from King Abdulaziz University and then registered at the Ministry of Justice as the fourth female lawyer in the country.

I am currently an LL.M. candidate at Georgetown University Law Center in International Legal Studies with a focus on environmental issues.  After my LL.M., I am planning to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology.

I am passionate about development and the role of civil society organizations in promoting human rights.  My long-term goal is to work in the legislative department of the Bureau of Experts at the Council of Minsters in Saudi Arabia.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I am an intern in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library.  I conduct research on several topics and legal issues in the Middle East, with a particular focus on women’s issues.  This includes reviewing various reports related to different laws.

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

This is a great opportunity for me to work alongside experts on different legal issues.  I will be able to develop my research skills while learning about the different resources the Library of Congress offers.

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

I have learned two interesting facts:

1 – The Library of Congress is similar in its importance to people in the U.S. as the Library of Alexandria in Egypt is to many people in Arab countries.  Also, it contains resources on different areas of the law that are not available anywhere else.

2 – The team at the Law Library is friendly and collaborative.

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

I am very influenced by the artwork of the French artist Monet.  I do a lot of painting imitating his work.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Folger Shakespeare Library: Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 04/15/2016 - 3:51pm

T.S. Eliot characterized April as “the cruellest month,” but I would have to disagree.  By April, spring has arrived in Washington (even if we still have a few chilly days).  April is also a month full of celebrations such as National Library Week  and perhaps most importantly William Shakespeare’s birth and death. Shakespeare was a poet as well as playwright so it seems appropriate that April is also National Poetry Month.  To help celebrate, Andrew and I thought it would be fitting to post some pictures of one of the Library’s next door neighbors, the Folger Shakespeare Library.  The Folger Shakespeare Library is an “internationally recognized research library” and owns the largest collection of First Folios in world.

West end of the Folger Shakespeare Library with Library of Congress Adams Building in the background / Photograph by Andrew Weber

2nd Street SE with Folger Shakespeare Library and Library of Congress Adams, Madison and Jefferson Buildings / Photograph by Andrew Weber

Categories: Research & Litigation

Courtroom Sketches

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 04/14/2016 - 11:19am

Brodie, H. (1964) Ruby trial, Dallas / Howard Brodie. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Though courtroom drawings in the United States reportedly go back to the Salem Witch Trials, the idea of sketch artists in the courtroom has fluctuated in popularity within the judicial branch, at times tolerated, at other times banned, from the proceedings.

Courtroom artists are in no way affiliated with the legal system. They are usually freelance artists or may work for a news outlet or other media publication.

This art form exists to provide the public with a visual record of court proceedings that we otherwise would not have.

Kenny, A. (1974) Mitchell Stans trial / Aggie Whelan Kenny. Thomas V. Girardi Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

With the advent of modern photography came the debate on whether to allow cameras in the courtroom.  Some courts have permitted them, though many jurisdictions, especially federal courts, ban them as being too intrusive.

In fact, Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure states that, “Except as otherwise provided by a statute or these rules, the court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom.”

More recently, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has stated that: “There’s a concern (among justices) about the impact of television on the functioning of the institution. We’re going to be very careful before we do anything that might have an adverse impact.”

Williams, E. (2009) Bernard Madoff, going to jail post plea / E. Williams. Thomas V. Girardi Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Church, M. (1992) John Gotti trial / Marilyn Church. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.











Thus, even in these days of Instagram, Periscope and the like, courtroom sketches are still the primary mode of reporting many judicial proceedings, giving the public a glimpse of the setting, mood and reactions of the various players in a trial. But they too can be banned or at least restricted by order of the judge, for example in cases involving minors, to protect jurors, or in other situations when the judge feels that such renderings could hurt the proceedings.

The Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress has been fortunate to obtain several significant collections of such drawings, making the Library’s holdings the most comprehensive in any American institution. The latest acquisition is the “Thomas V. Girardi Collection of Courtroom Illustration Drawings”. This collection contains 96 sketches from notable cases over the past five decades, such as the Charles Manson and O. J. Simpson trials.  Included are works by Aggie Kenny, Bill Robles and Elizabeth Williams.

Robles, W. T. (1970) [Charles Manson on the witness stand / B. Robles]. Thomas V. Girardi Collection. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Previous acquisitions have included the works of Marilyn Church and Howard Brodie.

Your chance to see some of these works in person is coming soon.  The Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress is launching an exhibit of courtroom illustrations next year.  And the Law Library will have a hand in the display.  Items from our collection will provide value-added content through copies of court decisions and briefs filed in some of the high profile cases that will be depicted.

So keep reading our blog as well as Picture This (the blog for Prints and Photographs) and the Library’s website for more information on this exhibit and courtroom art.




Categories: Research & Litigation

The Rehabilitation of Dante Alighieri, Seven Centuries Later

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 04/13/2016 - 10:59am

The following is a guest post by Dante Figueroa, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress. Dante has contributed a number of In Custodia Legis blog posts, including on Resources and Treasures of the Italian Parliamentary Libraries,  Legislation Protecting Italian Cultural Heritage, and Proposed Anti-Sect Legislation in Italy: An Ongoing Debate.

On December 3, 2015, the Library of Congress held a panel discussion celebrating Dante Alighieri’s 750th birthday anniversary. While doing some reading about Alighieri, I found out that the city of Florence, Italy, had recently passed a decree lifting the sentence of exile that had been rendered against him in 1302. I decided to do more research on the topic, and here is what I discovered.

Dante Alighieri, 1265-1321 – illus. from Divine Comedy: bust portr., right profile, frontis. (v. 1. of 1727 ed), Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Who was Dante Alighieri?

Dante Alighieri was a Florentine, philosopher, linguist, politician, and poet who lived between 1265 and 1321 (Dante Alighièri (poeta), (Oct. 30, 2013)). His most important work is his acclaimed poem “the Divine Comedy” (La Divina Commedia). It was written between 1304 and 1321, while Alighieri was exiled from his native Florence.  He stirred up controversy at a time, when the centers of power –the Papacy and the Empire—vied for control and influence in the Italian peninsula. Alighieri’s opinion of the papacy was less than favorable and he put a pope in the inferno (hell), in “the Divine Comedy”. Centuries later, however, the Roman papacy overlooked this and officially recognized the Sommo Poeta (the Supreme Poet) as its own, declaring:

Among the many celebrated geniuses of whom the Catholic faith can boast who have left undying fruits in literature and art especially, besides other fields of learning, and to whom civilization and religion are ever in debt, highest stands the name of Dante Alighieri…”

(In praeclara summorum: Encyclical of Pope Benedict XV on Dante. The Holy See (Apr. 30, 1921).

Why was Alighieri Put to Trial?

A plaque on the house where Alighieri was born in Florence, photo by Dante Figueroa (1997).

In 14th century Florence, there were two main political movements, which pivoted more or less according to their loyalty to the Roman pontiff, and competed for control of the city’s politics. On the one hand, the Ghibellines sought a more independent, distant relationship from the papacy and favored the Empire; and on the other, the Guelfs carried the banner of papal influence in the city of Florence.

The Guelfs were further divided between the Black and the White Guelfs (Bianchi e Neri) (Dante condannato all’esilio da Firenze (Dante Condemned to Exile from Florence), and I segreti di firenze: un viaggio nei misteri (The Secrets of Florence: A Travel in Mistery (2012)).  The White Guelfs were closer to the Empire, while the Black Guelfs to the papacy. Alighieri was a White Guelf, as his political convictions rested in his firm belief that Florence was and had to remain an independent Italian city-state. (Mondi.It.).

In 1298 Pope Boniface VIII (Pope Boniface VIII, New Advent) sent his Cardinal D’Acquasparta to resolve the political turmoil in Florence. While the Cardinal attended the Festival of St. John, a random arrow almost killed him. At that point, the Black Guelfs pinned the responsibility for the criminal act on the White Guelfs and on the powerful Florentine Guelf Donati family. Pope Boniface VIII excommunicated the whole city of Florence, a measure which had heavy commercial consequences on that city. Later, Boniface VIII sent Charles of Valois, brother of the French King Phillip IV with a military expedition to bring the city under French and papal rule. Florence responded by sending ambassadors to Rome to confer with the pope. Alighieri was one of these ambassadors.

Then in November 1301 the Black Guelfs seized power through a coup d’état (Dante on Trial, NY Review of Books (Feb. 19, 2015), pp. 36-37), supported by Charles of Valois (Mondi.It, Id.). Once in power, among other measures, the Black Guelfs condemned the heads of the White Guelfs and the Donati family to exile.  They also accused Alighieri of antagonism against the pope and Charles of Valois, and of embezzlement during the two months when he served as prior (highest authority) of the city of Florence in the year 1300.

On January 27, 1302, while he was still in Rome, a Florentine citizens’ tribunal found Alighieri guilty of corruption, extortion, and misuse of public funds. He was then condemned to pay a large fine within three days under the penalty of confiscation of his property. In addition, Alighieri was sentenced to two years of exile (Mondi.It.). Due to his repeated refusal to appear before the tribunal, however, he was finally condemned in absentia with the confiscation of his property and permanent exile. If he was to return to Florence, he would be burned at the stake (La

Alighieri was prosecuted per inquisitionem, that is, by a court motu proprio –on its own initiative— after “public reports” about his alleged crimes had “reached the ears and notice of the court.” (Dante on Trial, NY Review of Books, id.).

The text of the sentence issued by the citizens’ tribunal stated that:

Alighieri, Dante is convicted for public corruption, fraud, falsehood, fraud, malice, unfair extortion practices, illegal proceeds, pederasty, and is sentenced to a fine of 5000 florins, perpetual disqualification from public office, permanent exile (in absentia), and if detained, condemned to die at the stake, so he dies.

(Dante Condemned to Exile from Florence, Mondi.It).

The sentence condemning Alighieri to exile can be found in the Il Libro (Book) of Chiodo, currently preserved in the Florence State Archive (Il Libro del Chiodo, Archivio di Stato di Firenze) (Mondi.It.).

The Symbolic Importance of the 2008 Decree to Rehabilitate Alighieri

In June 12, 2008 two councilmembers of the City Council of Florence presented Motion No. 319 “[i]nviting the Mayor to promote a full public rehabilitation of Dante Alighieri, formally revoking his conviction passed in the year 1302.” (Città di Firenze, Banca dati video del Consiglio Comunale di Firenze (completa), City of Florence, Video Database of the City Council of Florence). The motion sought to obtain a formal declaration by the Florentine civitas (people), revoking Alighieri’s condemnation, in the same Palace (Palazzo Vecchio, Museums of Florence) where seven centuries earlier the Florentine people had issued an edict of expulsion that removed the poet forever from his native city.

True, the decision by the city council of Florence in 2008 to rehabilitate Alighieri cannot restore him to life or give him back his property or eliminate the affronts to his honor. In my view, however, the decision restores the reputation of one of humanity’s greatest poets who had been convicted unjustly for political reasons.

The Library of Congress collections contain several items related to his life and his exile, including:

Categories: Research & Litigation

Happy International Day of Human Space Flight!

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 04/12/2016 - 10:39am

Today, the United Nations commemorates the 55th anniversary of First Human Space Flight.  On April 12, 1961, the first human went to space.  The UN General Assembly adopted a Resolution on April 7, 2011 for the International Day of Human Space Flight.

This date serves as an opportunity to reaffirm the “important contribution of space science and technology in achieving sustainable development goals and increasing the well-being of States and peoples, as well as ensuring the realization of their aspiration to maintain outer space for peaceful purposes.” (UN Resolution, A/RES/65/271)

The Earth and Moon
During its flight, the Galileo spacecraft returned images of the Earth and Moon. Separate images of the Earth and Moon were combined to generate this view. The Galileo spacecraft took the images in 1992 on its way to explore the Jupiter system in 1995-97. The image shows a partial view of the Earth centered on the Pacific Ocean about latitude 20 degrees south. The west coast of South America can be observed as well as the Caribbean; swirling white cloud patterns indicate storms in the southeast Pacific. The distinct bright ray crater at the bottom of the Moon is the Tycho impact basin. The lunar dark areas are lava rock filled impact basins. This picture contains same scale and relative color/albedo images of the Earth and Moon. False colors via use of the 1-micron filter as red, 727-nm filter as green, and violet filter as blue. The Galileo project is managed for NASA’s Office of Space Science by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Image # : PIA00342

Outer space has a very interesting legal history that is summarized on the ABA’s Space Law 101 page. Shortly after humanity developed the ability to fly airplanes, it was determined that a nation’s sovereignty extended vertically to include all airspace within its boundaries.

Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space. NASA,

When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, in 1957, it was unclear whether national boundaries would extend into outer space. If they did, Sputnik–and Yuri Gagarin–would have violated the sovereignty of many nations by orbiting the Earth, in the same manner as the United States would have when Alan Shepard orbited the Earth less than a year later. Thus, a distinction was made between spacecraft and aircraft that began the field of space law.

In 1967, the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies–often referred to much more simply as “the Outer Space Treaty”–established the framework upon which modern space law is built.

In the twentieth century, virtually all manned space activities were carried out by state agencies. Under space law, legal responsibility for space objects and personnel was assigned to the nation states. In recent years, however, we have witnessed the development of privatized space travel. The development of private companies going into space raises many interesting legal questions that will certainly be addressed over the coming years.

The space industry is responsible for many of the technological developments which we take for granted today. The Apollo Guidance Computer, for example, was one of the first integrated circuit-based computers. This allowed for a significant miniaturization of a computer that otherwise would have been far too large to fit into a space capsule. NASA has a list of technological benefits resulting from space exploration.

For more Space Law resources, check out the links below:

Astronaut uniform display at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,


Part of mural “The Space Mural, A Cosmic View,” at the National Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,



Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Hector Morey, African Section Head in the African, Latin America and Western European Division

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 04/11/2016 - 4:09pm

The following is an interview with Hector Morey, head of the African Section in the African, Latin American and Western European Division, Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I am originally from Puerto Rico, where I also went to college with the plan to study psychology and earn a doctoral degree in clinical psychology. After serving six years as a combat engineer in the U.S. Marine Corps, I moved to the Washington, DC area and began my career with the federal government.

What is your academic/professional history?

My first library job in Washington, DC took me to the United States Department of Justice where I worked in technical services and at the reference desk a couple of hours per day. A couple years after that experience, I was lucky to get a job offer here at the Library of Congress where my experience has included working as a technician in the former Hispanic Acquisitions Section (HAS).

In 2004 while working in HAS, I was awarded a CIRLA Fellowship. This opportunity allowed me to work 120-day details in reference (in the Hispanic Division), special collections (in the Rare Books and Special Collections and Preservation Directorate), and cataloging (in the the former Social Sciences Cataloging Division) while working towards my Master of Library Science degree. I completed my library education and an MBA in program management from Trinity Washington University while working full-time here at the Library.

As an acquisitions librarian in the Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Section and in the Iberia/Rio Section, I was responsible for acquiring materials from those areas as well as managing approval plans.

I am currently the head of the Africa Section handling acquisitions and cataloging in the African, Latin American and Western European Division of the Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate (ABA).

How would you describe your job to other people?

I try to keep it simple and say I buy books for the Library of Congress! Usually that makes people curious enough to think it is a cool job. That allows me to further explain that, in addition to books, I buy newspapers, maps, DVDs, posters, serials, etc. I also mention important projects such as the current collaboration with the West African Research Association (WARA) in Boston, MA and the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) with offices in DC and in Dakar, Senegal. For the past five years, this collaboration has allowed us to acquire hard to find monographs, serials, maps, DVDs, (including legal materials) from eleven West African countries that present challenges to most approval plan vendors in terms of traveling to those nations. The countries include: Sierra Leone, Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Gambia, Guinea Conakry, Mali, Niger, Chad, Senegal, and Togo.

My section has successfully fulfilled the request of the Law Library to have bibliographic representatives from CAORC search for and purchase on behalf of the Library of Congress specific legal publications from West Africa, recently acquiring runs of the Journal Officiel du Burkina Faso and the Journal Officiel de la Republique du Senegal.

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

While working as a library assistant during graduate school in Puerto Rico, one of my duties was to check in the Library of Congress Information Bulletin that the university library received as part of an exchange agreement. I spent hours reading the articles and news about the Library. It was during this time that the thought of one day working at the Library of Congress came to mind.

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

The most interesting thing that I have learned after 13 years working side by side with Recommending Officers from the Law Library is the breadth of the Law collection and the knowledge of its staff. It is good to also know that the work done in acquisitions has helped develop the research holdings of the Law Library. One such item is the official government gazette of the Republic of South Africa, Staatskoerant.

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

A (long) walk in the woods… I am an amateur hiker of the Appalachian Trail. The trail is approximately 2,200 miles long from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Some people hike the Appalachian Trail in sections over many years. I have hiked many parts including at the lowest point where it crosses the Hudson River near Bear Mountain State Park in NY and highest in Clingmans Dome in TN. Thru-hikers attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season, a commitment that only takes five to seven months!… Perhaps one day.

Categories: Research & Litigation


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