ASIL 2019 Recap: Late Breaking Panel: BREXIT and International Law

BrexitBy Marylin Raisch

Moderator: Oonagh Fitzgerald, Director of the International Research Program, Centre for International Governance Innovation, Ontario, Canada

Speakers: Robert Howse, New York University School of Law; Jessica Simonoff, U. S. Department of State; Sir Michael Wood, 20 Essex Street Chambers; Joao Rodrigues, European Parliament Liaison Office

The fact that the very day of this panel at ASIL was originally “Brexit Day,” that is, the day the UK Parliament was to exit the European Union, says a great deal about Brexit and the crisis at the nexus of international and constitutional law that it represents. However, it may happen April 12 if she cannot get her plan passed on this day, which would have given the UK until May 22nd instead.[1] (Or, as of this writing, at the end of this year if Labour cannot join up? Who knows…). This late-breaking panel was scheduled to end at 10:30 a.m., when the straw polling in Parliament on Prime Minister Teresa May’s proposal was to begin. And so it goes. (We learned soon after the panel session broke up that the proposal failed).

After briefly reviewing the timeline from the referendum in 2016, moderator Oohagh Fitzgerald provided a summary of the U.K. Supreme Court Decision of R (Miller) v Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union [2017 UKSC 5]  (January 24, 2017). This is notable since the ruling of the court established that the UK executive could not just notify the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the EU; as with other UK treaties, an Act of Parliament would be required to permit that communication. (There is now in fact a European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 as of Royal Assent dated March 16, 2017). With at least this basic context in place, and some reference to the role of House of Commons speaker Bercow in requiring substantial changes before another vote on the same matter could take place, the Moderator posed a series of questions to the panel.

  1. What is the state of international law in the UK in light of BREXIT? Does it demonstrate that international law is working as it should?

Panelists articulated several perspectives on this excellent question and seemed to cover the range from internationalist to newer reassertions of sovereignty. For example, Sir Michael Wood, who participated in negotiation of the UK treaty of access to the EU in his time as an EU-focused lawyer, stated that EU law is not really autonomous. It is embedded in treaties and so it is largely part of public international law. The issue of Northern Ireland, and the UK ideally remaining in some sort of customs union to avoid a hard border, may become one of rules of interpretation. There is disagreement between the UK and the EU on whether the art. 50 withdrawal mechanism operates to contract the UK out of even customary international law rules. While Sir Michael pointed out that some MPs think “fundamental” and “unforeseen” changes in circumstances are manifested in the backstop situation, and Brexiteers (pro-Brexit MPs and ministers) think this might permit departure from the Brexit agreement (and its backstop under art. 62 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties), he is not sure that this would be so. (Brexiteers want to prevent an eternal tie to the customs union). Many are skeptical that evidence of concern over an issue such as that, expressed in advance, could ever allow that issue to be called “unforeseen.” This panelist shared that skepticism, as he is more of an internationalist and former lawyer working with the UN International Law Commission and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

A different view was taken by the panelist from the current US State Department. Jessica Simonoff viewed Brexit as an outsider and saw it as not about development of supranational governments but rather as showing the ongoing significance of national identity. The rules are developed by consent, as underscored by the ability to depart from a treaty.  International law is alive and well because even after the UK delegated some of its international negotiating authority to the EU, it now can re-familiarize itself with some international law rules.

Professor Howse of NYU Law then contributed insights from international economic law as he pointed out that the UK would still be under the multilateral rules of the WTO. The logistics of new trade agreements and the hard border are not like the arrangements around which supply chains are organized. Pro-Brexit forces seem to him not to understand how new globalized trade actually works now, and a hard Brexit would create initial chaos with serious shortages of goods, at least temporarily. He also commented on the politics of Brexit, which he attributed in part not to a return to lost sovereignty, but to the work of elites using populism for political career advancement.

Panelist Rodrigues quipped that he “owns” his hat as EU bureaucrat. However, he prefers the term civil servant, a profession her noted ironically was established by the British.  The EU is an international organization, but one created by a body of laws that has a constitutional nature. He sees Brexit not really a legal question, because it is allowed under the treaty in the procedure outlined by the UK case. Moreover, a case went to the European Court of Justice on the issue of unilateral withdrawal from the Brexit process, and it was ruled permissible if done democratically. So the legal part is all sorted. But he asked the political question of how does a member state get itself to a decision to leave? What is disturbing is that here we are on Brexit Day and there is no clear manifestation of British will. International law is well; political process in Britain is not.

  1. May cannot use crown prerogative per the Miller case, in this instance of a treaty, but now can she not move ahead with a statute in place?

Sir Michael Wood pointed out that even with some of the specific legal hurdles surmounted, the situation carries huge implications for UK constitutional law and there should never have been a referendum. While the rule of law and the idea that a minister cannot put same issue to vote twice in same Parliament is the same rule that in UN from parliamentary procedure.  Treaties are executive and Parliament is not usually part of negotiations. In this case it has led to big problems.

Ms. Simonoff and Professor Howse, sharing a US perspective, observed that whether the UK is able to pull out of treaty has been moved to Parliament as a matter of constitutional law. Simonoff then compared the process to NAFTA withdrawal and Congressional involvement in those types of agreements. Howse noted and agreed that NAFTA would need some Congressional action for withdrawal. For WTO withdrawal, he speculated, were it to be contemplated, it would have to be based on resolutions of Congress, because the provision for review works through a Congressional process.

Rodrigues noted that there the Task Force on Article 50 Negotiations website was quite transparent, and indicated publicly what they would or would not accept. The EU 27 were united in how to deal with situation. Unlike Professor Howse, however, he thought populism played a crucial role.

  1. Is there a new bilateralism? Will getting out of massive relationship make the UK able to enter into such new agreements? Moderator Fitzgerald noted that European Council President Tusk thought bridging gap between any popular vote and orderly obligations needs to be worked out ahead and we have not seen that here in concrete plans for a new arrangement.

While Sir Michael Wood observed that the EU is not really multilateralism of the usual kind, Jessica Simonoff of US State thought that while bilateralism may simplify a discussion, a treaty negotiation is never really bilateral, as there are other voices in the room. Actions in the UK will always affect the EU. Contracts in many areas will be affected in the realm of private parties (for example, phone roaming fees now in EU after Brexit).

Professor Howse noted that ironically the less-discussed fall-back rules for the UK is a much bigger WTO multilateralism. The EU has now proven that it is a community of choice and right to depart is a real right. Euro-skeptics can now be shown that this is not like the old Soviet Union (to exaggerate) and that the EU made a good faith response. In his role as the EU civil servant on the panel, Mr. Rodrigues agreed that the EU will have to be flexible and negotiate a new trade agreement with the UK itself, so that is certainly bilateral.

  1. Q and A from the attendees consisted of three main questions:
    1. Will there be a way to adjudicate new disputes if there is a hard Brexit?
    2. Will the Good Friday Agreement and human rights in general be respected through some inclusion of the EU treaties’ principles on fundamental freedoms, and equality before the law, as applied in Ireland/N Ireland?
    3. Can the panel address what can be fairly referred to as a dishonest referendum? It was a dishonest vote: had it been between Remain and a version of Brexit, Remain would have won. The referendum was not an exercise in democratic will because no specific version of withdrawal was proposed.

The panelists answered all three questions together. Sir Michael Wood does think that temporary fixes will be used in a hard Brexit regarding air travel etc. He mused that the UK is paying to leave, and what if they say won’t pay if EU does not approve withdrawal agreement? Ms. Simonoff agreed that now that more information available, a second referendum could be good idea and not anti-democratic. Professor Howse thought democracy was manifested in the first vote, but people are also free to change their minds. Joao Rodrigues stated that the EU just sees it as done deal. Some provisional measures were taken by Council and Parliament to address a no-deal Brexit, such as in areas of customs, pharmaceuticals, etc., about 18-20 special measures, in fact. He thinks financial obligations of the agreement will come into the negotiations for a new UK- EU trade agreement, and rights of citizens as between the two jurisdictions will also play a part. He bases this on the UK rebate on fees that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher negotiated in the 1980s as manifestation of UK exceptionalism; they got it in 1984, so perhaps now as well.

As the panel ended and everyone left ready to check phones for news of the impending vote, all panelists- and attendees, no doubt- seemed to agree that whatever else it may be, Brexit has been good for stimulating interest in international law, and very good for lawyers.

 

[1] Update and Brexit timeline summary from a research report posted at the official Parliament website: “In a referendum held on 23 June 2016, the majority of the UK electorate voted to leave the European Union.

On 29 March 2017, in writing to European Council President Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister formally triggered Article 50 and began the two-year countdown to the UK formally leaving the EU (commonly known as ‘Brexit’).

The UK has long been expected to leave the European Union at 11pm on 29 March 2019.  However, following a House of Commons vote on 14 March 2019, the Government sought permission from the EU to extend Article 50 and agree a later Brexit date.

On 20 March 2019 the Prime Minister wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk, asking to extend Article 50 until 30 June 2019.

Following a European Council meeting the next day, EU27 leaders agreed to grant an extension comprising two possible dates: 22 May 2019, should the Withdrawal Agreement gain approval from MPs next week; or 12 April 2019, should the Withdrawal Agreement not be approved by the House of Commons.”

 

From the Reference Desk: Public Participation in Constitution Drafting

By Amy Flick

A request came through the library’s Student Research Consultation Request form, asking for help finding national constitutions that meet the human rights requirement of public participation, as well as the primary documents with the background or legislative history on the drafting process.

Misunderstanding the question, I prepared a quick list of my standard sources for searching national constitutions: the Constitute Project, and the databases for Hein Online’s World Constitutions Illustrated, Oxford Constitutions of the World, and the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law.

sr107-democratic-constitution-making-coverWhen the student arrived, I found that these weren’t the resources the student needed. She wanted examples of national constitutions whose drafting processes involved public participation. Searching within constitutions got us constitutional provisions for referenda and amendments, but not the drafting of the constitutions themselves.

I mapped out what I thought would be our four steps: see if there are any books or articles specifically on public participation in constitution drafting, find more general secondary sources on constitution drafting requirements, find specific constitutions that meet the requirements, and then find the documents related to those constitutions.

That was not the route we took either. As it turns out, there has been much written about public participation in constitution drafting. And many of those resources include multiple specific examples of national constitutions, complete with document citations.

We started with law review articles in Hein Online. “Constitution making” and “constitution building” worked better as search terms than “constitution drafting,” and not all articles that mentioned “public participation” provided on good examples. We refined by topic to “comparative law,” since some of our original results were not on foreign law. Most were on specific countries, including Iceland’s efforts to crowdsource a constitution. We did find some that compared the process in different countries, including:

  • David Landau, Constitution-Making Gone Wrong, 64 Ala. L. Rev. 923, 980 (2013)
  • Abrak Saati, Constitution-Building Bodies and the Sequencing of Public Participation: A Comparison of Seven Empirical Cases, 10 J. Pol. & L. 13, 25 (2017)

Our catalog had some good print resources that compared the drafting processes in multiple countries, and these included discussions of public participation, the issues with constitution drafting, and a lot of citations to other books and articles. Two of the relevant books in our collection are:

  • Tania Abbiate, Markus Böckenförde & Veronica Federico, Public Participation in African Constitutionalism (2018)
  • Framing the State in Times of Transition: Case Studies in Constitution Making (Laurel E. Miller ed., 2010)

The Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law was helpful as well. There was an entry by Joel I. Colón-Rios on Drafting of Constitutions, and it included a bibliography, plus a few document citations.

We tried a Google search for some of the cited documents, and we expanded from there to a more general search for “constitution drafting public participation.” We found several helpful articles and documents that way. I wasn’t sure how authoritative some of our results were, but they included many examples of constitution building to work from. Our better finds included:

Having found all this, we had plenty of examples for the student to look at. She planned to read further to focus on the better examples of public participation in drafting national constitutions. With specific examples in mind, I suggested more resources for books and articles.

  • vLex Global has books on the constitutions of the Latin American countries, including Ecuador
  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals on Hein Online
  • Emory’s library catalog has books on South Africa’s constitution drafting process
  • Oxford Constitutions of the World has constitutional overviews with discussion of the constitution drafting process, as well as bibliographies
  • Hein Online World Constitutions has scholarly articles on the constitutional history of many constitutions, most of them available on Hein Online

Finding the primary documents on the drafting process was more difficult. The secondary sources we found included discussions of the drafting process for many constitutions, and the secondary sources may be the best, and most available, sources for the student to cite. Although some of the books and articles included URLs for constitutional assemblies and other government sources, few of the URLs or links still worked. WorldCat had a few entries for reports and working papers from constitutional conferences and assemblies, but these could be more difficult to get through interlibrary loan, and would amount to a great deal of material to read through without specific page or date citations.  Where the secondary sources included citations to Official Gazettes, sources for those include:

For this student’s paper on public participation in the drafting of national constitutions, I recommended that the student focus on a few of the best examples. She is looking at Iceland and South Africa, but she may add one or two additional countries. This was a good project for letting secondary sources do a lot of the work of pointing out the best examples and providing citations, as well as including scholarly analysis. Finding the primary documents might be possible, but the student should let the secondary sources narrow down where to look.

 

Globalex March 2019 Issue Is Live

By Lucie Olejnikova

The March 2019 Issue of GlobaLex is live featuring a new article and three updates: the new Law of Spanish Autonomous Communities, and updates for Belarus, Chad, and ECOWAS/CEMAC. Below is the line-up. Webmasters and content managers, please update your pages. Congratulations and thank you to our wonderful new and well established authors!

Researching the Law of Spanish Autonomous Communities by Julienne E. Grant at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Spanish_Autonomous_Communities.html

Julienne E. Grant serves as Reference Librarian/Foreign & International Research Specialist at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law Library. She has published articles in Legal Reference Services Quarterly and the International Journal of Legal Information. She also co-authored a chapter (with Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns) for the forthcoming title, Latin American Collection Concepts: Essays on Libraries, Collaborations and New Approaches (McFarland, 2018). In addition, Ms. Grant is a regular contributor to the DipLawMatic Dialogues blog. She is a member of the FCIL-SIS and served as Chair of its Latin American Law Interest Group from 2013 to 2017. Ms. Grant earned a B.A. magna cum laude in Spanish from Middlebury College; an M.A. in Ibero-American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; an M.A.L.S. from Rosary College (now Dominican University); and a J.D. cum laude from DePaul University. She spent her junior year as an undergraduate studying in Madrid, Spain.

UPDATE: Legal Research in Belarus by Darya Sarbay at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Belarus1.html.

Darya Sarbay is the Attorney at Law of the Allford Group Law Office. Darya is a member of the Firm’s dispute resolution practice and deals with general commercial practice. Previously she worked at the Legal & external affairs department of the British American Tobacco (Minsk office). Darya is a graduate of the Belarusian State University, Law Faculty. Nowadays Darya is LLM student at the Belarusian State University, Legal Regulation of Foreign Economic Activity (Minsk, Belarus). She is a participant of the prestigious competitions in law, including Willem C. Vis Commercial Arbitration Moot 2018 (Vienna, Austria), M. Rosenberg Competition in International Commercial Arbitration “VAVT-2019 – International Sale” (Moscow, Russia).

UPDATE: Regional Trade Agreements in Africa – A Historical and Bibliographic Account of ECOWAS and CEMAC by Miarom Begoto at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/CEMAC_ECOWAS1.html.

UPDATE: Introduction to the Legal System and Legal Research in Chad by Miarom Begoto at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/Chad1.html

Miarom Bégoto holds a Bachelor’s degree in Private Law from the University of N’Djamena in Chad and two Masters in Private Law and Public Law, Human Rights option from the University of Lyon 2 and Grenoble 2, France. He teaches at the National School of Administration of Chad. He has held senior positions in the Chadian administration including the Ministry of Justice and the former Supreme Audit Institution, which became the chamber in the Supreme Court. Elected as a member of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption, he is currently the chairperson.
For more articles, visit: http://www.nyulawglobal.org/globalex/.

GDPR and Data Privacy at the ABA TECHSHOW

GDPRBy Meredith Capps

I recently attended the ABA TECHSHOW in Chicago, IL (along with quite a few other law librarians, an impressive turnout!), primarily to stay current on recent e-discovery practices and platforms as my library’s resident e-discovery expert, per my prior life as a law firm associate.  As an FCIL librarian, however, I was compelled to step out of former-litigator mode and attend what proved to be a fascinating session on the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and data privacy laws.  The speakers, Steven M. Puiszis and Judy Shelby, described the ways in which the practices of U.S. law firms and their clients regarding personal information may run afoul of the law, and how U.S. entities should analyze their risk and approach compliance.

Puiszis and Shelby discussed the GDPR’s expansive reach, noting that even minimal activity in an EU state may render a foreign entity “established” in the EU for purposes of the regulation, and that even data that is not “processed” in the EU is covered by the regulation.  They emphasized that “personal information” is defined in a manner far broader than U.S. lawyers would expect, that there is no small business exception to the regulation, and that this information may reside in many repositories maintained by the typical U.S. firm or business, such as human resource databases, marketing databases, client databases, and, of course, email correspondence.  They discussed lawful bases to process personal information, noting that a law firm conflict check should qualify as information necessary for the defense of legal claims, and discussed anonymizing data as one means of ensuring compliance with GDPR.   Though there is uncertainty as to how GDPR will impact requests for documents in U.S. litigation, Shelby noted that federal courts are generally not receptive to enforcing foreign blocking statutes, and that the typical U.S. approach to discovery runs counter to GDPR’s goals of minimum storage.  Cautious U.S. litigants should nevertheless consider narrowly targeting requests for data that may be subject to GDPR, and consider whether anonymized data would suit their purposes.

Their discussion raised a few issues that brought to mind research questions well suited to a course on FCIL research:

  1. National law: Though as a regulation, rather than a directive, GDPR is directly applicable to member states and does not require domestic implementing measures, Puiszis emphasized that EU states maintain their own privacy laws and policies that U.S. entities must consider in addition to GDPR.  Furthermore, I found that European Commission guidance issued in May 2018 specifically notes that the regulation empowers member states to impose conditions and limitations beyond those imposed by GDPR, and contemplates individual member state determinations as to the applicability of the rules in certain sectors.  The EC also states that interpretation of the regulation will be left to European national courts.  In constructing an EU research question concerning GDPR, instructors could well introduce foreign law questions into their hypothetical research problem–questions for which researchers would not enjoy the benefit of the national transposition measures list provided only for directives in EUR-Lex.
  2. Cyber-insurance: Shelby discussed the possibility of obtaining cyber insurance to cover fines associated with GDPR violations, but noted that these fines may not be insurable under the domestic law of some states, raising another potential foreign law companion question.
  3. Recognition of foreign judgments: Though due to time constraints they could not discuss enforcement issues in depth, the speakers mentioned difficulties surrounding the imposition of fines when an entity lacks assets in the EU, and that international treaties or domestic laws such as the U.S. Uniform Foreign Money Judgements Recognition Act may provide mechanisms for cross-border enforcement.  As enforcement proceedings inevitably proceed, they should raise interesting examples involving a mix of foreign and international law.
  4. Data Protection/Processing Agreements (DPAs): Puiszis discussed the importance of entering into, and modifying per GDPR, agreements with vendors and third parties with whom firms, and their clients, may share personal information.  Asking students to locate sample agreements would be an excellent way to reinforce research instruction from 1L and Advanced Legal Research courses regarding publications containing forms and sample contracts.

Introducing…Heather Casey as the March 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

heather casey

1. Where did you grow up?

We lived in a lot of places but mainly Virginia and Ohio. I’ve also lived in Utah, Nevada, France, Louisiana, and Rhode Island (one of those is not like the others…).

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

I’d gotten my library degree before I went to law school and always thought of law librarianship as something fun to do in retirement. But then the financial crisis of 2008 hit just as I was about to graduate from law school and all these visions I’d had of driving away from graduation in a Mercedes while lighting a cigar with a $100 bill went up in smoke. Suddenly, law librarianship wasn’t something to amuse myself with in old age, but the only viable career path. I have no regrets with how things have worked out. I don’t even like cigars anyway.

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

Having lived abroad for a couple of years in my early 20s, I had an appreciation for the differences between how societies handled basic rights like healthcare and immigration long before law school was even an idea in my mind. Thus, once I finally attended law school, it was with an eye to taking classes on international and foreign laws when they were available.

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

I’m at Georgetown and have been here for almost 6 years. 

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I butcher French with a savagery that brings tears to French speakers’ eyes (I just pretend they’re tears of joy). Other languages I can mangle include Spanish and Italian.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I’m quite proud of the workshops in Africa that I’ve participated in with Sonia Poulin and others. We’ve worked to strengthen the law library network there, both among anglophones and francophones and it’s one of the things I’m most grateful to have been a part of. I’ve made lasting friendships and feel like I understand the challenges and successes of librarians there in a way I wouldn’t otherwise comprehend. It’s been incredible to realize how many similarities we, as law librarians, share, regardless of our jurisdiction. We all want to accomplish the same goals – provide access to legal information for our patrons in a way that helps patrons better understand the materials they need.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Pretty sure we don’t have enough room for all my food indulgences. It suffices that I didn’t get my ample figure from saying no to a second serving or twelve.

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

This depends on my mood. How shameful is it if I admit I still enjoy Despacito from time to time? That shameful? Oh okay.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)? Time travel would be nice. A faster metabolism…wait, am I supposed to be talking about skills and abilities I can actually acquire?

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

I have to make the bed every morning. My day is ruined if I know the bed is messy and unmade. When I travel and my husband stays home, I know he isn’t making the bed but that’s okay because I make the bed at the hotel I’m in and ignore the fact that he’s reliving his glory days in college at home (because I know he’ll have it all cleaned up before I return). It’s just a weird quirk – like my mind isn’t organized if my living space isn’t.

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

I think I’ve said enough to give you all fodder for humiliation. 

Introducing…Jennifer Allison as the February 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

Jennifer Allison

1. Where did you grow up?

San Diego, California.  (I know, why did I ever leave?)

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

When I was in law school (at Pepperdine Law) I decided I didn’t want to be a lawyer, but I really liked working in the law library.  By the time I was a 3L, I was doing regular shifts on the reference desk (the library was experiencing a bit of a staffing shortage at the time).  That sold me on the whole idea.  I haven’t regretted a day of it.

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

I took courses in comparative law and transnational litigation in law school and found them both interesting.  I was also an exchange student in Germany during my 2L year and, based on the classes I took while I was there, decided that the I wanted a job in which I could also learn more about the law and civil law systems in scholarly and historical contexts.

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

I am one of two FCIL librarians at the Harvard Law School Library.  I have been here for 6 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

I speak German fluently.  I can read some French, Spanish, and Italian, just like many of the rest of us, as well.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I hope it’s okay that I list a few things.

Getting my job here at Harvard was a pretty major deal for me.  I didn’t have a ton of FCIL experience at the time, so I feel like they took a chance on me.  I hope they think it’s paid off!

I am proud of every law student and professor whom I have supported, taught, and cheered on in the 10+ years I have been doing this work, and the scholarship that they have produced – especially those who, as non-native English speakers, were required to research and write in English.

As far as my own scholarship, I am proud of the work I have done as an assistant editor of the Foreign Law Guide, and editing the country entries for Germany and Austria.

And, although this is more an academic than professional , I also completed an LLM in German Law at the University of Würzburg earlier this year, which I’m pleased to have had the opportunity to accomplish.  Writing a thesis about constitutional law in German was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

However, what I am most proud of is the network of colleagues and friends that I have been able to build during my years in the profession.  I have been the fortunate beneficiary of mentorship and friendship of so many FCIL librarians over the years (thinking especially of Marci Hoffman, Mary Rumsey, and Lyonette Louis-Jacques, among many, many others), whose belief and confidence in me has inspired me to want to strive to do my very best at work every day.  Joining and contributing to this community of colleagues has been my most significant professional accomplishment by far.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

Goldfish crackers and a glass of Montepulciano red wine.  (I know, classy.)

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

So many!  Recently, it’s probably “Love my Life” by Robbie Williams.

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

Don’t we all say that we wish we spoke/read ______ fluently?  For me that would be Italian, so that I could read Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitian quartet in the original.  I also wish I could draw.

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

My earbuds and my Fitbit.  (Sorry, that’s two.)

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

Never let anyone tell you that libraries and librarians don’t matter.  The contribution we make to our respective workplaces cannot be understated.  Keep on being your incredible selves and doing your amazing work.

Introducing…Joan Sherer as the January 2019 FCIL Member of the Month

01.19 Joan Sherer

1. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Kresgeville, PA. It is a very small village about 30 miles north of Allentown.

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

A family friend, who just happened to be the secretary at my high school’s library, suggested I consider librarianship.

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

It wasn’t until I started at the State Department that I really delved into it.

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

I work for the Department of State and I’ve been here 20 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages?

Not really. I had Spanish in high school and college, but my knowledge of the language is rusty.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement?

I think landing the position of Law Librarian at the State Department. This has been a wonderful experience and I feel fortunate to serve the Department in this very small capacity. It still amazes me when I get research requests from our embassies all over the world.

7. What is your biggest food weakness?

While I hate to admit it, but it’s peanut M&Ms. I just love them.

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

I have two, Happy by Pharrell and September, by Earth, Wind & Fire. As I was driving home last night and Happy came on the radio. While I couldn’t get up and dance, I did sing along.

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

I admit I am a mediocre cook. I would love to be able to have the skills of a gourmet chef.

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

I would be lost without a good book to read. I have a never ending reading list of both fiction and nonfiction books that I hope to read one day.

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

This is a good venue to announce that I am retiring on December 31st.  In fact, if you are reading this after that date I am already retired. As much as I love my job, it is time to move on to other things. I’m looking forward to moving back to Pennsylvania next summer and spending more time with friends and family. Incidentally, it may take several months until my position is posted, but if you are interested in a federal government position working with a stellar group of librarians, check usajobs.gov in the coming months.