Foreign law

<<!سلام ,نوروز مبارک>>

Today, 20th March, is the Hormoz (the first day of a Persian month) of Farvardin, and marks the first day of the Iranian new year or ‘nowruz’. Said to have been founded by the prophet Zoroaster himself, this celebration of the ‘new day’ is one of the holiest days in the Zoroastrian calendar, and is still celebrated worldwide today.

This year the LawBod Blog seeks to mark Nowruz in its own particular way – by examining some of our resources available on the legal jurisdiction of Iran (and using this as a handy excuse to remind you that we collect material for a wide range of subjects!).Iranian law books on shelf.

Nestled amongst our ‘rest of the world’ collection on Floor 1 of the law library, you could be forgiven for overlooking the fairly small number of books which deal specifically with Iranian law as this is not an area which has received a lot of serious academic attention in the legal sphere. Whilst simple guides to the Iranian legal system, the constitutional structure of the executive, and the varying role of the judiciary can be found online, the researching scholar could do far worse than to consult two detailed books by Mohammadi: Judicial Reform and Reorganization in 20th Century Iran (2008) [Iran 510 M697a] and Constitutional Law in Iran (2012) [Iran 510 M697b].

Searching for primary sources on the law of Iran, it helps to have some background knowledge to the country’s constitutional history. The Constitutional Revolution of 1906-7 paved the way for the creation of a new Iranian constitution and formation of the Majlis (parliament). With the rise of the Pahlavi kings, Iran became a constitutional monarchy de jure, but with a powerful head of state who controlled the executive. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 led to the writing of a new constitution; one which would transform the judiciary, government and executive with the hope of creating a new culturally, economically and politically independent Iran.

The Bodleian Libraries do hold copies of this constitution – both in farsi and english – but sadly none are held within the law library. Translated versions are also available online, for example from the Iran Chamber Society.

The attempt since the revolution of 1979 to amalgamate shari’a law – a law which is predominantly a jurist’s law rather than a judge’s law – has led to the creation of law codes. Both a Civil Code (translated edition available within the law library) and a Penal Code (available online from here, or here) form the legislative basis for many judicial proceedings in Iran.

This blog post ends with a word of warning: Iran has undergone a lot of political change in the past fifty years, and much of what is written – especially on the internet – cannot be considered without betraying a form of political bias. For the legal scholar researching on Iran, a familiarity with the political history is still a necessity.

Some other resources:

Nowruz entry in Encyclopaedia Iranica

Islamic Republic’s Penal Code from 1982 (revised in 1989)

Iran Heritage Foundation

Haleem, M., A. Sherif & K. Daniels (eds), Criminal Justice in Islam: Judicial Procedure in the Shari’a, (London, 2003)

Jany, J., Judging in the Islamic, Jewish and Zoroastrian Legal Traditions, (Farnham, 2012)

Mallat, C., Introduction to Middle Eastern Law, (Oxford, 2007)

Peters, R., Crime and Punishment in Islamic Law, (Cambridge, 2005)


A route to even more US federal and state law. Thanks to an agreement between HeinOnline and Fastcase, Logo2

incidentally a US law database for which the Law Bod has an existing, separate subscription.

Notice FastCase tab above search box

Evidence of something new: FastCase tab above search box

“The federal case coverage includes the judicial opinions of the Supreme Court (1754-present), Federal Circuits (1924-present), Board of Tax Appeals (vols. 1-47), Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (vols. 1-59), U.S. Customs Court (vols. 1-70), Board of Immigration Appeals (1996-present), Federal District Courts (1924-present), and Federal Bankruptcy Courts (1 B.R. 1-present). The state case law covers all fifty states, with nearly half of the states dating back to the 1800s. Coverage for the remaining states dates back to approximately 1950.”

Now, when reading an article which cites US case law, look out for citations marked with a light blue highlight. Below is an example from the footnotes of a Harvard Law Review case comment on National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Footnotes to 126 Harv. L. Rev. 72 (2012-2013)

Footnotes to 126 Harv. L. Rev. 72 (2012-2013)

A click on the citation in Footnote 3  takes one seamlessly if slowly – though this may be the fault of my equipment rather than a system fault – to the judgment (with option to download pdf now top left) powered by Fastcase

Fastcase result in HeinOnline

Fastcase result in HeinOnline

Incidentally, going back to HeinOnline’s homepage –  if you click on the Fastcase tab the search box sharpens up to be a case citation tool – so you could use HeinOnline as a tool for finding US cases, not just those cited in articles you are reading

Click on FastCase tab and search changes to a citation search box

Click on Fastcase tab and search changes to a citation search box


So starts a distinctively New Zealand adaptation of a true love’s Christmas gifts. The link will take you through to the words – the tune will be easy to work out. (This version was first published by Kingi M. Ihaka in a book of the same name in 1981.)

Pukeko in normal surroundings

Pukeko in more normal surroundings cc Sid Mosell

(Image thanks to Sid Mosell who made this photo available via Creative Commons

One cannot ignore the persistent injustices and outrages of the colonial period. There is  one relatively recent work – reflecting on the international legal principle behind this historic land grab – which may not have come to the attention of Law Bod readers as the  Bodleian’s physical copies are in Rhodes House and the Bodleian History Faculty Library   However it is available electronically to all holders of an Oxford Single Sign On: Discovering indigenous lands: the doctrine of discovery in the English colonies(OUP, 2010). If you are interested in the struggle of the native peoples to redress the wrongs they have suffered, the Law Bod’s guide Indigenous Peoples: legal resources   is  a good starting point as it points out both physical items in the Law Bod and Oxford,  and electronic resources, not just subscription but also open access. The Law Bod extended its coverage in this topic extensively in 2013, by taking out a subscription to the database Indigenous Collection from Informit. (The full text Collection contains journals, books, conference proceedings and reports. The primary geographic focus is the Asia-Pacific region. Subjects include not just law and land rights but also  anthropology, cultural studies, history, human geography, and  race studies.)

Punga cc Hella Delicious

“Ponga” cc Hella Delicious

(Image thanks to Hella Delicious who made this photo available via

However, the putting of new words to an old English tune in truth first made our minds jump to the phenomenon of the spread of the English legal tradition across the globe, and the subsequent development of national manifestations. This less  malign (?? perhaps this could be a moot point!) result of English colonialism is put vividly by Sir John Baker:  “By a breath-taking twist of fate, the insular and arcane learning of the small band of lawyers who argued cases in a corner of Westminster Hall became the law by which a third of the people on the earth were governed …” (An introduction to English Legal History (4th ed, 2002) at pp.28-9 Legal Hist B167a4).

If you are interested in the reception of the common law around the globe, the  Oxford International Encyclopedia of Legal History (OSS required for e-access, hard copy is at Ref 103.) is a useful starting point containing (for example) articles on the common law’s reception and development in the US (by Kinvin Wroth) , the Australian experience (an article by Bruce Kercher), and two articles by Peter Spiller,   one on  Canada  the other  New Zealand (Each has a starter bibliography to help you on your way to deeper studies.)

Incidentally this aspect of legal history will introduce even a regular the Law Bod user to the “game” affectionately known as  “Hunting the obscure shelf mark/call number.” For to read our copy of  B.H. McPherson’s  The reception of English law abroad (2007) you need to find the whereabouts of the bijou collection of Cw Gen. This year the Law Bod has had some much more detailed floor plans -with a supporting key – professionally produced to make this less of a puzzle. These floor plans are available as posters at strategic places on all four floors of the library, in booklets to pick up in the Library, and as pdf files to download & consult in advance   A clue to locate Cw Gen is that Cw stands for Commonwealth.   ( Final Tip: as with most library-based puzzles, the skilful deployment of the strategy commonly referred to as “asking a librarian” is as good as a get out of jail free card!)

The website which supplied the text of the Twelve days of Christmas NZ-style, describes this carol as great  “for singing in the car while you are all travelling back home to the coast for Christmas.” – another reminder of how old world traditions have adapted to life south of the equator!

Pohutakawa NZ's Christmas Tree

Pohutakawa blossom (NZ’s Christmas Tree) watching over surfer’s progress to beach

(Image thanks to Bill Harrison who made this photo available via

And yes all three – pukekos (swamp hen or rail, Porphyrio melanotus), pongas (for the Maori, this si specifically the silver fern – Cyathea dealbata – but it is now commonly applied to many types of tree fern, both Dicksoniaceae and Cyatheaceae), and pohutukawas (Metrosideros excelsa) – feature in New Zealand case law.  The best subscription database for OU students interested in this jurisdiction is LexisLibrary which, in its library of International Cases,  includes NZLR: New Zealand Law Reports, DCR:  District Court Reports, NZAR: NZ Administrative Law Reports, NZFLR: NZ Family Law Reports and NZRMA: NZ Resource Management Appeals.

A persistent legacy of this export of the common law is that it still feels more normal to look within the tradition for helpful comparison, not just in academic studies but in the court room too. To try to help with the need quickly to get to the reports and judgments from another Anglo-American legal tradition jurisdiction we have set up another libguide called Case law: e-resources for common law countries 

wenceslas Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,  When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.  Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,  When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
(Words by: John M. Neale (1818-1866); first ap­peared in Car­ols for Christ­mas-Tide, 1853, by Neale and Thom­as Hel­more)

On this Saint Nicholas’ Day, let’s celebrate another saint long associated with Christmas – Wenceslas!  There are many versions of the joyful carol Good King Wenceslas, written in the 19th century. Whether an Irish rendition, a Bing Crosby classic, or a tenor with choir,  the carol evokes classical  themes – kindness, charity, pure white winter snow and goodness. When Good King Wenceslas (who was not a King, but was Good) looked out on that snowy feast of St Stephen and displayed his  concern for the poor, he was behaving in a way that we think leaders should, showing genuine concern for their subjects.


In England the standard for the behaviour of fair and good rulers was enshrined in law at Runnymede, in 1215, when King John signed the Magna Carta. This important document is  held by the Bodleian Libraries – we are fortunate to have three copies of the 1217, and one of the 1225 Charters in the collection. The Magna Carta is a good example of how  legislation is amended and changed over time, with only three of the original 39 clauses still being in force today:

  • Clause 1, the freedom of the English Church
  • Clause 9 (clause 13 in the 1215 charter), the “ancient liberties” of the City of London
  • Clause 29 (clause 39 in the 1215 charter), a right to due process

The numbering of the clauses of the original Charter was done by ‘our’ own Sir William Blackstone, fellow of All Soul’s College, jurist, judge, Vinerian Chair of English Law at Oxford, and author of the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Our law library holds all editions of the Laws in our Secondary (superseded) collection, at CW UK 510 B631; a free online full text edition can be found online at the Lonang Library. Image

But I digress too much! Back to good old Wenceslas, who was a 10th century Bohemian baron, and not to be confused with King Wenceslaus 1 of Bohemia, (known as ‘the One Eyed’) who   reigned in the 13th century. This reminds us of identity fraud, which is a serious issue in the computer age, but as we can see with Wenceslas, can lead to historical confusion as well, even if not deliberate as these examples here.  Our Good  King was expropriated by the Catholic Church as an exemplar of  ‘the righteous king’; his actions followed this exhortation in St Luke: “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.” (Luke 14:13-14). More recently, Saint Wenceslas became the patron saint of the modern day Czech Republic. His remains are in St Vitus Cathedral in  Prague, his skull is displayed in procession once a year, and his statue dominates the square in Prague named after him.  Wenceslas was recognised as a saint because he was seen as a martyr after being killed at the instigation of  his younger brother Boleslaus (Boleslav?); the brother repented and converted to Christianity, and it was said miracles took place at the church where Wenceslas had been lured by his assassins.


Canon Law governs the operation of Christian churches and over time it has established the rules for recognising a saint.  For example this set of rules  outlines the operation of Catholic Church, and this one lists the canons of the Church of England. A detailed site which brings together all freely available texts on medieval canon law can be found here. In the more secular age it is also interesting to find commentary on canon law via  ‘In the light of law’, a blog by J.D. Peters,  a modern day running commentary by a canon lawyer.

These sources are useful for researchers who may be disappointed that the Bodleian Law Library does not collect in the field of Canon Law. This is the result of the banning of the teaching of Canon Law at Oxford and Cambridge by Henry VIII at the time of the dissolution. In compensation for this radical move, Henry established the Regius Chair in Civil Laws based at All Soul’s College Oxford, a post held currently by Prof. Boudewijn Sirks, and previously held by distinguished scholars Peter Birks and Tony Honoré.

crown-graphicsfairyWenceslas would have been pleased when countries such as England started to enact laws to protect the poor, such as the 1601  Poor Relief Act in England, updated in 1834 by the Poor Law Amendment Act. What may have surprised him is the concept of Constitutional Monarchy and its relationship with parliament,  having been killed at the behest of his envious younger brother;  he would have appreciated the moderate approach of most modern countries to royal succession. But what would he have made of the disappearance of the geographic entity he knew as Bohemia, and even more confusingly, Czech membership in 2004 of the European Union? He would have been well placed to find out more about it from the myriad resources on the internet (now there’s a concept to grapple with in the 930’s – times like this I want a Tardis!) including our LibGuide to EU Law.

123470-004-3A1AEE5B Bohemia  had been a kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire, and then a constituent state under the Hapsburg Empire. After World War One  it formed the largest part of the newly formed Czechoslovakia, fell under the Stalinist sphere of influence after the Second World War, and in 1993 became part of the newly created Czech Republic after the ‘Velvet Revolution’ a couple of years earlier had removed the communist government.  The Czechs settled on Saint  Wenceslas’  feast day – 28 September – as their national day.  An excellent guide to the Czech legal system can be found at Globalex.  The new republic  has been very active since its founding, placing its legislation online in full text. Of course if you are not a Czech speaker  it can be difficult to read the legislation, and we find that a good starting point can be to use the Google Chrome browser, which displays the Google Translate tool, and can provide an entirely pragmatic and unofficial translation.

By the way, there is a great deal of official, and sometimes authoritative, legislation available online,  and all of our jurisdictional LibGuides have a link to  relevant legislative sites.

Back to the main story, we are of course talking about kindness and consideration shown by a leader for the poor, who were often unable to keep warm at this festive time of the year. A snowy Boxing, or St Stephen’s,  Day without heating is still a concern for many millions of people; perhaps we need a Wenceslas to come and talk to the energy corporations on behalf of the poor; he may have greater success than our politicians.

789crownAt Christmas time we all enjoy hearing the carols from King’s College, even though it is ‘the other place’,  and we look forward to its presentation on TV,  available from the BBC.  Wouldn’t it be nice if  ‘Good King Wenceslas’ was included?

The Law Bod has just started a subscription to the  New Journal of European Criminal law   (NJECL in citations).

New Journal of European Criminal Law

New Journal of European Criminal Law

This new (to the Law Bod) journal, published by Intersentia,  has a particular focus on “criminal law as it is drawn up by the European Union and the Council of Europe,” as well as the law’s application  within the national jurisdictions of Europe.

A standard issue has ” i.a. an Editorial,  some in-depth Articles submitted to a peer review, cutting-edge and to-the-point Analysis & Opinions, Case Law Notes and Legislative updates.”
A list of the most recent issue’s contents is below:

  • Prosecution, National Legal Diversity and Human Rights after Lisbon
  • The European Public Prosecutor’s Office: Towards a Truly European Prosecution Service?
  • Towards a Decentralised European Public Prosecutor’s Office?
  • European Public Prosecutor’s Office – Cui Bono?
  • Resolving Conflicts of Jurisdiction in Criminal Proceedings: Interpreting Ne Bis in Idem in Conjunction with the Principle of Complementarity
  • Running before We Can Walk? Mutual Recognition at the Expense of Fair Trials in Europe’s Area of Freedom, Justice and Security
  • Onward Transfer under the European Arrest Warrant: Is the EU Moving Towards the Free Movement of Prisoners?
  • The European Arrest Warrant under the Scrutiny of the Italian Constitutional Court
  • Probation Measures and Alternative Sanctions in Europe: From the 1964 Convention to the 2008 Framework Decision
  • Globalised Criminal Justice in the European Union Context: How Theory Meets Practice
  • The Proportionate Application of Article 8 of the ECHR on Execution of a Request for Surrender of a Person with Children
  • The Italian Court of Cassation Delivers its Ruling in the Abu Omar Case. The Court’s Decision
  • Cornerstones for a Draft Regulation on the Establishment of a European Public Prosecutor’s Office (“EPPO”) in Accordance with Article 86 Par. 1–3 TFEU

The Law Bod’s online subscription goes back to the start of journal in 2009 (navigation to earlier issues is via the left hand column), but we will be getting the issues of the journal in paper from 2013 onwards only.

Temporary route to the e-version if off campus/without VPN
If you are a holder of an Oxford Single Sign username and password,  and you are off the OU network and without a VPN installed on your computer, please use the OU e-journals section of SOLO to find the online version – in due course it will appear in the normal SOLO search box … but not for the moment! You can sign in/log on for IP recognition either on the initial SOLO page or on the OU e-journals page.
Two quick reminders:

The  link to the OU e-journals search screen is above the search box on the SOLO home page

Click OU e-journals

Click OU e-journals above the blue word tabs

The default search is “contains” so best just to type in keywords from title

In this case I still need to log in with OSS near top right!

When signed in/logged on with Oxford Single Sign On you will have access to whole run

If European criminal law is your area of study, don’t forget that current holders of an Oxford Single Sign On username and password can also access online the 2002 book by Geert Corstens and Jean Pradel European Criminal Law  (The hard copy is at General 510 C826.4aE) and an even more recently started specialist journal, the European Criminal Law Review (EuCLR) published by Hart & Beck. Don’t worry that Find it at Oxford says we only have it online from 2012 2(1) – truly we have full e-access from 2011 1 (1)!

The Free Access to Law initiative takes many forms. We may already be used to accessing decisions of the Federal Court of Malaysia and Court of Appeal of Malaysia via CommonLII. (This LII also offers a few issues of Journal of Malaysian and Comparative Law (JMCL)  for some commentary.)

If you are interested in something a bit more dynamic, another free access point worth checking in case it can help your researches  is MLTIC (read as M-L-Tick).

Home page of main portals - the topic micro-portals have the same layout

Home page of main portals – the topic micro-portals have the same layout

MLTIC  – in full the Malaysian Legal and Tax Information Centre – is a cluster of web portals on Malaysian law and tax. It has been live for about 3 years now. (The website says it will keep an archive for as long as the copyright holders allow.)  MLTIC consists of a main portal (Malaysia Law), with specialist micro-sites according to topic as below

  1. Banking & finance
  2. Corporate law
  3. Competition law
  4. Criminal practice
  5. Dispute resolution
  6. Employment law
  7. IP law Malaysia
  8. Real estate & construction
  9. Transport & logistics
  10. Malaysian tax (from Chartered Tax Institute of Malaysia)

The specialist sites follow the same pattern as the main one with a double row of hot links near the top of the page so that you can jump quickly to, for example, judgments.

MLTIC makes available the full original text of selected Malaysian legal and tax developments : news (“full text of news items … sourced from leading newspapers and news agencies, professional bodies, industry newsletters, regulatory bodies and government departments”), legislation (“selected Federal Acts and Amendment Acts, Federal Bills, Federal PU(A)s and PU(B)s, and State Legislation … where possible, the full text of the legislation”), judgments and rulings (“selected judgments and rulings from the Federal Court, Court of Appeal, High Court of Malaya, High Court of Sabah and Sarawak and several tribunals … the full text of the judgments … and commentaries on landmark judgments.”), regulatory guidelines and circulars, events, books and articles, products and services.

The Law Library has recently subscribed to a database called Supreme Court Cases (SCC) Online, produced by New Delhi-based publishers the Eastern Book Company. It advertises itself as “an extensive database of Indian law, statute law and other material, with a high performance search engine and our familiar user-friendly interface.”

First impressions

The interface is indeed quite straightforward and user-friendly, as promised. The main options for searching appear on the top menu bar, while the menu box on the left appears to be a list of ‘quick links’ for searching, account details and help pages. The help pages are quite comprehensive, and are clearly divided into the different areas of the site. The option on the main page to look at previous searches could also prove very useful for researchers. The ‘Start Session for a Client’ option in the quick links box is not really relevant to students or researchers, as it is designed to allow legal professionals to track how much time they spend carrying out searches for individual clients (presumably to help them work out how big their bill should be!).

Start page

Start page


From this page you can choose easy or advanced search options. Easy search consists of only one search box, where you can search using keywords separated by Boolean operators (and/or/not/near) within the full text of items in the database. You can also use “…” to group words together and search for a phrase (e.g. “intellectual property”). Advanced Search allows you extra options such as date range, proximity searching, type of search area (e.g. citation, party names), and titles of different series available. The date range is from 1850-present, but understandably there are a lot more recent cases available than older ones.

Advanced Search

Advanced Search

The results page does look a little cluttered at first glance. The search results appear in a list at the bottom, arranged by date. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to be possible to change the sorting order (e.g. to alphabetical), but it is possible to search within your results. It is also possible to access the quick links menu box by clicking on the ‘menu’ tab to the left of the screen.

Search results

Search results

Topic Guide

This allows you to browse or search for subject areas and related topics. As shown in this image, if you search for family law, you also get links to Hindu laws, family property, labour laws and service/pension laws. This is useful if you don’t know what keywords to use or are looking for information related to your chosen subject area. The Browse function brings up an alphabetical list of different topics.

Topic Guide

Topic Guide

Case Index

You can search or browse (again, alphabetically) cases by party names in this section. It is also possible to narrow your search to particular courts, including some international cases such as those from WIPO. To view a case, highlight the one you want to view and click on ‘go to selected case’.

Case Index

Case Index


Citation Searching

This is useful if you have a specific citation you wish to search for. Choose from the drop down list of publications under ‘journal’, and SCC Online helpfully puts the correct abbreviation in the search box for you. As well as a wide selection of Indian reports series, it also includes some from Canada, Bangladesh and South Africa at the bottom of the drop down list.

Citation search

Citation search

Statutes etc.

Here, you can search or browse statutes, treaties/conventions, constituent assembly debates and law commission reports.  Use the drop down menu ‘select collection’ to choose the type of material you want to search and type your keywords into the ‘search text’ box. Highlight the document you want to view and click ‘go to selection’ to bring up the full text. You can then go through the document section by section using the list at the bottom of the page or by clicking on the ‘next’ button.

Statutes etc.

Statutes etc.


Overall, this appears to be a well-designed database. Aesthetically it looks quite basic compared to some of the big legal databases like Westlaw, and it does have some limitations with functionality, but it is user-friendly and each section has a clear purpose. It is also arguably better than relying on the search function on the Supreme Court India homepage. It is under a single-user license, so unfortunately only one person can access it at a time. Users will need to remember to log out when they have finished.

Please let us know if you have further comments or questions about using this database.

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