Cite checking foreign sources can be tricky. First, the citation format may not be familiar to you and as a result it can be difficult to identify the jurisdiction and category of primary law referenced in the author’s citation. Second, most of the primary sources from a foreign jurisdiction will never be officially translated into English. The following sources will help you decode foreign law citations and track down foreign primary sources.
Before searching for a foreign source cited in an article, you will want to make sure you have its full title. The following dictionaries will help you search for the full title of foreign sources.
World Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations. Eckstein Law Library, first floor Reference. Call Number: K 89.K38
Prince’s Bieber Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations. Eckstein Law Library, first floor Reference. Call Number: KF 246.P73
If you cannot identify the full title using one of the dictionaries, you might try running a search in Westlaw’s or Lexis’s law review databases or in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library using keywords or abbreviations from the title the author cited to see if other recent law review articles have already cited to it. The advantage of using HeinOnline is that the articles are available in PDF, which means that the citation format will be correct.
Use the following resources to find the laws of foreign countries. In many cases, you will need to use the official government website for the cited jurisdiction.
If you are looking for the law of a foreign country, start with the Foreign Law Guide. The Foreign Law Guide provides a detailed overview of each country’s legal structure and includes a bibliography of sources for the country’s laws by source and then by topic. It refers to English translations of the laws, cites to print sources and links to subscription databases and free websites.
Check the Country-by-Country Guide to Foreign Law Research. The Guide links to government websites and the World Law Guide, which are good places to find statutory law, and WorldLII, which is a good place to find case law. From the main page, click on All Countries to locate individual county databases.
Try searching GlobalLex. The NYU Law School-based website offers a collection of legal research guides that provide background information about foreign legal structures and sources of primary law. Arranged alphabetically by country.
WIPO Lex, offered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, has free access to legal information about intellectual property (IP) laws around the world. The WIPO Lex database is organized into three collections: IP laws and regulations, WIPO-administered treaties and IP‑related treaties, and IP judgments.
If you have identified a specific title, check MARQCAT to see if the library carries it in print, microfiche or through a subscription database.
The United Nations Library has a research guides website, which is an excellent starting point for your research. Look at the right margin for the UN Documentation Research Guide, where you will find links and descriptions of online sources of UN documentation.
If you are cite checking an article with citations to foreign materials, you may find that the citation information and materials themselves are in a foreign language. In order to better understand the citation and the cited materials, it can help to translate them into English.
Google Translate will translate text, webpages and documents. You can enter text or a URL or upload a document. Over 50 languages are available.
Keep in mind that Google and other translation tools are steadily advancing, but a translation of a source that is not produced by its author, or the official body that created the source in the original language, is essentially a secondary source.
Finding the Correct Citation
Your first step in cite checking a treaty or other international agreement is to find the correct citation. The Bluebook specifies a hierarchy of preferred sources for checking the text of the agreements to which the U.S. is a party and by first finding a citation you can identify the sources you need to consult without having to work your way through the entire hierarchy. You can verify the citation provided or find citation information using one of the following resources:
Bluebook Rule 21.4 governs citation to treaties and other international agreements. Citation practice differs between treaties to which the the United States is a party and to which the United States is not a party and, where the United States is a party, between bilateral and multilateral treaties. The Bluebook expresses a preference for certain United States treaty sources for agreements to which the United States is a party and references several sources published by international organizations. Before working your way through the list of sources make sure you have the correct citation information.
Note: Many of the following sources will be years behind in their publication of agreements, some as many as fifteen to twenty years.
Bilateral treaties to which the United States is a party
For bilateral treaties to which the United States is a party, the Bluebook requires citation to one of the following official sources, in the following order of preference:
Treaties and Other International Acts Series (T.I.A.S.): PDF available on HeinOnline OR Treaty Series (T.S.): PDF available on HeinOnline OR Executive Agreement Series (E.A.S.): PDF available on HeinOnline
Senate Treaty Documents: PDF available on HeinOnline; PDF available on GovInfo.gov (99th Congress-forward) OR Senate Executive Documents (the Executive Documents became known as the Treaty Documents in 1981): Eckstein Law Library, fourth floor. CIS Microfiche collection
Department of State Dispatch (printed from 1990 to 1999): PDF available on HeinOnline
Department of State Press Releases: PDF available on HeinOnline
Multilateral treaties to which the United States is a party
For multilateral treaties to which the United States is a party, the Bluebook requires citation to one of the five sources listed above. Additionally, a parallel citation may be added from one source published by an international organization:
League of Nations Treaty Series (L.N.T.S.): PDF available on HeinOnline
Organization of American States Treaty Series (O.A.S. T.S.): some PDF available on OAS website
The Official Journal of the European Union (O.J.) (until 2003, The Official Journal of the European Communities): PDF available on EU website (1998—present)
European Treaty Series (Euro T.S.) or Council of Europe Treaty Series (C.E.T.S.): Word document available on Council of Europe website
Treaties to which the United States is not a party
For treaties to which the U.S. is not a party, cite to a source from the international organizations (listed under the above heading, Multilateral treaties to which the United States is a party), if therein, and if not, then look to the official sources for the signatories. Table T2 of the Bluebook lists the treaty sources for many countries. If unavailable in a signatory's treaty source, cite to an unofficial treaty source as suggested below.
Unofficial treaty sources
For treaties not appearing in the above official sources, the Bluebook mandates citation to an unofficial treaty source, International Legal Materials (I.L.M.). International Legal Materials is available in PDF on HeinOnline and in the periodicals section on the third floor of Eckstein Law Library. If the treaty is not found in I.L.M., the Bluebook authorizes citation to other unofficial treaty sources including government and intergovernmental organization websites, electronic databases and other sources such as the Consolidated Treaty Series (which Marquette does not have, but can request through the ILL process with proper citation), Hein's microfiche treaty service and Martens Nouveau Recueil (which Raynor has on microfiche).