Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Foreign Real Estate

I just returned from a vacation in Mexico and have been contemplating (daydreaming) about owning a piece of paradise. Our resort was pushing timeshares as one way to accomplish this twist on the American dream. Being a law librarian, I wanted to investigate the legalities of owning foreign real estate before getting too excited.

I found a 2014 Forbes article specifically mentioning challenges associated with acquiring land in Mexico:

Buying a timeshare in a foreign country presents special challenges. In Mexico, for example, foreigners are not allowed to hold the direct title to property within 30 miles of the coast and 60 miles of international borders. They are limited to “right to use” timeshares.  (There is pending legislation in the Mexican Congress that may change that in the near future.) 

Renee Rastorfer reminded me about GlobaLex  when I ran into difficulties trying to determine if that legislation had passed. Unfortunately, I was still not able to locate an update. Not being fluent in the language can really slow down your research.
The Global CRE Guide is user friendly with an interactive map, but Mexico is not available as an option at this time. Each available country has a section that details any restrictions on foreign ownership, among other useful sections. For instance, according to the website, Italy has a reciprocity restriction where citizens of countries in which Italian citizens are not allowed to buy properties may not buy property in Italy. If the buyer sets up an Italian special purpose vehicle (SPV), then property may be acquired.

Not one to forget about print resources, I found a great resource in our catalog, Cross Border Real Estate Practice (K736 S45 2012). This book addresses many issues that need to be considered when purchasing foreign real estate, which we usually do not think about, such as differences between informal vs. formal cultures and rigid-time vs. fluid-time cultures.

It's easy to get caught up in the moment, but buying foreign real estate is a decision that should not be made without considerable time and effort researching the specifics for the country, and is probably best left for when you return home - not while you are still on vacation.

While we're fantasizing, take a look at these castles for sale!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New United Nations iLibrary

My inbox received several notices over the last couple of days about the launch of the new United Nations iLibrary, publicized as “the first comprehensive global search, discovery, and dissemination platform for digital content created by the United Nations.” The basic facts are that the iLibrary now provides researchers with a single online destination for accessing products created by the United Nations Secretariat in a manner that claims to be more intuitive.

I set out to test the “intuitive” claim by searching for material created by the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees on handling refugee status claims. I came up empty-handed after four searches (various configurations of the terms refugee, status, and appeals). When I came up with no relevant results, I went on to read the iLibrary’s “about” page which informed me that 500 new titles are planned to be added every year, approximately 70% of which will be in English and will cover, inter alia, the following topic – “human rights and refugees” – so good to remember that this is a work in progress and to check the “about” page before launching a search. Topics covered at present include economic and social development, international law and governance, environment and urban issues, human rights and gender studies, international trade, public health and population, statistics, international peace and security, and United Nations matters.

I tried another search that I was pretty sure would call back results (terrorism in the title) and I did get back a range of documents spanning November 2008 to March 2013, so another point to keep in mind, the iLibrary does not at present go back very far. As you may have surmised, there is an advance search option which permits searching by title, author, isbn/issn/doi, title and abstract as well as the old faithful full-text.

My results also came back with two options for viewing – pdf and “read.” Everyone has access to the “read” option but one has access to the “pdf” option only if one subscribes to the iLibrary, which costs approximately $12,500. That was surprising to me because I have always thought that one of the missions of the United Nations was to make information freely available to people in all sorts of conditions across the globe. I suppose it does with the “read” option, which displays on a platform supplied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, but still, what if you want to download?

In sum, as of today, if you know what United Nations document you are looking for, it will still be more efficient to go to the appropriate committee or court website, but I will definitely use this as a secondary place to search for potentially relevant United Nations documents.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Free Websites for Massachusetts Primary Law

Whether you are a new solo practitioner trying to save money, someone trying to represent themselves in court, or simply interested in the law there are a lot of places you can find Massachusetts law online for free.

Massachusetts General Court

The Massachusetts legislature’s website provides access to online versions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the General Laws of Massachusetts (the current legal code), and the Acts and Resolves (session laws from 1997 to present).  The Constitution is one continuous webpage (use control-f to search).  The General Laws are browsable through a series of expanding menus and also have a simple keyword search function.  The Acts and Resolves are searchable by keyword, chapter, or year and are also browsable by year.

State Library of Massachusetts

The State Library of Massachusetts has a wealth of historical legal materials in it’s online archive. This collection includes over 280 thousand titles which have been digitized and are freely available for download.  This website includes a search function which can be limited by community.  The archival materials can be browsed in several ways.  The default organization is by communities examples of which include Acts and Resolves and General Court.  Communities are then subdivided into sub-communities and collections.  Communities are browsable through a system of expanding menus. Notable collections include, Act and Resolves (session laws) from 1692 to 2010 and General Law Compilations (several versions of the Massachusetts code from 1822 to 1932).  The collection can also be browsed by date, author, title, and subject.

Massachusetts Trial Court Law Libraries

This website has links to Massachusetts law organized by source and subject.  The subjects include an A to Z list and links to statutes by popular name.  Sources include links to collections of primary law.  Massachusetts General Laws are available through the Massachusetts General Court website. Judicial opinions are covered with complete coverage of cases from the Supreme Judicial Court and Appeals Court from 1915 to date.  Cases decided since 2001 are searchable through limited access to LexisNexis (one of the top commercial legal databases).  Cases decided since 1938 are also searchable through a free legal database called Massachusetts Cases.  The Code of Massachusetts Regulations is available and can be browsed by regulation number or by subject. The site also has an executive orders page which includes orders issued since 1941. Finally local Bylaws and Ordinances from most Massachusetts communities are available here, however the page authors suggest one contact the communities directly for this information.  This website also includes forms for common legal issues (including instructions on how to use the form) and a self-help center which can help non-lawyers to understand legal issues and processes.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

WeCite Contest!

Casetext just launched the spring WeCite contest!

If you are not familiar with Casetext you should be, since it is a free crowdsourced legal research tool and online community that’s used to discover and share legal knowledge. Casetext is gaining traction among the legal community. Check out one of our earlier blog postings on Casetext for more information.

What is WeCite?

WeCite is the free crowdsourced citator launched by Casetext. If you haven't heard, last semester over 1,000 law students from all over the country have participated and so far they have created 250,000 cites! This gamified project is a community effort to explain the relationship between judicial cases with the goal of making the law free and understandable.

Any law student can participate to:
  • Earn prizes: There are tons of prizes, from free t-shirts to free textbooks. You’ll even get a $5 gift card for doing your first WeCite
  • Learn about the law: As you play, you’ll be practicing reading cases and understanding how judicial opinions relate to each other.
  • Help build a free resource: By playing, you’re contributing to a free legal resource that you can use while in school and, in the future, as a lawyer.
  • Get recognized: The WeCite leaderboard showcases law students who have made the biggest contributions, both individually and by school. If Western New England wins, Casetext will treat us to a party funded completely by them. Plus, bragging rights :)

Who knew that creating citator entries could be so addictive and have pedagogical value at the same time!

Just go to, create an account, and start WeCiting. Take a look at the Leaderboard to see who is racking up the most points, and what law schools are participating.

Check out if you have any questions.