A New Course in International Law Research Will Be Offered in the Spring Term

Professor Butler, a reference librarian on the law school library staff, will offer a new one credit course in international law research in the spring term. This course is specifically designed for students taking courses in international and foreign and comparative law at the school, participating in the Jessup International Moot Court and International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Competitions, as well students writing articles on international law topics for the law school’s law journals.   The course would also be of interest to any students interested in international law practice.

The class will introduce students to concepts and skills used in international and foreign legal research.  Students will learn basic concepts of legal research, research strategies, evaluation of materials in various formats, and search techniques for effective use of electronic sources.  Both primary and secondary materials will be considered in various formats.  Topics include public international law, foreign and comparative law, private international law, the European Union, the United Nations, and other international organizations.  In addition, the course will explore resources and research strategies for international human rights, international environmental law, international trade and arbitration, and family law as an international topic.

Techniques for locating bilateral and multilateral treaties and customary international law will be explored in detail. The documentation of international organizations, chiefly the United Nations and European Union, and research strategies for locating such documents, will be considered.

Each class will include exercises that will allow the students to use and evaluate the various sources being considered in the class.  Grading will be bases on a final research guide on an international law topic or an international organization.

Written by A. Hays Butler.


The UN Treaty Collection






Researching international law, including the treaties between nations, can be intimidating.  Treaty research requires you to use specialized terminology and parse through layers of drafting, approval, ratification, and other legal concepts that don’t translate directly from research within a single jurisdiction.

Fortunately, there are some excellent tools to help you access primary treaty sources.  One of these, the United Nations Treaty Collection, is a free and open-access source of treaty information.  Article 102 of the United Nations Charter requires that the Secretariat register and publish all treaties and agreements entered into by member states.  The United Nations Treaty Collection offers downloadable versions of all agreements and ratification status, organized to help you make sense of different areas of international law.

Within the United Nations Treaty Collection, there are two treaty databases.  The MTDSG database contains all multilateral treaties deposited with the UN Secretary General (plus all of those treaties previously deposited with the League of Nations); the UNTS database contains bilateral and multilateral treaties registered with and published by the UN Secretariat.  You can search or browse the collections to find agreements by topic, participating nations, date of entry, and other criteria.  The database contains key dates and member-state ratification information, as well as full-text copies of each treaty.  There is also a Cumulative Index, which allows researchers to search treatise chronologically or by subject matter.  It also includes helpful definitions of treaty terminology and a glossary of treaty actions.

You can find a link to the United Nations Treaty Collection on our Research Resources page.

Written by Genevieve Tung.

Status of the Pennsylvania Voter ID Law

According to an article from Bloomberg Business Week, a total of nine states  have passed laws requiring a photo ID to vote. Opponents of these laws argue that this requirement may disenfranchise many eligible voters, especially elderly, minority, and low-income citizens.

At the heart of this issue is Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (via the Legal Information Institute), enacted as a directive towards certain states where there was a history of “anti-minority election practices.” Section 5 required that these states seek approval from the Department of Justice or a federal court before making any changes to their voting laws.   States seeking changes to their voting laws argue that this pre-clearance mandate is both costly and outdated.   Many of the states caught up in this legislative battle are the “swing states” whose votes could be determinative in the November elections.  In Pennsylvania, for example, preliminary data suggests that the new voter ID law could disenfranchise as much as 9% of the voting population.

Given the upcoming presidential election, state courts are trying to work with their colleagues in the legislatures by not undermining their law-making powers while balancing the rights of those voting populations.  Furthermore, it is unsurprising that the courts are split on the constitutionality of such laws.

In Pennsylvania, the new voter ID law requires voters to present a qualifying, current photo ID to cast a ballot. In the case of Applewhite v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the case contesting the new law, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court did not grant the injunction sought by the challengers.  Instead, the Commonwealth denied the injunction based on the “predictive” belief that Pennsylvania government officials would, with enough time before the general election, have a system in place whereby citizens would be able to obtain a qualifying ID.

On Tuesday, September 18, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania vacated the Commonwealth Court’s judgment, skeptical of the government’s plan and ability to have such a system in place with adequate time to avoid disenfranchising some voters.  The Per Curiam opinion remanded the case back to Judge Simpson, with a directive to evaluate the feasibility of implementing the plan for voters to obtain qualifying ID in concordance with Pennsylvania’s mandate of “liberal access” to obtaining such an ID.

Of the 7-judge panel, two justices voiced their dissent.  Justice Debra McCloskey Todd’s opinion cites to the majority’s acknowledgment that the “law is not being implemented according to its terms” considering the short time until the election.  Both dissenters agreed on the fact that the majority has, essentially, given the Commonwealth Court another opportunity to “predict” what government officials can do with respect to implementing the law in time for the election. Justice Seamus McCaffery emphasized that, given the facts, circumstances, and time frame, the majority should have taken bolder action in its decision.

With the general election less than 2 months away, those of us right across the river from Philadelphia–birthplace of the Bill of Rights–are on the edge of our seats waiting to hear what the Commonwealth Court will have to say.

More information about other states’ voter ID laws can be found from:

The National Conference of State Legislatures, and

The Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Written by CDS.

New Jersey Legal (& Local) News

(Disclaimer: the content of this post is not meant as an endorsement for any commercial product mentioned.)

As a legal professional, it’s a good idea to stay up-to-date with current events within your local community and area of practice.  Legal newspapers or periodicals will inform you of relevant court decisions, the emergence of new laws, changes to existing laws, and may also include substantive legal articles written by experts in their fields (and sometimes, gossip).  Our local source for this information is the New Jersey Law Journal (NJLJ).  You can review a print copy of this publication from the Circulation desk.  (Note: this item is on reserve, so you will be asked to leave a form of ID.)

Rutgers Law Students and Faculty can also review the NJLJ (and similar legal newspapers from other cities and regions) online using Lexis Nexis (*UPDATED: see below).  From the main page, select the heading “News and Business,” then select “Individual Publications,” and then select “N” to find the NJLJ.  This same path will also reveal a link for North Jersey Community Newspapers, which includes over 40 individual publications from all across northern New Jersey.

 is another source for keeping up with the news.  To navigate to New Jersey news sources using Westlaw Next, from the main page, select “News,” then select “New Jersey” to be taken to the list of Newspapers, Wires, Journals & Magazines that Westlaw makes available.  [For Westlaw Classic users, from the main page, select “Directory” from the top banner, then select the “Business and News” heading, and then select the “Business and News: New Jersey” folder to be taken to a list of individual publications.] (Note: the NJLJ is not available through Westlaw.)

UPDATE: To get to Lexis.com from Lexis Advance, select the “Research” tab in the top left of the screen. Research options will drop down. Select “Lexis.com” and follow the directions above.



Written by CDS.