A6: Lifting the Veil: How to Effectively Research Foreign Customary Laws

Time: 11:15am - 12:15pm
Location: 611-614

While customary law is not widely known or studied in the United States, it remains an important source of law in various foreign jurisdictions with plural legal systems. In a globalized world in which mobility across traditional borders has dramatically increased, the wide range of migrants coming to the United States frequently gives rise to questions regarding laws and customs that governed their lives back home. Therefore, it is important for librarians, as part of their function of supporting staff and institutions that deal with questions of foreign law, to develop a basic understanding of substantive customary laws and the sources necessary for researching them. However, understanding customary laws is no easy task. These laws may be highly fragmented, and primary sources are often not available on the subject. This session will discuss the development and application of foreign customary laws, particularly in Africa, the Asia-Pacific region, and Canada, and will focus on substance and mechanisms, as well as tools for effectively researching these laws.

Takeaway 1: Participants will discuss the nature and common features of foreign customary laws, their place in the hierarchy of laws in foreign jurisdictions, as well as their relevance in the United States.

Takeaway 2: Participants will also take part in discussions designed to provide tools for a practical understanding of the application of customary laws in jurisdictions that have adopted different legal traditions and plural legal systems.

Takeaway 3: Participants will be able to identify and use various legal research tools and sources to research customary-law-related inquiries, with specific examples from the panelists' areas of specialization, including African, Asia-Pacific, and Canadian jurisdictions.

Who should attend: Academic librarians, government librarians, librarians at law firms

Track(s): Reference, Research and Client Services

Hanibal Goitom (Coordinator & Speaker)
Tariq Ahmad (Speaker)
Kelly Buchanan (Speaker)

In addition to being the manager of one of two teams of foreign law specialists at  the Law Library of Congress, Kelly also conducts research regarding the laws of Australia, New Zealand, independent Pacific Island nations, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Kelly joined the Law Library of Congress in 2009 and has written a number of reports for members of Congress, government agencies, and the public on the laws of these countries.  She is also a member of a team of writers that contribute to the Law Library's blog, In Custodia Legis.

Prior to joining the Law Library of Congress, Kelly worked for the New Zealand government as a senior policy adviser at the Ministry of Justice and as an adviser at the Ministry for the Environment.  She was Private Secretary to the Minister of Justice between 2007 and 2008, providing advice on a number of high-profile constitutional and public law issues.

Kelly holds an LLB (Hons) and a bachelor’s degree in social policy from Victoria University of Wellington and has been admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand.

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