Friday, January 27, 2017

Finding Foreign Law

Thanks to robust free access through government websites, as well as subscription resources with primary law, most American legal researchers can locate a U.S. state or federal court opinion or statute with ease. But what about finding primary legal materials from other countries? Online access can vary widely, and language barriers can also make searching difficult. Whenever you're tasked with tracking down legal materials from outside the U.S., keep these three helpful starting places in mind.
  • The Bluebook, Table 2: Foreign Jurisdictions. While selective in the number of countries it covers, the legal citation manual The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (20th ed. 2015) has increased its attention to non-U.S. jurisdictions in recent editions. The Bluebook table for a particular country (listed alphabetically by country name in Table 2) highlights preferred sources and citation formats for most primary legal materials, and includes titles, dates, and URLs where available. Identifying the appropriate publication title is an excellent first step in tracking down the needed document in a library or on the web.
  • Foreign Law Guide: A subscription database, available to current members of the Duke University community. Entries for a particular country will provide an overview of the legal system, details about primary sources of law, and a subject index. Foreign Law Guide includes pointers to online availability, in both free and subscription resources. Notes about English translations (either official or through unofficial secondary sources) are also often included.
  • GlobaLex: A free website maintained by NYU Law's Hauser Global Law School Program, GlobaLex’s Foreign Law Research section provides detailed guides to researching the law of most countries, including some not featured in Foreign Law Guide (such as North Korea and South Sudan).
These guides are all a great preliminary step in locating legal materials for other countries. For additional resources and assistance, consult our research guide to Foreign & Comparative Law or Ask a Librarian.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Mind Mapping Made Easy

Do you prefer brainstorming on a whiteboard to typing up an outline? If so, then mind mapping tools may be a great way to plan your next project. Mind mapping allows you to brainstorm, take notes, or plan projects visually, and these tools also allow easy collaboration with other users. Learn more about the benefits of mind mapping at the Lifehacker blog's 2013 post How to Use Mind Maps to Unleash Your Brain's Creativity.

Duke University has just announced a partnership which makes MindMeister available for free to all current students, faculty, and staff. MindMeister is a cloud-based mind mapping tool which is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux. Duke users should log in at the OIT software download page, search for MindMeister, and Add to Cart. After Checkout, the free MindMeister Account Creation Link will generate an email to create your Duke account on the service. MindMeister also offers iOS and Android apps for mobile users, as well as the ability to collaborate with other MindMeister users or "teams."

If you do not qualify for the Duke academic software license, MindMeister also offers a free Basic account, limited to 3 mind maps. Pricing plans for non-educational users are also available. In addition, other mind mapping tools are available for users to test the capabilities, including Coggle (which syncs with your Google Account) and, which allows 1 free mind map without logging in.

The OIT software download page contains many other free and deeply-discounted programs and tools for the Duke community. Be sure to take advantage of the valuable deals to be found, including free access to LastPass Premium password management software and discounted Adobe Acrobat Pro DC. To learn more about these programs and receive information about support, visit

Friday, January 6, 2017

A History of the Holman Rule

As the new 115th Congress began its work this week, one of the first orders of business was to adopt procedural rules. House Resolution 5 (text at, Adopting Rules for the One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, garnered much attention for its original controversial plan to limit the powers of the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, approved during a closed vote. Following thousands of constituent phone calls (and Twitter criticism from President-Elect Donald Trump regarding congressional priorities), the move was abandoned less than 24 hours later.

However, a new controversy over the rules package took shape yesterday, when the media took note of another provision, the "Holman rule." Originally developed in 1876 but removed from the standing rules in 1983, the Holman Rule allows a member of Congress to propose appropriations amendments which reduce "the number and salary of the officers of the United States" or "the compensation of any person paid out of the Treasury of the United States." As noted in the Washington Post, this measure has raised concerns about the ability of Congress to target individual federal civil servants for punitive salary reduction, or federal programs for elimination.

News reports frequently describe the Holman rule as "obscure," likely due to its removal from the standing rules more than three decades ago. So what is the history of this Holman rule? Answers can be found in some classic Congressional procedure treatises, such as Cannon's Precedents and Deschler's Precedents. Both are available through the subscription database HeinOnline's Congressional Documents library, as well as for free through the U.S. Government Publishing Office's 8 Deschler's Precedents § 4 contains a historical overview of the Holman Rule, covering its development in the late 1800s, to its limitation of scope by the 98th Congress in 1983. The congressional precedent texts can be browsed for free on GovInfo, or searched and browsed on FDsys. More details are provided in the 2010 publication A Concise History of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations.

For more information about congressional rules and procedures, try a subject search of the Duke Libraries Catalog for "United States. Congress. House -- Rules and practice" or "Parliamentary practice -- United States." You'll find titles like House Practice: A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, and Procedures of the House (2011) and Congressional Procedures and the Policy Process (10th ed. 2016). For help locating these or other titles on the topic, be sure to Ask a Librarian.