AALL 2019 Recap: FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant Presentation – African Law for Everyone: AfricanLII and Laws.Africa

By: Loren Turner

Mariya

On Monday, July 15, 2019, the 2019 FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant recipient, Mariya Badeva-Bright, who leads the AfricanLII project at the University of Cape Town, South Africa (and recently co-founded Laws.Africa, a legislative commons), delivered a fantastic presentation titled “African Law for Everyone: AfricanLII and Laws.Africa.” Mariya’s presentation was a summary of her motivations and processes for gathering and digitizing African law as well as a “call to action” to law librarians worldwide for help in making African law accessible to all.

African Law for Everyone: AfricanLII and Laws.Africa

Mariya began her presentation by stating that there is no reliable, consistent, and up-to-date access to the law in many African countries – free or not.  Mariya provided several reasons for the lack of access to legal information: indifference of commercial publishers; lack of funds and skills on the local levels; poor record keeping; and low level corruption. She argued that there can be no justice without access to legal information.  When the law is not available freely and easily, judges cannot determine precedent; rich litigants have an unfair advantage.  As support, Mariya shared visual images of legislative texts in which pages were literally cut out, edited by hand, and then reinserted.  The reality, Mariya said, is that lots of African law is in such condition and this format frustrates access to justice.

Mariya explained that the AfricanLII and the Laws.Africa projects are about building an open infrastructure of African legal information with opportunity for sophisticated searches. They have to be open to anyone and offer speed, efficiency, services, growth and development.

AfricanLII was founded in 2010 to promote the role of LIIs in Africa. It now offers a federated search of over 250k documents of African legal information. Additionally, in response to user demand, it has begun to create case indices, including the Human Rights Law Index and the Commercial Law Index. It also provides a current awareness newsletter that started out as a service for judges but has expanded to anyone interested in following legal developments in African law (subscribe at the bottom of this page). Most recently, AfricanLII launched a citator service, available in beta format. It is the first visual citator in the access to law movement, but what is more remarkable is that it creates a citator service for cases that were never published in law reports and, therefore, don’t have citations!  The AfricanLII database sees about 400,000 unique users per month, 90% of which are within Africa.  Users are primarily from the justice sector (lawyers, judges, paralegals, magistrates, law students, government workers, etc.) but there is an increase in “average joes” accessing the database.

When the AfricanLII project began, there was a conscious choice to focus on gathering and digitizing cases rather than legislation.  Cases have their own value, but outdated legislation has little value.  The creators of AfricanLII had concerns about the future credibility of their project if they uploaded outdated legislation.  Plus, the reality is that in most African countries, there is no free source of consolidated, up-to-date legislation.

The Laws.Africa project developed to address the lack of freely available access to African legislation. The creators of the Laws.Africa project surveyed other country’s attempts at making legislation current and freely accessible.  They decided that the UK’s legislation.gov.uk was the model “golden” standard outside of Africa because of its rich interface and up-to-date, authoritative corpus.  Within Africa, the “golden” standards were Kenya law, an authoritative source of Kenyan legislation, and OpenBylaws.org.za, which focuses on improving access to South African by-laws.

Laws.Africa is an open source, cloud platform for efficient cost-effective consolidation and publication of African legislation.  It aims to crowdsource an open digital archive of African gazettes and use technology (in particular, Akoma Ntoso, a non-proprietary, XML markup standard for legislative documents) to consolidate legislation. In terms of processes: once a gazette is uploaded onto the Laws.Africa platform, a group of contributors (law students and law library students) extract individual Acts and identify changes to the Act over time.  A small group of reviewers check the work of the contributors (there is a two-step review process). After review, the consolidated legislation becomes available in a variety of formats.

The Laws.Africa project has already acquired and uploaded over 13,000 national gazettes.  These gazettes are available in .pdf versions through a linked sister site called Gazettes.Africa.  But, it takes a village to make a complete collection!  Unfortunately, Mariya explained, the law of Africa is not in Africa.  Instead, many African gazettes, especially historical ones, are located in libraries outside of Africa.  To continue building the collection of African gazettes and legislation on the Laws.Africa portal, Mariya and her colleagues need law librarians and digitizers in the U.S. and U.K. to donate their African gazettes to the project.  Mariya believes that crowdsourcing these gazettes is the best way to reach the goal of a complete collection.

Mariya concluded her presentation with an appeal: Join our community! Donate your gazettes!  Spread the word about the AfricanLII and Laws.Africa projects!  She received a great round of applause.

For a video of Mariya’s FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant presentation, as given at Yale Law Library subsequent to the 2019 AALL Annual Meeting, follow this link.

FCIL-SIS Book Discussion Group to Meet Again During Washington, D.C. Conference

nofriendbutthemountainsOver the past several years, the FCIL-SIS Book Discussion Group, started by Dan Wade in in 2014, has become a popular informal addition to the AALL Annual Meeting’s FCIL conference programming.  Each year, we select a book to read in advance of the conference and meet during the conference to enjoy a book discussion, lunch or snacks, and each other’s company.

This year, the group will meet on Monday, July 15, at 12:15, during the Attendee Lunch in the Exhibit Hall.  We will meet in the Registration Area, find a table, and take advantage of the complimentary lunch.

This year’s book selection is No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, by Behrouz Boochani.  Mr. Boochani is an Iranian-Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer. He was born in western Iran and has been held in the Australian-run Manus Island detention center since 2013.  The following book description appears on the Pan Macmillan Australia website:

 

WINNER OF THE VICTORIAN PREMIER’S LITERARY PRIZE FOR LITERATURE AND FOR NON-FICTION 2019

Where have I come from? From the land of rivers, the land of waterfalls, the land of ancient chants, the land of mountains…

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani was illegally detained on Manus Island. He has been there ever since.

People would run to the mountains to escape the warplanes and found asylum within their chestnut forests…

This book is the result. Laboriously tapped out on a mobile phone and translated from the Farsi. It is a voice of witness, an act of survival. A lyric first-hand account. A cry of resistance. A vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile.

Do Kurds have any friends other than the mountains? 

WINNER OF THE NSW PREMIER’S AWARD 2019 

WINNER OF THE ABIA GENERAL FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

PRAISE FOR NO FRIEND BUT THE MOUNTAINS

“Boochani has produced a literary, journalistic and philosophical tour de force. It may well stand as one of the most important books published in Australia in two decades…” The Saturday Paper

“A chant, a cry from the heart, a lament, fuelled by a fierce urgency, written with the lyricism of a poet, the literary skills of a novelist, and the profound insights of an astute observer of human behaviour and the ruthless politics of a cruel and unjust imprisonment.” Arnold Zable, author of the award-winning Jewels and Ashes and Cafe Scheherazade

a shattering book every Australian should read” Benjamin Law (@mrbenjaminlaw 01/02/2019)

“In the absence of images, turn to this book to fathom what we have done, what we continue to do. It is, put simply, the most extraordinary and important book I have ever read.” Good Reading Magazine(starred review)

“Brilliant writing. Brilliant thinking. Brilliant courage.” Professor Marcia Langton AM (@marcialangton 01/02/2019)

“Not for the faint-hearted, it’s a powerful, devastating insight into a situation that’s so often seen through a political – not personal – lens.” GQ Australia

“It is an unforgettable account of man’s inhumanity to man that reads like something out of Orwell or Kafka, and is aptly described by Tofighian as ‘horrific surrealism’. It is clear from Boochani’s writing that he is a highly educated and philosophical man; he segues effortlessly between prose and poetry, both equally powerful.” –The Australian Financial Review Magazine

“Behrouz Boochani has written a book which is as powerful as it is poetic and moving. He describes his experience of living in a refugee prison with profound insight and intelligence.” Queensland Reviewers Collective

“In his book Boochani introduces us to different dimensions of his experience and thinking. Both a profound creative writing project and a strategic act of resistance, the book is part of a coherent theoretical project and critical approach.” Omid Tofighian, translator of No Friend But the Mountains

It is a voice of witness, an act of survival. A lyric first-hand account. A cry of resistance. A vivid portrait through five years of incarceration and exile.” Readings

Boochani has woven his own experiences in to a tale which is at once beautiful and harrowing, creating a valuable contribution to Australia’s literary canon.” Writing NSW

it is a voice of witness and an act of survival” Law Society of NSW Journal

 

This year’s book selection promises to foster a rich discussion, and we look forward to welcoming both past book group members and new members interested in joining the discussion.  Again, this is an informal event, and RSVPs are not necessary; however, please feel free to let us know if you are planning to participate, so that we can get a general head count ahead of time.  Any questions or comments can be emailed to Susan Gualtier at sgua@law.upenn.edu.  We look forward to seeing you all in Washington, D.C. for another great book discussion!

AALL 2018 Recap: Education Committee Meeting – Program Planning for DC

capitol

By: Loren Turner

The FCIL-SIS Education Committee met at the crack of dawn (7:00 am) on Tuesday, July 17th to begin brainstorming and strategizing for the AALL 2019 conference in Washington, D.C.  We were joined by two members of the Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC), Sabrina Sondhi (our official FCIL liaison to the AMPC) and Alyson Drake.  Sabrina and Alyson shared the AMPC’s timeline for gathering program ideas and proposals.  Alyson will be writing a separate DipLawMatic blog post that covers the AMPC’s timeline and goals in more detail, but in a nutshell, there is a two-step process for us to get some FCIL-related programming into the DC conference: (1) submit and up-vote your undeveloped, wild and crazy ideas to the Ideascale platform (from now until August 17th) and (2) submit your developed, professional program proposals to the AMPC (Labor Day-ish until October 1).

We have an excellent location for the next conference and the Georgetown folks who joined our meeting are already on-the-ball with fab ideas on international taxation, international trade, and international human rights.  What about you?!  What programming do you want to see in D.C. for your professional development?

Dennis Sears (searsd@law.byu.edu) and I (lturner@umn.edu) would L.O.V.E. to hear from you!  Tell us what you want to learn.  Tell us what you want to teach. Tell us who you know and what they might offer.  We will do your cold-calls.  We will help craft your wild and crazy ideas into fully-developed programs (or pre-conference workshops). We need you to help us create substantive FCIL programming for the AALL 2019 conference.  Let’s do this.

FCIL-SIS Book Discussion Group to Meet Again in Baltimore This Summer

By Susan GualtierKorematsu Cover

Over the past several years, the FCIL-SIS Book Discussion Group, started by Dan Wade in in 2014, has become a popular informal addition to the AALL Annual Meeting’s FCIL conference programming.  Each year, we select a book to read in advance of the conference and meet during the conference to enjoy a book discussion, lunch or snacks, and each other’s fine company.

This year, the group will meet on Monday, July 16, at 12:30.  As in past years, we will meet in the Registration Area, and will find a table or small room from there.  The event will be BYO lunch or snacks.

This year’s book selection is In the Shadow of Korematsu: Democratic Liberties and National Security, by Eric K. Yamamoto.  Professor Yamamoto is the Fred T. Korematsu Professor of Law and Social Justice at the William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i. He is nationally and internationally recognized for his legal work and scholarship on civil procedure, as well as national security and civil liberties, and civil rights and social justice, with an emphasis on reconciliation initiatives and redress for historic injustice.  The following book description appears on the Oxford University Press website:

The national security and civil liberties tensions of the World War II mass incarceration link 9/11 and the 2015 Paris-San Bernardino attacks to the Trump era in America – an era darkened by accelerating discrimination against and intimidation of those asserting rights of freedom of religion, association and speech, and an era marked by increasingly volatile protests. This book discusses the broad civil liberties challenges posed by these past-into-the-future linkages highlighting pressing questions about the significance of judicial independence for a constitutional democracy committed both to security and to the rule of law. What will happen when those profiled, detained, harassed, or discriminated against under the mantle of national security turn to the courts for legal protection? How will the U.S. courts respond to the need to protect both society and fundamental democratic values of our political process? Will courts fall passively in line with the elective branches, as they did in Korematsu v. United States, or serve as the guardian of the Bill of Rights, scrutinizing claims of “pressing public necessity” as justification for curtailing fundamental liberties?

These queries paint three pictures portrayed in this book. First, they portray the present-day significance of the Supreme Court’s partially discredited, yet never overruled, 1944 decision upholding the constitutional validity of the mass Japanese American exclusion leading to indefinite incarceration – a decision later found to be driven by the government’s presentation of “intentional falsehoods” and “willful historical inaccuracies” to the Court. Second, the queries implicate prospects for judicial independence in adjudging Harassment, Exclusion, Incarceration disputes in contemporary America and beyond. Third, and even more broadly for security and liberty controversies, the queries engage the American populace in shaping law and policy at the ground level by placing the courts’ legitimacy on center stage. They address how critical legal advocacy and organized public pressure targeting judges and policymakers – realpolitik advocacy – at times can foster judicial fealty to constitutional principles while promoting the elective branches accountability for the benefit of all Americans. This book addresses who we are as Americans and whether we are genuinely committed to democracy governed by the Constitution.

This year’s book selection promises to foster a rich discussion, and we look forward to welcoming both past book group members and new members interested in joining the discussion.  Again, this is an informal event, and RSVPs are not necessary; however, please feel free to let us know if you are planning to participate, so that we can get a general head count ahead of time.  Any questions or comments can be emailed to Susan Gualtier at sgua@law.upenn.edu.  We look forward to seeing you all in Baltimore for another great book discussion!

AALL 2017 Recap: Yemisi Dina & Thomas Mills win Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Awards!

By: Loren Turner

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 other to act. This year during the AALL 2017 Annual Meeting, Yemisi Dina and Thomas Mills received Spirit of the FCIL-SIS Awards.

yemisi 2

Yemisi Dina is an Associate Librarian and Head of Public Services at Osgoode Hall Law School Library in Toronto, Canada.  Yemisi currently serves as Chair of the African Law Interest Group and was responsible for proposing, coordinating, and moderating the FCIL-SIS sponsored program at this year’s Annual Meeting: Global Energy Law: Perspectives from North America and Africa.  Yemisi has published two research guides on the Globalex platform: one on Nigerian law and one on Caribbean law , based on her prior experience as a librarian in both Nigeria and the Bahamas. Additionally, Yemisi developed a project that digitizes and summarizes customary court decisions from Ibadan and Abeokuta, two major cities in South Western Nigeria.  These court decisions are not published in an official record, so Yemisi’s summaries provide one of the few means of access.  As many members may remember, Yemisi shared the results of her project at the jurisdictions IG joint meeting held during last year’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. Thank you, Yemisi!  Congratulations!
millsThomas Mills, now the Director of the University of Notre Dame Law School Library, served with a team of consultants for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the summer of 2009, providing advice on how to archive materials on the genocide trials.  He has also served as Chair of the FCIL-SIS Strategic Planning Committee; Chair of the FCIL-SIS Pre-Conference Summit Task Force; a member of the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals committee; and a member of the indexing of periodical literature committee.  More recently he has worked as a member of the project team of Global Online Access to Legal Information(GOALI).  Congratulations, Thomas!

AALL 2017 Recap: Authors of the Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide win the Reynolds & Flores Publication Award!

By: Loren Turner

The Reynolds and Flores Publication Award is named after the authors of the Foreign Law Guide, a source that we all gratefully consult on daily basis. This award recognizes FCIL-SIS member(s) who have created a publication that enhances the professional knowledge and capabilities of law librarians. Winning publications may be print, digital, or electronic initiatives. Thus, journal articles, treatises, symposia papers, digitization projects, websites, databases, and ebooks are all eligible for consideration. This year, all authors of the Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide won the Reynolds & Flores Publication Award: Bianca T. Anderson, Marisol Floren-Romero, Julienne E. Grant, Jootaek Lee, Lyonette Louis-Jacques, Teresa M. Miguel-Stearns, Jonathan Pratter, and Sergio Stone. Julienne and Jonathan, as co-editors of the Guide, accepted the award on behalf of the group.

The Guide was most recently published in March of  2016 in Volume 35, Issue 1, of the Legal Reference Services Quarterly.  It covers all types of  primary sources of law and secondary legal literature, including international agreements, state gazettes, law journals, textbooks, and monographs.  Additionally, it filled a gap in the literature: it contains an extensive bibliography of secondary literature in English on Mexican law and legal research, which is not found in other research guides or treatises on Mexican law and legal research. Since its publication, it has received approximately 500 views (on the Taylor & Francis platform that hosts Legal Reference Services Quarterly) and over 200 SSRN downloads.  

The Guide is a significant contribution to our field in terms of its content, but it is also a fantastic example of the quality of work we can achieve when we collaborate with each other for the benefit of our profession.  Congratulations to all!

AALL 2017 Recap: Sergio Stone receives the Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award!

By: Loren Turner

Sergio

Each year, we honor an FCIL-SIS member who has made outstanding contributions to the Section in any number of the following areas: outstanding leadership in the Section, at meetings, and through committee work; special and notable service to the Section; participation in Section educational programs and public-speaking activities; mentoring activities that inspire others in the Section; and activities that encourage others to join the section. This year, our colleague, Sergio Stone won the Daniel L. Wade FCIL-SIS Outstanding Service Award

Sergio is currently the Deputy Director and Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Librarian at Stanford University Law School’s Robert Crown Library.  He has contributed to the FCIL librarianship community both nationally and internationally throughout his career. Sergio served as Chair of the Asian Law Interest Group from 2006-2010 and then as Chair of the FCIL-SIS in 2011-2012.  In addition to his work with the FCIL-SIS, he serves as the Chair of the Nomination Committee of International Association of Law Libraries and as the Chair of the Nomination Committee of Chinese-American Forum on Legal Information and Law Libraries.  

Sergio’s scholarship on Mexican legal research, Cuban legal research, Chinese legal research, and international legal research appears in many well-known legal research publications such as Globalex, Legal Reference Services Quarterly, and American Society of International Law’s EISIL. He is also a contributor of the Mexican Law and Legal Research Guide, which won this year’s Reynolds and Flores Publication Award.

For his contributions to the FCIL-SIS and the world of FCIL librarianship overall, join us in congratulating Sergio Stone as this year’s recipient of the Daniel L. Wade Outstanding Service Award!