Research & Litigation
The following is a guest post by Mirela Savic-Fleming, Special Assistant to the Law Librarian of Congress.
Every day on my way home, I walk past the two-and-a-half story Georgian Revival Petworth Neighborhood Library. With the cherry blossom season recently ending, I somewhat nostalgically decided to share I photo that I took in April.
The library opened in 1939 at the corner of Georgia Avenue, Kansas Avenue, and Upshur Street in Washington D.C.’s Northwest, and it still has that wonderful old feeling to it. From the historic exterior to the heavy wood furniture in the reading rooms, it makes you feel like you are stepping back in time, but even with that old-world feel, the space is inviting, bright and cheery.
In addition to providing access to DC Public Library general circulation items, the library’s collection includes a Spanish language collection, job and employment literature, and adult basic education materials. Programs for all ages are offered regularly, and a meeting room with a capacity of 100 persons is well-used by groups in the community. Free yoga, free tango lessons, storytelling events and karaoke events for kids, theater classes, writers’ workshops, job seekers clinic, even tax assistance programs, are just some of the events attracting quite an audience, and not only from the neighborhood.
So, this is our little tip for the next year (if not before) to all cherry blossom and book lovers out there — if you like both, but prefer avoiding the crowds, hop on a bike or take a stroll to Washington northwest D.C. and visit Petworth Library. You will be pleasantly surprised.
With this month’s release, we have updated our committee profile pages so that when you click on legislation or other items in the list you will then have arrows to take you to the next and previous items in the results set. We also continue to make improvements to the committee schedule page, which launched in January.
Saved search alerts for legislation have also been enhanced to show the date a cosponsor was added. It will come through in your email with the addition like this:
Cosponsor: 01/23/2019: Rep. Higgins, Clay [R-LA-3]
New Enhancements for May 2019
Please find the full list of enhancements below.
Enhancement – Committee Schedule – Upcoming Meetings on Homepage
- Upcoming House and Senate Committee Meetings on the homepage displays the next three committee hearings/meetings scheduled with the date, time, and committee name as well as a link to the detail page of each listed meeting.
Enhancement – Committee Profile Pages – Results Navigation
- When viewing a bill or other item listed on a committee profile page, you can use the navigation arrows to move to the next or previous item in the list without needing to return to the profile page.
Enhancement – Legislation Alerts – Cosponsor Dates
- Alerts on legislation that list new cosponsors include the date of cosponsorship as well.
Glossary of Legislative Terms
Below are the most-viewed bills on Congress.gov for the week of April 28, 2019. Each item below is from the current Congress.1. H.R.1044 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 2. H.Res.109 Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal. 3. H.R.5428 Stand with UK against Russia Violations Act 4. H.R.1 For the People Act of 2019 5. H.R.420 Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act 6. S.386 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 7. H.R.5 Equality Act 8. H.R.6 American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 9. H.R.8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 10. H.J.Res.31 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019
Please share any comments below or submit your feedback on Congress.gov.
70th Anniversary of the Council of Europe and 60th Anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights
The following is a guest post by Elin Hofverberg, a foreign law specialist at the Law Library of Congress. Elin is a prolific blogger and has contributed numerous posts for In Custodia Legis on a variety of legal topics, including 115 Years of Legal Education in Iceland, Raoul Wallenberg – Swedish-American Collaboration in Protection of Hungarian Jews , On the Shelf – Finnish Forest and Forestry Laws, Swedish Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights, FALQs: The Swedish Budget Process, 60 Years of Lego Building Blocks and Danish Patent Law, Alfred Nobel’s Will: A Legal Document that Might Have Changed the World and a Man’s Legacy, The Making of a Legal Cinnamon Bun, and many more.
On May 5, 1949, representatives from Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom met in London and signed the Treaty of London (Statute of the Council of Europe).
Their representatives were ”[c]onvinced that the pursuit of peace based upon justice and international co-operation is vital for the preservation of human society and civilization.” (Id. Preamble.) The Council of Europe was established by declaring that “[t]he aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.” (Id. art. 1.)
Today the Council of Europe has 47 member countries, including all 28 EU member countries. Countries are represented in both the Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and the Committee of Ministers. The Committee of Ministers has a revolving chairmanship of six months, with Finland currently holding the Presidency.
European Convention on Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights
Arguably, the Council’s greatest accomplishments were the adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the creation of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Signing the ECHR is a prerequisite for joining the Council of Europe. The EU is currently not a signatory; however, it is required by the Treaty of Lisbon to acceded to the ECHR.
Just shy of ten years after the creation of the Council of Europe, on April 20, 1959, the ECtHRwas officially opened when the solemn installation of the Court took place. In total 15 judges were sworn in, one from each of the countries that were then members of the Court.
The judges were:
Kemal Arik (Turkey),
Einar Arnalds (Iceland),
Giorgio Balladore Pallieri (Italy),
René Cassin (France),
Åke Ernst Holmbäck (Sweden),
Georges Maridakis (Greece),
Richard McGonigal (Ireland),
Lord McNair (the United Kingdom),
Hermann Mosler (Germany),
Eugène Rodenbourg (Luxembourg),
Henri Rolin (Belgium),
Alf Niels Christian Ross (Denmark),
Baron Frederik Mari Van Asbeck (the Netherlands),
Alfred Verdross (Austria)
Terje Wold (Norway)
Today, a total of 47 judges serve on the court and sit for nine-year terms, which are not renewable.
Cases are brought by individuals against member state countries after the individual has exhausted all domestic remedies (i.e. their case has been appealed to the highest court). If admissible, a case is heard and decided by an ECtHR panel of three or seven judges. Cases may also be heard by the Grand Chamber, where seventeen judges participate. Following a panel decision, the applicant, the respondent government, or both may submit a referral request to have the case heard before the Grand Chamber. However, such requests are only granted in exceptional circumstances. A denied referral request cannot be appealed. The Court can also decide on its own to hear a case in the Grand Chamber. The ECtHR is not an appellate court and does not overturn the domestic court verdict, it only determines if a violation of the ECHR by the State has taken place, and awards damages. Court decisions are binding on member states and have led to member countries changing their domestic laws to prevent further violations of the ECHR. (ECHR, art. 46)
Resources Available at the Law Library of Congress
- Publications de la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme. Série A, Arrêts et décisions = Publications of the European Court of Human Rights. Series A, Judgments and decisions.
- European human rights : taking a case under the Convention
- Bringing cases before the European Commission and Court of Human Rights / edited by Leif Berg.
- The case of Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen, and Pedersen : judgment
For a full list of the Law Library’s holdings on the Council of Europe and the ECtHR, please search the Library of Congress online catalog.
The Council of Europe is also covered in a number of Law Library of Congress reports.
A video overview of the Council of Europe
If you are visiting in Pennsylvania, you should make a stop at Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg. President and Mrs. Eisenhower gave the house, the farm and the grounds to the United States government in 1967, and after their deaths, the National Park Service opened the site for visitors. President and Mrs. Eisenhower bought this farm in 1950 after his retirement from the military, and intended for it to be their first permanent home in their peripatetic marriage.However, a few short years later, Dwight Eisenhower began the campaign for the first of his two terms as president. The farm was President and Mrs. Eisenhower’s getaway during his presidency. They also used it for some of his second-term campaign events and to host some foreign dignitaries in a less formal, more relaxed setting. President Eisenhower met with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the farm in 1959 as a break from a meeting at Camp David; he also hosted Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of the United Kingdom, Chancellor Konrad Adenauer of the Federal Republic of Germany, and President Charles De Gaulle of France at various times. Marshal Montgomery stayed in their guest house for a time as well. In 1955, Eisenhower had a heart attack and returned to the Gettysburg farm to recuperate, using the farm as his “temporary White House.” He signed numerous pieces of legislation at this desk in his office, making this piece of furniture a historical and legal artifact. It is made of timber salvaged from the White House during renovations made during the Truman administration, and is supposedly modelled on a desk President Washington used at his home in Mount Vernon. According to our tour guide at the farm, the president was sitting at this desk when he received the call in May 1961 about CIA Pilot Francis Gary Powers being shot down in a U-2 reconnaissance airplane over Russia. The office is the last stop on the house tour; it is a small room, but it is worth getting a picture of it to remember. Source: National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. (no date) Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania. [Leaflet obtained in at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitors’ Center], 19 April 2019.
This is a guest post by Donna Brearcliffe, Special Assistant in the General and International Collections Directorate of Library Services, Library of Congress.Law Day–a national day set aside to celebrate the rule of law and an opportunity to understand how law and the legal process protect our liberty and promote justice.
In honor of Law Day 2019, the Library of Congress is highlighting our law-related Research Guides:
- Law: Beginner’s Guides – This series of guides was created with the novice in mind and features a wide variety of topics, including Landlord-Tenant Law; Neighbor Law; Legal Drafting; Contract Law; Social Security Disability Law; Wills, Probate, and Advanced Directives; and more!
- American Law guides offer information on amendments to the U.S. Constitution (part of our Primary Documents in American History guides) and guides covering U.S. Supreme Court Nominations and Records and Briefs.
Research Guides is a new service from the Library of Congress using the LibGuides platform deployed at thousands of libraries worldwide. Over 60 research guides on a wide variety of topics are available at guides.loc.gov. To learn more about the new LibGuides site, see the recent post published on the Library of Congress blog.
Watkins moved to Chicago to pursue a career in journalism. She quickly got hired at the Chicago Tribune, where she was designated as a crime journalist and was assigned with covering cases of women on murderess row.
She came across Belva Gaertner, a cabaret singer who was accused of fatally shooting her lover, Walter Law. He was found dead in the front seat of Gaertner’s car with a bottle of gin and a gun lying beside him. Gaertner was found later at her apartment with blood-soaked clothes on the floor. She confessed that she was drunk and was driving with Law, but couldn’t remember what happened. She was arrested on March 12, 1924.
Watkins also met Beulah Annan, who was also accused of killing her lover, Harry Kalstedt, out of anger. They were both in her marital bedroom, which she shared with her then-husband, Albert Annan, when she and Kalstedt got into an argument. They both reached for the gun, which Beulah grabbed first, and she shot him. She played the foxtrot record “Hula Lou” repeatedly for hours and watched him die slowly while she sipped on cocktails. She later called Albert to say that she killed a man who “wanted to make love to her.”
Both Belva and Beulah were all over the news thanks to Maurine, who wrote about them constantly in the Chicago Tribune. The articles authored by Maurine are held here at the Library of Congress in the Newspapers Reading Room of the Serial and Government Publications Division.
Possibly due to the press coverage, and the fact that they were deemed “stylish” and “beautiful,” both Belva and Beulah, in their respective cases, were acquitted by the jury; Annan in May of 1924 and Gaertner a month later in June. Belva’s defense counsel established that she didn’t remember what happened and the crime was ruled a suicide. Meanwhile, Beulah’s story changed over time but then settled on her having faked a pregnancy and Kalstedt having intended to kill her out of anger, and she had defended herself from by getting to the gun first
After leaving the Tribune, Watkins later joined the Yale School of Drama, where she wrote the original script for Chicago, drawing inspiration from Belva and Beulah to create Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart respectively. Jeff Flannery from the Manuscript Division was able to find the original copyright deposit manuscript of the play written by Watkins. The original manuscript submitted to the Library of Congress has Watkins’ handwriting and in the document, she had both possible titles for the play, Chicago or Playball. The play will become part of public domain in approximately 2022.
The original play opened on Broadway and ran for 172 performances at the Music Box Revue, now renamed the Music Box Theater.
In the 1960s, Bob Fosse approached Watkins to make Chicago into a Broadway musical, although she originally declined his multiple requests. After her passing in 1969, those in charge of her estate sold Fosse and his then-wife Gwen Verdon the rights and the show began development. He collaborated with composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb to develop the score. It premiered on Broadway in 1975 at the 46th St Theater, now renamed the Richard Rodgers Theater. Staring Gwen Verdon and Chita Rivera, the show ran for 936 performances before closing in 1977. The show was revived in 1996 and it is still open, making it the longest running American musical of all time.
Gwen Verdon donated Fosse’s papers to the Library of Congress after his passing and they are currently held in the Music Division. Fred Ebb passed away in 2004 and his papers can be found in the Manuscript Division of the New York Public Library.
The show went on to become a movie, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2002.
As most of you probably know, the Law Library builds its collection from many sources. We receive United States-published titles through copyright deposit; governments at other jurisdictional levels send us material via exchange or transfer arrangements; we purchase foreign titles through the Library’s Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate, etc.
But, in case you were wondering, we also accept gifts. Libraries donate material to us when they pare down their collections, authors will donate their own works, and we get the occasional gift of a rare book or hard-to-acquire item from people interested in furthering our collection. We then evaluate these donations to see if they fit our collection guidelines and select what we will keep.
Some of the more recent gifts we have selected for the collection cover a variety of topics:
KZD1145.G37 2018 García San José, Daniel I. Interstellar law : ius gentium for new worlds
KDK121.7.H35 2018 Hall, Eamonn G. and E Rory O’Connor. The notary of Ireland : law and practice
K690.O45 2018 Oliva Izquierdo, Alexia, and Antonio Manuel Oliva Rodríguez, Antonio Manuel Oliva Izquierdo. Matrimonial property regimes throughout the world.
Two of the titles pictured above are so new that they have not yet been cataloged, but thanks to the work of the Law cataloging team they will soon join the collection:
Rodrigo Monteiro da Silva. O Ministério Publico e a Constituição Federal
Alexander Araujo de Souza, Américo Bedê Júnior, et al. Segurança Pública.
We at the Law Library are so grateful for these items as they make unique and valuable additions to our holdings.
In the fall of 1848, a one-term congressman from Illinois returned home from Washington, D.C.,via a trip through the Great Lakes. While on the Detroit River, Congressman Lincoln observed the crew of a steamer that had run aground wedge empty casks and barrels under the vessel’s gunwales to increase its buoyancy. The attempt worked and gave Lincoln an idea that he would use to apply for a patent the next year. Lincoln’s concept was to use sacks inflated by bellows carried by a grounded vessel to provide it with buoyancy. Over the late fall, back in Illinois, he would formulate his invention and prepare to submit it to the Patent Office for a patent.
Lincoln worked with a local mechanic in Springfield to create a model of his device. At the time, models were still required as a part of the process of securing a patent for an invention. Upon his return to Washington for the second session of the 30th Congress, Lincoln contacted a patent attorney to draft the paperwork for the application. Lincoln’s paperwork and fee were submitted shortly after the adjournment of Congress in March, 1849. His patent was granted on May 22, 1849.
Lincoln never profited from his patent so it remains something of a historical curiosity. Although Jefferson was a greater and more practical inventor, the improved moldboard plow being perhaps his most useful invention, he never sought to patent any of his devices. At this time, Lincoln, a self-educated man, remains the only president to ever have been awarded a patent. As president, Lincoln would take many steps to promote the sciences and inventions, including approving laws creating the Department of Agriculture and the National Academy of Sciences.
Today’s interview is with Zuhair Mahmoud, an information technology specialist within the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) of the Library of Congress.
Describe your background.
I was born in Amman, Jordan, and adopted the U.S. as my new home at the age of 17. I attended high school at Chelmsford High in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, then went on to attend college at Florida Atlantic University, and later moved to MSU Denver. Just like many kids my age, I had to work to finance my studies, but unlike most, I did not qualify for any type of scholarships or financial assistance because of my status as an international student. While it made for long days and sleepless nights, it allowed me to finish college with nearly four years of professional experience under my belt.
I started my career in the early 1990s working for a small company in Denver as a computer technician, assembling computers, installing software and answering customer’s technical questions. I then moved on to briefly work for a GTE contractor (GTE is now part of Verizon), where I assisted Internet customers with their Internet connectivity issues, which was mostly via dialup at the time. I then moved on to IBM Global Services (now renamed to IBM Services), where I worked for a couple of years before moving to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where I started my own company in 2001.
In 2002, the company I co-founded managed to release the first fully integrated screen reading, magnification, and braille output program in Arabic. The challenge we faced was that, unlike Latin-based languages, Arabic is read from right to left and heavily relies on context-sensitive, unwritten diacritics. This meant that teaching a computer to speak Arabic would require it to understand context, something that computers still have difficulty doing even today. As if this was not complicated enough, we realized in the middle of our project that computers often use a combination of Arabic and English text, each of which is written in its own character set and in the opposite direction of one another, which meant that speech needs to switch languages and reading direction mid-sentence, on the fly. We were able to accomplish this by leveraging research in linguistic computing from various universities and private companies in Belgium, the United Kingdom, and Egypt. This gave millions of Arabic-speaking blind and visually impaired persons, for the first time, an opportunity to be part of the digital revolution just like their sighted counterparts. As a result, I was invited to the first phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which took place in Geneva, Switzerland, in December 2003.
In 2004, I returned to the United States, where I worked as a freelance accessibility consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 companies and several local, state, and federal government agencies.
In 2008, I took up a position as an Assistive Technology Specialist for the State of Washington, and two years later, I moved to the other Washington to take up my position here at the Library of Congress.
How would you describe your job to other people?
The easiest way to describe my job here at the Library of Congress is as an information technology accessibility evangelist. Over the past thirty years or so, technology has served to revolutionize access to information for people with disabilities. To ensure continued equal access to such information, international web accessibility standards known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) were developed to allow for web sites to be designed in a manner that would make them easy to access for anyone with a disability. My job is to be the Library’s resource on such standards. In addition to testing web sites for accessibility, my work also involves increasing awareness of accessibility throughout the Library.
What is your role in the development of Congress.gov?
My primary role is to work with the amazing and talented Congress.gov team to make sure that the site is accessible for everyone. This is accomplished through testing new features before they are released, as well as adding specific accessibility features such as the ReadSpeaker Listen button.
What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?
At the risk of sounding biased, I would have to say that the ReadSpeaker Listen button is one of my favorite features. Studies have consistently shown that when information is presented through visual and auditory channels simultaneously (also known as bimodal presentation), speed of processing and memory recollection are enhanced. Not only can our site visitors listen to Congress.gov content while reading it, they can even download such content to listen to wherever they go – in their car and on their favorite headset. What information is more worthy of being so well understood than our laws and the process through which they develop?
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?
While I thought I already knew quite a bit about the laws and the legislative process as a result of the interesting path I took to become a U.S. citizen, I realized how little I knew when I started working on Congress.gov. What was most interesting for me is how much work it took for laws to be made. Of the enormous number of bills introduced in each Congress, few make it out of committee to the House or Senate floor for a vote. Of those that do make it to a vote in one or both chambers, fewer still make it to the president to be signed and thus made into law.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
That is always a difficult question for an introvert. Having said this, I think very few people know that my voice was once used to produce a commercial computer text to speech engine. Due to the rapid change in technology, however, this quickly became out of date, and was replaced by much better sounding voices.
Last Friday, April 19th, marked the first day of the month long 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an armed uprising against Nazi attempts to transport all the Jews in the ghetto to death and labor camps.
By the summer of 1942, the Germans had contained the Jews from Warsaw, Poland and the surrounding areas into the Warsaw Ghetto, until 500,000 people were penned up in a space of 840 acres. This area was initially surrounded by barbed wire but eventually a 10 foot high brick wall surrounded the ghetto. Beginning in July 1942, the Nazis transferred an average of 5,000 Jews a day to Treblinka until by September 1942, only 55,000 Jews remained in the Warsaw Ghetto. During this time, a resistance group began to form, the Jewish Fighting Organization, and in January 1943, when the Nazis resumed the deportation of Jews, they met with unexpected resistance. Deportations were suspended until April 19, 1943, the eve of Passover, when Heinrich Himmler ordered the launch of a special operation to clear the ghetto. Before dawn, 2,000 German troops surrounded the ghetto. Expecting an easy victory, it took 28 days to either kill or transport the remaining 40,000 Jews though they had only a small armament with pistols and homemade bombs and one machine gun.
Evidence of the horrors of this event, and other Nazi atrocities, can be found in the testimony and documents which comprise the Nuremberg Trials. The Nuremberg Trials are comprised of 65 volumes of material broken out into the Blue Series, the Red Series and the Green Series in addition to the indictments, one volume with a report to the Secretary of the Army, and the report of Justice Robert H. Jackson on the conference at which the procedures for Nuremberg were negotiated and established. These volumes contain just a portion of the documents available to the prosecutors at these trials, but nonetheless the extent of the volumes themselves is formidable.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is first mentioned in the second volume of the Blue Series on page 126 of this volume (page 131 of the PDF). The prosecutor, Mr. Justice Jackson, is detailing “Crimes Committed Against the Jews.“ Jackson has this to say about the Uprising:
I shall not dwell on this subject longer than to quote one more sickening document which evidences the planned and systematic character of the Jewish persecutions. I hold a report written with Teutonic devotion to detail, illustrated with photographs to authenticate its almost incredible text, and beautifully bound in leather with the loving care bestowed on a proud work. It is the original report of the SS Brigadier General Stroop in charge of the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto, and its title page carries the inscription, “The Jewish ghetto in Warsaw no longer exists.” …
We charge that all atrocities against Jews were the manifestation and culmination of the Nazi plan to which every defendant here was a party.
The final verdicts in the Nuremberg Trials were handed down on October 12, 1946 and 12 of the defendants were sentenced to death.