Author Archives: Heather Casey

New Research Guide on Civil Rights

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In honor of MLK Day, the Georgetown Law Library would like to highlight a new research guide available to the public. A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States covers various movements from the civil rights movement of the 1960s, to the suffragettes of the 1800s, immigrants in internment camps, the riots at the Stonewall Inn, to the fight for equal education for children with disabilities, among others. The guide offers available library resources for each topic, notable Supreme Court cases, and at its conclusion, a list of current organizations dedicated to protecting civil rights that one can get involved with, either via donating or through volunteer work.

It is our hope that this guide will be useful to those who seek it out. We will continue to update it and welcome feedback on what we can add that would be useful to recipients. Please email with any suggestions you have for improvement to the guide.

Thank you and we hope you have a happy and productive Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Brexit hits a roadblock

In early October, Prime Minister Theresa May announced plans to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of March 2017, which would start the clock on the 2 year process of the U.K. leaving the European Union. However, a British high court has now ruled that the government must allow Parliament to approve the country’s departure from the E.U. While this decision will not stop Brexit, it is likely to slow the process, as May must now seek Parliament’s approval before starting the process of leaving the E.U. rather than waiting till after the 2-year process has been concluded. May has vowed to appeal this ruling to the British Supreme Court.

It should be noted that the decision rests on the holding that “The most fundamental rule of the U.K. Constitution is that Parliament is sovereign and can make or unmake any law it chooses.” This is the same argument made by those who wished to leave the E.U. in the first place.

The government claimed in its argument that under residual powers of royal prerogative, which cover international treaty-making, it had the power to invoke Article 50 without a vote in Parliament. This argument did not appear to hold water for the court who held that invoking Article 50 without the consent of Parliament would be a violation of the 1972 European Communities Act, a law that incorporates European laws into the British legal system and that provides that only Parliament has the power to invoke clauses like Article 50.

The decision is an interesting piece of constitutional law for British legal scholars. For more information on Brexit, please look at our U.K. research guide. For information on British constitutional law, search our catalog for books and articles that will give you a more in-depth appreciation for how the U.K. handles constitutional issues without having a written constitution. As always, we are available for research consultations and at the reference desks or via chat.


France and the Burkini-Ban Debate

France has always prided itself on its secularism, referred to as laïcité in French. This is one of the core concepts within its constitution and it has been used as a reason in recent years to ban religious clothing – notably the burqa. In 2010, France became the first European country to pose an outright ban on the burqa, which is the full-face veil worn by some Muslim women. The niqab and hijab, by contrast, only cover parts of the face or hair. These fell under a 2004 French law that prohibited religious wear such as headscarves in public schools. To find these laws, one of the best places to look is Legifrance. We also have French laws in our print collection; our research guide on French law may be useful for identifying which code to search. For assistance with the print, please feel free to seek out assistance at the international law reference desk.

One might wonder why the French would target one religion when they seemingly don’t care about the Catholics or Jews or other religious types who might walk among them in various forms of religious dress. After all, no one seems to be asking nuns to remove their habits in the classroom. Or the beach, for that matter.


The argument behind such laws has been that Muslim standards for feminine modesty are overly restrictive and impede on the rights of women, thus infringing on the French rights of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Enter the burkini in the post-Nice-attack atmosphere. Suddenly, this item of clothing, which Muslim women can choose to wear if they want to go to the beach, was another example of the enslavement of women by Islam. Worse than that, in the words of presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy, it was a provocation. Nice outlawed the burkini because it “overtly manifests adherence to a religion at a time when France and places of worship are the target of terrorist attacks.” Several cities followed suit.

The world did not react with warmth and joy. When the following picture made the rounds, people were upset because this image doesn’t look like the image of a woman provoking others with her dress. It doesn’t look like the image of a woman terrorizing others. Instead it looks like the image of a woman being policed for no good reason and being asked to remove clothing against her own wishes, surrounded by armed men.


On Friday, August 26, the Conseil d’Etat, France’s highest administrative court, overturned the burkini-ban that had been instituted by 26 coastal towns. The decision can be read here. It can also be found, eventually, on Legifrance. The judges refute that the burkini is a symbol of terror or inequality, stating:

« l’arrêté litigieux a ainsi porté une atteinte grave et manifestement illégale aux libertés fondamentales que sont la liberté d’aller et venir, la liberté de conscience et la liberté personnelle. »

Basically, that the ban is manifestly illegal because it deprives people of fundamental liberties, such as the liberty to come and go, the liberty of conscience, and personal liberty.

The Nuremberg Trials 70th Anniversary

Friday, November 20, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the start of the Nuremberg International War Crimes Trials which lasted from Nov. 20, 1945 until Oct. 1, 1946. Several trials were held in Courtroom 600 of the Palace of Justice in Nuremberg. The most famous of these was the trial of the major war criminals before the International Military Tribunal, a tribunal consisting of members from the Soviet Union, United States, United Kingdom, and France. The subsequent trials which occurred at Nuremberg were tried by United States military tribunals.

Much can be said about the Nuremberg trials and their legacy in international law, both good and bad. For more details about the initial trial, please visit the upstairs display case at the Wolff Library.

Sports Corruption, Part Deux (the FIFA edition) UPDATED!!!

It would appear that FIFA got jealous at all the attention the NFL was getting for their corrupt practices and has decided to pull the spotlight back to the other football. The one the rest of the world likes. Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice issued indictments for 14 individuals within FIFA. Seven of those individuals were arrested in Switzerland on Wednesday, May 27. The Swiss officials are working with the U.S. in their investigation into FIFA’s alleged corrupt practices, which include (but are most likely not limited to) receiving $150 million worth of bribes from the early 1990s for football tournaments in the US and Latin America via US and Swiss bank accounts. Another case against FIFA officials is for money laundering in association with the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Somehow, despite all of this, Sepp Blatter managed to be re-elected for a fifth term as president of FIFA and began his newest term by ingloriously blaming others for the corruption that runs rampant in the organization, stating that he couldn’t be expected to monitor everyone all the time. While no one expects that, it is apparently too much to ask him to monitor anyone any time. Meanwhile, one of the officials arrested in last week’s raid showed the rest of the world how competent FIFA officials can be when he made a video in which he claimed the arrests were evidence of a US conspiracy to get a World Cup bid. His proof? An Onion article. Not everyone understands satire.

It is thought that more arrests are likely to be made and Sepp Blatter would be wise to refrain from getting too comfortable in his fifth term as president, as the inquiries seem to get closer to him as time goes by. Could it be that the U.S. has finally done something on the international stage that others support (excluding Russia)?

It’s clear that FIFA’s corrupt practices have grown tiresome for some of the countries involved. Perhaps the party is finally ending for FIFA, though one wonders if such systematic corruption can really be remedied with a couple of cases, even if they are brought by powerful countries like the U.S. Still, this is a start.

But don’t just take it from us. John Oliver knows all about FIFA corruption.

UPDATE! Sepp Blatter has resigned! Will miracles never cease?

Ballghazi and Sports Corruption around the World

Scandals in sports are about as unexpected as scandals in politics, right? But how often do the skies open and send us a scandal as entertaining as Deflategate? The ball jokes alone are enough to send those of us who have the maturity of a 12-year-old boy into giggles. While we may think that the NFL has a monopoly on bumbling incompetence in the form of Roger Goodell, who likes to hand out punishments that have no actual link to the severity of the crime committed, it turns out that Goodell is just following in the footsteps of his international compatriots. The NFL is no more corrupt than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee. Strong words, but true. Even though Tom Brady will be suspended for twice as long as Ray Rice, a man caught on video beating his then-girlfriend-now-wife, Goodell and co. at the NFL are only engaging in the time-honored tradition of citing to rules that they make difficult for others to find (seriously, stop by and try to find the rule book from which the Patriots violated the game; for bonus points, find the exact rule that was violated), and hiding behind the notion that while players may do egregious things off the field, the true crime is doing anything to ruin the sanctity and integrity of the game on the field. The Patriots, while certainly not saints in anyone’s imagination, are being punished because they’ve ruined the game on the field, instead of keeping their misbehaviors off the field like everyone else.

If you’d like to learn more about the wild world of Sports Law, take a look at our research guide on the Olympics and International Sports Law as well as our guide on U.S. Sports Law. Books like Fair Play: The Ethics of Sport are in their 4th edition for a reason.

Of course, it all boils down to one simple thought at the end of the day: if the Patriots hadn’t engaged in shady behavior, none of this would be happening. Enjoy the schadenfreude until it’s your team in the spotlight. *cough* Washington D.C. Professional Football Organization *cough*

Pizza Party with the Librarians!

Ever wanted to eat some really yummy FREE food while discussing the intricacies of the library’s online resources? Boy howdy, are you in luck! It just so happens we’re offering free pizza to students this Tuesday, March 3, from noon to one in the Hotung lobby (between Subway and the Sports-Fitness Center). Come talk to us and eat some food. We want your opinions on some of our electronic resources. You want our free food. It’s a match made in heaven (if heaven were kind of lame). Pizza the Hut would approve.

The Charlie Hebdo Attacks In France Last Week

Paris and two of its suburbs were the latest locations of attacks perpetuated by Islamic extremists. Sunday, over a million people of various faiths gathered in Paris to show solidarity in wake of the turmoil caused by the violent events. Notably absent among all the world leaders who showed up for yesterday’s march was someone high-ranking from the United States, which led to President Obama acknowledging that the White House should have sent someone to participate.

While there is much that is being said about the events and the motivations behind them, as well as the troublesome nature of the publication itself, there is less being said about the relationship between France and satire. Charlie Hebdo certainly did not rise up from nothing – it was the product of a centuries-long tradition in France. Even as we think of freedom of speech as something that all Western, democratic cultures enjoy, we also know that it differs greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. To learn more about the various discrepancies between countries’ speech policies, you can do a search in our catalog which will lead you to books like this one. To learn more about free speech in France specifically, we’d recommend books like this. One resource that can be immensely useful to you in comparing and contrasting the laws of various countries is the Foreign Law Guide, which is available to you through the library. Another source that could prove useful to you is our database, The International Encyclopaedia of Laws for Intellectual Property Law, provided by Kluwer. This resource discusses elements of artistic expression and speech in France, the UK, the US, and many other jurisdictions.

In the face of awful events, one of the courses of action we can take is to educate ourselves so that we can move forward. Our thoughts are with France in this difficult time.

Happy Human Rights Awareness Month!

Human Rights Day was this past December 10th. Did you remember to celebrate? Chances are good that if you didn’t commit a crime against humanity, you were on the right path. However, if you want to go above and beyond just basic decency, and learn something in the process, Oxford University Press has produced a map of fifty landmark human rights cases for you to peruse. Each case is given a brief description and a link to a free article or report. The cases were selected by the editors of the Oxford Reports on International Law and the cases were chosen to highlight the sheer number of jurisdictions (national, regional, and international) available for bringing human rights claims as well as the range of claims that have been acknowledged.

The cases are an interesting mix of litigation arising from major historical events, like war, to more unexpected case law from Africa regarding investor’s rights or freedom of the press. Sometimes the cases involve what we might think of as “unattractive victims.” That is to say, it’s not just the downtrodden who can claim human rights protections but it is also those who do the treading. Human rights apply to everyone, not just the good guys. Finally, when looking at the map, one may expect to see pinpoints in locations where abuses occur and yet, the map is more a demonstration of where one can go to seek a legal process or remedy for abuse. Thus, there are places where abuses occur and no pins will be found.

Another Oxford service that we offer here at Georgetown which ties in very nicely with this map is the Consolidated Treaty Series. This series is the only comprehensive collection of treaties from 1648 through 1919 and it provides access, electronically, to scanned images and searchable full text. It also integrates with other Oxford publications such as international case law and commentary for a richer user experience.

The world isn’t always a nice place but we can take a minute to appreciate the rights we share as humans. In conjunction with Oxford University Press, we at the library are here to help you figure out what those rights are…and maybe also to remind you to hug a puppy or ten.

Exams have arrived.

While others may be decking the halls and filled with goodwill towards man, law students know the truth…the most miserable time of the year is upon us. That’s right – exams are here. But never fear intrepid Georgetown Law students. We have your back here at the library. We can’t take those exams for you (and you probably wouldn’t want us to even if we could) but we can make your lives just slightly less awful as you prepare for your doom.

For instance, did you know we have research guides on many subjects? These guides compile sources for you so that you don’t have to seek them out one by one, saving you valuable time. We also have tutorials for certain subjects as well. And don’t forget that you can access exam archives through the library website. One of the best ways to prepare for an exam is to look at old exams from your professor and you’ll find those in the online archive. You can also reserve study rooms from the library so that you can share your misery with friends. Prefer to suffer alone and in silence? We do offer free ear plugs at the reference desks, along with scrap paper, and pens, while supplies last.

You may have noticed that the library moved to 24-hour access starting December 1. That will last through Saturday, December 20 and that applies to both Williams and Wolff. Additionally, there is coffee offered at Williams every night from Monday December 8 through Thursday December 18th, starting at 8pm so that you can stay up all night and enjoy being in the library at 4am. What fun.

Finally, we also have chargers, thumb drives, and other gadgets available for checkout at circulation so that you can keep your electronics awake with you. If you’re at Williams, you can also access study aids in the Reading Room Reserve, located in the side room just next to the printers and scanner.

We can’t get you out of taking exams. But we can try to make the process less painful for you. And the best news of all is, they’ll be over eventually and then you can enjoy the holidays with everyone else. Good luck! We’re all counting on you.