IALL Recap: The Mediation Committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat: A Special Institution of German Constitutional Law

By Jennifer Allison

On Monday, September 21, the afternoon session of the 2015 IALL Annual Course focused on the Mediation Committee of the Bundestag and Bundesrat.

First, we heard a lecture on this topic at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin by Claus Dieter Koggel. Mr. Koggel is an administrative officer (Ministerialrat in der Sekretariat) for the Bundesrat, one of the two houses of the German Parliament.

JA1Mr. Koggel discussed the history and work of the Mediation Committee (Vermittlungsausschuss), which is a constitutionally-mandated body (established under Article 77 of the Basic Law) that provides a forum for resolving conflicts that arise during the legislative process between the Bundesrat and the other parliamentary house, the Bundestag.

The Mediation Committee is comprised of 16 members of each house. Often these members are experienced parliamentarians with a wide range of knowledge and experience, and they are valued for their ability to think independently while also respecting the positions of their respective political parties.

Under the German Parliament’s legislative process, bills are first considered in the Bundesrat, whose membership consists of members that represent each of the sixteen German states (Länder). After a bill has been passed in the Bundesrat, it is sent to the Bundestag, which then passes its own version and sends it back to the Bundesrat. At that point, if the Bundesrat refuses to pass the Bundestag’s version of the bill, the Mediation Committee is convened to attempt to work out the differences and produce a single, passable version of the bill that can be enacted into law.

Mediation Committee meetings are strictly confidential: the only people allowed to be present during them are the members of the committee, two lawyers, and a stenographer. In addition, if a majority of the membership agrees to it, expert witnesses can be admitted to give testimony.

Once Committee members agree to a compromised version of the bill, it is published immediately online and introduced to both houses for another vote.

The frequency with which the Mediation Committee has been required to convene in it relatively recent history has varied, depending largely on whether the government was headed by the opposition party to that which held the majority in the Bundesrat .

JA2During one session particularly contentious session of Parliament in the past, the Committee was convened for 100 out of the 400 bills considered. That particular Committee enjoyed an 88% success rate, as only 12 bills of the 100 they considered failed to pass after the Committee’s deliberations.

The current parliament only recently convened the Committee for the first time, despite being two years into its session, as they have made a greater attempt to compromise on their own before attempting mediation.

After Mr. Koggel’s lecture, IALL attendees visited the Bundesrat building in person. We were treated to a tour from a very informative and enthusiastic member of the Bundesrat’s administrative staff. She showed us the plenary chamber, where the Bundesrat meetings take place, and discussed the finer points of the plenary procedure.

JA3Following this, we were taken to the Mediation Committee’s meeting room, where were once again met by Mr. Koggel. He took great care to point out certain interesting and useful features of the room, such as the power window shades, which were installed to prevent the prying eyes and long-range camera lenses of the media in adjoining buildings from eavesdropping on the compromises that were taking place during the secret Committee sessions.

Mr. Koggel pointed out during both of his presentations that the Mediation Committee has been the recipient of both praise and criticism in Germany. While it has been lauded as an innovated and positive way to resolve legislative conflicts and arrive at a compromise, it has also been characterized as “a mysterious dark room of legislation.”

JA4Perhaps both of these are true. But it is firmly established as a component of the legislative process, and in addition to its constitutional mandate, the Committee is also influenced by established best practices, parliamentary law, and the judicial decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht).

In the U.S., so many battles between Republicans and Democrats in Congress end up being played out in the media, and politicians often appear to be more motivated by scoring points with voters in upcoming elections than by achieving legislative success.

It struck me during the program that maybe this Mediation Committee would be a valuable import for the U.S. Congress to consider, so much so that I ended up tweeting about it. However, I have to admit that I’m skeptical that an organization like this could ever be considered, let alone work, in our government.

IALL Recap: Legal Blogs as a Means to alter Scientific Communication Structures and Legal Research: Insights from Verfassungsblog’s Research Project

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

Humbolt University Berlin, Faculty of Law

Humbolt University Berlin, Faculty of Law

Researcher Hannah Birkenkotter, of Humboldt University Berlin, gave a fascinating presentation on the various types of German legal blogs and their effects on German society. She acknowledged that she and her fellow researchers do not know exactly who is reading the blogs, and that although blogs are not yet firmly entrenched in the establishment, they are genre that provides a valuable space for experimentation and the exchange of ideas. Birkenkotter described two types of blogs:

  1. External alteration blogs: to spread ideas and alter scientific discussion
  2. Internal alteration blogs: to shake up academic institutions and structure

In 2009, legal journalist Maximillian Steinbeis, started blogging to report on constitutional law developments in Germany. The intended audience of Verfassungsblog is the general public and the desired outcome is to shape and affect policy. The blog is primarily in English in an effort to reach a broad audience. Although Steinbeis is the solo owner and moderator of this “external alteration” blog, he has a long list of guest contributors including several U.S. law professors.

Humboldt University Berlin, Main Campus

Humboldt University Berlin, Main Campus

Several years ago Andreas Palos, then a practicing attorney, started a popular international law blog. It was short and informative with a clear opinion. Palos is now a sitting judge on the Federal Constitution Court and, therefore, no longer maintains this solo blog, but at the time it was a primary means of sharing developments in international law with the public who would not otherwise have timely, in depth, and easy access to such developments.

Several popular blogs are group projects where there is a pre-publishing peer review process allowing for a less formal forum for publishing one’s scholarship. One such blog is a group of young researcher in German public law who run Junge Wissenschaft im Offentlichen Recht, an “internal alteration” blog. This blog provides ample opportunity for up-and-coming scholars to express their ideas and get feedback from their peers through posted comments and responses.

Some of the most popular legal blogs in Germany are the following:

In sum, blogs in Germany, though not as prolific as in the United States, provide an important tool for scholars and experts to share developments in the law, exchange novel ideas and receive instant feedback, and educate the public in a timely, open fashion. Not so different from DipLawMatics Dialogues!

Humboldt University of Berlin, Main Campus

Humboldt University of Berlin, Main Campus

Introducing…Lyonette Louis-Jacques as the October 2015 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1. Where did you grow up?LyoWitch3

I spent my early childhood in Haiti. I have vague memories of mountains, jellyfish, market, L’Épée magique, and Mardi Gras celebrations. When I moved to the States, I thought Playland at Coney Island was the greatest thing, especially Skee-Ball.

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

Richard Bowler. Dick was the director of the University of Chicago Law Library back then.  During and after college, I worked at the circulation desk in the evenings. Students would ask me questions like “where can I find F.2d?” and I wouldn’t know the answer.  Dick gave me a copy of Morris Cohen’s Legal Research in a Nutshell and I was off and running.  I found l liked answering reference questions and helping students.  So I decided to go to library school (University of Michigan) and law school (University of Chicago) to become a legal reference librarian.

As a pre-professional, I had the privilege of learning about law librarianship as a career from Margaret Leary, George Grossman, and Judith Wright.

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

On the job.  I had no plans to specialize in FCIL librarianship, but I needed a job after graduating from law school, and the University of Minnesota had two openings for a reference librarian, one with foreign language skills.  I applied and got my first professional position in 1986 as a foreign and international legal reference librarian.  I replaced Yugoslavia-born Joseph Levstik, who had been Foreign Law Librarian at Minnesota for 20 years (1964-1986).

Kathie Price was the director of the law library at the time and very involved in an AALL initiative to develop a new generation of FCIL librarians. The first generation of foreign, comparative, and international law librarians were mostly Europe-trained lawyers, and they were retiring or had passed away. How to replace their knowledge of foreign legal systems and legal bibliography?

I attended town meetings and workshops on how to train the future generation of FCIL librarians.  And then I participated in the educational programs created to train next generation FCIL librarians. I attended the five AALL/Oceana Institutes and co-edited (with Jeanne Korman) one of the resulting books.  The Institute books became training materials for future FCIL librarians:

  • Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems (Richard A. Danner & Marie-Louise H. Bernal eds., 1994)
  • Introduction to Transnational Legal Transactions (Marylin J. Raisch & Roberta I. Shaffer eds., 1995)
  • Introduction to International Organizations (Lyonette Louis-Jacques & Jeanne S. Korman eds., 1996)
  • Introduction to International Business Law: Legal Transactionsin a Global Economy (Gitelle Seer & Maria I. Smolka-Day eds., 1996)
  • Contemporary Practice of Public International Law (Ellen G. Schaffer & Randall J. Snyder eds., 1997).

As part of my new FCIL librarian training, Kathie Price arranged for me to travel to Europe for a practicum working with the United Nations depository library documents collection at the Library of the Walther-Schücking-Institut für Internationales Recht at Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel, Germany. I also visited libraries in Heidelberg, Brussels, and Geneva.

I  apprenticed with Latvia-born Adolf Sprudzs, who was then Foreign Law Librarian at the University of Chicago.  Mr. Sprudzs taught me how to select FCIL materials.  Suzanne Thorpe and I taught the first International and Foreign Legal Research course at Minnesota, and teaching helped me hone my FCIL skills further.  And I learned substantive and bibliographic FCIL info/knowledge from working with international law faculty and attending AALL FCIL-SIS, ASIL, IALL, and other conference programs and workshops.

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

I am presently Foreign and International Law Librarian & Lecturer in Law at the D’Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago Law School.  I have been since Judith Wright hired me in August 1992 to become Mr. Sprudzs’ successor. Judith was also a leader in the initiative to train the next generation of FCIL librarians. And I continue to try to follow her and Kathie’s lead in mentoring and helping train new FCIL librarians.

Mr. Sprudzs was President of IALL and a scholarly international law librarian.   I seek to follow in his footsteps.  I focus my scholarship on identifying gaps in international legal research tools and trying to fill them as well as sharing information about new FCIL research resources.  I also promote and support FCIL scholarship generally.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

English!  Really, sometimes I lose my English and have to go find it… I grew up speaking Haitian Créole, and learned French in school, so I theoretically speak both. And I took courses in Spanish and German in college.  I speak Spanish well enough to be understood, and a smidgen of German.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I’m very proud of having compiled the Law Lists (1992-2005) guide to law, library, and law library-related listservs, Usenet newsgroups, and e-newsletters. It enabled me to connect with diverse people across the globe and to help them connect with each other. I am also thrilled that the Int-Law listserv which I co-founded in 1991 with Mila Rush while I was at Minnesota is still active and being used by law librarians and others worldwide who work with and research FCIL materials.

I enjoyed chairing the FCIL-SIS during its 10th anniversary celebration (July 1995).  And am grateful to my FCIL colleagues for honoring me with the 2014 Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award.  I admire Dan so much for his continued service to our SIS.  He’s such a great mentor!

I love helping others create new tools and resources as well as continue old ones.  I’m glad to have updated Dan Wade’s original 1993 “List of Foreign and International Law Librarians Who Have Expressed a Willingness to Help Non-Experts” with the Jumpstart guide.  This directory of people willing to help answer FCIL research questions by jurisdiction/region and topic is now being updated and maintained by Mary Rumsey.  If you have special expertise or willingness to help in researching the law of a particular country, international organization, or FCIL topic, please volunteer!

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Diet Coke.

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

Any good doo-wop tune.  The Del Satins’ Remember (1961).  Pink Martini.  Konpa/Kompa/Compas (especially Tabou Combo). Salsa.  Bachata.  Merengue. (I like Señor Priego’s Échale Salsa mix)  Big Pun’s ode to Puerto Rico – 100% (edited language version). Funk.

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

I wish that I could clone myself.  One Lyo would sleep all day and watch movies.  A couple of others would travel the world and learn new languages.  One will write a popular bestseller and become a kazillionaire.  One would be a trucker.  I wonder if I could get myself to stop cloning at five Lyos?

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

Besides Diet Coke?  The Internet, particularly Twitter.

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

I really enjoy being an FCIL librarian.  Having a specialty enables to you master an area even if you’re continually learning new things.  I also think being a generalist legal reference librarian is quite interesting and challenging too.  In my job, I get to do both general reference as well as specialize. The best of both worlds.  I never get bored.  And, since I’m still trying to improve, I always have a goal…

I enjoy meeting new people who enter the field and finding out what unique skill or life experience they bring to the mix.  Looking forward to meeting all of y’all at the 2016 AALL conference in Chicago!

IALL Visits the Library of the German Bundestag

By Teresa Miguel-Stearns

On Thursday, September 24, about 100 of us visited the beautiful Library of the German Bundestag (Federal Parliament). The Parliament’s original library was completely destroyed in World War II. Housed in a new building across the River Spree from Parliament, the Library is merely one section of Parliament’s larger Research and Documentation Services, which has four departments:

  1. Library
  2. Archive
  3. Parliamentary Documentation
  4. Press Documentation

Our visit focused on the Library. The Library’s website is available in German, English, French and Arabic. The Library is responsible for cataloging and indexing printed material and electronic media as well as document delivery and distribution of information. The Library oversees the open-access catalogue, the lending and reading room, information and reference services, publications, and digital resources.

The Library has 85 employees, many of whom are part-time. They are spread among the four sections of the library. Two sections combine to cover acquisitions, publications, and special collections. One section is responsible for cataloging, indexing, and collection building. A final section provides lending and reference services.



The Library has 1.4 million volumes and acquires 15,000 new items annually. It subscribes to 8,000 periodicals, mostly in print; 6,000 of which are official gazettes, yearbooks, and other official government publications from other European nations. The collection consists of about 20% monographs, 20% periodicals, and 40-50% electronic services. The Library collects heavily in law, economics, social sciences, parliaments, political science, and statistics. The Library’s budget is about $1.5 million.



Of the 80,000 new titles published in Germany annually, about 50% are fiction.

The Library reviews a weekly bibliography from the German national library (available online, free) which aids is selection. The Library purchases a large number of international publications from international agencies and IGOs such as the OECD, FAO, UN, EU. As mentioned, the Library also purchases many foreign parliamentary publications, including gazettes and statistics, mostly from European countries and the US, and mostly in English. The Library has some reciprocal arrangements for the exchange of materials rather than purchase. The Library also seeks to purchase gray literature from NGOs, trade unions, political parties, academic societies, citizen political groups, and the like. The vast majority of material acquired is in German, plus some English and French, too. The Library previously had a small collection of Russian-language materials but it was so infrequently used that the Library donated it to another library that could use it.



The Catalogue covers the holdings of the entire Library. It also contains item records for over 800,000 articles from various journals it holds. The item records link to the full-text.


The Library serves 4500 persons in Parliament and provides limited services to many more. The Library is not open to general public but grants access to scholars for 10-day periods.

The Library operates on the principle that it provides non-partisan, equal access of all material to all its patrons. When a patron is in the Library, it takes less than 30 minutes to retrieve an item from the closed stacks. The open stacks in the multiple floors of the library contain 20,000 volumes and 1,000 journals. There are 60 individual desks for reading and 30 personal computing workstations. When a patron requests a title that the Library does not own, the Library is generally able to put it in the patron’s hands in 2-3 days.


Information and Reference Services:

The Library receives over 600 in-depth inquiries annually. It offers advice to Library users, and answers inquiries via telephone, email and web-form. The librarians prepare bibliographies on specific topics, compile lists of materials, share information about new acquisitions, prepare displays on topical issues, and give guided tours.

Internal Publications:

The Librarians publish, both in print and electronically (internet and intranet), documents such as a monthly list of new books and recently-published articles, short abstracts with annotations of new books, bibliographies on specific topics when a new committee is established in Parliament, and literature lists. Literature lists correspond to hot topics in Parliament; examples include Germany 25 years of reunification, health care, and nutrition.

In sum, the Library of the German Bundestag provides tremendous services to its patrons, has a comprehensive and heavily-used collection, and sits in a beautiful, open, airy space. It was a pleasure to visit and learn about this impressive Library.


IALL Recap: Opening Night!

By Susan Gualtier

open2Hello, FCIL-SIS members!  Our IALL conference bloggers have had some very long conference days here in Berlin, but are excited to start bringing you some recaps now that the dust is settling and we being to return to the U.S.

open3The 34th Annual Course on International Law and Legal Information, Within and In Between: German Legal Tradition in Times of Internationalization and Beyond, kicked off on Sunday night at the Microsoft Atrium with welcome addresses from IALL President, Jeroen Vervliet, and President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Hermann Parzinger.  Professor Dr. Thomas Duve then spoke on Transnationalisation of Law and Legal Scholarship: Intellectual and Institutional Challenges.

open4Following the opening remarks, the delegates were treated to a performance by the Berlin Fire Department’s Brass Band and a cocktail reception in the Atrium’s Digital Eatery.  On the way out, few could resist a little souvenir shopping at the nearby Ampelmann shop, featuring the green and red symbols shown on pedestrian signals in the former East Germany, which have since attained cult status as one of the few features of communist East Germany to have survived the German reunification.

Each day since the opening event has been packed with educational programming on German legal issues, as well as social and cultural events courtesy of this year’s local planning committee.  Though we have had a full week so far, we look forward to recapping individual programs and events over the course of the next several weeks.


Join the FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group!

Join the FCIL-SIS Electronic Research Interest Group! Make a valuable contribution to the profession and enhance your reputation!


The Electronic Research Interest Group meets to discuss both the web presence of the group and also new developments in technology or databases.  (FCIL Newsletter 2011)  This year’s tasks will include updating some of the items on the FCIL website like Lyonette Louis Jacques & Mary Rumsey’s Jumpstart Your Foreign, Comparative, and International Research and increasing the number of contributions to the Teaching FCIL Syllabi and Course Material Database.  Some of our past efforts included:

  1. Exchanging information about FCIL-related commercial databases and other electronic resources;
  2. FCIL-related digitization projects;
  3. The revival of the FCIL blog, which became DipLawMatic Dialogues; and
  4. China’s RC Supreme People’s Court’s creation of a repository of their cases in English.

To volunteer contact James Hart at hartjw@uc.edu or 513-556-0160.

DipLawMatic Dialogues Is Heading to Berlin!

iall captureAs most of our readers are surely aware, this weekend marks the beginning of the International Association of Law Libraries 34th Annual Course on International Law and Legal Information!  This year’s conference takes place at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin (Berlin State Library), and the theme of the conference is “Within and in between: German Legal Tradition in Times of Internationalization and Beyond.”

The conference programming will “reflect Germany’s legal history and will characterize unique perspectives on international and domestic law issues as well as legal information items. Speakers at the sessions will include highly regarded German legal scholars, legal practitioners and law librarians.”  More information is available on the conference website.

If you are attending the conference and would like to contribute to our blog coverage, please contact Susan Gualtier at susan.gualtier@law.lsu.edu.

DipLawMatic Dialogues looks forward to bringing you conference coverage and photos throughout the next week!