Monday, September 30, 2019

Oxford Constitutions of the World

International Translation Day is a fitting occasion to explore a source with high-quality translations of constitutions: Oxford Constitutions of the World.

The translations are prepared by scholars at the Max Planck Institutes (e.g., the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law).  

The database includes multiple editions of constitutions. For example, if you search for El Salvador, you'll find versions of the constitution as amended to 1983, 1996, 2003, and 2009.

If you're viewing a constitution, you can click on the orange "Oxford Law Citator" to go to related works—for example, the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Comparative Constitutional Law.

These are subscription databases, for UW users.

UW Reads the Constitution

First page of the U.S. Constitution

Every year, the UW Libraries sponsors a read-aloud of the U.S. Constitution and YOU can participate! This year's reading will take place on Friday, October 4, 2019 from 12:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m. outside the Suzzallo Library's third floor Reading Room.

Each volunteer reads a short excerpt (around five sentences) and the entire event takes about 75 minutes. You can visit the registration page if you would like to participate as a reader, but note that walk-in readers are also welcome! More information for readers is available here.

Not interested in reading? No problem! All are welcome to come and listen.

If you want to learn more about the Constitution, check out the Gallagher Law Library's Guide to the U.S. Constitution and Related Resources or this page from the National Archives.

Photo of the Constitution from the National Archives

Skilled Translation Makes a Difference

To celebrate International Translation Day, I spent a few minutes with Google Translate, a free online service that uses machine learning to provide quick translations of texts.

I fed in two English sentences, translating them to Spanish. My knowledge of Spanish is weak, but this looks pretty good:
Many dedicated students prepare for class in the Gallagher Law Library every day. Some of them check out Course Reserve books, phone chargers, and book stands from the Information Desk. 
Muchos estudiantes dedicados se preparan para la clase en la Biblioteca de Derecho de Gallagher todos los días. Algunos de ellos revisan los libros de la Reserva de cursos, los cargadores de teléfono y los puestos de libros en el mostrador de información.
Then I had the system translate that Spanish passage into Japanese, which I don't know at all. (Japanese speakers: how faithful is the translation?) Then I had the system translate the Japanese to Greek. And the Greek to Russian. And finally, from Russian back to English:
多くの献身的な学生が毎日、ギャラガー法律図書館で授業を準備しています。 コース予約の本、電話の充電器、案内台にある本をチェックする人もいます。
Πολλοί αφιερωμένοι μαθητές προετοιμάζουν καθημερινά μαθήματα στη Βιβλιοθήκη του Gallagher Law. Μερικοί βιβλιοπωλούν βιβλία μαθημάτων, φορτιστές τηλεφώνου και βιβλία στο γραφείο πληροφοριών.
Многие преданные студенты готовят ежедневные уроки в юридической библиотеке Галлахер. Некоторые продают учебники, зарядные устройства для телефонов и книги на информационной стойке.
Many dedicated students prepare daily classes at the Gallagher Law Library. Some sell textbooks, phone chargers, and books at the information desk.
Obviously there was slippage in the meaning along the way. The lesson? Particularly when you are using Google Translate for languages that you don't know, be aware that it's an imperfect tool. Respect the work of professional translators who actually know the languages!

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Four Books Show the Power of Reading in Prison

book covers: The Sun Does Shine, Reading with Patrick, Law Man, A Lesson Before Dying

Our Banned Books Week post mentioned the severe restrictions on reading material in prisons. To show the other side, here are four inspirational books about the tremendous impact that access to books can have on prisoners' lives.

Anthony Ray Hinton, The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life, Freedom, and Justice (2019). Publisher's page. The author started a reading group on death row, with the inmates passing around the few books they had. He was exonerated after 30 years on death row.

Michelle Kuo, Reading with Patrick: A Teacher, a Student, and a Life-Changing Friendship (2017). Publisher's page (includes audio excerpt). The author taught in the Mississippi Delta before going to Harvard Law School and returned when one of her students, Patrick, was incarcerated. Reading with him changed both of their lives. Follow her on Twitter @kuokuomich

Shon Hopwood, Law Man: My Story of Robbing Banks, Winning Supreme Court Cases, and Finding Redemption (2012). After serving his prison term, the author eventually went to law school (UW Law '14), clerked for a federal judge, and now teaches at Georgetown Law as well as advocating for criminal justice reform. Follow him on Twitter @shonhopwood.

Ernest J. Gaines, A Lesson Before Dying (1993). Publisher's page. Prize-winning novel about a young teacher's relationship with a black youth condemned to death.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Book Banning Is Still an Issue—Especially in Prisons

Banned Book Week poster - "Censorship Leave Us in the Dark: Keep the Light on!"

Since ancient times, some people have tried to prevent others from reading books that were deemed immoral, revolutionary, or dangerous in some other way. And it still goes on. Take a look at the eleven most challenged books of 2018:

Past lists are interesting to browse. How many of those books have you read? Would you try to prevent others from reading them?

Banned Books Week (Sept. 22-29 this year) celebrates the freedom to read. It's sponsored by a coalition of organizations dedicated to free expression, including: American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, and many more.

PEN America is calling attention to the severe restrictions on reading in prisons.

PEN America banner, "Literature Locked Up"

You might be surprised at what's banned in prisons, such as coloring books, Klingon dictionaries and other books discussed in a Washington Post story earlier this month.
Perhaps the most glaring example of prison censorship has been the rejection of books about criminal justice reform, mass incarceration and inmates’ rights. . . .
Chokehold: Policing Black Men” by Paul Butler was banned in Arizona prisons until June, weeks after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened a lawsuit, and Michelle Alexander’s “The New Jim Crow,” [ebook link] a searing indictment of mass incarceration, was off-limits to prisoners in North Carolina, Florida and New Jersey before bans were lifted amid similar challenges by the ACLU.
(I added links to the books from our catalog, in case you want to read them.)

Here in Washington State, check out the work of Books to Prisoners, a nonprofit whose name sums up its mission.  Follow them on Twitter @B2PSeattle.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Annotated Constitution Reborn for Constitution Day

If you want to dig into the United States Constitution and how it has been interpreted by the Supreme Court, take advantage of the annotated constitution prepared by the staff of the Library of Congress.

physical volume of Annotated Constiitution with bug-eyed readerThis has gone through many editions in print (as Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation). It's a huge book (the latest edition is 2,789 pages, plus a pocket part!). As you might guess from its heft, it's packed with information.

Greatly enhancing access (and sparing the backs of researchers), editions since 1992 have been available on HeinOnline has all the editions since 1952

But now it's even better!

The Law Library of Congress has created Constitution Annotated, an attractive web interface that lets you search or browse, as well as linking to other resources. Check out  Beyond the Constitution Annotated: Table of Additional Resources, which links to Congressional Reference Service (CRS) reports on topics as diverse as loan sharking and copyright in music. The table of Laws Held Unconstitutional in Whole or in Part by the Supreme Court allows you to sort in different ways—e.g., by subject matter, by state versus federal, and by opinion author.

Exploring a new resource (or a redesigned old resource) is a great way to celebrate Constitution Day. Take a look!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Library closes early Monday, September 16th

The Library will close at noon on Monday, September 16th for a UW Law Orientation event.

The UW Law community is still allowed to use the library but the following areas will be closed off for the event from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm.

  • L1 Law student area
  • Library entrance
  • Computer terminals 
  • L1 Law Student Lounge 
  • L2 Student Commons
  • L2 area with the large tables