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Research & Litigation

New Report on Tax Treatment of Cryptocurrency Block Rewards Published

In Custodia Legis - 10 hours 17 min ago

The foreign law specialists of the Law Library of Congress recently completed a multinational report titled Taxation of Cryptocurrency Block Rewards. The report surveys the tax treatment of new tokens obtained by cryptocurrency mining or staking, often known as “block rewards,” in 31 countries around the globe. It also addresses the tax implications of cryptocurrency tokens acquired through activities like airdrops and hard forks (also referred to as “chain splits”) in various jurisdictions.

“The Library of Congress report contains valuable information on how countries are responding, or failing to respond, to this new technology. How nations tax the people who maintain cryptocurrency networks will obviously have a big effect on attracting or repelling innovators and investment,” said Abraham Sutherland in the press release issued by Congressman Tom Emmer’s office announcing the publication of the report.

The report shows that while tax authorities of a number of countries have published guidance on the taxation of mined tokens such as Bitcoin and other “proof-of-work” cryptocurrencies, only a few specifically address the taxation of tokens received through staking, a term used to describe the process of obtaining reward tokens in the newer “proof-of-stake” cryptocurrencies. Some surveyed countries have stated that reward tokens generated from mining by individuals on a small scale or as a hobby are not taxable until their disposal or are not taxable at all, while in other countries, a person may need to pay income tax on the mining rewards upon receipt even where mining is not a business or a profit-making scheme.

For tax purposes, staked tokens are treated differently from mined tokens in Australia and Finland. In Australia, tokens acquired through mining cryptocurrencies as a hobby do not need to be reported as income and taxes are only payable upon their disposal through the capital gains tax system. Tokens received by an individual as a payment or reward for forging or staking are treated as ordinary income on receipt, and the sale of such tokens in the future will also trigger a capital gains tax event. Finland treats mined cryptocurrencies as income from a hobby, whereas staked cryptocurrencies are taxed as capital gains, as the tax authority considers the staked asset as value created on top of the cryptocurrencies already held.

The countries in this report that have issued rules or guidance on the tax treatment of mining, or on the tax treatment of staking, airdrops, or hard forks, are shown on the accompanying map.

Map created by Susan Taylor-Pikulsky, Law Library of Congress.

For countries where no explicit taxation rules on block rewards are available, the report provides information such as general taxation rules, proposed legislation, official statements, and comments from legal scholars and tax experts, which may be helpful in understanding how block rewards may be treated for tax purposes.

This report complements a broader comparative study published by the Law Library in April 2019, titled Regulatory Approaches to Cryptoassets. The 2019 report covering 46 jurisdictions found that only a few tax authorities had published guidance on the application of tax rules to cryptocurrency activities at that time.

Other reports on cryptocurrencies the Law Library of Congress has published include:

If you are interested in this topic, we have also published cryptocurrency articles in the Global Legal Monitor. You may also subscribe to receive email alerts when new blog posts, Global Legal Monitor articles, and Law Library reports are published.

Categories: Research & Litigation New, Tip and Top for March 2021, Part 1

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 03/01/2021 - 11:13am

Last month, Robert provided news of two enhancements to The first involved new email alerts for committee profile pages. The second was the addition of 21 years of U.S. Statutes at Large to, which can be accessed through the text tab for bills that became public laws in this time period.

As part of our first release this month, we are providing a mechanism for users to provide feedback to their members for bills in the current Congress. This has been one of the most requested features for, and we are pleased to be able to debut it with this release.

This feature appears on the right hand side of the bill overview section, “Give Feedback on This Bill.”

Once you click “Contact Your Member,” another window will open allowing you to find your representatives and senators by entering your address:


Enhancement – Legislation – Give Feedback

  • Use the link from any current Congress measure to find your representative and senators to give them your feedback on the bill or resolution. This will help to redirect such feedback that is now often being sent to the technical team and fulfill frequent public requests for such a feature.

Enhancement – Committee Meetings – Improved Access

Enhancement – Committee Materials – Search

Search Tip

The Bill Searches and Lists section on the homepage includes several helpful lists for researchers. These lists appear below the Search box and include bills organized by Sponsor, broken down by chamber, House and Senate. Once you click on House or Senate options, an alphabetical list of members appears with the number of bills they have sponsored or cosponsored as well as any amendments. You can also link to the member and the bills themselves.

Most-Viewed Bills

These are the most-viewed bills for the week of February 21, 2021.

1. H.R.127 [117th] Sabika Sheikh Firearm Licensing and Registration Act 2. H.R.5717 [116th] Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 3. H.R.484 [117th] No Glory for Hate Act 4. H.Res.57 [116th] Electing Members to certain standing committees of the House of Representatives. 5. S.394 [116th] Presidential Transition Enhancement Act of 2019 6. H.R.1 [117th] For the People Act of 2021 7. H.R.748 [116th] CARES Act 8. H.R.40 [116th] Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act 9. H.R.133 [116th] Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 10. H.R.40 [117th] Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act
Categories: Research & Litigation

The Murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 03/01/2021 - 8:30am

Yesterday, Sunday, February 28, marked the 35th anniversary of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme’s 1986 death in Stockholm, Sweden. Olof Palme was assassinated at 11:21 p.m. local time with a single bullet through his body. He was walking home without his security detail together with his wife, Lisbet Palme, after having seen The Mozart Brothers (1986) at the cinema Grand.

Photo by Flickr user Per Olof Forsberg, of Olof Palme’s Plaque, used under attribution license

Olof Palme was a polarizing figure in Swedish politics during his life. He was both loved and hated in equal measure. Among other things, Palme was prime minister during the Swedish bank robbery (Normalmstorgsdramat) of 1973, which led to the coining of the phrase “Stockholm syndrome,” and reportedly told the female bank teller, Kristin Enmark, that “wouldn′t it be nice to die at your post.”

[Krister Wickman and Olof Palme], Sveriges socialdemokratiska arbetareparti, sponsor/advertiser, [between 1965 and 1980.Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Background and Conspiracy Theories

When Palme died, the Swedish police, as well as Swedish public, were convinced that it was the result of a conspiracy. Over the years, many theories have been put forward. For example, an early theory was that Palme was murdered by the South African Apartheid regime over a speech he gave prior to his murder. Another theory concerns Kurdish rebels. While these theories involved groups of people believed to have a motive for killing Palme, no concrete evidence could tie them to the scene of the crime. With only limited forensic evidence (the murder bullet) and diverging witness testimonies, it was all but impossible to find sufficient proof for anyone to be successfully charged and tried in court. That does not mean the prosecutor has not tried.

In 1989, Christer Petterson, a known alcoholic who had previously been convicted of manslaughter, was convicted by the Stockholm District Court for Palme’s murder. The three lay judges (nämndemän) voted to convict, whereas the two law judges wanted to acquit. Later that same year, Petterson was acquitted on appeal to the Svea Hovrätt (Svea Court of Appeals.) But Palme’s widow Lisbet, until her death in 2018, maintained that Petterson was the man she saw on the night of the murder, after identifying him in a line-up. In 1998, the prosecutor petitioned the Swedish Supreme Court to re-hear the case, citing new witness testimony, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Other than Lisbet’s testimony, there was no other evidence to tie Petterson directly to the crime scene.

Another early suspect arrested for the murder was right-wing Palme critic Viktor Gunnarsson, who never faced trial. He was later killed by his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend in North Carolina. The defense in Gunnarson’s murder unsuccessfully claimed that Gunnarsson had been murdered because of his involvement with the Palme murder.

Other theories, put forward range from the idea that it was a family drama involving Lisbet and/or her son Mårten, a planned attack by the security police, and one theory even suggested that the whole murder was staged and that Palme was not actually killed at all. None of these theories appear to have been further investigated or deemed credible by the police and prosecutor.

In 2017, a new lead prosecutor, Krister Peterson, was appointed to lead the Palme investigation. In early 2020, Krister Peterson announced that he would present a solution to the Palme murder and either charge someone or close the investigation. On June 10, 2020, prosecutor Peterson presented his theory. Expectations of a solution were high as earlier that same week a cold case from 2004 was solved with the use of DNA and genealogy. But that case involved evidence lacking in the Palme murder case, namely an identified murder weapon and DNA from the suspected murderer.

The Palme investigation announcement was underwhelming. The police announced they were closing the investigation as the believed murderer, Stig Engström, had been dead for twenty years and the prosecution saw no way forward in the investigation. Specifically, they stated: “We can’t get around a certain individual as the murderer.” “That individual is Stig Engström.”  And “We have come as far as can be expected.”

However, a small study of Swedes reactions to the announcement showed that the people were not convinced that Engström was the murderer. Only 20% of respondents thought that it was likely that he was the murderer.

The theory of Stig Engström (then described as Skandiamannen) as the Palme murderer was extensively examined in 2018 in a series of articles in the magazine Filter, titled the “Den Osannolika Mördaren (the Unlikely Murderer), by Thomas Petterson. The Unlikely Murderer is set to become a limited series in 2021.

Identification of a Deceased Suspect

The identification of Stig Engström, originally known only as the ”Skandiamannen” in public, has resulted in a number of legal questions.

Prosecutor Krister Peterson himself recognized that naming someone as Palme’s murderer qualifies as defamation of a deceased person (Förtal av avliden) (5 kap. 4 § Brottsbalken (SFS 1962:700)), but that because of the circumstances in the case, the length of time since the suspect died, and the great public interest, he argued that it was nevertheless not a criminal act. According to a news report, Krister Peterson said that:

Strictly objectively speaking it is a matter of defamation of the deceased on my part, it is undoubtedly so. The legislation includes also some other parts which are relevant. That is, if there is a great public interest and I can show reasonable grounds for my claim it is not defamation of the deceased. The public interest need no further explanation, and I believe that what I have presented [here today] gives me reasonable grounds for the claim that I am making. Therefore, I do not think it is a criminal act that he is named. (translation by author.)

For more on defamation of a deceased, see below.

Despite his assurance that the naming was legal, many individuals chose to report the statement as defamation of a deceased.

The Justitieombudsmannen (JO) (Parliamentary Ombudsmen) has also proceeded to request that the police justify the naming of the suspect. An answer was due in November of last year but a final determination by the JO has not yet been published.

Another issue that quickly surfaced as a result of Engström being named as the murderer, especially among journalists and die-hard Palme laymen investigators, was what information pertaining to Stig Engström from the criminal investigation could now be considered public? And what statements made about Stig Engstrom could fall under the crime defamation of the deceased?

What Information on Stig Engström May Be Produced?

Under Swedish law, information is public unless covered by a specific ground for secrecy. (2 ch. 2 § Tryckfrihetsförordningen (TF) [Constitution] (SFS 1949:105).) The most common ground for secrecy of otherwise public documents is to protect personal information about an individual or a person close to the individual (närstående). (35 ch. 1 § Offentlighets- och sekretesslag (2009:400).)

In December 2020, the Administrative Court of Appeals in Stockholm (Kammarrätten i Stockholm) issued a judgment (Case No. 5005-20, 5077-20, and 5079-20, on file with author) where it explained the secrecy test for publicly-held documents that applies to persons who are deceased, and specifically to Stig Engström. Unlike persons who are alive, a deceased person’s personal information is presumed to be public. It is presumed not to be hurtful. Whereas information about a deceased that could cause harm to a närstående  (person close to the deceased) is presumed to be secret. Thus, the police in determining what information/documents to produce must first evaluate if the information pertains to a deceased person, and if so if that deceased person has any close relatives or friends, närstående, that may be hurt by the information becoming public.

Persons who are assumed to be närstående are immediate family members, parents, siblings, and persons who live together in a sexual relationship. Also, non-cohabiting life partners, friends, and relatives may be närstående, depending on their relationship with the deceased. But this evaluation must be made on a case-by-case basis.

The Administrative Court of Appeals determined that Stig Engström, who was divorced at the time of his death, does not have any living relatives or friends that qualify as närstående. The court in particular noted that both his brother and mother are dead. Thus, any information regarding Stig Engström alone is presumed to be public, unless the information would deprive him of the peace to which a deceased person has a right. In making this determination, the police should especially consider that Stig Engström has been dead for more than 20 years.

However, documents that also contain information on other persons, such as the joint holdings of Stig Engström and his ex-wife during their marriage, are subject to secrecy protection as Engström’s ex-wife is still alive and her annual income is personal information. Engströms’s own annual income, and other financial information, including any debts registered with the Swedish Enforcement Authority, are public. Thus, the court held that the police must take greater care in assessing what information they are obliged to produce under the long-standing constitutional right to public documents.

Defamation of Deceased

Press freedom is protected in Sweden, and most information may be published. (Tryckfrihetsförordningen (TF) [Constitution] (SFS 1949:105).) However, even if true, certain information may be considered defamation of a deceased person (Förtal av avliden). (5 kap. 4 § Brottsbalken (SFS 1962:700.) Specifically,

Defamation of a deceased person is punishable in accordance with 1 § [defamation] or 2 § [aggravated defamation], if the act is hurtful to the surviving family and friend, or otherwise, in consideration of the time that has passed since the deceased was alive, as well as the overall circumstances, may be considered to violate the peace that should be afforded to the deceased. (translation by author.)

Olof Palme’s family, for instance, has claimed defamation of a deceased. In 2012, Mikael Marcimain produced a film named Call Girl creating a fictional dramatization that was allegedly not based on, but very similar to, the bordellhärvan (Brothel Mess) or Geijeraffären (Geijer Scandal). During the 1970s, a Swedish woman operated a call-girl network with many powerful customers, including Olof Palme’s justice minister Lennart Geijer. The woman was arrested and sentenced. Several of her girls were allegedly under-aged, and at least one was aged 14, i.e. under the legal age of sexual consent, with whom sexual relations would constitute fornication with children, and be punishable with up to two years imprisonment. In the movie, the names are changed, but in the original version of the film the prime minister has sexual relations with the 14-year old. Representatives of Palme’s family sent a letter to the director advising them that they would seek prosecution for defamation of the deceased. However, the Justitiekanslern (JK) (Chancellor of Justice) decided not to bring the case. The scene was nevertheless cut and no further legal challenges were brought by the Palme family.

The two girls themselves had brought a damage suit against the Swedish state in 2007, but the court determined that the claim had been brought too late and that it was covered by the ten year statute of limitations.

Could You Solve the Murder Mystery?

For anyone who wishes to solve the murder, there is plenty of material to weed through. Countless police hours have been spent on the case, and the cost of the criminal investigation is estimated to be SEK 600 million (about US$71 million). More than 100 individuals have claimed responsibility for the crime. The material part of the criminal investigation includes more than 60,000 documents, and more than 250 meters of shelf space. According to the police website, ordering copies of all documents would cost about SEK 1 million (US$118,000). While most material is only available in hard copy, and much is still covered by secrecy protections, digital access is growing and reportedly 2% of the entire Palme investigation has been digitalized by private groups. Swedish Television (SVT) has also made some of their historic reporting connected to the murder available in its open archive (Öppet Arkiv).

If you wish to read more about the conspiracy theories related to Olof Palme’s murder, here are some of the many titles you can find in the Library’s catalog. These include Thomas Petterson’s Den Osannolika Mördaren from 2018.

If you have a question about law in Sweden you can always send us a message through the Ask a Librarian feature on our website.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Stunned By Her Thunder: Fannie Lou Hamer

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 02/25/2021 - 9:19am

In August 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer decided to attend a mass meeting run by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Ruleville, Mississippi, at William Chapel Church. Mrs. Hamer said, “They talked about how it was our right to vote. And they was talking about how we could vote out people that we didn’t want in office. I never heard until 1962 that Black people could register to vote.”

[Fannie Lou Hamer, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Delegate, at the Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, NJ, August 1964] Warren K. Leffler, photographer. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, //

Robin Hamilton, one of Hamer’s biographers, noted that 1962 was a watershed year for Mrs. Hamer. In that year she overheard people in her plantation owner’s house talking about her uninformed, forced sterilization. Hamilton theorized that Mrs. Hamer, then 44, had experienced too many injustices and wanted to change her circumstances. She had a hard upbringing and early adulthood. Born on October 6, 1917 as the twentieth child of sharecropper parents in rural Mississippi, at age 6 she started picking cotton. As a child, her father saved up enough of the family’s earnings to buy some livestock to increase the family’s income—and while the family were away from home, some local whites came and added pesticide to the animal feed so that all the stock died. She quit school at age 12 to work full time. As an adult she worked as a sharecropper and the timekeeper for the landowner, W.D. Marlow, as she was the only worker who could read and write. When she attended that mass meeting and found that she could vote, she got on a bus to Indianola on August 31, with 17 of her neighbors and went to register. That act started her lifetime of voting rights activism.

Mrs. Hamer said that when she went to register to vote only she and one other person were allowed to attempt to register by taking a “literacy test” that involved copying out a section of the Mississippi Constitution and giving “a reasonable interpretation of it”. She said she did the work but didn’t understand the constitution. She was riding home on the bus when the police stopped the bus because it “had too much yellow on it” (they were riding in a school bus); the bus driver was arrested and initially fined $100 (later cut back to $30). When she got home, the landowner came to her house and told her she would have to return and withdraw her registration. Mrs. Hamer replied that she registered for herself, not for the landowner. The angry landowner told her she’d have to leave immediately. She went to stay with friends that night while her husband and children stayed on the plantation to finish bringing in the crop so they would be allowed to keep the family’s belongings.

A few days later, her husband, Perry “Pap” Hamer, became very anxious about Mrs. Hamer staying in that house and moved her to another location; that night the friends’ house where she had been was shot at 15 times. Mrs. Hamer’s family joined her in December 1962 and they lived on $10 a week from her work for SNCC (about $86 today). They had friends that supplemented their income when possible.

Mrs. Hamer went on the road, participating in SNCC meetings and rallies. She was a powerful speaker and singer; she was known for singing gospel songs during meetings to stir the crowd, such as “Go Tell It on the Mountain” and “This Little Light of Mine.” Peggy Jean Connor, a contemporary in the movement, said, “[Hamer] set me on fire.” Tracy Sugarman, a journalist who was working in Mississippi during Freedom Summer, wrote “[Hamer’s] magnificent voice rolled through the chapel as she enlisted the Biblical ranks of martyrs and heroes to summon these folk to the Freedom banner. Her mounting, rolling battery of quotations and allusions from the Old and New Testaments stunned the audience with its thunder.”

She continued her work on desegregation, voter registration, and providing community relief. She was traveling back from a voter education program in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 9, 1963, when the group bus stopped at Winona, Mississippi. Several members of her group tried to sit at a lunch counter there to eat. Staff refused to serve them, and called the police; Mrs. Hamer got out of the bus and was arrested also. While in jail, she was beaten so severely that she had permanent damage to her eye, legs, and kidneys; she wasn’t released until June 12, to find out that Medgar Evers had just been assassinated.

These events spurred her on her course of action; she continued to gain attention for her work and during Freedom Summer 1964 formed the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) to challenge the all-white delegation representing Mississippi at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mrs. Hamer was the delegation’s vice chair, and she gave a speech recounting her first efforts to vote, and concluded, “All of this is on account of we want to register, to become first class citizens. And if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America.” The delegation were offered a compromise that “…would give the MFDP two seats and the promise of reform for the 1968 convention. That made Hamer angry. “We didn’t come here for no two seats ‘cause all of us is tired,” she said.” By the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the state parties were required to integrate and Mrs. Hamer was seated as a delegate.

Mrs. Hamer supported Dr. King and Andrew Young in their work for James Meredith’s March Against Fear. She traveled to multiple countries in Africa with SNCC. She started her Pig Bank, a program where local families could borrow one of the 35 gilts and 5 boars and keep the piglets to raise for food, returning the gilts once the litter was weaned. Just a year later she started up the Freedom Farm Cooperative, to provide people a chance to grow their own food. She sued Sunflower County in 1970 for not integrating the schools; she was deeply interested in education and was a fan of Sesame Street’s educational goals. She continued her activism as much as she could given her poor health, which continued to decline; on March 14, 1977 she died and was buried on her own land. There’s a memorial garden at her resting place, and the Ruleville Post Office is named after her.

Fannie Lou Hamer said, “I’ve heard comments from people talking about with the people, by the people, for the people. Being a Black woman from Mississippi, I’ve learned that long ago it’s not true. It’s with the handful, for a handful, by a handful. But we gonna change that, baby. We’re going to change that, because we’re going to make democracy a reality for all of the people in this country.”

If you’re interested in other important figures in African American legal history, see our post on Mary Ann Shadd Cary.


E185.97.H35 B76 2014 Brooks, Maegan Parker. A Voice That Could Stir an Army: Fannie Lou Hamer and the Rhetoric of the Black Freedom Movement.

E185.97.H35 A5 2011 Brooks, Maegan Parker and Davis W. Houck, eds., The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer: To Tell It Like It Is.

E185.97.H35 M55 2007 Mills, Kay. This Little Light of Mine: The Life of Fannie Lou Hamer.

KFM7001 1890.A285 H6    Hobbs, Edward H. (Edward Henry)  Yesterday’s Constitution Today: An Analysis of the Mississippi Constitution of 1890.

KFM7001 1890 .A325 Mississippi. Constitution (1890). The Constitution of the State of Mississippi; adopted by the people of Mississippi in a constitutional convention November 1, 1890 at Jackson and all amendments subsequently adopted.

Civil Rights History Collection. Library of Congress.

Oral history with Fannie Lou Hamer; 1972-1973. Collections, University of Southern Mississippi.

FBI Records: The Vault. Fannie Lou Hamer.

United States of America vs. Theron C. Lynd, Registrar of Voters for Forrest County, Mississippi – Legal case.

“Fannie Lou Hamer.” ‘Until I Am Free You Are Not Free Either.’” YouTube, uploaded by Fannie Lou Hamer, 16 Dec. 2013,

E185.93.M6 D58 1994 Dittmer, John. Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi.

E185.93.M6 P39 2007 Charles M. Payne. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Upcoming US Law Webinars – March 2021

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 4:00pm

Next month, our librarians will instruct on tracing federal regulations and using the Law Library’s online resources through More information about the contents of each class can be found below.

St. Patrick’s Day spirit at Capitol. Washington, D.C., March 17. Sons of the auld sod in Congress, assisted by Benny Goodman, swing band leader, celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with music today on the Capitol steps. Seen in the photo are, left to right – Senator Joseph O’Mahoney, Wyoming – Eunice Healy, dancer in Goodman’s show – Benny Goodman, and Senator Claude Pepper of Florida. Harris & Ewing, photographer, Mar. 10, 1939. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Orientation to Law Library Collections

Date: Tuesday, March 9, 11:00 AM ET – 12:00 noon ET

Content: Introduces participants to information about the Law Library’s wide range of online resources, as well as our print collections.

Instructor: Anna Price – Legal Reference Specialist. Anna holds a BS in communications from Ithaca College, a JD from the University of Washington School of Law, and an MLIS from the University of Washington iSchool.

Register here.

Orientation to Legal Research: Tracing Federal Regulations

Date: Thursday, March 18, 11:00 AM ET – 12:00 PM ET

Content: Provides participants with information about the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, including the publication and citation of federal regulations as well as exploring how to trace a federal regulation.

InstructorAnn Hemmens – senior legal reference librarian. Ann holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, and earned both her JD and Master of Science in Library Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Register here.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Join us to Celebrate Herencia’s First Anniversary

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/23/2021 - 9:00am

Image 1 of Royal Order of January 21, 1765, issued by King Carlos III forbidding gambling. [Image from Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents]

The Law Library of Congress is proud to announce our all-virtual festivities to celebrate the first anniversary of our crowdsourcing campaign, Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents.

In a year, we were able to complete over 2,000 documents! We are so grateful and proud of all of our volunteers for helping us reach our goal of making this collection more accessible for generations to come.

The Law Library is hosting the next Herencia Review Challenge! We still have over 5,000 documents left to review, and from March 15 to March 19, help us chip away at that number by reviewing a page from our Laws & Statutes: Crime and Law Enforcement collection. Follow us on Twitter and HistoryHub for updates on the review challenge.

Review is a crucial final step to bringing transcriptions back to the Library’s main website,, and making images of original documents more discoverable. Transcriptions also help to make these documents more accessible to those with cognitive and sight disabilities, who use screen readers. That is why we need help from our volunteers to finish the review process of this project. Anyone can take part—just register for an account to start reviewing.

We started 2021 by launching our first Herencia remote crowdsourcing internship. Interns are working on a series of tasks that help us promote this rare and unique collection and make it more accessible to researchers. These tasks include: transcribing documents and reviewing the submitted transcriptions of other volunteers, assisting Law Library staff with the preparation of the next release (Phase 3), and identifying and inviting potential volunteers to contribute to this collection. Check out In Custodia Legis in the following weeks to read our interns’ interviews!

As part of our anniversary celebration, we invite you to our Lunch & Learn Webinar: A Conversation with the Herencia Crowdsourcing Interns on March 17 at 2:00pm EST. Geraldine Dávila González will moderate a panel discussion with our remote interns from all across the country including: Teresa Kane, Courtney Kennedy, Jake Neuberger, Aranza Obscura, Emily Hausheer, Lourdes Johnson, and Eliza Friend. Senior legal information specialist, Stephen Mayeaux, will give an overview of the campaign and what to expect in the next year. To register, please visit our Pre-Kindle page.

Herencia is the first ever crowdsourcing campaign from the Library of Congress in a language other than English. This collection contains print and manuscript documents from Spain from the 15th through the 19th centuries. Most of the collection items are in Spanish, Catalan, and Latin. Royal decrees, papal bulls, legal opinions, judgments, and royal orders are among the large variety of materials contained in this collection.

Categories: Research & Litigation

75 Years since the Finnish War Trials

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 02/22/2021 - 4:04pm

One of the things I love most about the Law Library is the amazing resources we have. Had this been a normal year, I would have been able to spend this morning flipping through the physical copies of the Finnish gazette (Finlands författningssamling) to find historic legislation. One such piece of legislation is the Act on Punishment of Those Responsible for the War (Lagen om bestraffning av de krigsansvariga) from 1945. The law was adopted in 1945 and retroactively criminalized acts committed during the Second World War. It was used during the Finnish War Responsibility Trials of 1945-46. The final verdict was delivered 75 years ago this month, on February 21, 1946.


During the early years of the Second World War, Finland was in the Winter War with the Soviet Union following the Soviet army’s invasion of Finland in 1939. The Winter War ended in 1940 but thereafter Finland found itself between a rock and a hard place between Germany and the Soviet Union, fearing both sides.

In 1944, President Risto Ryti entered into an agreement with Germany (known as the Ryti-Ribbentrop Agreement), which meant that Finland received weapons from Germany to use against the Soviet Union. In light of this agreement, Finland was described by Time Magazine on July 10, 1994, as being “Bewitched and Betrayed.” However, President Ryti himself declared that: “By signing this agreement I am preventing a military catastrophe and the occupation of our country, which would result in a terrible disaster for our nation.”

Shortly thereafter, President Ryti resigned for health reasons, and through a special act in Parliament, President Mannerheim replaced him. Both presidents and the Finnish Parliament determined that Finland was no longer bound by its agreement with Germany, as it had been concluded without the consent of the Parliament, and instead Mannerheim quickly sought peace with the Soviet Union.

On September 19, 1944, Finland entered an armistice agreement with the Soviet Union. The terms of the truce required that Finland take responsibility for continuing the war with the Soviet Union. (Art. 11.) As part of that agreement, the Finnish delegation also undertook to hold those responsible for the war accountable. Specifically article 13 provided that: “Finland undertakes to collaborate with the Allied powers in the apprehension of persons accused of war crimes and in their trial.” The Finnish Prime Minister Ernst von Born did not mention the war crimes in his radio address announcing the armistice, and the meaning of the clause was not immediately understood.

Adoption of the Law

Because Finnish law did not provide any basis for holding the former leaders responsible as required under the armistice agreement, the Finnish government proceeded to propose the adoption of a new retroactive law in Parliament. The government proposal (Regeringens Proposition (Prop.) till Riksdagen med förslag till lag om bestraffning av de krigsansvariga No. 54 1945) criminalized the former Finnish government’s actions with a prison sentence of up to eight years, hard labor, or life imprisonment if particularly gross.

Before becoming law, the proposal underwent review and was commented on by the Constitutional Law Committee, which objected to the fact that the law made behavior illegal retroactively. The Committee particularly noted that the meaning of article 13 of the armistice, requiring responsibility for war crimes, was not sufficiently clear, and that it was possible to argue that the law as drafted went beyond what was necessary with regards to Finland’s international obligations under the armistice. (Grundlagsutskottets betänkande N:o 40 med anledning av regeringens proposition med förslag till lag om bestraffning av de krigsansvariga samt tvenne lagmotioner angående samma sak.) Nevertheless the Committee did not oppose the bill outright, stating:

Nevertheless, as the government, which is in the best position to weigh all the relevant conditions,  has considered the proposed law necessary for fulfillment of the obligations in question article contained in the armistice, the Constitution Committee does not consider itself able to oppose the adoption of the bill, despite its content and exceptional character.

The Constitutional Committee had issued a report the previous year (1944) when arrests were made of individuals for their involvement in the war, and although several mistakes vis-a-vis the arrests were mentioned by the Committee, it did not deem them outright illegal, with reference to the obligations under the armistice. (Grundlagsutskottets betänkande N:o 161 med anledning av att till riksdagens kännedom bragts en förordning angående fängslande av vissa personer (1944).)

Although several members of Parliament made reservations against the law, it passed with 129 to 12 votes, and was signed into law on September 12, 1945.

The law provided that:

1 § Any member of the government, who made a decisive contribution to Finland’s accession to the war in 1941 on the side of Germany against the Soviet Union, or the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or during the course of the war prevented peace, may for abusing the position to the detriment of the state be sentence to imprisonment, hard labor, or life imprisonment.

What is stipulated in § 47 of the Constitution and § 7 of the Act of 25 November 1922 regarding manners for the parliament to review the legality of the members’ actions by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of Justice may not constitute an obstacle to sentencing a person who has been President or member of the Republic Prime Minister, for acts covered by para. 1.

The Finnish War Trials

The Finnish Prime Minister Juho Kusti Paasikivion, on November 6, 1945, declared that prosecution be brought under the Act on Punishment of Those Responsible for the War, against former Finnish government leaders. A special court was established: the War Guilt Tribunal. (2 §  Lagen om bestraffning av de krigsansvariga.) The Tribunal was made up of members of the Supreme Court, the Administrative Supreme Court, Faculty of the Helsinki Law School, and Members of the Finnish Parliament. Eight men were charged with the crime that became commonly known as “war guilt”:

The specific crimes that they were tried for included declaring war using Ryti’s emergency powers without first consulting the Finnish Parliament. The men were thus not tried for crimes against humanity, or international war crimes, but rather for making the war go on longer than necessary by signing the above-mentioned agreement with Germany. President Ryti in his defense claimed that the specific reason for not involving the Parliament was to be legally able to leave the agreement as soon as the weapons needed had been received.

The trial was initiated on November 15, 1945, and a final verdict was delivered on February 21, 1946. The Tribunal issued its original verdict on February 16, 1946, but the punishments were not deemed severe enough by the Control Commission (made up of representatives from the Soviet Union, United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland), and therefore rejected. Instead, on February 21, 1946, the court re-issued a conviction and all men were sentenced to imprisonment or forced labor. Listed below by the severity of the sentence:

  • Risto Ryti 10 years hard labor.
  • J.W. Rangell 6 years imprisonment.
  • Edwin Linkomies 5 years, 6 months imprisonment.
  • Väinö Tanner 5 years, 6 months imprisonment.
  • T.M. Kivimäki 5 years imprisonment
  • Henrik Ramsay 2 years, 6 months imprisonment.
  • Antti Kukkonen 2 years imprisonment.
  • Tyko Reinikka 2 years imprisonment.

The final Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Finland, was signed on February, 20, 1947, in Paris. None of the men sentenced as part of the War Guilt Trial served their full sentences, and former President Ryti was released from prison in 1949, after suffering severe deterioration of his health. The Act on Punishment of Those Responsible for the War  included a provision stating that the general rule on the Finnish President’s right to pardon convicts applied also to those convicted as guilty for the war. (7 § Lagen om bestraffning av de krigsansvariga.)

Post Trial

Members of Parliament have brought up the issue of rescinding the verdicts several times, including in 1992. In 2008, a descendant of Väinö Tanner asked the Finnish Supreme Court to rescind the verdicts, but the Court refused to hear or overturn the convictions, as it specifically lacked jurisdiction over the case. The case was also brought before the European Court of Human Rights, which found that no injury could be argued by the descendant.

In 2010, the Finnish Justice Ministry prepared a report titled Krigsansvarighetsprocessen (Sotasyyllisyysoikeudenkäynti) (Finska justitieministeriets rapport 22/2010), finding that the war trial procedure violated many of the principles of the rule of law, but stated that correcting those injustices would also require many other actions during the same time to be reviewed. Specifically, the Justice Ministry found that the Act on Punishment of Those Responsible for the War violated the prohibition on retroactivity in criminal law and the prohibition on temporary courts. In addition, the principle of presumption of innocence was not upheld during the trials, and the defendants were limited to how they could defend themselves. The Justice Ministry also found that the court was subject to foreign influence in how it should decide the case and several of the judges were clearly biased against the defendants. They also found that, in comparison to other sentences for war guilt crimes of the 1940s, those received by the Finnish leaders were less severe.

If you want to learn about recent legal developments in Finland, I encourage you to subscribe to our Global Legal Monitor articles on Finland.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Now Available on – The United States Statutes at Large from 1973-1994

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 02/19/2021 - 8:30am

As announced at the Virtual Public Forum, we are excited to bring you more full-text access to legislation in the form of the United States Statutes at Large. Twenty years of law texts, dating from 1973-1994, are now easy to access from Law texts can be accessed from lists like Public Laws 103rd Congress (1993-1994) and from “Text” tabs for bills that have become law, such as H.J.Res.390, “Designating September 17, 1994, as “Constitution Day,” which became Public Law No: 103-464.

The United States Statutes at Large from the 93rd to 103rd Congresses (1973-1994) are now available on 

Enhancement – Legislation – Public Law Text

  • Public law text has been added for 93rd – 103rd Congresses (1973-1994).

The addition of these public law texts, combined with our recent addition of back issues of the Bound Congressional Record, helps expand online access to historical legislative materials. Future phases of the Statutes at Large project will incorporate more historic law texts into, so stay tuned.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Courtney Kennedy, Herencia Crowdsourcing Intern

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 02/17/2021 - 10:30am

Courtney Kennedy, an intern working on transcribing the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign. [Photo provided by Courtney Kennedy]

Today’s interview is with Courtney Kennedy, an intern working on transcribing the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign at the Law Library of Congress

Describe your background:

I am originally from Texas. I moved to Norman, Oklahoma in 2012 for a doctoral program. I have a background in Modern Latin America, U.S. foreign policy, and the American West. I spent many summers conducting dissertation research in archives, special collections, and libraries in Mexico and the United States, including at the Library of Congress. I currently work at my university’s library reference desk, where I help patrons locate and connect with resources and services. In addition to the reference desk, I teach library instruction sessions to freshmen and local high school students on how to develop good research skills. The instruction sessions tend to be incredibly fun! My life revolves around research, writing, and teaching.

What is your academic/professional history?

I have a doctorate in Latin American history. I will earn a masters of library and information science degree in May 2021. 

How would you describe your job to other people?

My work with the Law Library is multifaceted. I review works that have already been transcribed to ensure that the transcriptions are accurate. I have started to transcribe documents, which requires attention to detail and patience. My research background is modern Mexico, so I started this internship with a basic understanding of colonial SpainHerencia has helped to expand my understanding of Spanish legal history. 

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

The Library of Congress provides accurate and unbiased information as the people’s library. Crowdsourcing campaigns such as By the People allow researchers from around the world to access fascinating documents. As a researcher and a future information professional, I value what the Library of Congress stands for and what it provides to members of Congress and to the public. 

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

I had no idea until I started this internship that the Law Library had documents in languages other than English that go back to the 17th and 18th centuries. In addition, for historians, especially graduate students, gaining access to quality digital resources is immensely helpful since research can be conducted from anywhere. 

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

I am an avid gardener. My favorite plants to grow are tomatoes, hot peppers, corn, okra, melons, spinach and kale, herbs  anything edible. It is very fulfilling to take tiny seeds, watch the plants grow, and make a meal from things you pulled out of your own garden. 

Categories: Research & Litigation

Celebrating Valentine’s Day: Law, Love, and Life in the Movies

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/16/2021 - 3:46pm

In celebration of Valentine’s Day this past weekend, I have once again polled my blog colleagues for some of their favorite movies involving love and the law. As I noted in our 2014 post on Valentine’s Day, we seem to be somewhat jaundiced on the subject of love so not all the stories are happy ones, but we hope you enjoy our take and let us know what your favorite movies are that involve love and the law.

Winchester Drive-In Theater sign, S. Western Avenue, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. John Margolies, photographer. 1993. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

One of my favorite books is the Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton which won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize. The novel was made into a 1993 movie by Martin Scorsese. The story is set in New York City in the early 1870s and it depicts a love triangle between the hero, Newland Archer, his finance May Welland, and her cousin, the Countess Ellen Olenska. The countess, Ellen, had married a dissolute Polish nobleman. Ellen fled, apparently with the help of her husband’s secretary, and eventually returned to her family in America, where she hoped to divorce her husband and start a new life. Divorce was legal in New York at this time but it was not common or socially acceptable among the upper classes of New York City – women were expected to endure unhappy marriages. Newland, who works as a lawyer, advises Ellen against pursuing a divorce because of allegations her husband could supposedly bring against her in court that would be embarrassing not just to her but to her New York family. Subsequently, Newland and Ellen fall in love but cannot marry because Ellen had decided to accept Newland’s advice and not pursue a divorce. Newland marries May, and after some twists and turns, Ellen returns to live in Europe, apart from her husband. The movie, and book, conclude with Newland and his son in Paris going to visit Ellen but although his son goes in to meet Ellen, Newland remains outside remembering the past.

Betty picked a movie she had recently watched by chance starring the handsome Cary Grant, Mr. Luck: (1943). In it, Cary Grant plays against type as a ne’er do well gambler and draft dodger – two crimes for the price of one! He and his pals decide to rip off a war-effort charity by holding a fundraising casino night. Only, of course, they plan to take most of the proceeds for themselves. Standing in his way is Laraine Day playing a society girl who works with the charity. Naturally, she initially distrusts Grant’s character and he, of course, is merely using her. But eventually love finds a way and Grant is redeemed on both fronts by returning the funds to the charity and becoming a merchant marine in the war effort.

Elin says that as a foreign law specialist for the Nordic countries, there may be only one love story movie starring the famous Scandinavian actress Ingrid Bergman that everyone expects her to know: Casablanca. Its status as a true American classic has been recognized by the Library of Congress: it was a national film registry inductee during the program’s inaugural year! The love story is told through flashbacks. Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and Rick (Humphrey Bogart) are lovers in Paris when, without any explanation, Ilsa leaves Rick just as they are about to flee Paris to escape the Nazis. It turns out that Ilsa has left to join her husband Victor Laszlo who was believed to have been killed. Then, Ilsa and Laslo, seemingly inevitably, cross paths with Rick again in a bar in Casablanca. Some call it the greatest love story of all times. But does it raise any legal questions? You better believe it.

The most obvious issue is the legality and transferability of a pair of exit visas that Ilsa and her husband need to leave Casablanca, currently held by Rick. Because law touches everything, there are also issues involving illegal gambling, liquor licenses, gun licenses, and police powers. But leaving aside the legal issues linked to Rick’s bar, Elin looks at the legal issues connected with Ilsa’s choices – to stay with Rick or leave Casablanca with her husband, Victor. Ilsa probably could get a visa to live with Rick in Casablanca, provided he married her. Ilsa and Rick could even return to Ilsa’s native Norway where, today, cohabiting partners can get resident visas without marrying. But in 1940, could Ilsa have gotten a divorce from Victor? It is apparent that she thought him dead when she started her affair with Rick. But absent a death certificate one cannot be declared a widow until seven years have passed under Norwegian law. Even if Ilsa wanted to stay with Rick, she knew the legalities were questionable at best. Until very recently, the Norwegian Ilsa would have had to give up her citizenship regardless of whether she chose to stay and become a citizen of Rick’s Morocco or leave with Victor for America, as Norway did not recognize dual citizenship until last year.

Robert initially offered the War of the Roses but we had to remind him that he had already discussed this in our previous Valentine’s Day post. Instead, this time he recommended The Paper Chase,which follows James Hart during his challenging first year of law school at Harvard. Robert thinks most people watch the Paper Chase to get a sense of what it is like to be a first year law student, watching Hart suffer through the torment of the Socratic method at the hands of black-hearted Professor Charles Kingsfield. In one memorable scene, Hart is so humiliated by Kingsfield that he runs to the bathroom and vomits. This plot often overshadows the romance in the film, when Hart begins dating a woman who is not only later revealed to be Prof. Kingsfield’s daughter, but also married (although she is separated from her husband in anticipation of a divorce).

Geraldine offers a movie with a more lighthearted take on the law school experience with Legally Blonde. It is the story of Elle Woods, a sorority sister and recent graduate from UCLA, who gains admission to Harvard Law School in pursuit of her old college boyfriend. Elle, deemed “too blonde,” proves everyone wrong by succeeding at law school, and in the process, finds love for herself and her true purpose. Her character arc is magnificent and the legal cases she works with, however crazy they may be, shows her clever nature. It’s a good lesson in how legal cases can be won with the most interesting knowledge, in this case; the length of time a perm should go without being washed helps to catch a criminal.

Nathan suggested The Reader, a 2008 film directed by Stephen Daldry, based on a novel of the same name by Bernard Schlinck. It is set in post-war Germany and it follows the story of a young German man, Michael Berg, who falls into an unusual love affair with an older woman named Hannah, in which a regular part of their encounters involved Michael reading books aloud to Hannah. After her sudden disappearance, he is haunted with loss and guilt at the thought he had driven her away. Later, as a law student, he encounters her again facing charges in a criminal trial. There he discovers to his horror that she is harboring a secret that could exonerate her, but because she finds the secret more shameful than the crimes of which she stands accused, she refuses to divulge it. In the end, Michael becomes a legal historian, but his life is marred by emotional numbness and insomnia. To overcome these ailments, he begins recording himself reading books, and sending the cassette tapes to Hannah in prison. The story is no cheerful romance, and the ending is powerful, but not happy, but Nathan loves the idea that a legal historian is a central character (however compromised) of a love story.

We will conclude this post with Anna’s contribution, which speaks to love but also the hardships endured in this country by African Americans for what seem very basic rights. Loving is a retelling of the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving, the interracial couple at the heart of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia. This blog has discussed Loving v. Virginia and the legal principles behind it previously. The movie begins with Mildred telling Richard that she is pregnant. Richard then purchases land in Caroline County, Virginia, near where the couple grew up, with plans to build a home for their growing family. The couple travels to Washington, D.C.,to get married because Virginia law in 1958 prohibited people of different races from marrying each other. After returning to Virginia, local law enforcement officers learn that the Lovings are living together as a married couple, storm their home in the middle of the night, and arrest them. After being charged with crimes under Virginia’s interracial marriage ban, the Lovings plead guilty and avoid incarceration by agreeing to leave Virginia for 25 years. The film shows how the criminal sentence completely altered the couple’s life and the pain experienced by being isolated from their families. It was not until 1963, when they were inspired by the March on Washington, that they sought the help of an attorney to lift their banishment. The movie ends with the Lovings returning to the property Richard had purchased in Caroline County after the Supreme Court unanimously overturns the conviction and holds that anti-miscegenation laws are unconstitutional. Loving is not a courtroom-based legal drama, but shows how the law can impact our everyday lives, for better or worse.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Teresa Kane, Herencia Crowdsourcing Intern

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 02/12/2021 - 11:00am

Teresa Kane, an intern working on transcribing the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign. [Photo provided by Teresa Kane]

Today’s interview is with Teresa Kane, an intern working on transcribing the Herencia: Centuries of Spanish Legal Documents crowdsourcing campaign at the Law Library of Congress

Describe your background.

I am currently a junior at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service, majoring in Culture and Politics. I took Spanish as my second language before passing the proficiency exam last year. I am originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, but I also spent part of my life in Maryland, so going to school here felt like coming home. In my free time, I like trying new restaurants with my friends and going to the National Mall on the weekends.

What is your academic/professional history?

Previously, I worked at the Georgetown Center for Social Justice as a coordinator for the After School Kids (ASK) Program. We worked with underprivileged youth from the D.C. area who strive to make a positive impact in their community by providing them with tutoring and mentoring services. I also served on CSJ’s Advisory Board for Student Organizations, supporting student leaders on campus with community-building initiatives and teaching financial responsibility. My concentration within the Culture and Politics major focuses on the relationship between politics and collective memory, and how it relates back to personal identity. I’ve taken classes on economics, political theory, anthropology, diplomacy, and immigration policy. My favorite class so far was my freshman year geography class where I got to learn about the relationship between politics and continental shelves.

How would you describe your job to other people?

As an Herencia intern, my job is to support the Library’s first crowdsourcing project on a collection that’s entirely non-English. On a day to day basis, I’m reviewing transcriptions completed by project volunteers and fellow interns, and completing some transcriptions of my own. The documents I review contain insights into the inner workings of the Spanish legal system, including disputes over jurisdiction between the Catholic church and state authorities. Through my position, I have been able to be a part of the amazing process of making this invaluable collection more accessible to the public while also learning more about legal culture from the 17th century.

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

I wanted to work at the Library because I thought this was an amazing opportunity to support the largest library in the entire world, and I’m personally very interested in political history. This opportunity combines all of my interests, and I believe that information should be accessible to everyone, which the Herencia campaign has accomplished by not only being a crowdsourcing project, but also by making this collection available online. The Library plays an incredibly important role in preserving information and sharing it, and I feel fortunate for the opportunity to be a part of that.

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

I was surprised to find out that the original Library was destroyed by the British in 1814. The Law Library was not a separate department at this point, and would not be until 1832. Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal collection of titles to Congress to help rebuild the Library, and that was approved the following year.

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

I took AP Calculus AB and AP Calculus BC in high school, and passed both of the exams, because I thought I would be a STEM major in college. Yet, here I am, at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service with a humanities-focused major, and I have not taken a single math class in three years.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Research Reports: Taxation of Cryptocurrency Block Rewards

Law Library of Congress: Research Reports - Wed, 02/10/2021 - 11:00am

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, Taxation of Cryptocurrency Block Rewards

This report surveys the tax treatment of new tokens obtained by cryptocurrency mining or staking, often known as “block rewards,” in 31 countries around the globe. It also addresses the tax implications of cryptocurrency tokens acquired through airdrops and hard forks (also referred to as a “chain split”) in various jurisdictions. This report complements a broader comparative study on regulatory approaches to cryptoassets, including the application of tax laws to cryptocurrency activities.

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

New Acquisition: 15th Century Manuscript of Johannes de Imola’s Commentary on the Decretales of Gregory IX

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 02/10/2021 - 9:58am

In a recent post on this blog, I announced the acquisition of an interesting 15th century manuscript of a work of canon law that recorded the Canons and Constitutions of the Archdiocese of Zaragoza, Spain. It was an exciting addition to the Law Library’s growing collection of medieval and early modern manuscript books. In this post, I want to announce another recent addition to the Law Library’s manuscripts collection that is also a work of canon law: an extremely rare manuscript of the Lectura of Johannes de Imola on the Decretales of Gregory IX.

Recently acquired 15th century manuscript of Johannes de Imola’s Lectura on the Decretales of Gregory IX. Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez.

The Decretales of Gregory IX, upon which the Lectura comments, occupies a central place in the history of the canon law of the Catholic Church. Compiled by Raymond of Peñafort, a professor of canon law in Barcelona, Spain and Bologna, Italy, the Decretales — also known as the Liber extravantium decretalium — was a synthesis of the numerous and sometimes contradictory papal orders that were not brought together in the earlier authoritative work of canon law, Gratian’s Decretum of ca. 1150. Raymond of Peñafort completed his work in 1234 and it remained a principal source of law from that time until 1917, when the Catholic Church adopted a new code of canon law.

St. James seated on a throne, with four men before him at prayer. Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez.

Johannes de Imola’s commentary on the Decretales of Gregory IX is one of many commentaries on that work that circulated in the late Middle Ages. Johannes de Imola was a doctor of “both laws,” an expression referring to the two branches of the learned law – civil law and canon law. He taught in a variety of universities in Italy, although principally in Padua and in Bologna where he originally obtained his doctorate in 1397. He died in Bologna in 1436. In his lifetime, he wrote a number of commentaries and produced collections of repetitiones (detailed studies of individual laws) and consilia (learned responses to requests for expert legal opinion). His commentary on Decretales of Gregory IX, like the work it commented on, is divided into five sections, each broken into two parts. Medieval manuscript cataloger Laura Light‘s description of this manuscript, which informs this post, notes that it contains commentary on the second part of the Decretales which covers judicial procedure. A note on folio 333 indicates that Johannes de Imola completed this part of the commentary on June 26, 1425. The manuscript is one of only three known manuscripts copies of the text, and although it appeared in early print editions, no modern critical edition of the text yet exits.

Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez.

An illustrated manuscript on paper, the codex’s dimensions are 424 x 287 mm. It is in an 18th century mottled calf binding and is adorned with hundreds of painted initials, including 18 large illustrated initials; many marginal annotations; and simple doodled drawings throughout, indicating use by several generations of students. A large illustration appears on the first page of text, depicting the seated figure of St. James on a throne. At his feet are four men at prayer. He holds a book in one hand, and a walking staff in the other, surmounted by a pilgrim‘s cap. St. James is the patron saint of pilgrims. The figure of a pilgrim appears in the initial below.

Categories: Research & Litigation

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

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/09/2021 - 8:30am

The following is a guest post by Clare Feikert-Ahalt, a senior foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress covering the United Kingdom and several other jurisdictions. Clare has written numerous posts for In Custodia Legis, including Weird Laws, or Urban Legends?FALQs: Brexit Referendum; and The UK’s Legal Response to the London Bombings of 7/7.

In early December 2020, rising cases of COVID, new lockdowns, and BREXIT trade talks that went down to the wire were briefly displaced from the headlines after the High Court of England and Wales published a judgment in the case of Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. This case involved an application for judicial review into the practice of the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), provided through the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust. GIDS prescribed gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa, hereinafter puberty blocking drugs) to suppress puberty in patients referred to GIDS aged between 10-18 years old who were experiencing gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is described by the National Health Service (NHS) as “a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.”

The High Court ruled that patients under the age of 16 years old were unlikely to be able to understand, retain and give weight to several criteria required for them to provide informed consent to receive puberty-blocking drugs. The result of the ruling, if it is upheld on appeal, means that it will be difficult for patients under the age of 16 to demonstrate they understand the long-term effects of puberty blockers and give their informed consent, and that a court order will be needed for these patients to proceed with this type of treatment.

The Claimants

The judicial review was brought by two claimants. The first, assigned female at birth, was initially prescribed drugs to block puberty at age 15 and then received cross-sex hormones to promote the development of male characteristics and later underwent a double mastectomy before regretting undergoing treatment and facing difficulties transitioning back. The second claimant is the mother of a 15-year-old who was concerned that her child would be referred to GIDS and be prescribed puberty blocking drugs. Both claimants argued that it was unlawful to prescribe puberty-blocking drugs to patients under the age of 18 years as they lacked competence to give valid consent to the treatment and that the information provided by GIDS regarding the treatment was misleading and insufficient to enable informed consent to be given. The case thus involved considering the legal issues of the policy and practice of GIDS in prescribing puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones, notably whether patients under the age of 18 can lawfully give consent to medical treatment, rather than the treatments themselves.

GIDS Procedure for the use of Puberty Blockers

GIDS accepts referrals from clinicians across England and Wales and, at the time the case was heard, due to significant increases in the number of cases referred, had a lengthy wait time of approximately 22-26 months for the first appointment from the date of the referral. Once the first appointment is made, GIDS stated a further three to six sessions are scheduled over a six-month period, with more sessions being typical for younger people. (Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, ¶ 17.)

Puberty blockers were prescribed to GIDS patients under 16 to help provide the patient with “time to think” before proceeding with cross-sex hormone treatment. Due to the nature of treatment with puberty blockers, GIDS has stated that parental consent alone is insufficient and that puberty blockers are not administered without the patient’s consent. In order for the patient’s consent to be valid, the patient must be determined by the clinicians at GIDS to be competent in accordance with the principles set out in the Gillick case, known as Gillick competence. (Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, ¶ 47.)

Gillick Competence

Gillick competence provides that a child who has achieved a sufficient degree of understanding and intelligence regarding any treatment they are about to undergo may be considered competent and capable of providing valid consent to this treatment. The level of competence varies according to the seriousness of treatment and “reflects the staged development of a normal child and the progressive transition of the adolescent from childhood to adulthood.” When a child reaches the age of 16, provided they are mentally competent, there is a statutory presumption contained in section 8 of the Family Law Reform Act 1969 that they are considered to be sui juris and capable of consenting to treatment themselves.

GIDS considered that using Gillick competence was appropriate and that any court intervention into treatment “would be an intrusion into the child or young person’s autonomy.” It also expressed concern about the resources of both the NHS and the courts if such an approach were adopted. (Bell v Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, ¶ 149.)

Prior to prescribing puberty-blocking drugs, GIDS provided patients and their parents with information and discussed the implications of taking puberty blockers in order to enable the patient to provide informed consent to the treatment. The clinicians provide the patient seeking treatment and their parents a variety of information, including a section on informed consent that includes the statement that “[t]he consequences of treatment decisions can be significant and life-changing,” and that:

All efforts will be made to ensure that clients are aware of the longer term consequences of the endocrine treatments, including implications for fertility, and the decision of the competence of the client will be jointly made by the endocrine and psychological members of the Service’s integrated team. The current context of treatment decisions about cross sex hormones in adolescence is that there is limited scientific evidence for the long-term benefits versus the potential harms of the intervention. There are also concerns that it is uncertain whether or not a young person will continue to identify as transgender in the future, given that some subsequently identify in a different way.

While providing age appropriate information about puberty blockers to patients, GIDS did not require the patient, at the time of being prescribed puberty blockers, to show understanding over the implications of taking cross-sex hormones, which was the typical course of treatment that followed after puberty blockers were prescribed and taken. GIDS thus treated the consent to prescribe puberty blockers as separate from the consent required for the referral to GIDS, but separate from the prescription of cross-sex hormones. (Id. ¶¶ 56-58.)

When the court asked GIDS for statistics on patients under the age of 16 who it had determined were suitable to be prescribed puberty blockers but were not due to the patient not being Gillick competent to make the decision, GIDS did not have any information, noting that most patients referred were prescribed with puberty blocking drugs. (Id. ¶ 44.) The court determined that the approach GIDS had adopted was to provide the patient with more information and discussions until the patient was considered to be Gillick competent or was discharged from GIDS.

The Judgment

In considering the issues presented, the court stated that, other than life saving treatment, “there will be no more profound medical decisions for children than whether to start on this treatment pathway”. (Id. ¶ 149.) It noted that GIDS required the patient to show Gillick competence over puberty blockers, which is considered to be stage 1 of the treatment, but it did not require the patient to be Gillick competent over stage 2 of the treatment, which is inherently intertwined with stage 1 and involves taking cross-sex hormones. Taking cross-sex hormones causes “irreversible changes to the child’s body with lifelong medical, psychological and emotional implications for the child.” (Id. ¶ 93.) GIDS considered both stages to be “entirely separate” as the patient could stop taking puberty blockers in stage 1 at any time and the process is fully reversible at this point. (Id. ¶ 136.)

The Court ruled that having Gillick competence for puberty blockers alone “does not reflect the reality,” as the evidence presented shows that the majority of children prescribed puberty blockers continued on to stage 2 and were subsequently prescribed cross-sex hormones, thus “Stages 1 and 2 are two stages of one clinical pathway and once on that pathway it is extremely rare for a child to get off it.” (Id. ¶ 136.)

The Court further rejected the approach taken by GIDS that puberty blockers provided the patient with “time to think,” noting that while the drugs prevent the patient from going through puberty:

the use of puberty blockers is not itself a neutral process by which time stands still for the child on [puberty blockers], whether physically or psychologically. Puberty blockers prevent the child going through puberty in the normal biological process. As a minimum it seems to us that this means that the child is not undergoing the physical and consequential psychological changes which would contribute to the understanding of a persons identity. There is an argument that for some children at least, this may confirm the child’s chosen gender identity at the time they begin the use of puberty blockers and to that extent, confirm their [gender dysphoria] and increase the likelihood of some children moving on to cross-sex hormones. Indeed, the statistical correlation between the use of puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones supports the case that it is appropriate to view [puberty blocker]s as a stepping stone to cross-sex hormones. (Id. ¶ 137.)

As a result of the evidence considered, the Court determined that, in order for a child to be Gillick competent, they need to understand not just the implications of taking puberty blockers, but also those of taking cross-sex hormones. (Id. ¶ 138.) The Court ruled that it did not believe that the answer to this case is simply to give the child more, and more detailed, information. The issue in the Court’s view is that, in many cases, however much information the child is given as to long-term consequences, s/he will not be able to weigh up the implications of the treatment to a sufficient degree. There is no age appropriate way to explain to many of these children what losing their fertility or full sexual function may mean to them in later years. (Id. ¶ 144.)

The Court held that, in order to give valid consent to medical treatment, the child must not only understand, but be able to retain and weigh the following criteria:

  • (i) the immediate consequences of the treatment in physical and psychological terms;
  • (ii) the fact that the vast majority of patients taking PBs [puberty-blocking drugs] go on to CSH [cross-sex hormones] and therefore that s/he is on a pathway to much greater medical interventions;
  • (iii) the relationship between taking CSH and subsequent surgery, with the implications of such surgery;
  • (iv) the fact that CSH may well lead to a loss of fertility;
  • (v) the impact of CSH on sexual function;
  • (vi) the impact that taking this step on this treatment pathway may have on future and life-long relationships;
  • (vii)the unknown physical consequences of taking PBs; and
  • (vii) the fact that the evidence base for this treatment is as yet highly uncertain. (Id. ¶ 138.)

The Court did not consider that providing information and discussing it was sufficient to achieve Gillick competency. (Id. ¶ 150.) It ruled it would be difficult for children under the age of 16 to fully understand and balance the information needed to provide informed consent and that “it is highly unlikely that a child aged 13 or under would ever be Gillick competent to give consent to being treated with [puberty blockers].” (Id. ¶ 145.) The court further ruled that it was doubtful that children aged 14 or 15 could understand and weigh all the criteria to “have sufficient understanding to give consent,” although it noted “the increased maturity of the child means that there is more possibility of achieving competence at the older age.” (Id.)

For children aged 16-18, while the Court has inherent jurisdiction to protect children if it considers the treatment is not in their best interests, it considered that, as long as the child has sufficient mental capacity and the clinician considers the treatment in the child’s best interests, baring a dispute from the parents, the Court will typically have no role in this matter. (Id. ¶ 146.) The Court did note that clinicians who are uncertain as to whether the treatment is in the long-term best interests of a 16-17 year old may wish to involve the Court. (Id.)

The Court considered that the life-changing long-term impact of the treatments and the innovative and experimental nature of the treatments mean that clinicians prescribing such treatment should consider obtaining court authorization prior to starting any treatment in under 16s with drugs prescribed for the purposes of blocking puberty:

There is a real benefit in the court, almost certainly with a child’s guardian appointed, having oversight over the decision. In any case, under the inherent jurisdiction concerning medical treatment for those under the age of 18, there is likely to be a conflict between the support of autonomy and the protective role of the court. As we have explained above, we consider this treatment to be one where the protective role of the court is appropriate. (Id. ¶ 149.)

Result of the Ruling

The Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust sought permission to appeal the order on December 22, 2020, and the Court announced that there will be a stay on the implementation of its judgment until any appeals are determined.

The judgment applies to all treatment involving puberty blockers for those under the age of 16, regardless of whether the provider is an NHS trust or private clinic. As a result of the ruling, the NHS has updated its Service Specifications for GIDS with the statement that, until it has “more clarity,” no new referrals will be accepted for its services for patients under the age of 16 without a “best interests order” issued from the court. The NHS is continuing to following the treatment plan for existing patients with puberty blockers, and it has stated that it will do so “unless patient and their clinician decides to withdraw from puberty blockers or if a court decides it is not in an individual’s best interests.”

GIDS is working with the Royal Colleges and other experts to design a clinical review process that would start in January 2021, which“will provide the basis for making best interest applications to the Courts in cases where it is recommended that treatment should continue.” It has stated that it will not stop prescribing the medication unless, upon application to the court, the court determines it is not in the patient’s best interests to continue. While it will undertake clinical reviews of 16- and 17-year-old individuals, it has stated that it will only make a best interests application in these cases if there is any doubt about the patient’s best interests.

The NHS is continuing to undertake a wide-ranging review into the gender identity services it provides for young people, which was announced in September 2020, prior to the publication of the ruling.


Categories: Research & Litigation

Legal Research Reports: Most Viewed Reports of the Decade

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 02/08/2021 - 11:00am

The Law Library of Congress’ Global Legal Research Directorate specializes in U.S. and foreign law, producing legal research reports that explain how countries around the world approach the regulation of particular topics. In the past decade, the Law Library of Congress has published dozens of reports. Millions of views later, we are recapping our most popular reports of these past 10 years. Here are our top-ten most viewed reports in this past decade with their summaries:

10. Points-Based Immigration: Canada (January 2020)

In 2015, Canada introduced the Express Entry as a system that manages applications for three economic immigration programs the Federal Skilled Worker Program, Federal Skilled Trades Program, and Canadian Experience Class. The Express Entry application management system is governed under Ministerial Instructions. The system manages applications for permanent residence through a two-step process: First, the system assesses whether the applicant is eligible for any of the three programs and those that are placed in the Express Entry pool are assigned a Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score based on the information in their profile by looking at factors such as education, language ability, and work experience. Invitations for permanent residence are sent to the candidates with the highest scores in the pool. The points an applicant gets from the CRS have two components—a core set of points up to 600 based on factors such as skills and experience and a set of additional points up to 600 based on factors such as a valid job offer—with a total score out of 1,200 points. The CRS score is dynamic depending upon updates to the profile.

9. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: Canada (February 2013)

The control of firearms in Canada is predominantly governed by the Firearms Act, the Criminal Code, and their subordinate regulations. The Criminal Code defines the main categories of firearms, which include restricted, prohibited, and non-restricted firearms. The Firearms Act regulates the possession, transport, and storage of firearms.

Canadian law has both licensing and registration requirements for the possession and acquisition of firearms. These requirements are administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) through the Canadian Firearms Program (CFP).

8. Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: South Africa (February 2013)

South Africa’s current firearms regulatory framework consists of the Firearms Control Act (FCA) and its subsidiary legislation, which has been in place since 2004. This framework imposes strict substantive and procedural requirements for obtaining a competency certificate, license, permit, or authorization to possess a firearm, to deal in firearms, or to carry out other firearm-related activities, including running a firearms-training enterprise or a hunting business.

7. Prohibition of Interfaith Marriage (September 2015)

This report provides information on the laws of 29 countries, plus the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, that prohibit marriages between people of two different religions. In the majority of the countries identified for this report, the prohibition of interfaith marriage arises from the implementation of Islamic personal status laws, either in codified or uncodified form, with respect to marriages involving Muslims. These countries either do not have separate civil marriage laws or do not allow Muslim individuals to marry under such laws.

6. Sentencing Guidelines: South Africa (April 2014)

In South Africa, sentencing is considered the primary prerogative of trial courts and they enjoy wide discretion to determine the type and severity of a sentence on a case-by-case basis. In doing so, they follow judge-made, broad sentencing principles known as the “triad of Zinn,” which require that, when making sentencing determinations, judges consider three things: the gravity of the offense, the circumstances of the offender, and public interest.

5. War Powers: United States (

This guide is intended to serve as an introduction to research on the War Powers Resolution, Public Law 93-148, 87 Stat. 555, passed over President Nixon’s veto on November 7, 1973. The War Powers Resolution is sometimes referred to as the War Powers Act, its title in the version passed by the Senate. This Joint Resolution is codified in the United States Code (“USC”) in Title 50, Chapter 33, Sections 1541-48.

4. United States: Gun Ownership and the Supreme Court (July 2008)

On June 26, 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller (PDF), the United States Supreme Court issued its first decision since 1939 interpreting the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court ruled that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution confers an individual right to possess a firearm for traditionally lawful purposes such as self-defense. It also ruled that two District of Columbia provisions, one that banned handguns and one that required lawful firearms in the home to be disassembled or trigger-locked, violate this right.

The Second Amendment, one of the ten amendments to the Constitution comprising the Bill of Rights, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” The meaning of this sentence is not self-evident, and has given rise to much commentary but relatively few Supreme Court decisions.

3. Regulation of Cryptocurrency Around the World (June 2018)

This report surveys the legal and policy landscape surrounding cryptocurrencies around the world. This report covers 130 countries as well as some regional organizations that have issued laws or policies on the subject. The four years prior to this report saw cryptocurrencies become ubiquitous, prompting more national and regional authorities to grapple with their regulation. The expansive growth of cryptocurrencies made it possible to identify emerging patterns.

Since this report was published, many countries have further developed their regulatory systems with respect to cryptocurrency. Some of these developments were discussed in a further report by the Law Library: Regulatory Approaches to Cryptoassets (April 2019), which covered 46 jurisdictions.

2. Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms: United States (March 2014)

GMOs are regulated in the United States under the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, published in 1986, pursuant to previously existing statutory authority regulating conventional products, with a focus on the nature of the products rather than the process in which they are produced.

Plant GMOs are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service under the Plant Protection Act. GMOs in food, drugs, and biological products are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Public Health Service Act. GMO pesticides and microorganisms are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency pursuant to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act. The form of regulation varies depending on the type of GMO involved.

1. Right to Peaceful Assembly: United States (October 2014)

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the United States Congress from enacting legislation that would abridge the right of the people to assemble peaceably. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution makes this prohibition applicable to state governments.

The Supreme Court of the United States has held that the First Amendment protects the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly. The right to assemble is not, however, absolute.  Government officials cannot simply prohibit a public assembly in their own discretion, but the government can impose restrictions on the time, place, and manner of peaceful assembly, provided that constitutional safeguards are met. Time, place, and manner restrictions are permissible so long as they “are justified without reference to the content of the regulated speech, . . . are narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and . . . leave open ample alternative channels for communication of the information.” Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 491 U.S. 781, 791 (1989) (quoting Clark v. Cmty. For Creative Non-Violence, 468 U.S. 288, 293 (1984)) (internal citations omitted), available at

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Committee Email Alerts on New, Tip, and Top for February 2021

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 02/05/2021 - 12:23pm

In the January release, the team brought you an enhancement to speed the loading of large bill texts as plain-text and new fields to search for amendments.

This month, we are bringing you alerts for committee profile pages.

Alerts are now available from Committee Profile pages on

After you click “Get alerts” on a committee profile page, you can choose to customize your committee profile page alerts with several options. For example, if you only wanted to receive an alert when a new report is added to for this committee, you could just check “committee reports” and leave everything else unchecked.

You can customize your alerts on Committee Profile Pages on


New – Committee Alerts

  • Login to your account to subscribe to a committee alert from any committee profile page.
  • Receive an email whenever a measure or communication is referred to the committee and when the committee holds a hearing or publishes a report or print. Senate committee alerts also are sent when a nomination is referred to the committee.
  • Choose which committee activity to be notified about from the alert confirmation window.
  • Manage your committee alerts from your account page.

Search Tip
Do you need help using Try the Help Center, which is now searchable. You can also contact us through Ask-a-Librarian.

Most-Viewed Bills
These are the most-viewed bills for the week of January 31, 2021:

1. H.R.127 [117th] To provide for the licensing of firearm and ammunition possession and the registration of firearms, and to prohibit the possession of certain ammunition. 2. H.R.5717 [116th] Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act of 2020 3. H.R.1 [117th] For the People Act of 2021 4. H.R.1 [116th] For the People Act of 2019 5. H.R.133 [116th] Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 6. H.Res.57 [117th] Impeaching Joseph R. Biden, President of the United States, for abuse of power by enabling bribery and other high crimes and misdemeanors. 7. H.R.350 [117th] To authorize dedicated domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to analyze and monitor domestic terrorist activity and require the Federal Government to take steps to prevent domestic terrorism. 8. H.R.6395 [116th] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 9. H.Res.24 [117th] Impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors. 10. H.R.748 [116th] CARES Act
Categories: Research & Litigation

On this Day: Gro Harlem Brundtland Becomes First Female Prime Minister in Norway

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 02/04/2021 - 4:18pm

Forty years ago today, on February 4, 1981, Gro Harlem Brundtland became Norway’s first female prime minister (PM). Erna Solberg, Norway’s current PM , became the second woman to serve as PM when she was elected to this role following the 2013 national election.

Norwegian Women’s Suffrage

2019 marked the centennial of women’s suffrage in the United States. I wanted to take today as an opportunity to summarize the history of women’s voting rights in Norway. The history of women’s suffrage in Norway (kvinnestemmeretten) dates back to the creation of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814. The proposed Constitution of 1814 did not on its face say that women could not vote, in fact it only stated that any Norwegian citizen (Norsk borger) could vote. However, at that time women had not yet voted in any national or regional election in Norway, and Norway joined a union with Sweden before a national election took place and before the meaning of the term could be interpreted.

Male universal suffrage was achieved in 1898 when all Norwegian male citizens who had attained the age of 25 years gained the right to vote. During the discussion on issue of equal male voting rights, several members of parliament also discussed the issue of women’s right to vote. Specifically, representatives Ullman and Thomesen presented parliament with a proposal, Indst. XIV 1890, which proposed a right to vote for women. The proposal was voted down 77 to 44. The right of women to vote in Parliament was not attained until 1907, after Norway had formally left its union with Sweden in 1905. A few years earlier, in 1901, some women, subject to age and income requirements, were allowed to vote in municipal elections. The right to vote in parliamentary elections was granted as a result of a vote in Parliament, 96 against 25, on June 14, 1907. However, women were only granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections, if they had the same right at the municipal level. On June 11, 1913, in a vote to amend the Constitution, Norwegian women gained the same right to vote as men, after having first gained universal suffrage at the municipal level in 1910. The vote in Parliament was unanimous.

The first woman to serve in the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) was Anna Rogstad, who served as a substitute member of parliament for Jens Bratile (Høyre). Ten years later, in 1921, Karen Platou was elected as an ordinary member of parliament. Currently, there are 74 women out of 169 MPs (43.7%) in the Norwegian Parliament.


Today, article 50 of the Norwegian Constitution provides: “Those entitled to vote in elections to the Storting are Norwegian citizens, men and women, who, at the latest in the year when the election is held, have completed their eighteenth year.”

Parliamentary Elections

The most recent parliamentary election was in 2017. Because Norway has a total of nine parties presently represented in parliament, the PM governs with the support of other parties. Erna Solberg’s Høyre party was the second largest party in Parliament following the 2017 election, but she gathered the largest coalition support and currently governs with the support of Fremskrittspartiet and Venstre.

The next parliamentary election is scheduled for September 13, 2021. By law the election must take place in September every four years. (Article 54 of the Norwegian Constitution.) In 2020, the Election Law Commission of the Norwegian parliament recommended an amendment to the Constitution that would allow them to change the date under very special circumstances, such as natural catastrophes or when there was a danger to the health of the voters.


Byste av Gro Harlem Brundtland laget av Kirsten Kokkin [Bust of Gro Harlem Brundtland by Kirsten Kokkin], photo by Flickr user Arbeiderpartiet (Feb. 27, 2012). Used under Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Brundtland became prime minister as a result of being the vice chairperson of the Labour party (Arbeiderpartiet). The sitting prime minister, Odvar Nordli, stepped down cue to health concerns on February 4, 1981, and Brundtland assumed the post. In addition to being the first woman to assume the role of PM, she was also the youngest person in Norway to assume the post at 41 years old.

Along with her party, Brundtland, lost power in the parliamentary election of September, 1981. However, in the election in 1986 her party won and she was confirmed PM again, serving until Ocotber 16, 1989. Her third and final term was from November 3, 1990, to October 25, 1996. Not counting consecutive but total years served as PM, Gro Harlem Brundtland currently ranks as the third longest-serving PM of Norway with 10 years, 1 month and 9 days in office. Prior to becoming PM Brundtland was a physician, and following her time as PM Brundtland served as director-general of the World Health Organisation.

After leaving office, Brundtland also authored several books that are part of the Library of Congress collection:

A selection of In Custodia Legis blog posts on female suffrage around the globe

Additional In Custodia Legis blog posts on voting rights and suffrage can be found here



Categories: Research & Litigation

Charles Evans Hughes: The Supreme Court Justice Who Resigned to Run for President

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 02/03/2021 - 8:30am

The following is a guest post by Sarah McKenna, an intern with the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress. She is a current student of the University of Maryland’s MLIS program.

It is very uncommon to leave a job in the federal judiciary to seek elected office. While several presidents were once part of the legislative branch, there are only a few who served on the judicial branch at some point during their career. One of the most well known examples of such crossover is William Howard Taft. Taft was elected president of the United States in 1908 and was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court in 1921. But before Chief Justice Taft joined the Court, there was a Supreme Court justice who came very close to being elected president: Charles Evans Hughes. As one of the few justices to leave the Court to run for office, Hughes’ 1916 campaign was a unique event.

Charles E. Hughes, Republican candidate for president. Photograph. 1916. Harris & Ewing. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, // 

Following his time as an attorney, Hughes began his political career as the governor of New York. In the spring of 1910, President Taft nominated Hughes to the U.S. Supreme Court as an associate justice. In less than six years, Justice Hughes authored over 150 opinions on the Court. By the Spring of 1916, rumors were published in newspapers that Hughes was on the verge of running for the presidency against President Woodrow Wilson. The rumors turned out to be true: the Republican Party nominated Hughes for the ticket that June. Since he was not attending the Republican National Convention in Chicago, Justice Hughes initially accepted the nomination via telegram:

I have not desired the nomination. I have wished to remain on the bench. But in this critical period of our national history I recognize that it is your right to summon and that it is my paramount duty to respond…I cannot fail to answer with the pledge of all that is in me to the service of our country. Therefore I accept the nomination.

With his nomination in hand, Justice Hughes stepped down from the Supreme Court and spent the summer and fall of 1916 on the campaign trail.

The year 1916 proved to be the “critical period” that Hughes referenced in his acceptance which, in turn, led him to touch on two specific political events during his campaign. During a speech in New York on August 1, Hughes heavily focused on the nation’s current relations with Mexico. In March 1916, Mexican Army General Francisco Villa attacked the small town of Columbus, New Mexico, killing dozens of U.S. civilians and soldiers. Following the attack, President Wilson kick-started the Mexican Expedition by sending General John Pershing and U.S. troops to search for Villa. According to an article published by the National Archives and Records Administration in 1997, by the time Hughes was nominated for the Republican presidential ticket, “tensions between the United States and Mexico were at a breaking point” and the two countries were on the brink of another war. In his August speech, Hughes appeared to be against the Wilson administration’s actions with the expedition, declaring that “we have not helped Mexico. She lies prostrate, impoverished, famine-stricken…we have made enemies, not friends.” Instead, Hughes called for “peace, stability and prosperity.”

In addition to foreign relations, Hughes also appeared to support the suffrage movement. Although there are not very many sources available to analyze Hughes’ views on suffrage, he advocated for a constitutional amendment to provide women the right to vote. In one such telegram message, Hughes stated that “it [is] most desirable that the question of women’s suffrage be settled…the proposed amendment should be submitted, ratified…” Alice Paul applauded Hughes’s support and urged women to acknowledge that this “only leaves the Democratic party in the unenviable position of opposing the enfranchisement of American women.” As a result of his stance, suffragettes attended parades and rallies to encourage men to vote for Hughes.

In the following months, Hughes and his wife, Antoinette, traveled across the country gaining the support of voters and state governors. Between early August and mid-September, the Hugheses planned to travel to several cities across the country, such as Detroit, Fargo, Seattle, San Francisco, Kansas City, and New York City. Despite the onerous journey in such a short period of time, Charles Evans Hughes was engaging with his supporters. In newsreel footage of a campaign speech in Duquesne, PA, on September 27, 1916, Hughes is seen enthusiastically speaking and gesturing to the large crowd of supporters.

Despite the widespread support from many voters and state governors around the United States, Hughes lost the 1916 election to President Wilson. The race was close and many newspapers across the nation printed differing results in the days following the election: one day Hughes was ahead, and the next, Wilson was declared the winner. Today, historians believe that California was the deciding state; Wilson earned just over 3,000 more votes than Hughes to win California’s electoral votes. If Hughes had won California instead, many believed he could have been elected president of the United States.

But Charles Evans Hughes was not done with the federal government. After losing the 1916 election, he returned to private practice in New York. Five years later, in 1921, President Warren G. Harding appointed Hughes as Secretary of State; he served in this position until 1922. Hughes finally rounded out his career when President Herbert Hoover re-nominated him to the Supreme Court as chief justice in 1930 to replace William Howard Taft. Hughes finally retired from the Supreme Court in 1941, twenty-five years after his initial resignation.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Iana Fremer, Legal Research Analyst

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 02/02/2021 - 8:30am

Today’s interview is with Iana Fremer, a legal research analyst at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background

Iana Fremer, a legal research analyst. Photo courtesy of Iana Fremer.

I am from Tbilisi, Georgia (not to be confused with the State of Georgia), one of the oldest countries in the world. Georgia is located between the Black and Caspian seas, and known for being the cradle of wine, part of the Silk Road, and blessed with nine climatic zones with matching flora and fauna, which must be the secret of the unique and famous Georgian cuisine.

What is your academic/professional history?

I received my education in Georgia. I hold a master’s degree in Russian Language and Literature from Tbilisi State University. I have also pursued a doctoral degree in neurolinguistics. I received a master’s degree in journalism and media management from the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management, Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, and have multiple professional certificates from different educational institutions including the most recent one, on business communication from Georgetown University. Notably, my formal education was always led in parallel with my professional activities. It appears that that my professional life was influenced by major events: the collapse of the Soviet Union, formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, civil wars, economic hardships, fights against corruption and organized crime, foreign invasion, and wars in Georgia and the entire Eurasian region. I have literally lived through “interesting times.”

I joined the Law Library with more than 20 years of experience in journalism, media management, communication, and policy analysis. In the past 22 years, I have worked as a legislative reporter and producer of live analytical and political talk shows. I pioneered legislation on Georgian Public Broadcasting in collaboration with the Legal Issues Committee of the Georgian Parliament, co-founded the first independent regional Russian language TV channel, PIK –TV, and authored multiple programs about politics, economy, security, legal reforms, state building, and the cultural heritage of the Eurasian region. After relocating to the U.S. in 2011, I established and led the Washington bureau of PIK –TV. In the following years, I joined the General Dynamics Corporation where I managed the production of multimedia enhanced digital publications on legal and political developments in Central Asia.

In the modern globalized and interconnected world, many professions have become interlinked. I was eager to switch from journalism, and to contribute my knowledge and experience of Eurasian and Eastern European affairs to the legal field. The Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress proved to be such a dream work place for me, and I greatly appreciate this unique opportunity.

How do you describe your job to other people?

I contribute to legal research projects, reports, Global Legal Monitor articles, presentations, and the writing of bibliographies of legal materials covering 30 jurisdictions in Eurasia and Eastern Europe, which are still in various degrees of legal transition. Understanding the nature of transition requires a multidisciplinary approach, which demands what I would call a “linguo-cultural-historic forensics with legalistic approach.” This approach applies to almost all legal and legislative reference services. I provide research services for educationally and culturally diverse requesters, including members of Congress, the judiciary, government agencies, scholars, academics, the bar, the press, and the general public.

Obtaining accurate information is not always a straightforward exercise, and in order to locate relevant materials in the immense collection of the Library of Congress, I often employ different strategies and search methods. Knowledge of historical context or current political dynamics helps to provide answers to posed questions. National variations with legal terminology creates an additional challenge for me when I need to work with legal texts in the vernacular languages; however, the reliance on official documents allows me to conduct exhaustive research, learn, understand, and explain to Library users the rationale behind certain foreign legal decisions.

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

According to Lady Margaret Thatcher, the U.S. is a product of philosophy. If this is the case, then the Library of Congress is the kernel of that philosophical wisdom. People often conflate the library with a soulless depository of information. In actuality, however, it is a vibrant and agile institution, which is much more than just a great collection of books or a place dedicated to academic research. The Library of Congress is very much a combination of the institutional memory fused with the brainpower of institutions that create a future of this country. It is a great honor and privilege to work with such a diverse, capable and illustrious team of professionals with vast combined experience, who produce impeccable work individually as well as a unit.

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

I discovered that the Library is the largest cultural institution in the nation and its collection in different formats extends to all corners of our planet, historic periods, and fields of knowledge.

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

Being from a family of art collectors and art admirers, I was never a stranger to museums or art galleries. However, nowadays I am more interested in the aesthetic of spaces. Together with theater and good coffee, interior décor has become one of my passions.


Categories: Research & Litigation

The Home of George Watterston, the Third Librarian of Congress – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 01/29/2021 - 8:30am

I have walked by this building many times, but did not realize until recently that it has a special connection to the Library of Congress. This was the home of the third Librarian of Congress, George Watterston. Watterston presided over the Library during a significant period in its history. Appointed by President Madison in 1815 as Librarian after the British burned the Capitol (which then housed the Library of Congress), Watterston became the first Librarian who did not also have the duty of serving as Clerk of the House of Representatives. It was after the destruction of the Library during the War of 1812 that Congress purchased the Library owned by President Thomas Jefferson, and it fell to Watterson to receive and create a catalog for it.

The George Watterston House in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Watterston’s father brought him to Washington, D.C. as a child, and he was steeped in the history of the city. In later life, he recounted watching George Washington lay the cornerstone for the new Capitol Building. Watterston also had an interesting connection to the law. Before becoming Librarian, he was a lawyer in Hagerstown, MD, and his lack of satisfaction with his profession was reflected in several books that he wrote which depicted lawyers in an unflattering light, including “The Lawyer: or Man as He Ought Not to Be.” His writing style is dark and brooding, but he occasionally reveals a sense of humor.

In this excerpt from “Wanderer in Washington,” Watterston describes revelers at a party repeatedly toasting to President Madison’s good health as an excuse to drink free punch.

Watterson proved to be a staunch advocate of the Library of Congress as a national library, but as a prominent supporter of the Whigs, his tenure came to an end in 1829 with the election of President Andrew Jackson. In later life, Watterson served as the secretary of the Washington Monument Society. He died in 1854, and was interred in the Congressional Cemetery.

George Watterston, head-and-shoulders profile portrait; Librarian of Congress 1815-1829. Watercolor. 1811. Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division.

Please note that the Watterston home is privately owned and is not open for tours, but you can walk by it on 2nd Street SE on the west side of the Library’s Madison Building.

Source consulted: The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress Vol. 32, No. 4 (October 1975), pp. 370-388 (19 pages)

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