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Research & Litigation

Legal Research Reports: Israel: Law on Freezing Revenues Designated for Palestinian Authority

Law Library of Congress: Research Reports - Wed, 04/03/2019 - 12:34pm

The Law Library of Congress is proud to present the report, Israel: Law on Freezing Revenues Designated for Palestinian Authority.

In accordance with the Paris Protocol and Israeli domestic implementing legislation, Israel has been transferring tax revenues to the Palestinian Authority (PA) on a monthly basis. The Israeli Defense Cabinet decided on February 17, 2019, to freeze that portion of these revenues equal to expenditures by the PA in the previous year for payments to families of people killed, injured, or imprisoned for attacks on Israel. The government’s authority to deduct amounts paid by the PA to terrorism operators and their families from its revenue transfers derives from a July 8, 2018, legislation. A precondition for freezing revenues is the submission of a yearly report by the Minister of Defense on such PA payments to the Ministerial Committee for Matters of National Defense and the Committee’s approval. The Law does not expressly authorize the use of frozen funds for enforcement of judgments against terrorist act perpetrators or for furthering anti-terrorism projects.

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

The Power of Judicial Review

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 04/02/2019 - 10:30am

The following is a guest post by Janeen Williams, a Legal Reference Specialist with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.

The federal judiciary has the authority to review actions of the legislative and executive branches to verify that they comport with the Constitution see Marbury v. Madison). However, judicial review does not extend to all issues. A case is justiciable if it is the type of dispute that a court can properly adjudicate. Justiciability is determined by examining a variety of factors or requirements. One factor that determines justiciability is the subject or issue at the heart of the dispute. The dispute must be an actual case or controversy between two adverse parties in order to be justiciable.

The “Political Question Doctrine” is another justiciability factor.  Political questions are non-justiciable because Congress and the executive branch, or the political branches, are in a better position to resolve question that are political in nature. Historically, the judiciary has deemed disputes that are political and require examination of powers given to the other branches by the Constitution to be outside the realm of judicial review.

The modern political question doctrine first emerged in Baker v. Carr, which was decided in the early 1960s.  The Court in Baker established a six-factor test to determine if the issue in question in a controversy is a political question. A podcast episode from Radiolab’s More Perfect takes a deep dive into the Baker case and its lasting implications.

Courthouse, Wilmington, North Carolina. Photograph by Carol Highsmith. (Created February 2013). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

A more recent example of the application of the doctrine involved litigation over burn pits, which were used as a method of waste disposal on U.S. military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are open air pits in which waste generated on military operational bases was burned. In Metzgar v. KBR, Inc., the Army had awarded KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root Services, Inc.) a contact to manage waste and provide other services on operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Soldiers filed suit against KBR because they claimed they had been exposed to toxins when KBR burned waste to dispose of it. The United States District Court for the District of Maryland found that the decision to use burn pits was made by the military.  Additionally, they found that the military decided where to place the burn pits and how to operate them.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit stated that political questions are not justiciable because the legislative and executive branches are better suited to resolve political questions. The Fourth Circuit has held that military decisions are not appropriate for judicial review because the Constitution grants control over military affairs to the legislative and executive branches.  See Further, military contractors, like KBR, are able to use the political question doctrine to avoid liability if the military applied “direct control” over the contractors. To determine if the military exercised direct control in this instance, the Fourth Circuit applied a two-factor test looking for: 1) plenary control, and 2) actual control. The military could be said to have exercised direct control over the contractor if the military exercised both plenary and actual control over the contractor, and if both plenary and actual control were exercised, the political question shield would be available. Plenary control is exhibited when the military selects the method in which the activities or tasks will be completed. Actual control is exemplified when contractors fall within an official military command structure and those contractors are engaged in a lawful activity.

The Fourth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s findings that KBR had little discretion over how to operate the burn pits. Thus, the military had plenary control. Additionally, the military had regular interaction with KBR and oversaw their activities.  For those reasons, the court held that the military also had actual control over KBR. Since the military exercised direct control over KBR, the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision that the case was non-justiciable because military decisions fall under the political question doctrine.

A petition for writ of certiorari was filed in the United States Supreme Court on September 7, 2018. The petition was denied in January 2019.

The following resources may be helpful if you are interested in learning more about the Political Question Doctrine.

To identify additional sources, please visit the Library of Congress online catalog or submit questions through the “Ask a Librarian” feature.

Categories: Research & Litigation

A Interview with Qun Lai, Quality Assurance Specialist

In Custodia Legis - Fri, 03/29/2019 - 10:06am

This week’s interview is with Qun Lai, a quality assurance specialist within the Office of the Chief Information Officer of the Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I was born and raised in China. I came to the United States for my graduate studies in my twenties and have stayed since. I have a Bachelor of Science from Peking University and Master of Arts from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, both majoring in psychology. I went back to school to study computer science. I am an ISTQB (International Software Testing Qualifications Board) certified Advanced Test Analyst.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I am a tester and a quality assurance specialist. I check Library of Congress websites to make sure they are usable and functional.

What is your role in the development of

My role in the development of is to serve as a tester. has a powerful search capability and sophisticated web interface. My role is to ensure the functionality works without error. I check the website manually as if I am a user using the website, entering information and checking the results. If you have visited the website and checked things out, I probably have gone through similar steps hundreds of times over.

What is your favorite feature of

My favorite feature of is the capability of word highlighting when you do a word or phrase search. After your search, when you view a bill, your search term is highlighted in light green. It feels so intelligent and by glancing over the frequency of the highlighted search term, one can get a sense of how closely a bill is related to the phrase being search.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on

While working on, I learned how a piece of legislation is introduced and works its way to becoming law. Legislation is introduced to address an issue people are facing in their daily lives. Members of Congress work out their differences to pass the law. Law is the structure a society is built upon. It gives the society stability and ensures the fundamental rights of its people. I feel how fortunate the American people are to be able to enjoy freedom and prosperity, to live under this sophisticated legal system and democratic political system.

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

I worked with gerbils and golden lion tamarins during my graduate studies at the animal behavior labs at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Magna Carta: Rule of Law versus Laws of Baseball

In Custodia Legis - Thu, 03/28/2019 - 7:00am

William Grenelle. “Laws of Base Ball.” Manuscript, January–February 1857. Courtesy of Hayden Trubitt, a baseball fan (007.02.00), from the Baseball Americana website.

King John of England (reigned 1199–1216). 1215 Exemplar of Magna Carta. Great Charter of Liberties. Manuscript on parchment, June 1215. Loaned by kind permission of the Dean and Chapter of Lincoln Cathedral, England. From the Law Library of Congress’s website.












Let’s start out by saying that it’s Opening Day and no one can be expected to be anything but fun and frivolous on a day like today.  So if we go a bit out of left field (pun intended) with this post, please excuse us.

I have been a docent both for the Law Library’s 2014 exhibit, Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, and the Library of Congress’s current exhibition, Baseball Americana, so I have a deep respect for both.  I have wanted to write this post since I first heard about the 1857 document pictured above.  I hope you were lucky enough to have seen the Muse and Mentor exhibit in person.  If not, please visit our website.  If you haven’t seen Baseball Americana yet, there is still time.  The exhibition runs until July 27, 2019.

Today we are going to compare and contrast the Magna Carta of 1215 with what has been dubbed the Magna Carta of Baseball – the Laws of Baseball of 1857.


Both documents set forth basic principles governing a set of behaviors:

1215 MC: the core traditions of the rule of law; some of the most basic principles of the U.S. Constitution can be traced back to the Magna Carta: due process, trial by jury, no unlawful imprisonment

1857 MC: the rules of modern day baseball; this document standardized the rules the game now follows: nine players on a team, nine innings per game and 90 feet between bases, none of which were standard before then.

Both have medieval origins:

1215 MC: well, it was written in 1215!

1857 MC: the Baseball Americana exhibit features a medieval manuscript (1344) depicting monks and nuns playing with balls and bats.

Both involve parties who were generally better off than the average person:

1215 MC: was signed by King John and his barons, who were landowners and among the more elite citizens of England.

1857 MC: as the game evolved, so did players’ salaries.  When the average American was making about $400 per year, for example, players such as Ty Cobb were making $4,000 a year (and let’s not forget about Mike Trout’s recent contract.)

Both involve fields:

1215 MC: was signed by King John in a meadow at Runnymede.

1857 MC: was about a game played on a field (although not normally in England.)


Let’s start with the most obvious:

1215 MC: was about fighting against tyranny and oppression.

1857 MC: was about grown men playing a game.

Who were the influencers:

1215 MC: was drafted by a group of English barons to end their rebellion against a tyrant, King John, through their demand of certain liberties: the many dictating to the one.

1857 MC: was drafted by the New York Knickerbockers to set forth certain rules that all teams should play by: the one dictating to the many.

Weapons of choice:

1215 MC: swords and shields.

1857 MC: bats and gloves.

Happy Opening Day!


Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Kellee Bonnell, Legal Reference Librarian

In Custodia Legis - Wed, 03/27/2019 - 4:26pm

Kellee Bonnell is a Legal Reference Librarian at the Law Library of Congress. [Photo by Kelly McKenna]

Describe your background.

I’m from an island in Lake Erie called Kelley’s Island. My dad was park ranger for the State of Ohio and we spent our summers and the times when the lake wasn’t frozen over on the island. Later, we moved to Salisbury, North Carolina, where my brother and I grew up, and lived there until the summer before my freshman year of high school when we moved to Lynchburg, Virginia.

What is your academic/professional history?

I have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a minor in biology from Brevard College, a Juris Doctor degree from Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, and a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Wayne State University. After law school, I spent a year working as a reporter for my local newspaper, The Record Herald, in Washington Court House, Ohio. I covered the government, courts, and local school districts, along with any number of other exciting things. My favorite part about working at the paper was definitely covering the county fair and getting to spend time out in the county talking to everyone. After that I worked as a county law librarian in Ashland, Ohio. I spent a year there and learned a lot more than I anticipated when I started. I finally got the opportunity to move to Washington, D.C. in July of 2017. I worked at two law firms as a Law Librarian and Marketing Specialist and a Research Analyst before being given the chance to work at the Library of Congress.

How would you describe your job (or research project) to other people?

I help people access the law. I help with research questions and I get to teach people the best way to find the answers. My favorite requests are the ones that start with, “I’ve looked everywhere and it feels like nobody can help me.”

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

I’ve always wanted to be at the Library of Congress. I love helping people and I love being in the center of all the action. My mom taught A.P. Government when I was in middle school, and every spring she used to bring her seniors to Washington through a program called Close-Up. My brother and I got to tag along a few times and so I’ve loved D.C. and the Library since I was in middle school. I just always knew this is where I wanted to be. What’s really great about the Library of Congress is that it comes with a sort of expectation—I hear a lot of people say “if nobody else will have it, the Library of Congress will!” I love being able to provide assistance to government officials, federal agencies, and members of the public all in one day.

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

I knew the Library was big and held a large collection, but I honestly had no idea just how large. The stacks downstairs are actual football-fields long. It’s just amazing the things the Library holds that I had never even considered before. Every time I learn something, and I definitely learn something new every single day, I’m stunned and awe-struck all over again.

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

When I was little, I actually wanted to be a meteorologist for the longest time!


Categories: Research & Litigation

A Visit to the Frederick Douglass House – Pic of the Week

In Custodia Legis - Tue, 03/26/2019 - 9:39am

Born into slavery at a plantation on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and provided with no formal education, Frederick Douglass escaped slavery and defied his humble origins to become a world renowned advocate for equal rights, author, publisher, orator, and statesman, traveling across the world to raise awareness about the evils of slavery. In later life, Douglass become an advisor to President Lincoln, and later served as U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia, Recorder of Deeds for the District of Columbia, and Minister Resident and Consul General to Haiti. The home pictured below, located in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., is where Douglass spent the last seventeen years of his life.  Known as Cedar Hill, the Douglass estate is now a national park. If you would like to visit, be sure to make reservations in advance.

The Frederick Douglass home in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Photo by Robert Brammer.

The Frederick Douglass home front porch. Photo by Robert Brammer.

The Frederick Douglass home front door. Photo by Robert Brammer.

The Frederick Douglass home living room. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Frederick Douglass’s study. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Frederick Douglass’s famous panama hat. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Frederick Douglass’s bedroom. Photo by Robert Brammer.

A view from the second story of the Frederick Douglass home. Photo by Robert Brammer.

Categories: Research & Litigation New, Tip, and Top for March 2019, Part 2

In Custodia Legis - Mon, 03/25/2019 - 1:26pm

Earlier this month, Robert shared the update that included the addition of a link to Bills to be Considered on the House Floor to the House of Representatives section of Current Legislative Activities on the homepage.

With the release we also added a subcommittee filter on the committee profile pages when you select a Congress.  What are the enhancements for this month?

New subcommittee filter appears when you limit to a single Congress on a committee profile

New Enhancements for March 2019

Enhancement – Committee Profiles – Subcommittee Filter

  • You can filter by subcommittee when you limit your research or results to a single Congress on a committee profile.

Enhancement – Legislation Text – Bill Type Filter

  • When you search from the Legislation Text form, you can filter your search results by Bill Text Versions.

Enhancement – Committee Schedule – Meeting Updates

  • Rescheduled and postponed meetings are clearly indicated on the weekly and daily views of the committee schedule.

Search Tip

Earlier this year, Robert shared this tip on how to receive an email when a Member of Congress has a new remark printed in the Congressional Record: alerts are emails sent to you when a measure (bill or resolution), nomination, or member profile has been updated with new information. You can also receive an email after a Member has new remarks printed in the Congressional Record. Here are instructions on how to get an email after a Member has new remarks printed in the Congressional Record.

  1. Log in to your account. If you do not have an account, you can create one by clicking “sign in.”
  2. Scroll down and select a member profile page.
  3. On the right hand side, click “See this member’s remarks in the Congressional Record.”
  4. At the top left, click “Save this Search,” then give it any title you like, click save, and finally click “get alerts.”

Most-Viewed Bills

Here are are the Most-Viewed Bills for the week of March 17, 2019.  All of the legislation this week is from the current Congress.

1. H.R.1 For the People Act of 2019 2. H.R.1044 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 3. H.J.Res.46 Relating to a national emergency declared by the President on February 15, 2019. 4. S.47 John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act 5. H.Res.109 Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal. 6. S.386 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 7. H.R.8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 8. S.J.Res.7 A joint resolution to direct the removal of United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress. 9. H.R.6 American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 10. H.J.Res.31 Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019

Please share any feedback that you have on the form or leave a comment below.

Categories: Research & Litigation


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