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ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH

ELECTRONIC MEDIA IN INTERNATIONAL LEGAL RESEARCH1.Themes and principles

1.Research in foreign and international law using electronic media is — or should be — similar to sound research using print sources:
– Follow a research strategy. For example, begin with secondary sources for background and leads to primary sources, then search for the primary sources, update, and evaluate; turn to more secondary sources for commentary and critique.
– Read with a critical eye: Who produced this document? What is the ideological bent of the government agency, advocacy group, or scholar? How current is the document? Is the translation accurate?

2. Researchers need to be flexible in their selection of tools. No one tool is suitable for all aspects of research or even one research problem. For example, one might use a book to get an overview of the treatment of transboundary pollution in international law, the Internet to download the text of a treaty, LEXIS-NEXIS to find articles in the New York Times and The Economist about the treaty, and the Internet again to read a policy statement by Greenpeace. The researcher who stubbornly sticks with one tool only will miss much valuable information.
3. Factors in choosing formats and tools include:

-Availability. Do you have access to a research library with a deep collection of treatises and journals? Do you have access to the Internet? Do you have access to commercial electronic products and online services?
-Cost. If you pay commercial rates for LEXIS-NEXIS, does this project justify the expense of a search? On the other hand, would an online search save you hours of billable time driving to the research library in the next city?
-Ease of use. It is easier to use a tool you know than to learn how to use a new system. Some electronic tools are easier to work with than others.
-Authoritativeness. Do you need an absolutely perfect text, warranted to be correct, or are you content with a reasonable translation or summary?
-Speed. Do you need it now (and are you willing to devote your labor and toner cartridges to producing a print copy) or can you wait for interlibrary loan, a document delivery service, or mail from Geneva?

4. This handout is organized functionally, listing sample electronic sources for: finding research guides and other research help; finding secondary sources; finding news stories; finding treaties and other primary sources in international law; and finding foreign law. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but merely to list some of the types of tools that are available and how they might fit into a research strategy.
1. Finding research guides and other research help

1.The George Washington University Journal of International Law and Economics, Guide to International Legal Research, 2nd ed. (Salem, NH: Butterworth Legal Publishers, c1993) — 1996 Supplement: a Guide to Internet and Commercial Online Research.

2. Many print bibliographies and research guides now include selected electronic resources.

3.The American Society of International Law offers several helpful starting points:
– ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law <https://www.asil.org/resource/home.htm>. This is an excellent research guide, covering CD ROM and online services as well as Internet sources, with helpful guidance on research methodology as well as lists of sources. Authors are: Marci Hoffman (Human Rights Chapter), Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian, University of Minnesota Law Library; Lyonette Louis-Jacques (Lists, Newsgroups, and Other Networks Chapter), Foreign and International Law Librarian and Lecturer in Law, D’Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago; Jill Watson (Treaties Chapter), Director of Library and Information Services, American Society of International Law; and Paul Zarins (United Nations Chapter; Web Editor), Social Sciences Bibliographer, Green Library, Stanford University. As of this writing, the guide was last updated April 8, 1997.
– International Law Springboard (links to Internet sites): <https://www.asil.org/spgbd.htm>.
– “What’s Online in International Law” <https://www.asil.org/wonindx.htm>: copies of Paul Zarins’ columns from the ASIL Newsletter, reviewing online tools and giving search tips.

4. Other research guides — particularly on Internet resources — appear on the Internet. Well-designed Web  pages organize their links, often with annotations, and can serve as research guides. Examples:
– Human Rights and Related Sources Available Through the Internet: <https://www.umn.edu/humanrts/links/links.htm>. Annotated lists of links to human rights sources, e.g., human rights treaties, NGO information, IGO information. Very current (updated about once a week). Compiled by Marci Hoffman (University of Minnesota Law Library).
– Foreign and International Law: <https://www.willamette.edu/~slewis/forint.htm>. Excellent directory of foreign and international law sites, compiled by Susan Lewis-Somers (Willamette University Law Library). Very current (last updated 5/14/97).
– Surfing the International Law Net and Other Research Ventures: Key Resources on the Internet International Law Research: <https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/intlaw.html>. Extensive directory of international law sites, discussion lists, and other sources, compiled by Lyonette Louis-Jacques (University of Chicago Law Library) (10/96).
– Legal Research Using the Internet: <https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/~llou/mpoctalk.html>, by Lyonette Louis-Jacques (last updated 5/5/97).

5. Email as a research tool
– As Lyonette Louis-Jacques says, “People are the most important resources on the Internet, and electronic mailing lists bring them together in a powerful network.” (ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law, at <https://www.asil.org/resource/lists1.htm>)
– If foreign and international legal research is a regular part of your job, subscribe to Int-Law (int-law@tc.umn.edu). Int-Law helps you learn about and keep up with foreign and international legal research, since subscribers post messages highlighting new sources (print and electronic), explaining how to locate elusive documents, and so on. If you are stuck on a research project, it is likely that one or more of Int-Law’s subscribers can give you a good lead. Even if you do not subscribe, you can take advantage of the collective experience represented in the Int-Law archives; one site is at <https://mailmunch.law.cornell.edu/mhonarc/INTLAW>.
– There are also email lists on particular topics, such as human rights, NAFTA, and Chinese law. Lyonette Louis-Jacques has a searchable index of law-related email lists at <https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/law-lists>.
– Newsgroups can also be useful, as can the forums hosted by the Institute for Global Communication (e.g., EcoNet, PeaceNet, ConflictNet). Some IGC services are free; others are fee-based. See <https://www.igc.org/igc> for more information.
– You can also use email to reach individuals — for example, a librarian whose library has a strong collection in the area you are researching or a scholar who has published an article of interest.

1. Finding secondary sources

1. Library catalogs and bibliographic networks
– Begin close to home, with either your own library or a nearby library with a strong collection.
– Searching selected catalogs via the Internet can give you an idea of the body of literature available. For      example:
1.Library of Congress: <https://lcweb.loc.gov/catalog>
2.Library of Congress links to other catalogs: <https://lcweb.loc.gov/z3950>
3.IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) links to national libraries: <https://www.nlc-bnc.ca/ifla/II/natlibs.htm>

3. Bibliographic utilities such as RLIN and OCLC are, of course, more comprehensive and are the best route to interlibrary loan. RLIN is especially good for foreign and international law because of its membership of research libraries and, notably, the Dag Hammarskjold Library of the United Nations. (If you can find a catalog record for a UN document, you might find the UN document symbol that will let you retrieve the document at a depository library that does not catalog its documents.)

2. Indexes and full-text journal articles
1. Legal Resource Index covers hundreds of law reviews, bar journals, and legal newspapers, 1980 to present. Most are U.S., but some are from other common-law countries (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). It is available in several electronic formats: WESTLAW, LEXIS-NEXIS, CD ROM (LegalTrac); it is also a locally mounted database on some campus systems. The indexing includes a field for jurisdiction; treaty names can be searched in the statute field.
2. Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals covers law journals from non-common-law jurisdictions, as well as U.S. and British journals on international or comparative law. It also indexes festschriften and essays in collection. It is available as a Citadel database from RLIN and on CD ROM from SilverPlatter; it is also possible for an institution to mount the database locally.
3. Index to United Nations Publications (Readex) indexes UN official records, resolutions, reports, proceedings and studies, 1983 to date. Also indexes documents from selected specialized agencies. Available on CD ROM (also has a companion microfiche set with the text of indexed documents).
Indexes that are not restricted to legal topics often include articles of interest to the foreign and international legal researcher. Consider, for example,
– CARL UnCover: <https://www.carl.org/uncover>. Indexes over 16,000 periodicals, about half in medicine, science, and technology; a third in social sciences, and the rest in the humanities. Includes hundreds of legal periodicals. Searching is free; document delivery is available for a fee.
– PAIS International (Public Affairs Information Service). Indexes periodical articles, books, and government reports from around the world in six languages, including English. Available on WESTLAW (PAIS database), on CD ROM, and as a locally mounted database. PAIS has recently launched a new product with the full-text of selected journals on CD ROM. See <https://www.pais.inter.net> for more information.
– Depending on the topic, indexes to the literature of business, economics, history, and science could also be useful to foreign and international researcher.
Law journals on the Internet: see <https://www.findlaw.com/03journals/international.html> for a list of international law journals with Web pages; some offer abstracts or even the full-text of articles on the Internet.
Full-text law journals on LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW.
Remember that each system has only a sampling of law journals, seldom going back any further than the mid-1980s. For comprehensive searching, use indexes, perhaps in combination with full-text searching.
Full-text searching can be a good tool for tracking down an elusive citation: surely someone has cited that treaty or NGO report in a footnote!

1. Finding news stories
1. LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW both have full-text news sources online in a variety of databases (for instance, large databases with many newspapers versus a small database with just one publication). At this time, LEXIS-NEXIS has more foreign sources — e.g., the REUTERS newswire and the XINHUA press service — although WESTLAW’s offerings are growing.
2. World News Connection, <https://wnc.fedworld.gov>, is a fee-based online news service with translated and English-language news and information from around the world. The material is provided to the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS), a U.S. government agency. Researchers may search for keywords, scan headlines from a given region, or set up profiles to track areas of interest.
3. Other news coverage is available on the Internet, often from advocacy groups. For example, Greenpeace International’s Web page, <https://www.greenpeace.org>, includes press releases about its campaigns and issues it tracks.
1. Finding treaties and other primary sources in international law

1. Treaties and other primary sources (for example, UN resolutions) are now available on the Internet in great numbers. This is particularly valuable for recent instruments that are not widely available in print. For sources, see the research guides and Web sites in section 2, above. Valuable Web sites include:
– Multilaterals Project (Fletcher School of Diplomacy): <https://www.tufts.edu/fletcher/multilaterals.html>.
– UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) (Pace University School of Law, Pace Law Library, and the Institute of International Commercial Law): <https://cisgw3.law.pace.edu>.
– Private International Law Database (U.S. Department of State Office of the Legal Adviser): <https://www.his.com/~pildb>.
– ENTRI Treaty Texts (environmental treaties; site produced by CIESIN and other groups): <https://sedac.ciesin.org/entri/texts-home.html>.
– United Nations Treaty Database, <https://www.un.org/Depts/Treaty>. At this writing, the database includes only Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General which contains the detailed status of over 470 multilateral treaties deposited with the Secretary General (in hard copy, this is over 1,000 pages in length). The producers plan to convert the UN Treaty Series (over 40,000 treaties registered with the Secretariat — over 2,000 volumes in print!) to electronic format.

2. Hein and Oceana both have sets of treaties on CD ROM. For more information, see Jill Watson’s chapter in the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law <https://www.asil.org/resource/treaty1.htm#sect23>.
3. LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW also have selected treaties online, for example:

– International Legal Materials (LEXIS-NEXIS INTLAW; ILM).
– U.S. treaties, 1979- (WESTLAW USTREATIES).
– Tax treaties compiled by the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation (LEXIS-NEXIS INTLAW;IBFDTR).
– Basic Documents of International Economic Law (LEXIS-NEXIS INTLAW; BDIEL) (WESTLAW IEL)

1. Finding foreign law

1. Overviews:
– Martindale-Hubbell International Law Digest (LEXIS-NEXIS MARHUB;INTDIG).
– Doing business in… guides on Hieros Gamos: <https://www.hg.org/guides.html>.

2. Foreign law on the Web:

– What is available varies a great deal. For one jurisdiction you might be able to find complete statutes, for another only the constitution, for a third nothing at all.
– See research guides in section 2, above.
– Guide to Law Online: Nations of the World (Library of Congress), <https://lcweb2.loc.gov/glin/x-nation.html>, is an annotated list of links to the law of jurisdictions around the world.
– U.S. House of Representatives Internet Law Library, <https://law.house.gov/52htm>, has links to laws of other nations.
– The Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) project of the Library of Congress, <https://lcweb2.loc.gov/glin/glinhome.html>, has a searchable database of summaries of laws from many different nations. (Officials from nations that are members of the project may view the full text of gazettes; anyone may search the summaries.)
– ForInt-Law (a web site maintained by Washburn Law Library), <https://lawlib.wuacc.edu/forint/forint3m.html> links to law-related sites around the world.

3. Foreign government sites:

– Foreign Governments (resource maintained by the GODORT International Documents Task Force and Northwestern University Library):<https://www.library.nwu.edu/govpub/idtf/foreign.html>
– Links to embassies and consulates:
GlobeScope Internet Services — Embassy Page: <https://www.embpage.org>
Law Group Network — Embassies on the Net: <https://www.llr.com/resource/embassys.htm>

4. Foreign law on LEXIS-NEXIS and WESTLAW.

– Foreign jurisdictions with at least some coverage on LEXIS-NEXIS include: Australia; Canada; China; European Communities; France; Hong Kong; Hungary; Ireland; Italy; Mexico; New Zealand; Russia and the former Soviet Union; and the United Kingdom.
– Foreign jurisdictions with at least some coverage on WESTLAW include: Canada (through gateway to QL system), Mexico; Russia and the former Soviet Union; Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei; South Africa; Vietnam.
– News sources such as the BBC Summary of World Broadcasts (LEXIS-NEXIS) sometimes reprint the text of a law or at least a substantial summary. (World News Connection — see 4.b., above — also provides translations of some laws.)

 

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