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On this Day: The Danish Queen Margarethe II – 50 Years as Head of State

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/14/2022 - 8:00am

Queen Margarethe II waves to the crowd. Photo by Flickr user Mifl68, April 16, 2015. Used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0..

Today, January 14, 2022, the Danish Queen Margarethe II (Margrethe Alexandrine Þorhildur Ingrid) celebrates 50 years on the Danish throne. However, she was not born the heir apparent to the throne, but became Crown Princess of Denmark at the age of 13 when the Danish Parliament adopted an act of succession (Tronfølgelov) that allowed daughters to inherit the throne.

The Succession Act of 1953 was, as laws often are, a law written out of necessity. Margarethe was at that time the oldest of three royal siblings, all girls, born to King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid. Queen Ingrid was 43 years old and the royal couple had given up hope of a male heir. However, perhaps the Danish Parliament held on to some hope that the stork would still bless the royal couple with a crown prince, as the law was made male-preference primogeniture, meaning that while daughters now had a place in line to the throne, even an older daughter’s place was still behind any younger brother.

Not until 2009 did an amendment make the succession act gender-neutral, meaning that the first-born of a Head of State would become the first in line to the throne regardless of his or her gender. At that time, Queen Margarethe’s eldest son, Crown Prince Frederik, already had two children: Prince Christian (born in 2005) and Princess Isabella (born in 2007). Their positions in line to the throne were not affected by the succession law as Christian was older than Isabella, but her younger brother Prince Vincent (born in 2011) would have succeeded her in line to the throne had it not been for the legislative change in 2009. Born minutes before his twin-sister Princess Josephine, Vincent holds the third position among the four siblings.

Adoption of the 1953 Succession Act

When adopted in 1953, changing the succession order required a constitutional amendment. The Danish Constitution of 1953 entered into force on the same day as the separate Succession Act. As required by the Constitution, the Danish people were consulted on the future of the country in a national referendum held in 1953.

In 2009, the new succession act did not require a constitutional amendment as the Constitution already allowed for female succession to the throne. (§ 2 Danish Constitution.)

Royal Duties and Requirements

As a queen-to-be, Margarethe assumed many duties when she turned 18, such as assuming a seat at the State Council (Statsråd) on April 16, 1958. The State Council, which includes the Head of State, crown prince or crown princess, and all the government ministers, “negotiates all laws and important government measures.” (§17 stk. 2 Danish constitution.)

Her position as crown princess also meant that her engagement to Comte Henri de Laborde de Monpezat (later Prince Henrik) in 1966 had to be approved by the king and the Danish Parliament.  (§ 5 Succession Act.) The wedding took place in 1967 at the Holmen Church. The newlyweds took up residency at Marselisborg Palace, before Margarethe’s father’s sudden death on January 14, 1972.

Upon the king’s death, Margarethe became queen by a royal public proclamation, without a coronation. Ahead of the proclamation, she had to choose a royal motto, and chose: “God’s help, the love of The People, Denmark’s strength.” Queen Margarethe also chose to be titled Queen Margarethe the second, recognizing the role of Queen Margaret (the first) (Margaret Valdemarsdatter) who presided over Denmark, Norway, and Sweden in the Kalmar Union between 1397 and 1412.

The Role of the Head of State (Queen or King)

In 1849, Denmark became a constitutional monarchy, when King Frederik VII signed a constitution that defined and limited his powers. The constitution was later amended in 1866 and 1915. Today, the role of the Head of State is to “represent Denmark abroad and to be a figurehead at home,” which includes participating during the formation of government by formally appointing the government, receiving state visitors, conferring “Royal Warrants” and heading and awarding the Royal Orders of Chivalry. In addition, as Head of State it is the Queen’s duty to sign all Danish laws. (§14 Danish Constitution.)

Other duties include giving speeches to the public. The annual New Year’s speech is broadcast live by Danish media and typically viewed by millions of Danes, but the corona speech that she held in March 2020 broke all records, with more than 3.4 million viewers. The Queen’s speeches are available on the royal palace website.

Names Fit for a Queen 

Although the Danish Name Act (Navneloven) does not specify special provisions for royalty, there are some rules that apply solely to royals, including that only royals may have a number designation following their name, thus, no little Johnny III. Margarethe is only the second Queen Margarethe, but her son will be Frederik X and her grandson will one day be Christian XI. In fact, being named Frederik or Christian, is a royal tradition. Ever since Christian II, who reigned from 1513 to 1523, the kings of Denmark have been named either Frederik or Christian. If the tradition is to be continued, Christian will have to name his firstborn son Frederik or his firstborn daughter Margaret.

Unlike most Danes, Queen Margarethe has four given names: Margrethe Alexandrine Þorhildur Ingrid. Þorhildur, an Icelandic name, was chosen in recognition of Iceland, which was part of the Danish kingdom when Margarethe was born in 1940. Formally, the queen does not have a last name but is part of the House of Glücksborg. She is also known to her closest family as Daisy, after the Danish flower and has been called the “World’s coolest queen.”

A Royal Ending and Royal Resting Place

Starting in the 1400s, all Danish regents have been buried in the Roskilde Cathedral, and plans have been made for Queen Margarethe to rest there as well. Her late husband, Prince Henrik, however, refused to be buried with her on the account of his dissatisfaction over his royal title and royal duties, arguing that because he was not an equal to the queen in life, he should not be an equal to her in death. Prince Henrik was instead cremated and some of his ashes were spread over Danish waters while some were buried in an urn in a private garden in the Fredensborg Palace.

Still Going Strong

The queen is currently the second longest-serving regent in Denmark, second only to King Christian IV, who served for 60 years. Some of the programmed celebrations in her honor have been postponed due to the surge of COVID-19 in Denmark, but the queen continues to be very popular among the Danes, celebrated for her artistic talents, and she has publicly communicated that she has no plans on stepping down early. For those interested in reading more about Queen Margarethe, the Royal House of Denmark has published a special site commemorating the queen’s 50-year reign.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in DC – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 01/13/2022 - 10:30am

Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a federal holiday first celebrated 36 years ago in 1986. Our pic of the week is from the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Photo by Robert Brammer.

This 30-foot tall granite memorial, sculpted in Dr. King’s likeness, sits at 1964 Independence Avenue, S.W., the address referencing the year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. It was dedicated in 2011, on the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Etched into the side of the statue are the words, “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” These words come from Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech and “serve as the theme of the overall design of the memorial, which realizes the metaphorical mountain and stone.” Dr. King’s memorial is the first to honor an African American individual on the National Mall.

Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. Photo by Robert Brammer.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

New Acquisition: A 14th-Century Manuscript of Registrum Brevium

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/11/2022 - 3:03pm

Last month on this blog, I highlighted a 15th-century manuscript that the Law Library recently acquired that contained work on the laws of war for knights in the Middle Ages. In this post, I would like to announce the acquisition of another new addition to the Law Library’s growing collection of medieval manuscripts, a 14th-century manuscript of Registrum Brevium, a copy of the register of writs that were used to initiate litigation in medieval England.

A writ was a document written in the name of the king that conveyed instructions to the king’s agents to perform some particular action that he willed. Generally, in the Middle Ages, it came in the form of a letter written on a strip of parchment that was sealed with the edge of the great seal. (Baker, p. 64.) Writs were a main instrument to communicate the king’s will in matters of government. Their use also evolved from an extrajudicial executive way to resolve disputes, into a tool to direct judges in royal courts to hear legal disputes. (van Caenegam, p. [v].)

The Law Library recently acquired this copy of Registrum Brevium, a collection of original writs for initiating litigation in the royal courts of the Middle Ages. Photo by Nathan Dorn.

Over the course of the 12th century, a system of writs was developed that enabled people from all over England to get a hearing for their grievances before judges in the king’s courts. Plaintiffs were able to purchase a writ, which was produced by secretaries from the king’s court – there was an officina brevium, or “workshop of writs,” that produced writs for this purpose. The writ stated the facts of the case and a carefully worded formula outlining a specific action. The writ was then sent to the king’s judges instructing them to hear the case. This method of accessing justice grew in popularity over the next century, eventually supplanting the older systems of eyres, county courts, and feudal courts that were the mainstays of English law since the Norman conquest. In that time, the national scope of these operations and the strict formulaic contents of the writs became the basis of the medieval common law, a body of law that was common to the king’s courts throughout England.

The number of writs that were available for use in the royal courts grew – especially during the 13th and 14th centuries – as new actions were added to the roster of possible suits that one could bring. (Holdsworth, ii, pp. 432-433.) A brief list of writs fills a handful of pages in the twelfth book of the work typically called Glanvill, or Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni angliae, which was written approximately in the year 1189. (Holdsworth, ii, p. 152 and n. 7.) A longer list of writs appears in the earliest known Register of Writs, which was compiled in 1227; that list is nine pages long and contains 56 entries. Later manuscripts show many additions and variations. By 1531, when the Registrum Brevium was first printed, the writs filled 700 pages. (Haas, p. xii.) To keep abreast of the actions that were available to people who sought the king’s justice, it was necessary to keep a copy of a list of writs and directions for their use. This was a necessity for private persons and ecclesiastical bodies as much as for judges and, of course, the clerks who produced the writs. One solution to this need was to produce or own a manuscript of Registrum Brevium, the Register of Writs.

Registrum Brevium. England (probably London), early 14th century. Photo by Nathan Dorn.

The Registrum Brevium is an enumeration of the original writs that were available in the English Chancery. (De Haas, p. 11.) It typically begins with breve de recto, “the writ of right,” and includes a number of writs dealing with property rights. In its final form, this was followed by a series of writs for actions touching ecclesiastical concerns. Additional groups of writs related to waste, personal liberty and pecuniary obligations to the state, criminal or quasi-criminal liability, land tenure obligations, dower, and others. (Holdsworth, ii. pp. 547-550.) It appears that there was no official copy of the register that served as the model for all others. Instead, each individual master, or cursitor, of a writ shop kept a copy that he annotated. (Holdsworth, ii. p. 438.) It is probably better, therefore, to translate Registrum Brevium as “a Register of Writs.” (Winfield, p. 298.)

The extant manuscripts show enormous variation. They differ in many things, including which and how many writs they list, as well as the order in which the writs are recorded. In addition to the writs, manuscripts include regulae, or explanatory notes for the use and application of the writ; these differ from manuscript to manuscript. In some later manuscripts, lengthy instructions appear in Law French that seem to reflect the directions trained clerks gave to their subordinates in issuing the writs. The writs themselves are always written in Latin. But manuscripts show linguistic variation; generally, the later manuscripts contain more and more Law French. (De Haas, p. xvii.) Many manuscripts, even early ones, include judicial writs in addition to original writs. These may be said to have been writs issued by the justice of the royal court in the course of a trial that has already been initiated, rather than by the clerks of the officina brevium. (Winfield p. 301.) Manuscripts from a later period often contain many administrative documents that have no relationship to initiating litigation. (De Haas, p. xx).

There are more than 250 manuscripts of Registrum Brevium still in existence. A partial census of the manuscripts that are in British and American libraries can be found in De Haas, Early Registers of Writs, Appendix A, pp. xxiii-xxvii. The Library of Congress owns four manuscript copies of Registrum Brevium (three of these are at the Law Library) in addition to the item it recently acquired.

The Law Library’s recent acquisition contains 167 folios. It opens with the Writ of Right and contains 60 chapter headings, concluding with De salvo conducto, a writ of safe conduct. It was once in the collection of Alfred J. Horwood (1821-1881), a barrister of the Middle Temple, an important historian of English law who edited the year books of Edward I and Edward III for the Rolls Series.

Authors of a number of medieval works – the Old Natura Brevium, the Novae Narrationes, and Articuli ad Novas Narrationes among them – testified to the centrality of the Registrum Brevium to the practice of law. Registrum Brevium was first printed by William Rastell in 1531. The Law Library owns this variant from that same year, as well as editions from 1553, 1595, 1634, and 1687. Thomas Jefferson’s copy of this last edition is on display with Jefferson’s collection in the Southwest Pavillion, on the Second Floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Secondary Sources:

Baker, John H. (John Hamilton), author. An introduction to English legal history. Fifth edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

Caenegem, R. C. van. Royal writs in England from the Conquest to Glanvill; studies in the early history of the common law. London, B. Quaritch, 1959.

Holdsworth, William Searle. A history of English law, by W. S. Holdsworth. London, Methuen & co., 1903-

Maitland, Frederic William. “The History of the Register of Original Writs,” in The collected papers of Frederic William Maitland, Downing professor of the laws of England, edited by H.A.L. Fisher. Cambridge, University Press, 1911. Vol. 2, pp. 110-173.

De Haas, Elsa. “An Early Thirteenth-Century Register of Writs,” The University of Toronto Law Journal, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1947), pp. 196-226.

De Haas, Elsa. Early registers of writs; edited [and translated] for the Selden Society by Elsa de Haas and G. D. G. Hall. London, Quaritch, 1970.

Winfield, Percy Henry. The chief sources of English legal history, by Percy H. Winfield. Cambridge, Harvard university press, 1925.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

New Report on the “Lifecycle of Parliamentary Documents” Published

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 01/10/2022 - 8:00am

A recent Law Library of Congress report describes the parliamentary document process in 10 jurisdictions around the world. The report, titled the Lifecycle of Parliamentary Documents, summarizes the findings of research conducted by foreign law specialists in the Law Library’s Global Legal Research Directorate based on legal sources from the jurisdictions surveyed.

The report is composed of individual jurisdictional surveys that describe the procedures used for processing, producing, publishing, collecting, preserving, and distributing to users parliamentary documents in Australia, Canada, the European Parliament, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, and the UK.

Congressional record has face lifted. Washington, D.C., Jan. 4. The first copy of the Congressional record for the 76th session came off the presses today with a new face. Rep. Joseph W. Byrns, Jr., examines a copy of the Congressman’s ‘bible’ which will henceforth carry the United States Seal on the front page, 1/4/39. (Harris & Ewing, photographer, Jan. 4, 1939.) //

Parliamentary documents in the jurisdictions surveyed include documents and records that are produced in parliament, such as bills and related information, explanatory memoranda and bill digests, petitions, tabled papers, written and audio reports of parliamentary proceedings, and parliamentary research publications. The report identifies various systems of processing and preserving such documents, including, where relevant, special procedures for documenting, correcting, and approving records of plenum meetings as well as committee hearings.

Certain types of parliamentary documents are published in the official gazettes of some of the jurisdictions surveyed. In several countries, such as France, Germany, Israel, Portugal, and the UK, documents are preserved in dedicated historical parliamentary archives. The report addresses the role of national or parliamentary archives and of national or parliamentary libraries, as applicable, in preserving and digitizing parliamentary documents.

We invite you to review the information provided in our report. You can also browse additional reports from the Law Library on other topics. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Introducing the Report on Turkish Presidential Decrees

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 01/10/2022 - 1:30am

This is a guest post by Kayahan Cantekin, a foreign law specialist in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Our new report, Turkey: Presidential Decrees is now available on The report provides an overview of the president’s power to issue presidential decrees under the Turkish Constitution. The presidential decree is a rulemaking instrument that the president of Turkey can issue without prior authorization or delegation from the legislature. This rulemaking power was introduced to the Turkish constitutional system with the amendments adopted in 2017.

Title page of the Law Library’s report “Turkey: Presidential Decrees”

The introduction of the presidential decree is a novel and unprecedented development in the Turkish constitutional law tradition. With it, the executive is given the authority to issue rules directly without a delegation from the legislature or without being limited to issuing rules implementing statutory law. Consequently, the question of the limits of the president’s power to regulate via presidential decrees has become a focal point in legal scholarship in the last few years, with authors attempting to establish the theoretical foundations of the power and pointing out its potential risks.

Since 2020, the Constitutional Court’s jurisprudence, created in the context of constitutional challenges brought against presidential decrees, started to shape the limits to the president’s power to issue decrees on a case-by-case basis. This jurisprudence has generated many responses in legal scholarship. Since its introduction, 89 presidential decrees have been issued, mostly regulating the organization of the central administration, but also touching on other subject matter.

The Law Library’s report surveys the recent scholarship and the foundational Constitutional Court decisions on presidential decrees, emphasizing what we know and do not know regarding the scope and limits of this novel presidential power. The report also examines a controversy that arose from President Erdogan’s use of a presidential act to withdraw Turkey from the Istanbul Convention without the consent of the legislature, based on an authority granted by a presidential decree, a development that might have implications for Turkish foreign relations law.

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Carlists, Conflicts, and Churches — The Village of Ripoll

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/07/2022 - 8:50am

The following is a guest post by Anna Weese-Grubb, who served as a fall 2021 remote intern transcribing and researching documents in the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign at the Law Library of Congress.

Brief on behalf the Abbot of the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Ripoll versus the Fiscal Procurator of the Public Office [i.e., Bailía] of the Princedom of Catalonia and the Syndic of the village of Ripoll, concerning the legal issue of whether said village of Ripoll is subject to the direct jurisdiction of the King of Spain or under that of the Abbot of the Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Ripoll. [July 17, 1862]

During my time on the Herencia campaign, I’ve seen several documents outlining the relationship of the Catholic Church and the law. There are documents ranging from monastery foundations to Church privileges in Spanish society. However, few were so striking as the debates over jurisdiction. In particular, the July 17, 1862, document concerning the village of Ripoll and who exerts jurisdiction over it stands out among the rest. This document focuses on the Monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll and the “Fiscal Procurator of the Public Office of the Princedom of Catalonia” to determine whether or not Ripoll owes fealty to the king of Spain or the abbot.

Sitting in Catalonia, bordering the south of France, Ripoll sits remotely from the Crown, without the constant attention from Crown authorities enjoyed by the closer monasteries and their associated villages. Built in 879, the monastery functioned as a place of protection and a population center for the village. Under the Benedictine monastery, the village had access to the Church’s authority and, by extension, the protection of the stone walls of the monastery itself. However, the village ran into a particular degree of conflict in 1862. Spain’s monarch was Queen Isabella II, who took over after the Carlist War and reigned throughout extreme political turmoil.

The Carlists ruled towards the French border, controlling provinces such as Navarre. Navarre has a history of independence, traditionally laying outside of the Castilian royal family’s grasp; it was integrated into the kingdom late in 1512. Ripoll bears a similar history, complete with the Carlist emphasis on the traditional Catholic order and ecclesiastical authority. Under this context, the document becomes the battleground between Carlist principles and the authority of Isabella’s reign. It is also worth noting that Isabella’s control over the country waned shortly after; she was forced to abdicate the throne and thus admit defeat in the wake of her Carlist foes.

Following this conflict, it becomes easy to see why this case received its immortality in the collection; the very first page of the record asserts how the monastery ought to enjoy its full sovereignty over the village:

se procurarà manifestar, y establecer, la solidèz de justicia, que contra su Villa asiste al muy Ilustre Abad, y Monasterio de Ripoll en el infalible dominio, y total jurisdicción alta, baxa, mero, y mixto imperio de dicha Villa de Ripoll

measures will be taken to manifest and establish the soundness of justice that enables the very illustrious abbot and the Monastery of Ripoll in the absolute power, and total jurisdiction, high, low, mere, and mixed rule over said Villa de Ripoll.

Note the careful wording of the initial statement. The abbot and the monastery enjoy this jurisdiction because the village assists the monks in their domain. That claim to the village is “infallible” because the Church is incapable of erring on the subject; historical control trumps the attempts to bring the village and abbey into the monarchy’s grasp. The monastery enjoys certain privileges such as neutrality in interregional conflict and the surrounding lands for self-sufficiency. It is a piece of the monastery to that extent, where they farm and sell their goods in the marketplace, therefore requiring the abbot’s attention in the same way the novices of his order do. This echoes the Carlist sentiment of traditional Catholic authority, as the author enumerates how the monastery therefore enjoys the jurisdiction from the low, petty instances to the higher-stakes cases, from the purest levels to the most mixed ones. The crown argues that the monastery must forfeit these historic claims in a direct attack on the traditionalist, Carlist principles in favor of Isabella’s moderate reforms. The symbiotic relationship between the village and the monks asserts that it is common sense for the abbot to thus assume the authority, for that protection is how the Church gives back.

Categories: Research & Litigation

The Bound Congressional Record – Congressional Reactions to the 1918 Flu Pandemic

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 01/06/2022 - 8:30am

The Bound Congressional Record on now offers almost 100 years of
content, covering 1899 to 1994. As part of a new series, we are going to show you how
you can explore congressional remarks on significant moments in American history
using this resource. We did this once before by highlighting congressional reactions to the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik.

Today, I explore congressional remarks on the 1918 flu pandemic in the
65th and 66th Congresses. To accomplish this, I selected the Bound Congressional Record in the drop-down menu on the homepage and searched for “flu.” I knew I would find congressional reactions to the pandemic in the 65th and 66th Congresses, so I selected those Congresses using the filters menu on the results screen. In order to figure out which results were most relevant before clicking on them, I scrolled up to the top of the results screen and chose “Show Keywords in Context.” This option displays snippets of the text under each search result. In the discussion copied below, Rep. Fess discusses an exchange with the Surgeon General over how the flu could be treated and projections on cost.

Keyword in context search results in the Bound Congressional Record on

We hope you enjoy exploring congressional reactions to historic events in the Congressional Record. Let us know in the comments if you find something you would like to share, or if there are historical events you think should be highlighted in future posts.

The top half of page 4372 from the February 26, 1919 Bound Congressional Record from the 65th Congress, 3rd Session, Volume 57, Part 5.

The bottom half of page 4372 from the February 26, 1919 Bound Congressional Record from the 65th Congress, 3rd Session, Volume 57, Part 5.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

Upcoming US Law Webinars – February 2022

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 01/05/2022 - 1:17pm

Next month, the Law Library of Congress will present a webinar on U.S. federal statutes. This webinar will provide an overview of U.S. statutory and legislative research, including information about how to find and use the U.S. Code, the U.S. Statutes at Large, and U.S. federal bills and resolutions.

Also in February, Law Library staff will host a webinar discussing The presentation will discuss how to research federal legislation and highlight recent updates to the site. More information about the content of both webinars and registration links can be found below.

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington D.C., Highsmith, Carol M., photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.,

Orientation to Legal Research: U.S. Federal Statutes

Register here.

Date: Thursday, February 3, 2022, 11:00 a.m. EST – 12:00 p.m. EST

Content: Provides an overview of U.S. statutory and legislative research, including information about how to find and use the U.S. Code, the U.S. Statutes at Large, and U.S. federal bills and resolutions.

Instructor: Elizabeth Osborne – senior legal reference librarian at the Law Library. Elizabeth holds a BA in justice from American University, a JD from the Brooklyn Law School, and a Master of Science in Information Science from the University of Tennessee. Webinar

Register here.

Date: Thursday, February 24, 2022, 2:00 p.m. EST – 3:00 p.m. EST

Content: This orientation is designed to give a basic overview of While the focus of the session will be searching legislation and the congressional member information attached to the legislation, the new features of will be highlighted.

Instructors: Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer. Barbara is the bibliographic and research instruction librarian at the Law Library. She holds a BA in history from Duke University, a JD from the University of North Carolina School of Law, and a Master of Science in Library and Information Science with a specialization in law librarianship from Catholic University. Robert is the chief of the Law Library’s Office of External Relations. He holds a BA in political science from the University of Kentucky, a JD from Wayne State University, and a Master of Library Science from Florida State University.

To learn about other upcoming classes on domestic and foreign law topics, visit the Legal Research Institute.

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

A New Year’s Greeting from the Law Librarian of Congress

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 01/04/2022 - 8:30am

This is a guest post by the Law Librarian of Congress, Aslihan Bulut.

I want to thank you for your continued support of the Law Library of Congress during these challenging times. Despite the obstacles presented by the pandemic, the Law Library has continued to fulfill its mission to serve Congress and the American public.

This calendar year, the Law Library responded to over 500 research requests from Congress and provided assistance to congressional offices, legislative branch agencies, the Supreme Court and federal courts, federal executive departments and agencies, state and local governments, and the public in more than 9,500 reference transactions. Foreign law specialists from the Global Legal Research Directorate provided members of Congress with reports related to timely legislative issues on a variety of topics. The topic of the reports ranged from the “Taxation of cryptocurrency block rewards in selected jurisdictions” to the “Belt and Road Initiative.” Many of the reports are available to the public on the Law Library’s website, The Law Library staff also authored 387 articles on legal developments around the world for the Global Legal Monitor and 245 posts for In Custodia Legis.

Speaking of, we were proud to debut our refreshed site in June. The new site provides enhanced access to Law Library resources in a well-organized, aesthetically pleasing interface.

You may have read about our collaboration with the Government Publishing Office to digitize the U.S. Serial Set. This year, we celebrated our first release from this project, providing access to Serial Set volumes from the 69th Congress (1925 – 1927). In addition, with the assistance of our volunteers, work has continued on our Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign on the Library’s By The People Platform. We kicked off a release of the third phase of Herencia documents with a Transcribe-a-thon that met its goal thanks to your generous contributions. We also added some exciting rare materials to the collection this year, including a 15th-century manuscript of L’Arbre des Batailles (The Tree of Battles) by the Provençal author Honorat Bovet, and our Rare Book Curator Nathan Dorn appeared in a video to showcase some of our exciting rare book acquisitions.

The Public Services Division and our foreign law specialists provided 92 webinars, classes, seminars, briefings, and tours for over 5,000 participants. The Public Services Division also created 152 new legal research guides. If you missed any of our events and webinars from the past year, you can click here to view recordings of them. Please visit our Legal Research Institute to join us for our upcoming webinars and events. We were also excited to welcome you back on-site to the Library this year with provisions in place to maintain a safe environment, such as research appointments and social distancing.

These are just a few highlights. You can read more in our report for the fiscal year 2021 here. I hope you and your family had a great holiday season and I wish you a safe and happy new year.

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: The Icelandic Reduced Workweek Trial

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 01/03/2022 - 5:00pm

This blog post is part of our Frequently Asked Legal Questions series.   

[Office work], Harris & Ewing (1936). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, // .

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic the world saw a surge in remote work, potentially changing the way many of us work forever. But even before the pandemic, people seeking a better work-life balance were looking at reinventing the work structure, including pursuing the potential of reduced work schedules without any reduction in pay.

Progress toward a regular eight-hour workday in the United States can be said to have begun in 1866 and made strides in the 1930s. Although commonly understood as the global norm today, the 40-hour workweek has its exceptions. For example, in Norway a 37.5-hour workweek is the norm in all collective agreements. Similarly, Denmark has established a 37-hour workweek as its norm. Moreover, the United Arab Emirates announced just last month that the work week would be reduced  to 36 hours for “public sector employees at the ministerial level,” or four and a half days, dismissing everyone at noon on Friday ahead of religious observances at the end to the week, leaving employees to enjoy a two-and-a-half day weekend.

Which brings us to the topic of this post, the findings of two reduced workweek pilots in Iceland, the results of which were published in English (Going Public: Iceland’s Journey to a Shorter Working Week) this past summer. The result was overwhelmingly positive, with both employees and employers reporting increased productivity and well-being.

1. How is the workweek regulated in Iceland?

The Icelandic labor market has three pillars: laws and regulations set by the government, collective wage agreements, and individual work contracts.

Iceland adopted its 40-hour workweek legislation in 1971, 50 years ago, but according to statistical reports, it was not until 2002 that the actual numbers of hours worked on average was at or below 40 hours.

Similar to its neighboring Nordic countries, Iceland does not have a minimum wage or a nationally set workweek. The Icelandic Act on the 40-hour work week provides that a normal workweek may not exceed 40 hours, but the terms for any specific industry are set by collective agreements, including wages and work and rest time rules, and the hours for a specific employee are set in the individual work contract. There is no minimum wage but working conditions are regulated in the Act on Working Terms and Pension Rights Insurance.

2. Has there been a push for a shorter workweek previously?

Members of the Icelandic Parliament proposed a move to a 35-hour workweek in 2015, but it was voted down. The non-government organization Alda, which was one of the organizations behind the workweek pilot study, has advocated for a shorter workweek since 2011.

3. Why was the pilot study on a reduction in working hours initiated?

When the reduced working hour pilot was proposed it was reported that people living in Iceland spent 90 minutes less a day on leisure activities compared to people living in Denmark and Spain. The trials were conducted as a response to trade unions and civil society efforts to introduce a shorter workweek.

Specifically, the Icelandic National Government trial was announced with the purpose of  determining “whether it [was] possible to shorten working hours [to 36 hours] without wage cuts and achieve mutual benefits for staff and institutions.”

4. How was the study conducted?

Two pilots were conducted by the Reykjavik City Council (2014-2019) and the Icelandic national government (2017-2021). In total more than 2,500 workers (1% of the working population) and more than 60 different workplaces and governmental agencies participated in the pilot, reducing working hours by between one and four hours per week. (Report at 6, 58-60.)

The participating workplaces had to develop qualitative targets to maintain or increase productivity and surveys for tracking employee satisfaction. “Quantitative studies were also routinely conducted by the Reykjavík City Council and the Icelandic government, both as a part of their usual operations and specifically for the trials. These focused mainly on quality of life, stress, satisfaction with work, sick days, and workload among participating workers and the other ‘control’ workplaces, as well as data on their respective ‘performance’ and service provision.” (Report at 31.)

Different industries and work places adopted different solutions to reducing the length of their workdays. For example, staff at public schools adopted rotating schedules where teachers left the school incrementally in relation to the student population and lunches were staggered for the students to reduce the number of staff needed in supervisory roles. In one police station, officers worked staggered week schedules, working shorter hours one week (8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Fridays) and longer hours the next (8 a.m. to 4 p.m. all five days), reducing the total hours worked by eight hours over a two-week period. (Report at 72f.)

Other measures adopted to shorten the length of the workday included fewer and/or more focused meetings as well as shorter coffee breaks.

5. What was the purpose of the pilot studies?

The purpose of the studies was to increase work-life balance but also to increase productivity.

6. What was the result of the pilot studies?

The outcome of the two pilot studies was considered a success, both among employees and employers, who reported increased productivity and decreased stress and improved work-life balance among employees. (Report at 33.)

Moreover, none of the participant workplaces saw reduced service satisfaction. For example, the Reykjavik City Council and the Directorate of Internal Revenue found no decrease in service satisfaction among patrons compared to before the pilot, despite the reduction in service hours on Fridays. The employees themselves reported providing better service as they were happier with their work-life balance. (Report at 70.)

However, the results were not without challenges, specifically managers were not able to reduce their hours as much as they had hoped, and certain shift workers said it was difficult to manage the handover communication within the allotted reduced hours. (Report at 75.)

7. Did the pilot studies have other impacts too?

Yes, even though workers were happier and more productive, in certain industries, such as public health care, the pilot resulted in the recruitment of additional workers. (Report at 55.)

Other findings of the government survey following the pilot involved a generational divide between older workers who, as a personal preference, considered it important to work long hours versus younger workers who preferred shorter hours. Other benefits associated with a shorter workweek included reduction in traffic congestion, and increased social capital as workers who worked fewer hours volunteered more. It also reduced family life tensions and improved family life, especially for shift workers and single parents.

8. Did Iceland reduced the workweek following the pilot?

Despite the success of the study, the Icelandic law on workweek hours has not been amended and the maximum hours of work is still 40 hours per week. However, the pilot has had an effect on the labor market, with collective agreements now including shorter workweek hours. For example, the Federation of State and Municipal Employees (BSRB) has implemented a shorter workweek for its members, being 36 hours for public employees and 32 hours for shift workers, without cutting pay.

In total, collective agreements from several unions were changed, affecting “170,200 union members from Iceland’s 197,000 strong working population.” (Report at 53.) These members now have either a right to shorter work hours or the right to negotiate shorter working hours. Responding to the changed rules, a member of Parliament representing the Green Party declared in April of 2021, that the next step was to reduce the workweek to 30 hours per week. (Report at 55.)


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Categories: Research & Litigation

Join Us for a Foreign and Comparative Law Webinar: “Odd Laws in the United Kingdom”

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 12/30/2021 - 10:42am

On January 20, 2022, at 2 p.m. EST, senior foreign law specialist Clare Feikert-Ahalt will be presenting the webinar, “Odd Laws in the United Kingdom.” This will be the first installment in our Foreign and Comparative Law Webinar Series for 2022.

Please register here.

Flyer announcing upcoming foreign law webinar on “Odd Laws in the United Kingdom,” created by Kelly Goles.

In this webinar, Clare will review laws from the United Kingdom that are often considered odd. From carrying ladders and flying kites on the streets of London, to drunkenness in pubs, sheep riding in cars, and laws against extravagance, this webinar will cover a variety of odd laws, providing both citations to the laws, their background, and how the police handle the enforcement of these laws.

Presenter Clare Feikert-Ahalt is a senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress. She conducts research and writes reports on a wide range of topics relating primarily to the laws of the United Kingdom, as well as the Republic of Ireland, Malta, and other Commonwealth jurisdictions. She holds a bachelor’s degree in law and international relations from the University of Lincoln, England, and an LL.M. in international legal studies from American University.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

The Most Viewed Webinar Recordings of 2021

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 12/29/2021 - 10:30am

Over the past few days, we have brought you our most-viewed blog posts of the year, as well as the Law Library’s most viewed reports for 2021. To finish out our most-viewed series, we are bringing you our most-viewed webinar recordings. The Law Library of Congress holds several recurring webinars throughout the year, as well as special events such as Constitution Day. If you are not able to attend these webinars or events in person, don’t fret – we record our webinars! Whether you’re a patron who lives too far away to attend an in-person event, or you want to watch a recording of a webinar, you can find our event recordings online.

Our most-viewed videos this year concern a wide range of topics, from central bank digital currencies to the United States Constitution. If you are interested in attending one of these webinars live, visit the Legal Research Institute page. Here are the top 10 most-viewed webinar and event recordings of 2021, starting with number 10:

10. 2021 Law Day Interview with ABA President Patricia Lee Refo

9. Orientation to Legal Research Series: U.S. Federal Statutes

8. Jane Sánchez Memorial Lecture on the Future of Law Libraries and Law Librarianship

7. Orientation to Legal Research Webinar Series: U.S. Case Law Research

6. Orientation to Legal Research: Tracing Federal Regulations

5. Orientation to Law Library of Congress Collections

4. Law Day 2021 – “Advancing the Rule of Law Now: A Global Perspective”

3. Recent Additions to the Law Library of Congress Rare Books Collection

2. Central Bank Digital Currencies – the Future of the Monetary System?

1. The Constitution Annotated on

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Categories: Research & Litigation

An Introduction to Law Library of Congress Reports & The Most-Viewed Reports of 2021

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 12/28/2021 - 8:30am

One of the things that makes the Law Library of Congress so unique is its specialty in foreign, comparative, and international law. It often surprises people to learn that the majority of the Law Library’s collection is in a language other than English. The Law Library’s foreign law collections developed as the United States assumed a greater role in world affairs, with a resulting need to equip Congress with knowledge of the legal systems of other jurisdictions.

The Taxation of Cryptocurrency Block Rewards in Selected Jurisdictions report.

Of course, having an impressive collection of foreign and international law is only useful if you have the professional capacity to make use of it. That is why the Law Library of Congress employs legal specialists from around the world who cover 300+ jurisdictions, often divided up by language. Many of these legal specialists have a law degree from their country of origin and an LL.M. from a U.S. law school. The legal specialists write reports and provide expert witness testimony for Congress and various executive branch agencies.

If the office requesting the report provides permission, these reports are made available on, the Law Library’s recently refreshed website. You can access the Law Library’s reports by topic, region, year of publication, or you can simply browse all of the reports. These reports address specific legal issues for a particular country or present a comparative multinational analysis of legal and legislative approaches to an individual problem in a variety of countries. In addition to the contemporary content, you will also find historical reports from the Law Library dating back to the 1940s, which provide an interesting glimpse into U.S. policy during the Cold War.

We hope you enjoy exploring the Law Library’s foreign, comparative, and international law reports, and will visit the Law Library’s Legal Research Institute to join us for  foreign, international, and comparative webinars in the coming year.
The most-viewed reports that were published in 2021 are as follows:

10. Ireland: data protection and children

9. Citizenship through international adoption

8. Civic space legal framework: Portugal (April 2021), Romania (November 2021)

7. Regulation of crash avoidance systems: Australia, Canada, China, European Union, France, Israel, Japan, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom 

6. Regulation of cryptocurrency around the world: November 2021 Update 

5. Recognition of foreign passports

4. Lifecycle of parliamentary documents: Australia, Canada, European Parliament, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Portugal, Sweden, United Kingdom

3. Net zero emissions legislation around the world

2. Belt and Road Initiative: China, Cambodia, Caribbean Countries, Djibouti, Egypt, Greece, Kenya, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Russian Federation and Central Asian Countries, South America, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom

1. Taxation of cryptocurrency block rewards in selected jurisdictions

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Categories: Research & Litigation

The Most Viewed In Custodia Legis Posts of 2021

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 12/27/2021 - 10:30am

This past year, we published more than 230 new posts on this blog, In Custodia Legis. As usual, these were written by multiple authors, both on the blog team and guest bloggers, from the different parts of the Law Library and the Library of Congress. The blog team has representatives from our team of reference librarians, our foreign law specialists, staff who manage our physical and digital collections, and those who work on events and outreach. We also published interviews with various interns and staff, as well as guests and colleagues.

We hope you have enjoyed reading the posts as much as we have enjoyed writing them, and that you will continue to visit the blog.

If you missed some posts you can catch up by browsing through the different months and categories, or even by looking at what particular authors have contributed. Here are the top 10 posts that received the most views in 2021, with number one being our top viewed post:

10. Stunned By Her Thunder: Fannie Lou Hamer

9.  100 Years of Women’s Suffrage in Sweden

8.  Laws Involving Animals – Real and Mythical

7.  Court Order Required for Puberty-Blocking Treatment for Transgender Teenagers in England and Wales

6.  The Murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme

5.  Stuck in the Suez Canal – What are the Legal Implications?

4.  FALQs: The Controversy Over Marriage and Anti-Conversion Laws in India

3.  50 Years of Women’s Suffrage in Switzerland

2.  FALQs: Execution by Stoning and Privacy Laws Related to Sexual Crimes in Iran and Afghanistan

1.  UK – New Immigration and Asylum Bill Provides Fundamental Change

Woman reading inside newsstand. Rizzuto, Angelo, 1906-1967, photographer [November 1953]. Photo from the Library of Congress Flickr account.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

Ho, Ho, Ho! Santa gets a raise

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 12/23/2021 - 9:14am

The beginning of the 1942 Christmas season in the United States was an exceptional time. The country was entering the second year of a global war, which led to many men and women being away from their families, either in uniform, or working afar in war-related industries. Common consumer goods were subject to shortages, rationing, and higher prices. There was a demand to increase wages to reflect a higher cost of living and also due to labor shortages. The need to keep the economy in check from both raising wages and prices resulted in the federal government creating a number of regulatory boards. One such entity was the National War Labor Board (NWLB, or War Labor Board), created by Executive Order 9,017 on January 12, 1942.

Title page, Wartime Wage Control and Dispute Settlement, Bureau of National Affairs, Washington, 1945.  Photograph by Robert Brammer.

The NWLB had the authority to set wages for different industries and occupations. This power was expanded under the provisions of titles II and III of Executive Order 9,250, of October 3, 1942. Section 1 of Title II of this executive order provided

1. No increases in wage rates, granted as a result of voluntary agreement, collective bargaining, conciliation, arbitration, or otherwise, and no decreases in wage rates, shall be authorized unless notice of such increases or decreases shall have been filed with the National War Labor Board, and unless the National War Labor Board has approved such increases or decreases.


First page, Press Release B-336, December 4, 1942.  Photograph by Robert Brammer.

As with almost all other labor areas during WWII, the duties of Santa Claus, particularly those of his public helpers who greet shoppers and children, came to be examined by the NWLB. On December 4, 1942, the board issued a press release concerning pay increases for Santa’s public helpers.


Second page, Press Release B-336, December 4, 1942. Photograph by Robert Brammer.

The Board felt that due to the need for speed, Christmas being less than three weeks off, and the likely small amount of wages involved, raises for Santa would not fall within its normal administrative review. However, the Board only applied this decision to what we would think of as “traditional Santas,” those who wear “…red robes, white whisker and other well recognized accoutrements benefiting their station in life…” and who had a “…kindly and jolly disposition…”  In other words, no Santas like the grouch in A Christmas Storywho shoved Ralphie down the slide after lecturing him about the safety of his desired air rifle!

Also, due to the scarcity of sugar, Santas were no doubt told to dispense more joy and jolly laughs and fewer candy canes!




Categories: Research & Litigation

New Report on “Regulation of Cryptocurrency Around the World” Published

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 12/22/2021 - 2:00pm

Cryptocurrencies, once obscure and primarily associated with financing illegal activities, have become mainstream. Cryptocurrencies are a type of virtual currency that uses cryptographic algorithms to validate and secure transactions. The transactions are digitally recorded on a distributed ledger, such as a blockchain. As more and more people invest in and trade cryptocurrencies, governments around the world are taking note. Whereas El Salvador adopted Bitcoin as legal tender in September 2021, other governments, such as China, are prohibiting private cryptocurrencies altogether. India recently decided against awarding legal tender status to Bitcoin and is reportedly working on a Cabinet note on regulating an official central bank digital currency (CBDC), while banning private cryptocurrencies.

The Global Legal Research Directorate (GLRD) of the Law Library of Congress recently updated a more comprehensive 2018 Law Library of Congress report on the regulation of cryptocurrencies around the world. The update adds the United States to the surveyed jurisdictions. We are excited to share with you this research, Regulation of Cryptocurrency Around the World: November 2021 Update. The report consists of a jurisdictional table with citations and two maps that visually represent findings from the table. It focuses on two topics. First, the legal status of cryptocurrencies, meaning whether a country either explicitly or implicitly bans cryptocurrencies. Prohibiting banks and other financial institutions from dealing in cryptocurrencies or offering services to individuals/businesses dealing in cryptocurrencies or banning cryptocurrency exchanges are examples of implicit bans. Second, the table shows the regulatory framework surrounding cryptocurrencies, in particular the application of tax laws and anti-money laundering and counter-financing of terrorism laws (AML/CFT laws) to cryptocurrencies.

BITCOIN Cryptocurrency $BTC. Photo by Flick user Jonathan Cutrer. April 21, 2021. Used under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

We invite you to review the information provided in our report. You can also browse additional reports from the Law Library on other topics. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website). The Law Library has also published various articles related to cryptocurrencies in the Global Legal Monitor.

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Categories: Research & Litigation

The New Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge – Pics of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 12/22/2021 - 11:28am

On September 7, 2021, the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge opened in Washington, D.C. This new bridge replaced an older bridge, also called the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. Both bridges were named in honor of the famous 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass who lived in Washington, D.C., for the last years of his life and whose home is now a national park in the District.

Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge / Photograph by Andrew Weber

According to the bridge’s website, it has three arches, and will eventually also have four pedestrian overlooks and two piers. My colleague Andrew took a picture of the bridge looking northwest towards the District:

Photograph by Andrew Weber

The bridge also looks spectacular at night with the streetlights illuminating its graceful arches, which are also reflected in the water:

Photograph by Andrew Weber

I also want to give a shout out to my colleague Andrew. For years, Andrew has volunteered to take photos for posts and he has probably been the most indefatigable photographer for In Custodia Legis. Thank you Andrew!

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

The 2021 Top 10 and Year in Review

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 12/21/2021 - 7:51am

Each year we continue to enhance and grow Back in January 2013 we added the Congressional Record to the website. At the time, the Congressional Record only went back to 2011. If you look today, after we have methodically been adding previous Congresses of the Bound Congressional Record, it now goes back to 1899. That’s over 120 years!

In June 2014 we added accounts and saved searches. This year we revamped our Get Email Alerts and Updates page to make it easier to sign up and stay connected to, including an improved appropriations alert. We also continue to enhance the accessibility of In July 2015 we added the ability to listen to bill summaries. This year, we improved the accessibility of the Glossary and the Help Center section, including pages like Search Tools.

As far as usage, averaged more page views in a month in 2021 than the total for the entire year in 2016.

We also held another Virtual Public Forum this year. This built on the success of last year’s event. During the event, I shared our enhancements from the past year, including those based on previous feedback.

Most-Viewed Bills

This is now the ninth post that recaps the most-viewed bills of the year on To see how viewing trends change over time, check out the most-viewed bills list from 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020. You can see the status of each item in parentheses as of the drafting of this post.

  1. H.R.127 [117th] Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act (Introduced)
  2. H.R.1319 [117th] American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (Became Law)
  3. H.R.1 [117th] For the People Act of 2021 (Passed House)
  4. H.R.3684 [117th] Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Became Law)
  5. H.R.5 [117th] Equality Act (Passed House)
  6. H.Res.57 [117th] Impeaching Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States, for abuse of power by enabling bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. (Introduced)
  7. H.R.4980 [117th] To direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to ensure that any individual traveling on a flight that departs from or arrives to an airport inside the United States or a territory of the United States is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and for other purposes. (Introduced)
  8. H.R.5717 [116th] Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 (Introduced)
  9. H.R.7120 [116th] George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 (Passed House)
  10. H.R.133 [116th] Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (Became Law)

Highlights of 2021 Enhancements

Here is a selection of highlights from the last year:

  1. Appropriations Alert email added to Get Email Alerts and Updates
  2. Add to My Calendar from the Committee Schedule
  3. Bound Congressional Record available back to 56th Congress (1899-1901). We also added Keyword In Context to Congressional Record quick search form results.
  4. Citation Tool
  5. Errata for Treaty Documents are now linked on the overview and have a Text – Treaty Document Errata tab
  6. Added public and private law text from the 82nd – 92nd Congresses (1951-1972)
  7. Added committee transcripts for the 105th and 106th Congresses (1997-2000)
  8. Added 30,000 Bills and Resolutions from 1799-1873 from the Century of Lawmaking
  9. Additional search labels such as relatedBill:, nominationSenateReferralCommitteeCount:, and executiveCommunicationSenateReferralCommitteeCount:
  10. Committee email alerts are now available to subscribe from any committee page

I always enjoy looking back to see how far the website has come. Doing so this year reminded me of the video Introducing that came out just after the website was launched.

What has been your favorite new enhancement to this year? What would you like to see us add next year?

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Categories: Research & Litigation

A Trove of Information: The Coverage Page

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 12/20/2021 - 9:26am

We often talk about how is a group project comprised of multiple partners who provide different content and services to the site. The Library of Congress OCIO division provides the software and hardware for the site while, the reference librarians in the Law Library help public patrons navigate the site and construct searches for legislative information. The Library’s Congressional Research Service staff analyze the legislation, provide the bill summaries and assign the policy area and legislative subject terms. The Senate provides the data for the nominations collections and the House and Senate each provide the data for their respective executive communications collection. One of the largest collections in is the bill text collection. The bill texts originate in the House and Senate and are transmitted to the Government Publishing Office (GPO), which then provides us with the electronic text of the bills. GPO is also responsible for the publication and distribution of the Congressional Record.

One of these best places to find information on these various collections is the Coverage Dates for Collections page. It is one of the most information laden pages in and helps users understand the scope, parameters, and limitations of the collections which comprise The page lays out, in a series of columns, information about the various collections, the dates they cover, and the times that they are updated.

The first column provides information on the various datasets that make up such as Bill Text, Bill Summaries, and the Congressional Record. The second column provides information about when information in that dataset will be updated, if it is updated. Historical bill data from the 18th and 19th century is not updated, but the Congressional Record daily edition is updated each day by 10am. The third column provides information on the start date of a collection so for example the full bill text dataset begins with 1993 while the Congressional Record daily edition begins with 1995, but the bound edition of the Congressional Record, which includes historic issues, goes back to 1909. The final column provides information about the entire range of Congresses that a particular dataset covers.

Coverage Dates for Collections

There is also more detailed information in hyperlinked footnotes at the bottom of the page. As a history nerd, I love footnotes and these footnotes provide important additional information about the datasets.

Snapshot of the footnotes on the Coverage Dates for Congressional Collections page

For example footnote 3, is linked to the update information for the Bill Text (full text) dataset. The update information for this dataset states that it “Varies.” To more completely comprehend what that means, users can then look at the information under footnote 3, which states:

House bills are generally available a day or two after they are introduced. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed. Texts not yet published by GPO may be available from Bills to Be Considered or committee web sites. Senate bills usually take at least 5 business days. Please note that Senate bills are not made available before GPO has completed printing them. Online copies and printed copies are usually made available at the same time. Texts not yet published by GPO may be available from committee web sites.

The team also released a number of enhancements today, many of these were technical and related to backend processing, but the Browse lists have been expanded and the Congressional Record bound edition now goes back to 1899. Sometime in the new year, will include the entire Congressional Record dating back to 1873.


Enhancement – Browse – Expanded Scope of Coverage

  • Browse lists are available starting with the 82nd Congress

Enhancement – Congressional Record – Bound Edition

Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Ethelred the Unready

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 12/17/2021 - 1:23pm

European history is full of rulers whose names have included nicknames that designate some outstanding characteristic. For example, Richard I of England was known as Lionheart for his bravery in battle. Then there is Joan, Queen of Castile, also known as Joanna the Mad. She acquired this nickname after the death of her husband Philip of Burgundy, also known as Philip the Handsome. Purportedly, she was driven mad by jealously of her husband, who was very attractive to other women. After his death, she traveled Europe with his body in its coffin. But of all of these, my favorite has long been the Anglo-Saxon king, Ethelred the Unready.

I first encountered Ethelred as a teenager in the historical fiction work Avalon. I have to confess I did not finish this book but, from what I remember, Ethelred was the weak son of a scheming mother who murdered his older stepbrother so that he could inherit the throne. The Unready in his name was not explained but one assumed he was a tool in his mother’s bid for power.

I recently reencountered Ethelred this fall when I went on a reading splurge, gobbling up books on the Dark Ages, the Anglo-Saxons, and the Norman Conquest. Ethelred was a much more interesting character than he had seemed when I first met him. He also shared a questionable distinction with King John in having been forced to come to a written agreement with his nobles over his governance of the kingdom. Indeed, although Magna Carta established important principles for English governance and law, it was not the first time the English nobility had the upper hand with a king and forced the king to come to terms with their demands.

Ethelred the Unready had one of the longest reigns in Anglo-Saxon history (978-1016), but he was not a very capable king. He inherited the throne at a young age in 978 when his half-brother Edward was killed at Corfe Castle. As well as being young and dependent on his advisors, Ethelred was also faced with several problems which were not of his own making. One was the unrest in the country over his father’s (King Edgar’s) program of monastic reform in which lands had been seized for monasteries from various nobles. Ethelred was also faced with a resurgence in Viking raids during this time period as well. And he was a ruler at the time of great anxiety throughout western Europe as he reigned during the millennium (1000 A.D.).

One of Ethelred’s biggest problems was the latest round of Viking raids which had largely died out during the first three quarters of the 10th century. Beginning in 980, small Viking bands raided the English countryside until by 991 an invading force believed to be 93 ships strong landed in Kent and defeated an English army at the Battle of Maldon. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, this loss forced Ethelred to pay the Vikings to leave. Ethelred should not be condemned for this action alone – other English and French rulers had resorted to paying off the Vikings since they had first appeared in the 9th century, including King Alfred. But Ethelred continued to pay off the Vikings, raising taxes on his subjects to meet the increasingly large sums required. He was also not a warrior and generally did not lead his own troops into battle with the Vikings. In the modern world, we are used to professional armies led by career soldiers, but in the Middle Ages, strong kings were expected to lead their armies in person.

Then, in 994, Ethelred negotiated a treaty with the Vikings who were still in England, paying them to defend England against other raiders rather than attack English subjects. The agreement, however, did not last, and by 997, this mercenary force was again attacking those they were supposed to defend. Other Vikings joined them, defeating the English attempts at resistance, and in 1001, Ethelred had to negotiate another peace agreement which required an even larger tribute payment to the invaders. The next 12 years saw more of the same with all attempts to raise an English army being stymied by the in-fighting at Ethelred’s court, while the country had to pay a regular national tax, the heregeld. In 1013, King Sweyn of Denmark landed in northern England where he seems to have been welcomed by the local population, and his son, Cnut, was married to a nobleman’s daughter. King Sweyn advanced through England and by Christmas of 1013 Ethelred and his family had fled to Normandy.

King Sweyn had a very short reign and died in early 1014. Rather than welcoming his son Cnut as king, the English noblemen turned to Ethelred. As with King John in 1215, the nobles presented Ethelred with a list of grievances which they wished him to address before inviting him back. Among other conditions, he had to agree to forgive his subjects for rebelling against him. An agreement was eventually reached and by spring 1014, Ethelred had returned to England. However, he was not able to keep the terms of the agreement, particularly as he continued to need money to pay a mercenary army to drive Cnut out of the kingdom. Tensions at his court continued to erupt until Ethelred died on April 23, 1016. In the meantime, Cnut had returned with another army, and when Ethelred’s son Edmund died on November 30, 1016, Cnut became king of England.

As for Ethelred’s nickname, it was coined sometime after he died and it refers to the king as being badly counseled or ill-advised and was derived from the Anglo-Saxon word, unræd. Given that one of his most prominent nobles was known as Eadric the Grabber, who regularly switched sides for money and murdered his opponents, one cannot disagree with this epithet.


Genealogy of Ethelred the Unready / Photograph by Anna Price

Secondary Sources:

Jones, Dan. Powers & Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages. New York, Viking 2021.

Morris, Marc. The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England 400-1066. New York, Pegasus Books, 2021.

Morris, March. The Norman Conquest: the Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England. New York, Pegasus Books, 2013.

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