Legal Research & Research Skills • Et. Seq: The Harvard Law School Library Blog

Thoughts on Legal Citation

My relationship with the Bluebook goes back to when I was a first-year law student in 2004. There have been moments of love and moments of hate, but mostly, as someone who appreciates order, structure, and rules, love.

As a legal reference librarian, my interest in legal citation is more research-focused than anything.  There are few things that make my heart soar more than a work of legal scholarship that includes carefully drafted and correct citations to the sources referenced so that readers can find those sources with minimum pain and maximum efficiency.

However, legal citation has several purposes beyond just making it easier for researchers to find stuff.  “Citation Literacy” is a fascinating new article in the Arkansas Law Review by Professor Alexa Z. Chew of UNC Law School.  In the article, Professor Chew discusses four “communicative purposes” of legal citation: “(1) to locate the cited source … , (2) to communicate information to the reader about the weight of the cited authority … , (3) to demonstrate the writer’s credibility … and (4) to avoid plagiarism through proper attribution.” (pages 879-880)

Professor Chew also discusses what she calls the “untaught skill of reading citations.”  (page 890)  By removing citation information from cases in casebooks read by U.S. law students, she argues, the “dominant message sent by the first-year law school curriculum about legal citation” is that providing support for statements of law is either unimportant, optional, or both.  (pages 891-892)

Additionally, Professor Chew contends that, when law students read cases that do not include citations, they are not learning the skill of reading cases holistically.  This is not ideal, according to Professor Chew, because “understanding a case’s citations and how the information they encode informs the surrounding text is an essential part of reading a case in the first place.”  (page 895)

I was glad that Professor Chew also discussed the impact of learning legal citation on foreign-trained lawyers who are studying the U.S. legal system.  This part of the article made me re-think this issue myself.  When I taught substantive U.S. law classes in Germany last year, I gave them versions of cases that I had edited myself.  I also, for the sake of brevity, removed citations from those cases.

Looking back, I wish I had done more with Bluebook and legal citation with my German students.  I believe it would have helped them understand our legal system better, and it also would have helped them with their future forays into the world of U.S. legal research.

Speaking of teaching legal citation to non-U.S. law students, I maintain our library’s Bluebook Citation Guide for LL.M. Students.  After reading Professor Chew’s article, this guide seems, perhaps, overly procedural in nature.  I am now considering adding a section about why citation is important, and citing Professor Chew’s article in it.

My own experience as a foreign student contributes to my thinking on this issue as well.  Germany does not have an equivalent to the Bluebook citation system, or really any standardized system of legal citation at all as far as I know.  When I was writing my LL.M. thesis in Germany earlier this year, I was given a 4-page handout by my faculty supervisor, with examples about how to cite sources in the footnotes and in the bibliography (Literaturverzeichnis).  I did my best to follow the protocol, but I’m still not sure if I got everything right.

Below is a picture of footnotes 49-52 from my German LL.M. thesis:

The sources cited here are, in order: an article from the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz), a Federal Constitutional Court decision, a scholarly commentary on the Basic Law, and a U.S. law review article.

(Of course I did not notice until this very moment that footnote 49 should end in a period and not a semi-colon.  I guess I know now for sure that I did not get everything right.)

In these and all the footnotes in my thesis, author-written works are basically cited in a shortened format because full-length citations are provided in the bibliography.  Here is the bibliography entry for the Eberle article cited in footnotes 51 and 52:

I was told by people who read my thesis that my use of footnotes and citation was, perhaps, more extensive than is the norm in German legal scholarship.  But they knew that I am trained in U.S. law, and that I have spent years reading U.S. law review articles, which are heavily annotated compared to German legal periodicals, so it was understandable.

Anyway, I am very pleased to have seen an article in the legal literature about citation, and I hope this is a trend that continues.  I agree with Professor Chew that this is an important area of legal education that, perhaps, should be considered in a different light than it has been in the past.

Finally, I would like to briefly mention a new citation guide that we recently received in the HLS Library collection:

Global Arbitration Review’s UCIA – Universal Citation in International Arbitration
General Editor, Stephen Anway ; Assistant Editors, Alexis Martinez and Jonathan Allen
Published in 2018 by Law Business Research Ltd.
ISBN 9781912377299
Hollis Catalog Record

This is a guide to the developing convention on style and citation that is used by practitioners in the field of international arbitration.  It is “intended for use in all writings related to international arbitration – from memorials to awards, from scholarly articles to student briefs.”  (Editor’s Preface)  And, mercifully, it is much shorter than the Bluebook.

 

 

 

 

Spotlight on Recently-Published Titles on African Constitutionalism

Several recently-published books on African constitutionalism in our collection caught my eye this week. I admit that I don’t really know much about this topic, but it strikes me as massive, likely made up of many varying and diverse philosophies and viewpoints. So I was interested in exploring its recent scholarly treatment.

In this post, I will focus on the two books that are part of a new Oxford University Press series, the Stellenbosch Handbooks in African Constitutional Law.  This series, edited by Professor Charles Manga Fombad of the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, is “designed to avoid a mere repetition of the now well-rehearsed concerns and doubts about constitutionalism on the continent and instead to identify, analyse, and promote serious discussion on the critical issues that can shape, refine, and deepen the strides being taken towards consolidating constitutionalism in Africa.”

The first book in the series, Separation of Powers in African Constitutionalism (ISBN: 9780198759799), was published in 2016.

Part I of the book contains two extremely helpful and informative introductory chapters, both written by Professor Fombad.  The first chapter offers a historical overview to African constitutionalism that catalogs and explains its many influences, including colonialism (accompanied by the implementation of common law and civil law legal systems), political ideologies (democracy, socialism), religion, and indigenous institutions.  It also includes illustrative examples from the constitutions of several jurisdictions, including Cape Verde, South Africa, Tunisia, Egypt, Burundi, Zambia, Botswana, Malawi, Cameroon, and many others.  It concludes with a discussion of the influence of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which later became the African Union, and the adoption of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.  Chapter two provides a general overview of how the concept of the separation of powers manifests itself in African constitutions, as influenced by the American presidential system, the British parliamentary system, and the French “hybrid” system.

Part II of the book includes chapters that focus more narrowly, either on a specific issue related to the separation of powers (such as power sharing between the branches, the role of the judicial branch, and government accountability), or on a specific jurisdiction (Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Namibia) or group of related jurisdictions (Lusophone, Francophone, and Anglophone Africa).  Part II focuses bit more heavily on sub-Saharan Africa than Part I, but it still provides an extensive analysis of the jurisdictions that are covered.

The second book in this series, Constitutional Adjudication in Africa (ISBN: 9780198810216), was published in 2017.

As with the first book in the series, Professor Fombad provides a very helpful introductory chapter that provides an overview of constitutional review in Africa.  He begins by distinguishing between the “decentralized” and “centralized” models of constitutional review.  According to Professor Fombad, under the decentralized view, as explained in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Marbury v. Madison, “constitutional matters are dealt with by ordinary courts during normal proceedings.”  (p. 20) By contrast, the centralized model, as developed in Europe by Hans Kelsen, features constitutional adjudication that is “carried out by a centralized, often specialized, tribunal established independently outside the judicial branch during special proceedings.” (p. 21)  The chapter then discusses how these models have been employed and adapted in African jurisdictions, providing, as a means of illustration, a comparative study of judicial review in Benin and South Africa.  The chapter concludes with information about access to and remedies provided by courts in African jurisdictions that have jurisdiction over constitutional matters.

This introductory chapter is followed by several chapters that focus on constitutional jurisprudence in specific African jurisdictions, including Benin, Cameroon, Angola, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Ethiopia.  There are also chapters discussing the impact of transjudicialism on constitutional adjudication, including the effects of international law norms and the work of regional and sub-regional courts in Africa.

Another chapter expands on the influence of Ubuntu (“the belief that the well-being of the individual and that of the community are inextricably linked – that one cannot exist without the other … (and that) the well being of the community is inextricably linked to a harmonious relationship with both its ancestors and with nature” (p. 294)) on constitutional adjudication in Africa.

Finally, Professor Fombad’s conclusion explores the further development of constitutional justice in Africa in the future.

As with the first book in the series, the focus here seems to rest on sub-Saharan African countries.  However, these two books provide an excellent broad introduction to this topic.  The content of these books is extensively annotated, providing citations to many other books and articles that researchers can use to perform a deeper dive into this subject.  Both books also include tables of cases and legislation.

I am glad that Oxford University Press is publishing this series, and I am looking forward to exploring its future volumes as they are released.

Note:
To explore other books in our collection related to African Constitutionalism, click here to search the HOLLIS library catalog by this subject.

Thoughts on Library Research Guides

Since I came back to the law library from my professional development leave, I have been looking at and thinking about the research guides I have written here.  (You can view the list of them.)  I was never formally trained on writing research guides.  I learned a little bit about them, conceptually, in library school, but mainly I have developed my own process and style by just doing them.

I think my philosophy about research guides has changed a little over the years.  In the past, I thought that bigger is definitely better.  Certainly the guides that I have done for German Law Research and Alternative Dispute Resolution Research are quite broad in terms of the number of topics covered and number of resources referenced.  Those guides generate a lot of interest in terms of traffic and hits, not just from Harvard but from all over the world.  People clearly find them helpful on some level.

However, I seem to be shifting a bit toward preferring to write smaller guides on narrower topics.  Like every librarian, I have a unique set of interests, strengths, and favored research techniques, and I think my guides should reflect those.

I am also thinking about how to maximize the utility of the guides that I write for Harvard Library users.  The Harvard Library has over 17 million volumes across all its libraries’ collections.  That’s a lot!  Many of the physical books and journals in the collection are stored off-site and cannot be physically browsed on the Harvard campus by library users.

In addition, our library catalog, HOLLIS, has been evolving over the last few years, as are catalogs at other academic libraries.  What I’ve been hearing about user feedback related to academic library catalogs is that people want a one-stop shop that delivers books and periodical articles, with a Google-like single-box search interface.  Of course a catalog that is set up like this makes quick searches easier.  However, it also might make it more difficult to dive deeply into a very nuanced scholarly topic, to maximize the relevancy of search results, and to find all the relevant materials in the collection, especially if users do not know very much about advanced searching.

The bottom line for me: I think it’s important to help library users where they are, and where many of them are is online, maybe even on their phone, looking for the fastest and easiest way to find the exact library materials they need.  And who can blame them for that?  If research is arduous and frustrating, then it’s not fun.  As someone who loves research, I hate the thought of that!

So the last two guides I have written for the law library have been very much of a “niche” variety.  For each of these guides, I took a smaller topic and wrote a guide describing, on a single web page with lots of links, the best options that I know to use to research it.

One of these new guides, Organized Crime in Italy, was written after I worked with a student who is doing some research in this area.  I have to admit I am more than a little fascinated with this topic.  I also wanted the opportunity to practice working with Italian-language resources.  Of course, in writing this guide, I am not doing the student’s research for her, but I am suggesting options that are available to her, based on my experience as a researcher here at Harvard.

The other guide I wrote recently is Resistance to the National Socialist Government in Germany.  This was also in created in response to a research area in which one of our users is interested.  As the library’s expert in German law, and because the Harvard Library has so many relevant materials on this subject, this was too important a guide for me not to spend my time on.

As for the contents of the guides themselves, anyone who looks at my guides will see immediately how much I love Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) as an indexing instrument.  I always include links to pre-populated HOLLIS searches by subject, using controlled LCSH vocabulary, in my guides.  This is the surest way I know to find relevant books on a subject, regardless of publication language.

Writing a research guide is, in my experience as a research librarian, the best and most rewarding way to learn about a topic and about optimal research techniques.  But it is definitely more important that a guide is readable and useful to the researchers who are looking for help on how research should be done at your library.  Going forward, I will continue to work toward that as my primary goal.

Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition

Interested in rare books, legal history or legal archives?

The Legal History and Rare Books (LH&RB) Section of the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), in cooperation with Cengage Learning, announces the Tenth Annual Morris L. Cohen Student Essay Competition. The competition is named in honor of Morris L. Cohen, late Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School.

The competition is designed to encourage scholarship and to acquaint students with the AALL and law librarianship, and is open to students currently enrolled in accredited graduate programs in library science, law, history, and related fields. Essays may be on any topic related to legal history, rare law books, or legal archives. The winner will receive a $500.00 prize from Cengage Learning and up to $1,000 for expenses to attend the AALL Annual Meeting.

Winning and runner-up entries will be invited to submit their entries to Unbound, the official journal of LH&RB. Past winning essays have gone on to be accepted by journals such as N.Y.U. Law Review, American Journal of Legal History, University of South Florida Law Review, William & Mary Journal of Women and the Law, Yale Journal of Law & the Humanities, and French Historical Review.

The entry form and instructions are available at the LH&RB website. Entries must be submitted by 11:59 p.m., April 16, 2018 (EDT).

Bluebook drop-in sessions available in April!

HLS students, do you have bluebook questions? If so, the library is here to help you. We will be holding bluebook drop-in sessions beginning Monday, April 3rd and running through Wednesday, April 26th.

Drop-in sessions will be held in Room 524 of the library (5th floor conference room), from 12-1pm on the following dates:

Monday, April 3rd
Wednesday, April 5th
Friday, April 7th
Monday, April 10th
Wednesday, April 12th
Friday, April 14th
Monday, April 17th
Monday, April 24th
Wednesday, April 26th

If you have bluebook questions, but these times are inconvenient, you can also schedule an appointment by filling out the request to meet with us on our Ask a Librarian page, and noting that it is for a bluebook consultation: .

Please bring your laptop with you to the drop-in sessions or a scheduled session so we can work on your questions, on your paper, in real-time.

Canadian Law Research in HeinOnline

Most people know that the HeinOnline subscription database is a great source of legal research materials from all over the world.  HeinOnline’s collection of legal primary and secondary sources from Canada is especially strong, and it is growing all the time.

JustinIn addition to the Canada Supreme Court Reports (date coverage: 1876-2016) and the Revised Statutes of Canada (all six revisions, from 1886 through 1985), Hein recently added a new library: Provincial Statutes of Canada.

Hein describes this new library as follows:

“The Provincial Statutes of Canada contain public and private acts passed by Canadian provincial governments. Current, revised, and historical content is available for Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Ontario. Historical and revised content only is available for Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Saskatchewan.”

HeinOnline also has a collection of more than 100 Canadian law journals. To access this collection from the HeinOnline homepage, click Law Journal Library > Country > Canada.

In addition to HeinOnline, the Law Library also subscribes to QuickLaw: LexisNexis Canada. This source provides access to Canadian court cases, legislation, journal articles, commentary, and more.

If you would like to read more the intricacies of Canadian legal research, the 4th edition of The Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research, edited by Nancy McCormick, was published in 2015.

Photo Credit: Justin Trudeau, the leader of Canada’s Liberal Party, was sworn in as the country’s 23rd Prime Minister on November 4, 2015. This photo was taken during a debate in Toronto on February 16, 2013 by Adam Scotti.  https://flic.kr/p/dW2m9a.

Activist Research Guide – New!

Want to learn about research resources for activists? If you were unable to attend our Research Boot Camp this week, you can still learn more with our new Activist Research Guide.

This guide will help you to evaluate information sources, get daily newsletters, reports or briefings on issues you care about, research from anywhere – even under adverse conditions, find executive and presidential documents, locate and engage with administrative materials and regulations, find the best contacts for your legislators, and maximize your impact as a force for social and political change. See our guide at and please contact me, AJ Blechner, directly if you have any feedback.

The Library has many other guides on various topics of legal research. Let us know if you have any suggestions for others.

This week: Research Boot Camp for Activists

work bootsCompelled to get involved in advocating for political and social change? Just want to stay current on the issues that matter to you?

With many people feeling a sense of urgency to participate in activism, the HLS Library is offering a Research Boot Camp for Activists. This workshop will give you research tools and tips to maximize your effectiveness on the ground as an advocate.

In our first session, Thursday, February 2, 5:00-6:00pm, learn to evaluate sources for validity, learn to research from anywhere, and learn how to find current congressional information including how to contact the staff of elected representatives.

In our second session, Friday, February 3, 1:30-2:30pm, you will learn how to find executive orders and presidential documents, regulations and administrative information, and get an introduction to asylum research.

Both sessions will meet in the Library Computer Lab. Feel free to come to either one or both. Computers are available, but feel free to bring your laptop if you prefer. Can’t make it? Stay tuned and we’ll be sharing our accompanying research guide.

Thanks to the Dean of Students Office for co-sponsoring this event with us.

Note: this post was updated to reflect our new time for Friday’s workshop.

Another Option for Finding Library Materials by Subject

I have written before in this blog about using the Hollis library catalog to find materials in the law library by subject.

Specifically, I find the Hollis catalog’s hyperlinked Library of Congress (LC) Subject Headings to be a great way to discover what the libraries at Harvard have on a particular topic, especially if I’m looking for materials in multiple languages.

I recently learned more about a subject-based classification system that is used in many German academic libraries, the Regensburger Verbundklassifikation (RVK) system. This system was developed by the library at the University of Regensburg in the 1960s.

As with LC Call Numbers, the RVK system assigns letters to subjects. However, where law books are given a call number that starts with “K” under the LC system, the RVK system uses the letter “P” for call numbers for legal materials.

There is a wonderful RVK directory and search engine that is freely available through the internet: RVK Online. Although it is all in German, it is intuitive enough to use even if you don’t know the language well.

On the homepage of this site, there is a collapseable list of subjects. To view the subtopics under law, you would click the plus-sign next to Rechtswissenschaft (Legal Sciences).

rvk_1

Next, keep collapsing the list until you find the subject you want.  For example, if you are interested in researching the history of criminal law in the German states, you would click Rechtswissenschaft > Strafrecht, Strafverfahrensrecht, Kriminologie > Allgemeines und Geschichte > Geschichte > Deutsche Länder.

Once you have clicked down to a designated subject, a menu will appear on the right side of the screen. There is a row of blue buttons under the text of the subject you have selected. You can use these buttons to search for materials on this subject in German-language library consortia catalogs. (Suche = Search)

  • BVB – Library consortium of the state of Bavaria
  • GVB – Library consortium of the states of Bremen, Hamburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein, Thüringen
  • SWB – Library consortium of the state of Baden-Württemberg
  • OVB – Library consortium of Austria

rvk_2

If, on the above screen, you were to click Suche in SWB, you would see a search results list of 288 items available in the libraries of Badem-Württemberg, listed chronologically, newest first. (Note: I personally find the SWB catalog to be very strong in legal materials.)

The first book in this list is a 2014 conference publication about the work of Feuerbach, a late-17th century German legal scholar whose major work was to reform the Bavarian criminal code.

rvk_3

If you are interested in the history of criminal law in Bavaria, you will probably want to read this book. Of course, if you are not in Germany, you’re wondering if any U.S. libraries have this book so that you can borrow it.

This is easy enough to find out. Click the record in the SWB catalog, and look for the book’s ISBN number, a 13-digit code that starts with “978.”

Then, use that code to search for the book in the worldwide library catalog WorldCat (http://www.worldcat.org/advancedsearch). There is an option to search WorldCat by ISBN.

If you do this, you will see that several North American libraries (include the HLS Library!) own this book.

rvk_4

Although there is not a lot that has been written about the RVK system in languages other than German, there are lists of selected subjects (including those under the “P” legal sciences class) translated into both English and Italian. These lists are available at http://www.unibz.it/en/library/about/projects/rvk-translation.html.

The RVK system provides researchers with another option for finding library materials by subject. It might be easier to use this RVK system for certain types of research than to try to search a library catalog by keyword, especially if you are unfamiliar with the language used to discuss the topic in the scholarly literature.

I know that this is a resource that I am very happy to have learned about, and one that I will always use in my searches for German law materials in the future.

 

New [And Improved] Title Spotlight: World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey (9th ed.)

This time around, rather than looking at a brand new publication, I have decided to focus on the new edition of a treatise that was first published in 1984:

World Criminal Justice Systems: A Comparative Survey
Richard J. Terrill
9th edition, 2016
Law Library Reference Reading Room (Langdell 4th Floor), REF HV 7419 .T47 2016

This is not strictly a legal treatise, although much of its content will be of interest to comparative criminal law researchers. Instead, it focuses on the field of study of “criminal justice,” which according to the author encompasses several academic disciplines, including “[s]ociology, psychology, law, and public administration[.]” (Introduction, at 1)

The author makes it clear that this work facilitates the reader’s comparative analysis of the jurisdictions and legal systems surveyed, rather than providing its own. The book is targeted toward researchers with knowledge of the American criminal justice system; accordingly, the United States is not one of the featured jurisdictions. However, even non-U.S. researchers will likely find its clear, informative contents to be very valuable for introductory purposes.

For each of the jurisdictions covered (England, France, Japan, South Africa, Russia, and China), the author provides an informative overview of the government, the police, the judiciary, the law, the correctional system, and juvenile justice.  In addition, a chapter on Islamic Law was first added to the 8th edition in 2013. In this new edition, this chapter discusses the historical development of Islam and Sharia, and illustrates criminal justice principles in Islamic law countries using three “contemporary case studies” (Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey).

As the author explains in the introduction (pp. 7-9), when considering which jurisdictions to include, he focused on the evolution of their legal systems. In particular, he references “legal families”: while England represents common law; the “Romano-Germanic” tradition is represented by France as an original jurisdiction, as well as “borrowers” to varying degrees: Japan, South Africa, and the Russian Federation. The latter is also an example of a jurisdiction in the “socialist law” family, together with China. Finally, in adding the Islamic Law content, the author’s intention was not only to provide a view into criminal justice in “theocratic” societies, but also to focus on “countries [that] view the purpose and function of law in a different context from that which emerged in the West.”

In addition to its substantive content, the real value of this book to the researcher is its extensive bibliography of English-language sources, including books and scholarly articles, for each jurisdiction/legal system it covers.  Altogether, it is an excellent introductory source for legal researchers who are interested in researching any aspect of the criminal justice system in a comparative context.

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