Supreme Court of India Recognizes Third Gender

Last week, in a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court of India recognized the legal status of transgender individuals, allowing them to identify themselves as members of a third category, neither male nor female.  As a result of this ruling, India’s national and state governments are prohibited from discriminating against members of the transgender community, who will henceforth be entitled to the same educational and hiring preferences as members of the lower castes and other minority groups.

As some observers have noted, it is difficult to reconcile the Supreme Court’s decision to afford legal protections to individuals who identify as transgender with the judgment it entered in December of 2013 reinstating a colonial-era statute that criminalizes homosexual acts.  In the latter case, the Court held that it was up to Parliament, not the judiciary, to repeal the statute.

India is now the third country in Southwest Asia to extend legal recognition to transgender individuals.  In 2007 the Supreme Court of Nepal established a third gender category as part of a wider ruling that invalidated laws that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  Last year Bangladesh began issuing government forms with a third gender category for individuals who do not identify as male or female.

The Supreme Court of India (photo by Legaleagle86 via Wikimedia Commons)

The Georgetown Law Library provides access to the law of India via SCC Online.  This subscription database includes judgments from the Supreme Court of India from 1969 onward, High Court decisions from Indian states and territories, federal statutes and regulations, as well as treatises and other secondary sources.  Users of SCC Online must log in with their Georgetown Law email address.  For optimal search functionality, follow the link to the 2014 (beta) version of SCC Online after logging in.

JUDIS is a free government Web portal for India’s judicial system.  It provides online access to all reported judgments of the Supreme Court of India from its inception in 1950, as well as a selection of High Court opinions from major jurisdictions, including Bombay and Delhi.  Supreme Court judgments published prior to 1994 include headnotes.  JUDIS also enables users to check the status of cases pending in some High Court jurisdictions and provides links to select district court websites.

If you have any questions about using these and other foreign law resources, the reference librarians at the Wolff International and Comparative Law Library would be happy to assist you.

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Looking for a news article? Use the Newspaper Research Guide

The library subscribes to a number of databases that offer access to newspapers across the globe, so whether you’re trying to access a New York Times article from 1982,  yesterday’s Jerusalem Post or the Connecticut Intelligencer from 1810, we more than likely will have access to them. Start with our Newspaper Articles Research Guide whenever you’re interested in finding a newspaper article. It lists the news databases that we subscribe to, and it’s a lot more that Lexis & Westlaw!

news

As more and more internet newspapers institute paywalls, it becomes increasingly more important for members of the Georgetown community to realize that that the library can provide you access to the news resources. Please consult a Reference Librarian if you’re having trouble locating a specific title in one of our newspaper databases.

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2014 Law Library Student Survey – Preliminary Results

We have concluded the 2014 Annual Student Survey for the Georgetown Law Library. This year, 540 students responded. Thank you.  We appreciate all feedback.

Here’s a quick overview chart showing the representation of student responses:

2014 Survey response distribution

Distribution of student responses in 2014 survey

All students who completed the survey were eligible for a prize drawing.  Congratulations to our four student winners: John Oxenreiter (L ‘15), Santana Monda (LLM  ‘14), Meghan Levine (L ’16) and another law student (L ‘16).  Each of these four people will receive a $50 GoCard deposit.

Thank you to all 540 students for providing feedback in this year’s survey. We’ve begun reviewing responses, and we’ll continue to use this input to influence services and other developments over the coming weeks and months.  You can view 2014 quantitative charts and a response summary on our website.  For starters, here’s an overview of reasons people visit either library location at Georgetown Law Library:

2014 chart showing reasons students visit the library

Why Visit the Georgetown Law LIbrary? 2014 responses

The library will publish a narrative response at a later date.

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Denim Day – April 2nd

jeansFor several years, a day in April has been designated as “Denim Day” to promote awareness of sexual violence against women.

It began in 1999 in response to an Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) decision that overturned a rape conviction. There was a dispute about consent. In overturning the decision on the consent issue, the court found that “it is nearly impossible to slip off tight jeans even partly without the active collaboration of the person who is wearing them.”  As a response to this decision female legislators appeared on the doorstep of Parliament wearing jeans and holding signs that read “Jeans: An Alibi for Rape.”

There was a second, similar case in 2008 where the Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) reviewed a lower court decision with very similar reasoning which had found that “it was impossible to, with the girl wearing jeans and being seated, put his hand under her pants and touch” her. This time the high court overturned the lower court and its own 1999 ruling finding that “[t]he fact that the girl was wearing jeans was not an obstacle to her intimate parts, because it is possible for him to penetrate with his hand under the garment, which is not comparable to a chastity belt.”

This development has “closely aligned the Italian Supreme Court with the European Court of Human Rights’ dictates, and ultimately has marked a step forward towards gender equality and women’s right to sexual autonomy.”

Women continue to be victims of sexual violence around the world.  Denim Day serves a reminder to combat such attitudes.
photo Attribution License by CananZembil

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US Supreme Court issues new tax opinion

Today, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion (8-0; Justice Kagan did not participate) in United States v. Quality Stores, Inc. holding that severance payments to involuntarily-terminated employees because of the end of the business in bankruptcy constitutes taxable wages for the purpose of FICA taxes under 26 USC sec. 3101. Justice Kennedy wrote the opinion, which reversed the decision of the Sixth Circuit.

The case is somewhat notable for its procedural history, as it is a tax case that was litigated originally as an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court, rather than as a more typical deficiency case in Tax Court or a refund suit in district court or the Court of Federal Claims.

 

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Following World News?

The library has a subscription to PressDisplay which offers access to over 2000 newspapers from 100 countries in 60 languages which makes it easy to follow international news at the source. Whether you want to know what the Malaysians are writing in The Star Malaysia or what Wall Street Journal Asia has to say about the recent disappearance of MH370, you can access these sources via our subscription.

press_display

Each newspaper is available as if you were reading it in print, right on your computer screen. Some of the most popular sources included on PressDisplay, include:

  • The Guardian
  • International New York Times
  • The Daily Telegraph
  • The Jakarta Post
  • The Jerusalem Post

Feel free to ask a reference librarian if you have any questions using the PressDisplay database.

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Reflections on a Bibliography, Fifty Years Later

[Reposted from the NEJL blog]

By Elisa Minoff

“Selected Readings in Law and Poverty” is a remarkable document. bellow_titleGary  Bellow compiled the bibliography with the help of several law students in 1964, for a course he was teaching at Georgetown Law called Poverty and the Administration of Justice. At the time, Bellow was a young public interest lawyer working at the Legal Aid Agency of the District of Columbia. Bellow would later work at two other organizations funded the United Planning Organization (a community action agency in DC) and California Rural Legal Assistance (a pioneering legal services organization serving California’s farm workers)—before leaving legal practice for academia, where he helped found modern clinical legal education.

In 32 well-organized and quickly-digestible pages, the bibliography transports us back in time to those heady early days of the War on Poverty. It reminds us that what we have come to think of as the intellectual influences on the War on Poverty amount to only a sliver of the popular and scholarly writing on poverty at the time. And it gives us a taste of the ambition of practitioners like Bellow who were considering how to use the law in the fight against poverty.

midstofplenty

Ben Bagdikian. In the Midst of Plenty: The Poor in America. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Part I of the Bibliography, “The Elements of Poverty,” is most interesting to the general historian and reader. In it, Bellow and his fellow contributors list some of the most influential works on poverty from the early 1960s. Notably, the list does not stop at Michael Harrington’s The Other America or Ben Bagdikian’s In the Midst of Plenty. Bellow wanted to stimulate “law students in becoming more concerned with the legal problems of the poor and the urban condition,” as he wrote in the introduction. Accordingly, the selections tend to focus on the underlying causes of poverty, especially urban poverty, and the structural conditions that account for its persistence. Subsections on politics, race, class structure, and psychology include works by Saul Alinksy, Seymour Martin Lipset, Herbert Gans, Oscar Lewis, Ralph Ellison and Charles E. Silberman. These books were not low-circulation editions read by a handful of academics and poverty experts, but trade (and in some cases mass-market) paperbacks that became part of the larger public discourse about contemporary social problems.

newcomers

Oscar Handlin. The Newcomers. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959.

As a historian of migration and social welfare, I was particularly excited to see Oscar Handlin’s The Newcomers listed among the “General Considerations.” Handlin was a prolific historian of immigration who had written the pulitzer-prize winning The Uprooted in 1951. In the late 1950s, he had turned to the study of contemporary internal migration. In The Newcomers, Handlin chronicles the experiences of Puerto Ricans and African Americans who had recently moved to New York City. When Handlin published The Newcomers, popular commentators had begun to blame migrants for the struggles of America’s inner cities, and social workers had come to believe that helping migrants “adjust” or “assimilate” to urban life was a prerequisite to solving urban poverty. Migration, in other words, was very much a part of the debate about poverty in the years leading up to Lyndon Johnson’s declaration, and Bellow’s bibliography manages to capture this too.

Considering the trends in anti-poverty research over the last several decades, the subsection on “The Psychology of Poverty” is particularly interesting. Psychology is yet another subject that has been largely missing from discussions of poverty, but was very much a part of the debates in the 1960s. Historian Alice O’Connor describes the “behavioral sciences revolution” that infused poverty research in the 1950s and 60s.  During these years, the National Institute of
Mental Health funded a number of influential studies and conferences on poverty. Bellows himself admitted to being especially concerned with the psychology of the poor. As he observed in a fascinating interview in 1964: ”It seems to me that poverty is something more than just economic deprivation. It seems to be characterized by a psychological dimension,
a feeling of hopelessness, of powerlessness, of an inability among the poor as we call them to belong to any institution or feel a part of our society.” (Bellows and others involved in the legal services movement, believed that the law could help the poor combat this feeling of
powerlessness bring them into the fold of American society.) In later years, anti-poverty activists became disenchanted with psychology as a subject that could help explain poverty’s persistence and gravity. After decades of marginalization, however, psychology is once again a part of
the discussion, as researchers have started to unveil the long-lasting repercussions of phenomena like poverty-induced toxic stress in early childhood.

children_of_sanchez

Oscar Lewis. The Children of Sanchez: Autobiography of a Mexican Family. New York: Random House, 1964.

(As a footnote on the subject of psychology and poverty, Bellow includes Oscar Lewis’ book, The Children of Sanchez, in the list of works on psychology. In this book, Lewis develops his idea of a culture of poverty—another concept that has recently enjoyed something of a rebirth).

What is most notable about Part II of the bibliography, “The Legal Problems of the Poor,” is how broadly Bellow conceived these problems. Among the legal problems of the poor highlighted in the bibliography are housing issues, such as urban renewal and relocation, zoning, and landlord tenant disputes; consumer protection issues, such as loan and debt problems and purchasing on credit; criminal justice issues, such as arrest and the right to counsel; as well as, to randomly select just a few: juvenile delinquency, unemployment compensation, and discrimination. Part II, which primarily consists of law review articles, includes much more technical works than Part I, which is populated with books by academics, journalists, and activists written for a general audience. But the technicality does not suggest narrow or small mindedness. Poverty law, a la Bellow, addressed any and all issues that arose in the everyday lives of America’s poor. It was far more than the law of public assistance benefits.

Bellow’s bibliography poses something of a challenge to scholars concerned with poverty today: to think broadly, and ambitiously, about the problems of the poor, and to circulate our ideas widely so that they too may become part of the public discourse—fifty years after the War
on Poverty.

bibliography_quote1

About the author: Elisa Minoff is a political and legal historian, who will be teaching as an Assistant Professor of History at the University of South Florida beginning in the fall of 2014. She has  conceptualized and developed the collaborative War on Poverty bibliography, which is available as a google doc.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1K7euJxKGRVSxR_A9CTknfmKVSfWPhj66R-rSv2j3c74/edit?usp=sharing

More information about the bibliography can be found on NEJL’s War on Poverty — Legal Services Resources Center website.

Related resources:

Selected Readings in Law and Poverty,” prepared by Gary Bellow for a seminar at Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and the Administration of Justice taught in 1964-1965.

Interview with Gary Bellow on the “Role of the Lawyer and the Problem of Poverty” by Richard D. Capparella, District Roundtable, WWDC, May 9, 1964. Gary Bellow collection, NEJL. The reformatted vinyl recording is available as a streaming mp3 file at: https://repository.library.georgetown.edu/handle/10822/707482

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Researching the Legal Aspects of the Crimean Crisis

Did Crimea have the right to secede from Ukraine?  Was there a legal basis for the referendum held on March 16?  Can the Russian Federation lawfully absorb Crimea without Ukraine’s consent?

These are some of the legal issues addressed in an informative blog post by Peter Roudik, the Director of the Global Legal Research Center at the Law Library of Congress.  As Roudik notes, the answers to these questions often involve constitutional and/or statutory interpretation.

Referendum in Crimea, il filo sottile tra guerra e pace.
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License by KoFahu onFlickr

Georgetown students can access primary law from Ukraine and Russia via The Foreign Law Guide and Hein’s World Constitutions Illustrated.  In addition to providing foreign law materials in their original languages, these resources also provide English-language translations, when available.

As events in Crimea continue to unfold, take advantage of these additional library resources to  help you understand the legal aspects of crisis.  For background information on relevant international law concepts (such as secession, self-determination, and sovereignty), consult the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law.  To keep abreast of recent scholarly commentary on the dispute between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea, visit the debate map compiled by Oxford Public International Law.

For timely insights into the Russian perspective on the crisis, it can be helpful to review the English-language publications of the Russian media, such as this article from English edition of Pravda and this article from The Voice of Russia, as re-posted on the website of the Canadian Centre for Research on Globalization.

If you have any questions about using these and other foreign and international law resources, please contact a reference librarian.

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2014 Law Library Student Survey – Runs through March 24

The Law Library is conducting a survey of all Georgetown law students. Please take about 10 minutes to give us your feedback on the law library’s collections, services and any related matters. We promise to read every comment submitted, and we’ll do what we can to act on and respond to your feedback.

Take the 2014 Law Library Survey [Georgetown login required]

For the Spring 2014 Georgetown Law Library Survey, we’re awarding four prizes of $50 to be added to your Georgetown GoCard. After completing the survey, you’ll have a chance to enter your email address to be entered for the drawing. We will keep the survey open through Monday, March 24th and plan to announce student winners soon after this.

It should only take a few minutes to complete the voluntary survey. Based on feedback in prior years, we revised the past exam archive, added the Williams hydration station, purchased new chairs for the Wolff study rooms, and added more book scanning options in both locations.

You can review a summary of survey responses from 2007 to 2013 on our website.

In 2013, 595 students responded from the following groups:

2013 response summary chart

2013 Student Library Survey Response Summary

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