Law Research Tips

New Chinese legal research guides!

Over the summer, several guides to researching Chinese law were published.  The Chinese and American Forum on Law Libraries and Legal Information (CAFLL) compiled a list of links to about 30 web-based Chinese Legal Research Guides (PDF) in July 2014.  A new book by Paul Kossof on Chinese Legal Research (International Legal Research Series, Carolina Academic Press, 2014) is forthcoming in D’Angelo Law Library collection.  And the Law Library of Congress posted the following by Laney Zhang this August:

A Guide to Chinese Legal Research and Global Legal Collection Highlights: Official Publication of Chinese Law

“If you got a chance to read my previous posts on Chinese legal research, Who Makes What? and Administrative Regulations and Departmental Rules, you know that under China’s Law on Legislation, the National People’s Congress (NPC) and its standing committee make laws; the State Council makes administrative regulations; and the ministries and commissions under the State Council make departmental (administrative) rules….”

November is National American Indian Heritage Month

Since 1990, with the passage of P.L. 101-343, the U.S. has celebrated the contributions of Native Americans during the entire month of November.  The Law Library of Congress has published a blog post with links to related federal laws and information.  The D’Angelo Law Library also has several useful databases.  The  American Indian Law Collection (via HeinOnline) includes tribal constitutions, acts, by-laws, decisions, reports, treaties, and journal articles.  It also links to external resources such as the National Indian Law Library and its Tribal Law Gateway, Native American Rights Fund cases, and tribal law (PDF) and Federal Indian Law  (PDF) research guides.  The Law Library also provides access to the LexisNexis Native American Law Library and the LLMC Digital Native American Collection (click on “Multi-Jurisdiction Subject Collections”).

Fall Fest Follow-Up: Mobile Apps for Legal Research & News

Todd & Thomas at Fall FestWe want to thank everyone who came out for the D’Angelo Law Library Fall Fest a couple weeks ago. We had a great time, and we hope that you did, too. Many of you stopped by the “Don’t Worry, Be App-y” station in the second floor conference room, where among the trays of homemade goodies, we had three iPads loaded up with mobile apps for legal research and news. We now have an online research guide Mobile Apps for Legal Research & News, which lists all of the mobile apps we demonstrated at Fall Fest plus a whole bunch more. 

While there are great mobile apps from the usual suspects (Lexis, Westlaw, HeinOnline, Bloomberg BNA), I wanted to highlight one of my favorite apps that might be less well-known: Oyez Today. Brought to you by our friends up the road at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, the Oyez Today app provides the latest information and media on the current business of the Supreme Court of the United States, including abstracts for every case granted review, timely and searchable audio of oral arguments and transcripts, and up-to-date summaries of the Court’s most recent decisions including the Court’s full opinions. The oral arguments feature is especially cool, as you can skip around in the audio file, and the transcript will follow along with you. The Oyez Today app is available for iOS and Android devices.

If you don’t own a tablet, you can test drive an iPad from the TECHB@R, located on the first floor of the Regenstein Library. In addition to providing walk-up technology support for University of Chicago faculty, students, and staff, they also lend equipment, including iPads. They are available for eight hour periods, but make sure you return it on time because the fines are steep!

Finally, the University of Chicago is currently running a Mobile App Challenge with a grand prize of $10,000 – no programming knowledge required. The challenge runs over three quarters, and the first deadline is December 7. If you have an idea for a great mobile app, there is a workshop coming up at the TECHB@R on Monday, November 5, at noon, to help you with your entry.

Redesigned! The Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations

Check out the new Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations page!  The redesign makes it easier to search for the full title of a law publication if you have an unknown abbreviation.   For example, if you were looking for the UK Pinochet Case at [2000] 1 AC 147 and did not know what “AC” stood for, you could enter it into the Cardiff Index and find out “AC” = Law Reports, Appeal Cases.  If you have a title of a law publication, you can also search the Cardiff Index to find possible abbreviations for it.  If you haven’t used the Cardiff Index before, here’s a description:

“This database allows you to search for the meaning of abbreviations 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.”

New Hinton Moot Court resource guide

Are you participating in this year’s Hinton Moot Court Competition? If so, you may want to consult the Law Library’s new Hinton Moot Court resource guide. It contains a list of books about appellate advocacy, as well as links to where you can find transcripts and audio recordings of oral arguments made before the U.S. Supreme Court. Incidentally, the Supreme Court has just posted transcripts from today’s arguments in Lafler v. Cooper and Missouri v. Frye, mere hours after the arguments took place. Isn’t technology amazing?

CALI offers free Federal Rules e-books

The Center for Computer Assisted Legal Research (CALI) and the Legal Information Institute (LII) at Cornell Law School have partnered to published electronic book versions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.  The e-books are available in .epub format and compatible with ipads and other e-readers.  If you prefer to use these e-books on your PC or Mac, CALI and LII recommend downloading the EPUBReader Add-On for Firefox.  The Legal Information Institute also publishes web versions of these federal rules along with the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure and the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure

Global legal research

Avenue of Flags at the UN Building - photo

Avenue of Flags at the UN Building (CC photo by munksynz)

When you’re reading world news sources, sometimes you find out that there’s a new constitution, abortion law, or penal code for a country.  Frustratingly, there’s usually no link to the full text of the law. So, how do you get a copy?

JURIST’s World Legal News links to documents about which it reports. So does the Law Library of Congress’ Global Legal Monitor. You can also go directly to the source – relevant government body promulgating the law.  You can search our Law Library subscription databases such as iSinoLaw, ChinaLawInfo – LawInfoChina, Manupatra (India), Constitutions of the Countries of the World, and vLex (over 100 countries, especially Spanish-speaking).  If you are at a loss as to how to obtain a copy of the law, you can use legal research guides.

Reynolds & Flores’ Foreign Law Guide is one of the best sources for locating primary legal resources for a great number of  jurisdictions.  It’s a subscription database which helps you find the texts of laws worldwide.  

New York University’s Globalex is a free, award-winning guide to researching foreign, comparative, and international law.  It covers over 100 foreign jurisdictions such as Australia, Brazil, Egypt, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and South Africa.  In the comparative law research section, Globalex has a guide to researching foreign law by subject, and guides to researching canon law, religious legal systems, comparative civil procedure, and international and comparative family law.  It also links to my guide on researching comparative criminal procedure (2007)(see updated 2011  guides here and here), and Teresa Miguel‘s guide to researching the law of Latin America.  

Globalex’ international law research section has guides to researching the law of the African Union, Council of Europe, European Union, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization (WTO/GATT).  It also has helpful guides on general topical areas such as refugee law, health law, sports law, environmental law, intellectual property, human rights, and international commercial law, and specialized areas such as human trafficking, the Kyoto Protocol, and indigenous people.

Researching the legal past online

The Law Library’s guide to American Legal History Sources Online includes links to a wide variety of primary and secondary sources on American law and American history, mostly from the 18th and 19th centuries.  The Legal History:  Sources guide has a section on Roman Law and full-text sources such as Statutes of the Realm (laws of England from 1235-1713), The Making of Modern Law:  Trials, 1600-1926, The Making of Modern Law:  Legal Treatises, 1800-1926 (American and British law books), and U.S. Supreme Court Briefs and Records (1832-1978).  University researchers now have access to Gale/Cengage’s The Making of Modern Law:  Primary Sources content expanded from 1620 to 1970.  The LLMC Digital database includes historical legal documents from U.S. and foreign jurisdictions,  including a growing collection for British Africa.

The Legal Classics library via HeinOnline goes from Pierino Belli’s 1563 Treatise on Military Matters and Warfare [De Re Militari et Bello Tractatus] , Hugo Grotius’ 1604 Commentary on the Law of Prize and Booty [De Jure Praedae Commentarius]  to Chester James Antieau’s 2001 Our Two Centuries of Law and Life 1775-1975 – The Work of the Supreme Court and the Impact of Both Congress and Presidents .   World Constitutions Illustrated is very useful for locating historical constitutions from all countries.  Also now available via HeinOnline is one of the Law Library’s newest subscription databases, the History of International Law library.  This database features classic works on international law by Vattel, Grotius, Pufendorf, Bijnkershoek, Vitoria, and Gentili. 

Photo of Cornelis van Bijnkershoek sculpture at the Hoge Raad

Cornelis van Bijnkershoek (sculpture by Albert Termote; photo by Lyonette Louis-Jacques)

General resources can have legal history content.  For example, the Bibliothèque National de France’s Gallica digital library includes ebooks on the history of French law and justiceEarly Dutch Books Online has some law-related titles.  The Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes has constitution-related e-content.  Broad databases such as Gale’s Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Chadwyck-Healey’s Early English Books Online (EEBO)(1473-1700)  include old law books.  

Other collections of historical legal texts online are PixeLegis (Spain), Ius Lusitaniae – Fontes Históricas do Direito Português , the Biblioteca Jurídica Virtual (Mexico), and the Portal Iberoamericano de Historia del Derecho (PIHD).

To keep up with new resources and news, monitor the Legal History Blog , Yale Law Library’s Rare Books Blog, the Rechtsgeschiednis Blog, and check our guides and others such as Oxford’s Legal History:  Common Law Tradition and Texas Tarlton Law Library’s legal history research guides.  Berkeley’s Robbins Collection also includes educational exhibits and guides such as Roman Legal Tradition and the Compilation of Justinian.


New Resource for 50 State Legal Research

From the Georgia University School of Law Library comes this excellent survey of resources available on the web for state legal resarch: Fantastic Facts About the 50 States: Websites for State Legal Research, 

The gee-whizzy title belies the excellent content of this resource, which gathers in one place URLs for the major multistate resources (Justia, LII, LLRX) and links to state statutes and administrative codes on the web.  Just in time for summer clerkships, this resource will provide you with information as to what legal resources are freely available on the web for your jurisdiction.  Check it out!

HT to the Law Librarian Blog

Using HathiTrust for legal research

screenshot of LensThe HathiTrust Digital Library is a digital preservation repository and access platform for public domain and in copyright content from a variety of sources, including Google, the Internet Archive, Microsoft, and in-house partner institution initiatives. It currently includes 8,660,577 total volumes, with additional titles being added daily. For items in the public domain , users are free to copy, use, and redistribute the work in part or in whole.

HathiTrust includes many primary legal materials and government documents, which are available as full-text PDFs since they are in the public domain. Among the materials available via HathiTrust are court opinions, legislative journals (floor debates), administrative decisions from various government agencies, and other government publications such as the Uniform Crime Reports. Using HathiTrust, I have located several obscure government publications that are held by five or fewer libraries. Even a year ago, the only way to get access to these titles would be through interlibrary loan. Since University of Chicago is a member library, our users can download full PDFs of public domain works. You will just need to log in with your CNetID and password.

The easiest way to locate HathiTrust e-books is to search for the title in Lens.  If a book is available from HathiTrust, an icon will appear in the record like in the example above. You can also search HathiTrust directly. Their search interface allows Boolean searching (AND, OR, and NOT) in both the catalog and the full text of the entire library. While there is no full text access to material that is under copyright, the full text can still be searched, allowing users to see how many times and on what pages a certain word or phrase appears in a particular title. HathiTrust also gives users the option of creating their own “private collection,” the full text of which can be searched as a whole.

The metadata and display is not always perfect, but HathiTrust welcomes feedback from users who find problem pages or have other comments on the service.