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Research & Litigation

FALQs: The Swedish Sami Parliament Elections

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 05/14/2021 - 9:00am

This blogpost is part of our Frequently Asked Legal Questions series and describes the Swedish Sami Parliament election.

Sametingets kansli i Kiruna [Sami Parliament office building in Kiruna]. Photo by Marie Enoksson/Sametinget, Press photo used with attribution per Sami Parliament conditions of use:

This upcoming Sunday, May 16, 2021, the Sami Parliament (Sametinget) in Sweden holds its general election. The date also marks the 18th anniversary of the first Swedish Sami Parliament election in 1993.

1. What is the Sami Parliament in Sweden?

The Swedish Sametinget was established by law in 1992 in the Sami Parliament Act (Sametingslag (SFS 1992:1433)). Despite its name, the Swedish Sami Parliament is a government agency (förvaltningsmyndighet). Its main task is to “monitor issues relating to Sami Culture in Sweden.” (1 ch. 1 § Sametingslag.) It is also the government agency for reindeer husbandry industry issues. (1 § Förordning med instruktion för sametinget (SFS 2009:1395).)

Among other things, the Sami Parliament determines the Swedish Sami administrative areas (samebyområdena) (7 § Rennäringslagen (SFS 1971:437)), hears appeals from persons who have been denied membership into a Sameby (12 § Rennäringslagen), is the repository for Sameby bylaws (39 § Rennäringslagen), sets the remuneration for Sameby officials (50 § Rennäringslagen), and administers the registration of reindeer marks (Renmärkning) (74 § Rennäringslagen). The Sami Parliament’s decisions can be appealed in the public administrative courts. (99 § Rennäringslagen.)

The Sami Parliament is funded through a regleringsbrev (instruction letter) issued by the Swedish government each year.

The election of representatives to the Sami Parliament is regulated in chapter 3 of the Sami Parliament Act.

The Swedish Sami Parliament should not be confused with the Saami Council, a voluntary Sami organization, or the Sami parliaments of Norway and Finland.

2. Who are the Sami people?

The Sami are a nomadic ethnic group that has historically lived in the area of Sápmi (northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia) for hundreds of years, and are recognized as an indigenous group in Norway.

The Swedish treatment of Sami rights has been criticized by the United Nations. The Swedish Constitution defines the Sami as an ethnic group (“folkgrupp”) with designated rights (1 kap. 2 § Regeringsformen). Even though Sweden voted in favor of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous People, it has not legally recognized the Sami people’s right to self-determination and has not ratified the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention of 1989 (ILO169). In Sweden, the Sami people’s rights are tied to language rights for anyone who has one of the many Sami languages as a living language in their home, or reindeer herding rights for persons who own reindeer, as well as fishing and hunting rights based on time immemorial rights. Additional resources can be found at the end of this blog post.

3. Who can vote in the Sami parliamentary elections?

A person must be  registered in the Sami electoral rolls in order to vote in the elections for the Swedish Sami Parliament.  To register, voters must qualify as a member of the Sami people (same) as defined in 1 kap. 2 § and meet the conditions laid out in 3 kap. 3 Sametingslagen.

1 kap. 2 § Sametingslagen states that:

For purposes of this act, a Sami person is defined as a person who considers him or herself to be a Sami and

  1. makes it probable that he or she has had Sami as a language in the home, or
  2. makes it probable that any of his or her parents, or grandparents has or has had Sami as a language in the home, or
  3. has a parent that is or has been registered in the Sami Parliament electoral rolls.

What is stated in 1 para 3 item does not apply when the County Administrative Board has decided that the parent shall no longer be registered in the electoral rolls because the parent is not a Sami person.

In addition, 3 kap. 3 § Sametingslagen provides that voters must be at least 18 years old and a Swedish citizen or resided in Sweden for at least three years.

Persons who have sought to register as Sami voters may appeal a negative decision to the County Administrative Board (Länsstyrelsen). (3 kap. 5a § Sametingslagen.) In addition, any person registered as a Sami voter may appeal the decision to include or not include someone else. (3 kap. 5a § Sametingslagen.)

The number of persons who have sought to be included in the Sami Parliament electoral rolls have increased in recent years, with reportedly more than a thousand new applications for inclusion in 2020. DNA technology has helped some people discover that they have Sami heritage.

The Sami Parliament electoral rolls has been criticized as creating unequitable results, where one sibling may be admitted, whereas the other is not. In 2021, the chairperson of the Electoral Committee Per Mikael Utsi stepped down after having appealed the inclusion of 47 voters in his personal capacity.

There are currently 9,220 registered voters who may vote in the Sami elections in 2021. Most Sami voters live either in Norrbotten or Västerbotten. Eight percent of all Sami voters live in Stockholm.

4. How is the vote conducted?

Elections to the Sami Parliament are required by law to be held every four years, on the third Sunday in May. (3 kap. 1 § Sametingslagen.)

Persons registered to vote may vote either in person on election day at designated polling places or by mail-in-voting. (3 kap. 13 § Sametingslagen.) This year, in-person-voting is available in 24 locations. Although most of the voting venues are found in Sapmi areas, voting places are also made available in Sweden’s two largest cities: Stockholm and Göteborg. There is no in-person early voting.

Voting ballots are sent a month prior to the election, and mail-in-voting must be prepared in the presence of two witnesses aged 18 or older who must sign the outer envelope and certify that the person voting is the eligible voter, and mailed no later than on election day. (3 kap. 19-20 §§ Sametingslagen.) In-person-voting requires a valid government-issued photo ID. Polling stations must be open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day. (3 kap. 14 § Sametingslagen.) Reportedly, more than 2,000 voters have voted as of May 11, 2021.

5. Are there any COVID-19 restrictions or measures tied to the elections?

Sweden remains one of the places in Europe with the highest per capita spread at the time of writing this blog post, with all regions reporting a 14-day average of more than 480 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

As mentioned above, voters can either vote in person on election day or through mail-in-voting witnessed by two people. For those who vote on election day, the polling stations have taken certain measures to ensure the safe operation of the election, including requiring polling staff to wear masks and facial shields, offering hand sanitizer to voters, and cleaning the polling booth between voters. The customary Swedish fika (coffee and cinnamon buns) offered during a normal election year has also been cancelled.

6. How many political parties are represented in the Sami Parliament?

There are currently nine political parties represented in the 31 member Sami Parliament.

Eight parties are running in this year’s election, and their election platforms can be accessed online (in Swedish). Swedish Radio held a final debate in Swedish between the party chairs on May 5, 2021.

7. Where can I find Library of Congress resources on Sami?

Online resources

Global Legal Monitor: Sweden, Norway, Finland (search Sami). Below is a selection of the most recent articles:

Relevant In Custodia Legis blog posts:

Relevant Law Library of Congress legal reports:

Print resources

English language resources in the Library of Congress collection:


Categories: Research & Litigation

Research Guide in Focus – Louisiana Purchase: A Legislative Timeline

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 05/12/2021 - 10:30am

This is a guest post by Ann Hemmens, a senior legal reference librarian with the Law Library of Congress. Ann has contributed a number of posts to this blog, including posts on Free Public Access to Federal Materials on Guide to Law Online, U.S. Supreme Court: Original Jurisdiction and Oral Arguments, and Domestic Violence: Resources in the United States

The year 2023 will mark the 220th anniversary of the signing of the Louisiana Purchase treaty (8 Stat. 200), through which the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory (approximately 828,000 square miles in North America) from France. This doubled the size of the United States and promoted continued westward expansion.

The Library develops new research guides to help promote its varied collections and services, such as the collection of guides from the Law Library. Additionally, we are moving existing guides from older formats to the modern platform. We recently moved the research guide, Louisiana Purchase: A Legislative Timeline, from the American Memory: A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation website to our new platform.

As part of this transition, we interviewed the author of the original guide, Ken Drexler, a reference specialist within the Library of Congress’s Research and Reference Services Division. In this interview, Ken gives us an overview of how and why the original guide was created in 2002, the impact it has had on educators and researchers, and descriptions of some of the interesting aspects of its history.

Why and when did you create the original guide, Louisiana Purchase: A Legislative Timeline?

The original idea for the Louisiana Purchase: A Legislative Timeline came from my supervisor, Marilyn Parr, in late 2002. At the time, I was a member of the Digital Reference Team, which was a new group of reference specialists responsible for helping patrons navigate the Library’s website, and, in particular, the American Memory digital collections. In preparation for the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase in 2003, Marilyn thought it would be a great idea to create a timeline using the legislative materials in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

Research Guide Louisiana Purchase: A Legislative Timeline,

Do you know, maybe through metrics or comments or references in articles, how researchers have used your guide? Do particular groups (e.g., K-12 students) find it helpful?

The guide has proven useful over the years for students of all ages, including K-12 students working on their National History Day projects. A Century of Lawmaking is one of the earliest American Memory collections and it can be difficult to use, even for experienced researchers. The idea behind the guide was to pull out all the relevant congressional debate related to the Louisiana Purchase and its aftermath so that researchers could quickly and easily focus on the content, rather than getting bogged down in navigating the site.

In addition to being linked to by a number of K-12 and university libraries, the guide has been referenced in books, journal articles, and websites such as Wikipedia. I was pleased to recently see that the guide had been cited by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History and in a lesson plan developed by the New York Times Learning Network.

You have created dozens of LibGuides at the Library of Congress, including one specifically on the Louisiana Purchase. How do you see this new LibGuide version of the Timeline relating to your other guides?

The Legislative Timeline nicely supplements the Louisiana Purchase: Primary Documents in American History guide, which is much broader in scope. The Louisiana Purchase guide is part of the Primary Documents in American History series, a collection of guides that focus on the most important documents in U.S. history. You’ll find in this guide a wide variety of primary sources related to the Louisiana Purchase, not just legislative materials, including newspapers, maps, manuscripts, and printed ephemera. It also contains links to external websites and a selected bibliography.

What do you find most interesting about the Louisiana Purchase?

For me, the most interesting aspect of the Louisiana Purchase is how the rebellion in Saint Domingue (present-day Haiti) played such a critical role in the eventual deal between France and the United States. Napoleon had sent troops to suppress the rebellion, but high casualties due to yellow fever and combat compelled France to withdraw its forces in late 1803. With the loss of Saint Domingue and an impending war with Britain, Napoleon’s plans to reestablish an empire in the New World were abandoned and the decision was made to sell all of Louisiana to America. France’s misfortune proved incredibly lucky for Thomas Jefferson and the American negotiators, which is why for $15 million, or approximately four cents an acre, the Louisiana Purchase is considered the greatest real estate deal in history.

To make this guide, you spent a lot of time in the Annals of Congress (a predecessor to the Congressional Record), the U.S. Statutes at Large, and the House and Senate Journals. Please share your insights about these resources.

In my original research, I used the online versions of these publications in American Memory. One of the main difficulties in using the Annals of Congress on A Century of Lawmaking is that it is not full-text searchable. Instead, the Annals of Congress only consists of digital facsimile images with searchable descriptive information (e.g., indexes and page headings). I quickly discovered the best way to find references in the Annals of Congress was to browse through the indexes for each volume to find the relevant page numbers. Although I used the scanned online indexes, it was really no different than looking in a print index and doing it the old fashioned way.

My decision to include some references to the House and Senate Journals, especially for any roll call votes, came about because, on occasion, there are discrepancies between the Annals and the official journals. The Annals weren’t published contemporaneously, but were compiled between 1834 and 1856, primarily from newspaper accounts.

Any other comments you want to provide?

I would just like to thank you and the Law Library staff for converting the timeline into a LibGuide. When I originally created the timeline I was new to the Library and it was my first online publication. In fact, it was so long ago that I hadn’t even been trained on HTML coding so I compiled the links in a Word document! It’s so nice to see it finally updated as a LibGuide after all these years. Hopefully, it will get even greater exposure now as a LibGuide, especially as we approach the 220th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.

We encourage researchers to visit the Louisiana Purchase: A Legislative Timeline guide as well as the many other research guides from the Law Library of Congress and other divisions of the Library of Congress.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Law Library of Congress Rare Book Curator Displays New Acquisitions

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 05/11/2021 - 8:30am

Law Library of Congress Rare Book Curator Nathan Dorn brings us a display of new acquisitions for the Law Library’s Rare Book Collection. In this video, Nathan shares five new acquisitions from the collection.

The first item is a Russian work, the first edition of the Sobornoye Ulozhenie or the Ulozhenie of 1649, a compilation of the laws that were in effect in Russia in the middle of the 17th century.

The second item is a record of a sale of land called Nashowamoiasuk or Neck Point of the Edgartown Great Pond. The seller is Mr. Harrie, Indian of Nantucket and the buyer is John Coffin. The witnesses were Nathaniel and Mary Starbuck. Mary Coffin Starbuck was a significant figure in early colonial Nantucket. Her leadership and influence is thought to have made Quakerism predominant on the island in the 18th century, and locals called her house the Parliament House due to all the public business transacted there.

Nathan also displays a manuscript copy of Article 9 of the Treaty of Ghent, the treaty that concluded the War of 1812, and which was written in the hand of Henry Clay. In Article 9, the British ceded any influence over conflicts between Native Americans and the United States, shifting the balance of power in these conflicts in favor of the United States.

The next item Nathan displays is a medieval manuscript, the Lectura of Johannes de Imola on the Decretales of Gregory IX, made in Italy between the years 1431 and 1447. This manuscript contains Johannes de Imola’s commentary on the second major work of the canon law of the Catholic Church. It also contains a large beautiful illustration of St. James and hundreds of decorated initials.

The final item Nathan displays is a historical work on legal education, Memoriale Institutionum Juris. This item used a strategy that it’s author called “the emblematic teaching method” that associated words with memorable images in an effort to help the student memorize a particular lesson. In this work, the author uses this approach to assist with the memorization of Justinian’s Institutes, an introduction to Roman Law.
You can watch Nathan’s presentation here:

Categories: Research & Litigation

Native Hawaiian Law

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 05/10/2021 - 9:27am

Native Hawaiians, Kānaka Maoli, were a self-governing, sovereign people until July 1898 when the United States annexed the Kingdom of Hawai’i. In early Hawaiian history (1500-1800), four distinct chiefdoms (Hawaiʻi, Maui, Oʻahu, Kaua’i) ruled Hawai’i. King Kamehameha I united the kingdom in 1810, a move which helped preserve Hawaiian independence and international standing. On June 7, 1839, King Kamehameha III proclaimed the Declaration of Rights, which was incorporated into the Hawaiian Constitution in 1840. The 1859 Civil Code was passed by the legislature of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and its constitutional government. The Hawaiian Kingdom law uses the term kānaka maoli to refer specifically to Native Hawaiians and the term kanaka kupa to refer to all subjects of the King, whether native or naturalized “…ina he kanaka kupa Hawaii, a ina paha he haole i hookupa oleia.”(McGregor and MacKenzie, p. 5.) Today, Native Hawaiians are legally defined as descendants of the people who lived in Hawai’i prior to European contact in 1778.

Kamehameha The Great Statue, Hawaii. Kamehameha the Great, conquered the Hawaiian Islands and formally established the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810. By developing alliances with the major Pacific colonial powers, Kamehameha preserved Hawaii’s independence under his rule. [photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division,]

Throughout early Hawaiian history, and the history of the Kingdom of Hawai’i, traditional Hawaiian customary law was also observed, either directly or incorporated into the civil code. Kānaka Maoli today have sought to assert and practice those rights as much as possible. The State of Hawai’i Constitution declares,

The State reaffirms and shall protect all rights, customarily and traditionally exercised for subsistence, cultural and religious purposes and possessed by ahupua‘a tenants who are descendants of native Hawaiians who inhabited the Hawaiian Islands prior to 1778, subject to the right of the State to regulate such rights. (Hawaiian Constitution, Art. XII, sec. 7)

Native Hawaiian law is centered on principles of Aloha ‘āina, “commonly translated as ‘love of the land’,” and stewardship, defending the land. It is familial. As this law is so centered in place and culture, the best place to study it is in Hawai’i. If you’re on the East Coast of the U.S., though, the Law Library is a good place to start your research; some of our Native Hawaiian law and Kingdom of Hawai’i law resources are listed below.

Kainaiwai Kivila o Ko Hawaii Pae Aina 1859 (Civil Code of Hawaii, 1859) (Photo by J. Davis/R. Raupach)


KFH30 1841 .A24 Hawaii. Laws, etc. Ke kumu kanawai, a me na kanawai o ko Hawaii pae aina. Ua kauia i ke kau ia Kamehameha III.

KFH30 1841.A23 Na kanawai a me na olelo ae like; ua hooholoia ma ka ahaolelo o na alii a me ka poe i kohoia i ka halawai ana e like me ke kumu kanawai, aperila. (Boundwith)

KVJ170.A311859 A4 1859 O na kanawai kivila o ko Hawaii pae aina, hooholoia i ka makahiki 1859 :  a ua huiia me ka hope, kahi i paiia’i na kanawai i hoopau ole ia ma ke kanawai kivila, me na kuikahi me na aupuni e, a me na kanawai i hooholoia iloko o 1858-9.

McGregor, Davianna Pomaikaʻi and Melody Kapilialoha MacKenzie.  Moʻolelo Ea O Nā Hawaiʻi: History of Native Hawaiian Governance in Hawaiʻi. Prepared for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Department of the Interior, August 19, 2014. Accessed May 1, 2021.

KFH458.C35 2010 Callies, David L. Regulating paradise : land use controls in Hawaiʻi.

Forman, David M. and Susan K. Serrano. Hoʻohana aku, a hoʻōla aku: a legal primer for traditional and customary rights in Hawaiʻi.

DU624.65.N358 2014  A Nation rising : Hawaiian movements for life, land, and sovereignty.

McGregor, Davianna Pomaikaʻi. “An Introduction to the Hoa’aina and Their Rights.” The Hawaiian Journal of History, v. 30, 1996. Accessed May 1, 2021.

Steele, Julia. Aloha ‘Āina, Hawaii Public Radio (Feb. 5, 2016). Accessed May 5, 2021.

Sproat, D. Kapua’ala. Ola I Ka Wai: A Legal Primer for Water Use and Management in Hawai’i. Accessed May 7, 2021.

KFH75.S99 2021 Szymczak, Victoria. Hawaiian legal research.

KFH505.N37 2015 Native Hawaiian law: a treatise.

KFH505.N37 1991 MacKenzie, Melody Kapilialoha, ed. Native Hawaiian rights handbook.

BV3680.H3 H28 2018 Hawaiian Mission Children’s Society. Kōkua Aku, Kōkua Mai: chiefs, missionaries, and five transformations of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Z4701.F67 1998 Forbes, David W. Hawaiian national bibliography, 1780-1900. Accessed May 1, 2021.


Categories: Research & Litigation

Celebrating Public Service Recognition Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 05/07/2021 - 10:00am

This past week, organizations across the country have been celebrating public service workers and honoring the work they do. For the past 36 years, Public Service Recognition Week has honored those who serve our nation as federal, state, county, local, and tribal government employees. We asked our staff which public services they were most grateful for.

[Public Health Service nurse treating patient]. Photographic print, between 1918 and 1925. National Photo Company Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Aslihan Bulut, Acting Law Librarian of Congress

This past year has been unrelenting and challenging for everyone. It’s provided us with an opportunity to sit back, reflect, adapt, and – above all – to be creative and find innovative options to overcome the many hurdles that we faced daily. In return, the hardships allowed us to test our limits and realize our potential.

As we celebrate the 2021 Public Service Recognition Week, I would like to thank all my Law Library and Library of Congress colleagues, for all the extraordinary work that has been nothing short of amazing. Although, praise isn’t why federal employees go to work every day, the PSRW is a great reminder to all of us to become more aware, and acknowledge and recognize the outstanding accomplishments of all civil servants that do not draw headlines but affect our lives in many important ways. So, thank you all again for your hard work and your service to our country. Happy Public Service Recognition Week!

Robert Brammer, Chief of the Office of External Relations:

I would like to recognize the work of county law libraries, which are often the only free source for legal research materials in their communities for both the public and the practicing bar. While you can often find unannotated codes and cases online, materials that are subject to copyright protection, such as annotated codes and cases, as well as commercial legal research databases, are often prohibitively expensive for solo practitioners and members of the public. County law libraries fill this gap by providing access to these invaluable resources.

Betty Lupinacci, Supervisor for Collections Services:

When I hear the term public services, I immediately think of first responders. I come from a family of volunteer fire, ambulance, and EMS personnel and I’ve seen first-hand how much they put into it and the dangerous situations that they face. It always amazes me how willing they are to put their lives on the line in service of others.

Kelly Buchanan, Chief of Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Division II: 

During the pandemic, one of the main places I have missed going to is the local library. I have a young child and the library is not just a place to go to get books, but also for story time, quiet play, and socializing with other kids and their parents (among all the other services available to people of all ages!). I’ve noticed and greatly appreciated the work of librarians to keep providing books and other services to their communities over the past year, and look forward to spending more time at our local library soon.

Margaret Wood, Senior Legal Reference Librarian:

I am enormously grateful for state park employees across the country. The federal national forests and parks are well-known, but each state has its own state parks and monuments which are supported by state agencies and volunteers who help to create and maintain important local historical and archaeological sites. One of my favorite parks is in my home state of New Mexico. The Cerrillos Hills State Park was established by a combination of volunteers and state park personnel, and supported by a National Park Service grant, and demonstrates the public service orientation of a diverse group of people.

Luis Acosta, Director of the Editorial and Publishing Office:

One example I know of public service in action is happening now at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). The American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in March includes pages of highly technical amendments to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. It requires the PBGC to get a new program up and running within 120 days. Folks at the PBGC are working around the clock to write regulations within this short timeframe, ironing out the many complicated details.

Jennifer Davis, Collection Manager:

I’m so very grateful to my local public library, who got me and my family through the pandemic by providing curbside service and ramping up their e-book and e-audiobook availability; and to the public health departments of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and D.C. for making vaccines available to citizens, which protected my family among others.


Categories: Research & Litigation

Join Us for our Upcoming Webinar: “Central Bank Digital Currencies – the Future of the Monetary System?”

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 05/06/2021 - 9:00am

Technology and digitalization are changing the way we pay. The COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated the trend away from cash to digital payments. Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, are experiencing an all-time high. Central banks are taking note. On October 20, 2020, the Central Bank of The Bahamas launched the first worldwide retail central bank digital currency (CBDC), the Sand Dollar. Its purpose is to “promote more inclusive access to regulated payments and other financial services for unbanked and underbanked communities and socio-economic groups within the country.” A 2021 survey conducted among 65 central banks by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) found that 86% of survey participants are actively researching the benefits and drawbacks of CBDCs, with 60% conducting experiments or proofs-of-concept and 14% moving forward to development and pilot projects.

The People’s Bank of China recently became the first central bank of a major economy to roll out a digital yuan. Sweden’s Riksbank announced that it will bring in commercial banks and other market participants in the next phase of its e-krona project to test how it might work practically. The British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak has floated the idea of a “Britcoin.” The United States is taking a more cautious approach. Jerome Powell, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, stated in a press conference following the April 28, 2021, FOMC meeting that it is “[f]ar more important to get it right than it is to do it fast or feel that we need to rush to reach conclusions because other countries are moving ahead.”

Seal of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Photo by Jenny Gesley.

Please join us for the Law Library’s upcoming webinar Central Bank Digital Currencies – the Future of the Monetary System? at 2pm EDT on Thursday, May 27, 2021. This webinar is the latest installment in the Law Library’s series of webinars focused on foreign and comparative law. It will examine CBDCs and how they fit into the general monetary system. In particular, the webinar will discuss the definition of money, fiat currencies, digital currencies, cryptocurrencies, and their similarities and differences. Will CBDCs eventually replace cash? What effect will they have on cryptocurrencies? Specific examples from jurisdictions around the world and their progress with CBDCs, including the Bahamas, China, Sweden, the European Union, Great Britain, and the United States, will be highlighted.

The webinar will be presented by Jenny Gesley, foreign law specialist in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Jenny holds a Master of Laws from the University of Minnesota Law School, a Juris Doctor equivalent from the Goethe University of FrankfurtGermany, and a doctorate in law. Her doctoral dissertation on “Financial Market Supervision in the United States: National Developments and International Standards” (in German) was awarded the Baker & McKenzie Award in 2015. Dr. Gesley is admitted to the New York State bar and is qualified to practice law in Germany.

To register for this webinar, please click here. Please request ADA accommodations at least five business days in advance by contacting (202) 707-6362 or

Flyer announcing upcoming foreign law webinar created by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky.

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Acquisition: Justinian’s Institutes in Emblemata, Johannes Buno’s Memoriale Institutionum Juris

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 05/05/2021 - 3:16pm

This post was created with the assistance of Elizabeth Korres, Library Technician in the Law Library’s Global Legal Collection Directorate.

Memorization is an inevitable part of studying law, and it has been for a very long time. To grapple with this, authors have tried to offer students strategies for memorization that will make learning the law a little more manageable. Take, for example, an item that the Law Library recently acquired for its rare books collection: the memorable legal study aid, Memoriale Insitutionum Juris (Ratzeburg, 1672), written by the seventeenth-century German minister and secondary school instructor Johannes Buno.

Title page of Johannes Buno’s Memoriale Institutionum Juris. Ratzeburg: Typis Exscripsit Nicolaus Nissen, 1672. Photo by Nathan Dorn.

The book is an example of what Buno called his Emblematische Lehrmethode, or emblematic teaching method, which was a way of using emblemata to help students memorize their lessons. Originally introduced by the French humanist jurist Andrea Alciato in his 1531 publication Emblematum Liber, emblemata were exceedingly popular in renaissance Europe. Essentially, emblemata are formed by the combination of a picture with a short motto and an epigram. They usually incorporated vignettes from fables and mythology. Part of their novelty was that by combining images and words, an author could allow the interplay of these components to communicate ideas by implication and suggestion.

Buno first published on the use of emblemata for teaching in 1649, in a book that taught world history and the history of the Christian church through fables and pictures. The way he used emblemata was to create an image that captured, often in an unexpected or comical way, some part of the meaning of a passage in the text he is teaching. This was based on a well-known strategy for memorization. The idea was that by associating the ideas that you are trying to memorize with strange or shocking images you will be more likely to remember them. It is a strategy that goes back to antiquity but is often traced through the works of the renaissance philosopher and magician Giordano Bruno, whose work helped to popularize the ars memorativa  – or the art of memory. Buno’s innovation was to apply this strategy to memorizing canonical textbooks passage by passage. Over the course of his life, Buno created a number of works that related to the law. In three books in particular (see below), he covered the contents of the major works of Roman law. This book, Memoriale institutionum juris, covers the contents of Justinian’s Institutes, which was used as an introduction to Roman law.

Foldout with illustrations for Books I-IV of Justinian’s Institutes. Photo by Ellie Korres.

In the following example, taken more or less at random from the work, you can see how Buno’s system works. The item appears in the lower left-hand quadrant of the foldout depicted above. It is in the section dedicated to book III of the Institutes. A close-up of that section can be seen in the image below. The item is labeled with a number 8 and it has the word “Habit” printed next to it. Typographically, it appears as “HAbit”.

Detail of the foldout containing Buno’s illustrations for Book III of Justinian’s Institutes. Of special interest is the item numbered 8 in which a child holds out a hat while a man wearing a hat looks on. Photo by Ellie Korres.

For each illustration on the foldout, Buno gives an explanation on a nearby page in a column under the heading “imaginum explicatio,” or “explanation of the images.” For this image, Buno explains that the word “Habit” should make us think of the hats that you see in the image. He writes, “Habitus libertorum olim erat pileus,” which means, “The manner of dress of freedmen was once the hat called a pileus.” Roman law recognized slavery. This particular image relates to the chapter in the Institutes which lays out the laws of inheritance as they relate to freedmen [formerly enslaved people]. In the Roman Empire, a pileus was a hat that was a sign of a freedman’s freedom. It showed that a freedman had achieved the status of a Roman citizen. Still, freedmen were not entirely independent. They were counted as part of their enslaver’s household. The enslaver could even, under some circumstances, inherit the freedman’s property.

A close-up image of a boy, the son of the freedman, and a man, the former enslaver, standing together on a hat. Photo by Ellie Korres.

The image shows a boy, reaching out toward or holding a hat. It also shows a man standing near him who is similarly wearing a hat. The two in turn are standing on a hat. Buno explains that the boy is the son of a freedman, and that the man is the enslaver (who, he says, you can identify by the luxurious quality of his clothes). The fact that they both have a hat is meant to remind us that they share something under rules of inheritance as they relate to freedmen. The son of a freedman inherits not only his father’s status as a free man, but also his father’s wealth. The enslaver too, however, can inherit the freedman’s wealth where the freedman has no other heir. The image depicts both the enslaver, and the freedman’s son on a single hat because “ambo stant in pileo tanquam in hereditate,” or “as both stand on [lit. “in”] the pileus, likewise they stand in inheritance.”

A foldout engraving from Buno’s Memoriale Institutionum Juris. Photo by Nathan Dorn.

The book is in two parts and it contains five foldout plates of illustrations. The work, along with the others in  the series (listed below), is an artistic treasure that stands out in the literature of its day for its playful approach to the law.

Buno, Johannes [1617-1697]. Memoriale Institutionum Juris… Ratzeburg: Typis Exscripsit Nicolaus Nissen, 1672.

Buno, Johannes [1617-1697].  Memoriale Juris Civilis Romani… Hamburg: Typis exscripsit G. Rebenlin, prostat Guelferbyti apud C. Bunonis heredes, 1673-1674.

Buno, Johannes [1617-1697]; [Justinian I (483-565 CE), Emperor of the East].  Memoriale Codicis justinianei, Authenticarum seu novellarum et consuetudinum feudorum…  Hamburg: Typis exscripsit G. Rebenlin, prostat Guelferbyti apud C. Bunonis heredes, 1673-1674.


“Buno, Johannes,” in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, v. 3 (1876), p. 540–541.




Categories: Research & Litigation

Celebrating AAPI History through the Cherry Blossoms – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 05/04/2021 - 8:30am

Washington, D.C.’s cherry blossom trees reached peak bloom at the end of March of this year, bringing springtime to the region. This week’s Pic of the Week is a close-up of one of these beautiful trees.

Close-up photo of a cluster of cherry blossom flowers at sunrise. The DC Wharf is in the background. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

On May 1, 2012, President Barack Obama’s proclamation for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month recognized two major anniversaries. The first was the 70th anniversary of Executive Order No. 9066 (published in 7 Fed. Reg. 1407), which was later enforced through the passage of the law at ch.191, 56 Stat. 173, “An act to provide a penalty for violation of restriction or orders with respect to persons entering, remaining in, leaving, or committing any act in military areas or zones.” These actions authorized the forced relocation and internment of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans living in the United States during World War II. President Obama also posthumously awarded civil rights activist Gordon Hirabayashi, who fought against this law in the Supreme Court case Hirabayashi v. United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The second anniversary commemorated was the centennial of the planting of the first cherry blossom trees in Washington, D.C. Cherry blossom trees serve as an “enduring symbol of the friendship shared between the United States and Japan.”

The Law Library of Congress’s collections contain many interesting references to the cherry blossoms and their significance. Kelly wrote about the first arrival of cherry blossom trees and the resulting Plant and Quarantine Act of 1912. Using the Guide to Law Online, I learned a bit more about D.C.’s connections to the cherry blossoms, including cherries being the official fruit of the city. The Law Library also has a guide to researching executive documents, including presidential proclamations and executive orders.

Close-up of a blooming branch of cherry blossoms. Photo by Bailey DeSimone.

I took these photographs in East Potomac Park, an extension of the National Mall, right after sunrise. A photographer across the street from me asked if I had been asked for a photography permit upon entering the park. I said no, as all the equipment I had was my phone camera.

I was curious, and checked the National Park Service’s website for more information. A decision from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Price v. Barr on January 22, 2021 determined that “the permit and fee requirements applying to commercial filming under 54 U.S.C. 100905, 43 C.F.R. Part 5, and 36 C.F.R. Part 5.5 are unconstitutional.” Currently, the National Park Service is applying interim regulations while the policy undergoes revision.

Luckily, since my photos were not for commercial use, I am able to share some of my favorite cherry blossom trees today.

Categories: Research & Litigation May 2021 New, Tip and Top

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 05/03/2021 - 12:23pm

Last month, Robert publicized the addition of historic materials to, including the bound Congressional Record going back to 1951 and the Statutes at Large back to 1973. This month, we are very happy to be introducing a citation tool for users. Over the years, many of our patrons have asked for citation information and with this new functionality, users will be able to cite any page in, employing one of several different recognized citation formats.

Users can access the link to the citation tool at the top of the page, just below the search box:

Link to citation tool under the search box.

This tool makes it easy to copy and paste a citation in one of the four standard citation formats, including Bluebook, APA (American Psychological Association), MLA (Modern Language Association), and CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style).

Citation formats for pages.


Enhancement – Members – Contact Info

  • “Find your member” search results include each member’s address and phone number.

Enhancement – Committee Meetings – Sort Options

Committee meeting search results can be sorted by hearing numbers in addition to meeting date and relevancy for keyword searches.

Search Tip

Explore the nine videos which explain the legislative process in the U.S. Congress. A transcript is also provided for each video along with a diagram of the process.

Most-Viewed Bills

These are the most-viewed bills for the week of April 25, 2021.

1. H.R.7120 [116th] George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 2. H.R.1319 [117th] American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 3. S.937 [117th] COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act 4. H.R.51 [117th] Washington, D.C. Admission Act 5. H.R.1 [117th] For the People Act of 2021 6. H.R.1280 [117th] George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 7. S.Amdt.1456 [117th] S.Amdt.1456 to S.Amdt.1445 8. H.R.127 [117th] Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act 9. H.R.5 [117th] Equality Act 10. H.R.6721 [116th] COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act


Categories: Research & Litigation

New Report on Recognition of Foreign Passports Published

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 05/03/2021 - 8:30am

We recently published a report on the Recognition of Foreign Passports on our website. The report, produced by specialists and analysts of the Global Legal Research Directorate, surveys 20 jurisdictions around the world as well as international law, and focuses on the rules and approaches for recognizing foreign passports. In addition, the report covers the recognition of irregular passport extensions and the issuance of international travel documents to non-citizens. The countries surveyed were Argentina, Australia, Brazil¸ Canada, China, France, Georgia, Germany, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Mexico, Nicaragua, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States. The report also includes relevant rules found in international law.

Most jurisdictions surveyed in the report have specific rules for what passports they recognize, and several countries specifically recognize passports from jurisdictions that they have not recognized as sovereign states. For example, the recognition of Palestinian Authority-issued passports was widespread. Australia, which recognizes such passports, published a list of passports which it does not recognize. Sweden, on the other hand, has issued a list of explicitly recognized passports that are recognized despite not meeting the general conditions for recognition.

The report also surveys whether the jurisdictions have recognized irregular extension of passports, like that granted by the Venezuelan government in 2019.

Map shows jurisdictions recognizing the irregular extension of Venezuelan passports. Map created by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky, Law Library of Congress.

Finally, the report surveys when a jurisdiction may issue an international travel document to a non-citizen, such as a refugee, stateless person, asylum-seeker, or other non-citizen. Under international law, specifically the 1951 Refugee Convention, signatory jurisdictions are obligated to issue travel documents to refugees. Most jurisdictions surveyed also issue travel documents to stateless persons. In addition, a majority of the jurisdictions surveyed issue travel documents to other categories of non-citizens, for example, “permanent residents, guest workers, persons unable to receive a travel document for force majeure reasons, persons under duress, persons who must travel to their home country to apply for a passport, etc.”

Map shows jurisdictions issuing travel documents to non-citizens. Map created by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky, Law Library of Congress.

A more detailed comparative summary and the full report is available here. We hope you find it interesting!

The Law Library regularly publishes new reports online and our most current reports can be accessed here. A comprehensive list of all reports published online by the Law Library can be found here.

Additional foreign and international law resources can be found on this blog and in the Global Legal Monitor. You can subscribe to receive alerts when new blog posts, Global Legal Monitor articles, and reports are published by clicking the “Subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Happy Walpurgis Eve!

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 04/30/2021 - 1:00pm

Today, April 30, marks Walpurgis or Valborgsmässoafton. A holiday celebrated in, among other places, Germany and Sweden. The name is derived from the Saint Walpurgis. In Sweden, the Swedish form of Walpurgis, Valborg, has her name day on May 1, making April 30 the Eve of Walpurgis.

The holiday, marked by bonfires, singing, and a welcoming of spring, is particularly well-celebrated in Swedish university towns like Lund and Uppsala. My colleague, Jenny, also informs me that it is enthusiastically celebrated in Heidelberg, Germany.

Although consumption of alcohol in public spaces is prohibited in Sweden, this is a day when university students gather in parks to drink and be merry. This year, however, like other holidays around the world (think Carnival in Brazil), the holiday has been effectively cancelled by local governments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in the city of Lund, home to Lund University, last year’s Valborg was cancelled by the use of drones and spreading of manure in parks, while this year the city is fencing off parks to prevent gatherings.

In Uppsala, home to Sweden’s largest and Scandinavia’s oldest university, Uppsala University, the local government has closed parks and cancelled all other traditional celebrations by the municipality. Uppsala University itself has cancelled its celebrations. The dean of the university has promised that the celebration will be back next year, offering a designated Valborg celebration app as a substitute this year.

Photo of Carolina Rediviva (ca 1900) by Flickruser Upplandsmuseet Länsmuseum för Uppsala län. Used under Creative Commons License,

In addition to being (in)famous for its Valborg celebration, Uppsala University is famous for many other things, including being the alma mater of Carl von Linnea, world famous botanist who categorized plants, and Anders Celsius, who invented the Celsius temperature scale. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Carolina Rediviva, the university library. Not only is it the backdrop of the Uppsala Valborg celebration as thousands of students (and former students) gather in front of the building for the “donning of the caps” (mösspåtagning) and to welcome spring by song, it is also the home to the Codex Argenteus (the “Silver Bible”).

You can learn more about Uppsala University’s digitization project of the codex at Codex Argenteus Online – The Project. Another digital resource on the Silver Bible can be found in Codex Argenteus and its Printed Editions, by Lars Munkhammar.

The text of the Codex Argenteus is also available on microfilm at the Library of Congress: Codex Argenteus (Upsaliae, C. A. Leffler, 1854) and also electronically through the Haiti Trust Digital Library.

Glad Valborg!

Happy Walpurgis Eve!

Categories: Research & Litigation

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

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 04/30/2021 - 9:00am

The following is a guest post by Barry Lerner, an editor in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

From time to time, there are news articles or reports of stoning being used as a punishment for certain crimes in Iran and Afghanistan. In this post, I examine the prevalence of this punishment for the crimes of homosexuality and adultery in those two countries, the legal basis for imposing the punishment, and the availability of privacy protections for victims of sex-related crimes.

1.  How prevalent is stoning as a punishment for adultery and homosexuality in Iran?

Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. The Americana Company, 1904. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division,

Currently, the use of stoning as a punishment appears to be a rare occurrence in Iran, although it still does take place. Human rights groups have reported or documented by name that 150 people were stoned to death in Iran between 1980 and 2009.

According to a 2016 New Yorker article on Iranian women’s rights activist Asieh Amini, a moratorium on stoning was decreed in 2002 by then-Chief Justice Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, and sources indicate that very few cases of stoning have occurred in Iran since 2009. Nevertheless, as Amini discovered in the course of her activist work, hard-line fundamentalist judges have defied Shahroudi’s decree and imposed stoning sentences, which have been carried out in secret. Amini thus concluded that “a profound battle was waging inside the judiciary,” and that even if she and her friends in the women’s-rights community succeeded in persuading the government to accept their demands for equality and the repeal of discriminatory laws, judges who considered themselves answerable not to the government in Tehran but to Shari‘a (Islamic law) “would make [their] own decisions, independent of treaties or legislation or the policies of Shahroudi.”

Hands Off Cain, a league of citizens and parliamentarians for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, reports the following:

Iran had the world’s highest rate of execution by stoning, but no one knows with certainty how many people have been stoned in Iran. According to a list compiled by the Human Rights Commission of the National Council of the Iranian Resistance, at least 150 people have been stoned in Iran since 1980. The reported numbers are probably lower than the actual numbers, because most of the condemnations to stoning issued by the Iranian authorities are handed down secretly, as well as for the fact that so little information is actually available from many prisons in Iran. Shadi Sadr, who has represented five people sentenced to stoning, said Iran carried out stoning in secret in prisons, in the desert or very early in the morning in cemeteries.

From 2006 to 2009, stoning was carried out at least once a year for a total of at least seven executions; the last was carried out on 5 March 2009 on a man condemned of adultery.

Since 2015, at least two women convicted of adultery have been sentenced to stoning, according to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, submitted to the UN General Assembly on 30 September 2016.

In July 2016, the Government asserted that the judiciary had converted these sentences to other punishments and that no stoning sentences had been carried out in the country in recent years. However, the Government noted that criminalization of adultery is consistent with its interpretation of Islamic law and that stoning is an effective deterrent. Three death sentences by stoning were recorded during 2017.

2.  What is the legal basis for the punishment of stoning for adultery and homosexuality in Iran?

The legal basis for the punishment of stoning (رجم , rajm) lies in the Iranian Penal Code. (Penal Code of Iran, Apr. 21, 2013, Persian original, English translation of Books 1–2.) Book 2 (بخش دوم ) of the Code covers Islamic hudood (حدود), which are those crimes with fixed and severe punishments in Islamic sources, including adultery (زنا , zenaa) and sexual acts between men (لواط , levaat) and between women (مساحقه , mosaahaqa). A full description of the circumstances and punishments relating to adultery is found in Book 2, articles 221–232 (ماده ۲۲۱ ـ ۲۳۲) of the Code. The draft version of Iran’s new 2013 Penal Code had omitted stoning as a penalty for adultery, but in April 2013, Iran’s body of religious jurists, the Guardian Council, reinserted the provision while vetting the Code for conformity with Iran’s Constitution and Shari‘a.

Articles 233 to 241 of the new Penal Code address sodomy (levaat) and non-sodomy homosexual acts (تفخیذ , tafkheez). Articles 221 to 288 list a number of hudood acts, including lesbianism (mosaahaqa). Although the new Penal Code makes no specific reference to the death penalty for mosaahaqa, article 136 of the Code imposes the death penalty for hudood offenses that are committed four times.

Other useful sources on stoning for adultery and homosexuality in Iran are as follows:

3.  What is the legal basis for stoning in Afghanistan, and how frequently is stoning used there?

Neither the Afghanistan Penal Code of 1976 nor the new Penal Code adopted in 2017 contains a provision for the use of stoning, although those convicted of adultery are subject to long prison sentences. Stoning became an official punishment for certain crimes during the period of rule by the Taliban (who employ strict interpretations of Shari‘a) from 1996–2001, and “convicted adulterers were routinely shot or stoned in executions conducted in front of large crowds.” After the Taliban were overthrown, the punishment of stoning convicted adulterers was reportedly “banned under Afghan law,” but even today, in many areas controlled by the Taliban, warlords, or tribal leaders, both women and men found guilty of having a relationship outside of marriage or an extramarital affair are sentenced to death (including by stoning) or publicly flogged. Afghan officials often blame the Taliban for such punishments. According to legal scholar Yasaman Yousefi, however, unlike in Iran, cases of stoning in Afghanistan have not generally sparked campaigns by international bodies, and women’s organizations and activists in Afghanistan have not received much international support.

The following sources provide useful information on the Afghan legal system, the Penal Code, and the punishment of sexual crimes:

4.  What case law exists concerning stoning in Iran and Afghanistan?

It is not possible to find case law in Iran. According to testimony provided to a UK Immigration Appeal Tribunal (RM and BB (Homosexuals) Iran CG [2005] UKIAT 00117) by Anna Enayat, an Iranian scholar at St. Antony’s College Oxford and expert on Iranian human rights issues, “‘there is no general concept of precedent in the Iranian legal system and . . . judgments therefore do not constitute case law in the sense of which the common law would understand it.’ . . . Ms. Enayat added that to the best of her knowledge there are no published examples of the rulings of provincial Courts of Appeal.” The same situation appears to apply to Afghanistan. (See European Union, European Asylum Support Office Country of Origin Information (COI) Sector, Afghanistan: Criminal Law, Customary Justice and Informal Dispute Resolution (July 2020).)

5.  What privacy laws related to sexual offenses exist in Iran and Afghanistan?

I was unable to locate resources on privacy laws in relation to sexual offenses in Afghanistan.

Hajar Azari and Nasrin Tabatabai Hesari in their recent, comprehensive treatment of privacy in Iran in relation to sexual crimes state that the Iranian legal system is based on Islamic law, and that

the notion of justice . . . inherent in Islamic law . . . can be considered as potential to support the right to privacy. The fact that different Quranic verses and the tradition[s] of the [P]rophet have emphasized privacy, dignity, justice and honor for humankind and specifically victims can be a factor for legalizing the right to privacy. In addition, considerable advice can be found in Quranic verses[ and in Hadiths (traditions of [the P]rophet)[,] as well as in the speeches of religious leaders that have strictly prevented people from violating the privacy of others. However, the term “privacy” has not been used explicitly in Islamic verses and Hadiths, mainly because Islamic values such as the right to privacy have been represented in a content-based approach; in other words, there is a type of support for the essence of privacy without mentioning its term in the source of law making in Islamic law. For instance, privacy has been supported in the form of referring to other rights and freedoms such as the right of property, the right of liberation of conducting searches, the Acquittal principle, the right of being secure[ ] and the rights related to personality. The sources of law making in Islamic law protect the right to privacy from different aspects such as privacy of homes, communications, private affairs, and personal ideas and beliefs. . . . [Thus,] the right to privacy has been supported under Islamic law and it is not permitted to violate it unless it comes against the right of other people or public order.

The Iranian legal system protects the right to privacy under different categories of law including the constitution, Iranian criminal code, Iranian civil procedure code, [and] the rules related to postal, phone and Internet communications. However, it does not dedicate a specific chapter in particular to the right of privacy. (Hajar Azari & Nasrin Tabatabai Hesari, Protection of the Right to Privacy under International Law and the Iranian Legal System with a Focus on the Victims of Rape, 13(9) US-China L. Rev. 641, 653–54 (Sept. 2016).)

The authors then discuss the implicit and ambiguous nature of rights and privacy protections that might be afforded to victims of sexual crimes by the Iranian Constitution, Criminal Code, and Code of Criminal Procedure, as well as the deficiencies in these rights and protections (id. at 654–63), concluding as follows:

In the context of the Iranian legal system which is based on Islamic law, it can be said that the effect of violating privacy of the victims of sexual crimes is more important than in other crimes because these kinds of crimes are a taboo in Islamic society. Therefore, the effects of such disclosures are not only problematic for victims, but also for their partners, families and especially children. Considering the fundamental principles of Islam, the privacy of people should be protected at a domestic level [in] Islamic countries as well, and neither people nor state officials should violate it unless it is in contrast with public interest or the rights of other people.

In this context, it can be noticed that despite this right [being] inferred from Islamic principles, it is necessary that a clear definition of this right, its different aspects and the punishment of violating this right be submitted in the Iranian legal system. Although the Iranian legislative system, as mentioned in the text, took an approach to protect this right, proper measures are needed to protect and monitor the implementation of the privacy of victims of rape and other sexual crimes. Therefore, the improvement in the substantive law of the Iranian legal system should consist of training judicial and police staff in order to ensure that this right is implemented properly. (Id. at 664.)

The sources of Iranian law that the authors make reference to and quote from are as follows:

The Code of Criminal Procedure can be accessed as follows:

The English translation of Book 5 of the Penal Code contains the following introduction:

Book Five is the only part of the Penal Code that has been adopted permanently and unlike the rest of the Penal Code is not subject to experimental periods. Passed on May 22, 1996, Book Five deals with ta’zir crimes (offenses for which punishments are not fixed) and deterrent punishments, crimes against national security, crimes against property and crimes against people. Book Five also deals with theft, fraud, forgery, insult and a wide range of other offenses.

Although the Penal Code was amended in January 2012, and the new version subsequently adopted in 2013, Book 5 was not subject to the revision. Recently, however, the Iranian parliament passed a law amending articles 499 and 500 of Book 5 on February 15, 2021.

The Azar and Hesari article refers to and translates various articles in Book 5 of the Penal Code on pages 256–57. However, the numbering of the provisions does not align with the article numbers in the 2013 version of the Code. We have therefore provided below a table with the authors’ article numbers followed by the article numbers in the English translation of Book 5 of the 2013 Code cited above.

Azar & Hezari Article IHRDC Penal Code Art. 802 Art. 570 Art. 812 Art. 580 Arts. 691, 692, 694 Arts. 691, 692, 694 Art. 814 Art. 582 Art. 918 Art. 694 Art. 836 Art. 604 Art. 872 ??? Art. 448 Art. 648 Art. 868 Art. 641 Art. 893 Arts. 668–669

In addition, section C of the Azar and Hesari article, which begins at page 657, makes reference to a previous version of the Code of Criminal Procedure and to the draft version of the new Code of Criminal Procedure that had not been approved at the time the article was written, but whose approved and amended versions have been cited above.

For an analysis of the 2014 Code of Criminal Procedure, see Amnesty International, Flawed Reforms: Iran’s New Code of Criminal Procedure (2016).

Other sources regarding sexual crimes and related privacy laws in Iran are as follows:

  • Ansari Bagher, Protection of Privacy in Islam and in Iran’s Legal System (Comparative Study), Private Law Studies No. 66 (Winter 2005), (Persian original), (English abstract).
  • Mohammad Habibi Mojandeh, Privacy in Islam and Iranian Law (Working Paper presented at British Institute of International and Comparative Law, Workshop on Privacy in the Law, Nov. 30, 2007).
Categories: Research & Litigation

Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sánchez and American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo Discuss the Importance of the Rule of Law

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 04/29/2021 - 8:30am

To celebrate Law Day, the late Law Librarian of Congress and Deputy Librarian for Library Collections and Services Jane Sánchez interviewed American Bar Association President Patricia Lee Refo. Law Day is a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law and an opportunity to understand how law and the legal process protect liberty and promote justice. The theme for Law Day 2021 is “Advancing the Rule of Law Now,” and many of the interview questions reflect this theme, highlighting ways in which attorneys, librarians, and citizens can advance the rule of law in their community.

We hope you can join us for the Law Day panel discussion this afternoon at 3:30pm EDT, which will explore the rule of law from an international perspective. The panel will discuss how the United States contributes to global understandings of the rule of law, including through funding of rule of law projects, championing rule of law principles in international entities and settings, and cultivating an image as a rule of law country both at home and abroad.

You can listen to the previously-recorded interview with Patricia Lee Refo here:

Categories: Research & Litigation

Join Our Newest Crowdsourcing Campaign: Historical Legal Reports from the Law Library of Congress

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 1:00pm

Calling all students of history, government, law, public policy, international relations, and other interested members of the public – help us expand access to hundreds of previously unreleased legal reports and other publications from the Law Library of Congress dating back to the 1940s!

We are excited to launch our second crowdsourcing campaign with By The People, entitled Historical Legal Reports from the Law Library of Congress.

A major function of the Law Library of Congress is the preparation of reports on legal topics, with an emphasis on foreign, comparative, and international law, in response to requests from Congress, the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, and others. The Law Library has authored thousands of reports from the 1940s to the present, many of which are available through the Library’s print collection. Recently, the Law Library began a multi-year effort to digitize and publish some of our previously unreleased historical reports in order to make them fully accessible to researchers and other members of the public. Although this phase of the crowdsourcing campaign includes only a sample of the recently released reports, you can also browse the latest collection of digitized historical reports here in the Library’s digital collections framework.

Reports in this campaign include recently digitized reports covering a wide range of legal topics from regions across the globe. The reports in this phase of the campaign mostly reflect legal research and analysis from the 1960s-1980s, with some exceptions. Broken down into 24 projects, such as Civil and Human Rights, Intellectual Property, and Constitutional Issues, there is something for everyone in this collection. We hope to release many more historical reports through this campaign in the coming years.

Far Eastern Jurisdictions: Restrictions on Entry for Aliens Convicted of a Crime. From Immigration, Nationality, and Citizenship. Washington, D.C.: Law Library of Congress, 1977.

Not only do these reports give us a glimpse into the past, they also cover legislation from all over the world. The document below, under the project Travel Requirements, Visas, and Foreigners’ Rights, was prepared in 1971 by a senior legal specialist and explains what visas were issued for travel to Burma in 1966. If travel is not your interest, check out our section on Political Activity and Political Parties, where you can find several countries’ laws pertaining to the Communist Party as well as the political activities of government and military personnel.

Visas for Travel to Burma in 1966. From Travel Requirements, Visas, and Foreigners’ Rights. Washington, D.C.: Law Library of Congress, 1971.

Many of these newly available reports have been digitized from thin, carbon copies and have not been found in any other printed format. These often represent the only known remaining versions of the reports. Although they are still quite legible, the poor print quality makes their digitized characters difficult for optical character recognition. That’s why we need you, our volunteers, to help us to provide accurate transcriptions of these original documents and ensure full-text searchability for this new collection! Many of these reports have never been seen by the public, and they provide a fascinating look at the history of U.S. and foreign law and policy, particularly from the Cold War era. Visit to explore this historic collection and try your hand at transcribing a report.

Note: these reports are provided for historical reference purposes only. They do not constitute legal advice and do not represent the official opinion of the United States Government. The information provided reflects research undertaken as of the date of writing and has not been updated unless specifically noted.

For more information, please visit the full collection.

Categories: Research & Litigation

50 Years of Women’s Suffrage in Switzerland

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 04/28/2021 - 9:00am

50 Jahre Frauenstimmrecht. Picture by Eidgenössische Kommission für Frauenfragen (EKF). Used with permission.

This year, Switzerland celebrates 50 years of women’s suffrage. In a referendum held on February 7, 1971, 65.7 % of (male) voters approved the right of Swiss women to vote and stand for election at the federal level. As a result, article 74 of the Swiss Constitution was amended to state in paragraph 1:

Bei eidgenössischen Abstimmungen und Wahlen haben Schweizer und Schweizerinnen die gleichen politischen Rechte und Pflichten. (For all federal votes and elections, Swiss male and female citizens have the same political rights and duties.) (Translation by author.)

In the first federal elections in which women were allowed to participate, held on October 31, 1971, ten women were elected to the National Council (lower house of parliament) and one woman to the Council of States (upper house of parliament).

The first referendum on women’s suffrage held in 1959 was rejected by 66.9% of voters and an overwhelming majority of the Swiss cantons (states). Three cantons, namely Vaud, Geneva, and Neuchâtel, that had voted in favor of women’s suffrage, started granting women political rights for cantonal and municipal elections after the failed first federal referendum. Basel-Stadt subsequently introduced women’s suffrage in 1966. However, not all remaining cantons followed suit after the 1971 federal referendum, with paragraph 4 of the amended article 74 retaining the sovereignty of the cantons with regard to cantonal and municipal elections. Women in the Swiss canton of Appenzell Inner-Rhoden had to wait until 1990, when the Swiss Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgericht, BGer) held that not allowing women to vote in cantonal elections violated the equality clause of the Swiss Constitution (Bundesverfassung, BV), which was adopted in 1981. (BV, art. 8, para. 3; formerly art.4, para. 2.) On April 28, 1991—30 years ago today—women in Appenzell Inner-Rhoden were finally able to join their peers and vote in cantonal elections (Landsgemeinde). Interestingly enough, women in Appenzell Inner-Rhodes have a voting card, whereas men can present either a voting card or a sword (Seitengewehr) to show their voting eligibility.

Shall women vote? Ehrhart, Samuel D.,1862-1937. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Female Representation in Politics Today

In the most recent federal elections, held in 2019, more women than ever were elected to the National Council and the Council of States: 42% and 26.1%, respectively. Switzerland now ranks 20th in a global ranking of the percentage of women in national parliaments. In the Swiss Federal Council (government), three out of the seven members are women. The bipartisan initiative “Helvetia Ruft” (Helvetia is calling) and the website “Bundesrätinnen” however contend that their work is not done after the 2019 federal elections. On a cantonal level, female representation is still low, with women making up an average of 30% of members in the legislative bodies. The trend might be changing though. On April 18, 2021, elections for the cantonal parliament of Neuchâtel took place. For the first time, the majority of those elected were women (58 women and 42 men).

However, full gender equality has not yet been achieved. This was highlighted in a nationwide protest on June 14, 2019, when hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets to demand equal pay, better reconciliation of family and working life, and protection against sexual harassment in the workplace, among other things.

Gender Quotas

Switzerland’s neighboring countries Germany and France have enacted or are discussing parity laws aimed at countering female underrepresentation in parliament. In 2019, a parliamentary initiative was submitted in Switzerland to require all parties to present an equal number of female and male candidates on the electoral party lists; however, parliament did not take up the issue. In general, support for parity acts in politics is low, as shown in a survey conducted among the Swiss parties in 2019. Most female politicians interviewed for the survey agreed that such laws are “well-meaning but misguided.” Instead, they advocated for “reducing the triple burden of family, work, and politics.” On the other hand, gender quotas for boards of large companies were adopted by the Swiss parliament in June 2020. The obligation took effect on January 1, 2021, and requires companies to comply or to explain why the quota is not met.

Poster commemorating 50 years of women’s suffrage, providing data and facts on women’s suffrage and gender equality from 1971 onwards. Created by Swiss Federal Commission for Women’s Issues (FCWI). Used with permission.

Further Resources

If you are interested in issues concerning women’s suffrage in Switzerland or women’s suffrage and women’s rights in general, feel free to consult the following selected resources:

Categories: Research & Litigation

The Federal Paper Chase: A New Library Guide for the Federal Courts

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 04/27/2021 - 10:30am

The following is a guest post by Ryan Reft, a historian of the modern United States focusing on domestic policy and law in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress. Ryan previously contributed three other posts to In Custodia Legis - Federal Courts, Judge Gerhard Gesell, and the Security State, Simon Sobeloff and Jewish Baltimore, and  Rights and Resistance: Civil Liberties during World War I Scholarly Panel.

In his unpublished memoir, “My Jealous Mistress,” Gerhard Gesell, judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, recounted the moment he discovered his two great loves- one tangible, future wife Peggy Gesell, and the other abstract, jurisprudence.

Gerhard Gesell. Harris & Ewing, photographer. ca. 1940. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. //

Hired by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1935 and living in the nation’s capital, he had to love the future Mrs. Gesell from afar. “As I have already suggested, I had found the girl I wanted to marry, but Peg was keeping me dangling from Detroit for about a year,” Gerhard wrote. Meanwhile, alone in Washington, D.C., Gesell’s affections for the U.S. legal code deepened: with “no ties to anyone else, [and] only the job at hand[,] I ate it up, and welcomed the law as the ‘jealous mistress’ she has remained ever since.”

Whether or not other judges included in the Manuscript Division’s new library guide, The Federal Paper Chase: Judges’ Papers, would describe their passion for the law in such terms remains to be seen, but all clearly held it in high regard even if they refrained from thinking of it in romantic terms.

Gesell’s unpublished manuscript, and his papers more generally, serve as just one example of the two dozen judges whose archives represent arguably the largest collection of federal jurisprudence held in any U.S. repository. When one considers the division’s three dozen Supreme Court collections, two dozen from the 20th century, the claim seems unassailable.

Unsurprisingly, the federal circuit most represented in the Manuscript Division’s collection is the District of Columbia Circuit which consists of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Eleven judges from the appellate court and four from the district court comprise the division’s holdings from the D.C. Circuit. These include Robert H. Bork, Henry White Edgerton, Harry T. Edwards, Charles Fahy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Harold Leventhal, Carl McGowan, E. Barrett Prettyman, Wiley B. Rutledge Jr., Harold M. Stephens, David S. Tatel, and J. Skelley Wright. Judges Gesell, Harold H. Greene, John Garrett Penn and John J. Sirica comprise the division’s holdings regarding the District Court.

Gesell, appointed to the District Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, joined as the D.C. Circuit began to distinguish itself nationally from other federal circuits. His esteem for the circuit – he frequently described it as second only to the U.S. Supreme Court in its importance – was not unique.

During the 1960s, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia emerged “as the nation’s second most important court, a significance attributable to the caliber of its judges and the quality of its jurisprudence, as well as to the variety of its docket,” historian Jeffrey Brandon Morris noted in his 2001 history of the circuit. During Richard Nixon’s administration, the District Court also shined, exerting a national, lasting influence on constitutional law, “for a time placing its superior Court of Appeals in the shadows,” notes Morris. “More than any other American court the District Court demonstrated that the judiciary would not flinch from making the separation of powers work.”

While the two courts have been a major force in American law for decades, more recently the Court of Appeals has also functioned as a stepladder to Supreme Court nominations and, more often than not, confirmation. For failed nominations, perhaps no collection in the nation better encapsulates the complexity, and some would argue inequity, of the modern process for nominees than the Robert H. Bork papers.

Researchers hoping to study the current nomination process will find insight in Bork’s archive. Moreover, Bork’s papers, like many others included in the library guide, reveal the unique world of federal jurists, some of whom sympathized with his experience. “There is much talk about the confirmation process and the court being harmed as a result of the way your nomination was treated. I dissent!” wrote then Chair of the Equality Employment Opportunity Commission and future Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in October of 1987 (as cited in Bork’s papers).

Yet the Manuscript Division’s collection is not limited to the D.C. Circuit; it also houses the papers of influential judges from other appellate and district court circuits. Moreover, these papers are not confined to abstract debates of constitutional law or Capitol Hill intrigue, but offer numerous avenues of historical inquiry and examples of law as the “rubber hits the proverbial road” of reality. For example, historians of the civil rights movement, the carceral state, and mental health reform will find the papers of Frank M. Johnson illuminating. First appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama in 1955 and later elevated to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (1979-1981) and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (1981-1999), Johnson presided over critical civil rights cases of the 1950s and 1960s such as Browder v. Gayle (Montgomery Bus Boycott) and Williams v. Wallace (March on Selma) as well as his reform of the Alabama prison system in Pugh v. Locke and James v. Wallace. Additionally, he intervened in the state’s mental health institutions attempting to remedy their ills in Wyatt v. Stickney. Those interested in more sensational aspects of the law might consider consulting his files on serial killer Ted Bundy’s appeals before the Eleventh Circuit Court during the late 1980s.

Historians of American Judaism and Baltimore will discover the richness of the city’s Jewish life in the Simon Ernest Sobeloff papers. A Charm City native and Jewish American, Sobeloff engaged with Baltimore’s Jewish community for decades. Named the president of the Baltimore Branch of the American Jewish Congress in 1933, Sobeloff fought to make his fellow Americans aware of the dangers represented by the rising anti-Semitism of the 1930s. “We have been and are using every means in our power to awaken our community, non-Jewish as well as Jewish, to an understanding of our problem and an earnest interest in dealing with it,” he wrote to one of the era’s most recognizable Jewish American leaders, Rabbi Stephen Wise, in November 1933. Civil Rights issues as well play a prominent role in the collection as Sobeloff presided over the desegregation of schools in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas from his perch atop the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. The papers of Clement F. Haynsworth, who served with Soboleff on the Fourth Circuit, are also housed in the division and offer further insights into the issues appearing before the Fourth Circuit during this period. In particular, Haynsworth sometimes took opposing positions on school integration from his colleague.

Before his promotion to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., in 1962, J. Skelly Wright presided over the integration of public life in New Orleans. First appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana in 1949, Wright endured social ostracization as his rulings proceeded to integrate Crescent Cities schools, parks, and public transportation. He issued 41 rulings between 1951 and 1962 in litigation known as Bush v. New Orleans Parish School Board through which he prevented the closing of the city’s public schools, upheld federal supremacy as dictated by the Constitution, and became the first district judge to issue his own plans when the school board balked at integration, as well as the first district judge to place a school board under injunction. By the end of his tenure as a district court judge, Wright might have been the most hated man in Louisiana. “[W]hen a coffin bearing a coffee-colored doll named ‘Smelly Wright’ was carried through the state capital, nearly all the legislators stood up and cheered,” Michael S. Bernick wrote in a 1980 law review article.

Harry Blackmun’s papers from his time as an appellate judge on the Eighth Circuit (1959-1970) provide insights into the legal issues of the day as well as his own processes that he carried with him in 1970 to the Supreme Court. “Early in his judicial career, Blackmun established a practice that he would follow throughout his tenure on the Eight Circuit on and the Supreme Court,” notes legal expert Linda Greenhouse. “Before a case was argued, he would review the briefs submitted by the parties and any memos prepared by his law clerks. He would then dictate a memo to himself, summarizing the arguments and giving his preliminary responses. Offering his unvarnished personal reaction to the debates swirling around him, these notes are among the most valuable documents in the Blackmun case files.” Blackmun’s federal judiciary papers are just one of three from eventual Supreme Court justices held by the division who also served on lower federal courts: Wiley B. Rutledge Jr. and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, both from the D.C. Circuit’s appellate court, comprise the other two.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg at her confirmation hearing / R. Michael Jenkins, Congressional Quarterly. Jenkins, R. Michael, photographer. 7/21/1993. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. //

Unsurprisingly, Washington, D.C., also stars in the collections. From the papers of Henry White Edgerton to Harold Leventhal to Carl McGowan to Gesell, the D.C. Circuit captures numerous aspects of the city’s history. Gesell’s sentencing files serve as a vantage point from which to explore the capital’s system of criminal law and imprisonment. Gesell kept many of his sentencing files and though some restrictions regarding their use exist, they provide researchers with documentation of the police, the courts, and the policed. They also serve as a valuable text of D.C.’s social history, particularly before its courts were reformed, removing many local violations that were heard in U.S. District Court to the municipal court system.

For legal scholars interested in the transformation of D.C.’s municipal courts, the papers of Judge Harold H. Greene, who oversaw and implemented such reforms, and John Garrett Penn, part of the first cohort of judges to preside over trials in the new court, provide historical insights into this process.

Countless other aspects of the law and history can be found in the Manuscript Division’s federal judiciary collections. Just let The Federal Paper Chase be your guide. Who knows, if you’re anything like Gerhard Gesell, you might find love.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Research Reports: Recognition of Foreign Passports

Law Library of Congress: Research Reports - Thu, 04/22/2021 - 11:45am

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, Recognition of Foreign Passports

This report covers the recognition of foreign passport and issuance of passports or other travel documents to foreigners in 20 selected jurisdictions around the globe, and the United States. The United States is included for comparative purposes and for the general information of our readers. In addition, the report includes a section on international law pertaining to the right to leave and re-enter one’s home country, as well as international obligations to issue travel documents to refugees and stateless persons. (April 2021)

This report is one of many prepared by the Law Library of Congress. Visit the Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports page for a complete listing of reports and the Current Legal Topics page for our highlighted and newer reports. 


Categories: Research & Litigation

Research Guides in Focus – Disability Law in the United States: A Beginner’s Guide

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 04/22/2021 - 7:00am

The following is a guest post by Louis Myers, the current Librarian-in-Residence at the Law Library of Congress. Louis has recently authored blog posts for In Custodia Legis, including New Acquisition: The Trial of Governor Picton, A Case of Torture in Trinidad, Research Guides in Focus – Municipal Codes: A Beginner’s Guide, and Research Guides in Focus – Neighbor Law: A Beginner’s Guide.

Today, the Law Library of Congress is excited to present one of our newly published research guides, Disability Law in the United States. This guide builds upon the instructions and strategies provided in our similar research guide, Social Security Disability Law: A Beginner’s Guide. The new guide focuses on different disability law-related resources, including information about federal laws and regulatory agencies, well-known policy advocacy groups, resources available for military veterans, and a section on service animals. The guide is intended to help researchers access information about the constitutionally-protected rights of people with disabilities.

Introduction page of Disability Law in the United States: A Beginner’s Guide,

The guide begins with an introduction to disability policy in the United States, highlighting the initiative taken by Congress to write legislation that allows government departments and other entities to provide advocacy, research, education, and enforcement of disabled persons’ rights. The guide also covers the primary disability-related legislation in the United States, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. Along with the federal laws supporting disability rights, numerous federal agencies participate in enforcement and advocacy for people with disabilities. Researchers will find information about agency powers and jurisdiction, and links to the implementing regulations for these different authorities. Finally, the guide provides links to some of the leading disability-related policy groups in the United States.

Two special subtopics are found in the guide: service animals and veterans’ resources. On the service animals page, researchers will find information about the difference between a service animal and an emotional support animal. The page includes electronic materials from both the government and non-profit advocacy groups, and print materials explaining the law and policy surrounding service animals. Veterans can use any of the resources throughout the guide; however, there are specific benefits and services available only to veterans and their families. The veterans’ resources page links to websites with information about services available to these individuals, including government and non-profit resources and information about court cases affecting veterans’ issues.

Congress stated in the “Findings and purpose” of the ADA that the law was intended “to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities.” Our guide seeks to embody these national policies by providing researchers with the tools and resources necessary to empower individuals with disabilities, and protect their rights. We would encourage researchers who have further questions, comments or feedback about this guide to reach out to us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Jason Zarin, Legal Reference Librarian

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 04/21/2021 - 2:54pm

Jason Zarin in his Law Library of Congress office.

Today’s interview is with Jason Zarin who joined the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress last fall. Due to the pandemic, Jason has been onboarded almost entirely remotely but he was able to spend one day in his office so far.

Describe your background.

I’m originally from Texas but have lived on all three coasts of the United States. Life and work keep bringing me back to the Washington, D.C. area, and this is now the third time I get to call this area home.

What is your academic/professional history?

I graduated from Tufts University with a degree in economics, went to law school at the University of Southern California, and later received an LL.M. degree in taxation from Georgetown University Law School. I practiced federal tax litigation for nearly a decade, mostly for the Tax Division of the United States Department of Justice, but also in private practice for law firms in D.C. and Texas. Having always enjoyed the research and “teaching” aspects of law practice, I decided to change careers to law librarianship, and earned a master’s degree in information science from the University of Texas in 2011. Before starting with the Library of Congress, I worked as an academic law librarian. This year, I have officially worked longer as a librarian than a lawyer, which is worth celebrating!

How would you describe your job to other people?

I connect people to the resources they need. Being a librarian combines detective work and teaching skills, and a little bit of boosterism as well — how can people find the resources they need if they don’t even know about them? In addition to assisting members of Congress and their staff with research, I also work with members of the public who ask questions through the Law Library’s Ask A Librarian service. One of my favorite parts of the job is teaching patrons about the Law Library’s unparalleled collection of legal resources and how to access them. I’ve led virtual training sessions for congressional staff, members of the public, and guest-lectured on researching constitutional law in a university political science course.

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

As both a lawyer and an academic librarian, I frequently used the unique resources of the Law Library of Congress (particularly the collection of foreign laws). After a career in academia, the chance to not only return to public and government service, but also to work at the greatest library in the world, was a perfect opportunity. I have enjoyed all the work I have engaged in since starting a few months ago, and look forward to the day I get to work in the library onsite when we reopen to the public.

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

The Law Library of Congress has such a huge impact on many people’s lives. I am amazed at the sheer variety of questions we get from members of the public with legal issues they are facing and I’m glad to help them identify resources they have access to that can answer their issues. Due to the pandemic, I onboarded remotely and have worked the entire time for the Law Library from home. My colleagues have been amazing helping me learn about the Library, especially considering that I’ve not yet had a chance to meet most of them in person.

What is something most of your co-workers don’t know about you?

I’m a supporter of the English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur and try to watch their matches whenever they’re broadcast on local TV. Since I’ve been working from home the entire time I’ve worked for the Law Library, I’ve worn out my collection of Marvel Comics t-shirts. One of the best things about returning to D.C. from the New York City area is having a backyard, as I enjoy grilling outside.

Categories: Research & Litigation

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

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 04/20/2021 - 9:00am

The following is a joint guest post by Elizabeth Boomer, an international law consultant, and George Sadek, a foreign law specialist, from the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

On March 29, 2021, the engineers of the Suez Canal Authority were finally able to restore passage through the Suez Canal after a 1,300-foot, 220,000-ton container ship that blocked it for almost a week, causing great disturbance to maritime commercial routes worldwide, was finally moved. The Suez Canal acts as a link between maritime commercial routes between the Mediterranean Sea in the north and the Red Sea in the south. It is 120 miles from the city of Port Said on the Mediterranean in the north and the city of Suez on the Red Sea in the south.

Suez Canal. Central Intelligence Agency, 1976. Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

Historical Background on the Construction and Development Projects of the Suez Canal

Construction of the Suez Canal began in 1859 and took 10 years to complete, with the passage of ships starting in 1869. The work was performed by an estimated 1.5 million workers and involved excavation and dredging of 97 million cubic yards of sediments. The original canal did not allow for two-way traffic—ships used to halt in a passing bay so that other ships coming from the opposite direction could pass. The canal went through various improvements to allow heavier ships to pass through.

Canal de Suez, el-Kantara. Photoglob Company, ca. 1890-1910. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

In 1858, La Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez was established to operate it for 99 years. The Suez Maritime Canal Company had been incorporated as an Egyptian joint-stock company with its head office in Paris. In July 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal Company leading to the Suez Canal crisis in October 1956.

In 1960, the Egyptian government came up with the “Nasser Plan” to expand the width and depth of the Suez Canal. The main purpose of the plan was to make the canal into a multi-lane waterway. The project was carried out between 1961 through 1967. The project of development of the canal stopped in 1967 because the Six-Day War broke out with Israel. In 1975, after the war ended, the Egyptian government began another project to expand the Suez Canal. Other Suez Canal development projects took place during the 1980s. The most recent development project was in 2014. This project aimed to create a new canal, parallel to the existing one, to maximize the benefits from the present canal and its by-passes. One of the main goals of the project was to double the longest possible parts of the waterway to facilitate traffic in both directions and minimize the waiting time for transiting ships.

Domestic Egyptian Legislation and International Law Governing the Suez Canal

There are two domestic legal instruments concerning the Suez Canal: The Presidential Decree of the Nationalization of the Suez Canal of 1956 and Law No. 30 of 1975 on the Organization of the Suez Canal. These domestic legal instruments operate in the context of international law governing the Suez Canal and international organizations operating in the area abutting the Suez Canal.

Gamal Abdel Nasser Hussein. Photo by Flickr user Prachatai. Jan. 31, 2013. Used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

1. The Presidential Decree of the Nationalization of the Canal of 1956

In July 1956, former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser issued a presidential decree to nationalize the Suez Maritime Canal Company. Under the Presidential Decree of 1956, the Suez Maritime Canal Company became an Egyptian government body. All money, rights, and obligations of the company were transferred to the Egyptian State.

The Presidential Decree of 1956 stipulates that the management of the Suez Canal Company lies with the Ministry of Commerce. Additionally, the annual budget and balance sheet of the company are issued in a decree of the president of the Republic of Egypt.

2. Law No. 30 of 1975 on the Organization of the Suez Canal Authority

Law No. 30 of 1975 replaced the Suez Canal Company with the Suez Canal Authority (the Authority). The Law does not affect the rights or the obligations of the Arab Republic of Egypt stemming from the Constantinople Convention of 1888.

Law No. 30 of 1975 provides that the Authority shall manage, use, maintain and improve the Canal. The president of the Republic has the authority to appoint and dismiss the managing directors and the general managers of the Authority. Additionally, the Authority has an independent budget. The Authority is in charge of enforcing all rules governing the rights of maritime passage in the Canal. It also supervises the maritime activities in the Canal. The Authority must impose and levy tolls on navigation and transit through the Canal. It administers pilotage, towage, and floating of ships in the Canal. The Authority has the power to own and possess land and real estate next to the Canal as well as to expropriate land and real estate for the public interest.

Finally, the Authority has no power to adopt any measure violating the free navigation in the Suez Canal, which is governed by the provisions of the Constantinople Convention of 1888. Furthermore, the Authority has no legal right to discriminate against some ships passing through the Canal in a favor of other ships.

Potential International Litigation Following the Ever Given’s Blockage of the Suez Canal

As mentioned above, the ship Ever Given blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week, which had numerous consequences: delays in the shipment of goods, potential damage to goods or the ship itself, and damage to the canal during dredging. Furthermore, the blockage delayed hundreds of ships that could not navigate through the Canal during this period, some of which re-routed around the Horn of Africa (a decision which carries its own potential liabilities and delays, as well as diminished revenue for the Suez Canal Authority). With a litany of actors involved in operating, salvaging, and insuring the ship, litigation regarding the liability among those actors seems inevitable. Two potentially significant areas of litigation may be disputes over insurance and salvage, as explored below.

Insurance Litigation

As Lloyd’s List, a major maritime publication, notes, “shipping law firms have the prospect of extensive litigation on behalf of cargo interests, especially if general average is declared on the casualty.” General average is the process by which insurance adjusters average the contribution of each party who benefitted to make up for one party’s loss and is based on the York Antwerp Rules (YARs). The YARs are a set of model maritime rules promulgated by the Comité Maritime International (CMI) that are routinely integrated into shipping contracts (bills of lading, freight contracts, and marine insurance policies). The YARs provide:

There is a General Average act when, and only when, any extraordinary sacrifice or expenditure is intentionally made or incurred for the common safety for the purpose of preserving from peril the property involved in a common maritime adventure. (YARs, Rule A.)

The Japanese underwriters of hull coverage in the Ever Given case intend to share the costs of refloating the ship with the cargo owners, and predict that sorting out the average contribution among the thousands of companies who had cargo on the ship will take several years.

And the allotment regarding costs will not be without controversy.

Per Rule B.1 of the YARs, salvage operations are not a common maritime adventure (and thus general average rules are not applicable to them); therefore, different legal questions could arise regarding the rewards for the salvage operations that rescued the Ever Given.

International Salvage Law

Marine salvage is when commercial operators go to the aid of vessels in distress in the expectation of a reward for helping to save life and property. The public and private international law governing marine salvage may very well be critical in future litigation related to the blockage in the Suez Canal.

As potential litigation over these issues and others has not yet been reported publicly, the International Salvage Convention (1989 ISC) and the Lloyd’s Open Form salvage contract (LOF), may come into play, depending on the various contractual terms involved and the claims put forward.

The 1989 ISC has 74 contracting states and covers over 60% of world tonnage. The 1989 ISC is the successor to the original international agreement on salvage, the 1910 Convention on Assistance and Salvage at Sea, which only awarded the salvor if it successfully saved the ship or the cargo, under the so-called “no cure-no pay” principle. However, it was recognized under the 1910 Convention that the strict no cure-no pay principle could disincentivize the attempt to salvage ships when the risk of failure was great and/or the costs likely to be incurred were great. Thus, article 13 of the 1989 ISC provides a list of criteria that the reward should take into account, including the skill and efforts of the salvors in preventing or minimizing damage to the environment, as well as the salved value, the danger, the out of pocket expenses, the risk of liability, promptness, and the skill required to salvage the ship.

The 1989 ISC article 13 criteria could be important in future litigation or arbitration proceedings regarding the salvage of the Ever Given because LOFs are the most commonly used salvage contracts, which are governed by English law (LOF 2020 J), with London as the seat of arbitration (LOF 2020 I). The 1989 ISC is incorporated into UK law.

While the extent to which the private contracts concluded among the interested parties in the Ever Given case have used LOFs or followed the YARs remains to be seen, these international instruments could play a significant role in determining the legal implications of being stuck in the Suez Canal.

Categories: Research & Litigation
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