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Researching Foreign Law: Print & Online Resources   Tags: abbreviations, acronyms, citation guides, foreign law, translations  

Highlights resources available at/via the Tulane Law Library as well as on free, reliable websites. Coverage includes primary & secondary sources. Feel free to contact me whenever you need more help researching foreign law.
Last Updated: Aug 12, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Roy L. Sturgeon

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Roy L. Sturgeon, Foreign, Comparative, & International Law/Reference Librarian
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Tulane University Law School
332 Weinmann Hall
6329 Freret St.
New Orleans, LA 70118-6231
Tel: +1 504.865.5953
Fax: +1 504.865.5917
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Subscription Databases

Complementing its print resources, the Law Library subscribes to numerous online databases with diverse foreign law content:

Free, Reliable Websites

In addition to the Law Library's subscription databases, foreign law information can be found on free, reliable (i.e., reasonably accurate & current) websites. Among the best are:


What is Foreign Law?

Foreign law usually means the law of a nation, or group of nations with a shared legal system like the European Union, not one's own. It is sometimes mistaken for international law, which is the law between or among nations that have expressly or tacitly agreed to be bound by it. Foreign law may consist of constitutions (written & unwritten), codes/statutes, regulations, & court decisions. It lacks effect outside that nation's borders, but may regulate or bind foreign persons & entities inside that nation.


Foreign Law & American Constitutional Law - 1 of 2

Can & should foreign law be used by American judges when interpreting the Constitution? See what 2 of America's most eminent jurists, Antonin Scalia & Stephen Breyer, had to say about this controversial question below:


Citation Guides

For help in citing to foreign law, see:

Cover Art
Guide to Foreign & International Legal Citations (2d ed.) - NYU School of Law, J of Intl Law & Politics
Call Number: K89 .G84 2009
Has country & organization profiles as well as selected references.

Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (19th ed.) - Columbia, Harvard, Penn, & Yale Law Reviews
Call Number: KF245 .U5 2010
Rule 20 (pp. 179–84) & Table 2 (pp. 277–425) cover foreign law.

Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation (7th ed.) - McGill Law Journal
Call Number: KE259 .C25 2010
Chapter 7 (pp. E 141–89) covers foreign sources.

Oxford Standard for the Citation of Legal Authorities (4th ed.) - Oxford Law Faculty
Section 4.3 (pp. 49–50) lists citation guides for other jurisdictions.


Foreign Law & American Constitutional Law - 2 of 2

See these 2 recent publications for more background:

Cover Art
"Partly Laws Common to All Mankind" - Jeremy Waldron
Call Number: KF358 .W35 2012
Argues that sometimes it is appropriate for US courts to make use of foreign legal materials.

Judicial Reliance on Foreign Law - Judiciary Committee, US House of Representatives
Call Number: Y 4.J 89/1:112-73
Publication Date: Dec. 14, 2011
Hearing with related documents (for & against).


Print Resources

Over many decades, the Law Library has built a substantial collection of foreign law print resources—many not available online. The bulk are shelved on the 5th & 6th floors. These include caselaw, statutes/codes, journals, & treatises. And a lot are in the vernacular. The collection is particularly strong in French, German, & United Kingdom law. Additional print resources are shelved on the 3d floor in New BooksReserve, Reference, & the Maritime Collection; 4th floor in Special/Rare Collections & Microforms; 5th floor in Government Documents; & 6th floor in the Comparative Law Collection.

For more details, search the Law Library's online catalog & see boxes below.


Most foreign law in non-common law jurisdictions is difficult, if not impossible, to find in English translation (accurate or not, official or not). The best translations are done by qualified humans. But if you lack access to one, then try a machine translator. Although often unreliable & unintelligible, they can be useful as a preliminary step until getting a human translator (or consulting a bilingual print dictionary, which the Law Library owns many of) to help you:



This information was published as a LibGuide by Roy L. Sturgeon in August 2011 for Tulane University Law School in Louisiana.


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