Report no.61 on COVID-19: Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court Library During the Pandemic

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Please join us on Tuesday, September 21 at 4pm (New York) for a webinar on Accessing Brazilian Legislative and Judicial Information. This webinar is part of the Conference on Access to Information: Latin America and the Caribbean (CAI:LAC).

By Luiza Gallo Pestano (Em Português)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, the Library of the Supreme Court (STF) has followed the decisions of the Court and the guidelines of the government health team regarding the protocol for the resumption of services and activities. (Resolução  663, de 12/03/2020; Portaria 73, de 16/03/2020; Portaria 648, de 20/11/2020; Resolução 729, de 30/03/2021).  

In the first 15 days of the pandemic, where we did not knowing what to do, or what it would be like, or how long it would last, the library’s public servers were put into remote work immediately. The service began to be designed remotely. All phone extensions were routed to the servers’ private cell phones and the Court’s Information Technology Secretariat began to make adjustments so that the entire court staff, not just the librarians, could actually work remotely. The use of Teams platform was made widely available.  And, even if informally, the use of whatsapp was intensified among colleagues.

Brazil's Supreme Court
Brazil’s Supreme Court – By Leandro Ciuffo – Flickr, CC BY 2.0

A great effort was made to maintain the library’s activities, namely, selection, acquisition, bibliographic processing, virtual services (with the provision of copies of journal articles and book chapters, with respect to Brazilian copyright law – Lei 9.610, de 19/02/1998) and expansion of digital collections. Obviously, during 2020 the quantity of these activities was reduced, such as, for example, circulation of bibliographic material and digitization for the formation of digital collections from works from the collection itself. 

On the other hand, there was an expansion of virtual services and also in relation to the access to items from the subscribed databases of books and periodicals. Nowadays, the library maintains subscriptions, like Biblioteca Digital Forum de Direito, Biblioteca Digital Proview e HeinOnline Latin American Core. Additionally, the library uses an internal collection of about 60,000 items of articles and book chapters from the collection previously digitized to meet previous research and which are kept in a specific drive. Gradually, the information that is digitized is inserted in each worksheet for processing this material. Thanks to this process, there was an optimization of the use of the material in the collection, saving time and even paper. Regarding usage of databases, the users’ independence in conducting research in the databases was observed, in addition to the expanded possibility of remote research by research librarians to meet demands. 

On the other hand, we also observed the possibility of expanding the processing of digital material in remote work, as a way to expand the use of the team’s remote workforce. The work on the bank of normative acts and on the indexing of items from the digital collections of ancient jurisprudence was expanded. 

Thus, given the impossibility of working in person, each library team thought and planned activities that could be done remotely in order not to harm the library’s workflow, that is, provide information and subsidize the court’s jurisdictional provision. It is important to highlight that the STF was a pioneer in the development of virtual judicial services and its activities in all areas, although, with adaptations and respect for the protocols, were not suspended.

Gradually, face-to-face work was gradually reestablished, on a rotating basis, with reduced hours. All library staff works some days a week remotely and others in person. 

Currently all 4 library departments — Reference and Circulation (Referência e Circulação), which includes research in doctrine and legislation to assist the Cabinets of Ministers, Collection Management (Desenvolvimento de Coleções), Information and Data Management (Tratamento da Informação Bibliográfica e Gerência de Conteúdos Digitais) — maintain their activities in a hybrid way, with rotation of people in face-to-face work. 

Since June 7, 2021, the library loan service was resumed, with the exclusive use of the self-service terminal, upon prior request for bibliographic material by e-mail. Interlibrary loan was maintained only in cases of digitized articles and book chapters, following the policies adopted by other libraries. The library has established specific days and times for return and loan: Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, from 1pm to 6pm. The reading room is still closed, as are the other collective areas of the library.  Access to collections and collections also remain closed. 

Finally, I note the lessons learned observed in the library during this period, not only for the opportunities found by the team to participate in courses, lectures, online conferences, as listeners or as speakers, but also for the opportunities found by the library to organize and hold online events.  Currently, to celebrate its 130th anniversary in August, the library is organizing a webinar — Agenda 2030 e bibliotecas jurídicas. Also two projects were developed by the library, which take place regularly: 

∙ Autor em Foco, which invites authors from the legal and related areas to talk about his/her recently published work, in a relaxed way and based on an interview made by a librarian. 

∙ Biblioteca com Vida, with a focus on Information Science, it intends to invite professional colleagues who wish to talk about their dissertations or theses, or even professional colleagues who are developing innovative projects in their libraries. This project aims to bring the library closer to the academy, offering space for exchange between information professionals. The first edition will be held in the second half of 2021. 

Unfortunately, we have had some cases of COVID contamination in our library colleagues, all between 2020 and early 2021. Currently, much of the library team is vaccinated with at least the first dose. This is a fact that brings me hope that soon we will be able to offer our services in a broader way, with the opening of library rooms for user access and circulation. I believe that the hybrid format will remain without harming the use of collective spaces in the library. A library without people becomes a space without discussion, without exchange, without life.

GlobaLex September/October 2021 Issue is Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

GlobaLex September/October 2021 issue is live featuring two new articles, the Judicial Power and High Courts in Latin America and the United-States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), and six updates including Bermuda, China, Myanmar, International Commercial Contracts, International Marine Environmental Law, and the Collection Development Policies for Building a Foreign and International Law Collection. Webmasters and content managers, please update your pages. We thank all our wonderful authors, new and established, for their excellent contributions and commitment to open access resource!

Judicial Power and High Courts in Latin America by Gloria Orrego Hoyos at

Gloria Orrego Hoyos is currently working at the Secretariat Training and Jurisprudence of the Public Defender’s Office in Argentina and as a Professor of Law and Legal Research (since 2008) at the Universidad de San Andrés and Universidad Torcuato Di Tella (since 2016) in Buenos Aires. She is a published author on human rights issues (gender and reproductive rights) and has been a guest lecturer in the subject in several countries. Additionally, she has been a consultant for NGOs and commercial databases regarding Latin American law in human and women’s rights. She is a native of Colombia, where she obtained her law degree from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana College of Law in Bogotá, Colombia, and is now living and working in Argentina where she obtained a Master’s in Constitutional Law and Human Rights from the Universidad de Palermo in Buenos Aires. She also has a librarianship degree from the Universidad de Ciencias Empresariales y Sociales in Buenos Aires.

Discovering the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) by Francisco A. Avalos at

Francisco A. Avalos joined the James E. Rogers College of Law in 1982 as the Foreign and International Law Librarian and Associate Professor for Legal Research. His area of expertise is Latin American legal research with an emphasis on Mexico. He has written extensively and made many presentations in this area of the law. Mr. Avalos has served as Secretary-Treasurer and Chairperson of the Foreign, Comparative, and International Law SIS of the American Association of Law Libraries and served on the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals Advisory Committee. Mr. Avalos retired in 2009 to dedicate himself to writing and doing consultant work. Since his retirement he has published The Mexican Legal System: A Comprehensive Research Guide (3d ed.), The “Legal History of Mexico: The Discovery to the Present (William Hien Publications), The Avalos Legal Glossary/Dictionary Translator and Other Related Fields of Study: English/Spanish Spanish/English. He also updated the Mexico section of the Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citations for the 20th edition. He serves as a special consultant to the Kozolchyk National Law Center.

UPDATE: Finding the Law in Bermuda by Jennifer Williams at

Jennifer Williams is the Information Services Manager at Conyers Dill & Pearman and has over 20 years of experience working in law firms in Bermuda. She is passionate about the evolution of law libraries and knowledge management.

UPDATE: Finding Chinese Law on the Internet by Joan Lijun Liu at

Joan Lijun Liu is currently a curator at Fudan University Library. In addition to teaching for the Library and Information Studies program and supervising the LIS graduate students in the Literature and Information Center of the Library, she also lectures in the Law School at the Fudan University. Previously, she served as a tenured associate curator at the New York University Law Library.

UPDATE: The Legal System of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar by Dr. Su Wai Mon and Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim at

Dr. Su Wai Mon is a Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Multimedia University (MMU), Melaka Campus Malaysia.

Dr. Md. Ershadul Karim is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and a non-practicing lawyer enrolled with the Bangladesh Supreme Court.

UPDATE: International Commercial Contracts by Anne Mostad-Jensen and Cyril Emery at

Anne Mostad-Jensen is a Legal Officer and Librarian for the Secretariat of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

Cyril Emery is the Head of the Documentation Division and Library of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

UPDATE: Researching International Marine Environmental Law by Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi at

Arundhati Ashok Satkalmi (Aru) retired in July 2014 as a Senior Research Librarian from the Rittenberg Law Library of St. John’s University School of Law. Her interest in the marine environment has inspired her to undertake this update even after her retirement. Prior to joining St. John’s in 1991, Aru worked as the Senior Information Specialist at the corporate headquarters of the Exxon Corporation in New York. In addition to a master’s in library science from St. John’s University, she holds a master’s in government and politics where she specialized in international law. She wrote a thesis entitled International Convention for the Control and Management of Ship’s Ballast Water and Sediments of 2004: An Analysis of Logical and Practical Aspects. She has earned a certificate from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) in International Environmental Law. She also holds a Master of Science degree in Geology from Poona University. She has presented on the topic of the international marine environment to the Indian Society of International Law and American Association of Law Librarians. The author would like to thank to William Manz, her former colleague at St. John’s, for reading and offering editorial assistance.

UPDATE: Collection Development Policies and Other Basic Tools for Building a Foreign and International Law Collection by Barbara H. Garavaglia and Seth Quidachay-Swan at

Barbara H. Garavaglia is Librarian Emerita and Former Director of the University of Michigan Law Library.

Seth Quidachay-Swan is the Head of Collection Development and Access Services at the University of Michigan Law Library.

For more articles, visit

2021 FCIL-SIS Award Winners

The FCIL-SIS held a virtual annual business meeting on Thursday, July 15, 2021. As is tradition, the FCIL-SIS spent part of the meeting celebrating the recipients of the 2021 FCIL-SIS Awards.

Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award

The Daniel L. Wade FCIL-SIS Outstanding Service Award honors an FCIL-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to the Section in the areas of section activity and professional service.

Lucie Olejnikova

Lucie Olejnikova is the 2021 recipient of this award. Lucie is the Head of Foreign & International Law and Lecturer in Legal Research at the Yale Law Library. She has been a member of FCIL-SIS for over 14 years, and has served as our Chair (2015-16), Vice-Chair (2014-15), and Secretary-Treasurer (2011-2013). Lucie has been an integral part of communicating the work of the FCIL-SIS through her work as the FCIL-SIS Webmaster since 2016. She has gone far beyond the call of duty in ensuring the website is up-to-date. Anyone who is currently working as an IG or Committee Chair knows that Lucie is quick to reach out for any website updates multiple times a year. Without someone as dedicated as Lucie, the website could quickly become outdated and irrelevant. Her dedication not only to keeping the website up to date but also proactively encouraging contributions is a true testament to her commitment to our SIS.

Lucie Ojejnikova’s Award

In addition to her service as the FCIL-SIS Webmaster, Lucie has made valuable contributions to other IGs and Committees. Her long service to both the Schaffer Grant for Foreign Law Librarian Fundraising and Selection Committees has helped to ensure the FCIL-SIS was able to continue the tradition of sponsoring the attendance of a librarian from outside the United States to our annual meeting. In addition to her work on the Committees, Lucie also worked behind the scenes to arrange library visits for the visiting librarian after the conference.

Beyond her work with the FCIL-SIS, we also want recognize Lucie’s contributions to the wider profession through her work as Editor of Globalex, as well as her work with ASIL’s International Legal Research Group, for which she served as Treasurer from 2017-19.

We believe that this award is long overdue for Lucie, and are thrilled to present it to her this year.

Congratulations, Lucie!

Thomas H. Reynolds and Arturo A. Flores FCIL-SIS Publication Award

The Thomas H. Reynolds and Arturo A. Flores FCIL-SIS Publication Award is given to an FCIL-SIS member or members who have greatly contributed to the professional development of their AALL colleagues during any given year. The winning “publications” may be print, digital, or electronic initiatives.

Lyonette Louis-Jaques holding her award while standing next to a large globe in a library.
Lyonette Louis-Jacques

Lyonette Louis-Jacques is the 2021 recipient of the award for her decades-long contributions to the Slaw column. Lyo is the Foreign and International Law Librarian and Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School. She is a leading voice on international, foreign, and comparative law research in the country. For a decade, she has contributed to column on a variety of international, foreign, and comparative law topics. Her in-depth posts are well-researched, engaging, and they have become the ‘must-reads’. It is no surprise that this valuable content, which has been coming to us in pieces over the years, was recently compiled into the International Legal Information E-book, published by CanLII, exemplifying Lyo’s unwavering commitment to the open access movement.

Lyo’s dedication to finding creative ways to disseminate information and her commitment to finding suitable open access avenues to publish deserve recognition, as do her publishing contribution to our profession, to the foreign and international law research field, and to law librarianship generally. Whether it be a listserv post, a column running for a decade, or an international information e-book, Lyo is one step ahead of us all, trailblazing a path of passing on her professional wisdom.

Congratulations, Lyo!

Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Award

Abby Dos Santos with her award in a library
Abby Dos Santos

The Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Award is presented each year to members whose work furthers our mission, serves the entire FCIL-SIS, and inspires others to act.

This year the award was presented to three individuals: Abby Dos Santos, Melissa Abernathy, and Yasmin Morais

Abby Dos Santos is a Reference Librarian at Caplin & Drysdale. Abby has been an active participant reporting on the COVID-19 situation in Brazil and, through her dedication and motivation on this project, has created a network of Brazilian law librarians in both here in the US and Brazil. At the end of last year, Abby hosted the very first bilateral virtual meeting between law librarians in both countries to share experiences and best practices. The group is brainstorming next steps which should include more virtual meetings, panels and visits once it’s possible.

Melissa Abernathy with her award outside in front of green plants
Melissa Abernathy

Congratulations, Abby!

Melissa Abernathy is the Law Reference Librarian at the University of San Diego School of Law Library. She has been a valuable member of the FCIL-SIS, most notably for her leadership in publishing of the FCIL-SIS Newsletter. She coordinates with the members of the Executive Committee as well as all members of the FCIL-SIS to create valuable and useful content. In her time serving as the editor of the Newsletter, she has found a way to improve the publication by creating the Recent Member Publications section, in which our members’ publications are highlighted. Melissa also served on the DEI Task Force this year, and has volunteered to serve on the upcoming DEI Committee.

Congratulations, Melissa!

Yasmin Morais holds up her award
Yasmin Morais

Yasmin Morais is a Reference and Cataloging Librarian at the David A. Clarke School of Law Library, University of the District of Columbia. Yasmin has also been very active in the Latin American law IG’s COVID-19 project. Yasmin not only helped identify and contact several law librarians in the Caribbean region, but also coached and trained them while writing multiple reports in the region. Her work will be featured in an upcoming blog post in the RIPS Law Librarian Blog and she will be speaker on this topic at the 2021 CALL meeting. Yasmin has also been an active contributor to the Latin American Law IG’s regular email newsletter updates, which, if you’re not already subscribed to, you definitely should!

Congratulations, Yasmin!

Amy Flick poses with her award in front of a window
Amy Flick

Blog Post of the Year Award

The Blog Post of the Year Award honors an AALL member who contributes an outstanding blog post for the FCIL-SIS blog, DipLawMatic Dialogues, during the previous year.

Amy Flick is the 2021 award winner for her From the Reference Desk Column.

Congratulations, Amy!

Newsletter Article of the Year Award

The Newsletter Article of the Year Award honors an FCIL-SIS member who contributes an outstanding article for the FCIL-SIS Newsletter, during the previous year.

A cat sits on a table with eyes closed posing behind an award
Caitlin Hunter’s cat, Addie

Caitlin Hunter is the 2021 award winner for her article, Helping Foreign Students Thrive in U.S. Law Schools.

Congratulations, Caitlin!

Committee/Interest Group Project of the Year Award

The Committee/Interest Group Project of the Year Award honors the FCIL-SIS Interest Group and/or Committee that produces an outstanding project for the benefit of FCIL-SIS and/or AALL members during the previous year.

Sherry Xin Chen

The Asian Law Interest Group is the 2021 award winner for their COVID monitoring project (awarded to co-chairs Alex Zhang and Sherry Xin Chen).

Congratulations to the Asian Law Interest Group!

Congratulations to all our recipients!

Many thanks to Dennis Sears for year-after-year obtaining the awards on behalf of the Executive Committee to give to our recipients!

Conference on Access to Information: Latin America and the Caribbean (CAI:LAC) – Sept 2021

By Marcelo Rodríguez

Our Conference on Access to Information in Latin America and the Caribbean (CAI:LAC) comes when the region is at a crossroads. The reality is that the pandemic shows no signs to avail in the overwhelming majority of countries. The consequences of extended lockdowns and border closures have had severe consequences in all economies. The livelihoods of vulnerable groups have been several curtailed and precarity has become a way of life for millions. Vaccination availability and rates are very low throughout the region, while variants and misinformation complicate an already-chaotic situation. Besides the pandemic, Latin America and the Caribbean was already facing some major socio-economic and political challenges which have been simply exacerbated during the current health crisis. 

Since March 2020, our group, Monitoring COVID-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean has been busy at work trying to gather all the information related to these challenges and abrupt changes in order to bear witness and report on what is happening. We have always striven to cover the entire region and talk about how seemingly disparate events are interconnected. At this point, our project members come from all corners of the region, and they have contributed more than 60 reports. We will have more in the future, including a book compiling all these reports. The Conference on Access to Information: Latin America and the Caribbean was born from these efforts and aims to build on these conversations. 

Since 2015, the United Nations (UN) has designated September 28 as the International Day for Universal Access to Information. Our conference celebrates this commemoration. Access to Information serves as a framework streamlining all the conversations and reports in our project. Considering the interdisciplinary and international nature of our collaborations, the topic of access to information serves as a springboard from where all these webinars can develop. 

During the month of September 2021, we will host a total of eight free webinars every Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm (EST). Each panel will consist of three experts and a moderator and simultaneous interpretation will be available for at least six webinars in Spanish/English and one in Portuguese/English. You will need to register for each webinar individually. 

The agenda will be as follows: 

Thursday 2 September 2021: Access to Women’s Rights (Argentina, Uruguay y Paraguay)

UNESCO, Office of Access to Public Information in Argentina, Semillas para la Democracia in Paraguay

Tuesday, 7 September 2021: Access to Education (Puerto Rico, Rep. Dominicana, Cuba)

Observatorio de Libertad Académica, Centro de Periodismo Investigativo, Observatorio Político Dominicano

Thursday, 9 September 2021: Access to Information on Elections (Chile, Bolivia, Perú, Ecuador)

Organization of American States (OAS), International Foundation for Electoral Systems, Andean Information Network, Centro de Estudios Políticos in Chile, US Congressional Research Service

Tuesday, 14 September 2021: Access to Information on/for Venezuelan Refugees

Georgetown Law School, UNHCR in Ecuador, Efecto Cucuyo in Venezuela, Refugee Expert in Peru, University of Arizona College of Law

Thursday, September 16, 2021: Access to Health Rights and Information (CARICOM + OECS)

CARICOM, OECS, PAHO, University of Arizona College of Law

Tuesday, 21 September 2021: Access to Brazilian Legislative and Judicial Information

Chamber of Deputies and Senate of Brazil

Thursday, 23 September 2021: Access to Information in Central America

International Crisis Group, Libertad Ciudadana in Panama, Asociación para una Sociedad Justa in Honduras, Expert in Nicaragua, Ave Maria Law School

Tuesday, 28 September 2021: Indigenous Peoples’ Access to Information in Mexico

National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM in Spanish), Autonomous University of Mexico (UAM in Spanish), Colegio de Mexico

Please register to attend and do not hesitate to share as widely as possible with all your networks. Your participation will help ensure that these relevant conversations get the attention they deserve. 

AALL 2021 Annual Meeting Program Recap – Brief Analyzers: The Next Level of Bots Doing Legal Research

By Jennifer Allison

Description of the program, provided by the presenters:

Legal research vendors have taken new steps to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning in their products. The latest development is brief analysis tools that read a document and formulate searches with little to no additional human input. This session will critically evaluate these new tools and compare them to existing search options. Participants will learn how brief analysis tools work, when they should and should not be used, and how to react to increasing researcher reliance on algorithms.

A recording of this program can be viewed at (AALL 2021 Annual Meeting registration required).

I offered the editors of this blog the following reason for wanting to recap this program:

“I have been getting questions from LLMs over the last few years about automation tools and have always told them I don’t believe in them or any automation like that for law students.  I decided this was the year I would finally educate myself more about them, so I have a better answer about why they should not be used when you are writing your first-ever brief or memo, because I really think they can compromise the learning process.“

After having attended this program (which, in terms of the quality of the content and the speakers, was one of the best programs I have ever attended at an AALL meeting), I am not 100% sure I have a perfect answer to the questions I get from LLMs about automated legal research tools, but maybe I will be able to have some better answers than I did in the past.

Ben Keele, Katie Labonte, and Susan Nevelow Mart presented preliminary results from a research project they have been working on which involves evaluating four brief analyzer tools that are included in legal research databases:

All four of these products have a common functionality: they analyze a brief the researcher submits to determine (a) if the cases cited in the document are still good law, and (b) if there are cases other than those cited that might be helpful for the researcher to consider in crafting their argument.  

In his portion of the presentation, Ben made it very clear that brief analyzers are NOT front-line research tools.  Instead, they require that the researcher submit a fully-drafted document.  If a researcher just submitted their notes from torts, for example, the brief analyzer may produce something, but that something won’t be very useful.

Photo by Markus Spiske on

The vendors advertise that their products include “Artificial Intelligence” (AI) tools like this.  But what is AI exactly?  According to Susan, it is a way that computers can be trained to analyze data, although in the end it may be no more than “math at its heart that can get away from creators.”  She thinks that “machine learning” might be a better term for what this functionality is and does. 

Whatever you call it, she argues, it has the following characteristics:

  • It “cannot replace creative problem solving under uncertaincy and complexity that is legal research and analysis,” which means that “human lawyers have to do heavy lifting in creative lawyering.”
  • It “is not creative problem solving” and instead is “just a tool to augument [human] thinking.”

It also has some distinct drawbacks in legal research, including:

  • Baked-in viewpoint bias, given that each platform has its own metadata/classification system
  • Algorithmic fluidity, which creates variability in search results over time that cannot replace deep reading and deep thinking

The presenters also found that analyzers are not designed to do all the research, but only answer very specific questions, and that their effective use depends on further human interaction after the analysis is complete.

Katie introduced the study that the three presenters had undertaken.  They selected a brief from each of 10 cases (seven federal, one Indiana, one Colorado, and one California) and ran it through each of the four brief analyzer tools.  From there, they analyzed the cases returned based on each database’s analysis of the brief.

To avoid playing the spoiler, I will leave a detailed reveal of the results to their article about the project.  However, it is interesting that, as the presenters had expected, each of the four tools returned somewhat different results when analyzing the same brief, and that there was relatively little overlap between analyzers.  This could be attributed to the various ways the analyzers broke the document down and the type of data from the brief each analyzer focused on and used in its analysis.

What were some of the lessons learned?

 (1) What is the analyzer’s place in the legal research process, and are bots taking over?  No, we are not anywhere near that place – it is more like an augmenting tool.

(2) A well-structured and supported (thoroughly cited) document is needed as input to optimize the analyzers’ abilities.

(3) The researcher should be expected to be well-versed in the issues, and to be able to refine the results with filters, issue selection, and keywords.  In fact, this seems to be the expectation of the developers of the tool.

One thing I took from this, which should be relatively easy to explain to students, is that this will not replace the researcher having to read the secondary sources, run the searches, read the cases, craft the arguments, and write the brief.  According to the presenters, this tool basically won’t even work until you can plug a finished brief into it, and that is by design.  This was a huge relief for me to hear.  We are still clearly far away from the days of case law research in a common law legal system where a researcher can just click a button in Westlaw and get all the cases they need.  Although your LLMs from civil law jurisdiction may expect the technology to be that sophisticated, it is not yet and (likely, in my opinion) will never be. 

Book review – On Your Feet: Criminal Law Practice in the Parish Courts in Jamaica

By Marcelo Rodríguez

Book cover of On Your Feet: Criminal Law Practice in the Parish Courts in Jamaica by Nadine Atkinson-Flowers

Throughout my career as a law librarian and particularly my years as a court librarian in the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, NY, I have seen firsthand what law clerks go through in terms of workload and tasks. As court librarians, we did prepare a series of orientation workshops, readings and materials to help them navigate their new judicial environments. However, it was never enough. At the core, we were fighting against an unspoken myth of “forcing” law clerks to battle with incredible obstacles, create “resilience” and promote survival of the fittest. I don’t have to convince the discerning among you of the detrimental aspect of this type of mentality which prevents law clerks from effectively fulfilling their job responsibilities, judges from receiving stellar research and ultimately our judicial system from fulfilling its mission of fairness and rule of law. 

Based on my own experience, I was incredibly excited and compelled to read and review On Your Feet: Criminal Law Practice in the Parish Courts in Jamaica by my esteemed friend, Nadine C. Atkinson-Flowers. This authoritative handbook will undoubtedly become the foundational reference book for anyone interested in the structure of the Parish Courts in Jamaica, its procedures and rules, what to do in certain specific situations, tips for law clerks, and so much more. Atkinson-Flowers perfectly combines her professional and personal experiences with relevant information in order to create an essential and indispensable book. What is the most relevant case law when preparing for a particular matter? What are the different court types in the Parish Court system? What are the considerations for a Parish Judge when arriving at a verdict? What are the different orders a Parish Court is allowed to make? Through clear examples, templates and step-by-step information, Atkinson-Flowers delivers a transparent and insightful path for anyone to follow. When there is no unequivocal set of rules, the author provides an incredibly helpful account of the different best practices and customary procedures which have developed throughout the years. 

As a law librarian, I can’t stress enough how useful and meaningful these types of books are. Whenever law students, law clerks or new law associates embark upon a new professional endeavor, having access to foundational books such as On Your Feet have the power to make or break someone’s career. We all benefit when we strive to shed some light on legal procedures and judicial information of our own court systems, and help new legal professionals entering the field. I’m proud and honored to know the author personally, and I can attest to her unequivocal desire to provide a more clear path to future and current law clerks, attorneys and judges working in Jamaica’s Parish Courts. I didn’t hesitate to include this pivotal work in our extensive Latin American and Caribbean legal collection at the Daniel F. Cracchiolo Law Library, James E. Rogers College of Law. Therefore, I highly recommend this book to be included in all law libraries. 

AALL 2021 Recap: The Ins and Outs of India Legal Research – Your Q&A Questions Answered

By Pushyamitra Veeramachaneni & Sunil Rao

Hi everyone,

We really enjoyed sharing some information on historical and contemporary legal resources in India at the AALL program in July, and hope you found it useful!

Below are some responses to questions that came in the chat that we didn’t have a chance to respond to, or that needed some clarification. Thank you for these great questions, which also gave us a chance to dive deeper!

All the best, Pushya and Sunil

Answers to Questions from Part 1 – Legal History of Indian Law, by Pushya Veeramachaneni

Q: Was religious law covered and I missed it?

A: Yes, we did cover.

The religious laws of India evolved over the centuries. Ancient Law was only Hindu Law. Muslims invaded India in the 12th A.D., and Islamic Law was introduced first in Northern India and later in all parts of the subcontinent. Both Hindu and Islamic Laws are based on religious beliefs. Please find the Primary and secondary sources on my Libguide.

Q: What is the influence of the Mughal court system or pre-British India in the country’s legal system today?

A: Muslim invasion, along with the religion, introduced a solid judicial system in India. During the Mughals period, India witnessed an excellent reform in India, with the result the system of justice took shape. Akbar established a government that included many Hindus in responsible positions. Hindus were not forced to obey the Muslim religion, and he ended a tax imposed on Hindus. The current civil courts called Munsifs, the plaintiff and the defendants are termed Muddai and Muddaliya, and other legal terms remind us of the Mughal Judicial system.

Even though the British introduced a lot of reforms, all based on the Muslim Judicial Administration. British introduced the Adalat system which mainly administered the Hindu and the Muslim laws. British did not amend Family and Succession laws in India, which are based on the religion.

Q: In the ancient texts, did you find any evidence of the Indian empire(s) borrowing or lending legal concepts from other contemporary empires such as the Romans/Byzantines or Chinese?

A: The traditional system of justice in India had been primarily based on customary law.

The ancient law is a customary law. According to historians from 500 B.C to 12th A.D. is Ancient Hindu Law. The initial emergence of law is from religion, and legal treatises are called ‘Dharmasastras.’

After the Muslim invasion in the 12th century, A.D. Islamic Law was introduced in the Indian subcontinent. The Islamic Law is based on religious beliefs as the Hindu Law. Islamic Law is derived from two primary sources Quran and the Sunna of Prophet Mohammad.

The Christian Law was introduced in India by the Britishers, which is also based on religion. The Indian Christian Marriage Act, 1872.

Though the British continued to observe customary law in general, they enacted many modern laws through the enactment and codification of old laws during the British rule in India.

After the Independence in 1947, many colonial laws needed a thorough revision and change to their social system and reflected society’s social, political, economic, and cultural characteristics.

Q: If you were on a deserted island, which India legal research resource would you take?

A: Read Ancient Hindu Laws, Dharma, and Dharmasastra, either online or print, and compare them to modern laws


Answers to Questions from Part 2 – Modern Indian Law, by Sunil Rao

Q: Is the official gazette published in Hindi? Or published in several languages such as English?

A: Article 348 of the Constitution of India requires that central legislation be published In English. As such, statutes, bills, etc. appear in the Gazette in English. However, the Official Languages act, 1963 provides that a Hindi translation of legislation should also be published in the gazette by the President of India.

Q: How has COVID impacted online/free access to the legal system and sources in India? We know that in some Latin American countries, the pandemic has forced a shift to a virtual legal system where there was nothing before. Has this also been the case in India?

A: In terms of the usual function of and access to legal sources online, we have seen no evidence thatCovid-19 has diminished this. However, the pandemic has definitely affected access to the legal system in general due to lockdowns; unavailability of lawyers and lack of access to courts; and the fact that many lawyers in India did not (even prior to the pandemic) have access to working internet connections – exacerbating the effects of lockdowns, etc. For further discussion of this issue, see for example, this article from Juris:

Q: Can you speak briefly to sources for regulatory research (subsidiary/delegated)?

A: The Constitution of India does not explicitly recognize subordinate or delegated legislation.
There is much scholarship that discusses one seminal case in particular:  D. S. Gerewal v. State of Punjab (1959 AIR 512, 1959 SCR Supl. (1) 792), in which the Supreme Court held that: 1)Article 312 of the Constitution deals with delegated legislation, and 2) that nothing in the text of Article 312 diminishes the power of delegation, which lies with the legislation.

As a practical matter, in India at the present time, there are many subordinate authorities that exist now under the authority of legislation by the Indian parliament. When delving into this area, one will encounter terms such as ‘rules’, ‘regulations,’ ‘by-laws’, ‘notifications’, ‘circulars’, etc.

The various Ministries of the Indian Government (Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Aviation, Ministry of Defense, etc) issue numerous “Notifications” and “Circulars”.

Many of these can be found on government ministry websites. Here is a directory of such websites:

One area that is authorized by statute are the Quasi-Tribunals. There are a great number of these administrative tribunals, but they operate in a quasi-judicial manner and are more for resolving disputes in a quasi-judicial manner than for performing administrative functions. These tribunal decisions can be found on Indian Kanoon and a number of other commercial sources.

These notifications and circulars will also be found on commercial sources such as Manupatra and SCC online.

Q: What do citators look like for India? Do they have visual cues like KeyCite and Shepard’s?

A: One can update High Court and Supreme Court cases through any of the commercial sources, as well as through Indian Kanoon. Indian Kanoon as a basic google-like case updating feature, that looks like this:

Screenshot of a search for "citedby: 984436" in the website in India Kanoon

There are no flags or visual cues. Commercial sources do make use of these. Here is an example of what these looks like on Manupatra:

Screenshot of icons and explanations for them from the website Manupatra

Q: Can you say something about citation norms in India? We would use the Bluebook here in the U.S., but what do practitioners and researchers actually use and cite to in India?

A: Efforts for formulating a model for legal citation are a work in progress. Below is a link to the working draft of the Standard Indian Legal Citation Manual. But first, an excerpt from the document that best describes the situation:                       

“Standard Indian Legal Citation is an effort by Indian lawyers and academicians to usher in uniformity in legal citation practices across India. Despite past efforts, the Indian legal community continues to use varying citation standards across the nation. Numerous law schools in India have few, if any, citation guidelines for research and many academic publications resort to the use of foreign citation guidelines. For some time now, academicians and students across India have felt the urgent need for a citation system that takes into account India’s rich legal traditions and history, its unique sources of legal information. “

For more information, see:

Q:  Some databases mention Bare Acts. What are Bare Acts?

A: The phrase ‘Bare Act’ is an expression that appears to be to refer to the content or text of the law passed by the central parliament or a state legislature, without any commentary, annotations, or any other kind of interpretive addition. A parallel here in the United States might be “session law.” There are hundreds of lengthy legislative commentaries in India that contain editorial comment and analysis, so Bare Act seems to be a way of distinguishing “pure” legislation from these commentaries.

Q: Are there state equivalents to SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) in the way there are state securities authorities in the U.S.?

A: SEBI is a regulatory body, established by statute that serves to monitor and regulate
the Indian capital and securities market. It also establishes guidelines to protect the interests of investors. SEBI has its headquarters in Mumbai, and also has Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western regional offices. There are also several local offices that operate within the jurisdiction of the regional offices. As far as we are aware, these regional and local offices serve the broader purpose of SEBI, and are not distinct.

Q: Is the Privy Council still the court of last resort?

A: 1949, the Abolition of Privy Council Jurisdiction Act was passed by the Indian Government. This Act accordingly abolished the jurisdiction of Privy Council to entertain new appeals and petitions as well as to dispose of any pending appeals and petitions. It also provided for transfer of all cases filed before Privy Council to the Federal Court in India. All powers of the Privy Council regarding appeals from the High Court were conferred to the Federal Court.

Thereafter with the commencement of the Constitution of India in 1950, the Supreme Court has been established and is serving as the Apex Court for all purposes in India. It hears appeals from all the High Courts and Subordinate Courts. With this the appellate jurisdiction of the Privy Council finally came to an end.

Q: What might be involved in researching Customary Law? An in person visit to a relevant region to discuss with relevant parties? Consulting particular religious or other texts? What can be found codified and where? Anything via Indian Kanoon, Manupatra, or SCC Online?

A:  Customary law and religious law are closely intertwined. Pushya has spoken to religious law in her presentation, and in her answer above.

Article 13 of the Constitution of India recognizes ‘customs’ and ‘usages’ as having the force of law, so long as they don’t infringe on any of the fundamental rights covered in Part III of the Constitution.

Customary law is relevant in roughly three areas:

1) Disputes dealing with the use of natural resources – particularly involving indigenous tribes. Here one can find Supreme Court and High Court cases that have recognized customary usages, and some such rights have been codified in legislation.

2)The Personal Law System: Perhaps most prominent display of customary law is in the form of how the personal law system functions –  laws related to family law and inheritance laws of the major religious groups, which are primarily Hinduism and Islam.

Many Hindu personal laws have been enacted into legislation – for example, the Hindu Marriage Act, the Hindu Succession Act, etc. These can be found via the sources for legislation mentioned in the presentation, whether in print or online.

For the most part, Muslim personal laws are not codified and are based on religious texts, though there are some exceptions.

3) Decisions at the rural level, in local dispute settlement bodies – these are going to be based on traditions and customs, and are also going to encompasses religious laws and practices. Pushya has covered the authoritative texts for both Hinduism and Islam.

These dispute settlement bodies, as mentioned in the presentation, have been established through legislation since independence.  The Lok Adalat (or people’s court) is an ADR forum that settles cases pending from the findings of a Panchayat (an elected village council). Having disputes settled in this manner –informally at the village council level, and then more formally at the level of the Lok Adalat–is a part of a system that is designed  to relieve burden on Courts.

Decisions of Lok Adalats are binding in the same manner as findings in a civil court would be.  If the parties are not satisfied with the findings of the ADR venue, they can initiate litigation in the official court that possesses the appropriate jurisdiction 

As far as access to documentation goes – there may often be letters, records, registers, that are presented in the proceedings of a panchayat or Lok Adalat. Many states have passed legislation giving government officers the powers to inspect or request documents from these local bodies. And of course if cases do proceed to the official court system, documentation is more likely to be obtainable.

Most likely, a researcher wanting access to the kinds of documents produced by Panchayats and Lok Adalats would have to visit the relevant region and local community.

Please note that this is a highly simplified discussion of Lok Adalats, Panchayats and the ADR system in general. There are variations in terminology, types of bodies, and in how these bodies function in individual states.

There is a good deal scholarship on these bodies, their function, their effectiveness (or lack thereof), for those interested.  Marc Galanter is a prominent scholar in this field. See for example, Galanter, M., & Krishnan, J. K. (2003). Bread for the Poor: Access to Justice and the Rights of the Needy in India. Hastings LJ55, 789.

Q:If you were on a deserted island, which India legal research resource would you take?

A: If we have access to a computer and Wi-Fi (and I’m guessing we wouldn’t 🙂 ), it would be Indian Kanoon, because of the importance of case law research in India. Indian Kanoon affords access to a vast amount of current and historical case law. along with easy-to-use search mechanisms, and a valuable integration of legislation and case law in one intuitive search interface.

Otherwise, for a print resource,  a personal favorite might be Dharma : the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh traditions of India (Bloomsbury Academic, 2020) – an enlightening discussion of the concept of Dharma in the various Indian religions. Note: In some respects, Dharma might be loosely related to the concept of Natural Law in the western traditions:

Report no.59 on COVID-19: St. Vincent and the Grenadines Between a Pandemic and a Volcanic Eruption

This is a series of reports by the AALL FCIL-SIS Latin American Law Interest Group and Latino Caucus in a project monitoring COVID-19 legal responses in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

By Jolie Rajah

“The Caribbean is beautiful, but it is fraught with danger.”  

– Elizabeth Morgan,  Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics

Map of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

On January 2nd, 2021, the multi-island, eastern Caribbean state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (hereafter referred to as Saint Vincent), with a population of approximately 109,991, recorded 123 COVID-19 cases, 25 of which were active, and zero COVID-19 related deaths. However, for the period 2020–2021, COVID-19 is not the only national challenge that Saint Vincent has faced. The Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment (hereafter referred to as MOH) reported that as of late September 2020, there was an outbreak of 500+ cases of the mosquito-transmitted illness, dengue fever. Moreover, after months of increased activity, an effusive eruption that began in late December 2020, the La Soufrière volcano explosively erupted in early April 2021.

The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) tweeted on April 9th, 2021: “La Soufriere has moved into an explosive state. Plumes up to eight kilometers. Ash fall expected . . .” This was four days short of the 1979 anniversary of the volcano’s eruption. The newspapers captured the eruption’s local and regional impact. The headline of Saint Vincent’s Searchlight read “Farms gone, tree crops stripped bare . . .” While, neighbouring Barbados’ NationNews, described the effects that their island experienced over 100 miles away as “Volcano ash turns northern skies dark.”

The following is a brief report on selected legal measures, including evacuation, emergency, and public health orders, undertaken by Saint Vincent in the immediate lead up to and since the explosive eruption, as it relates to health, safety, and the environment, with an emphasis on those pertaining to COVID-19.

Volcanic Eruption and Evacuation 

On April 8th, 2021, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, upon the advice of the Director of NEMO, regarding the imminent eruption of the La Soufrière volcano, issued an evacuation order, with immediate effect. This evacuation order emanates from ss. 33 and 40 of the National Emergency and Disaster Management Act, Chapter 88 of the Laws of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. With the volcano hazard alert level on red, residents in the red hazard zone were advised to “self-evacuate, or prepare to be evacuated.” Persons evacuated by land and sea to locations internal and external to Saint Vincent. However, some refused to do so. NEMO asserted that “Anyone caught in the Red Zone without the permission of the Police will be immediately arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Indeed, ss. 36-39 of the National Emergency and Disaster Management Act outline what constitutes a failure to comply with evacuation orders (and other protective measures), the offences, and penalties.

National Emergency Management Organisation of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

On April 23rd, 2021, local newspaper, The Vincentian, revealed that thrill-seeker, Desron ‘Lava Man’ Rodriguez, had been detained by authorities after posting a video and images of himself, dated after the evacuation order had been issued, at La Soufrière. By the end of April 2021, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Authority (CDEMA) indicated that 22,440 persons had been displaced by the volcano, having either relocated to public shelters or to private homes. Furthermore, according to the Damage and Loss Assessment Team, chaired by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), “Preliminary estimates [. . .] indicate that there is ~USD 65 million in damage and losses sustained by the agricultural sector . . .” 

COVID-19, Public Health, and Vaccination

To date, as per the MOH’s website, the country’s core COVID-19-related, public health legislation comprises:

Concerning vaccinations, the previously mentioned Public Health (Emergency Authorisation of COVID-19 Vaccine) Rules, 2021 sanctioned selected COVID-19 vaccines for local use, several of which had by then been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), as well as the Russian-produced Gam-COVID-Vac (Sputnik V). A “Full scale launch of the COVID-19 National Vaccination Deployment Programme” began on March 3rd, 2021. In late March 2021, the Searchlight commented on the status of Saint Vincent’s vaccination campaign with the headline, “MOH’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout slowed by (a)nti-vaccine sentiment.”

Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment.

Even before the evacuation order was issued, the COVID-19 vaccination status of persons likely to be evacuated to communal settings was of some concern. Michelle Forbes, Director of NEMO urged “. . .If you are living in the red and orange zones now and you know that you have to be evacuated, I will strongly recommend that you take the vaccine.”  On April 8th, 2021, the eve of the volcano’s explosive eruption, the MOH reported 1,789 COVID-19 cases, 144 of which were active, 10 COVID-19 related deaths, and 12,124 COVID-19 vaccines administered.

The volcano’s ash fall and heavy rain-induced mudflows and flooding added to the health and safety issues faced by Saint Vincent. All the while, COVID-19 concerns remained constant. After the issuing of the evacuation order, there was a need for clarification on the vaccination status of evacuees. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) disclosed that as of May 9th, 2021 “a total of 40 covid-19 cases are linked to 8 public emergency shelters.”

By early May 2021,  La Soufrière’s alert level was changed from red to orange and residents from specific hazard zones were advised that they could return to their homes and at the end of May 2021, the MOH reported 2,035 total COVID-19 cases, 192 of which were active, 12 COVID-19 related deaths, and 20,768 COVID-19 vaccines administered. Vaccine hesitancy still appeared to be an issue in Saint Vincent.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Coronavirus Report

Janine Mendes-Franco, of Global Voices wrote:

On May 19, Trinidad and Tobago’s foreign affairs minister, Dr. Amery Browne, in announcing the receipt of 16,000 additional doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, noted that many smaller regional territories are experiencing vaccine hesitancy. Rather than have the doses expire, regional governments have been donating part of their allocations to larger Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours who need them.

When asked about the possibility of mandatory vaccination being imposed on public and private sector workers, Prime Minister Gonsalves said:

My answer to you in relation to the current laws, both in relation to the public sector and the private sector, that you can impose the condition that if you don’t take the vaccine you may be terminated.

In the case of both public and private sectors, the employer has a right to have a safe place of work, including a healthy place for you to work, an environment for you to work . . . this is recognized at the Common Law. Various statute law will bolster it, but the common law, it’s there.

Acknowledgements: Special thanks to N. (Trinidad and Tobago) for the advice and support rendered during the preparation of this report and to D. (Saint Lucia) for taking the time to answer my legislative query while preparing for the onslaught of Tropical Storm/Hurricane Elsa.

AALL 2021 Recap: Sovereignty, Native America, and Legal Culture: Why Accessing and Understanding Tribal Law Just Became More Important

By Meredith Capps

In an “on-demand” session offered to AALL 2021 Virtual Meeting attendees, Darla W. Jackson moderated a discussion regarding current efforts to publish Native American tribal law online.  Speakers included Bonnie Shucha, Associate Dean for Library & Information Services & Director of the Law Library, University of Wisconsin Law School, David Greisen, Chief Executive Officer & Founding Director of the Open Law Library, and Christina Steinbrecker Jack, Chief Product Officer at Fastcase.

Jackson framed the discussion by noting the significant impact of the Supreme Court’s opinion in McGirt v. Oklahoma, a dispute in which the Court found that the territory in which petitioner Jimcy McGirt committed offenses within Oklahoma was “Indian country” per the Major Crimes Act and as such, McGirt could not be prosecuted by the state, and was subject only to tribal and federal jurisdiction.  Jackson also discussed significant prior precedent discussing jurisdiction over conduct and offenses occurring in Native American territory, including Solem v. Barlett, and the subsequent reaction to McGirt, including recently introduced federal legislation, the Cherokee Nation & Chickasaw National Criminal Jurisdiction Compacting Act, which would allow the state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee and Chickasaw nations to enter agreements without federal involvement.  Jackson then recommended, for researchers seeking legal codes of tribes in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Indian Legal Services Tribal Code Resource Guide.

Shucha and Greisen then discussed the Digital Publication of Tribal Laws Pilot Project, an initiative developed by the University of Wisconsin (UW) Law Library in partnership with the Stockbridge-Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians, the UW Law School Great Lakes Indigenous Law Center, the National Indian Law Library, and the Open Law Library, and funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Shucha noted the lack of central federated source for tribal laws, and that existing decentralized sources are oftentimes themselves incomplete or outdated.  Greisen discussed his organization’s goals in expanding the Open Law Platform to include tribal materials, as well as challenges both technical and political (ex. variable support for open access initiatives) in pursuing the project.  As now designed Open Law provides a forum in which tribal governments can upload their own digital native materials, update them, and preserve them.  The pilot site, featuring materials from the Stockbridge-Munsee and Pueblo de San Illdefonso tribes, hosted by two libraries, the University of Wisconin Law Library and National Indian Law Library, includes full-text search capabilities a version comparison tool.

Screenshot of Open Law demonstration portion of the presentation below:

Screenshot of website with History information on the left and references to laws on taxes on the right and and the presenter's image in the bottom right corner.

Finally, Jack discussed Fastcase’s efforts to add tribal case decisions to its platforms.  At the urging of Jackson and several bar associations, Fastcase has added decisions from the courts of 63 Native American tribes, as well as selected tribal codes and constitutions.  Jack described the vendor’s planning process in building the platform, collaborating with VersaLaw, an existing resource housing a library of digital tribal case content.  Challenges include updating outdated content, addressing user expectations via focus groups, establishing workflows with tribal courts, and obtaining permission from the tribes themselves to disseminate their content.

FCIL Eyes on 2021 AALL Annual Meeting

by Marcelo Rodríguez

Like most of you, I attended the 114th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) last week. Given the pandemic, this is the second time that AALL has put together a completely virtual program for its annual meeting. Both virtual conferences have been great and incredibly useful. I really appreciated the opportunity to share experiences, learn from my colleagues and still continue to maintain and even create new connections within AALL.

2021 AALL Annual Meeting Logo. Leading with Wisdom and Insight.
2021 AALL Annual Meeting Logo

This year, our FCIL-SIS was incredibly well represented with two fantastic panels: The Ins and Outs of India Legal Research: Learning How to Find India Primary and Secondary Law and Facing Challenges: Access to Justice in a Global ‘Virtual World’. But if you’re like me, you probably also followed other panels with an eye on how FCIL plays a part in those conversations as well. In this blog post, I want to mention a few of the panels during the Annual Meeting which I believe have an impact on our own FCIL community and the ways in which we can contribute to those conversations as well. These conversations are namely our relationship with technical services in our library institutions; how to secure a new generation of diverse FCIL librarians and Blacks Live Matters as an international rally that should include our international law librarian community. 

Let’s start from the end. Personally, one of the very last panels in the Annual Meeting turned out to be one of the most insightful and interesting ones. Library Infrastructure 101: Technical Services’ Role in Building Your Public Service Foundation and Bridges to Patron Success was a fantastic panel because of the compelling skills of Dawn Smith (Yale Law Library), Alexis Zirpoli (University of Michigan Law Library) and Liz Graham (University of Maryland Law Library) to speak truth to their issues and challenges with the rest of the library team as well as with the larger institutions. I think the struggles of explaining and finding evidence and stats of the importance of technical services in our libraries is similar to the issues we also face when explaining the importance of growing/curating a foreign and international legal collection. If you haven’t, I’d like to invite everyone to watch the recordings of this great and candid discussion. More importantly, I think as FCIL librarians we need to take it upon ourselves to reach out to our technical services counterparts within our institutions and create bridges within our teams. 

A couple of panels did touch upon the need to diversify law librarianship and how to create those spaces and pipelines. This has been a recurrent theme at AALL over the past few annual meetings, and it is encouraging to witness the persistence of these conversations. Our FCIL community needs to also play its part to amplify historically marginalized voices not only here in the United States, but also abroad. One of the most impactful things we can do in our profession is to pave the way for minority law librarians to consider FCIL as a viable career path. What are the obstacles preventing minority people from joining our profession? What are the issues not allowing them to remain in our ranks, and grow and enrich our work? There is no doubt that without their voices and experiences our profession as law librarians, including FCIL, is missing an incredibly important worldview, and we might not be part of conversations which will directly impact our work. As FCIL librarians, we need to be aware and active on these struggles and how we can find alternative and creative solutions. 

Black Lives Matters is a good example of a movement that speaks to the struggles of black people in the United States and that it has grown into an international rally speaking to discrimination and racism in other parts of the world. As legal professionals dedicated to collecting, accessing, analyzing and curating foreign and international legal materials, we must delve into these topics as well and understand how they impact our work and our users. Earlier this year, Sue Silverman wrote a very eloquent blog post about this issue called, Confronting Racism when Teaching International and Foreign Law Research. Last Thursday’s panel called Legal Research in the Era of Black Lives Matters spoke very powerfully to real challenges and the intersections with personal stories. I was particularly impressed with the compelling intervention of Marjorie E. Crawford from Rutgers Law Library. Highly recommended, in case you haven’t seen it yet!

If you’re wondering what’s going to happen next year, I have a link for you: Ideas Scale. Please submit your ideas and vote for others. The more we actively participate in the process, the more these annual meetings will speak to our conversations. 

See you all in Denver 2022!