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

Spotlight on Research: Looking Up Legal Terms of Art

Picture of a pile of legal dictionaries and encyclopediasLaw is full of legal terms of art that are used to express a specific thing or idea in a legal context.  While some may dismiss legal language as “legalese,” the words that lawyers and legal scholars use when talking about law are important because they communicate specific legal concepts, rather than general ideas.

Take, for example, a word like fraud.  According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, fraud is an “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right” or, more generally, “an act of deceiving or misrepresenting.”

A person can also be a fraud (suggested synonym: impostor).

If you look up the word “fraud” in a legal dictionary, the basic definition is largely the same.  However, that is not the end of the story.

The definition of “fraud” in the Bouvier Law Dictionary that sits on my desk is quite a bit longer than the Merriam-Webster definition.  According to Bouvier, a fraud can be “actual” (“affirmative statement of misrepresentation”) or “constructive” (when the actor, knowing that it will be relied upon by someone to his or her detriment, “conceals a fact or is silent regarding it”).  Fraud can be a criminal action, and it can also void a contract.

That said, not everything that people may think is “fraud” actually is.  According to Bouvier, “a statement that is too outlandish to be reasonably believed, one that requires illegal conduct in order to rely upon it, or one that is too general to be the basis for specific reliance may not be fraudulent.”

So, before a (good, responsible) lawyer tosses around a term like “fraud” or “fraudulent” to describe an action or a person, he or she should probably double-check its legal definition, especially since the use of that word may have legal implications in both civil and criminal contexts.  Because language is important to lawyers and legal scholars, we should know where to look up legal terms of art to make sure that we understand and are using them correctly.  The law library has a lot of resources for this type of research.

Legal dictionaries like the Bouvier Law Dictionary described above provide legal definitions of words and phrases.  Both the Westlaw and Lexis Advance subscription databases include legal dictionaries in their collections.  One of the most well-known American legal dictionaries, Black’s Law Dictionary, is available through Westlaw.  To access it, in the Westlaw home screen’s search box, start typing “Black’s Law Dictionary” and select it from the drop-down menu that appears below the search box.

Harvard’s libraries have more than 600 titles that are classified as legal dictionaries that were published in 2000 or later.  To view a list of them, run this HOLLIS search: subject = law AND dictionaries; date limit = 2000-2018; location limit = in library.

You will see, when you run this search, that many of the dictionaries are not in English.  Some of them are exclusively in another language, while others are multilingual legal dictionaries, which provide translations of legal terms.

Tip: Even if you were a  ______ (language) major in college, you might not know what a __________ word means when it is used in a legal context.  It is also not a good idea to blindly trust Google Translate to get it right.  If you want to be sure of its legal meaning, take the time to look it up in a legal dictionary.

While legal dictionaries are great for basic definitions, what if you need just a little bit more information — maybe not as long as a book or an article, but just a few more paragraphs to provide additional context?  This is the role that legal encyclopedias were created to fill.

Two well-known American legal encyclopedias are American Jurisprudence and Corpus Juris Secundum.  The law library has both of these encyclopedia sets in print in the main reading room; however, they have not been updated in a few years.  Fully updated versions of both are available electronically through Westlaw.

Legal encyclopedias can focus on a narrow area of law, or be quite broad.  They are published in many jurisdictions and languages.  Some are multidisciplinary, such as the Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and Law, which is available in the Harvard Divinity School Library’s reference collection.

To view a list of the more than 200 legal encyclopedias in the Harvard libraries’ collections that have been published since 2000, run this HOLLIS search: subject = law AND encyclopedias, date limit = 2000-2018; location limit = in library.

Finally, a little story.  Right before I quit my former job to go to law school, the lawyer I worked for gave me a copy of Black’s Law Dictionary as a gift.  I didn’t know what to make of it at the time.  Now, however, I see the thoughtfulness of that choice.  He knew how important words are to lawyers, and that we must have the tools we need to make sure we’re using those words correctly.

Research at the Law Library

IMPORTANT NOTE:
Right now, it is exam period at the law school, and the law library is filled to capacity with studying law students.  During this time, with very limited exceptions, the law library is only open to current HLS affiliates and an HLS ID card must be shown to gain admission.  For more information, inquire at the circulation desk.  The telephone number is (617) 495-3455.

I recently gave a library tour to a group of conference attendees here at the law school.  Like many visitors of this nature, they asked me about opportunities to come and research at the law library.  So I thought I’d do a quick blog post about it, with links to the relevant websites that provide more information.

For general information about the law library’s admission policy, visit the Admission to the Library page on our website.  This page includes a link to the form that anyone who is not a Harvard student or a member of the Harvard staff or faculty must fill out to be admitted to the library, including HLS alumni.  The form requires you to indicate your affiliation information, and provides information about admission fees, if they are applicable to your situation.

If you have an academic affiliation, and are wondering whether you can access our library for research and how much, if anything, it would cost, this form will likely answer that question for you.  However, if you would like more more information, you may send an email to access@law.harvard.edu.

The HLS Graduate Program has a Visiting Scholar / Visiting Researcher Program, for which admission is competitive and which has admitted law professors and graduate students from all over the world to conduct research related to specified scholarly projects.  Participants in this program are in residence at the law school, which provides them admission to the law library, for either a semester or an academic year.

Finally, in each of the last several years, the law library’s Library Innovation Lab has sponsored a summer fellows program, during which fellows work on their own projects and on other projects in collaboration with Lab members.  The website does not have information yet about the 2019 summer fellows program, but stay tuned!

PaperShip: Access Your Zotero-Stored Sources on your Phone

I have spent a lot of time this semester learning and using the Zotero citation management software, which provides researchers with a way to store and organize resources for scholarly writing projects.  Our LLM students often ask us about Zotero, so I decided to learn it myself and offer a class in it.  I gave this class several times, and discussed the following:

  • Installing and Configuring Zotero on Your Computer
  • Using Zotero with Harvard’s HOLLIS Library Catalog
  • Using Zotero to Generate Citations for Your Paper

The last topic was, of course, of the most interest to our LLM students, since many of them are foreign-trained lawyers who are unfamiliar with (and do not really want to learn the fine details of) the Bluebook.  While I get that, I also want them to realistically know what Zotero can and cannot do in terms of Bluebook-proper citation.  Spoiler alert: it handles some types of sources well and some others not so well, and unless you know the Bluebook you won’t be able to fix the automatically-generated citations that are incorrect according to the Bluebook rules.

I have posted the slides for the Zotero class I gave this semester in my Zotero Training for LLM and SJD Students research guide.  You are welcome to check them out if you are interested in learning more about how Zotero works, and the benefits it can provide when writing a work of legal scholarship.  If you are affiliated with Harvard, and use your Harvard email address when you create your Zotero account, you will have free unlimited storage.

On a related note, I just wanted to put in a quick word about a new app that I discovered recently, PaperShip.  You can install this app on your phone to get immediate access to the sources you have stored in your Zotero account.

This is so great!  I was doing some research yesterday for an article that I am working on, found some articles that would be helpful, and saved them to Zotero.  Through PaperShip, I was able to call up the PDF of one of those articles in about 2 seconds, and read it on the train during my commute to work this morning.  When compared to scrolling through political fights on Twitter, what a superior (and less aggravating) use of that time!

The free version of PaperShip provides access to your sources only.  There also appears to be an add-on, available for purchase, that you can use to highlight PDFs and make notes in them.  These annotations, it is claimed, are then synced right back up to your Zotero account.  I am going to test out this add-on and report back on it.  But even add-on free PaperShip is a productivity-enhancing winner as far as I’m concerned, and I recommend it.

New Library Research Guide: Women’s Housing and Shelter Rights

The HLS Library recently published a new online research guide, Researching Women’s Housing and Shelter Rights.

According to the United Nations, housing and human rights are related due to “the significance of a secure place to live for human dignity, physical and mental health, and overall quality of life(.)”  Accordingly, “the right to adequate housing joined the body of international, universally applicable, and universally accepted human rights law” when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted in 1948.  See, in particular, Article 25 of the UDHR:

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services(.)

Housing is also a protected right under Article 14 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), as well as several other international human rights treaties and conventions.

It is understood that the right to housing is comprised of multiple separate rights, including but not limited to (1) the right to shelter, (2) the right to affordable housing, (3) the right to habitable housing, and (4) the right to security of tenure.

The HLS Library’s new research guide on this topic includes a directory of organizations engaged in housing research and advocacy in the U.S. and Europe, such as the National Coalition for the Homeless and FEANTSA.

The guide also provides as a number of pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using relevant Library of Congress Subject Heading (LCSH) keywords.

Finally, the guide includes a list of recently-published cross-disciplinary books and scholarly articles that discuss demographic and situational factors that are relevant to women’s housing and shelter rights, including:

  • Housing instability of:
    • Poor women
    • Single mothers
    • Women of Color
    • Gay women
    • Transgender women
    • Nonbinary/gender nonconforming people
    • Older women
    • Disabled women
    • Women who have significant health challenges (including drug abuse, cancer, and mental illness)
    • Pregnant women
    • Female victims of intimate partner violence
    • Women with prior evictions
    • Female veterans
    • Female sex workers
    • Women who have been in prison
  • Difficulties experienced by poor women in acquiring government housing benefits
  • The impact of the subprime mortgage crisis on women’s housing stability and wealth accumulation

The guide is freely available online.  Check it out at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/womens_housing_rights.

Spotlight on Recent Titles: ADR Around the World

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) has really become a global phenomenon.  The HLS Library has acquired several new titles recently that focus on the practice of ADR (including arbitration, mediation, negotiation, and more) in various jurisdictions around the world.

Below is a list of selected recent English-language titles that may be of interest to comparative ADR researchers, organized alphabetically by geographic area or jurisdiction.

Conflict Resolution in Asia: Mediation and Other Cultural Models
Stephanie P. Stobbe (ed.)
Lexington Books, 2018
ISBN: 9781498566438
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152797880203941/catalog

International Arbitration Discourse and Practices in Asia
Vijay K. Bhatia et al. (eds.)
Routledge, 2018
ISBN: 9781138282216
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152056910203941/catalog

Australian Dispute Resolution: Law and Practice
Laurence Boulle and Rachael Field
LexisNexis Butterworths, 2017
ISBN: 9780409341850
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990148269920203941/catalog 

Domesticating Democracy: The Politics of Conflict Resolution in Bolivia
Susan Helen Ellison
Duke University Press, 2018
ISBN: 9780822370932
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152739690203941/catalog

The Law of ADR in Canada: An Introductory Guide (2nd ed.)
Duncan Glaholt
LexisNexis Canada, 2018
ISBN: 9780433496724
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153687273303941/catalog

Mediation in Contemporary China: Continuity and Change
FU Hualing and Michael Palmer (eds.)
Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9780854902248
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990150330400203941/catalog

The Challenge of Legal Pluralism: Local Dispute Settlement and the Indian-State Relationship in Ecuador
Marc Simon Thomas
Routledge, 2017
ISBN: 9781472480576
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990148170510203941/catalog

The Three Paths of Justice: Court Proceedings, Arbitration, and Mediation in England (2nd ed.)
Neil Andrews
Springer, 2018
ISBN: 9783319748313
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153683619903941/catalog

EU Mediation Law Handbook
Nadja Alexander et al. (eds.)
Wolters Kluwer, 2017
ISBN: 9789041158598
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990151195950203941/catalog

The European Union and International Dispute Settlement
Marise Cremona et al. (eds.)
Hart Publishing, 2017
ISBN: 9781509903238
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990151423810203941/catalog

Alternative Dispute Resolution of Shareholder Disputes in Hong Kong: Institutionalizing its Effective Use
Ida Kwan Lun Mak
Cambridge University Press (2017)
ISBN: 9781107194199
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152438490203941/catalog

Alternative Dispute Resolution: The Indian Perspective
Shashank Garg (ed.)
Oxford University Press, 2018
ISBN:  9780199483617
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153700419403941/catalog

Alternative Dispute Resolution & Arbitration in Nigeria: Law, Theory, and Practice
Abdulsalam O. Ajetunmobi
Princeton & Associates Publishing Co. Ltd., 2017
ISBN: 9789789602216
HOLLIS:  http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/990152599260203941/catalog

Resolving Environmental Disputes in Pakistan: The Role of Judicial Commissions
Parvez Hassan
Pakistan Law House, 2018
ISBN: 9789698372361
HOLLIS: http://id.lib.harvard.edu/alma/99153696515303941/catalog

Nordic Mediation Research (Scandinavia)
Anna Nylund et al. (eds.)
Springer, 2018
ISBN: 9783319730189
Available as an open-access eBook at https://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319730189.

 

Library Research Guides for LLMs (and Everyone Else!)

A graduation requirement for each Harvard Law School LLM student is to research and write a paper on a legal topic, of at least 25 pages (short paper) or at least 50 pages (long paper) in length, under the supervision of an HLS faculty member.

Our LLM students are currently deep in the process of finding faculty supervisors and preparing their LLM paper proposals, which are due October 22.

The HLS Graduate Program has created LLM paper writing groups, organized by topic and led by experienced and knowledgeable SJD students, to provide the LLMs with a supportive and encouraging workshop-like environment for the process of completing this rigorous academic requirement.

Each LLM paper writing group has an assigned research librarian.  I have been assigned to help out three groups this year:

(1) Constitutional & Administrative Law (generally known as “public law” and also includes people writing about legal theory and philosophy)

(2) Private Law (includes contractual obligations, legal remedies, law and technology, and health law/bioethics)

(3) Trade and Private International Law (includes international investment law, international trade law, antitrust, and arbitration)

This year, I decided to create extensive research guides for each of my groups.  These guides include pre-populated searches of Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog, using specialized subject terms.  They also include information about using the HLS Library’s subscription databases for law journal research.

The good news is that these research guides are freely available online and can be used by anyone!  Feel free to check them out and let me know what you think:

I also completely overhauled our International Arbitration Research Guide this fall.  Several members of the Trade and Private International Law Group have found to be especially helpful.  It includes information about the many arbitration-related databases to which the HLS Library subscribes.

TIP:
Did you know that the HLS Library has published more than 150 research guides?  You can access them online at https://guides.library.harvard.edu/law.

Zotero: unlimited storage for HLS students + trainings!

Did you know that as an HLS student you can get free unlimited storage in Zotero? It’s true: simply follow the signup directions on the Harvard Library Zotero guide, being sure to use your HLS email address to register.

If you’d like more guidance getting started, come to one of our upcoming training sessions led by Jennifer Allison, Librarian for Foreign, Comparative, & International Law. Sign up at the links below:

Friday, September 28 – 12:30pm
Monday, October 1 – 12:30pm
Thursday, October 4 – 5:30pm
Thursday, October 11 – 12:30pm

We especially recommend these trainings to LLM and SJD students, because citation management tools can be a big help in organizing your research for both short and long papers. All trainings will take place in the Library computer lab, 2nd (main) floor, Langdell 233.

For more information about citation tools at Harvard, check out the Harvard Library guide, Citation and Research Management Tools at Harvard.

Welcome LL.M. Students!

Welcome to the nearly 200 LL.M. students who will be attending Harvard Law School this academic year!

Please visit the law library’s research services homepage to learn about all of the services the library’s research services team offers to the Harvard Law School community.

We are providing special library tours for LL.M. students over the next two weeks, and you can sign up for a tour on this page as well (under Upcoming Events).

Highlighting New Comparative Law Books in the Law Library’s Collection

Research librarians here in the law library spend a lot of time talking to LL.M. students about their paper topics every year.  Because so many students decide to write their LL.M. papers on comparative law topics, I like to write posts for our library blog about comparative law titles that I find in our collection that might be of interest to them.

In this post, I am highlighting one of our newest books on comparative company law.

International Handbook on Shareholders’ Agreements: Regulation, Practice, and Comparative Analysis
Editors: Sebastian Mock, Kristian Csach, and Bohnmil Havel
Published by DeGruyter, 2018
ISBN 9783110501568
View this book’s record in Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog

According to the editors of this volume, shareholder agreements are “an integral part of company law and especially its legal practice.”  They are “traditionally dominated by contract law and not by company law”; however, it is sometimes the case that contract law lacks the depth to provide sufficient legal regulation of what can be complex legal situations and relationships, especially “in the case of cross-border shareholders’ agreements including shareholders from several jurisdictions.”

This volume attempts to fill that gap.  It begins with introductory chapters covering the differences between contract law and corporate law when it comes to shareholders’ agreements, the impact of shareholders’ agreements on how a company is managed, and as issues related to conflict of laws (private international law), corporate insolvency, and competition law.

The bulk of the book, however, is dedicated to reports on the relevant legal framework for shareholders’ agreements in the following jurisdictions: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Czech Republic, England/Wales, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United States.  Some of these country reports include English-language excerpts of applicable statutory provisions.

Harvard Library Collection

This book is part of the DeGruyter Handbook series.  Almost all of the other titles in this series that are in the Harvard Library collection are in German (DeGruyter is a German publishing company), and cover legal topics.

However, Harvard does have one other English-language title from this series.  It is held by the Widener Library, Harvard’s flagship library.  All LL.M. students have access and borrowing privileges at Widener, along with the other libraries at Harvard.

This other book actually has nothing to do with law at all:

Sign Languages of the World: A Comparative Handbook
Edited by Julie Bakken Jepsen, Goedele De Clerck, Sam Lutalo-Kiingi, William B. McGregor
Published by De Gruyter, 2015
ISBN 9781614517962
View this book’s record in Harvard’s HOLLIS library catalog

I am a member of the law library’s Accessibility Design team, so one of my interests is learning more about how we can make the library accessible and accommodating to people with all kinds of disabilities.  So I am actually really interested in having a look at this book sometime!

Using HeinOnline for Accessing Legal Journals

I am curious to learn more about how the various sign languages around the world have developed their legal terminology throughout history.  In fact, just thinking about that led me to wonder about how issues related to deafness have been explored in the legal literature.

One of the best options for this kind of research is our  HeinOnline subscription legal database.  HeinOnline contains a very comprehensive collections of U.S. and foreign legal journals.  I find this database to be an invaluable part of any legal research project that I am working on.

So I decided to try a proximity search in HeinOnline for articles about sign language and legal terms.  Here is the search query I used:

“sign language legal terms”~50

This search query uses HeinOnline’s unique syntax for finding those four words within 50 words of each other.

When I did that search and limited the search results to articles from HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library, I got 77 results, covering various topics such as professional challenges faced by deaf lawyers, the representation of deaf clients in legal matters, the fitness of deaf defendants for trial, accommodating law faculty with disabilities, and more.

Perhaps one day an LL.M. student will write on deafness and law as well.  Whatever our newest LL.M.s decide to write about this year, the law library’s research services team is eager to help them navigate our resources and research their papers.

We’re looking forward to seeing you in the law library!

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.

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.

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