Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Foreign and International Legal Citations

Most everyone in the legal profession, at some point, has encountered a citation that is hard to decipher. Does the first day of law school ring a bell? Fortunately, we start to recognize at least a few citations as time goes on and we may even start to see a pattern. Then there are the ones that baffle even the best of us until we remember there are foreign and international legal citations out there. Maybe you think you are safe because you don't practice in those areas. Think again! Read a recent Supreme Court case, and there's an increasing chance that you will see a citation to foreign or international materials. There's been much debate about this topic thanks to a number of cases; maybe you've heard of Lawrence v. Texas If you have some extra time on your hands, take a look at this 2003 USA Today article to get you started.

This post is not really about whether Supreme Court justices SHOULD cite to foreign law, but the fact that they DO cite to foreign law means that WE in the legal community need to know how to decipher and cite to these sources.

If you're thinking, "Supreme Court justices are citing to foreign law, so should I," check out Rex D. Glensy's article, Which Countries Count? Lawrence v. Texas and the Selection of Foreign Persuasive Authority before you choose to cite to an obscure country whose laws hold little weight on our legal system. You also may find that citing to these sources is more acceptable for some areas of law than others, so do your research before you rely on them.

Most people turn to The Bluebook to answer all their citation questions, so it's an obvious place to start when you have an unidentifiable citation. It covers 43 foreign jurisdictions with varying degrees of information on each country. I like the list of internet sources at the end of each entry. Note: Some of these sources do not have English translations. Its coverage of international sources is more comprehensive and spans 25 pages.

Guide To Foreign and International Legal Citations, Second EditionYou can find the first edition of N.Y.U. Journal of International Law and Politics' Guide to Foreign and International Legal Citations (formerly the International Citation Manual) online. Aspen published the second edition of this publication. This may be a better place to start for foreign sources. It covers 45 jurisdictions and includes a country profile that may aid in determining which countries will fare better as persuasive authorities. It devotes less space to international sources.

 A more likely scenario is that you have a citation you are trying to decipher. Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations allows you to search by abbreviation or title for "English language legal publications, from the British Isles, the Commonwealth and the United States, including those covering international and comparative law. A wide selection of major foreign language law publications is also included. Publications from over 295 jurisdictions are featured in the Index."

 Do you have a citation to Canadian law that you are trying to figure out? McGill Law Journal's Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation has useful "general form" examples. I especially like the overview of these examples on the inside front cover.

These are just a few of the many manuals to guide you in citing foreign and international sources, but they should be more than enough to boost your confidence the next time you come face to face with one of these citations.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

You know your rights, but can you pass the citizenship test?

We just finished the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, but have you ever thought about your rights as a citizen of this country, beyond the right of the Second Amendment to be armed to the teeth, or as the Amendment is officially written: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

If you were not born in this country, then you must pass a test if you want to participate fully in this democracy. While some of the test questions are quite easy for those of us who grew up knowing that the 4th of July is Independence Day and George Washington is the father of the country, there are other questions on the test that some might find difficult. Here’s a few that might make you think for a little while.

1.      If both the President and Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
2.      Under our Constitution, some powers belong to the states. What are some of the powers of the states?
3.      There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe them.
4.      What are two responsibilities that are only for United States citizens?
5.      What are the two rights only for United States citizens?
6.      Which of the following states were not part of the original 13 states? Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, Florida.
7.      What did Susan B. Anthony do?
8.      Name the two longest rivers in the United States?
9.      What are the five United States territories?
10.  How many Amendments does the Constitution have?

Could you pass a test like this? Do you know who are the Senators for Massachusetts at this time? (Elizabeth Warren & William M. Cowan).

The answers to all these questions can be found in many places including the Gov Doc section of the Law Library on the 2nd floor by conference room 218 under Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test, Call No.:  HS 8.2 F61/2/2012.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bloomberg Law is Coming to Town

Bloomberg Law is being rolled out in Law Schools across the country. The more I get to know it – the more I like it. Since Bloomberg is coming to offer training here at the Law School next Monday and Tuesday, I thought it might be a good time to pick out some of my favorite things about this new kid on the legal research block.

I am going to start with features that appear on the opening page when I sign in to my academic account. I’m pretty sure this page is designed exclusively for the law school environment because there on the opening page is a section entitled “Law School Resources,” under which appears a section entitled “Career Insights.” There you will find sub-categories such as “Interviews, Networking and Job Search,” “Summer Employment,” and “Twenty Tips for Thriving as a Summer Intern.”  In the same  area,  there’s a link to a book entitled Thinking Like a Writer: A Lawyer’s Guide to Effective Writing and Editing by Stephen V. Armstrong and Timothy P. Terrell, which could be useful if one is debating between using “during the time that” as opposed to “while” and didn’t want to go look for Strunk and White.

Moving on to sections of more legal substance, I like that right there on the opening page is a section for “Secondary Sources,” and “Transactional Resources.” Under “Secondary Sources” one can get quick access to BNA Portfolios, highly prized in practice for their detailed information on technical topics. For example:  Tax Management Portfolio, Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates, No. 852-3rd, provides detailed coverage of the rules governing the income taxation of estates, trusts, and their beneficiaries.  Under “Transactional Resources” there’s a link for a resource called “Document Descriptions” which can jump start your quest to find out what a “bear hug letter” is. The description gives details on the characteristics, purpose, and key sections of the document. Then, to find an example, scroll to the top of the opening page under “Getting Started,” click into “DealMaker Documents,” scroll down to “bear hug letters” and hit search to get real life examples.  

I am not going to do justice to the depth and complexity of this resource but perhaps I have whet your curiosity? Bloomberg Law is not going to take the place of Westlaw or LexisNexis (yet). For example, it has nothing to compare to the annotated statutory codes found on both services. But it does make good use of freely available resources (like Pattern Jury Instructions – Federal Courts) and the sophisticated resources formerly available through BNA combined with the business sophistication of Bloomberg. It provides alternative access to federal dockets AND one gets access to documents found on a docket at no additional cost.* So no, it is not going to take the place of Westlaw or LexisNexis anytime soon but it sure is interesting.

*When looking at a docket list, if the number next to the document is in blue, it means the document has been requested before and will be instantaneously available. If the number is in green, that means no one has requested that document, but you can still request it and there will still be no additional charge