Moritz Law Library
Opinio Juris - September 2013
With Constitution Day passing earlier this month, this newsletter edition includes information about various constitutional resources in addition to a story on "link rot" in legal scholarship and a list of useful and authortative dictionaries. Scroll down to read more.
With seed funding from Google Ideas, the Comparative Constitutions Project recently launched a website called Constitute, which enables users to conveniently compare the texts of 160 constitutions. The site aims to be a tool for constitution drafters, allowing them to easily see what other countries have previously done. Users can browse constitutions by approximately 350 topics and narrow results by country, region, and date range. Zachary Elkins of Texas, Tom Ginsburg of Chicago Law, and James Melton of University College London direct the Comparative Constitutions Project in cooperation with the Cline Center for Democracy at the University of Illinois.
More Comparative Constitutional Resources
The Moritz Law Library provides access to additional comparative constitutional research tools including Oxford Constitutions of the World. In addition to the English-translated text of over 400 constitutions of countries and subnational jurisdictions, this resource includes material such as prior constitution versions, bibliographies, and overviews. It's accessible anywhere on the Columbus campus.
HeinOnline's World Constitutions Illustrated is another useful resource in this area, providing various constitution versions as well as related scholarly articles for each country covered.
The Library of Congress, the Goverment Printing Office, and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration have collaborated to release a free app for the longstanding publication, Constitution of the United States: Analysis and Interpretation (aka the Constitution Annotated or CONAN).The work is an annotated U.S. Constitution with analysis by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). The app will be updated four times per year as new constitutional developments occur. The current version includes analysis of Supreme Court cases through June 26, 2013. The release of the app coincides with the 100th anniversary of the publication's first printing.
Multiple studies of "link rot" in legal scholarship and judicial opinions have recently emerged. A Harvard study by Jonathan Zittrain and Kendra Albert revealed that approximately 50% of the URLs cited in U.S. Supreme Court opinions and 70% of URLs cited in the Harvard Law Review and other journals no longer link to the originally cited material. Another study published in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology similarly found a substantial amount of link rot in U.S. Supreme Court opinions. See Adam Liptak's New York Times article on the subject. As mentioned in the article, Zittrain and others are developing a solution called perma.cc, in which law libraries will work with law journals to create permanent links for URL citations.
List of Useful Dictionaries
Bryan Garner and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently published an article in Green Bag that provides a compilation of what they see as the most useful and authoritative contemporaneous-usage dictionaries ("those that reflect meanings current at a given time"). Scalia and Garner divide their listings into time periods and include dictionaries for the English language as well as law. The Moritz Law Library provides access to nearly all of these dictionaries with some, such as the Oxford English Dictionary, accessible online.