Where to Find International Legal Disputes?
October 12, 2006 1:57 PM   Subscribe

Where can I find specific international legal cases? What are some good resources to turn to when you only have the nature of the case in mind?

I'm an undergrad and an international studies major, you'd think I'd know where to find this stuff but this is my first law class yet. This assignment we've got asks us to evaluate hypothetical cases. The other students seem to be as stumped as I am. I've exhausted the library's periodical searches and resources...
I just need some suggestions on where I can find a good database of international legal disputes (particularly involving EU law, and member states).
posted by apfel to Law & Government (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Your university may be able to give you a Lexis or Westlaw password (mine did). That's likely your best bet.
posted by JekPorkins at 2:07 PM on October 12, 2006

speaking as someone who teaches graduate students, i recommend you ask your professor what sources he wants you to use to complete the assignment. outline the steps you've taken thus far and then ask for guidance.

if that doesn't work and if your school is big enough to have graduate schools--that is, its own law school, pop over to the law library and ask one of the law librarians. they're very helpful. i don't know of any online legal research services that are free, other than findlaw.com which deals only with US law. if there's a law school (not affiliated with your school) nearby, you may also be able to arrange to look at their collection.

this sounds like a bizarre request of an undergrad, at the very least because international law is an upper level law school course and casebooks aren't terribly useful to people who haven't been taught how to read them. what exactly are you being asked to do in the assignment?
posted by crush-onastick at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2006

Most resources for international case law will be a) restricted access and b) difficult for an undergrad to make sense of (I don't mean this to seem condescending - it's simply a matter of background). I strongly second the suggestion to ask a law librarian - this is their bread and butter.

If you want to give it a go yourself, you might try here or here.
posted by Urban Hermit at 2:18 PM on October 12, 2006

Response by poster: we have a lexis service, but in order to search it you need either 1. specific case numbers or 2. even more specific information. we don't have a law school, my campus is really small. other students have talked to librarians that run the research dept. with embarrassingly little insight over where to look.

we have two sets of hypothetical cases that put into question an aspect of international law.
(for example, restraint of trade where one nation requests services and favors its own companies over other better bids. we are left to decide if the state has violated EU law on the matter.)

its pretty confusing for me, since the class goes over concepts vaguely but we're basically on our own about this.

i'm digging through the EU website for specific laws about how trade laws work between nations but so far i'm finding nil.
posted by apfel at 2:26 PM on October 12, 2006

This site from the University of Texas Law Library might help you get started. You can also try calling the Lexis toll-free number; they have research librarians on staff who can help you figure out where to look.
Law librarians at other schools are also frequently willing to help; don't restrict yourself to the librarians at your own school. On the UT page, there's the email address of their international law librarian; that might be a place to start.

And although you didn't ask, the state has probably violated EU law. European law is derived from the treaties that created the EU. That means that to research it, unlike common law, you start at the top and work your way down. In this case, you find the provision in the treaty that creates economic/national origin equality -- Article 14 of the ECHR, which forbids discrimination on many grounds, including nationality. That then points you in the direction of cases which interpret Article 14. That alone may be enough of a keyword to help you search Lexis, or you can just google it, like this.

As you may have guessed by now, IAALaw Student -- but I am not your professor. S/he may want something entirely different, and it can't hurt to ask them for advice on where to start.
posted by katemonster at 2:57 PM on October 12, 2006

International law and EU law are really 2 different things - the former generally refers to more nebulous things between nations (is this a legal war type questions). The latter is very specific, codified and, most differently, enforceable.

In either case I would have thought expecting new law students to try and work out what's going on in a case from first principles would be super-harsh. If you must, ask a librarian what is the standard textbook for the subject - which should give you some idea what's going on/.

However, is it possible that this is an assessment of your ability to reason and you're being asked to look at what ought to happen in your own view, without reference to case law?
posted by prentiz at 2:58 PM on October 12, 2006

Katemonster - small point of clarification - the ECHR underlies much of EU law - but it is not part of it - its adjudicated by a seperate legal system to the law of the EU - European Court of Human Rights as opposed to the European Court of Justice...EU Law flows from stuff like the Treaty of Rome etc...
posted by prentiz at 3:05 PM on October 12, 2006

EU trade laws vary greatly by economic sector, but in general you will be concerned with Articles 81-88 of the EC Treaty. Based on your clarification, I would start here (PDF) - it is a "for dummies" intro to EU competition policy (nothing you'd want to cite in a paper, but it will give you the lay of the land).

You might then want to go to the EU Competition Law site, which includes an overview of state aid (though I'm not sure from your description if that is the applicable heading). Or, you might peruse the EU annual reports on competition policy here in search of useful cases/studies. Specific decisions are here and here, but unless you first know what you're looking for, they may not be of much use.

Finally, are you sure your prof wants you to cite specific case law rather than performing your own very general analysis based on what the EU treaty says? There is no harm in meeting with him/her and asking for clarification.
posted by Urban Hermit at 3:05 PM on October 12, 2006

A good source of UK/Irish law reports is Bailii, which I use a lot. It's updated regularly and is free. It also has links to other free international law resources.
posted by essexjan at 3:22 PM on October 12, 2006

Check out the International Law Guides from LLRX.com
posted by mlis at 6:04 PM on October 12, 2006

EUR-Lex provides direct free access to European Union law. The system makes it possible to consult the Official Journal of the European Union and it includes inter alia the treaties, legislation, case-law and legislative proposals. It offers extensive search facilities.
posted by robcorr at 6:16 PM on October 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thank you all for the advice you've offered here. It has helped immeasurably in finding a starting point to jump into.
In response to crush-onastick and prentiz, yeah this is really difficult and we were not prepared to handle these cases like this. I'm not sure whether I am supposed to use specific cases or cite EU law. My profressor was vague in describing the assignment and told me I could use whatever I wanted to make my argument with the warning that it's only going to get harder from here!
So let me just thank you guys for posting so quickly in response to my question. Again, it's helped my mental state as well as shedding light onto where to start.
posted by apfel at 8:28 AM on October 13, 2006

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