Recap: Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting

By Alyson Drake

This year’s Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting was a fantastic opportunity to hear from our FCIL-SIS colleagues on interesting topics and interest group projects.

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jenJennifer Allison from the European Law Interest Group kicked off the meeting with an informative discussion of recent changes to German asylum law.  First, Jennifer explained that asylum for the politically persecuted is a constitutional right in Germany, under Grundgesetz article 16a.  She highlighted three 2016 laws related to German asylum law:

  • The Data Exchange Improvement Act, aimed at improving procedures for the exchange of data between government groups and other entities dealing with refugees;
  • The Act Introducing an Accelerated Asylum Procedure, which explains how accelerated asylum procedure will work for those cases where a fraudulent application for asylum is expected or where there’s a potential risk to the safety of the country by an applicant; and
  • The Act Simplifying Expulsion of Foreign Criminals and the Broadened Suspension of Refugee Recognition for Criminal Asylum Applicant, which amends earlier asylum laws.

She also discussed the Integration Act, the latest asylum legislation, which has yet to come into force and encourages asylum seekers and grantees to participate in training programs to help integrate them into German culture.

german law guideJennifer also provided a handout with various German law sources and other helpful sources, which can be found on her German Law Research Guide; it includes a section on German asylum law.  She also highly recommended following Jenny Gesley, who is the German Law Specialist at the Library of Congress, on Twitter for updates relating to German law.  One other resource she highly recommended is the Linguee German-English Dictionary, which gives good examples of legal terminology in context.

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Next up were Juice Lee and Steven Alexander de Costa, speaking on behalf of the Latin America Interest Group.  They presented the IG’s progress on the “Guide to Legal Research on Cuba.”  The guide will include information on Cuba’s history and Cuban law.  It will also include both Spanish and English language resources. The expected completion date of the guide is September 1st, 2016, and the group is still deciding on where to publish the guide after completion.

Steven discussed a little about his experiences working on the legal history portion of the guide.  He explained that the project was unique because materials relating to Cuba’s legal history weren’t widely available, particularly in English.  He noted that he learned some interesting facts about Cuba’s legal history, including that the modern history of Cuba began with the 1959 revolution, and that the legal system entwines both civil and socialist law, as well as some common law.  Interestingly, Cuban law still owes a lot to Spanish civil codes.

cuban lawIn the discussion that followed the update, it was noted that LLMC is currently working on digitizing approximately 200 Cuban materials, and that the National Library of Cuba has joined to cause and is helping find rare titles and more materials.  Teresa Miguel-Stearns also briefly discussed her recent trip to Cuba.

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The third speaker was Yemisi Dina from the Africa Interest Group, updating the group on completing phase one of her the South Western Nigeria digitization project.  One recent development is that she’s created a blog, digesting cases before customary courts in two cities in South Western Nigeria.

Yemisi shared several observations with the group:

  • yemisiCustomary law has a future in the legal system of Nigeria and other African countries. Customary courts are disorganized, but the government is interested. Yemisi noted that the government put a structure together for her to visit.
  • The resolution process is open to everyone, not just certain demographic groups. Yemisi observed that educated people are using the customary courts to resolve their disputes.
  • The majority of issues before the customary courts are divorce; rent; and child custody. Yemisi mentioned that land disputes used to be before the courts a great deal, but that those disputes have died down.
  • The courts face several challenges, including financial issues, as they are not funded by the government; limited resources, such as courts having only one staff person working at the court; and a lack of technology.

Yemisi welcomes comments about and suggestions for her project.

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perkinsFinally, Steven Perkins from the Indigenous Peoples Interest Group gave an interesting talk on some of the issues regarding DNA testing of Indigenous Peoples.

First, Steven discussed some of the different types of DNA testing that can take place, including the testing that can be done to determine the ethnic groups from which a person gets their DNA.  Next, Steven provided a brief history of the relationship between scientists and Native American tribes, namely that scientists have been analyzing tribe blood over the last 50 years, but that some challenges arose in how scientists were using their samples.  Scientists conducted research beyond the scope of what they told the tribes would be done, gave samples out to other scientists, and moved around the blood samples to different schools.  As such, the tribe had to set some boundaries and recollect the blood that had been passed around.  As such, tribes have created a guide to decide how to approach these situations.  The guide is found on the National Congress of American Indians website.  Most notably, the tribes keep the data and keep custody of the samples, and have procedures for determining whether a person is part of a particular tribe.

Thank you to all the speakers for presenting such a robust Jurisdictions IG meeting!

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Groups To Meet On Sunday

FCIL-SIS invites all AALL conference attendees to join us for our Jurisdictions Interest Groups Joint Meeting this Sunday, from 12:30pm to 2:00pm, in the Hyatt-Water Tower Room.  The program will include substantive presentations from several of our interest groups, as well as 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for each group to discuss their plans for the coming year.

The agenda for the meeting is as follows:

SUNDAY July 17, 2016

12:30 PM – 2:00 PM

FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions IG Joint Meeting (Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe, Indigenous Peoples, Customary & Religious Law, Roman Law) (Hyatt-Water Tower)

Meeting Topics:

  • Welcome and Intro (Susan Gualtier, Louisiana State University School of Law Library) – 5 minutes
  • European Law: Recent Developments in German Law Related to Asylum and Refugees: A Brief Overview for Law Librarians (Jennifer Alison, Harvard Law School Library) – 20 minutes
  • Latin America: Cuban Legal Research Guide (Julienne Grant, Loyola University Chicago Law Library, et al.) – 10 minutes
  • Africa: Updates of the Digitization Case Law Project from South Western Nigeria (Yemisi Dina, Osgood Hall Law School Library) – 20 minutes
  • Indigenous Peoples: Indigenous Peoples and DNA Testing: Friend or Foe? (Steven Perkins, Greenberg Traurig, LLP) – 20 minutes
  • Individual Interest Groups business meetings – 15 minutes

Everyone is welcome to attend the presentations and to check out our interest groups, so please spread the word to anyone interested in these areas of foreign law.  FCIL-SIS looks forward to seeing you there!

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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

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.

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Holdings:

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.

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Acquisitions:

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.

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Catalogue:

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.

Services:

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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