Locating Key Foreign & International Law Sources
A foray into foreign and international law research can be confounding, even if you are an experienced researcher in American law. In some respects, your experience, which has shaped your expectations about the content, form and indexing of legal materials, works to your detriment. You quickly find that foreign and international law research does not simply require the transfer of your skills in American legal bibliography to materials in different languages or on a different subject matter. It requires, additionally, an understanding of a different set of assumptions about what law is, how it should be published, and how easily it should be found. Through your struggle to make sense of foreign and international law sources, you will develop that understanding, as well as a new appreciation for American law research.
This bibliographic essay will guide newer users of the Foreign & International Law Collection at the University of Houston Law Center's O'Quinn Law Library. It is meant especially for student researchers with the Houston Journal of International Law. It will help anyone who needs to verify foreign and international law citations or locate cited materials.
The essay is in four parts. The first part addresses essential foreign
law sources, the second part international
law sources. In the third part, additional secondary
sources supporting foreign and international law research are discussed.
There is a brief presentation of information format
issues in the fourth part.
Foreign law sources
Researching foreign law in American law libraries is often like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle in the full knowledge that at least half of the pieces are missing. The inability of any one law library to maintain a complete collection of foreign law, the haphazard nature of law publishing in many countries, and the fickle attentions of commercial publishers, give rise to a patchwork of available materials that may not be complete or up-to-date. See Directory of foreign law collections in selected law libraries (Ellen G. Schaffer & Thomas R. Bruce, eds., 1991) [ANDERSON/GENERAL COLL K68.D565 1991]. If your citation list is extensive and goes beyond basic code provisions, you may be challenged. Accepting the challenge requires flexibility, creativity, resourcefulness and persistence.
The very terms describing our enterprise raise an initial hurdle.
"Foreign law" refers to the domestic law of countries other than one's
own. "International law" refers to the body of rights and obligations,
arising from treaties and other sources, between two or more states (or
international organizations). In this essay, the phrase "foreign
and international law" is analogous to "apples and oranges"; however, it
is often intended or read as "apples and fruit." In other words,
"international law" is frequently used as a synonym or broader term for
"foreign law" (perhaps for convenience, or because "foreign" is considered
by some to be pejorative).
Civil law jurisdictions: the other side
How is foreign law published? Although every country has its own peculiarities, much of the world uses a civil law system, and so their respective legal bibliographies share general features. You should become familiar with these features. Starting with the civil law system itself, take a few hours to read John H. Merryman, The Civil Law Tradition : an Introduction to the Legal Systems of Western Europe and Latin America (2d ed. 1985) [LAW/RESERVES K585.M47 1984]. Each of the civil law countries relies on a core collection of codes (e.g., Civil Code, Civil Procedure Code, Commercial Code, Penal Code, Criminal Procedure Code). These codes were originally drafted "of a piece." Much like our own Uniform Commercial Code, they are written in more or less general language to cover every eventuality that falls within their purview. (Our Restatements of the Law are also modeled on them.)
Of course, civil law countries continue to legislate after promulgation of their codes. Each country publishes its legislation in an official national gazette. An official gazette is a government newspaper including statutes, regulations, executive decrees, and similar legal instruments, as well as other important government information. (Perhaps the closest comparison in the United States is the Federal Register.) Some official gazettes are published every business day, others less frequently. An official gazette is usually the best (or only) cited source for a piece of foreign legislation. Be careful to distinguish the issuance date of a legislative act or regulation from its date of publication in the official gazette; these dates are never identical but will often (not always) be close.
A sample gazette is Mexico's Diario Oficial de la Federacion [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KGF16.D52]. (Many Latin American countries call their gazettes diarios.) It also illustrates the vagaries of foreign law publishing and collection, both print and electronic. Besides the Canada Gazette [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KE91.C3], which is published much less frequently, the Diario Oficial is the only gazette to which we provide reasonably good access. However, that access is provided through a pastiche of formats: a print collection (1918 to 1968, and December 1989 to May 1997), microfiche [LAW/MICROFICHE Cabinet A2] (October 1988 to February 1990), through our law school LEXIS subscription (MEXICO library, MXDO file, from August 1997) and a subscription to the InterAm Database (from November 1994).
Basic information about the official gazettes of most countries is included in Government Documents Round Table, American Library Association, Guide to official publications of foreign countries (2d ed. 1997) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF Z7164.G7G83 1997), in John E. Roberts, A Guide to Official Gazettes and their Contents (1985) (LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF Z7164.G7R62 1985], and in Thomas H. Reynolds & Arturo A. Flores, Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (1989 - ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF K38.R49 1989] [hereinafter, "Reynolds & Flores"], which is discussed below. The political subdivisions of civil law and other foreign jurisdictions also frequently publish their own gazettes.
Legislation published in official gazettes is sometimes eventually published (usually by commercial publishers) in compilations devoted to particular subjects. These may also be called "codes," but they should not be confused with the fundamental, systematic codes that serve as the basis of these countries' legal systems. Some countries endeavor to integrate supplemental legislation with the basic code to whose subject matter it pertains, and issue revised editions that include this legislation. You might also find subsequent legislation appended to the appropriate code. And how does one determine the "appropriate code"? Unlike the United States, most foreign countries do not strive to establish multiple access points to their legal bibliography through bibliographies, digests, indexes and other finding tools. Great emphasis is placed instead on inculcating in civil law practitioners, during legal education, a mindset that apprehends the law in strict categories and corresponding codes, which are themselves designed to flow logically. There is no need, therefore, for American-style finding tools among these lawyers. Rather, the American researcher requires a grounding in civil law.
Judicial decisions, or "jurisprudence," in most civil law jurisdictions (with a few exceptions, including Mexico and Germany) are rarely cited. You will find it difficult to believe that these decisions -- many of which do not exceed a short paragraph -- have not been abridged or summarized. For a lawyer from a common law country, "the facts" share importance with the law of a case, but in civil law countries, they are often merely incidental to a bare statement of the court's holding. Examine a volume of the Semanario Judicial de la Federacion [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KGF70.A22], which contains Mexican jurisprudencia.
By contrast, scholarly legal commentary, called doctrine, is used extensively by civil law practitioners to interpret the codes and other legislation. In civil law countries, it is scholars, not judges, who lead the legal community. Doctrine is published in respected encyclopedias (whose authority is more like that of a restatement or a treatise like Williston on Contracts than an American legal encyclopedia), books, journal articles, and as commentary that accompanies the text of code provisions in some editions.
An excellent introduction to the civil law and other foreign law systems,
and how they inform legal research sources and strategies, is Thomas H.
Reynolds, "Introduction to Foreign and Comparative Law," in Accidental
Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research
47-86 (Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, eds., 1998) [LAW/RESERVES
K85.A27 1998]. Research in Canadian and United Kingdom
law will be more intuitive for American researchers, but the similarities
can lead to presumptions and oversights. Before starting Canadian
legal research, read Jacqueline R. Castel & Omeela K. Latchman, The
Practical Guide to Canadian Legal Research (1993) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL
REF KE250.C37 1993], or visit the Best
Guide to Canadian Legal Research (whose title is both eponymous and
descriptive). The Best Guide also offers an overview of United Kingdom
Foreign law finding tools
The single most important source in foreign law research is Reynolds & Flores [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF K38.R49 1989]. You must understand this tool if you plan to do foreign law research. (It is wise to ascertain the scope and coverage of any reference source you use. This information is usually presented in the opening pages of the first volume of a set, along with a table of abbreviations used, materials indexed, and other helpful information. Online databases also routinely offer this information.) Read "How to Use" and the "Introduction" at the beginning of Volume I. Reynolds & Flores is extremely useful for verifying foreign legal citations and locating alternative sources of legislative texts, including English translations, if any. Its six volumes are divided by continent, which in turn are divided by national jurisdiction. Within each jurisdiction, there is (1) a brief introduction to the country's legal system with special attention its legal bibliography, (2) a list of the country's major legislative codifications and court reports, and (3) a standard list of subject headings, the particular laws of the country that pertain to them, and alternative sources. It is usually wasteful to commence, and often hazardous to finish, foreign law research without consulting Reynolds & Flores.
Germain's Transnational Law Research (1991- ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF K85.G47 1991] is more limited in scope than Reynolds & Flores with respect to foreign law bibliography. Its foreign law coverage, in Chapter V, is restricted to countries of the European Union and the EFTA. A shorter, but in many ways more useful, guide to foreign law research is Jeanne Rehberg & Mirela Roznovschi, "Finding Foreign Law," in Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research 87-110 (Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, eds., 1998) [LAW/RESERVES K85.A27 1998].
Another general source useful for verifying foreign legislative citations is the Global Legal Information Network ("GLIN"), a Web-based service of the Library of Congress. GLIN is building a full-text database of foreign laws. As of July 1999, it included legislation from 43 foreign countries. (A print guide, with GLIN coverage information as of July 1999, is available in the office of the Foreign & International Law Librarian.) Access to the full-text database is restricted to members of the network; the University of Houston is not a member. However, GLIN offers searchable law summaries free of charge. These law summaries contain information sufficient in most cases to help verify or complete citations. (To search the law summaries, select "Guest.")
You may also find helpful tools that are limited in scope (but have greater depth). Some are limited to a particular country or region of the world. An excellent source for Mexican primary law is Francisco A. Avalos, The Mexican Legal System (2d ed. 2000) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KGF150.A95 2000), whose title is a misnomer despite its excellent introductory information on the legal system of Mexico. It is a bibliography of Mexican codes and legislation, as well as secondary materials, organized by subject. Other tools span many countries in their coverage, but focus on one subject. The premier example of this approach is the International Digest of Health Legislation [LAW/HEALTH LAW INSTITUTE K9 .N814], which is compiled by the World Health Organization.
Bibliographic journal articles are another potential source for complete
citation and location information of foreign legislative and decisional
Foreign law text sources
The most reliable source of foreign law -- particularly for students tasked with cite-checking -- is always the official one. Once you have verified the title of a gazette, code, statutory compilation, or case reporter, enter it as a title search using our online catalog to see whether we hold it. If you receive no results, convert your search to a word search by selecting "SEARCH AS WORDS" at the bottom of the display; there can be slight variations in the way any title, but especially foreign titles, are actually entered in our catalog.
Print collections devoted to particular jurisdictions are shelved by jurisdiction; any official print legal source for a country will be shelved with other legal materials for that country.
Foreign code publishers often place the code's tables of contents at the end of a volume.
GLIN is striving to make at least some of the full-text legal materials in its databases available through the .pdf format. The CRL Foreign Official Gazettes Task Force at the Center for Research Libraries is engaged in a complementary project involving the retrospective filming of older foreign official gazettes, copies of which are available for a fee. As stated, however, the University of Houston does not subscribe to GLIN, nor does it belong to CRL.
If you must have a copy of a foreign legal text from an official source (other than Mexico, Canada, or the United Kingdom), it is likely that we will not carry that source. Some large research law libraries have attempted to compensate for their inability to cover all foreign jurisdictions by forming cooperative arrangements, or consortia, with other law libraries, each of which is assigned primary collecting responsibilities ("PCR's") for one or more foreign jurisdictions. See Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems 223-26 (Richard A. Danner & Marie-Louise H. Bernal, eds., 1994) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K583 .I57 1994]. Unfortunately, these arrangements are moribund. In any case, it is possible that the source you need is held by a library with which we have an interlibrary loan agreement.
Often, unofficial sources are more affordable, useful, or available to us. General alternative sources of foreign law texts include International Legal Materials ("ILM") [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K9 .N87), published by the American Society of International Law. International Legal Materials publishes English translations of selected foreign legislation, treaties, and other official documents relating to international law. It is a semi-official source that you can search online in the ILM database on WESTLAW, and in the ILM file in the LEXIS INTLAW library. A more predictable selection of foreign law material is available on LEXIS, which has primary law files from twelve foreign countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Mexico. (Select "International Law" in the online directory to view available files for other countries.) The law library also subscribes to the InterAm Database, which contains Latin American primary materials (some in English) and articles. (Use of the InterAm Database is restricted to University of Houston students and faculty. Contact the Foreign & International Law Librarian for the username and password.) Foreign newspapers may also report the text of new legislation; check the NEWS library in LEXIS for relevant files.
Foreign countries have increasingly made their law available on the Web through official sites. You will find many of these sites linked through this Web site at Foreign Primary Law on the Web. In addition to these official sites, you will find efforts by other individuals and organizations to provide access to foreign law. You need to exercise good judgment about the reliability of what you find -- especially the English translations.
Before relying on English translations of foreign laws, read Amber Lee Smith, "Foreign Law in Translation: Problems and Sources," in Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems 267-71 (Richard A. Danner & Marie-Louise H. Bernal, eds., 1994) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K583 .I57 1994]. Remember that any translation of a foreign law is an interpretation, and it is only one interpretation. A translation can seldom capture the nuance and precision of the original. Translations, nevertheless, are useful for understanding a law.
You will find the text of foreign law translations in several types of sources. There are English translations of foreign codes, such as The German Commercial Code (Simon L. Goren, trans., 1998) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KK2045.51897.A52 1998] and Mexican Civil and Commercial Codes (Abraham Eckstein & Enrique Zepeda, trans., 1995) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KGF404 1995]. (The latter is available online as the MEXCODE database on WESTLAW. It is included also in a broader WESTLAW database of English translations of Mexican law, MEXLAW.)
Some publications, like Russia and the Republics: Legal Materials (John N. Hazard & Vratislav Pechota, eds., 1990 - ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KLB13 1990] offer translations across a spectrum of subjects within a jurisdiction, while others, like Mexican Tax, Customs and Foreign Investment Laws (1994 - ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KGF4583.6.C65] and Mexico: Environmental Laws and Norms (1994 - ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KGF3421.M49 1994] focus on a subject. There are "series" of English translations of foreign law, including the somewhat dated American Series of Foreign Penal Codes, which publishes translations in separate volumes. Among these are the Turkish Criminal Code (1965) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KKX3794.31926.A52 1965] and The Korean Penal Code (1960) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KPA3794.31953.A52 1960]. Another notable series is the Legislative Series [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K1704.L43] a collection of foreign labor legislation issued by the International Labor Office. The ENFLEX series of databases on WESTLAW, contains translated "International Environmental, Health and Safety Regulations" of Brazil (ENFLEX-BR), France (ENFLEX-FR), Indonesia (ENFLEX-IO), Italy (ENFLEX-IT), Mexico (ENFLEX-MX) and Spain (ENFLEX-SP).
The library also holds a number of subject compilations of translated laws from many foreign countries. These reflect a fundamental reality of commercial foreign law publishing: they relate directly to business interests. Sources like these are expensive to produce, so there must be a market for them. That market is the business community and the segment of the legal profession that serves it. Consequently, we hold, for example, Commercial Laws of the World [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K1004 .C65], Income Taxes Worldwide [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K4505.4.I5], and World Patent Law and Practice [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K1504 .W66], but you would not find anything like them, for example, on residential landlord-tenant legislation of foreign countries. Selected labor law opinions from the high courts of foreign countries are translated in International Labour Law Reports [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K1704.23 .I57]. A notable exception that proves the rule is Constitutions of the Countries of the World [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K3157.A2B58 1971], offering translations of foreign constitutions. (Foreign constitutions are the easiest kind of foreign law to find on the Web.)
There are practitioner guides, most in loose-leaf form, about doing business in foreign countries or regions of the world. Many of these contain translations of foreign business-related legislation, which are integrated into the body of the text or collected in an appendix. These include Business Transactions in Germany [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KK2057.B87 1983] and Doing Business in Mexico [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KGF333.B86 D65].
If you are searching for a particular section from a code or statute, and if this section is controversial or otherwise interesting to academics, you might find it translated within a law journal article or at a Web site.
In the absence of a translation, some users can make do with a summary
of the law. In addition to the International Law Digest, we
hold a number of sources that summarize foreign laws. One of these
is Digest of Commercial Laws of the World [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL
K1005.4 .D54]. The Organization of American States
has published a series of business law summaries entitled A Statement
of the Laws of . . . in Matters Affecting Business, covering the countries
of the Americas. This series began publication in the late 1940's;
our latest editions were issued in the late 1970's.
International law sources
The phrase "source of law" may be understood in two senses: (1) a basis for legal duties and obligations, or (2) a physical or electronic artifact providing or describing the text of legal instruments or other evidence of law. A generally accepted statement of the "international law sources" in the first sense is Article 38(1) of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. These and other basic characteristics of international law are described in Thomas H. Reynolds, "Introduction to International Law," in Accidental Tourist on the New Frontier: An Introductory Guide to Global Legal Research 113-122 (Jeanne Rehberg & Radu D. Popa, eds., 1998) [LAW/RESERVES K85.A27 1998]. More in-depth sources that you can use to build a frame of reference on international law are the Encyclopedia of Public International Law [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ1160.E52], and Restatement (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States [LAW/RESERVES KF4650.A17 A5 1987], which is also available on WESTLAW: REST-FOREL, and LEXIS: INTLAW; FORREL. A standard introductory text is Mark W. Janis, An Introduction to International Law (1st ed. 1988) [LAW/RESERVES KZ3140.J36 1988]; another, from a British perspective and very well-written, is Malcolm N. Shaw, International Law (4th ed. 1997) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ3275.S4I57 1997].
The focus of this essay is on "international law sources" in the second
sense. A quick overview of these is Thomas Buergenthal &
Harold G. Maier, Public International Law in a Nutshell 19-35, 243-257
(2d ed. 1990) [LAW/RESERVES
JX3091.B84 1990]. Indispensable is Accidental Tourist,
at 123-294, which served as a source for this essay. Another critical
finding tool, which, while updated, is not as up-to-date as it should be,
is Germain's Transnational Law Research (1991- ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL
REF K85.G47 1991]. Web sites helpful to international
law research include the ASIL
Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law and the ambitious
Research on International Law Issues Using the Internet, maintained
at the University of Chicago.
Before conducting treaty research, read Mark W. Janis, An Introduction to International Law 9-34 (1st ed. 1988) [LAW/RESERVES KZ3140.J36 1988] for essential background on the law of treaties. You will find an excellent presentation of the essential points of information about treaties (e.g., negotiation, adoption, accession, etc.), as well as a chart of treaty sources by category and purpose, and a detailed description of those sources, in Jeanne Rehberg, "Finding Treaties and Other International Agreements," in Accidental Tourist, supra, at 123-50. Several useful online guides to treaty research, in an outline format, are offered by the University of Chicago and Georgetown University Law Center (please note that call numbers given may not match ours).
Treaties to which the United States is a party, both bilateral and multilateral, are available from a variety of sources, depending on their date, and sometimes their subject matter. One of the official sources, abbreviated U.S.T., is United States Treaties and Other International Agreements [ LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ235.3.U55], published by the U.S. State Department. This is a set of blue volumes located, along with most of our basic print treaty collection, on shelf 2A in the Foreign & International Law Collection. It covers the period from 1950 to the "present"; however, like many government publications (e.g., United States Reports), but worse than most, it is somewhat behind -- the latest volume was published in 1995 and contains treaties dated through 1984. Another official source, from which United States Treaties is compiled, is a series of pamphlets, Treaties and Other International Acts Series [LAW/RESERVES KZ235.32 .U54], abbreviated T.I.A.S. Each pamphlet contains a separate treaty and is separately numbered. These pamphlets, while naturally issued more frequently than United States Treaties, are also behind in their publication.
An alternative official source for United States treaties sent to Congress since 1981 (97th Congress) is Senate Treaty Documents. They are available through Congressional Information Service (CIS) [LAW/DOCUMENTS REF KF49 .C62], and the CIS microfiche set [microfiche cabinets B12 to B14]. To locate a treaty, consult the CIS Index for the appropriate year, and look under the subject "Treaties and conventions." (The year of CIS publication does not necessarily match the year the document was issued. You might need to try the index for the following one, or even two, years.) Use our Web subscription (from University of Houston Law Center workstations) to CIS Online, select "CIS Index," and choose how you would like to search (if by subject, enter "treaties"). You may use the microfiche access number to retrieve an "official" copy of the document from the microfiche set.
Given the publishing practices of the the U.S. government, sometimes the most official print source for a United States treaty is International Legal Materials ("ILM") [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K9 .N87] [LEXIS: INTLAW; ILMTY, WESTLAW: ILM]. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) still has not been officially published; hence, you will usually find it cited at 32 I.L.M. 289 (1993). More rarely, the text of a United States treaty is published in the U.S. Department of State Dispatch [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K25 .N5832] (formerly Department of State Bulletin), which is also available on LEXIS: INTLAW; DSTATE, and WESTLAW: USDPTSTDIS [sic].
Hein's United States Treaties and Other International Agreements: Current Service [LAW/MICROFORMS Cabinet A2] is a commercial microfiche source that is especially useful for finding the texts of more recent treaties. The microfiche are organized by "KAV" numbers, which stand for Kavass. (Igor Kavass is responsible for the United States Treaty Index and the Current Treaty Index, which are discussed below.)
If you cannot find an official or semi-official print source for a recent United States treaty, or if you wish to verify a citation, you may use the USTREATIES database on WESTLAW. According to the Scope note, "Coverage begins with T.I.A.S. No. 10869 (June 18, 1979), Senate Treaty documents from the 103rd Congress in 1993, and State Department documents from State Dept. No. 90-1. These include documents that are available in the agency's files and new documents as they are released by the United States Senate or Department of State."
United States treaties published from 1778 until 1950 are contained in Statutes at Large [LAW/STACKS KF50 .A2], which is the official source. Another source, popularly called "Bevans," covers 1776 to 1949, and is formally titled Treaties and Other International Agreements of the United States of America, 1776-1949 [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ236 1776b].
We also hold subject-specific, commercially published compilations of United States treaties, including Extradition Laws and Treaties: United States [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K 5443.A2U5], and Tax Treaties: Full Texts of U. S. Treaties with Foreign Countries Covering Income and Estate Taxes [LAW/STACKS KF6306.C65]. Sets may be devoted solely to treaties between the United States and one other jurisdiction or class of jurisdictions, such as U.S. - Mexican Treaties [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ236 1996], and International Agreements of the United States and the Former Soviet Republics [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ236.3.U55].
To identify or verify a citation to a United States treaty, there are a number of finding tools, some of which overlap in their coverage. Multivolume index sets are shelved at the end of both United States Treaties and Bevans; both of these sets index treaties by treaty number, chronologically, by subject, and by country. (The index to United States Treaties is missing the numerical index volume.) An index covering 1776-1990, which subsumes and supersedes these separate indexes, is the 13-volume United States Treaty Index: 1776-1990 Consolidation (1998 Revision) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ235.U53]. The hardbound 2000 Consolidation Index and the Current Treaty Index looseleaf [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ235.U53] supplement the United States Treaty Index. Students with current computer accounts may access Hein's United States Treaties Index on CD-ROM at the computers in the Computerized Legal Instructional Center (the "CLIC room"). The latter three indexes rely in part on KAV numbers.
For a United States treaty that may be in force, the quickest approach might be to use Treaties in Force [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ235 .T73] as an index, provided you know the treaty subject matter. Treaties in Force is published annually by the U.S. State Department. It is divided between bilateral and multilateral treaties. When you use this tool, try to be flexible when looking under possible subjects. An older Web version of Treaties in Force in the .pdf format is available. Many of the more recent treaties you find in Treaties in Force will be followed by no citation other than "T.I.A.S.," without a number, which means that it has not yet been officially published. Try to locate it in through the Current Treaty Index (and then, once you have identified the KAV number, Hein's United States Treaties on microfiche), WESTLAW: USTREATIES, as a Senate Treaty Document through CIS, or from some of the other alternative sources listed above.
Other sources that may be used to identify and verify United States treaty citations are WESTLAW: USTREATIES, LEXIS: INTLAW; ILMTY, and CIS.
Multilateral treaty sources will serve as parallel citations for many United States treaties, and of course, include much else. There are three core multilateral treaty sources. They also include bilateral treaties (which are discussed in detail below). The United Nations Treaty Series [LAW/MICROFORMS Cabinet A2], abbreviated U.N.T.S., begins its coverage in 1946. The most recent issues were published in 1997. Many multilateral treaties published between 1920 and 1945 are included in the League of Nations Treaty Series (L.N.T.S.) [LAW/MICROFORMS Cabinet A2]. A wonderful collection of multilateral (and bilateral) treaties from 1648 to 1919 is the Consolidated Treaty Series [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL JX120.P35].
Treaties from the United Nations Treaty Series are available via the United Nations Treaty Collection on the Web through a subscription. (University of Houston students and faculty should contact the Foreign & International Law Librarian for the user identification and password.) There is a search engine for U.N.T.S. treaties, and links to Texts of Recently Deposited Multilateral Treaties deposited with the Secretary-General not yet published in the United Nations Treaty Series.
A major source of multilateral treaties is International Legal Materials. Other official multilateral and bilateral treaty sources include the Organization of American States Treaty Series [LAW/MICROFORMS Cabinet A2], and the European Treaty Series [ANDERSON/GENERAL COLL JX626 1954 .E8x]. Inter-American treaties are available at the OAS Web site.
Selected multilateral treaties are included in volumes often described as "basic documents" relating to a subject. A general example of this genre is Basic Documents in International Law (Ian Brownlie, ed., 4th ed. 1995) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ64.B37 1995], a small but handy book that nevertheless contains treaties fundamental to international law (such as the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the United Nations Charter, etc.). Others are Basic Documents of International Economic Law (Stephen Zamora & Ronald A. Brand, eds., 1990) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF JX1252.B37 1990] (also available on LEXIS: INTLAW; BDIEL), Basic Documents on International Law and the Environment [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K3583.B375 1995], and Human Rights: The Inter-American System (Thomas Buergenthal & Robert E. Norris, eds., 1982- ) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K3240.4.H83].
Web sites offering the text of multilateral treaties include the Multilaterals Project.
The most convenient tool for identifying or verifying United Nations treaties is Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary General [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF JX1977.A2 ST/LEG/SER.E]. As the title suggests, this does not reference all multilateral treaties, but it does include many of them. It is divided by broad subjects, and within those subjects the organization is chronological. This source also contains status information (e.g., effective date, signatories, accessions, etc.). The most recent issue we received lists treaties as of the end of 1996. A more up-to-date, electronic version of this source is available through the United Nations Treaty Collection Web site.
An excellent source for identifying multilateral and bilateral treaties from 1900 to 1980 is the World Treaty Index (2d ed. 1984) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ173.R63 2d]. Also useful is Multilateral Treaties: Index and Current Status [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ118.B68 1984], whose coverage begins in 1856; it has a separate, soft-cover supplement. Finally, there is Index to Multilateral Treaties; a Chronological List of Multi-Party International Agreements from the Sixteenth Century through 1963 [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ118.H35 1965]. These three sources are shelved together on shelf 1A.
A microfiche index to the United Nations Treaty Series is filed at the end of that series in Cabinet A2. However, microfiche, already cumbersome enough, is probably the worst possible format for an index; its use in the first instance is not recommended. Treaties from 1648 to 1919 are indexed chronologically and by party in Index Guide to Treaties: Based on the Consolidated Treaty Series, which is shelved with the Consolidated Treaty Series [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF KZ120.P35].
Sources for bilateral treaties involving the United States are discussed above, as well as multilateral sources that also include bilateral treaties. What remain might be called sources of "foreign bilateral treaties," i.e., treaties between two foreign countries, neither of which is the United States. In most cases, these treaties are difficult to find; but they are increasingly available on the Web through these countries' official pages, and through unofficial pages maintained by those concerned with the subject matter of the treaty.
The official source(s) for a foreign bilateral treaty is most likely to be the parties' respective official gazettes. Many foreign countries also publish analogs to our own United States Treaties, such as Mexico's Tratados Ratificados y Convenios Ejecutivos Celebrados por Mexico [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ366 1973].
You are most likely to find such treaties published in commercially published compilations on a subject related to business. These include International Tax Treaties of All Nations [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K 4473.A1I571], Investment treaties [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K 1112.A35I58], and World Patent Law and Practice [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K1504 .W66].
International Legal Materials also publishes
foreign bilateral treaties most likely to be of interest to American international
International law judicial and arbitral decisions
The preeminent international law tribunal is the International Court of Justice. The official source for its judgments is Reports of judgments, advisory opinions and orders/International Court of Justice [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ214 .I58]. These and more recent decisions may be found at the court's homepage , and at Cornell University's mirror site. They are also available on WESLAW: INT-ICJ.
World Court Reports [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ208 .W67] contains the decisions, in two volumes, of the ICJ's predecessor, the Permanent Court of International Justice.
Other international law case reporters include the decisions of national courts around the world on international law issues. Foremost among these is International Law Reports [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ199 .I58], which offers a useful consolidated index for volumes 1-80, and another for volumes 81-100. Each volume also comes with an index. Another reporter, narrower in territorial scope, is Commonwealth International Law Cases [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ199.P36]. Narrower still is American International Law Cases [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ238.A2A54 2d].
Arbitral decisions are also cited by international lawyers and scholars. Reports of International Arbitral Awards [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ208 .R37] is currently the primary official reporter for these. Older decisions are contained in Hague Court Reports [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KZ203 .H32].
Documents of recent or ongoing international criminal tribunals, like International
Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, may be found on the Web.
A relatively small number of libraries in the United States make available most United Nations official documents and publications. These are called "depository libraries," because they have been designated by the United Nations to participate in its depository program. The only United Nations depository library in Texas is the University of Texas at Austin. At the University of Houston Law Center, we collect materials such as the United Nations Treaty Series, and some other basic UN publications. Since we are not a United Nations depository library, we do not collect or make available print copies of most United Nations documents.
You will most often have occasion to search for General Assembly resolutions or Security Council resolutions. Although we do not receive these in their official form, they are available through a combination of print and electronic sources. Consult the "Index of resolutions and decisions" at the very end of the appropriate volume of the Yearbook of the United Nations [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL JZ4947 .C65, and volumes missing from our collection at ANDERSON/REFERENCE JX1977.A37 Y4]. A commercial print source for General Assembly resolutions from 1946-1986 is United Nations Resolutions: Series I, General Assembly (Dusan J. Djonovich, ed., 1988) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL JZ5010.D57]; the companion set, for Security Council resolutions from 1946-1979, is United Nations Resolutions: Series II, Security Council (Dusan J. Djonovich, ed., 1992) [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL JZ5006.7.D572]. Finally, a reliable source for General Assembly resolutions, Security Council resolutions, and other official United Nations documents is that body's own UN Documents page.
For other UN publications, search our own online catalog, and others in the area, especially that of Rice University. There is a good chance that documents from the mid-1990's on are available on the Web, and some of these may be in .pdf format.
For research in UN documents, consult United
Nations Documentation: Research Guide, and Jeanne Rehberg, "United
Nations: Lawmaking Activities and Documentation," in Accidental Tourist,
151-85. You will find both of these sources particularly helpful
in deciphering UN document numbers.
We hold several official European Union sources. The Official Journal of the European Communities [LAW/MICROFORMS Cabinet A2], abbreviated O.J. (and sometimes J.O. from the French), is a fundamental official source of European Union legislation (in the "L" series) and other information (in the "C" series). Commission ("COM") documents are also available on microfiche in Cabinet A2. The Bulletin of the European Union [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL K2.U57] is shelved with other foreign and international periodicals; check for the most recent issues at the reserve desk.
Some unofficial sources of the treaties establishing the European Union and its former incarnations are Encyclopedia of European Community Law: B European Community Treaties [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE916.E52] and Treaties Establishing the European Communities [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE4442.3.T73 1978].
There are a few alternative, commercial print sources of EU legislation. Encyclopedia of European Community Law: C Secondary Legislation [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE916.E52] collects EU regulations, directives and decisions. European Union Law Reporter [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE925.5 .C64], published by CCH, is another good source for these. Use the "Finding Lists" at the end of Volume 4 to locate citations to both legislative texts and cases.
Our print collection of EU case law is spotty. The official source, Reports of Cases before the Court [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE924.5.R47] (also called "European Court Reports"), is only held from 1974-1979. A good commercial print source of EU cases since 1989 is CCH's European Community Cases [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE 925.5.C6401]. (To confuse cite-checkers, this set is abbreviated "CEC.") You will find print issues of Common Market Law Reports [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL KJE923.7 .C66] from the 1960's and the 1980's.
Official European Union Web sites include EUROPA, a gateway site, and EUR-Lex: European Union Law, which contains legislation and recent case law.
LEXIS offers EU law files through the EURCOM library.
A more detailed discussion of European Union research is Marilyn J. Raisch,
"European Union: Basic Legal Sources," in Accidental Tourist, supra,
Remember that the online catalog is one of the best databases available to you -- often as valuable as WESTLAW or LEXIS, depending on your problem. The catalog gives you access to myriad secondary (and primary) sources. Unfamiliarity with the online catalog is common. You should be comfortable with its features and potential uses. Search the online catalog creatively. The program we use allows a Boolean word search (using simple queries with "AND," "OR" and truncated terms using "*" as a root expander). Pay particular attention to your ability to "limit" searches using a variety of criteria.
Our catalog provides links to law libraries in Houston and Texas. You might find other catalogs and bibliographic databases useful for identifying or verifying citations to books and journals. You may do so by using the Library of Congress Online Catalog, WorldCat, and the online catalogs of other U.S. law libraries. You may search Books in Print if you are working from a University of Houston workstation; it is also available as the BIP database on WESTLAW.
To locate journal articles, use one of the family of index sources produced by the Information Access Company. All provide the same information, but through different formats. The Current Law Index [LAW/INDEX TABLE K33 .C87] is the print format. It is available online through WESTLAW: LRI, and LEXIS: LAWREV; LGLIND. The library also has a Web subscription variously called InfoTrac or LegalTrac; a dedicated InfoTrac workstation is located opposite the public workstations, perpendicular to the circulation desk. A CD-ROM workstation, current through June 1997, is situated near the Current Law Index. The full texts of many journal articles on foreign and international law are accessible through WESTLAW: INT-TP.
Two cardinal sources that index secondary foreign law materials are, for journal articles, Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals [LAW/INDEX TABLE (F&I) K40 .I63] and, for both books and journal articles, Szladits' Bibliography on Foreign and Comparative Law [LAW/INDEX TABLE (F&I) K520 .S95].
International law bibliographies are published on various subjects. Some examples of subject-related international law bibliographies are A Nafta Bibliography [ANDERSON/GENERAL COLL KDZ944.A12 M48 1996], World Environment Law Bibliography [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF K3581.T46 1987], and Human Rights: An International and Comparative Law Bibliography [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL REF K3236.H86 1985].
You may encounter difficulty with an abbreviated citation. For sources
published in Anglo-American countries, consult Bieber's Dictionary of
Legal Abbreviations: Reference Guide for Attorneys, Legal Secretaries,
Paralegals, and Law
Students [LAW/REFERENCE KF246.B46 1993]. For foreign law journals, use the "Periodicals Indexed by Title" section near the beginning of any volume of the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals. The Bluebook, in its Tables (T.2), offers a passable list of important foreign statutory publications and case reporters that helps to make sense of their full titles, chronology and coverage.
Foreign legal dictionaries, such as Dahl's Law Dictionary: Spanish
to English, English to Spanish [LAW/FOREIGN-INTL
REF K52.S6D33 1996], are shelved from K52 to K54 in
the Foreign & International reference area. These may help you
to verify a foreign law citation by indicating its subject matter, allowing
you to use an index or bibliography that is organized by subject. yourDictionary.com
has links to non-legal foreign language dictionaries. A quick, risky,
and sometimes (unintentionally) humorous
which you can use for entire sentences and even paragraphs, is provided
Prepared by Tim Mulligan
Last revision: February 7, 2011 by Saskia Mehlhorn