Photo by _Skender_
Those who read our previous post about Iceland’s use of crowdsourcing to allow citizens to have an input on the country’s new constitution will be interested to know that the process has proved successful. Last Saturday, Iceland held a referendum to ask the citizens 6 questions about the new constitution and, with almost half the eligible voters participating, nearly two thirds voted in favor of adopting the Constitutional Council’s proposals. The next step in the process will be a putting a bill for the new constitution before Iceland’s Parliament, which could happen as quickly as two weeks from now.
If you want to learn more about this process, you can start by reading the current Constitution of the Republic of Iceland on the government’s website and follow this up by reading the full text of the proposal from the Constitutional Council. For further analysis of the proposal, read this report by the Comparative Constitutions Project, which compares it to both the current constitution of Iceland and other constitutions from around the world.
Small gems are often hidden within large collections and this summer we were lucky enough to come across just such a gem– a slender volume bound in limp vellum with faded Spanish manuscript scrawled across the front. It surprised and delighted us and seemed to have “something for everyone.” The outer binding alone is intriguing to look at, the front covered with just barely legible manuscript in Spanish, and the covers neatly fastened with tiny beaded toggles. Upon opening it, one is immediately dazzled by the gleaming floral “Dutch gilt”paper pastedowns and endpapers.
Toggle closure & back cover
Dutch gilt paper lining the front opening
The 52-page text, Exámen sucinto sobre los antiguos límites de la Acadia y sobre las estipulaciones del Tratado de Utrecht relativas à ellos is a Spanish translation of the 1755 French work Discussion sommaire sur les anciennes limites de l’Acadie … and the two are printed in side-by-side columns. This anonymous work is generally attributed to Mathieu François Pidanzat de Mairobert (1727-1779), a member of a French literary society who wrote on a wide variety of topics.
Title page with manuscript commentary
Following the provisions of the multi-faceted Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 France ceded Acadia (most of modern-day Nova Scotia) to Great Britain, but relations between the two nations remained uneasy –as Mairobert’s treatise attests. Under the printed title of this copy, a note in Spanish points out that the dispute over Acadia was ended in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris and also mentions the secret November 1762 Treaty of Fontainebleau in which France ceded Louisiana to Spain.
Finally, folded at the end of this slim volume, is an intriguing map of eastern North America showing historical claims to Acadia and the eastern portion of present-day New Brunswick from 1621 to 1750, referred to in Mairobert’s text. The title Mapa de una parte de la America Septentrional uses the old term “septentrional” meaning “of the north.” This term is derived from an ancient reference to the seven stars of the Big Dipper, used by navigators to find the North Star, and subsequently the name for North America that appears on many early maps.
Map at the end, unfolded, showing Acadia
Creative Commons Photo by klabusta
While many legal researchers spend much of their time using expensive subscription databases, an ever increasing amount of legal research information is freely available online. This is particularly true for government documents as many governments around the world, including the U.S. government begin to place a higher priority on making legislative documents freely available to citizens. But, it is also true of secondary sources, local government documents, international law materials and data sets.
The Library has prepared a new research guide that highlights some of the best and most useful freely available resources in each of these areas. Whether you are a graduating student who is looking for free resources to continue your research at your new job or are just looking for government information from any source, this guide will show you where to find information without using an expensive database. Check back frequently, because we will add more resources on an ongoing basis to keep the guide up-to-date on the best free legal resources on the internet.
The Law Library now has access to a new database, CLJLaw. This database provides access to primary and secondary legal materials from Malaysia. The main focus of the database is the primary law of Malaysia, including full text of selected legislative materials, court rules and case law. The included citator also makes it easy to collect all of the cases that refer to a particular case with the click of a button. CLJLaw also offers access to selected treaties to which Malaysia is a signatory going back as far as 1910 and secondary sources, including journal articles, legal dictionaries and translators, and practice note materials. Patrons wishing to use this resource should stop by the reference desk during our normal hours.
The Law Library has purchased access to two new e-resources: Chancery Law Chronicles, which provides access to Bangladesh’s case law and Lexis Nexis South Africa, which provides access to legal materials from Ghana. Chancery Law Chronicles is the first online database to provide access to Bangladeshi case law. It currently offers access to Appellate and High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh since 1972. In addition to case law, it also includes several dictionaries related to legal practice and some statutes, though statutes are not yet searchable. The database remains under development with plans to offer access to additional legal documents in the future. Our other new e-resource, Lexis Nexis South Africa, is a valuable resource for students interested in researching the Ghana legal system. It provides access to law reports from Ghana as well as the constitution and laws of the country. To access either of these databases, ask a librarian at the reference desk for assistance during normal reference hours.
On November 26, 2010, the Supreme People’s Court of China promulgated a new provision stating that the Court would release selected cases as part of a new category of “guiding cases”. It was intended that other courts would refer to these “guiding cases” when deciding similarly situated cases. While not exactly equivalent to binding precedent, many legal practitioners who follow Chinese law believe that these cases will be given similar weight in future cases.
Last week, Stanford Law School initiated a program called the China Guiding Cases Project to collect and provide online access to both Chinese-language and English-language versions of these cases promptly after their release. The goal of the project according to its website is “to advance knowledge and understanding of Chinese law and to enable judges and legal experts both inside and outside of China to contribute to the evolution of Chinese case law through ongoing dialogue on “guiding cases” (指导性案例) released by China’s Supreme People’s Court”. Currently the site provides access to the four guiding cases that have been released to date in both Chinese and English as well as Chinese and English versions of the original November 26, 2010 provision that announced the new concept of “guiding cases”. The project’s Why Guiding Cases Matter page also includes quotes from legal experts and judges on the importance of these “guiding cases” and the site will include additional expert commentary in the future. As new “guiding cases” are released, they will also be added to the website and there are plans in place to offer “Question and Answer” sessions in the future as well. The China Guiding Cases Project will be an important resource for anyone interested in keeping up with future developments in this new concept in Chinese law.
The law school recently purchased access to two new foreign law e-resources, Juta Law and Hukuk Türk. Juta Law covers both South Africa and Zimbabwe. For South African legal research, it includes the country’s Law Reports from 1947 to the present and Appellate Division Reports from 1910 to the present and also offers access to statutes and regulations. For Zimbabwe, it includes access to both case law and statutes. Hukuk Türk is a Turkish legal database with a range of legal resources including annotated case law, statutes, regulations, and decrees. In addition to these primary resources, it also provides access to an extensive legal bibliography of both books and articles from 1930 to 2000 (with additional items published more recently being added all the time) as well as Turkish legal news and a legal dictionary. All resources are provided in the original Turkish. Both of these resources can be accessed both on and off campus by current law school affiliates.
Photo of the Iceland Flag by biologyfishman
Social media has been taking the world by storm for a number of years, but not all governments have been quick to embrace it. Iceland, however, has been responsive to the opportunities that social media can offer, particularly as they write a new constitution. To foster public engagement as the new constitution is drafted, Iceland’s government has already taken steps to include the citizenry in the process by hosting a forum of 1,000 randomly chosen Icelanders, who offered their views on the new constitution. But, in an effort to be even more inclusive, the government has decided to make use of all the openness that social media and the internet can offer. To facilitate the process of crowdsourcing the new constitution, the government has created a website, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, a Flickr photostream and a YouTube channel to allow open communication between the government and the citizenry. The public is encouraged to participate in each step of the process. And, as a bonus, those of us outside Iceland can also follow the process online!
A draft of the constitution is expected to be available in July and will then be presented to the citizens through a referendum. Check out Iceland’s web presence and the media attention they have been getting during this process, including coverage in The Guardian, The Washington Post and USA Today.
Interested in finding out the latest news in Lithuania? Or are you more interested in seeing a selection of online newspapers from Iceland? Either way, Newspaper Map can help.
Newspaper Map is a website that offers access to over 10,000 online newspapers from around the world. Newspapers are shown as pins on a map of the world representing where they are published. Users can click on any pin to get information on a newspaper, including title, publication location, language, and thumbnail of the website. The service also translates each newspaper into a host of languages with a single click using Google Translate and makes it easy to share newspapers using Facebook or another social media applications. The website is always being updated and users can even contribute corrections or information about additional newspapers on the organization’s website.
In case all of this isn’t impressive enough, the website also offers search functionality and access to a selection of historical newspapers as well. And, they are currently rolling out a Beta version of their mobile application.
Judgmental is a new website that aims to make UK case law more accessible by offering it free online and in a format that can be indexed by search engines, including Google. Currently, the website includes cases from a number of UK courts and from two European courts, the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the European Communities, and coverage varies depending on the court. But, the number of cases available and the periods of coverage will likely increase in the future. For more information, you can also follow the creators on Twitter: @Judgmentals.