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Law and Order
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Spanish Legal Documents (15th – 19th Centuries): Laws and Statutes; Notarial Instruments

Fri, 11/08/2019 - 8:33am

The following post was written in collaboration with Dante Figueroa, Senior Legal Information Analyst at the Law Library of Congress.

Today we bring you another big update from our Spanish Legal Documents series. For more on the history of this collection, as well as our ongoing efforts to present the full collection online, see our previous posts describing the Briefs, Canon Law and Opinions & Judgments categories.

Royal Order of April 2, 1767 issued by King Carlos III approving the deportation from the country and seizure of properties of the religious order of the Jesuits.

Our fourth published category is Laws & Statutes, which consists of 547 royal decrees, ordinances, and local regulations issued by kings and lords, such as those concerning the organization and function of agencies and the appointment of officials. A large proportion of these issuances concern the kingdoms of Aragon and Catalonia.

Coinciding with this larger update, we are also announcing the release of our fifth—and smallest—category, Notarial Instruments. These 13 documents consist of certifications extracted from notarial records concerning wills, donations, agreements on debts, freedom of prisoners, collection of taxes, and weighing of grains.

The royal orders in the Laws & Statutes category cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from the spread of contagious diseases, to the regulation of firearms and a prohibition against private duels, to declarations of war against foreign nations, to the simple production and consumption of olive oil.

While most of the orders imposed regulations or restrictions, or might be considered otherwise punitive, some provided an extension or declaration of rights, such as the one extending the right of free trade to Buenos Aires, Chile and Perú, or one granting certain rights to tenants facing eviction.

One particularly well-documented episode in this category is described in a series of orders relating to Spain’s expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. In a defining moment of his domestic legacy, Charles III of Spain followed a pattern already enacted by Portugal (1759) and France (1764), and ordered the deportation of Jesuits from the Spanish Empire as well as the seizure of their properties. According to the King’s instructions, the Count of Aranda was given the power to implement the expulsion order, which was to be made expeditiously and by surprise. The order also provides a list of houses, educational institutions, and residences of the Jesuits to be confiscated and placed under the protection of the King.

While much has been written about the events leading up to the Jesuit suppression in Spain, and some historians differ [access by subscription database] in their explanations, a common historical account is that their expulsion was closely associated with a popular uprising that took place in Madrid in 1766 in response to an order restricting the length of men’s capes and the breadth of their sombreros. The revolt became known as the Esquilache Riots, named after the King’s minister who became associated with the order. Charles III, who had been forced to flee Madrid for his own security, was convinced by the Count of Aranda of the Jesuits’ role in the uprising and used this as a pretext for their suppression.

Royal Order of March 25, 1766 regulating the manner of dressing in the Kingdom of Spain. It also regulates the price of bread, bacon, oil and soap.

The above document from the collection, dated March 25, 1766 and issued in the midst of the uprising, cancels the dress restrictions and price increases, reestablishing citizens’ permission to wear long capes and rounded hats without penalty. The order also lowers the price of bread and oil and sets price caps for bread, bacon and soap; and orders the dismissal of the King’s minister, the Marquis of Esquilache.

By early 1767, however, the Jesuits’ role as scapegoats for the disturbance was made apparent by the subsequent actions taken by the King and the Extraordinary Council that he appointed to investigate the uprising. While the suppression of the Jesuits continued throughout Europe in the late 18th century, one document in our collection suggests that the King’s successor, Charles IV, formally allowed Spanish Jesuits to return to Spain roughly 31 years later, on March 14, 1798, provided that they return only to their relatives’ houses or to convents, and never to any royal-linked facility or venue.

We look forward to bringing you more illuminating stories from this collection with every new release. Stay tuned for updates as we bring your our sixth and final category in the coming months.

Categories: Research & Litigation

40 Years of Gender Neutral Succession Rules for Swedish Royals

Thu, 11/07/2019 - 4:28pm

Sweden, Stockholm waterfront. [Between 1910 and 1925.] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Picture shows Swedish Royal Castle.

While researching one issue related to laws in my jurisdictional portfolio I often come across another interesting piece of information. For instance, while reading about the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf’s decision to revoke the royal highness titles for five of his grandchildren, I realized that today, November 7, 2019, marks the 40th anniversary of the amendment to the Swedish Constitution that changed the order of royal succession. The Amendment made Swedish Princess Victoria Crown Princess and stripped then Crown Prince Carl Philip of his title and place as first in line to the throne, making him only a Prince and second in line to the throne. Thus, his big sister, at the age of two, went from being a princess to a Crown Princess when the Swedish Parliament voted to revise the succession order.

The new provision, in article 1 of the Act on Succession, states that:

The right of succession to the throne of Sweden is vested in the male and female descendants of King Carl XVI Gustaf, Crown Prince Johan Baptist Julii, later King Karl XIV Johan’s, issue in direct line of descent. In this connection, older siblings and their descendants have precedence over younger siblings and their descendants.

The process of amending the Swedish constitution to give then baby Victoria the Swedish crown had begun in 1977 with the government report SOU 1977:5 Kvinnlig tronföljd, following the princess’ birth in 1977.  The decision to review the adoption of female succession was taken even earlier, already in 1975, with a vote in Parliament of 151 in favor and 149 against. The final proposal (Proposition 1977/78:71) was brought before the Parliament in 1978 and 1979. Because changing the Act of Succession meant amending the Swedish Constitution, it had to be voted on twice by Parliament, with a general election in between. (8 kap. 14 § Regeringsformen (RF) [Instrument of Government] [Constitution].) A general election was held on September 16, 1979. The final vote in favor of gender neutral royal succession was cast on November 7, 1979. The law entered into force on January 1, 1980. Thus, the titles of the royal children were changed on that day.

At the time, the royal family opposed the changes to the succession order. The Swedish King, himself the fifth child with four older sisters, did not officially comment the legislation, but reportedly wanted to keep Prince Carl Philip as the royal heir, and to include female successors only if there was no male (brother) heir. According to reports, the King is nevertheless happy today with the outcome of the succession rules and his daughter’s performance as heir to the throne.

Other Changes as a Result of the Amendment to the Succession Rules

The change in succession also had effect on the family name of the Princess’ offspring. Prior to 1979, a child born to a Princess would have received the father’s last name, but now, as they are in direct line to the throne, they automatically receive the royal last name Bernadotte. The Princess Consort (person married to a princess), however, has the option of including his own name in conjunction with Bernadotte. When Victoria wed in 2010, her husband Daniel Westling did indeed proceed to take her name in conjunction with his own, and is now known as Prince Daniel, but legally named Daniel Westling Bernadotte. Mr. Christopher O’Neil, who wed Princess Madeleine in 2013, kept his name and chose to not become a member of the Swedish Royal House, meaning he has no title, and no restrictions.

The 1979 changes to the Succession Act also meant a revocation of the prohibition for a Swedish prince to marry a commoner, i.e. “enskild svensk mans dotter.” A change that Prince Carl Philip himself availed himself of when he, on June 13, 2015, married Miss Sofia Hellqvist, making her Princess Sofia. Prior to the change, a Swedish prince could not, with or without the permission of the King, marry a commoner (5 § Act of Succession, as in force prior to January 1, 1980). One may say that he lost a kingdom, but gained a princess.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Abdulhadi Zafar, Foreign Law Intern

Wed, 11/06/2019 - 10:00am

Today’s interview is with Abdulhadi Zafar, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist George Sadek at the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress. Abdulhadi conducts research on the laws of Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

Photo by Kelly McKenna


Describe your background?

I am from Saudi Arabia. I was born and raised in the holy city of Mecca. I have a big, loving family with two sisters and nine brothers. My family raised me in a conservative way in which I had to study in a special religious school. My school is called Dar al-Hadith Makkah. It has a different curriculum from other government schools that focuses on Sharia (Islamic Law) studies.

What is your academic/professional history?

In 2015, I received my bachelor’s degree in Sharia and law with honors from Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. After that, I worked at my university as a legal researcher until I received a full scholarship from my government to continue my LL.M degree in the United States. I am currently completing an LL.M. in International Business and Economic Law with a certificate in arbitration at Georgetown Law Center. 

How would you describe your job to other people?

I work under my supervisor, George Sadek. I conduct research on legal developments in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries (GCC). Those countries are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. After I discover a new legal development in the GCC countries, I write a Global Legal Monitor (GLM) article about it. Also, I provide legal responses concerning any questions about the GCC countries.

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

I found the internship position in the database of Georgetown Law website. I immediately applied because I have been looking for a position in the Law Library since last year. I believe that this internship in the Law Library will help me to have a successful career in the academic field in the future. Also, I believe that such experience in the field of legal research will help me to apply for a doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) program in the United States.

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

I had no idea before that the Law Library of Congress has so many employees. On my first day, my supervisor introduced me to the legal specialists who work in the Global Legal Research Directorate. I was surprised at the level of experience that each legal specialist has. I was amazed at how diverse the Global Legal Research Directorate is. There is an attorney from each part of the world working on an array of jurisdictions simultaneously.

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

I love playing soccer. I was a professional soccer player in Saudi Arabia for Alwehda Club. I play soccer twice a week nowadays. I also love watching soccer games when I have time.

Categories: Research & Litigation

In Japan: Pardon System Debated

Tue, 11/05/2019 - 10:36am

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 New Era, New Law Number, 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?, and many more.

The Japanese government issued a pardon order on October 22, 2019 (Cabinet Order No. 131 of 2019) and also notified special acceptance of requests for pardon (Kancho Jiko, Oct. 22, 2019) on the day of celebration of Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement. These are based on the Pardons Act (Act No. 20 of 1947, amended by Act No. 49 of 2013, arts 10 & 12). This is the tenth occasion that pardon orders were issued and/or requests for pardon were specially accepted under the current Constitution, Constitution of Japan, 1946, according to a chart provided by the National Diet Library publication (NDL).

Under article 16 of the previous Constitution, Constitution of the Empire of Japan, 1889, the Emperor had the power to pardon criminals. Historically, pardons have been issued on the occasions of Imperial successions and Imperial family matters, such as marriages of crown princes. Under article 73 of the current Constitution, the Cabinet has the power to pardon criminals. However, the Cabinet has issued pardons at occasions of Imperial family matters, in addition to occasions of national importance, such as the enforcement of the Peace Treaty after World War II (End of the Allied Occupation) in 1952 and the return of Okinawa (from the United States) in 1972.

Cabinet Order No. 131 of 2019

This pardon order restores certain criminals’ civil rights and/or qualifications early. People found guilty and fined over one or more minor offenses are subject to the pardon order. As of October 22, 2019, three years must have passed since the person(s) paid fines. If those people have received sentences of imprisonment for the same or separate crimes, the effect of those imprisonment sentences are not affected. Approximately 550,000 are subject to the pardon. The itemized ratio of crimes charged to those are: 65.2% for violations of the Road Traffic Act (driving without license, driving under the influence of alcohol, and others), 17.4% for bodily injury or death caused by negligent driving, 3.3% for assault or bodily injury, 2.6% for theft, and 11.4% for other crimes, including violations of election law.

Among them, persons who actually benefit from the pardon order are those who had their qualifications suspended or lost qualifications for professions or statuses due to receiving sentences of fines. For example, under the Medical Practitioners’ Act (Act No. 201 of 1948, as amended, arts. 4 & 7) or the Act on Public Health Nurses, Midwives, and Nurses (Act No. 203 of 1948, as amended, arts 9 & 14), authorities may revoke licenses of persons who were sentenced to fines and/or imprisonments. These persons cannot regain their licenses for five years from the revocation of those licenses. Other persons who benefit are those who were found guilty of violating the Public Offices Election Act (Act No. 100 of 1950, as amended) and fined. They are usually barred from running for public office and voting for five or ten years, according to article 252 of the Act. For these persons, the disqualification periods are shortened.

Special Acceptance of Requests For Pardon

A convicted person can request a pardon from the National Offenders Rehabilitation Commission through the correction facility, probation office, or prosecutor’s office any time after a certain period, depending on the punishment, according to article 6 of the Pardon Act Enforcement Ordinance (Ministry of Justice Ordinance 78 of 1947). This time, the Cabinet set special criteria for pardon and removed the time limitation for the requests for the limited time. Convicted criminals whose punishment of imprisonment or fine was suspended for a long time due to ill health or financial difficulties will be pardoned, if it is likely the situation will not change for a long time. The criminals must request a pardon and the Commission will decide on a case-by-case basis. Criminals can submit the requests for exemptions from the execution of sentences to a correction facility, probation office or prosecutor’s office until January 21, 2020.


These pardons are not popular in Japan at this time. An opinion poll in early October 2019 (Q.10) found that 60.2% people opposed the planned pardon ordered on October 22, 2019.  24.8% people were for it. Articles in newspapers and other media pointed out the main problems of the pardon:

  • The nature of pardon is to change the judicial decisions by the political power;
  • People may feel that it is unfair because criminals who happened to be punished at certain times get special treatments; and
  • It is inappropriate that the Cabinet makes people who violated election law recover their rights to vote and to be elected because the Cabinet and ruling political party may have political motivation to do so.

News articles and other outlets analyzed that the government was not very positive on issuing the pardon at this time, but since the issuance of a pardon at an emperor’s enthronement has been a long tradition, cabinet members did not feel like they must stop it this time. Articles also speculated that, as a compromise, the Cabinet issued the pardon in which the number of persons who are subject to the pardon is large, but the actual benefit and/or effect of the pardon is minimal.

An expert in legal sociology pointed out that the system of pardon itself has reasons, such as:

  • It can correct wrong judgments by courts that may unavoidably happen in any system; and
  • When punishments are considered too harsh in later times, they can be corrected.

It appears that opposition is getting stronger to issuing a Cabinet order to pardon a large number of unspecified criminals. Another point is whether pardons must be issued at the occasions of Imperial successions and Imperial family matters. Most articles are calling for a review of such tradition.

Then Empress Michiko and Emperor Akihito of Japan with Librarian of Congress James Billington and Marjorie Billington talk with a Library of Congress staff member while viewing a display of collection materials (created/published: June 14, 1994 ),

Categories: Research & Litigation

On the Shelf: International and Foreign Resources on Indigenous Law

Mon, 11/04/2019 - 2:05pm

November is celebrated as National American Indian Heritage Month in the United States.

In addition to our guide to Indigenous Law Resources online for U.S.-centric sources on indigenous law, the Law Library also holds a number of international and foreign law resources on indigenous law in other countries. For instance, earlier this year, the Global Legal Research Directorate published a report on Protection of Indigenous Heritage. The report included individual submissions for Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan, and the European Union, and analyzed “legislative and policy frameworks affecting the protection of sacred places of indigenous peoples, their graves, remains, related artifacts, and indigenous cultural property generally.”

Analysis of recent developments in foreign indigenous law can also be found by accessing the Global Legal Monitor and subscribing to the topic Native Peoples.

[A Lapp family, Norway][between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900].

We have also published a number of blog posts related to indigenous law on this blog. For example:

Indigenous foreign resources are also part of the law collection for individual countries, such as Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden.

Compilation of Library of Congress collection holdings related to Sami indigenous rights. Photo by Elin Hofverberg.



Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Cecilia Contreras, Intern with the Digital Resources Division

Thu, 10/31/2019 - 8:53am

Today’s interview is with Cecilia Contreras, an Intern in the Digital Resources Division of the Law Library of Congress.

                                           Cecilia Contreras. Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez

Describe your background.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. I come from a rather large family and I am the eldest of four siblings. I have lived my entire life in California and this is my first time on the East Coast.

What is your academic/professional history?

I received a bachelor’s degree in history from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly) in May of 2019. It was near the end of my undergraduate program that I was advised by a professor to apply for a Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) internship. With the help of two professors at Cal Poly, I applied and received confirmation of my acceptance to the program within the month of August. On September 9, 2019, I began my first day here at the Law Library. This internship is the first of my professional career.

How would you describe your job to other people?

My job primarily consists of inventorying and providing metadata for a collection of miscellaneous Hispanic legal documents. This collection includes dozens of boxes of printed and handwritten legal documents from Spain and Latin America from the 15th through the 19th centuries. What I have found that I enjoy most is that some of these are preserved moments in time which describe some of the most important events in people’s lives. They are records recounting the baptism of a child, marriage request letters addressed to the Church, and last wills and testaments. They are windows into moments that marked the beginnings and endings of people’s lives hundreds of years ago, and because of this project people will have the chance to read them now in the 21st century.

 Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

My reason for wanting to work at the Law Library lies with the idea that through my work I could contribute to the Library’s efforts to provide accessible information to the public. My role in this project helps move along a process that will eventually lead to the digitization and publication of a collection that provides insight into the legal world of several Hispanic countries. It is a privilege for which I am very grateful.

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

There are a great many things I have learned about the Law Library during my time here. However, I think the most interesting would have to be that the Reading Room must always be open and staffed while Congress is in session, which, in my opinion, only goes to show the level of importance of the Law Library and of the personnel.

What’s something most of your colleagues do not know about you? 

I learned how to drive a car before I learned how to ride a bike, and by “I learned how to ride a bike” I mean I never learned how to ride a bike.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Save the Date: 2019 Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence

Wed, 10/30/2019 - 11:07am

The Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence 2019 will take place on Wednesday, December 4 at 5:00 p.m.

Save the date on your calendars! The Law Library will present the Frederic R. and Molly S. Kellogg Biennial Lecture in Jurisprudence on Wednesday, December 4 at 5:00 p.m.

Are you on our email list? Subscribe to Law Library News & Events today to ensure you get the notification when registration opens in November!

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Elizabeth Boomer, Legal Research Analyst

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 9:46am

Today’s interview is with Elizabeth Boomer, a legal research analyst in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Photo by Donna Sokol

Describe your background.

I was born in Kansas and grew up in a small university town in Illinois, home of Western Illinois University. As a teenager, I couldn’t wait to move to the “big city,” but I will always be a small-town, Midwestern girl at heart.

What is your academic/professional history?

I have a degree in French from Truman State University in Missouri, where I had the opportunity to study abroad twice during my undergraduate studies – in Annecy, France, and at Université Laval in Québec City, Canada. These experiences opened my eyes to international studies and travel, and my academic and professional trajectory just went from there!

Following my bachelor’s degree, I completed a Master of Arts at American University’s School of International Service, and a J.D. at Howard University School of Law, both in Washington, DC. I then worked for two years in the international department of the AFL-CIO as a Global Workers’ Rights Fellow before I decided to undertake a one-year LL.M in international dispute settlement (MIDS) at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Following my LL.M, and before joining the Law Library of Congress, I worked in Geneva for five years as a graduate teaching assistant in international law, as well as a legal consultant at the International Labour Organization and the International Law Commission.

How would you describe your job to other people?

As a legal research analyst, I research and write about every area of international law imaginable! I’ve been surprised by the novel, cutting-edge research questions I have addressed since I have joined the Law Library of Congress. Not only do we respond to inquiries from Congress, government agencies, the judiciary, and the public, we also monitor legal developments around the world. My work is primarily focused on international law and global trends.

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

I have always loved researching, writing, and questioning everything about the world. The Law Library is a great place to investigate international legal issues as well as to work with other people who are similarly inquisitive, all of whom have much more exciting backgrounds than I do.

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

Prior to joining the Law Library of Congress, I had no idea of the international scope of the Library’s collections. The Library of Congress maintains offices in multiple countries and the collections contain materials in almost 500 languages! This is among many fascinating facts about the Library of Congress, and the Law Library in particular.

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

Given how much junk food I eat in the office, I think my co-workers would be quite surprised to know that I love to cook! I have taken cooking classes in Thailand and Italy (two of my favorite types of foods), where I learned really useful techniques and inspiration for my own cooking.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Rare Book Video – The Trial of Vice President Aaron Burr

Mon, 10/28/2019 - 8:30am

Our latest rare book video features the trial of Aaron Burr. This item is held by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Indiana State Library – Pic of the Week

Fri, 10/25/2019 - 8:02am

I saw this recent blog post, So, what does the Indiana State Library actually do?, and was reminded of my visit there.

The Indiana State Library is across the street from the Indiana State House, similar to the way that the Capitol is across the street from the Library of Congress.

Indiana State Library and Indiana State House

One of my favorite places in the library is the Indiana Authors Room.

Indiana Authors Room

The library has a variety of resources in its Indiana Collection.

For more images and to learn more about the building’s history, check out this by Historic Indianapolis.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Alexander Salopek, Collection Development Librarian

Wed, 10/23/2019 - 9:34am

Describe your background.

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio with four younger brothers. Most of my family are active in the Croatian folk music scene, which I participated in as part of the Cleveland Junior Tamburitzans. I was also a Boy Scout and achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.

                                        Alexander Salopek [photo by Geraldine Dávila González]

What is your academic/professional history?

I went to the University of Chicago to study philosophy. While there I worked as a student assistant in both the library acquisitions department and the map library. One summer I interned at the Law Office of Susan Gray doing legal research. After college, I worked at the Center for Research Libraries before moving to D.C. to become a library contractor. I was placed as a loose-leaf filer at a law firm and a cataloging technician on the historic shelf-list project at GPO. I joined the federal government as an acquisitions/government documents technician at the Supreme Court of the United States. It was while working there that I came to realize I wanted to be a librarian. With strong encouragement from the librarians there, I completed an online Master of Science in Library and Information Science program at the University of Illinois – Urbana Champaign, where I specialized in digital curation. I also interned at the Trinity Washington University library to get experience in reference and public services.

Not long after finishing my library degree, I was promoted to the position of acquisitions/government librarian at the Supreme Court. I also continued my work at Trinity Washington first as a part-time librarian then as the access services librarian and finally as the collection development librarian. I also had stints as the acting head of circulation and the acting co-director.

How would you describe your job to other people?

For other librarians, I tell them I do collections work for the Law Library of Congress and curate a ready reference collection for the foreign law specialists.

For non-librarians, I tell them I help choose books for a large law library with many international holdings.

For children, I tell them I am a librarian, which generally satisfies their curiosity.

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

I believe the Law Library of Congress has one of best teams in the world and I wanted to learn and grow with them. Also I believe it has the most amazing collection of legal materials and a deeply important mission.

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

I am amazed at the level of service and expertise that the foreign law specialists and the librarians provide.

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

I love science fiction, opera, and tiki bars. However, my favorite way to relax is cooking elaborate meals for my friends, often using Chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Library of Congress and U.S. Government Publishing Office Digitizing U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 12:18pm

The first 100 boxes of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. [Photo by Donna Sokol.]

The Law Library of Congress, in collaboration with the U.S. Government Publishing Office, has started a large multi-year effort to digitize and make accessible volumes of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set dating back to the first volume published in 1817.

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set is an official, bound collection of reports and documents of the House and Senate of the U.S. Congress. First published in 1817 during the 15th Congress, the Serial Set is a compilation of all numbered House and Senate reports and documents, including executive reports and treaty documents, issued for each session of Congress. The term “Serial Set” derives from the fact that the volumes have been numbered consecutively beginning with the volumes of the 15th Congress.

There are approximately 15,735 volumes and approximately 12 million pages in the collection.

Volume 123 of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set. [Photo by Donna Sokol.]

Some interesting information the public can expect to find in the Serial Set includes:

“The U.S. Congressional Serial Set documents the history of the United States of America. We are very pleased to partner with GPO in order to make these key historical government publications searchable and freely available to the public,” said Deputy Librarian for Library Collections and Services and Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sánchez. “The Library’s collection is so vast and impressive, but it is not enough to collect and preserve. To be successful, collections must be used, and this collaboration signifies our resolve to do that.”

The Law Library of Congress will inventory and digitize the Serial Set. The Government Publishing Office will catalog each Serial Set document and authenticate the digital files.

“GPO is honored to partner with the Law Library of Congress on this massive effort toward digitizing the entire Serial Set,” said GPO Acting Deputy Director John Crawford. “Through this digitization, members of the public will be able to digitally access comprehensive and detailed information on a wide range of subjects useful for genealogical and biographical research. Of course print versions of these historic publications are available in Federal Depository Libraries across the country.”

The Library of Congress will display the Serial Set in phases for free public access on the Library of Congress website, GPO will upload volumes of the Serial Set in phases for free public access on, the agency’s site for authentic, published government information.

The entire effort is expected to take at least a decade to complete.

Categories: Research & Litigation New, Tip and Top for October 2019

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 4:15pm

Robert brought us the last update in late September.  That update included new enhancements to the Congressional Committee Schedule page.  Legislation pages now link an associated committee’s meeting pages from the overview box. In response to user requests, the weekly Committee Schedule now has a compact/expanded view option. Chamber of Origin, House, Senate, and Joint Committee filters are now available to limit results on Committee Schedule pages.

With this release, we bring refinements to the Committee Profile pages.  Each committee profile page will include links to the daily view of the schedule for that committee.

Congressional Committee Profile with daily schedule link.

Enhancements for October 2019

Enhancement – Committee Profiles – Schedule Links

Search Tip

Interested in information on legislative data and transparency?  Users can view the 2019 Legislative Data and Transparency Conference online.

Most-Viewed Bills

Here are the most-viewed bills for the week of October 13, 2019.  All bills are from the 116th Congress.

1. H.R.1044 [116th] Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 2. H.R.3289 [116th] Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 3. S.1838 [116th] Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019 4. H.R.3 [116th] Lower Drug Costs Now Act of 2019 5. S.386 [116th] Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 6. H.R.5 [116th] Equality Act 7. H.R.1296 [116th] Assault Weapons Ban of 2019 8. H.R.2500 [116th] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 9. H.Res.619 [116th] Expressing support for the Haitian people and their Constitution, rule of law, and commitment to democratic principles. 10. S.66 [116th] Assault Weapons Ban of 2019
Categories: Research & Litigation

Erskine May – Pic of the Week

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 12:49pm

Last month I listened to oral arguments of two cases being appealed before the U.K.’s Supreme Court.  The cases, one an appeal from England and Wales and the other an appeal from Scotland,dealt with the U.K. prime minister’s August 2019 decision regarding the prorogation of Parliament.

I noticed that the lawyers presenting the cases referred on several occasions to a gentleman named Erskine May.  Erskine May appeared to be extremely knowledgeable on parliamentary procedure – a walking encyclopedia one might say.  I wondered if perhaps he was an aide to the Speaker of the House of Commons.  However, upon inquiry, I discovered that the Erskine May being referenced is in fact a book about parliamentary procedure: Erskine May’s Treatise on The Law, Privileges, Proceedings and Usage of Parliament.

I decided to do some research on the eponymous Erskine May.  To my delight, he began his career in 1831 as an assistant librarian in the House of Commons.  While still in this position, he published the first edition of his treatise on parliamentary procedures in 1844.  He continued to work in the House of Commons, and from 1871 to 1886, he was the Clerk of the House of Commons.  He died in May 1886, shortly after his retirement and being made Baron Farnborough.

It is important to note that Erskine May’s 1844 treatise on parliamentary procedure was not the first.  One of his predecessors as Clerk of the House of Commons, John Hatsell, authored a work in 1781 titled Precedents of the proceedings in the House of Commons, with observations.  However, throughout his career as a civil servant in Parliament, May continued to produce new editions of his work on a regular basis and even after his death his name has continued to be associated with this definitive work on parliamentary procedure in the U.K.

Photo by Beth Osborne

Categories: Research & Litigation

Research Guides In Focus – U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs

Thu, 10/17/2019 - 8:49am

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

This edition of Research Guides In Focus covers another frequently-accessed Law Library guide – U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs. I regularly direct patrons to this guide, and rely on it for quick answers to Supreme Court research questions.

Introduction page of U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs Research Guide,

The Law Library of Congress is one of only ten depository libraries that holds a print collection of Records and Briefs of the United States Supreme Court. While the availability of these volumes on subscription databases has improved accessibility to Supreme Court materials, a few organizations have gone a step further and made these records freely available online over the last few years. That said, finding electronic copies of Supreme Court Records and Briefs from a particular time period can be challenging.

The guide addresses this issue by listing where to find Supreme Court Records and Briefs in print and microform, as well through free electronic resources and subscription databases, accompanied by the dates of coverage for each resource. In addition to the Supreme Court’s electronic filing system, which became operational in November 2017, the guide directs visitors to resources like FindLaw, the Office of the Inspector General, and SCOTUSBlog to retrieve Supreme Court Records and Briefs.

The guide also provides information on accessing oral argument transcripts and recordings, dockets, and other resources, such as The Journal of the Supreme Court of the United States.

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 Peter Quinn, Writer-Editor

Wed, 10/16/2019 - 9:01am

Today’s interview is with Peter Quinn, a Writer-Editor in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Peter Quinn, Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna

Describe your background.

I was born in New York City but spent most of my childhood on the south shore of Long Island in the village of Bellport. It’s a waterfront community that survives on revenue from wealthy summer residents who prefer it to the glitz and crowds of the Hamptons. A nice place to grow up, but it’s difficult to make a living there unless you’re willing to commute at least four hours every day to and from a job in the city, as my father did for decades.

What is your academic/professional history?

I received my undergraduate degree in history from St. John’s University in Jamaica, N.Y., and my law degree from the Catholic University of America here in Washington, D.C., where I subsequently became a member of the bar. Most of my working life has been in legal publishing, including at the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now the American Association for Justice) and the Bureau of National Affairs (now Bloomberg Industry Group).

How would you describe your job to other people?

The Global Legal Research Directorate responds to research requests from Congress, federal agencies, and other Library patrons about legal issues in foreign countries. As most of the draft responses are prepared by authors who are foreign-trained and for whom English may be a second language, the GLRD editorial staff assist them in making sure the responses reflect standard American English and the legal information can be clearly understood by a US audience.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

It’s a privilege to work at such a prestigious institution – the world’s largest law library – and with so many interesting and talented people from across the globe.

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

The Law Library has GLRD country reports going back to the 1940s, in paper form. They are part of a digitization project, which will make as many public as possible. As someone who majored in history, I know that will be a boon to researchers seeking information, for example, on developments during the Cold War.

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

I’m a volunteer and board member for an urban farm on the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery in the Brookland neighborhood of D.C. Since 2014, the farm has donated more than 17 tons of fresh produce to D.C. Central Kitchen, the Capital Area Food Bank, and other food pantries to combat hunger. We are renovating a commercial-size, cast-iron and glass greenhouse built in 1915 to restore it to year-round production. The Washington Post published an article on the project last year..

Categories: Research & Litigation

The Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress Opens its Doors to the Public

Fri, 10/11/2019 - 1:12pm

Behind the desk from left to right, Margaret Wood, Geraldine Dávila González and Mirela Savic-Fleming at the 2018 Columbus Day Open House [Photo by Shawn Miller]

On October 14, 2019, the Library of Congress is holding its semi-annual Main Reading Room open house. Starting at 10:00 a.m., attendees can tour the Main Reading Room, which is usually closed to the general public for touring, and learn about many of the divisions of the Library of Congress. Representatives from the Law Library of Congress, Science, Technology & Business Division, National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, U.S. Copyright Office, Serial and Government Publications Division, and Local History & Genealogy will be displaying collection materials and discussing their resources. The Main Reading Room is located on the first floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First Street SE, Washington, D.C. Make sure to stop by the Law Library display at the center desk where you can look at part of our children’s book collection featuring U.S. Supreme Court justices, and get one of our very popular gavel pencils.

The rest of the Thomas Jefferson Building will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., where docents will be available starting at 9:30 a.m. to talk to visitors about the architecture, history, and art of the building, as well as the Library’s collections and the exhibitions. For families attending the event, the Young Readers Center features a large collection of children’s books and activities for kids of all ages, and will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Jonathan Donovan, Library Technician

Wed, 10/09/2019 - 10:57am

Today’s interview is with Jonathan Donovan, a library technician in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

Jonathan Donovan is a library technician at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

Describe your background.

I grew up in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina for college. Since then, I’ve lived and worked in Delaware, Maryland, and the Philadelphia area. Growing up, my parents often took me to museums and libraries, so it makes sense that those places have become such a big part of my life. Recently, my mom found a shirt my parents got for me at the National Museum of Natural History back in 1987. It felt like perfect timing that I moved to the D.C. area shortly before the opening of their new Deep Time exhibition.

What is your academic/professional history?

As an undergraduate, I studied history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington; my wife and I met in a museum studies class there! I did my graduate work at the University of Delaware, where I majored in history with a museum studies certificate. Since 2010, I’ve worked on collections-related projects at Winterthur Museum & Library, the Philadelphia U.S. Mint, La Salle University Art Museum, and the National Air and Space Museum. Much of my work has involved collections inventory, art handling, object photography, and image editing.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I am inventorying and formatting reports produced by the Global Legal Research Directorate going back to 1989 as part of the Law Library’s archiving project. I’m working with the born-digital files so they can all be permanently archived and some of them can be shared with users of the Law Library’s website.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library?

The Library of Congress has always been an “I’d love to work there someday” place for me.  On top of that, digital collections are a special interest of mine: my favorite kind of work involves managing data and working with digital files. When I learned about this project it sounded like a great introduction to the Law Library that would fit my skill set really well.

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

The Law Library’s reports are an amazing resource for anyone studying the recent history of science and technology. I just reviewed a 1996 report about global computer security. It’s a great snapshot of what lawmakers were concerned with at a time when the internet was starting to change everything. It’s been fascinating to see how events that happened in my lifetime, like the cloning debate and the Y2K panic, are documented in this collection.

What’s something most of your colleagues do not know about you?

I love old movies and genre fiction, especially horror and crime stories. I once got the chance to photograph a first edition of Dracula, along with Bram Stoker’s handwritten story notes, at the Rosenbach in Philadelphia. It’s one of my favorite books, so seeing these objects in person was a rewarding experience. It’s a thing I love about libraries and museums: you can interact with history firsthand in a very immediate, personal way.

Categories: Research & Litigation

News from the Law Library of Congress Chatbot

Tue, 10/08/2019 - 8:13am

Have you tried the Law Library of Congress Chatbot lately? The chatbot provides answers to frequently asked legal reference questions through Facebook Messenger. You can interact with it by clicking through a series of menu options or you can type in a natural language question. The chatbot debuted in October 2017, and since that time we have been able to learn from user interactions with the chatbot and make revisions to improve the user experience. For example, the chatbot’s natural language abilities have substantially improved since its debut. When the chatbot was released, slight variations from questions the chatbot anticipated, such as deviations in sentence structure, would likely cause the chatbot to return the default response. With the benefit of additional development time, the chatbot’s vocabulary is much more robust and can accommodate variations in sentence structure. Give it a try and let us know what you think. If you would like to try your hand at building your own chatbot, click here for more information.

The Law Library of Congress Chatbot.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Hispanic Heritage Month On the Shelf: What’s New

Mon, 10/07/2019 - 10:41am

Last week, Geraldine talked about the events the Library is hosting to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Hispanic Heritage Month commemorates Mexico’s independence day (September 16: ¡Viva Hidalgo!), and the anniversaries of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. With these celebrations in mind, we’ve compiled a list of some of the new materials the Law Library has acquired from these jurisdictions. There is a wealth of new information to be found; come and see!


In 2017 Buffalo, New York, artist and educator Betsy Casanas was invited by the city’s Albright-Knox Public Art Initiative, the Hispanic Heritage Council, and the Rich Family Foundation to create what became this mural celebrating the contributions made by the region’s Hispanic and Latinx communities [photo by Carol M. Highsmith, Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress, ]



KGF7638.8.A28 2018 Mexico City (Mexico). Legislaciones 2018 : Ciudad de México. 

KGF3228  Guerra, Gustavo. Powers of the Mexican Federal Police with foreign country comparisons.

KF4848.M48 C35 2019   Caldwell, Beth C. Deported Americans : life after deportation to Mexico. 

KGF2914 1917 .E88 2018   Estudios constitucionales en homenaje a los cien años de la promulgación de la Constitución Mexicana de 1917.

KGF2548 .E44 2018  Elementos de derecho procesal constitucional.

KGF3258 .D57 2018  El discurso de los procedimientos administrativos.

KGF2698 .D47 2018 Derecho procesal constitucional local : nuevas expresiones a la luz del paradigma de los derechos humanos : una guía práctica.

KGF7538.8.A312014 A4 2018  Código Electoral del Estado  de México 2018.

KGF3435.B56 2018 Bioética y decisiones judiciales.

KGF1958.A86 R44 2018 Regulación de la protección de los trabajadores de la salud para la prevención del riesgo biológico.

KGF2923.P47 2018  Perspectivas de la interpretación constitucional.

KGF4809 .N68 2018  Notas explicativas de la tarifa arancelaria de la ligie.

KGF330.M49 2018  Mexico and its legal system : lawyers’ essays on the continuing evolution.

KGF5935.J87 2018 La justicia transicional en perspectiva comparada : Centroamérica y México.

KGF4004.I53 2018 Industria farmacéutica, derecho a la salud y propiedad intellectual: el reto del equilibrio.

Costa Rica

KGB1794.B653 2018 Bolaños Céspedes, Fernando. Constitución política y derecho laboral.

KGB2574.32016.A627 2018  Artavia Barrantes, Sergio. Breves explicaciones al Código procesal civil.

KGB3230.A311978 R65 2018 Rojas Franco, Enrique. Comentarios a la Ley general de la administración pública de Costa Rica.

KGB2574.32016.P53 2018  Picado Vargas, Carlos Adolfo. Reforma procesal civil práctica : concordado, explicado, con esquemas, definiciones, comentarios puntuales y respuestas a preguntas prácticas de uso común : Código procesal civil del 2016.

KGB3182.L45 2018 Leiva Poveda, Jorge. Municipalidades : trámites, procedimientos y recursos.

KGB3265. J58 2018  Jinesta Lobo, Ernesto. Manual del proceso contencioso-administrativo 2a edición.

KGB3265.A312006 F73 2018  Franco Rojas, Enrique. Comentarios al Código procesal contencioso administrative. 1a edicion.

KGB1784.31943 .V37 2019 Vargas Chavarría, Eugenio. Código de trabajo : (incluye reforma procesal laboral).

ΚGΒ3265.Ο78 2019 Ortiz Zamora, Luis A. Código procesal contencioso administrativo con jurisprudencia.  2a edicion.

El Salvador

KGC3230.A312018 A4 2018  El Salvador. Ley de procedimientos administrativos.

KGC404 2018 El Salvador. Recopilación de leyes civiles : Constitución, Leyes Civiles, Leyes de familia, leyes notariales y leyes afines. 46a edición, actualizada con sus reformas.

KGC5402.A28 2018 El Salvador. Recopilación de leyes penales : Constitución, Código penal, Código procesal penal, Ley penitenciaria y su Reglamento, Ley penal juvenil, Leyes afines.

KGC3421.A28 2018 El Salvador. Recopilación de leyes en materia ambiental. 4a edición.

KGC1054 2018 El Salvador. Recopilación de leyes en materia mercantil. 31a edición.

KGC5414 2018 El Salvador. Constitución y leyes penales de El Salvador 2018 : incluye últimas reformas. 

KGC3400.A28 2018 El Salvador. Código de salud : Ley de medicamentos. 1a edición.


KGD3541.A28 2019  Gil Montepeque, Jovita. Derecho educativo : recopilación comentada de leyes y reglamentos. Octava edición.

KGD2709.C37 2019  Castillo González, Jorge Mario. Recurso de amparo : exhibición personal y constitucionalidad.

KGD2574.31963 .A65 2019 Alonzo del Cid, Roberto René. Código procesal civil y mercantile.

KGD464.A312005 A4 2018 Guatemala. Ley del registro nacional de las personas, RENAP, y sus reglamentos : Decreto número 90-2005 : anotada y comentada, incluye exposición de motivos y anexos.

KGD2914 1985 .A6 2018 Guatemala. Constitución política de la República de Guatemala y sus reformas (1993). 1ra. edición.

KGD5814.31992.A52 2018 Guatemala. Código procesal penal : comentado, concordado y anotado. 


KGE3228.A312017 A4 2018 Honduras. Ley orgánica de la Secretaría de Estado en el despacho de seguridad y de la policía nacional de Honduras :  Decreto 18-2017, de fecha 3 de mayo de 2017 … ; Servicios especiales de seguridad privada : Decreto no. 67-2008, de fecha 12 de junio de 2008 … ; Ley de la carrera policial : Decreto no. 69-2017, de fecha 22 de agosto de 2017 … 

KGE1144 2018 Honduras. Ley del sistema financiero: Decreto no. 129-2004, publicado el Diario Oficial La Gaceta no. 30,502 de fecha 24 de septiembre del 2004, y sus reformas de 2017 ; Ley de la Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros : Decreto no. 155-95 … ; Ley de seguros de depósitos en instituciones del sistema financiero : Decreto no. 53-2001 … ; Ley monetaria : Decreto no. 51 … ; Ley del Banco Central de Honduras : Decreto no. 53 …. Edición 2018. 

KGE1956.A312017 A4 2018 Honduras. Ley de inspección de trabajo : ‡b Decreto no. 178-2016, del 23 de enero de 2017, publicado en el diario oficial La gaceta no. 34,290 del 15 marzo de 2017. Edición 2018.

KGE4584 2018  Honduras. Legislación tributaria vigente en Honduras.

KGE4584.32016.A52 2018 Honduras. Código tributario : Decreto no. 170-2016 de fecha 15 de diciembre de 2016 y publicado en el Diario Oficial La Gaceta no. 34,224 del 28 diciembre de 2016, vigente a partir del 1 de enero de 2017. 

KGE1784.31959.A52 2018 Honduras. Código del trabajo vigente : Decreto 189-59.

KGE225.A312017 A4 2018 Honduras. Arancel del profesional del derecho 2017: Código de ética del profesional del derecho.


KGG459 .M49 2019 Meyers, Stephen J. Civilizing disability society:  the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities socializing grassroots disabled persons organizations in Nicaragua. 

KGG5419.L89 2017 Luzón Peña, Diego-Manuel. Lecciones de derecho penal : parte general. 3a. edición ampliada y revisada.

KGG1149.C37 2017 Castillo Salazar, Edmundo.  Derecho bancario nicaragüense.


Categories: Research & Litigation


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