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official gazette from its inception to determine which laws were still operative and which ones had been modified or repealed.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

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