Introducing the IALL Public International Law Research Guidelines

By Bård Tusethiall2014

The IALL Education Committee came about from a shared desire to share ideas and thereby improve the teaching of Public International Law research to law students. The information literacy standards established by BIALL and AALL are comprehensive, but general in nature and do not provide specific guidance in structuring a lesson plan. Public International Law research is challenging for law students both because it has an unfamiliar structure and the sources are not available through the familiar legal information systems.

The workshop in Barcelona, online contributions and the workshop in Buenos Aires resulted in the IALL Guidelines for Public International Law Research Instruction. The guidelines are a collaborative effort and are very much a work in progress. The IALL Education Committee hopes they will be useful to many colleagues and help illuminate this challenging area for law students. The committee plans to periodically revise and update the guidelines and welcomes corrections and suggestions.

The latest edition of the guidelines can be downloaded here.

This post originally appeared on the International Association of Law Libraries blog.

Introducing…Teresa Miguel-Stearns as the November FCIL Librarian of the Month

Photo - Teresa Miguel-Stearns1.  Where did you grow up?

St. Louis, Missouri

2.  Why did you select law librarianship as a career?

After 10 years as a public defender, I decided I wanted to try something different. A friend turned me on to librarianship and I attended the University of Arizona. I was fortunate to be part of Knowledge River, which convinced me librarianship was a good fit for my skills and interests. I was also lucky to have Mike Chiorazzi as a professor. His classes and mentoring solidified my desire to enter law librarianship specifically.

3.  When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law?

During Mike’s Law Library Management class, he had Francisco Avalos guest-lecture in the class. Francisco discussed his role in building their Mexican collection and making it available to researchers. I was hooked! When I got to Yale, I immediately gravitated toward Dan Wade and our F/I collection. Before long I took over collection development responsibilities for Iberia and Latin America and then became a specialist in F/I reference. I developed an F/I legal research class, and a class focusing on Latin America, and I connected with our F/I faculty. Although I now do more administrative work, I’ve been able to hang on to the collection development piece, and still do a small amount of reference pertaining to Latin America and Iberia.

4.  Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there?

Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.  Since August 2005 (9+ years).

5.  Do you speak any foreign languages?

I am fluent in Spanish. I can speak a tiny bit of Italian and German, both of which I studied for a period of time. I’m most proud of the 10 words of Turkish I picked up at IALL in 2009.

6.  What is your most significant professional achievement?

Certainly earning the trust of my colleagues as I progressed to become the Deputy Director here at the Lillian Goldman Law Library. I have received tremendous support from colleagues such as Dan Wade, Fred Shapiro, Femi Cadmus, John Nann, Scott Matheson, and of course Blair Kauffman, our Director. Also, being elected to chair the FCIL-SIS is very special to me.

 7.  What is your biggest food weakness?

Just one? Pizza, chocolate, and my husband’s shrimp-n-grits. Roll Tide!

 8.  What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance?

Dancing Queen, Abba. For sure. My older sister and I used to argue about who was THE dancing queen.

 9.  What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)?

Fluency in German and about a dozen other languages.

10.  Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you could not go a day without?

My morning tea.

11.  Anything else you would like to share with us?

I feel incredibly fortunate to have landed a second career in law librarianship for many reasons, including the opportunity to work with brilliant, diverse, and energetic people in the FCIL-SIS. My FCIL colleagues have for years been an integral part of my day-to-day work and life; for this I am extremely grateful.

Book Review: Conflicts in a Conflict: A Conflict of Laws Case Study on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, by Michael Karayanni

By Kat KlepferConflict

Michael Karyanni. Conflicts in a Conflict: A Conflict of Laws Case Study on Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Oxford University Press. 300 p.

Conflicts in a Conflict: A Conflict of Laws Case Study on Israel and the Palestinian Territories, written by Michael Karayanni, the Bruce W. Wayne Chair in International Law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, traces the development and application of the conflicts of laws doctrine in Israel. Karayanni argues that, although the Israeli/Palestinian situation is sui generis and will not always parallel other jurisdictions, the approach of Israeli courts “to test legal rules and standards in extreme and extraordinary conditions” can inform academics and practitioners in other jurisdictions.

Chapter 1 of the book begins with an in-depth look at the historical legal framework of the region, including an account of the history of the legal system in Israel and Palestine before and after the Oslo Peace Accords of the 1990s. This chapter introduces the reader to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict viewed through the lens of international law, complete with a timeline, maps, and visuals. The remaining chapters survey the jurisdictional issues Israeli courts have explored as they wrestle with international law in civil disputes between litigants of Israel and the Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. These issues include: personal jurisdiction (Chapter 2); subject matter jurisdiction and sovereign immunity (Chapter 3); choice of law across various legal subjects (Chapter 4); and enforcement of judgments and access to justice (Chapter 5). The book also provides an extensive bibliography and an index that includes historical terms, case names, and legal concepts.

Conflicts in a Conflict is the most recent title presented by the Center for International Legal Education Studies at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Despite Chapter 1’s accessible introduction to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the book as a whole assumes an audience with some prior knowledge of private and public international law. It belongs in any academic law library that supports faculty with interests in conflicts of law and/or foreign and comparative law. Additionally, it could serve as a supplementary reading source for students taking courses in conflicts of law and/or Israeli law.

It is always a challenge to purchase titles on topics where changing politics, geography, and world events can alter a legal landscape in the time it takes for a book to go to print. But, Conflicts in a Conflict overcomes the threat of potential irrelevancy. Its analysis relies on the historical development of legal norms and will continue to be informative to readers in the coming years, not just in Israel and Palestine, but also in other nations that struggle with issues of legal jurisdiction and shifting boundaries.

Kat Klepfer, JD/MLIS, is a Research Assistant at the Florida State University College of Law and served as Secretary of the FSU chapter of the International Law Students Association and Editor-in-Chief of Volume 23 of the Journal of Transnational Law & Policy.

FCIL-SIS Needs Officers

For anyone interested in serving as an officer in the Foreign, Comparative & International Law Special Interest Section, two positions will be open for elections this spring:

  • Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect
  • Secretary/Treasurer

If you would like to serve in either of these positions, or if you know a great law librarian you would like to nominate (with their consent), please contact James Hart, Michele Hou, or Daniel Donahue by Monday, December 15, 2014. Voting on the nominees will take place in February.

See the official call for nominations here.

uncle sam

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database Now Available

By Laura Cadra

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) Project of the Loyola of Los Angeles International and Comparative Law Review has released its Inter-American Court of Human Rights Database. This freely-available database, produced by the editors and staff of the IACHR Project under the supervision of Professor Cesare Romano, allows users to search Inter-American Court decisions by case name, country, and topic. Advanced search features include the ability to search by specific violation of various Inter-American Conventions.

Search results include a brief description of the case, information on judges, and violations found by the Inter-American Court. When available, the database includes a link to a detailed case summary which includes case facts, procedural history, merits, and state compliance with the Inter-American Court’s judgment. To date, 74 detailed case summaries are available.

The database can be accessed at The IACHR Project welcomes comments and suggestions and can be reached at

IALL Recap: Recent Developments in Access to Laws and Legal Information in Argentina

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

digesto_620_350Argentina recently published a digest of laws currently in force in the country in an attempt to make clear to its citizens which laws on the books are actually in effect. The resulting panel was “Development Process of the New Argentine Legal Digesto.”

Our first guest, Ramon Brenna, discussed his 15 years of work on the digest following a law approved by the National Congress to create a digest. But why a digest? And why in Argentina or in any country? According to Mr. Brenna, “The law is a message. It can be the solution to inform the people and to communicate the social demand of the people. This is crucial to any people in any country. The legal system is a collection of rules, laws that regulate life, our lives; and what is more important in the world than our lives? This is a very difficult job to compile all this legislation and legal systems are becoming more opaque; it’s hard to know what is in effect at any given time. The laws regulate our lives from the time before we are born to well after we leave this world. In any society transparency and access is very important.”

Mr. Brenna further explained that beginning in 1999, the government decided that the Argentine legal system was opaque and it was very difficult to access the law; the people did not know the law and didn’t know how to access the law. This was the ethical basis for the intervention — to make Argentine law more known, more accessible, and more human. Argentina has about 27,000 laws on the books, many pertaining to regulating government offices and other obscure and inconsequential regulation, but which makes it very difficult for anyone to find anything. What person could be expected to know 27,000 laws?

As a result of compiling the digest, we’ve gone from 27,000 laws to really only 3,353 laws, or about 10% of what we actually have. Of these, over 1600 are international treaties, which leaves only about 1600 national laws. This is much more manageable.

The Digest is the work of many people — over 120 professors within the Universidad de Buenos Aires alone have reviewed the work, and probably over 300 professionals altogether.

Our next speaker, Daniel Almakr, further explained that Argentina has been passing laws over laws without withdrawing old laws such that there has been a “contamination of laws” and the volume of laws has gotten unmanageable.

Ley 94,667 mandates the State to ensure that the people have access to the laws in force in Argentina and that it is organized for easy access. Our guests worked with the three major publishers as well: Jurisprudencia, La Ley, and El Derecho.

The methodology was in two major stages: normative and documental. Teams of lawyers trained in the analysis of laws, reviewed the national gazettes from 1983 to 2005, and looked back to 1853. They detected and identified laws that had not been contaminated and others that had been abrogated and contaminated. This first review of laws, decrees and resolutions were also examined to see which had been contaminated and others that hadn’t been. They were entered into a database which became huge when they included all the 140,000 laws, decrees, and resolutions. Fully 48,000 laws remained after the first analysis.

The first organizational step was to create a basic thematic index into which every law was inserted by using key words created after significant analysis. The creators attempted to use language that regular citizens would use. The first stage, then, ended with a huge database of all laws organized by theme and with a cross-analysis of what affected what laws. There were about 1300 national laws in force organized thematically and 1600 international treaties.

Our speakers also worked on the projects of other provinces to organize the law of social security and other government ministries in the national government. When finished, there were only 298 resolutions.

An audience member asked, “What is the relationship between the Digest and the Codes?”

Our guests answered, “The analysis includes all the codes. Still, the Codes have incorporated it’s norms and changes over the years, including the recodification of them. The Commercial Code had special treatment because it’s so large.

Another question, “What about the future?”

Answer: “The contamination of laws is extreme and constant. We have a tool for legislators called the Manual de Tecnica Legislativa that advises the explicit derogation or modification of previous laws — the Law of Consolidation.”

Our final speaker of the first session, Susan Cayuso, was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic. She spoke “Case Law and Developments in Legal Information in Argentina.”

The effect of Sentences of the Supreme Court of the Argentine Nation are similar to in the U.S. in that the Argentine Supreme Court is a primary power of the country and acts as a constitutional court. Argentina does not have an independent Constitutional Court. Rather, the Supreme Court diffuses its decisions to other courts. The Supreme Court is not the only decider of cases, but it is the ultimate decider.

This system has proven to be problematic in a republican government. The pronouncement of a sentences is the way that judges interpret the laws that are passed and therefore have a huge influence on democracy. The question is what is the effect the decisions have on the people?

The publicity and publication of the sentence form part of the democratic process.

A Supreme Court decision must be published within 24 – 48 hours for all to access. In the past, there was a huge delay in publishing cases because the Court was pronouncing 250 – 500 cases per week (not including cases were cert was denied). The Court was deciding over 9000 cases per year!

Our speaker then asked herself, “what is best for the citizen? Full-text or summaries/abstracts?” They have created a database and search where the result is a series of items that are aggregated. The database they’ve created certainly competes with the vendors, but it is free. Our speaker noted that this type of job on this grand scale required resources that aren’t available at the universities in Argentina.

“Ultimately, we want to show through the sentences that there have been modifications of the decisions of the Court. We want to show the Court’s development and changes over time.”

Thus, our last morning was filled with insights into the function and organization of Argentine legislation and jurisprudence, and how we might find and utilize both.

IALL Recap: Legal Research in Argentine Law

By Charles Bjork

Palace of Justice Exterior

Palace of Justice Exterior

IALL’s 33rd annual course on international law and legal information in Buenos Aires concluded with presentations about recent developments in Argentine legal research.

In May of 2014, the Argentine National Congress gave its approval to a new Argentine Legal Digest (ALD), which identifies all national laws that are currently in effect, including international treaty provisions to which Argentina is a party, and organizes them by subject. It took many years for a bicameral commission appointed by the congress to compile the ALD. Ramón Brenna, a consultant to the commission, explained that the need for the ALD arose from a combination of “legislative inflation” (the proliferation of laws over time) and “legislative contamination” (the enactment of new laws that modify or implicitly repeal prior laws, either in whole or in part). As a result of these phenomena, it had become increasingly difficult for both legal practitioners and ordinary citizens to determine which laws were currently in effect and being enforced.

Daniel Ricardo Altmark, a member of the Faculty of Law at the University of Buenos Aires who served as the coordinator for the ALD project, described the methodology used to consolidate the session laws. During stage one, teams of legal scholars, practitioners, and legal publishers analyzed all of the laws published in Argentina’s official gazette from its inception to determine which laws were still operative and which ones had been modified or repealed.   This process reduced the number of laws “on the books” from approximately 27,000 to just over 3,500. During stage two, the team members classified and indexed the laws currently in force, assigned descriptors to each major provision, and prepared a table contents. They also developed guidelines for drafting new legislation designed to expedite the consolidation of laws in the future. Eventually, a continuously updated electronic edition of the ALD will be made available online.

Courtroom used by the ICHR

Courtroom used by the ICHR

The next speaker was Susana Cayuso, the Secretary of Argentina’s Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación), which serves as both the final court of appeal and as a constitutional court. Ms. Cayuso described her efforts to make the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence freely accessible to members of the public via the court’s website. Currently, full-text judgments of the Supreme Court are available from 1994 onward. Users can search for judgments by keyword or by party name, docket number, and date. A model search form is available here. In addition, summaries of judgments are also available. Although the Supreme Court lacks the resources necessary to match the search functionality of case law databases developed by commercial vendors, Ms. Cayuso believes that providing free online access to the court’s jurisprudence is essential for maintaining a democratic dialog. In addition, the new database enables the court to conduct a statistical analysis of its caseload.

Courtroom used by the Argentine Supreme Court

Courtroom used by the Argentine Supreme Court