Few topics get more attention around the world than human rights, but many students are uncertain about the source and scope of those rights.
If you are researching the topic, the library’s research guide is one starting place. As with most international law topics, consulting a good secondary source, such as a leading treatise or the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law, is often a great way to identify primary documents and learn about enforcement mechanisms.
The most prominent arena for international human rights law is the United Nations apparatus, which includes:
A relatively new UN process is called Universal Periodic Review, which provides a regular assessment of every UN member state’s human rights record.
Other human rights systems include the regional systems in Europe, the Americas and Africa–each with its own conventions, commissions and tribunals.
Many sources provide ongoing coverage of human rights developments around the world, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; blogs, such as Human Trafficking Search and Immigration Prof Blog; news agencies of the UN and U.S. State Department (and the Department’s Human Rights Reports); and international news sources, such as the BBC and Reuters.
Other research guides that may provide relevant guidance include our guides to Treaty Research, Refugee & Asylum Law and International Courts & Tribunals.
Supreme Court watchers are eagerly anticipating word whether the Court will decide to take up the issue whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married. In recent weeks, SCOTUSblog and other news sources reported on the Court’s “long conference” on September 29, where petitions for writs of certiorari in several marriage cases were scheduled for consideration.
If the court declines to address the issue in this Term, the chief consequence would be freedom to marry in 11 states. Federal District Court and Circuit Court of Appeals rulings have struck down marriage bans, but those rulings have been stayed (see here, here and here) pending action by the Supreme Court. Once the stays are lifted, the rulings take effect.
Reports of the oral argument in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in August suggested the panel in that case appeared more inclined to uphold the state marriage bans than judges in other Circuit Courts. In an appearance at the University of Minnesota Law School, Justice Ginsburg commented that unless the 6th Circuit upheld a same-sex marriage ban, thus creating a split among the circuits, there would be “no urgency” for the Court to take up the issue in the short term.
To date, there is no word whether the Court will grant certiorari on any of the cases discussed at Monday’s conference. When those decisions have been made, they will be announced in the Court’s Order lists. And there will be extensive coverage in the news outlets that cover the Court. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: On October 2, NPR’s Nina Totenberg noted that the Court had declined, in releasing an Order list in pending cases, to take up any of the pending marriage cases on the merits. She concluded, “sometime in the next few weeks, the high court very likely — though not certainly — will announce which gay-marriage cases it has chosen as test cases for review.”
As more and more periodicals move to electronic versions, our traditional model of finding and reading the news is evolving. In light of this reality, the Law Library is constantly evaluating and seeking ways to make your access to these sources as easy and economical as feasible. Many of the most commonly requested resources are available in multiple formats on our various databases: Think Bloomberg Law, WestlawNext and Lexis Advance or Lexis Academic, but we also have a myriad of other databases available to assist you. This list is by no means exhaustive but will help you find the majority of our Newspaper resources:
- First try this BU Law Library Research Guide
- All full-time BU Law Students in residence have access to a new New York Times group pass. (Details were sent to you under separate cover. Come see the Reference Desk with any questions
- The Boston Globe and The Wall Street Journal are available on the Proquest Digital platform HERE.
- Looking for an international title in full-color display? Try Press Display which features currently over 260 newspapers from around the globe.
Still cannot find what you are looking for? Come visit one of us at the Reference Desk. We are happy to help.
The 7th Circuit today unanimously struck down laws banning same sex marriage in Indiana and Wisconsin. The opinion, by Judge Richard Posner, is already being called a tour de force.
UPDATE: I should have said that the court unanimously affirmed a district court order striking down the Indiana and Wisconsin laws.
If you are new to campus and/or the Boston area, you may be overwhelmed with information or wondering where to look for the information you need. Here are a few tips …
For campus, law school and city information, consider BU Today; faculty and school news and featured events on the Law School main page; and the two main daily newspapers, The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald. Boston’s NPR news station, WBUR, is an great source for news, and its Cognoscenti blog is excellent for thought-provoking opinion. And keep an eye out for the free publications distributed at businesses around town, from The Improper Bostonian to DigBoston to Bay Windows, all of which have calendar sections posting upcoming and ongoing events.
On Twitter, useful feeds include: the law school (@BU_Law), the campus police department (@BUPolice), the health office (@BUStudentHealth) and our feed, @BULawLib., as well as the Globe (@BostonGlobe), the Herald (@bostonherald) and those of other news sources.
Closer to home, each time you check the Law Library’s homepage, there are changing updates in the News & Announcements section and the Library Spotlight, as well as new posts in this blog, linked in the lower right corner.
At the moment, information includes the schedule of orientation tours, survival guides for new students, a selection of new books in the collection and a link for research assistant registration. Check back regularly for updates.
Following up last week’s post on current awareness tools to track specific legal issues, there are many more sources that you can use to discover or monitor a topic, or search for recent developments.
In addition to dozens of topical updating titles provided by Bloomberg/BNA, other premium tools include:
- Law 360, with a focus on business law topics
- IntelliConnect (CCH database includes Tracker newsletters, which can be customized for individual interests, for email delivery)
- Knowledge Mosaic (check out Weekly Regulatory Report and other news titles within KM’s focus areas)
- Setting up alerts for periodic searches to retrieve new results on Lexis Advance or Westlaw Next
- Justia newsletters: free opinion summaries on daily or weekly basis, by topic or court
- For SCOTUS news, sign up for The Supreme Court Bulletin, a free product of Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute (LII)
For more ideas about useful current awareness resources, see our guide to Finding News & Keeping Current as a Lawyer.
When in doubt …
(Image provided by LII.)
Since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, no legal issue in the U.S. has been followed more closely than the question whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to get married.
There are many current awareness tools to monitor the topic. among them, consider these:
The same range of tools can be used to monitor or locate information on other subjects. Whatever you topic, give these tools a try!
In addition to the new Oxford Legal Research Library mentioned earlier this week, the Library has just also added the Global Arbitration Review to its offerings covering international arbitration.
The GAR is a respected current awareness and news tool that provides daily updates if you subscribe using your BU e-mail address. It also compiles an annual “GAR 100″ and “GAR 30″ report that ranks top international arbitration firms based on their proprietary formula.
This is a screen shot of the sign-in page highlighting the multiple types of information available to researchers:
One important subscription limitation to note is the fact that our subscription only allows for viewing and downloading of current materials. Archived items may only be viewed and may not be saved or downloaded.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued a forceful report this week on the human rights record of the United States under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The report is linked here.
The committee’s “concluding observations” included 22 numbered sections detailing areas of concern and recommendations. These included topics that have been commented on frequently (NSA surveillance and privacy rights, the death penalty, targeted killings by drones and racial profiling) and a range of other concerns (from voting rights and the “criminalization of homelessness” to non-consensual psychiatric treatment and domestic violence). The report includes recommendations in all of these areas; and calls on the United States, among other things, to report on its compliance with several of the HRCs’ recommendations within one year, and to provide information on implementation of all the recommendations in its next periodic report, five years from now.
The HRC is one of the “treaty bodies” (or panels of experts) that receives reports from member states on their obligations under international human rights conventions. After receiving the member state’s report and hearing from, e.g., human rights and other “civil society organizations” about that state’s compliance or non-compliance with the convention, the treaty body issues its “Concluding Observations,” in which it states its principal matters of concern and recommendations.
Other UN treaty bodies include, e.g., the Committee Against Torture, which monitors implementation of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment; and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women).
In addition to the treaty bodies, the UN’s human rights apparatus includes the Human Rights Council, a body of 47 UN member states elected by the General Assembly and based in Geneva that coordinates human rights activities for the UN; and the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights, the part of the UN’s Secretariat, or permanent bureaucracy, that works to advance human rights by, e.g., speaking out on human rights issues, coordinating activities with human rights organizations and other UN bodies and providing assistance to national governments.
One of the most challenging things when you are in a busy practice is keeping current with key developments in your practice area. The library subscribes to two services that are heavily used in the practice community: BNA and Law360.
BNA – this is the oldest service with the widest coverage. It tracks decided cases, regulatory developments and practice news generally. You can have an e-mail delivered to your account either daily or weekly depending on the topic.
Law360 – this is a more recent service that is heavily used by litigators. It tracks current litigation and decided cases in a number of legal practice areas.
Lexis and Westlaw also offer numerous newsletters in various practice areas that you can create an alert for and have sent to your e-mail.
Another way to keep up with legal developments for free is to create a Google Alert for a blog search. Google allows you to search only blogs and these are probably the easiest way to keep current in obscure areas that only one lawyer might be interested in.