European Law Interest Group

The European Law Interest Group is open to all those with an interest in aspects of European law, including collection development, legal research, and access to print or electronic resources. While the group originally focused on Eastern Europe, we now examine all of Europe, with recent programming focusing on the European Union and Ukraine. Whether you work in a law firm with branches and clients in Europe, or at a law school with faculty and students studying the substantive law of European nations, please join the European Law Interest Group to contribute to our discussion and programming. We encourage you to join the FCIL-SIS European Law IG Discussion Group in My Communities and become part of our ongoing conversation. If you are unable to attend the annual meeting or if you have any questions about this group, its mission, or how to join, you may also reach out to the interest group chair for additional information.

The History and Development of European Law Interest Group

by Lucie Olejnikova

Shortly after the FCIL-SIS was formed in 1985, Dan Wade, the 1988 Chair, shared his vision of creating working groups that would meet and focus around selected topics. Aside the already existing Latin American Law working group, he envisioned the birth of African Law Working Group and Soviet Law Working Group that would focus on collection development, acquisition, and dissemination of legal materials pertaining to the respective geographical areas. By 1989, the Soviet Law Working Group was officially formed and lead by Blanka Kudej.

At the 1989 AALL Annual Meeting, the Soviet Law WG met, attended by Columbia, Cook County, Harvard, Michigan, NYU, Penn, Vanderbilt, and Yale, all reporting a strong commitment to collection of legal resources in the Soviet and Eastern European regions. Regular meetings of this group were held at AALL for years to come. In 1990, under the leadership of Marilyn Raisch, then chair of this WG, the attendees began discussing the changes occurring in Soviet and Eastern Europe societies where transitions from state controlled, socialist economies to various forms of free-market economies was evident. The excitement stemming from these changes ran high while ability to systematically collect, catalog and disseminate reliable and current legal information appeared almost impossible.

In 1991, the Soviet Law working group met and expressed the need for a new name in light of the political changes. At the 1991 AALL conference, the IALL focused its programming on changing European Laws informing that political turmoil in number of European countries has led to significant changes in legal publishing, dissemination of information, and collection development.

At the 1992 meeting, the working group proposed a change name from Soviet Law WG to Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and East European Law Working Group. Members, including Amber Lee and Marilyn Raisch, highlighted the irreversible impact of new political developments in Russia and Eastern Europe on obtaining reliable legal sources. The uncertain future of some newly formed republics presented a difficulty in making collection development decisions. The suggested approach at this time was to divide the resources into pre-Soviet and post-Soviet era categories.

By 1993, the group has changed its name again to reflect the most recent political settings: Russian / CIS / East European Law Working Group. Under the leadership of Marilyn Raisch, the group recognized the need to obtain reliable English translations of newly enacted laws by the young democracies created across Europe. Cataloging of resources, collection development, and online and electronic access to these resources remained problematic. The traditional institutions, including Harvard, Yale, and Library of Congress, continued to collect resources from these regions.

In 1994, the members of the CIS and East European Law Working Group, including Jeanne Rehberg and Radu Popa, carried forward the mandate of this group. The challenges in collection development and acquisition of reliable legal materials remained; nevertheless, the Library of Congress continued to do the best and kept acquiring materials from these regions. Members of the working group identified Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland as examples of complicated collection development efforts. The group continued to grow and make a difference by bringing awareness to the FCIL and AALL membership. In 1996, as reported by Jonathan Franklin, the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) focused its efforts on the former Soviet republics and Eastern Europe to address the political changes.

In 1997, the working group, under the leadership of Radu Popa, welcomed two Armenian faculty members from Yerevan who presented on the legal publishing, dissemination, and collection of legal materials in Armenia. Library of Congress reported the challenges with cataloging Armenian legal materials. Members agreed that of particular challenge is collection development in the areas of former Soviet Union, Georgia, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine. Although the GLIN project was well on its way, the lack of reliable English translations remained a sore reality.

In 1998, under the leadership of Tracy Thompson, the CIS and Eastern European Law WG reported on the difficulty of dissemination of information by Eastern European governments and proposed a translation project of major Eastern European decisions. The members were aware of the formation of CEELI (Central and Eastern European Law Institute) located in Prague, Czech Republic, whose mission has been “to develop an international, professional community of reformers committed to the rule of law.”

After the 1999 AALL meeting, Marta Kiszely reported on behalf of the working group that difficulty in collection development and acquisition remains. The members also recognized the obvious lack of secondary sources from the newly formed democracies and the difficulty in updating legislation in these regions. The group continued to work together to conquer the challenges posed by the sudden political changes and in 2001, the group sponsored a program welcoming speakers. By 2003, as Mary Strouse reported, many institutions in attempt to deal with the difficulty to obtain reliable legal sources launched various projects but the lack of communication and cooperation among those institutions significantly diminished the effectiveness and impact of these projects.

Since 2004, the CIS and Eastern European Interest Group held regular meetings and recognized the need for better cooperation and organization to aid the challenges in collection development decision making, access to legal materials in English, and understanding of legal research in these regions. The group envisioned inviting various speakers to fill that void. All members, including Kevin Gray, Radu Popa, Mirela Roznovschi, and Maria Smolka-Day, have continued to cooperate on solving the identified challenges. Annual meetings were kept to discuss potential approaches.

In 2010, as reported by Joan Policastri, the Library of Congress has begun using Central Europe in its terminology. Many States began to explore technologies to digitize their legal resources, such as Latvia that began digitization of its session laws. In 2011, as reported by Sergio Stone, Penn informed that it plans to continue to build its Polish and Ukrainian collections and Catholic University described their teaching summer program in Krakow.

In 2012, Lucie Olejnikova and Gabriela Femenia introduced a project inviting librarians to share information about their libraries’ current and/or historical holdings of legal materials from Eastern Europe and former Soviet bloc countries. The hope of this project is to gain an idea about which libraries hold and/or collect which materials from which regions. The currently participating universities include Denver University, Penn, Yale, U. of Miami, NYU, Stanford Law, Catholic University, Harvard, Rutgers, and Duke. The currently mentioned countries include Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

In 2013, the CIS and Eastern European Interest Group changed its name to European Law Interest Group extending its interest and scope to include the entire Europe. The group continued the mapping of holdings project and many members participated and organized number of European law related programs. At the 2014 meeting in San Antonio, the European Law IG devoted part of its meeting to a substantive presentation delivered by John Nann of Yale Law Library on the EU Administrative Law, the group also discussed the citation practice of cases after ECR ceased its print publication (in part inspired by Alison Shea’s post on the issue), and it discussed future projects. Dan Wade, a long-time veteran of the group, organized the first book discussion group – Crisis in Ukraine.

At the 2015 AALL meeting in Philadelphia, the FCIL-SIS sponsored a pre-conference European Union workshop thanks to the tireless work of Alison Shea and Gabriela Femenia, which was hosted at the University of Pennsylvania and was an incredible success. The European Law IG had the pleasure to welcome Eastern European Law specialist Peter Roudik of Library of Congress, who delivered an excellent presentation on the current situation in Ukraine. Also, at the July 2015 conference, Alyson Drake, a Reference Librarian at the University of South Carolina School of Law Library, volunteered to take over from Lucie as the new Chair of the European Law IG.