International Law

Two legal systems currently predominate in the world: The common law system (which includes the US and most of the English-speaking world) and the civil law system (which includes most of Europe, South America and the non-English speaking nations of Asia and Africa).

For assistance finding the law of the common law nations see especially: Guide to the United Kingdom's Laws; Guide to Canadian Law; and Guide to the Laws of Other English Speaking Countries.

Persons trying to find the law of a particular civil law nation face three significant impediments. First, very few of the current civil and criminal codes are found in English translation in print. However, researches can now find some English language materials from non-English speaking countries on the internet. See Findlaw's International materials website for links to materials from various countries. Westlaw and Lexis also provide several databases with English translations of laws from various countries through the world. Please check the current Westlaw and Lexis directories for the international databases that are currently available. Second, since the basic premise of civil law is that the codes are the sole source of law and that judicial precedents have no authority, cases are irregularly published and almost never found in translation. Third, because the U of L Law Library has not identified civil law texts as a priority, some of the more expensive materials available in English have not been purchased.

Still, there are resources available. Constitutions from all nations are collected in Constitutions of the Countries of the World (Law Library Reference, K 3157 .A2B5 1971; updated) and are generally available on the internet. A list of constitutions available on the internet can be found on Findlaw's World Constitutions Page. General overviews of selected nations laws can be found in both Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World (K 38 .R49 1989; updated) and Modern Legal Systems Cyclopedia (Law Library Reference, K 530 .M62 1984x; updated). To find resources that focus on one particular aspect of foreign law one should check two bibliographical guides: Germain's Transnational Law Research: A Guide for Attorneys (K 85 .G47 1991; updated) and Guide to International Legal Research (JX 1297 .G84 1998, updated with current supplement). If you find an appropriate title, check MINERVA; in some areas (e.g. family law, commercial law, copyright law and tax law) the U of L Law library has a number of foreign law materials.

Another good (and often neglected) source of foreign law information is law journals published by the particular nation you are researching. We subscribe to African Law Studies, Annual Review of African Law, China Law Reporter, Chinese Law & Government, Hong Kong Law Journal, Israel Law Review, Journal of Chinese Law, Journal of the Indian Law Institute, Malaya Law Review, Netherlands International Law Review, Philippine Law Journal, West Indian Law Journal, as well as dozens of British, Canadian, Irish, Australian and New Zealand periodicals.

However, given the U of L Law Library's focus on American law, it is inevitable that a serious research project concerning foreign law may require a visit to a library that specializes in international law. Nearby, both Indiana University and Vanderbilt have excellent foreign law collections. In addition, the Directory of Foreign Law Collections in Selected Law Libraries (Law Library Reference K 68 .D565 1991) has listing of selected law collections arranged by country. Current phone numbers and e-mail addresses of law libraries (as well as the names of reference librarians) are listed in the AALL (American Assn of Law Libraries) Guide. (Law Library Reference, Z 675 .L2 L384)