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Law and Order
Updated: 2 min 53 sec ago

Spanish Legal Documents (15th – 19th Centuries): Briefs

1 hour 26 min ago

The following is a guest post by Stephen Mayeaux, Legal Information Specialist in the Digital Resources Division at the Law Library of Congress, in collaboration with Dante Figueroa, Senior Legal Information Analyst at the Law Library of Congress.

Brief on behalf Bernardo Roch versus the Imperial City of Saragossa and its “Señores Veinte” [i.e. Twenty citizens], concerning the validity of privileges known as “of the Twenty” [i.e. special right granted to the city to create a Tribunal formed by twenty of its citizens]. [August 31, 1660]

During this celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we bring you the latest—and by far the largest—update from our Spanish Legal Documents series. For more information about the history of this collection, as well as our ongoing efforts to present the full collection online, see our previous posts describing the Canon Law and Opinions & Judgments subsections.

If you have read our previous posts, you may recall that we divided the collection into six categories:

Our third published subsection is Briefs, which includes 1,463 unique documents, representing nearly 60% of the total Spanish Legal Documents collection. “Briefs” includes writings mostly related to disputes of inheritance and titles of nobility as well as the sale of property, the collection of taxes and debts, and defense in criminal cases.

Although the majority of cases described in these documents concern ordinary disputes between individuals, others deal with serious topics ranging from murder and other criminal charges (such as arson and armed intimidation) to the trafficking of slaves and the election of government officials.

For all its emphasis on local quarrels in 17th and 18th century Spain, the Briefs subsection is not lacking in connections to broader historical events. Take, for instance, this brief describing the Siege of Havana by the British during the Seven Years’ War.

Brief on behalf the Count of Superunda, General Lieutenant and Viceroy of the Kingdom of Perú, versus the Fiscal Prosecutor of the War Council, concerning the defense and surrendering of the city of Havana to the British forces in the year of 1762. [April 28, 1764]

Here, José Antonio Manso de Velasco, a high-ranking Spanish military officer (and former governor of Chile and viceroy of Peru), responds to a series of charges brought against him in a court-martial that followed the Spanish surrender in Cuba on August 11, 1762. In his brief, Manso de Velasco deflects responsibility for the surrender of Havana, attributing it to a number of factors, such as his lack of true decision-making authority and insufficient defenses and troop numbers in the face of overwhelming British forces. He also mentions other reasons related to his old age and poor health. Along with his history of loyalty and service to the Crown, he cites the previous honors and positions bestowed upon him as arguments for leniency, if not exculpation. Sadly, the king had neither in mind, and Manso de Velasco was sentenced to ten years of unemployment, ordered to pay damages, and all his assets were seized. By the end of 1765, he was exiled to Priego de Córdoba, where he lived out the remainder of his life.

The British, for their part, held Havana for only a few months before trading it back to Spain in exchange for Florida as part of the 1763 Treaty of Paris.

From there, we can see how the events described in this brief played a role in American history as Florida continued to change hands over several decades on its eventual path to becoming part of the United States.

We look forward to bringing you more illuminating stories from this collection with every new release. Stay tuned for updates as we share the remaining three subsections in the coming months!

Categories: Research & Litigation

Federal Courts, Judge Gerhard Gesell, and the Security State

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 8:49am

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

Fifty years ago this past May, Judge Gerhard Gesell of the District Court for the District of Columbia stared down the Nixon administration with an assertion of judicial independence.

Gesell had only recently been appointed to the court in 1968, when controversy fell into his lap in the spring of 1969. Following the more famous unrest of 1968, in March of 1969, college students in the District once again unleashed protests on local university campuses. School administrators at Howard University and George Washington University demanded the U.S. Attorney enforce an order issued earlier by the court to end student demonstrations. Gesell concurred and requested that the government “present an appropriate order to me in chambers that day.”

Gerhard Gesell, 1940 [Photograph]. Harris & Ewing. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Deputy Attorney General Kleindienst and Assistant Attorney General Ruckelhaus arrived around 5 p.m. with a “brief form of order finding the rioters in contempt and directing the injunction be implemented,” but the order lacked detail. Gesell asked simply, “how is this Order going to be enforced?” to which Kleindienst responded, “most respectfully, that is none of your business.” Gesell recorded this exchange in his unpublished memoir, “My Jealous Mistress,” found in the Gerhard Alden Gesell papers in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress.

Never one to suffer fools and with his suspicions piqued, Gesell answered, “You might be right, but if I don’t know I won’t sign the Order.” According to Gesell, Kleindienst turned “red in the face” and proceeded to huddle with Ruckelhaus. The latter then presented the government’s terms: if students didn’t immediately end their protest by midnight, they would be jailed. Police already surrounded the campus, U.S Marshals had been alerted, and the two government officials suggested the National Guard was preparing to be deployed. Having already observed similar unrest at Harvard and with press reports of “outsiders coming toward Howard to incite the situation,” Gesell feared a “stupid, unnecessary and … violent confrontation” that risked life and injury.

Sensing the judge’s dismay, “Kleindienst sought to justify his plan, larding his presentation with words about Reds, scum, etc.” In the end, the judge refused to budge, forcing the government to amend its order according to Gesell’s provisions, which included disbanding the National Guard contingent, pulling back the city’s police, broadcasting to the parents of students through radio alerts and flyers that it was in their children’s best interest to depart from the protest and return to their homes, and removing the hard deadline of midnight. U.S. Marshals for the District were then, in smaller numbers than the initial order requested, to quietly enter the campus and “arrest the ringleaders.” As noted by Gesell, his manuscript is the only account of this negotiation.

In moments of distress and controversy, such as events in the late 1960s, the judiciary’s independence has been sorely tested, and while the U.S. Supreme Court receives the lion’s share of attention, the lower courts also prove critical in resisting government overreach. Due to its location in the nation’s capital and its jurisdiction over federal agencies, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is a uniquely historically significant court. Appointed to the court after working for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and a long stint in private practice for the prestigious D.C. law firm Covington & Burling, Gesell proved himself one of the court’s staunchest advocates and a judicious arbiter of federal power, a facet of his juridical practice apparent in his papers.

While the Gerhard A. Gesell papers provide numerous opportunities to delve into specific controversies through their related case files, the judge’s unpublished manuscript and bench diaries, also found in the collection, offer a unique perspective into the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s notable importance and the persistent struggle between national security and the tenets of a democratic republic.

Gesell presided over cases involving free speech, national security, executive power, and government scandal. Several of his rulings eventually reached the Supreme Court on appeal, such as the Pentagon Papers case, United States v. Washington Post Company, which is at the center of the 2017 film, The Post.

In regard to the Pentagon Papers, again, Gesell held firm. The judge had initially refused to enjoin the Post from publication in his verdicts, noting that “[r]ulings were oral and, of necessity, almost immediate.” Yet, the issue returned to him on appeal. Assistant Attorney General Robert Mardian, claiming national security, pressed for a hearing on the issue without the defendants present, which included Kay Graham and Chalmers Roberts. “When I expressed surprise he indicated his position had been cleared at the highest level,” writes Gesell, “I replied that as far as I was concerned the United States of America was not Russia and that I would dismiss the complaint unless his orders were rescinded.” After a phone call to the government, Mardian departed, leaving the controversial report in Gesell’s possession for review.

Within minutes, Gesell heard a knock at the door. “[T]hree large men in military uniform with whit[e] bands across their chests and side arms” appeared, demanding the papers. Again, the judge refused, even after the three men insisted that Gesell’s home was not adequately secure. “I was angry and told them to buzz off or stand around outside, that I had security because the papers would be hidden under a sofa pillow. They left. Clearly somebody was playing hard ball,” he reflected. The transcript of this proceeding is in Gesell’s papers; however, his manuscript makes clear his misgivings regarding the Nixon administration’s “effort to discredit the Court.” Controversy followed, but the judge never budged. The case eventually ascended to the Supreme Court, which sided with the nation’s free press and Gesell’s earlier rulings.

Gesell learned from such experiences and applied them later in other sensational cases. “It is easy to mislead judges and the Solicitor General in this murky intelligence area and this experience stiffened my resolve on a number of occasions when comparable considerations were pressed by the ReaganBush Administrations during the case of United States v. Oliver North,” he writes in his memoir. Notably, the collection includes a revealing diary from his time presiding over the infamous North trial.

Oliver North, 1989 [Drawing]. Aggie Whelan Kenny. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Gesell’s archive offers so much more, including insights into the burgeoning carceral state and the politics of mid-century Washington, D.C., but anyone interested in the complexities of the security state needs to consult the judge’s papers. “It is strange that our willingness to embrace secret covert activity,” he writes in the aforementioned diary, “a course wholly inconsistent with our democratic principles results in our placing secrecy over truth where people in highest places have breached our trust and they are permitted to go on protected by a power of established immunity.”

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Angela Kinney, Chief of the African, Latin American & Western European Division of Library Services

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 8:51am

Today’s interview is with Angela Kinney. Angela is the Chief of the African, Latin American & Western European Division in the Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate of Library Services.

Angela Kinney at the Jefferson Building. Photo by Kelly McKenna

Describe your background

I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and raised in a large, happy family that included my parents and eight brothers and sisters. My father was a devout Catholic, who along with my mother believed strongly in the power of education. Because of that foundation, I was educated in a Catholic grade school, attended church daily, and graduated from a private girls’ high school, where nuns educated me. I grew up in an environment in which reading, love of family, and an appreciation of the arts were emphasized. A requirement of my high school curriculum was to take a language course for four years, and my choices were Latin, French, or Spanish. I chose Spanish, not knowing that learning a foreign language would change my life forever. That decision led to me moving after high school to Washington, D.C., to attend Georgetown University, a Jesuit school where I studied Spanish as a major, Italian as a minor, with a concentration in French and linguistics. My plan after graduating university was to seek employment as an interpreter for the United Nations. By chance, a fellow Georgetown graduate working at the Library of Congress told me that the Library was hiring. His encouragement resulted in my employment at the Library beginning in 1981.

What is your professional history?

My first job at the Library was as an Information Counter Attendant in the retail sales area. It was an ideal job, as everyone who was anyone visited the gift shop, including Daniel Boorstin, then Librarian of Congress; heads of state; members of Congress; and too many celebrities to name. Henry Kissinger came through one day, and I was so floored I could barely speak to him! My job was to sell retail and assist visitors to get to their destinations in the Library. My exposure to people from around the world increased my language skills and my knowledge of the Library, and I ended my two-year stint in that job knowing where all the reading rooms were located and with a solid idea of how the Library functioned as a federal institution. I then segued into the world of cataloging, something that intrigued me, because I have always been an avid reader. Over the next thirty-six years, I progressed from being a cataloging technician, then librarian, to a first-line supervisor, and for the past eleven years, I have worked as a division chief at the Library. Looking back, I would not have changed any aspect of my career. It has been such an excellent experience to be part of something as meaningful as cataloging. Not only had I found my calling, I was also using the languages I studied over many years. Knowing that I created cataloging records that represent the Library’s world-class collections fills me with pride even today.

During this period, I completed my master’s degree in library science at The Catholic University of America. My family came from Cincinnati to my graduation, and although my parents who had passed away many years before were not there to share my joy, I cherish the photos taken by my mother’s twin who was able to attend. In all of the photos, I looked exhausted, but so grateful to have my degree!

In 2008, my directorate reorganized and I was transferred into a position as chief of the African, Latin American & Western European Division in the Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate of Library Services, which opened the door to me learning how the Library builds its collections through acquisitions. Over my nearly 38 years at the Library, I have been fortunate to work with some of the most talented individuals I have ever met. I continue to be inspired every day I work at the Library. I realized early in my career that working at the Library is more than just completing duties in one’s position description. It is about providing service to others, whether it be through acquiring rare, hard to find collections and making them visible to the world, or helping others to move forward in their careers or in their quest to locate and use information.

How would you describe your job to other people?

When people ask me where I work, I say I am a librarian at the Library of Congress and their faces brighten, because everyone reveres the Library. I describe my work as a manager whose job it is to bring visibility to the Library’s collections, programs, services, and its human resources. My job has many components to it. As a division chief, I am responsible for managing funds and I provide guidance and advice to staff on the Library’s regulations and policies. I also serve as a representative of the Library to external organizations, provide oversight for programs, and formulate and administer policies at the division level. A typical day for me includes attending multiple meetings where intensive planning takes place, communicating by email, meeting many deadlines, and managing multiple and diverse types of contracts that require a good deal of my attention and monitoring. I find my work exciting because it has impact across the Library and the world. I have an outstanding team of first line supervisors who are experts at their jobs and a superlative and supportive group of staff members who are knowledgeable, great to work with, and really understand the Library’s mission.

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

I have always been fascinated with the history of the Library of Congress and its origin. I know that the Library was established in 1800 under President John Adams, who signed an act to move the U.S. government from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and that the law included the purchase of books for a library that would meet the needs of Congress. What I did not learn until recently was that back in 1783, James Madison actually originated the idea of a library for members of Congress. As a lover of all biographies, I have devoured books in particular on Thomas Jefferson, one of my favorite presidents who led a colorful and storied life in my opinion. Jefferson did much to put in place the structure of the Library we know today, including contributing titles from his own personal library after the British burned the Library’s original collection during the War of 1812. However, knowing that James Madison actually originated the idea of what is now the Library of Congress piques my interest to read more about our fourth president.

What is something your co-workers do not know about you?

My co-workers probably do not know that I was a fellow in the second class of the Leadership Development Program, and that as requirement of the internship, I submitted a project proposal to establish a fitness center at the Library that evolved into the “Wellness Center.” My proposal was for the Library to consider the creation of a safe location onsite to promote good health among staff through exercise and health monitoring, which studies have shown lead to longevity and a more productive work environment. The former chief of staff JoAnn Jenkins, now CEO of AARP, approved my proposal and formed a committee with various representatives across the Library to initiate my recommendations. The Wellness Center is located in the John Adams Building on the basement level and I encourage everyone who can to use the facilities.

Categories: Research & Litigation

On This Day: Treaty of Fredrikshamn Signed 1809

Tue, 09/17/2019 - 3:30pm

On September 17, 1809, 210 years ago today, Sweden and Russia signed the Treaty of Fredrikshamn (Finnish: Hamina), marking the end of the Finnish war of 1808-1809 and also the end of the Sweden-Finland era.

Fredsförordning emellan Hans Maj:t Konungen af Sverige Och Sveriges rike å ena, samt Hans Maj:t Kejsaren af Ryssland och Ryska Riket å andra sidan, afhandlat och flutit i Fredricshamn den 17e September 1809 och Ratificeradt i Stockholm den 3 October och i S:t Petersburg den 1-13 i samma månad.  Photo by author.

Finland had been part of Sweden since 1323, when another peace treaty between Novgorod (Russia) and Sweden, the Peace of Pähkinäsaari or Treaty of Nöteborg, was signed. Then in 1809, following the Napoleonic wars, Sweden lost Finland to Russia in the Russian-Swedish War of 1808-1809, and Finland became officially known as the Grand Duchy of Finland.  Article five of the peace treaty set out the new borders between Sweden and Russia, whereby Finland and the Åland islands became Russian terriotry. The Russian Tsar, Alexander I, promised to let Finland keep its law, language, and religion. A promise that was largely kept; for example, Finland kept the Law of 1734, the Swedish-Finnish Civil Code.

Finnish Law statutes passed in 1904, in Russian, Finnish, and Swedish. Photo by author.

Finland attained independence from Russia in December 1917, when the Russians were preoccupied with a civil war. Finland celebrated its centennial as an independent state last year (2018).

One visible effect of the transfer of Finland to Russia in 1909 can be seen in our Finnish law collection. Laws from this period (1810 through 1917) are produced in three languages, Finnish, Russian, and Swedish, then the three official languages of Finland. Still today, Swedish remains an official language of Finland, and Swedish-speaking Finns (Finlandssvenskar) make up approximately 5% of the population. Åland is a Swedish-speaking, autonomous, and demilitarized, region of Finland.

Law Library of Congress Online Resources:

Library of Congress Collection:

Categories: Research & Litigation

The Constitution Annotated Is Now Easier to Search and Browse

Mon, 09/16/2019 - 9:08am

Constitution Day is tomorrow, but it’s already off to a great start with the release of the Congressional Research Service’s new version of The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, better known as the Constitution Annotated. The Constitution Annotated allows you to “read about the Constitution in plain English…providing a comprehensive overview of Supreme Court decisions interpreting the United States Constitution.” The Constitution Annotated is a Senate document created by the Congressional Research Service that makes the Constitution accessible to all Americans, regardless of their background in law. In the past, the web version of this document, which is linked from, consisted of PDFs that could be challenging to search. With this release, the document is available in a more accessible and user-friendly HTML format that is convenient to search and browse.

You will find the link to the Constitution Annotated on the homepage.

The Constitution Annotated on

At the top, you’ll notice that you can search the document. For example, I searched for the Establishment Clause, which is located in the First Amendment to the Constitution. I put my search terms in quotes, so that I could search for it as an exact phrase, rather than two separate words. You are then presented with a results screen where you can use the filter menu on the left-hand side of the screen to narrow down your results. For example, in my search for the Establishment Clause, I might want to narrow down my results to the First Amendment.

Refine your search results using the filters menu in the Constitution Annotated.

You can also choose to browse the document; just click on “Browse the Constitution Annotated” and you will be taken to a screen where you can select an article or amendment to the Constitution.

You can browse the Constitution Annotated.

When you find a topic of interest, be sure to take a look at the Constitution Annotated’s footnotes, where you will find links to the full text of United States Supreme Court cases that have been cited as authority.

Footnotes in the Constitution Annotated link to the full text of United States Supreme Court cases.

The Constitution Annotated also has some great bonus features that you’ll find at the bottom of the page, including discussions of featured issues in Constitutional Law, Library of Congress resources for researching the Constitution, as well as a Highlights and Resources section. The Highlights and Resources section includes two resources that we often use in our work at the reference desk, the Table of Supreme Court Decisions Overruled by Subsequent Decisions and the Table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part by the Supreme Court.

Constitution Annotated Highlights and Resources.

We hope you celebrate Constitution Day by exploring the site and learn something new about the Constitution in the process. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

19th Annual National Book Festival Recap

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 3:37pm

Law Library of Congress at the 19th Annual National Book Festival [Photo by Geraldine Dávila González]

On August 31, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center was packed with thousands of book lovers for the 19th Annual National Book Festival. More than a hundred best-selling authors, novelists, historians, poets, and children’s writers took the stage in front of a record-breaking audience. The festival featured 12 stages, including a brand new main stage, where the highlight of the day was an interview to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who took the stage to talk about her life, career, and her latest book, “My Own Words.”

Among other law-related presentations during the day, at the History and Biography stage, Elaine Weiss spoke about her new book “The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote” and Evan Thomas discussed the life of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

The Law Library of Congress was present at the James Madison Area of the Exhibit Floor. At the table, attendees learned more about the Law Library in a trivia game. Many people were most surprised to learn that the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress holds many of the papers of the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Attendees interacted one-on-one with our legal research librarians and took home some of our giveaways, including gavel pencils.

Law Library table at the National Book Festival [Photo by Geraldine Dávila González]

Join us next year for the twentieth anniversary of the National Book Festival!

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Kayahan Cantekin, Foreign Law Specialist

Fri, 09/13/2019 - 9:00am

Today’s interview is with Kayahan Cantekin, a foreign law specialist covering Turkey and other Turkic-speaking jurisdictions in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background

I am from Istanbul, Turkey. I was born in Texas, and my parents moved back to Turkey from the United States when I was six years old. I lived and studied in Istanbul until I graduated from law school when I was 23. After that, seeking some international experience, I first moved to London to study for my Master of Laws, and then to Florence, Italy, for my doctoral degree. In between these two degrees, I moved back to Turkey for a couple years to get my attorney’s license. In 2017, while I was writing my doctoral thesis, I moved to the U.S. with my wife. Before settling down in Washington, DC we were living in Lexington, Kentucky to be close to my father-in-law.

Kayahan Cantekin, photo by Zeynep Timoçin Cantekin (2019).

What is your academic/professional history?

I studied for my undergraduate law degree at Koç University in Istanbul. In Turkey, the law school curriculum is quite extensive, and one ends up completing more than 48 courses over the course of four years, studying everything from torts to European Union law. However, I was specifically interested in the information technologies law course that I took in my last year. It quickly turned out to be my favorite, which pushed me to further investigate the area and apply for the regulation and technology Master of Laws program at King’s College London. During my time at King’s College, I not only learned EU law in the field of telecommunications and internet law, but I was also introduced into legal academia. Confirming that I enjoyed thinking and reading about the law, I started to entertain the idea of doing a doctoral degree.

After King’s College, I returned to Turkey to do my bar traineeship to get my attorney’s license. In Istanbul, it takes a little over a year to complete each requirement to get a bar membership. At first, I started working as a tax law intern at a multinational accounting firm; it was a bit irrelevant to what I had been studying in my Master of Laws, but tax law and international tax law were two other favorite courses in law school. After I got accepted to the bar, I returned to Koç University as an intellectual property law consultant for their technology transfer office and I worked on cases with my professors. At Koç University, my professors encouraged me to continue my studies at the doctoral level and advised me to apply to the European University Institute’s doctoral program. After being admitted to the EUI, I started working on IP law problems arising in relation to cloud computing based services. This work then evolved into my thesis project, which was to create a new methodology to study conflict of laws rules applicable to global data flows.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I write country survey reports and legal opinions regarding the laws of Turkey and other Turkic-speaking jurisdictions. I recently started working on Greek law as well, which is not too foreign to me since Turkey and Greece are civil law countries that are rooted in similar continental European legal traditions and I am also trained in European Union law. I regularly work on multi-jurisdiction reports requested by legislators in Congress, legal opinions on particular legal questions requested by U.S. agencies, and also inquiries coming from members of the public such as attorneys and private citizens that are interested in rules in my jurisdictions.

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

I started working for the Law Library of Congress in the spring of 2018 as a contractor. I worked on a few different reports on Turkish law, and I enjoyed the work a lot. I was honored when offered a full-time position as a foreign law specialist, which is a perfect role for me and my career as a researcher and practitioner after my doctoral studies. Also, I must admit that after years of researching topics on U.S. and EU law for my doctoral studies, dealing with legal issues in other jurisdictions was a very fresh and welcome challenge. 

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

That the Librarian of Congress is appointed with the Senate’s approval and that it used to be a lifetime appointment!

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

I was the manager of the social club at the EUI in my first year. We threw huge parties. I first took this up for extra income to support my family, but I enjoyed it immensely and made great friends.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Simon Sobeloff and Jewish Baltimore

Thu, 09/12/2019 - 4:24pm

The following is a guest post by Ryan Reft, a historian in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.  Ryan previously wrote a post for In Custodia Legis on a scholarly panel the Library hosted, Rights and Resistance: Civil Liberties during World War I.

Ceiling detail, City of Baltimore seal, at the William H. Welch Medical Library, the library of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. (2012), Carol M. Highsmith.


On March 25, 1933, the Baltimore branch of the American Jewish Congress under the leadership of its president, the United States Attorney for Maryland, Simon Sobeloff, called a meeting “to protest against the mistreatment of Jews in Germany.” Held at one of the city’s most established synagogues, Chizuk Amuno, the conference drew 59 Jewish organizations from around the city.

Sobeloff would later achieve judicial fame, first as a respected judge in the Maryland court system, then in the mid-1950s as Solicitor General under President Eisenhower, and from 1955 until his retirement in 1973, as an Associate and later Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. From his perch atop the Fourth Circuit, the Baltimore native enforced desegregation across the mid-Atlantic and upper and lower South.

Sobeloff’s papers are housed in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.  While the collection has long served as a window into the juridical history of American law, a new addition to the collection expands its insights into the world of Jewish Baltimore and the political and cultural debates that unfolded within it well past 1945.

In many respects, Sobeloff embodies the arc of America’s Jewish communities but especially concerning  “Charm City” and its Jewish residents. During the 1920 and 30s, the city’s Jewish community transformed in numerous ways: spatially, economically, and culturally. While East Baltimore had long served as an area for European and notably Jewish settlement, the post-World War I annexation of Northwest Baltimore offered new housing opportunities.

By 1937, Jewish residents accounted for nearly 10 percent of the city’s growing population. Admittedly, restriction laws of the early 1920s halted Jewish immigration to the city, yet 73,000 resided in the city and the limitation of new arrivals also enabled the community to develop a distinct American identity. By 1925, half of the city’s Jewish population resided in Northwest Baltimore which featured “kosher butcher shops and bakeries” but also “modern gathering places including drug stores, movie theaters, and bowling alleys,” note historians Eric L. Goldstein and Deborah R. Weiner.

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants who settled in late-19th century East Baltimore, Sobeloff later attended Baltimore City College and earned his law degree from the University of Maryland in 1915. By 1933, Sobeloff had risen to President of the Baltimore Branch of the American Jewish Congress, the combative rival to the more “patrician” American Jewish Council. The bulletin published by the Baltimore branch of the American Jewish Congress reached 6,500 readers, gentile and Jewish alike, Sobeloff asserted. “We have been and are using every means in our power to awaken our community, non-Jewish as well as Jewish, to an understanding of our problem and an earnest interest in dealing with it,” he wrote to one of the organization’s most recognizable leaders, Rabbi Stephen Wise, in November 1933.

Sobeloff was not alone in articulating such concerns; others shared his fear that events in Europe were seeping into America. “I have always been interested in the welfare of our people but nothing in my lifetime has given me more concern or stirred within me a greater desire to be of service to my fellow countrymen than the present situation confronting Jewry today, not only in Germany but in this country as well,” Emanuel Gorfine wrote. Gorfine, a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly from Baltimore’s Fourth District added darkly: “The Jews in Germany are doomed, and, while everything possible is being done to alleviate their distress, it is realized that so far as saving them is concerned that is practically a forlorn hope.” To their collective credit, between 1933 and 1937, Baltimore’s refugee aid groups settled 3,000 persons fleeing Nazi Germany.

Anti-Semitic provocations intensified as the decade progressed. In 1936, only seven months after the passage of Germany’s Nuremberg Laws, the German warship Emden docked in the city as part of a larger “goodwill tour” by the Nazis. Thousands of Baltimoreans streamed to Recreation Pier to get a look at the vessel. “City and state officials drank a toast to Hitler at an officer’s reception sponsored by local German societies” note Goldstein and Weiner, while 450 Marylanders “enjoyed a shipboard luncheon” that celebrated “sea life’s gay side.” When it finally departed, 2,000 spectators bid it farewell, “as its swastika flag fluttered” in the harbor wind.

In the wake of the Emden affair, Sobeloff soon confronted another cultural provocation when the film, Hans Westmar: One of Many reached American theaters. The movie put forth a sympathetic portrait of the Nazi Horst Wessel and functioned as the final installment in a trilogy of Nazi- produced films meant to memorialize the Nazi party’s time in opposition. Wise described Wessell as an “eminence of leadership in the world of pimpdom and of incitement to mass murder.”

Sobeloff knew one of the film’s distributors, Amos J. Peaslee, and reached out to him in a letter. Peaslee reacted coldly to Sobeloff’s critique of the film and decried Jewish American attempts to protest the movie: “In any event, any concerted effort to suppress the free play of thought, speech or press upon political, racial or religious grounds seems to me un-American.” He also asserted that the Nazi government had nothing to do with the film’s production, a statement that Wise and Sobeloff correctly repudiated.

Peaslee further wrote to Sobeloff: “I count among some of my best friends members of your religious sect and I have found many fine characters and have a number of friends who are members of the Nazi Party in Germany. My political and religious viewpoints doubtless differ widely from those friends, both in your religious sect and in the Nazi party, in a number of respects, and certainly all of my own religious background has taught the virtues of tolerance.”

Despite such obstacles, Sobeloff refused to relent. In 1939, he served as the Baltimore Jewish Council’s (BJC) first president. The BJC became the first “communal organization to engage in the ‘fight’ strategy” even if it initially “went about its business quietly,” Goldstein and Weiner observe.

Indeed, in ensuing years, the BJC would be an active presence in the city, promoting desegregation while also criticizing Jewish and gentile realtors it believed acted unscrupulously regarding blockbusting. It allied with the NAACP and Urban League in the mid-1950s to combat racism by pushing for fair employment laws. While it took nearly two decades for the BJC to adopt an aggressive approach, it proved effective. The fair employment ordinance that passed in 1956 had been drafted in BJC headquarters and became the first of its kind below the Mason-Dixon Line. By then Sobeloff had moved to the Fourth Circuit where he enforced desegregation across the upper and lower South. Yet he remained active in the BJC and as demonstrated, Sobeloff’s experiences during the 1930s informed his actions decades later. A witness to history, Sobeloff chose also to be an actor within it. The addition to the Sobeloff papers tells this story and many, many, more from Jewish Baltimore.

Additional Resources



Categories: Research & Litigation

We’re Going to Do Something: Flight 93 National Memorial

Wed, 09/11/2019 - 10:03am

One perfectly ordinary, sunny Tuesday morning at the end of summer, four planes headed out on trans-U.S. flights; they never made it to their intended destination. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Robert F. Kennedy, every American beyond primary school age at that time remembers where they were and what they were doing when they first heard about the plane hijackings of September 11, 2001.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Entrance Sign [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark International Airport to San Francisco International Airport was the last of the four planes to take off and the last to crash. The passengers on Flight 93 learned of the Twin Tower crashes and that terrorism was the cause. Calls from the passengers show that they took a vote and intended to attack the hijackers. The passengers used whatever weapons they could muster—one flight attendant, Sandy Bradshaw, said they were heating water to pour on the attackers. The actions of the passengers deterred the terrorists from reaching their probable goal, the U.S. Capitol. The planners of the September 11 attack instructed the hijackers to crash the plane if they could not reach their intended target; it is possible that the struggle of the passengers with the terrorists caused the plane’s crash (9/11 Commission Report, 244). In any case, UAL Flight 93 crashed into the ground in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, “hitting right wing and nose first, at a speed of between 563-580 miles per hour”. The plane crashed 125 flight miles/20 flight minutes away from the U.S. Capitol (9/11 Commission Report, 14).

Flight 93 National Memorial, Exhibit sign [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

In the days and months that followed, the nation mourned; the FBI, the FAA, and the NTSB carried out investigations; new laws were created related to the tragedy. Congress authorized the 9/11 Commission to study the attacks and write a report. A year after Flight 93 crashed into an empty field, Congress passed Public Law 107-226, Flight 93 National Memorial Act. The crater left by the plane’s impact was filled with dirt, and grass and wildflower seeds were strewn over the ground.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Wall of Names [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

The National Park Service oversees and maintains the memorial, which includes a memorial wall with the names of the passengers. Citizens have contributed funds to add features to the memorial. In 2018, the Tower of Voices was dedicated to the extraordinary people who made a difference in an atrocious moment.

Flight 93 National Memorial, Tower of Voices [photo by Rebecca Raupach]

Categories: Research & Litigation

Searching the Committee Schedule: New, Tip, and Top for September 2019

Mon, 09/09/2019 - 12:51pm

One of the new features to that we have been refining this year is the Committee Schedule, which “combines announcements about future House and Senate committee meetings and hearings for the selected week.” Robert announced its launch in January.  Since then, we have added indicators for rescheduled and postponed meetings, upcoming meetings to the homepagelinks to supporting documentation such as legislation, and the date picker to the weekly view of the schedule.

With this update we are adding the Committee Meetings from the Committee Schedule to our global “All Sources” search results as well as adding Committee Meetings to our Committee Profile pages.

Committee Meetings on the House Small Business Committee Profile Page

You can now go to specific House or Senate Committee pages to see the Committee Meetings listed.  You can select “Committee Meetings” and check “Search Within” at the top to search the meetings for that committee.

Select “All Sources” to search committee meetings/hearings

To search for the Committee Meetings in the global search, change “Current Legislation” to “All Sources” in the drop down menu.  You can add a search term or leave the search box empty and run the search.  After you get your results make sure just “Committee Meetings” is checked.  You can also use the Committee filter to narrow your results.  For example, if you were interested in the Rules Committee Meetings you could save this search and then select “Get Alerts” for when new upcoming meetings are added.  You could also select “Download Results” from the link at the top of the results if you need a quick spreadsheet of dates and times a committee met.

Searching Committee Meetings is a great next step in our incorporation of this new material into  Our team has been hard at work to continue to bring you new enhancements to the site.  Stay tuned as there are more updates to come.

One other new feature with this release is a link to Law Library of Congress Reports on the homepage.  It is under the heading of Library of Congress Reports along with the Search CRS Reports link.

New Law Library of Congress Reports link on the Homepage

We also updated the Appropriations link on the homepage to go to the Appropriations Status Table on the CRS Reports site.

Enhancements for September 2019

You can read through all of the Enhancements for September:

Enhancement – Committee Schedule – Search
  • Committee Schedule meeting information is searched from the search bar when you select All Sources.

Enhancement – Committee Profiles – Committee Meetings

  • Committee meetings are listed on each committee’s profile page.

Enhancement – Law Library Reports – Homepage Link

Enhancement – Find Your Representative by Zip Code

Enhancement – Appropriations Tables

Search Tip

This week’s search tip on billCosponsorCount is by Claudia.

Use the field label billCosponsorCount: in the Legislation Search form (click More Options if collapsed) to find bills with an exact number of cosponsors or bills with a number of cosponsors within a range.


  • billCosponsorCount:50. Finds bills with exactly 50 cosponsors.
  • billCosponsorCount:[50 TO *]. Finds bills with 50 cosponsors or more.
  • billCosponsorCount:[1 TO 49]. Finds bills with cosponsors within the specified range.

    billCosponsorCount:[50 TO *]. Finds bills with 50 cosponsors or more.

Most-Viewed Bills

Below are the Most-Viewed Bills for September 1, 2019.  All are from the current 116th Congress.

1. H.R.5 Equality Act 2. H.R.1044 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 3. S.386 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 4. H.R.3289 Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 5. H.R.2500 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 6. H.R.1296 Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 7. H.R.838 Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety Act of 2019 8. H.R.6 American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 9. H.R.8 Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 10. H.R.40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act

Please share below or submit feedback for what you would like to see on

Categories: Research & Litigation

How to Label a Book – Pic of the Week

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 7:00am

Today’s Pic of the Week is another in an occasional series featuring odd and/or outdated library equipment.

Can you identify this object? Photo by Betty Lupinacci

We found the above-pictured object in the deep recesses of a supply cabinet.  Unfortunately as is often the case, I am the last remaining Law Library staffer to have seen or used this item. It harks from the dark days before we had automated label printers for adding call numbers to books.

We used to have to type individual labels onto either pre-cut sheets or continuous label stock.  The latter came in narrow rolls of thermal material with a thick backing.  After typing the label you would feed the roll into the cutter pictured here, press the handles together and voila – you had a label ready and just needed to peel off the backing and attach it to the volume!

Only that wasn’t really the end of the process.

This label stock, as I mentioned, was thermal.  It had to be applied to the book with heat if you wanted it to stay attached for any length of time.  So we also had a supply of small irons with long handles that you would use to iron the label on to the book.

Cutting labels. Photo by Betty Lupinacci

Heat-applied label. These do not come off without a struggle! Photo by Betty Lupinacci.











As I am not the most adroit person (which I blame on being left-handed), I burned my fingers with frightening regularity or would drop the iron onto my lap, scorching my clothing.

No one was happier than me when these devices were retired in favor of our turbo-charged/self-cutting/non-thermal label printers.

Ain’t technology grand!

Categories: Research & Litigation

Constitution Day 2019 Event featuring Kannon Shanmugam: “The State of the Constitution”

Tue, 09/03/2019 - 9:00am

Kannon Shanmugam is a partner in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

Constitution Day, officially known as “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day,” is a federal commemoration observed each year to mark the signing of the U.S. Constitution on September 17, 1787, and to “recognize all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.” On September 17 2019, the Law Library will honor this day with a lecture entitled “The State of the Constitution” by Kannon Shanmugam. He will speak about the role of the judiciary in our constitutional system and the relationship between the judiciary and the other branches of government.

Kannon Shanmugam is a partner in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. He heads the firm’s Supreme Court and appellate litigation practice and is managing partner of the firm’s Washington office. Widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier appellate advocates, Kannon has argued 27 cases before the Supreme Court, including several of the Court’s most significant recent business and criminal cases. Beyond the Supreme Court, he has argued dozens of appeals in courts across the country. In ranking Kannon in the first tier of appellate advocates nationwide, Chambers USA praised him as “brilliant” and “unflappable.”

Kannon previously served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice. Born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, he received an A.B. summa cum laude in classics from Harvard; an M. Litt. in classics from the University of Oxford, where he was a Marshall Scholar; and a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was executive editor of the law review and argued for the winning side in the moot-court competition.  After graduation, he served as a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court and Judge J. Michael Luttig on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The lecture will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 17, in the Mumford Room, located on the sixth floor of the Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. The program is free and open to the public.

Please register via Eventbrite to attend this event.

Request ADA accommodations 5 business days in advance at 202-707-6362 or

Categories: Research & Litigation

The Law Library of Congress at the 19th Annual National Book Festival

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 12:58pm

2019 National Book Festival Poster [Illustration by Marian Bantjes]

This Saturday, August 31, join us for our 19th Annual National Book Festival. Starting at 9:00 a.m. at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, more than a hundred best-selling authors, novelists, historians, poets, and children’s writers will take the stage, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

While at the festival, come visit the Law Library of Congress table located at the Expo Floor, where you can learn more about our services in a fun game of trivia, get one of our popular gavel pencils, and interact with our librarians. The full National Book Festival schedule can be found here:

For more information about the National Book Festival, please visit: Also, check out the National Book Festival Blog, where you can find more information about this year’s festival, the featured authors and tips on how to organize your day.

We hope to see you there this weekend!

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Breshan Bryant, Collection Services Technician

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 7:10am

Breshan Bryant. Photo by Katrina Gardner.

Today’s interview is with Breshan Bryant, the newest technician in the Law Library’s Collection Services Division (CSD).  We’re very happy to have her aboard.

Describe your background.

I was born in Mobile, Alabama, but grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland. I am the best of four siblings and the proud aunt of seven nieces and nephews and one great-nephew.

What is your academic/professional history?

I attended Trinity Washington University in D.C. from 2006-2010, where I received my B.A. in English. I managed to snag a work study job at the university’s library and worked there throughout my four years. I guess you can say Trinity cultivated my passion for the library service field.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I would tell non-library folks that I ensure unbound books are sent out for binding and important documents are linked to the correct record in the library-wide system.  I only use library terminology among my peers, unless I’m trying to add a bit of razzle dazzle to the conversation.

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

I started out as a volunteer at the Library of Congress (in the Jefferson Building). It was short lived, because I got this great idea I should get paid to come here every day. I applied for a contract position that just so happened to be in the Law Library. I enjoyed the work and the people so much I remained as a contractor here for nearly seven years. A few months into year seven, I finally dusted off my resume and applied for a permanent position in CSD.

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

The actual number of books being housed here. I guess I never grasped how large our collection is, although my previous position called for me to be in the stacks almost every day.

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

I am a former sneaker collector. I owned way too many pairs, and it was getting a bit ridiculous to house them. So I eventually shrunk my collection down, and now I maintain a rotating collection of 50 pairs of sneakers.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Henri Barbeau, Foreign Law Intern

Thu, 08/22/2019 - 2:07pm

Today’s interview is with Henri Barbeau, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Nicolas Boring at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Henri Barbeau is a foreign law intern at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

Describe your background.

I am a Canadian law student at the University of Montreal, in the province of Quebec. I studied history as an undergraduate student, with a particular focus on modern Europe, before opting for the study of law. My interests are fairly eclectic, though I find the areas of public and international law to be the most fun.

How would you describe your job to other people?

In a few words, I help my supervisor, Nicolas Boring, provide answers to legal questions for francophone jurisdictions. These include France, Belgium, and Haiti, but also a large number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Mali, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name a few. Questions tend to come from the U.S. Congress, far and away the most important “patron” of the Law Library, but also from federal agencies, private inquirers, and even intergovernmental organizations like the World Bank. I also occasionally write articles for the Global Legal Monitor on legal developments in the “Francophonie.”

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

I became aware of the internship position at the Law Library through my school’s career office, the University of Montreal having sent two interns to Washington, D.C.,every summer since 2014. I applied right away, knowing that the opportunity to work at one of the largest libraries in the world, in the heart of Washington, D.C., was too good a chance to pass on. The experience also seemed interesting from the standpoint of comparative law, as much of the work of the Global Legal Research Directorate involves drawing parallels between different legal traditions.

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

I did not know before arriving at the Library that it is required by law to remain open as long as Congress is working so that congressional representatives can consult it whenever necessary. This means that when Congress works into the early hours of the morning – hatching a last-minute budget deal, for example – certain members of the library staff have to pull all-nighters to keep the Library open and available. I suppose this just goes to show how valuable the services of the Law Library of Congress are!

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

I have been an avid guitar player for more than a decade now! I try now and then to take on the works of South American greats like Antonio Lauro, though when it comes to the more technically sophisticated stuff my playing is more aspirational than skillful.   

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Era, New Law Number

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 9:00am

The following is a guest post by Sayuri Umeda, a foreign law specialist who covers Japan and other countries in East and Southeast Asia. Sayuri has previously written posts for In Custodia Legis on various topics, including Holy Cow – Making Sense of Japanese Wagyu Cow Export RulesJapanese Criminal Legal System as Seen Through the Carlos Ghosn CaseDisciplining Judges for “Bad Tweets”Engagement under Japanese Law and Imperial House RulesIs the Sound of Children Actually Noise?How to Boost your Medal Count in the Olympics, South Korean-Style, and many more.

A Japanese law is identified by an act number and a year, with numbers restarting each year.  The “year” is not the fiscal year, but the calendar year.  (Id.)  However, there are two kinds of calendar years in Japan: one is the year of the emperor era (gengo or gengou), and the other is the western calendar year (Gregorian calendar). A new gengo, the Reiwa era, commenced earlier this year when Emperor Naruhito assumed the throne on May 1, 2019.

The origins of gengo are found in ancient China.  A Chinese ruler introduced the era year system around 140 B.C.  However, China abolished the era year system after the Qing Dynasty.  Japan is the only country that still uses era years.

There is a law to regulate the emperor eras today in Japan: the Gengo Act (Act No. 43 of 1979).  Before World War II, gengo had a basis in the former Imperial Household Act.  However, the Allied Occupation abolished this Act.  The new Imperial Household Act (Act No. 3 of 1947) was enacted and replaced the old one on May 1, 1947, the day the Constitution of Japan took effect .  The new Act, however, did not have a provision concerning gengo.  Therefore, the gengo of that time, the Showa era, did not have any legal basis after May 1, 1947, until the 1979 Gengo Act (Act No. 43 of 1979) was enacted.

The Gengo Act is very short.  It has only two provisions:

  1. A gengo is set by a Cabinet Order.
  2. A gengo is changed only when there was succession of Emperors.

There is no provision that obliges the government or private persons to use the gengo year.  The Chief Cabinet Secretary Kan recently stated, before Reiwa took effect as the new gengo, that, while the custom of using the gengo year in public documents should be continued, private persons are free to use either the gengo year or western calendar year.

Coming back to the issue of act numbers, as a custom, the gengo year has been used for numbering acts in Japan.  However, when people abroad cite act numbers in English, we use the western year because it is assumed that non-Japanese, generally, do not know the gengo year. For example, the Blue Book (for legal citation) uses western years to cite Japanese statutes, regulations, and orders.

I did not realize that law number would restart after May 1, 2019, the first date of the Reiwa era,  until I read a news article about Cabinet notifications regarding the succession of emperors and then checked the Notifications themselves.  Cabinet notifications also started from number one on May 1, 2019.  This was not noticeable the last time that the eras changed.  The previous Heisei era started on January 8, 1989, but no law was enacted between January 1 and 7, 1989.

I further realized that there would be some laws and regulations with the same act numbers in 2019.  For example, act number 6 of 2019 (Heisei 31) is the Act to Amend Parts of the Income Tax Act and Other Acts, and act number 6 of 2019 (Reiwa 1) is the Act to Amend the Radio Act.

From now on, when I specify an act that has a law number between 1 and 20 in 2019, I must specify whether the year is in the Heisei era or Reiwa era.

Photo of new era Reiwa by flickr user MIKI Yoshihito (Apr. 3, 2019). Used under Creative Commons License.



Categories: Research & Litigation

Research Guides In Focus – How to Find Free Case Law Online

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 10:30am

The following is a guest post by Anna Price, a legal reference librarian at the Law Library of Congress.

We are back again to focus on the Law Library’s Research Guides. This time we are discussing another popular guide, How to Find Free Case Law Online.

Introduction page of How To Find Free Case Law Online,

Until a few years ago, case law generally was not freely-available online. Researchers had to find an accessible law library and then either learn how to search a subscription database or study the library’s print collection of reporters and digests. Recently, however, various organizations have been working to make state and federal court opinions, as well as associated case materials, available electronically without charge. This guide offers clear direction on using those resources.

The guide walks users through some popular online databases, with a focus on Google Scholar, CourtListener, FindLaw, Justia, and the Public Library of Law. Each section instructs users on navigating the resource and lists its tools, coverage, and unique features that may be helpful for various researcher needs. For example, did you know that CourtListener maintains the RECAP Archive, which includes selected case and docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts? Or what about FindLaw’s collection of Supreme Court briefs?

As an added bonus, the Google Scholar section includes a video demonstration from Law Library of Congress employees Robert Brammer and Barbara Bavis, who show viewers how to find a case on the Google Scholar platform.

We hope you will find this guide helpful in your research. As always, if you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Alison Trulock, an Associate Archivist in the Office of Art and Archives within the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 1:05pm

What is your academic and professional history?

I graduated with a BA in English and worked for about five years in editorial and project management positions in the book publishing industry. I decided to go back to graduate school, intending to be a librarian. I attended the School of Information at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. When I started the program, I discovered the archives and records management specialization and realized that was a field that I would allow me to combine my interests in research, writing, and history. Over the summer between the first and second years of my graduate program, I interned at the Center for Legislative Archives, the unit of the National Archives and Records Administration that preserves and makes accessible the records of Congress. The Center for Legislative Archives works closely with the Clerk’s Office at the House of Representatives to manage its records. I had a great experience and came away with a desire to pursue a career working with government records.

After I completed my graduate program, I moved to Washington, D.C. for a 10-week Junior Fellowship at the Library of Congress with the Veterans History Project, hoping that during those 10 weeks I would be able to find a job in the DC area. During the fellowship, a position opened up in the Clerk’s Office in the History and Preservation Office as Archives Research Assistant. I got the job on the last day of my fellowship, which made it seem like it was all meant to be! I’ve now been in the Clerk’s Office of Art and Archives for 10 years as an archivist in positions with increasing responsibilities, and I’m now Associate Archivist.

Alison Trulock, an Associate Archivist in the Office of Art and Archives within the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. Photo by Alison Trulock.

How would you describe your job to other people?

Very few days are the same in my position, which is one of the things I like most about it. My duties encompass many parts of the archives profession, from records management, to accessioning and describing records, to reference, and to outreach and education, as well as research and writing about House records for exhibitions and the office’s website and blog. A big focus of my position now is outreach to internal and external stakeholders about the value and importance of preserving the history of the institution of the House of Representatives through the records of its committees. We do that through direct outreach to the House community, as well as to external audiences through the History, Art & Archives website.

What is your favorite feature of

The House Committee Hearings and Meetings Video page is a great resource. My office often gets questions about where to find these types of videos, so having them aggregated in one spot is really useful.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process and/or the legislative branch?

My favorite category of House records is petitions and memorials. Before I started working for the House, I knew that the right to petition Congress was guaranteed by the Constitution, but seeing how many petitions have been sent to Congress (it’s the most voluminous category of House records) was eye-opening. I love that petitions show all of the myriad issues for which people sought the assistance and intervention of Congress and the topics for which they advocated or fought against, and gives these people, groups, and communities a voice and representation in the history of Congress.

What has been your most memorable day at work?

One aspect of working here are the opportunities to experience history being made. This January, I had the chance to sit in the House Gallery for Opening Day of the new Congress for the first time. It was incredible to be able to have a near-front row seat for a unique House tradition and to be able to see a record number of women be sworn in as representatives.

Do you have a favorite non-partisan resource related to civics education that you would recommend to teachers and students?

The History, Art & Archives website, of course! In particular, I would recommend the Records Search feature of the site, which provides access to records of the committees of the House dating to 1789 that are accompanied by metadata and descriptions providing institutional and historical context for the document. Various types of documents are represented, including legislation, petitions, letters, maps, and photographs, on subjects teachers and students are covering in the classroom, such as women’s suffrage, the civil rights movement, and westward expansion. One of my favorite documents is a hand-drawn map of proposed mail routes for the Utah Territory from the 1860s, which I came across during research in committee records at the Center for Legislative Archives. It was neatly folded and looked like it probably hadn’t been touched since it was filed away. It’s such an interesting visual representation of the expansion of the United States and the perhaps unexpected challenges that came along with it, such as getting mail to all of the country’s far-flung residents.

We’re working on new features geared toward students and educators and adding new documents, so we encourage teachers and students to check back often.

What kind of academic and non-academic preparation would you recommend to young people who are interested in getting a job with the legislative branch?

Internships and volunteering are always excellent opportunities to get hands-on experience and figure out what you like to do, and maybe what’s not for you, too. Being well-read on a variety of issues, points of view, current events, and history can help inform what kind of role you’re interested in on the Hill and make contributions once you’re there. Develop solid communication skills, in all forms—in person, in writing, on the phone. It’s important to remember that the legislative branch is about legislation and policy, of course, but also, in a way, about customer service. Being able to listen, think critically, and respond thoughtfully to all the people you may encounter during your day is a critical job skill.

What is something your co-workers do you know about you?

I collect vintage Pyrex bowls. I have a few sets, but have to be more strategic in my collecting because I’m running out of space to store and display them!

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Haviva Yesgat, Foreign Law Intern

Fri, 08/16/2019 - 9:00am

Today’s interview is with Haviva Yesgat, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Tariq Ahmad at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Haviva Yesgat is a foreign Law intern at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna

Describe your background.

I am a first-generation Canadian born and raised in Montréal, Québec, Canada. My family is originally from Ethiopia. Due to my upbringing I have the privilege of speaking four languages fluently: English, French, Amharic and Hebrew.  

What is your academic/professional history?

 In 2016, I earned a Bachelor of Commerce from McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management, where I majored in marketing and minored in communication studies. During my time at McGill University I had the opportunity to take political science courses in Florence, Italy, at Università degli Studi di Firenze. After the completion of my first undergraduate degree I decided to pursue further studies in law at Université de Montréal, where I recently earned my Bachelor of Laws. In addition to learning about the Canadian legal landscape, I was able to spend a summer semester studying at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. This provided me with a unique opportunity to learn about international and comparative law. In the fall I will commence my studies in preparation for the Québec bar examination.  

How would you describe your job to other people?

Working as an intern for the Global Legal Research Directorate entails many different responsibilities. The Law Library of Congress receives requests from the United States Congress, federal agencies, public organizations, and individuals. Under the supervision of Tariq Ahmad, I draft reports regarding various legal issues. My work has focused primarily on Canada and particular countries in South Asia. Tasks and legal topics can therefore vary from day to day, which keeps my job very exciting! As an intern I am also provided with an opportunity to contribute to the Law Library’s blog, In Custodia Legis, and the Global Legal Monitor. 

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

The Law Library of Congress offers an exceptional opportunity to interact with a diverse group of legal experts. Working here allows me to learn about different legal jurisdictions through both independent research and conversations with like-minded individuals. I strongly believe that such a collaborative and intellectual environment will help shape me into a more qualified jurist. Moreover, as an avid reader, I could not pass on the opportunity to work at the world’s largest library! Living in Washington, D.C., for the duration of my internship offers abundant opportunities. The city is home to fascinating museums and monuments. Working on Capitol Hill also enables me to attend important congressional hearings.  

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

I have been able to witness the wealth of valuable and quality resources available to legal specialists and other staff at the Law Library. As an intern I was even able to visit the Library of Congress’s African and Middle Eastern division to explore my personal interests. A reference specialist, Fentahun Tiruneh, and the Hebraic specialist, Dr. Ann Brener, cordially showed me many of the rare and impressive Ethiopian and Hebraic works housed at the Library of Congress.  

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

I’ve always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. It’s the next item on my bucket list!

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: Sweden’s Pre-Trial Detention Laws

Thu, 08/15/2019 - 10:00am

Picture of Kronobergshäktet, Stockholm, Source: Kriminalvården, Press Pictures, used under a non-commercial license. ( Press Picture policy at[2]&s= (non-commercial)).

The Swedish detention system has been in the news over the last few weeks, including calls to change its detention system. Swedish media has also reported that the Swedish government is considering amendments to its pre-trial detention rules. So, what are the current rules?

1. Who can be detained?

Pre-trial detention is regulated in chapter 24 of the Criminal and Civil Procedural Code (Rättegångsbalken (RB) SFS 1942:740) and by the Detention Act (Häkteslag (SFS 2010:611)).

Pre-trial detention is decided by the court (one judge and three lay judges) (24 kap. 5 § RB; 1 kap. 3b § RB).

The Criminal and Civil Procedural Code provides the following:

1 §   [A person] who is, on reasonable grounds, suspect of a crime, for which a prison sentence of one year or more is prescribed, may be detained, if, considering the nature of the crime, and the suspect’s situation, or other circumstances, there is a risk that [the suspect]:

  1. will abscond or in any other way evade legal proceedings or sentencing,
  2.  will remove evidence or in another way hamper the investigation, or
  3. continues to engage in criminal activity.

If the crime carries a minimum sentence of two years imprisonment, pre-trial detention must take place, unless it is obvious that reasons for detention are missing.

Pre-trial detention may only be used if the reasons for the measure outweigh the invasion or other injury that the measure causes the suspect or any other competing interest.

If it can be assumed that the suspect will only be sentenced to a fine, detention may not take place.

2 §   A person who is, on probable cause, suspected of a crime may be detained, irrespective of the nature of the crime,

1. if he is unknown and refuses to provide a name and residence, or if the information provided can be presumed to be untrue, or

2. If he lacks a residence within [Sweden] and there is a risk that [the suspect] by leaving the country, will evade legal proceedings or sentencing. (All translations by author.)

Thus, a person who is a foreigner and lacks a permanent abode in Sweden is a presumed flight risk and can always be detained regardless of the crime.

2. Can minors be detained pending prosecution, trial, and sentencing?

Persons who have reached the age of criminal responsibility (Swedish: straffmyndig), being at least 15 years old, but who are not yet 18 may also be detained. However, in order for minors to be detained there must be extraordinary reasons (synnerliga skäl) to do so (24 kap. 4 § RB, 23 § Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om unga lagöverträdare [Act with Special Provisions on Young  Offenders](SFS 1964:167).) Extraordinary reasons are determined by weighing the age of the suspect against the seriousness of the crime (Swedish Supreme Court, NJA 2015 s 649.)  For example, a 16 year old who is suspected of murder may be detained but not a 15 year old suspected of aggravated robbery (NJA 2015 s 649 and RH 2004:61.) In 2018, a total of 150 minors were detained in Sweden.

3. What is the maximum time someone can be detained?

Swedish law does not place a time limit on pre-trial detention. However, if the prosecutor has not brought charges within 14 days a new pre-trial detention hearing must take place. (24 kap. 18 § 3 st RB.)

Sweden’s pre-trial detention rules have been criticized by both the United Nations Committee Against Torture and the Council of Europe (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)). In a report from 2016, the CPT noted that the “widespread use” of restrictions connected to pre-trial detention in Sweden results in “an almost total absence of organised activities, with most remand prisoners spending up to 23 hours per day alone in their cell, with hardly anything to occupy themselves.” (¶¶ 50-53.) The CPT has called upon EU member states generally to order less-invasive measures than detention, such as confiscating the passport if the suspect is a foreign national.

In Sweden, in 2018, 53% of all persons who were released or transferred from detention to prison had spent more than a month in pre-trial detention, one-third had spent more than two months, and 15% spent more than four months in pre-trial detention. Also in 2018, 65% of all people detained had at least one restriction placed upon them at the time of their initial detention, after one month that number was reduced to 61%. In total, close to 2,000 persons were subject to pre-trial detention in 2018.

The most common restrictions that detained persons face are restrictions on receiving visitors, using electronic communication, receiving packages, and spending time together with other detainees. This has led organizations to criticize Swedish detention as de facto isolation.

Time spent in detention will usually count towards a prison sentence, and may also count against a monetary fine, such as day-fines (dagsböter). Upon the completion of the trial, the court decides whether to release or continue to detain a defendant while it awaits the judgment of the court (24 kap. 21 § RB).

4. Can one post bail instead of being detained?

There is no possibility of posting bail for anyone in Sweden, regardless of whether you are a citizen or not.

In fact, the use of bail is uncommon among European Union member states, but there has previously been discussions about creating a European-wide bail system.

5. Are there alternatives to pre-trial detention?

Even when the conditions for pre-trial detention are met, a travel ban or reporting duty may be used as an alternative to detention (25 kap. 1 § RB). The two measures may also be combined (25 kap. 2 § RB). If a travel ban is ordered, the court may order the suspect to be available at his or her home or workplace during certain hours.

6. When does Swedish pre-trial detention cease to be proportional?

Although there is no time limit on how long a person may be detained, the detention of a person must be proportional and a lengthy detention period speaks against the detention being proportional (24 kap. 1 § 3 st RB). Thus, the Supreme Court has held that the detention must be reasonably proportional in relation to what may be gained from it (NJA 2015 s. 261) and the injury to the defendant.

For instance, in 2015, the Supreme Court, when it approved, the continued in absentia pre-trial detention of Julian Assange, explained that although it approved the continued detention, the prosecutor now had a duty to move the case forward.

In 2019, when the district court again reviewed whether a detention order in absentia of Assange was proportional, it found that it was not, arguing that because Assange could be heard without detaining him (even though he was still a flight risk) it was not proportional detain him, as the goal of the detention could be obtained with less invasive measures.

7. What if you are wrongfully detained?

If the court does not convict the accused of the alleged crime, or if a person is detained and the prosecutor does not file charges, the individual has a right to be compensated for financial losses incurred because of the detention. (2 § Lag om ersättning vid frihetsberövanden och andra tvångsåtgärder [Act on Compensation for and Deprivation of Liberty other Coercive Measures])(SFS 1998:714).) The law does not set a cap on the level of compensation.

8. Can government ministers or public officials intervene in court cases?

Government ministers are legally prohibited from intervening in court cases and in agency decisions. Such intervention is called ministerstryre. The Prime Minister and the Swedish King also do not have the legal right to, alone, pardon crimes. However, the government (Regeringen) may collectively decide (by simple majority at a government meeting) to pardon a crime (nåd) that has been adjudicated (12 kap. 9 § RF). This means that the government may relieve a person from serving a prison sentence or shorten the sentence in certain cases. The government cannot set aside any damages owed to a victim.

In addition, the government, when there are extraordinary reasons, may decide that a criminal act should not be further investigated or prosecuted (referred to as abolition under Swedish law). For example, the government decided that the terrorist attack on the West German Embassy in Sweden in 1975 should not be prosecuted.

By law, the government must consult the Swedish Supreme Court or the Swedish Administrative Supreme Court, if there are special reasons to do so. (Lag om handläggningen av nådeärenden (SFS 1974:579).) Medical reasons are the most common reason for granting clemency are medical reasons.

9. Are there any legal developments with regards to pre-trial detention in Sweden?

In 2016, the Swedish government published a government report (SOU 2016:52) on the topic of reducing the number of persons in pre-trial detention and a reduction in the use of isolation. Among other things, the report suggested adopting a cap on the time spent in pre-trial detention, being six months for adults and three months for minors. Those suggestions have yet to be proposed in a bill. On July 23, 2019, Swedish media reported that the Swedish government is looking to propose changes to the pre-trial detention rules, especially as they concern minors.

Sweden must also adopt the EU Directive 2016/800 on the on procedural safeguards for children who are suspects or accused persons in criminal proceeding, which includes rules on pre-trial detention of minors, and is in the first stages of doing so (SOU 2017:68).

10. Where can I find additional information in English?


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Categories: Research & Litigation


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