FCIL Program Ideas in 2020 IdeaScale, Week One

By Susan Gualtier

French Quarter, New Orleans

Dear FCIL Colleagues:

Happy Monday! I hope that you all had a great weekend and that those of you on the East Coast stayed safe during the heat wave!

Each Monday from now through August 16, DipLawMatic Dialogues will bring you an update on all of the FCIL-related program ideas currently posted in IdeaScale to encourage you to “up-vote” these programs. For more on why up-voting is important, see here.

We also encourage you to submit your own program ideas to IdeaScale.  You can do this anonymously if you like.  If you have questions, comments, concerns, or calls for help, please reach out to me (sgua@law.upenn.edu) and/or Dennis Sears (searsd@law.byu.edu).  As co-Chairs of the FCIL-SIS Education Committee, it is our job to encourage and support you in developing ideas and program proposals in anticipation of next year’s meeting.

In the meantime, please go check out and vote for these amazing program suggestions!

How Codes are Made: Creating Laws in Civil Jurisdictions

Is there a difference between a code and a set of statutes? How does the process of codification differ between common law and civilian jurisdictions? What roles do legislatures and law reform bodies play? This panel will help librarians to understand the role that codes play in civilian and mixed jurisdictions and how and whether it differs from that of the “codes” that most of us would recognize as codified statutes. The panel will explore how codes are constructed in a variety of jurisdictions.

Speakers will include law faculty and drafters from Louisiana, as well as from or familiar with similar jurisdictions, such as Quebec, Scotland, and South Africa.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Is it Napoleonic? Foreign/Domestic Influences on LA Civil Code

Interpreting and researching modern civil law depends upon an understanding of the historical sources from which those laws evolved. People often say that Louisiana uses the Napoleonic Code, but is that true? Louisiana has been both a French and Spanish colony, and it has been a part of the American legal system for over 200 years; it has also been influenced by Roman Law, Greek Law, Canon Law, and the Germanic Civil Law tradition.

This panel will help librarians understand the legal system of Louisiana, how the Louisiana Civil Code is drafted, and how the Civil Code operates within Louisiana’s mixed, partially common law jurisdiction. It will explore the relationship between codes, statutes, and cases, and how primary and secondary authority are defined and developed within Louisiana’s unique legal system. The panel will also cover elements of Louisiana legal research, including Louisiana’s unique legal publishing industry, the importance of print resources in Louisiana legal research, and available historical treatises and primary sources. The program will be accompanied by a LibGuide to assist non-Louisiana law librarians in researching Louisiana legal issues.

Speakers may include Louisiana law librarians, Louisiana law faculty, and members of the Louisiana State Law Institute (LSLI).

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Researching, Publishing, and Collecting the Laws of Louisiana

Most law librarians are aware of Louisiana’s unique and “different” legal system. But what does that mean for legal research, legal publishing, and collection development in the Pelican State?

This program will cover aspects of Louisiana legal research and collection development, including Louisiana’s small and specialized legal publishing industry, the importance of print resources in Louisiana legal research, and available primary and secondary sources. The program will be accompanied by a LibGuide to assist non-Louisiana law librarians in researching Louisiana legal issues and choosing Louisiana legal resources.

Speakers may include Louisiana law librarians, legal scholars, and representatives of university presses and other publishers of Louisiana law.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

LA Civil Code & Other Influences on Civil Law in Latin America

The Louisiana civil code has directly and significantly influenced civil law in Latin America. It is generally believed that Spanish language translations of a mid-nineteenth century digest of world civil codes served as the first introduction of the civil law in Latin America. The Louisiana civil code was included in this digest (along with the codes of France, Sicily, Piedmont, the Netherlands, Bavaria, Austria, and Prussia), and the Spanish translation of the digest would therefore have served as the very first Spanish translation of the Louisiana civil code.

Around the same time, Spain was beginning to draft its first civil code post-unification, which would not be enacted until 1889. The commentaries provided during the drafting of the Spanish civil code, many of which referred to the code already in place in Louisiana, also heavily influenced the development of the civil law in Latin American countries.

Latin American lawmakers turned to the Louisiana civil code not only because of the Spanish language translations and commentaries, but also because it was the first civil code to be drafted in the New World and could therefore serve as a model for Latin American countries that had been fighting for their own independence and that sought to express that independence through their own civil codes. Similarities between the Louisiana and French codes during this period were also significant, as the French code, which captured the spirit of post-Revolutionary France, had also captured the imagination of Latin America. As scholarship on Latin American civil law points out, the first Latin American codes were nearly word for word translations of the French civil code and its corresponding Louisiana code provisions, with departures only where the Latin American codes made reference to much older Spanish laws.

This program will explore the historical influences on Latin American civil law, which are invaluable in helping us to understand and research the modern laws. Speakers will consist of law librarians and civil law scholars who have researched extensively the development of Latin American civil law.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Recent Reforms in the French Law of Obligations

Adapted from a symposium recently held at the Louisiana Supreme Court, this panel will address recent reforms to the French Law of Obligations and what they mean both for France and for French-influenced jurisdictions like Louisiana. Speakers will discuss the need for reforms to adapt the law to modern economic and social environments and to make French law more attractive to international markets. Specific changes to the law, as well as how they are playing out in practice, will be discussed in detail depending upon the available speakers’ expertise. We will round out the panel with a brief discussion of how the reforms in France could eventually affect the law of Louisiana and of other French-influenced jurisdictions.

Speakers would include scholars of French law, Louisiana law, and potential additional jurisdictions’ law, depending on availability. This program could be condensed into a short form program and/or proposed as a half workshop or symposium.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Through the Codes Darkly: Slave Law and Civil Law in Louisiana

In his 2012 book, “Through the Codes Darkly: Slave Law and Civil Law in Louisiana” (https://www.lawbookexchange.com/pages/books/59912/vernon-valentine-palmer/through-the-codes-darkly-slave-law-and-civil-law-in-louisiana), Tulane Law Professor Vernon Palmer challenged the prevailing argument that Louisiana’s slave laws were more permissive or protective than those of the other states. The differences between Louisiana’s slave laws and those of the other states have been attributed largely to the alleged adoption of ancient Roman slave laws during the drafting of Louisiana’s Code Noir, or “Black Code.” Because the Romans owned slaves of all races, some scholars have argued that the Roman laws were “color-blind” and that their incorporation into the Code Noir laid the groundwork for a more permissive body of slave law in the French territories. These scholars contrast the civil slave laws to the body of case law that developed to govern slavery in the other states, and argue that, while the common law developed specifically within a racial system, the civil law did not develop from the intent to oppress any particular race.

In “Through the Codes Darkly,” Palmer breaks with the earlier scholarship claiming that the Code Noir was based on Roman law. He instead relies on archival research, examining the Code Noir drafters’ backgrounds, the instructions they received from France, and the notes they generated during the course of their work. Palmer argues that the Code Noir was in fact based on the drafters’ own experiences in the New World, and that the Roman slave laws, which would have been largely irrelevant to slavery in the Americas, did not, in fact, form the substantive basis of the Code Noir. In breaking with Romanist scholarship, Palmer owns that the drafters of the Code Noir created a “profoundly racial document embodying the prejudices of their own white supremacist society.”

This program would explore Palmer’s trailblazing research into the law of slavery in Louisiana. The speaker would ideally be Professor Palmer himself, although other local law professors would also be qualified to speak on this topic if Professor Palmer were not available.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

French, Spanish, African and Jewish influences in US Law

New Orleans and Louisiana in general with its rich city and legal history is the perfect set for this panel. Legal experts and historical experts will shed some light on the French, Spanish, African and Jewish influences which might have been present and even created in Louisiana or New Orleans and then made it to US law.

Potential speakers include historical and legal experts on the topic, local history expert, and a local legal history expert or just legal history expert.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Legal information from U.S. Territories

Legal information from and on the current U.S. territories is a nightmare to find. Most major commercial vendors do not include this information and local institutions do not have the resources to digitize and make this information more accessible. What should we do?

Potential speakers include law librarians from different U.S. territories, law librarian specializing in this area, perhaps a government/court librarian from the territories.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Is Google Translate the only option?

The legal document or any material you are working on has a few sentences on Spanish, Estonian, Swahili or Vietnamese. What do you do? If you’re under some pressing time constraints locating and hiring a translator might not be an option. Is Google Translate the only and best option we have? Are there any other options out there either free or not?

Potential speakers include: a FCIL librarian with experience using materials in foreign languages, a certified legal translator, a rep from Google Translate or someone working in one of the other translation sites or apps such as Linguee or Lingvo.

BOK Content Area:  Research & Analysis

Program Planning for New Orleans 2020: Ideascale Is Now Open!

By Susan Gualtier

Dear FCIL Colleagues:

I hope that you all had a wonderful conference and a safe trip home!  As we all make our way through the weekend’s unchecked emails and get ready for teaching and other fall commitments, it’s important to remember that it’s also time to start thinking about FCIL programming for the AALL Annual Meeting in New Orleans next year.  In case you didn’t notice, Ideascale opened yesterday with very little fanfare, and is available from now until August 16 for submissions and voting!

As your Education Committee Co-Chair, let me explain how you can contribute RIGHT NOW to our ongoing efforts to guarantee substantive FCIL programming at next year’s conference.

Phase 1: Ideascale

  1. Submit all your wild and crazy ideas to the Ideascale platform (you will need to register and join the AALL Annual Meeting Program Ideas community within Ideascale before you can submit). Ideascale is a crowdsourcing tool that the Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC) is monitoring to gauge membership interests.  The AMPC will use the information on Ideascale to identify the “must have programming” for next year’s meeting.
    • Any and every idea will suffice.
    • You can submit anonymously, if you like.
    • Submitting an idea does NOT obligate you to do any of the work needed to turn that idea into a program.
    • The system will ask you to categorize your idea as falling within one of the 6 domains of the “Body of Knowledge” (BOK).
  1. Upvote any ideas on the Ideascale platform that explicitly relate to FCIL work or that could be expanded to include a FCIL perspective. This will help us make connections across SISs and remind the AALL community that almost every topic on law and law librarianship can take on international and/or foreign dimensions.
    • The system allows for one upvote per idea.
    • The FCIL-SIS blog, DipLawMatic Dialogues, will post weekly updates of ideas submitted to Ideascale to encourage your upvoting. Please make sure to subscribe to the blog, if you have not done so already.

The Ideascale platform is up until August 16th.  Once it closes, I’ll send out another message about Phase 2 of our New Orleans programming plan.

If you have questions, comments, concerns, or calls for help, please reach out to me (sgua@law.upenn.edu) and/or Dennis Sears (searsd@law.byu.edu).  As co-Chairs of the FCIL’s Education Committee, it is our job to encourage and support you in developing ideas and program proposals in anticipation of next year’s meeting!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

St. Louis Cathedral at night.

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.

Cuban Law and Legal Research: A Snapshot During the Deshielo (Congelado?) – Monday, July 17, 2017, 9:45 a.m., Austin Convention Center, Room 18AB

By Julienne Grant

IMG_9721 (003)“The history of the United States and Cuba encompass[es] revolution and conflict, struggle and sacrifice, retribution and now reconciliation. It is time now for us to leave the past behind. It is time for us to look forward to the future together.”

-President Barack Obama, March 22, 2016, Havana, Cuba

 

“Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” 

-President Donald J. Trump, June 16, 2017, Miami, Florida

 

“Again, the United States Government resorts to coercive methods of the past, adopting measures to intensify the blockade, in force since February 1962, which not only causes damage and deprivation to the Cuban people and constitutes an undeniable obstacle to the development of our economy, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, inciting international rejection.” (Julienne E. Grant, translation)

-Declaration of the Revolutionary Government, June 16, 2017, Havana, Cuba

 

When I drafted a proposal last fall for an AALL program on Cuba, I envisioned a continuation of the dramatic deshielo (thaw) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Specifically, I assumed there would be a progression of the rapprochement that former President Obama alluded to in his speech in Havana on March 22, 2016.  What I didn’t foresee while crafting the program were the most recent proclamations by President Trump and the Cuban government.  Trump’s June 16th announcement in Miami that backtracks some of the previous administration’s initiatives has halted the thaw a bit. As such, this program is perhaps more appropriately a snapshot during the deshielo congelado (frozen thaw). However U.S.-Cuba relations can now be characterized, though, Cuba is on the cusp of dramatic changes, and it’s a hot topic.

Please join Dr. Marisol Florén-Romero (Florida International University), Teresa Miguel-Stearns (Yale), and me (Loyola University Chicago) as we first explore this enigmatic jurisdiction from a law librarian’s perspective. Our program will include a brief overview of the somewhat unwieldly nomenclature of Cuban law, as well as a short assessment of English-language sources that can provide insight into Cuba’s legal landscape. In addition, Teresa will offer a quick summary of her experience purchasing legal materials in Havana last year.  Accompanying the program is a useful 26-page handout that will be available for download.

Our featured speaker, however, is Professor Jorge R. Piñon, whose talk is titled “Cuba Business Scenarios:  Challenges and Opportunities,” certainly a timely topic in what is an extremely fluid political and economic environment.   Professor Piñon is the Interim Director of The University of Texas at Austin, Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy, and the Director of its Latin America & Caribbean Energy Program.

Professor Piñon is also recognized as an expert on Cuba’s energy sector, as well as on the island’s future economic transitional challenges and opportunities.  He is an advisor and a member of the Cuba Task Force at The Brookings Institution and co-author of “Cuba’s Energy Future: Strategic Approaches to Cooperation,” Brookings Institution Press, 2010.

Hope to see you on Monday for what is sure to be a lively, engaging, and enlightening hour!

 

Schedule of FCIL Events in Austin

2017-AALL-Annual-Meeting-Logo

Hello FCIL-SIS!  Are you ready for Austin next month?  We certainly are!

As we approach the 2017 AALL Annual Meeting in Austin, we encourage you to keep an eye on the blog and to follow us on Twitter for coverage of FCIL-SIS programming both during and after the conference.  

Also, PLEASE consider volunteering to recap a program (or two).  The recaps are super helpful for readers unable to attend the Conference (and for those of us who rely on recaps posted in the blog archives to refresh our dismal memories!).  If you are interested in volunteering to recap any of the events listed below, please contact Loren Turner (lturner@umn.edu) or Alyson Drake (alyson.drake@ttu.edu).

FCIL-SIS Events

2017 AALL ANNUAL MEETING, AUSTIN

Saturday, July 15

5:00 pm – 6:30 pm: Exhibit Hall Ribbon-Cutting/Opening Reception. Stop by the FCIL-SIS exhibit board!

Sunday, July 16

7:45 am – 8:45 am: FCIL-SIS Electronic Resources Interest Group Meeting (ACC Room 8B)

9:00 am – 10:15 am: Opening General Session (ACC-Grand Ballroom D-G)

11:30 am – 12:30 pm: Global Energy Law: Perspectives from North America and Africa (ACC Room 18AB)

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm: FCIL-SIS Jurisdictions Interest Group Joint Meeting (ACC Room 4C)

5:15 pm – 6:15 pm: FCIL-SIS Foreign Selectors Interest Group Meeting (ACC Room 7)

6:15 pm – 6:45 pm: FCIL-SIS Standing Committees Joint Meeting (Hilton Room 402)

Monday, July 17

7:00 am – 8:30 am: Business Meeting (Hilton Room 400)

9:45 am – 10:45 am: Cuban Law and Legal Research: A Snapshot during the Deshielo (ACC Room 18AB)

3:30 pm – 4:30 pm: FCIL-SIS Teaching Foreign & International Legal Research Interest Group Meeting (ACC Room 5B)

4:45 pm – 5:45 pm: FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant Presentation: Rosemarie Rogers presents: I am the River and the River is Me  (ACC Room 8C)

6:00 pm – 7:00 pm: International Attendees Joint Reception (Hilton Governor’s Ballroom Salon B)

Tuesday, July 18

7:30 am – 8:15 am: FCIL-SIS Education Committee Meeting (Hilton Room 404)

 

austin

#IALL2016 Recap: Precedent and Authority: the Continental Dimension

Old-Letters-by-jarmoluk-at-Pixabay-CC0-Public-Domain

By: Jim Hart

Professor Ibbetson began with the point that precedent has not always been a part of English law and has been more a part of Continental law than we think.  He explained that historically, in general, common law precedent focused on law as it was applied in court whereas civil law precedent focused on the principles and rules in the codes.

He began with England because here we’re on fairly familiar and firm ground. Before the nineteenth century there was no strict rule of bindingness and no structure by which courts were only bound by courts above them.  This is not surprising because it was only in the nineteenth century that we began to get enough regular, reliable reports and a clear hierarchy of courts to think of precedents binding on lower courts.

It was only in the seventeenth century that changes in the direction of the modern ways of thinking began to occur.   And it wouldn’t surprise anybody, especially after hearing Professor Baker’s lecture, that a central figure in this process was Sir Edmund Coke.  We need to address three closely related, but separate phenomena.  The first was the practice of following previous cases.  Although this was not new and it probably goes back as far as we think there was a common law system, it became more intense with high quality reports.  It’s probably hard for us to think of the common law without this since we expect judges to act consistently and English law had nothing like the books and rules of Roman law.

The second phenomenon was the development of the idea of authority. Professor Ibbetson paused a minute here before saying something more about it.  Naturally King had authority, sheriff had authority in his county, the bailiff in his bailiwick and so on.  From the late 15th century we begin to see that some texts were considered to have authority, which must mean that they contained rules that had to be followed, just as the instructions of King, sheriff or bailiff.  As the sixteenth century progressed we find it more normal to say that these texts were authority and being authority was something different from having authority. The only books that were authority, of course, were law books.  And increasingly there was a strong focus on decided cases that had been authorities.  I suspect that the development of the idea of authority at that time was related to the differences between Plowden and Dyer’s methods and those of the Year Books although Professor Ibettson did not say so.

And thirdly there was precedent.  Many lawyers had been familiar with precedent having prepared formal documents such as precedents of pleading.  In the early seventeenth century we find special status being given to judicial precedent, that is decided cases and, in particular, decided cases where the reasons had been recorded.  Just as we would say today that judicial rulings and decided cases as precedents were authorities.

This judicial authority developed from the theory of argument by dialectic, which would have been familiar to anyone from a medieval university.  At this time nearly any text could be authoritative.  But there were two categories of authority: necessary and probable.  The best example of a necessary authority was the Bible which was true by definition and any conclusion drawn from it was equally true as long as the argument was validly drawn from premise to conclusion.  Probable authorities were things that were not true in themselves, but might be true.  It was not what learned men said that constituted probable authority, but things like moralizing fables, popular sayings, and customary ways of doing things.  This is the world of the medieval university on the continent and in England.  In the early 16th century, perhaps first in Holland, a specifically legal dialectic began to appear about how to frame a forensic argument.  The argument from authority is the strongest in law (argumentum ab auctoritate est fortissimum in lege), wrote one commentator.  The authorities that formed the basis of the argument might be necessary or probable.  In the medieval university, the theory of authority was based on a tradition that went back to Cicero.  But dialectic and rhetoric were not miles apart.

There was another classical tradition.  This one was traced not back to Cicero, but to Quintillian. And here we find the Latin term, “praejudicia,” which we can translate as precedents.  We’re not sure what Quintillian meant by this term, but it might have meant things that had been adjudged before, the literal translation of praeiudicia.  In the early sixteenth century it was said that auctoritas and praeiudicia were interchangeable terms. We don’t know which of these ideas of legal dialectic were used in England, but we do know that some were.  Moreover as more common lawyers spent time at university, they would have come across Cicero and Quintillian and would be utterly familiar with the basics of dialectic and rhetoric.  We are sure that Coke was familiar with these precise terms when he was at university.  Coke used these two sources explicitly in his writing. Indeed he peppered his writings with quotations and near quotations on authority and precedent.  Coke was quite clear that these judicial precedents were only probable authority.  Although judicial precedent was only probable, it was authoritative in court.  All other things being equal, they should be followed.  But other things were not always equal. So from about 1700, England had a doctrine of precedent that was rooted in dialectical theory.  Notice that this process began about a hundred years before the period covered by Professor Baker and stretched to about fifty years later.

How different were things on the continent?  At first glance they weren’t very different in theory, but they differed in operation.  The writers on legal dialectic in Holland, Germany or elsewhere in Europe were thinking in terms of their own systems, not at all in terms of the unruly English common law.  So the argument from authority would have been utterly familiar.  To continental lawyers some authorities were necessary, in particular the writings of the Roman jurists.  It was laid down in Justinian’s code that they had the force of legislation.  The medieval jurists were not regarded as necessary authorities, but as probable ones and the same applied to all the modern writers.  The best way to influence a judge was to follow a long line of legal opinion.  But the dominant line of legal opinion might be held to be wrong, especially by an appellate court.  Previous cases were a problem.  Another Roman law text seemed to exclude their significance saying that judgments should be made on the basis of a lex rather than an exemplum.  But previous decisions could be distinguished.  What really mattered with previous decisions was that they came from a particular court that was known for its learning or issued its decisions under the name of the monarch or ruler.  It is tempting to conclude that the mass of citations from Roman law was little more than froth.  What really mattered was the jurisprudence of this court.  But we should resist that temptation.  We should say that the previous case showed the issue behind the mass of citation.  These were all probable authorities according to the writers on dialectic.  And the previous case merely showed what the correct path through all these authorities was.  Courts might look at previous decisions, but their decisions were made according to the true law.  Earlier decisions might help them to understand what law lay behind a complex plethora of authorities cited in a present case.  In England we can say that it was the printing of large numbers of reports that was really central in allowing the increase in the use of precedent in the early seventeenth century.

So do we get case reports in early modern Europe?  We certainly do and lots and lots and lots of them.  In Italy by 1600 there were thirty-two separate volumes of reports printed in very large folio volumes.  There was a real difference between these volumes and those in England.   The English reports included the arguments given in court sometimes together with the decision that had been reached, which allowed the successful arguments to be identified so that later readers could identify the reason for the decision and understand what the case was an authority for.  The continental model was different.  The reason for the decision was constructed by the person producing the volume.  In so far as they could be said to be authority, it was probable authority like all the other forms of legal writing that were being produced.

Although it’s anachronistic to make the comparison, the continental reports had the same authority as the textbooks used to elucidate the law whereas the English reports had far greater authority.  The legal systems of Europe of this time were similar and they were held together by the common Roman law.  Professor Ibbetson said that he didn’t think that it was an exaggeration to say that there was so vast an amount of legal literature on the continent in the sixteenth century that one could probably prove an argument and its opposite from it.  There was a crying need for something like the English doctrine of precedent to cut through all this mass.  A couple of Spaniards even suggested that all foreign law books should be burned.  And we do find something similar to the English doctrine, but, in one crucial respect, not identical to it.  We can begin tracing this in Naples in the 1490s; one of their statutes said that decisions of the Sacrum Concilium, the highest court, were given in the name of the prince.  Thus it was said that it was if the Sacrum Consilium’s judgements had been given by the prince himself, i.e. that they had legislative force.  This appeared in one of the most important collections of decisions.  But it did not apply to the most important court of the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Rota, a court whose reasoning was worthy of enormous respect.  But its decisions were not given in the name of the pope so they didn’t count as legislation.  However, as the sixteenth century progressed all across Europe, decisions of courts were said to have the force of legislation.

One of the best discussions of this issue comes from early seventeenth century Portugal.  The core rule there was something like that of Naples: decisions of the Senate given in the presence of the King were treated as having legislative force since the king was presumed to have approved them.  But the king was not always present.  So further arguments were needed to bolster up the authority of court decisions.

One very important rule, backed up by a Roman law text, said that a rule of custom might displace a rule of Roman law itself since all law ultimately came from the people.  How could you identify such customs?  Decisions of the local court would suffice to do so provided of course that they had come from a court whose decisions were worthy of respect, effectively from a superior court.  Decisions of the Senate were always more or less acceptable.

European legal systems based on Roman law contained a great deal of probable authority, from many thousands of volumes, some of which were very thick.  But when we see citations to previous cases, they are overwhelmingly drowned out by the noise of commentators.  England had hardly any textbooks, but by the seventeenth century judicial precedents contained almost exclusively probable authority in what was a very small number of reports.  The continental doctrine of precedent, on the other hand, had come about differently.  For there the relevant case law in the judgment was necessary authority, which meant that it created absolutely firm binding rules.  The great advantage in the seventeenth century and today in the English doctrine was that it created a great deal of provisional bindingness.  But it was only the decisions of the House of Lords that produced any binding rules and they were relatively few in number.  On the continent Supreme Court decisions have stronger authority, but they lack the flexibility of the English doctrine.  Their very rigidity prevented them from developing into something like the English doctrine.  The continental doctrine lacked the ability to work over a very long time.

Professor Ibbetson followed with a gracious thank you and we with thundering applause.

 

#IALL2016 Recap: Law Reporting in England 1550-1650

512 The_bookkeeper_by_van_Dijk

By: Jim Hart

After Professor Reynolds presentation, Diversities among Common Law Nations, Emeritus Professor Sir John Baker and Professor David Ibbetson spoke on the historical development of modern precedent and case reporting.  Although the two differ superficially, they are in fact deeply intertwined.  It may be said that they both spring from the same origin: changes in the theory of authority in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Professor Baker began with the origins of case reporting in England, as we know it, between 1550 and 1650.  The story begins at the end of the series of Year Books in 1535.  When Edmund Plowden entered the Middle Temple in 1538, he began compiling reports of cases and continued this practice throughout his career.  These reports were published as Plowden’s Commentaries in 1571. They were the first of the nominate reporters and differed in important respects from the Year Books.

Although the Year Books had been anonymous, Plowden published his Commentaries under his own name.  He had found out that someone had quickly and carelessly copied his notes and intended to publish them.  He was forced to publish them under his name to secure the credit for his assiduous work.  Indeed Plowden felt it necessary to apologize for putting out his reports in his own name.

A more substantive departure from the Year Books is his decision to include only considered decisions (decisions of particular importance that set precedent) in his reports.  Although he copied the Latin so that readers could see the pleadings, he translated them into law French because of the wide-spread doubt that the common law could be expressed satisfactorily in English.

But his greatest departure was recording cases after judgment because this is what the profession wanted.  The Year Books had recorded cases before trial, which is why they had not included many things that we now take for granted.   This is why the Year Books seem so inconclusive.  To the compilers of the Year Books, the judgment was considered legally uninteresting in comparison with the material that preceded it such as the pleadings, the issue, the arguments, etc.  At this time the judicial system was not designed primarily to elicit decisions, but to frame the points that were to be referred to a jury.  Judges’ rulings concerned procedure and were spoken in court so they were not available for copying.  By Plowden’s time things had changed.  The profession wanted to know how and why a case ended as it did.  It seems to me that this is the most important point made in Professor Baker’s talk.  For it was the development of the idea of precedent both on the Continent and in England at this time, as Professor Ibbetson was to explain next, that led to the changes in the legal system that the  profession’s need for a new kind of reporter.

Finally there were two other new, important practice adopted by Powden. Unlike the Year Books, Plowden also consulted those who were involved in the case to ensure accuracy and he included the judgment, which the Year Books could not have done because they reported cases before judgment.  The judgments were set in a different type so they wouldn’t be confused with the reports.

Plowden set a high standard and there was never to be another volume quite like it.  Most of what Plowden included is to be found in today’s reports. Indeed Plowden’s departures from the Year Books were the origin of our view of what a good report should include.  What we now call the judgment includes the judge’s informal statement of the case, the facts of the case, the legal question, the arguments presented in court, references to the authorities, and the reasons for the conclusion.

The second most important point that Professor Baker made, in my opinion, was that there was a continuous line of reporting that began with Plowden and continued through Dyer and Coke.  This line formed the tradition that the future nominate reports continued.

The work of the next reporter, Dyer, was published posthumously.  Sir James Dyer began gathering his reports in the 1530s, before Plowden had begun.  He left his manuscripts to his two nephews who were law students.  The published edition was taken straight from Dyer’s notebooks.  Although it included over a thousand entries, it left a lot out, e.g, cases that might embarrass a living person, cases that Plowden had already covered, and matters too sensitive to make public for reasons of state.  Within twenty-five years of their publication, the notebooks were in the possession of Sir Edmund Coke who cited them often.

It was common for judges to keep jottings in notebooks at this time as aids to memory.  The exception to this was Edmund Coke whose work was published in eight volumes.  He began taking notes in the 1570s and began making them available to others in the next decade.  The earlier notebooks were essentially the story of Coke’s rise in the bar.  Coke embellished and amplified on many of the cases.   In 1616 he was charged with inaccurate reporting and assigned to correct them.  Francis Bacon volunteered to help with the task.  In the very next year Bacon was made Lord Chancellor and banned Coke from Westminster.  He did, however, put forward a proposal to hire three lawyers to report on the cases at Westminster at a salary of £100 a year.  Although there were never more than two reporters, Bacon had revived the old custom.  He appointed lawyers to do the reporting because they did a better job than judges.  Before the reports were published, the reporters checked with the judges.  Bacon’s scheme continued Coke’s reports up to 1619 when there was a hiatus in reporting until 1621.

This presentation outlines the origins of the nominate reporters and our own systems of law reporting.  But many of them are still in manuscript form.  As the summary of Professor Baker’s presentation states, “Law reporting was to remain a matter of private initiative until the end of the eighteenth century, and many of the best reports…have still not been published.  Anyone seeking to trace the evolution of a legal doctrine or practice before about 1700 must regard manuscript reports as an essential recourse.”