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In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress

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In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress

‎Today, ‎December ‎16, ‎2014, ‏‎4 hours ago

Constitutions of Clarendon

‎Today, ‎December ‎16, ‎2014, ‏‎4 hours ago | Margaret Wood

The Constitutions of Clarendon were issued by Henry II in 1164. This document became the bone of contention between Henry II and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was also his former chancellor and friend, Thomas Beckett. The quarrel between these two men eventually led to Thomas’s murder and then elevation to sainthood, as well as a papal interdict against England.

The development of national kingdoms during the Middle Ages often led to clashes between kings and the church particularly over the appointment and discipline of clergymen. The church argued that it had exclusive jurisdiction to try clergy who committed crimes and also should have full authority to elect bishops and abbots without royal interference. The reality was that the papacy often agreed to royal appointments. Ironically, Henry II had nominated Thomas Beckett to be the archbishop of Canterbury in 1162. Thomas had been Henry’s chancellor and was close to Henry – presumably Henry had backed Thomas as archbishop in anticipation that his leading churchman would advance his agenda for tighter control over the English church. That Thomas should have defied the king undoubtedly added a note of personal bitterness to the fight.

The Constitutions of Clarendon have been variously seen either as an innovation by Henry to control the church in England or an attempt to reassert controls that had been established as a result of the Norman Conquest. Norman Cantor in his book, The Civilization of the Middle Ages, argues that William I had established firm control over the church in England: “through lay investiture and and the vassalage of bishops and abbots he completely controlled the affairs of the English church.” This meant that the bishops and abbots were given their land and positions by the king and so owed him greater loyalty. It is useful to remember that bishops of this time period were great landowners and feudal lords in their own right. For Cantor, Henry II is primarily reasserting the control over the church following a tradition which had been established under his great grandfather, William. The introduction to the Constitutions bears out this construction: “this memorandum or inquest was made of some part of the customs and liberties, and dignities of his predecessors, viz of King Henry his grandfather and other, which ought to be observed and kept in the kingdom.” This inquest is being carried out because of “discords” which had arisen between the clergy, the king’s justices and the barons.

Thirteen of the sixteen clauses in the document, cover various aspects of church relations in England. Clause 3, which was to be one of the bones of contention between Henry and Thomas Beckett, concerned procedures for “clerks [clergyman] charged and accused on anything” (clerical immunity). Clause 3 overturned this principle and ordered that clergy accused of secular crimes should be delivered to the king’s court for sentencing and punishment.

Clause 4 tends to support Cantor’s argument that Henry was really reasserting previous established controls over the English church – although this clause too was another sticking point for Thomas. This clause directed that clergy could not leave the kingdom without the king’s permission which harks back to a decree by William forbidding his clergy to travel to Rome, or to appeal cases to the pope with royal permission.

Although Henry claimed the document was merely laying out customs sanctified by history, clause 7 is likely to have arisen out a quarrel between Henry and Thomas Beckett the previous year. In July 1163, Thomas had enraged the king by excommunicating a royal vassal without first obtaining the king’s permission. Clause 7 avers that this action is firmly against the ‘customs’ of the kingdom: “No one who holds of the king in chief, and no one of his demesne servitors, shall be excommunicated, nor shall lands of any one of them be placed under an interdict, unless first the lord king, … be asked to do justice concerning him;” It is possible this was a custom from time immemorial, but it is also certain that in this document it was a re-assertion of royal prerogative.

The Constitutions also contained innovations in procedures. Thomas J. McSweeney in his article Magna Carta and the Right to Trial in Magna Carta: Muse & Mentor points out that clause 9 represented a new procedure for handling disputes between clergy and laity about land ownership when the church contended the land had been donated to them (free alms). Henry decided that in cases where there was a dispute as to whether land had been donated to the church should be heard in the royal court: “If a dispute shall arise between a clerk and a layman or between a layman and a clerk, in respect to any holding which the clerk desires to treat as free alms but the layman as lay fee, it shall be determined by the recognition of twelve lawful men through the deliberation, the presence of the king’s chief justice, whether the holding pertains to free alms or to lay fee.” Mr. McSweeney argues that Henry would have had a number of possible inspirations for the use of a jury to help determine the facts in a case – both from Anglo-Saxon and Norman precedents.

The introduction to the Constitutions also states that the customs listed in the document have been recognized by various archbishops, bishops, counts and barons and other elders of the kingdom. Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury is listed as one who recognized the customs listed in the Constitutions. This was not the case. After an acrimonious meeting with the king in October 1164, Thomas fled to the continent, appealing to the pope and French king for help in his quarrel with Henry. Thomas did not return again to England until December 1, 1170 and 29 days later he was murdered in his cathedral at Canterbury. However, the Constitutions largely survived. The controversy between king and pope was settled by the Compromise of Avranches which absolved Henry from responsibility for Thomas’s murder; provided for the free appeal of cases to Rome (clause 4); and the promise by Henry that he would ‘abolish all evil customs prejudicial to church which he had instituted.’ It did not however, specify which were the evil customs and the use of a grand jury to investigate land disputes remained in place.

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Justice Breyer, Symposium Explore Legacies of Magna Carta

‎Yesterday, ‎December ‎15, ‎2014, ‏‎9:00:23 AM | Jeanine Cali

The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell, writer-editor for The Gazette, the Library of Congress staff newsletter.

The legacy of Magna Carta, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer said, sometimes can be seen in the things that don’t happen.

The court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98 (2000), brought an end to the contested presidential election of 2000, and in the aftermath, Breyer noted, there were no riots, no acts of violence, no guns, no deaths.

“We have decided to decide our major disagreements under a system of law,” he said Tuesday in the Coolidge Auditorium. “That is a remarkable thing, that people actually follow that. It has a long history, and that history does begin 800 years ago with [Magna Carta].”

Philanthropist David Rubenstein interviewed Breyer in the Coolidge as part of a Library of Congress symposium marking Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and exploring how the charter’s political and legal traditions carried into modern times.

From left to right: David Rubenstein, philanthropist and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, interviews Stephen G. Breyer, associate justice of the United States, at the Library of Congress symposium, Conversations on the Enduring Legacy of the Great Charter, on December 9, 2014. Photo Source: Shawn Miller.

The program, sponsored by the Law Library, featured four panel discussions: “Drafting Modern Constitutions,” Proportionality Under the 8th Amendment,” “The Enduring Value of Magna Carta” and “Rule of Law in the Contemporary World: Civil Liberties and Surveillance,” a panel that included Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.).

Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th anniversary commemoration committee, also provided an international perspective on the Great Charter’s legacy.

Since, Rubenstein said, one rarely gets an opportunity to interview a Supreme Court justice, he asked Breyer about a wide range of subjects – Magna Carta, his experiences as a special counsel in the Senate, the inner workings of the court, cameras in the courtroom (“too many uncertainties”) and his beginnings as a lawyer.

“You may not remember this – you’re not old enough – but there was a time when you tended to do what your parents said,” Breyer said to laughter, noting that his own father was a lawyer. “It’s completely foreign to this entire audience, such an idea.”

Breyer served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg, a special assistant in the Justice Department, an assistant special prosecutor on the Watergate Special Prosecution Force and, in the late 1970s, as counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, working for Sen. Ted Kennedy – an experience he called “fabulous.”

“I learned a lot from him,” Breyer said. “He was wonderful to work for. … It was fun. It was interesting. You wanted to accomplish something good. Every minute, though, there are things that pop up. It’s a wonderful place to work.”

Breyer later served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and, in 1994, President Bill Clinton nominated him for the Supreme Court.

“For any lawyer to become a federal judge, lightning has to strike. It really does,” he said. “To be on the Supreme Court, it has to strike twice in the same place.”

Breyer said he often is asked about the way in which the high court makes its decisions: People will ask, Aren’t you just “junior-league politicians”? Don’t you just decide cases however you like?

“I never do what I like,” Breyer quipped. “Are you kidding? It’s like being married.”

About half the court’s cases are decided unanimously, he said, and only a very small minority are decided according to what media would think is a liberal-conservative breakdown.

But those decisions, he said, are informed less by ideology than simply by a lifetime of professional and personal experiences that shape each justice’s views and the way he or she grapples with difficult, complicated constitutional questions.

“You cannot jump out of your own skin, and you shouldn’t,” he said. “Therefore, on that basis, you will find differences and you will find a coalescing around certain basic things. …

“It’s not such a terrible thing to go on the Supreme Court of the United States. Over long periods of time, you have people who think quite different basic views about how this document should be interpreted. It’s OK.”

Breyer also discussed the most basic principles American law derived from Magna Carta: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

“It’s such a simple idea,” he said. “But that’s what people are all over the world today trying to see if they cannot embody in institutions.”

The charter’s influence, he said, clearly can be found in contemporary issues. Supreme Court Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Breyer said, cited Magna Carta in a decision that determined prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay military detention camp have the right to come into civilian courts.

“We have a constitution that doesn’t just guarantee democracy,” Breyer said. “It guarantees democracy, basic human rights a degree of equality, separation of powers, and it guarantees a rule of law.”

Breyer and his law clerks toured the “Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor” exhibition in the Jefferson Building in late November and, on Tuesday, he urged the audience to visit as well.

“It’s fabulous, partly because you see the document. … Partly because as you go through that exhibition it will force you to think about the time that has passed, the people who have been involved, a few of the ups and downs,” Breyer said. “Think of this country. We lived in a period of slavery. We had a terrible Civil War. We had 80 years of government-backed racial segregation.

“We’ve had all kinds of ups and downs, and it’s taken a very long time before those words in the Magna Carta have come to be accepted in the customs and habits of the people.”

[We will provide a link to the symposium webcast soon.]

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks starting this year. Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.

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A Magna Carta Coin – Pic of the Week

‎Friday, ‎December ‎12, ‎2014, ‏‎10:26:30 AM | Nathan Dorn

One of the keepsakes given at the Library of Congress’s pre-inaugural black-tie gala for the ongoing Magna Carta exhibition was the commemorative coin depicted below. The coin’s obverse shows the name of the exhibition, Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor. Its reverse shows a reproduction of a medallion that appears on the title page of a 1774 imprint of the Journal of the Continental Congress.

Obverse of the Magna Carta coin. [Photo by Donna Sokol]

Reverse of the Magna Carta coin. [Photo by Donna Sokol]

When the First Continental Congress met in September and October of 1774, it drafted a Declaration of Rights and Grievances to clarify the colonists’ position on the rights of British Americans. Claiming all the liberties and privileges of Englishmen under “the principles of the English constitution, and the several charters or compacts,” the delegates sought the preservation of their democratic self-government, freedom from taxation without representation, the right to a trial by a jury of ones countrymen, and their enjoyment of “life, liberty and property” free from arbitrary interference from the Crown.

The Congress adopted the figure that illustrates the title page of the 1774 Journal of the Continental Congress as a symbol of unity: in a circle, twelve arms reach out to grasp a column which is topped by a liberty cap. The base of the column reads “Magna Carta.” The twelve arms represent the twelve colonies that sent delegates to the Congress (Georgia, which would have been the thirteenth colony, did not participate). Around the border can be seen a slogan in Latin: “Hanc Tuemur, Hac Nitimur,” which means, “This we defend, this we lean upon,” referring to Magna Carta and the Rights of Englishmen.

Illustrating the title page of the 1774 imprint of the Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress is a symbol of unity adopted by the Congress: twelve arms reaching out to grasp a column which is topped by a liberty cap. The base of the column reads “Magna Carta.”

Journal of the Proceedings of the Congress, held at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774. Philadelphia: Printed by William and Thomas Bradford, reprinted at the London Coffee-House, 1774. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks starting this year. Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.

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Human Rights Day Event Scheduled for February 2015

‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎10, ‎2014, ‏‎2:27:24 PM | Hanibal Goitom

The following is guest post by Constance Johnson, a senior legal information analyst at the Law Library of Congress. Connie is chair of the Law Library’s planning committee for Human Rights Day and has previously written or co-written a number of posts for In Custodia Legis.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by Jordan Lewin on Flickr (May 16, 2008). Used under Creative Commons License 2.0,

Today is the world’s Human Rights Day, a day proclaimed by the United Nations in 1950 to bring attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a standard for all people and countries. This year the theme is Human Rights 365, a slogan designed to show that rights matter every day, everywhere.

In recent years the Law Library of Congress has hosted a discussion on an aspect of human rights as an annual commemoration of Human Rights Day. This year, the event will be held in February 2015, so as to also honor the U.N.’s World Day of Social Justice (February 20, 2015). Details of the program will be announced in the next few weeks; the focus will be on human rights issues in Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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Fire at Parliament! Library Saved!

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎09, ‎2014, ‏‎11:50:24 AM | Kelly Buchanan

When you visit the Library of Congress you are likely to hear or read about the loss of collections to fires, first in 1814 during the War of 1812 and then later, on Christmas Eve 1851. Unfortunately, a number of other countries have also suffered losses of parliamentary or national library buildings and important materials due to fires that have either started accidentally or as a deliberate act. In 1849, for example, the Canadian Library of Parliament in Montreal lost all but 200 of its 12,000 books to fire. Many more documents were also lost in the fire, and last year archeologists uncovered the charred remains of seven books from the site of the pre-Confederation parliament.

The British House of Commons Library and its materials at the Houses of Parliament in London also burned in a fire in 1834. Nearly all the House of Commons records were destroyed “in one of the greatest archival disasters the United Kingdom has ever known.”

The Canadian Library of Parliament, now in Ottawa, was again threatened by a fire that engulfed large parts of the Parliament buildings in 1916. This time the collection was saved “because of the foresight of librarian Alpheus Todd in insisting on iron fire doors and clerk “Connie” MacCormac’s quick thinking in ordering them to be slammed shut before evacuating the building.”

Parliament buildings from Major Hill Park, Ottawa. Photograph shows the Canadian Parliament building complex in Ottawa, most of which was destroyed by fire in 1916. The building on the far right is the Library of Parliament and the building with the red roof on the shore is the Parliament Pumphouse. In the foreground is the entrance to the Rideau Canal. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2011.) Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Ruins of Parliament House, 2/4/16. Photograph shows the ruins of the Canadian Parliament building in Ottawa after a fire in February 1916. (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2013.) Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

A similar situation to that later event had also occurred in New Zealand. This week, on December 11, it is the anniversary of a devastating fire that destroyed New Zealand’s wooden Parliament buildings in 1907. However, the General Assembly Library (now the Parliamentary Library) and its collection were saved. It was the only building in the complex that survived, and it remains standing today. According to the New Zealand History website,

Staff and volunteers moved more than 15,000 volumes from the building’s ground floor as a precaution against the flames breaking through. The morning light revealed the scale of the devastation to the crowds and parliamentarians who had come to watch: the old wooden buildings were completely destroyed, but New Zealand’s de facto national library – with its 80,000 volumes and many other treasures – had been saved by its brick walls and metal fire door.

People also worked through the night to save other items from the buildings. According to one report, “refreshments were provided at the hotel opposite.”

I visited the Parliamentary Library in 2011 and returned with pictures for an In Custodia Legis blog post. The building has been restored and refurbished, although the process was interrupted by three fires in 1992. You can see 360 degree panoramic images of parts of the Parliamentary Library building as it looks today on the New Zealand History website (scroll down to the “Interactive” section).

And I’m sure you’ll be glad to know that the Library of Congress has comprehensive plans, procedures, and equipment in place to protect collections from fire and other potential disasters, and provides information on emergency preparedness and response to help other institutions as well.

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Feudalism, Magna Carta and King John – Pic of the Week

‎Friday, ‎December ‎05, ‎2014, ‏‎3:35:35 PM | Margaret Wood

On Wednesday, I gave a gallery talk for the Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor Exhibition. I focused the talk around King John and his rapacious habits as a ruler: demanding extraordinary fees from his feudal vassals, seizing hostages, and losing battles. I also included some information on the Constitutions of Clarendon (more on that in another post). My good friend David attended and took a photograph of me expounding on these topics, which you can see below.

If you were unable to make it to the Library of Congress to see my gallery talk, do not despair. We have several interesting gallery talks coming up in the weeks to come, including:

December 10, 2014. James Martin, a senior legal information analyst in the Law Library of Congress, presents “The Merriman Case and the Writ of Habeas Corpus.” The program will take place in the South Gallery, on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.

January 7, 2015. Robert Brammer, Law Library, and Eiichi Ito, Asian Division, co-present on military authority and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The program will take place in the South Gallery, on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.

January 14, 2015. Nathan Dorn, exhibition curator, will discuss highlights of selected items from the exhibition. The program will take place in the South Gallery, on the second floor of the Thomas Jefferson Building, from 12:00 p.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Gallery Talk by Margaret Wood / Photograph by David S. Deutsch

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Argentine Law – Global Legal Collection Highlights

‎Thursday, ‎December ‎04, ‎2014, ‏‎10:01:51 AM | Hanibal Goitom

The following is a guest post by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand, senior foreign law specialist for Argentina and several other Spanish-speaking jurisdictions.

Argentina has a federal republic form of government and a democratic political system. The Argentine Constitution, enacted in 1853 and last amended in 1994, provides for three branches of government: an executive branch headed by a president, a bicameral legislature, and a judiciary.

Cover page of the first Boletín Oficial de la República Argentina ( Official Gazette) from July 1, 1893.

Argentina is a civil law country with a Romanist continental legal system. Under this system, a judge renders a sentence, which, strictly speaking, is the act emanated by a judge who is required to declare and interpret the correct applicable law. In this process, the judge must support his decisions and provide the basis for the conclusion he reaches. Such basis needs to be found either in the law, court decisions, or other additional secondary sources of law, such as customs, scholarly opinions and general principles of law.

A major development in Argentine legal research is the completion of the new Digesto Jurídico Argentino (DGA) in May 2014, which selected and consolidated all national laws that are currently in effect. This titanic endeavor required the classification and indexing of the laws currently in force, as well as assigning them pertinent descriptors.

The Argentine law collection at the Law Library of Congress includes all the major legal publications dating as far back as the 1820s, including the full collection of the Boletín Oficial (Official Gazette). The collection also includes the complete collection of major legal publishers of legislation, court decisions and scholarly work under the Anales de Legislación Argentina and Revista Jurispurdencia Argentina and Revista La Ley, as well as the Supreme Court reporter “Fallos”. It also contains a broad collection of legal dictionaries and encyclopedias, most notably the eight-volume set of the Diccionario Enciclopédico de Derecho Usual authored by Guillermo Cabanellas (2008).

Most of the Argentine legal collection at the Library of Congress is in Spanish and published in Argentina. However, although they are very limited in scope and number, a few items in English on specialized legal subjects, published in Argentina, Europe or the U.S., are also available. A perusal of the most recent publications on Argentine law in English includes the following:

You can explore our Argentine collection more by going to the Library of Congress online catalog. If you need help researching Argentine law you may request assistance from the Law Library by submitting a request through the “Ask the Librarian” page on our website.

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An Interview with Gabe Horchler

‎Wednesday, ‎December ‎03, ‎2014, ‏‎8:48:41 AM | Betty Lupinacci

This week’s interview is with Gabe Horchler, section head of the Law Section of Library Services’ Acquisitions & Bibliographic Access Directorate, U.S. Programs, Law & Literature Division. Gabe is in charge of cataloging all new law titles. He and his staff have also been instrumental in helping with our reclassification project for which we are grateful!

Describe your background.

I was born in my mother’s ancestral village in Eastern Hungary. We fled Hungary in 1944, lived in Austria as “displaced persons” for six years, and then were able to emigrate to the United States. The Northeast corner of Philadelphia was my home until moving to DC to work for the Library of Congress.

What is your academic/professional history?

I have a BA in Economics from La Salle University, an MS in Library Service from Columbia University, and a MS in Economics from Penn State. I started my LC career in September of 1967 as a descriptive cataloger in the Romance Languages Section. In April of 1968, I was drafted into the Army, served for two years, and then returned to LC as a subject cataloger in the Social Sciences Section. I then took a leave of absence, and with the help of the GI Bill, earned an MS in Economics. For a while, I was torn between a career as a librarian or as an economist, but decided that working with books was more appealing than toiling in the field that Thomas Carlyle called “the dismal science.” I have been at LC ever since, except for 2 years spent in Niger as a United Nations volunteer. In 1985, I became head of the Social Sciences I Section of the Subject Cataloging Division, and after the “Whole book” reorganization of 1994, which combined subject and descriptive cataloging, I was designated the leader of the Business and Economics Team and then of the Law Team. As part of the reorganization of 2008, the Law Team became the Law Section.

How would you describe your job to other people?

When I try to describe my job to non-librarians, their eyes usually glaze over, but I find my work to be very rewarding. Responsible for cataloging the materials that are assigned to the Law Library, the Law Section processed nearly 20,000 titles in 82 languages in Fiscal Year 2014. This workload covers a wide span of time and place. It runs the gamut from the most recent, cutting edge U.S. imprints which we catalog through the Cataloging in Publication Program before they are even published, to materials from the Library’s overseas offices, and to books from as early as the 16th century that are held by the Law Library but are not under bibliographic control. Dealing with such a large and varied workload requires a diverse, highly skilled, and productive staff, and when the members of the Law Section are unable to handle a particular language or format, they can turn for help to other specialists throughout the Library. There is probably no other institution in the world that has such a range of expertise.

Why did you want to work at the Library of Congress?

It never occurred to me that I would work at the Library of Congress, but as I was about to graduate in 1967, a recruiter from LC came to Columbia University School of Library Service to hire catalogers. It’s hard to believe in today’s fiscal environment, but the Library of Congress was then flush with funds. The opportunity to work at LC and live in Washington was too good to turn down.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

I learned many interesting facts about the Library while classifying old congressional hearings. For example, during a 1900 hearing before a Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriation Committee, Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam was requesting an automobile, but if that was not possible, a second horse would be required, “because the present one is not able to cover the distance he has to travel without breaking down.” Senator Teller replied that getting an automobile was a good idea, because “if we can get the horses off the street, we shall save a great deal of time in cleaning up the streets.”

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I like to work in the woods. We live in the small town of Cheverly, which is inside the Beltway and encircled by major highways, but has many mature trees and nearly 60 acres of woods. Working with a group of volunteers from the town, I help maintain a nature trail and remove invasive plants. Upon retirement, I plan to spend much more time in the woods, so if you want to find me, you’ll have to search for me there. I might have a cell phone, but it will most likely be turned off, which really annoys my dear wife.

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“Conversations on the Enduring Legacy of the Great Charter” Symposium Set for December 9, 2014

‎Tuesday, ‎December ‎02, ‎2014, ‏‎9:00:31 AM | Jeanine Cali

Scholars, historians and contemporary thinkers will discuss how Magna Carta’s political and legal traditions have carried into our current times at a symposium on Dec. 9, 2014. The symposium, Conversations on the Enduring Legacy of the Great Charter, is being held in conjunction with the Library’s exhibition,”Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor.”

The afternoon program, “Contemporary Conversations on Magna Carta,” is open to the public and starts at 2 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium on the ground level of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. The symposium, organized by the Law Library of Congress, is free. Tickets are not needed.

A highlight of the program will be an interview with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Stephen G. Breyer conducted by David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group. The interview, “American Law and the Great Charter,” begins at 2:05 p.m.

Featured Speakers for the Afternoon Program

Opening remarks by Deputy Librarian of Congress Robert Dizard Jr.

“American Law and the Great Charter” David Rubenstein conducts an interview with Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer

“Drafting Modern Constitutions” Participants: A.E. Dick Howard, White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs, University of Virginia School of Law; Cornelius “Neil” Kerwin, president of American University; and David Fontana, Associate Professor of Law, George Washington University Law School. Moderated by Jeffrey Rosen, president and chief executive officer, National Constitution Center

“Rule of Law in the Contemporary World: Civil Liberties and Surveillance” Participants: Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Member, Committee on the Judiciary, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations; Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Member, Committee on the Judiciary, and Member, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Moderated by Orin Kerr, Fred C. Stevenson Research Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School

“Proportionality Under the Eighth Amendment” Participants: Vicki Jackson, Thurgood Marshall Professorship of Constitutional Law, Harvard Law School; Craig Lerner, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Law, George Mason University Law School. Moderated by Carrie Johnson, justice correspondent, National Public Radio

“The Enduring Value of Magna Carta” Participants: Jonathan Jacobs, director of the Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics and chairman of the Department of Philosophy at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; William C. Hubbard, president, American Bar Association, and partner with Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough, LLP. Moderated by Roberta I. Shaffer, retired Associate Librarian for Library Services at the Library of Congress.

“An International Perspective” Sir Robert Worcester, chairman of the Magna Carta 800th Anniversary Commemoration Committee

Closing Remarks David S. Mao, Law Librarian of Congress

We hope you can join us! For those readers who will not be able to attend the symposium, we will have members of the In Custodia Legis team live tweet at various points throughout the day via Twitter @LawLibCongress, using #1215MCLC.

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks starting this year. Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.

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Magna Carta Entrusting Ceremony Recreated – Pic of the Week

‎Friday, ‎November ‎28, ‎2014, ‏‎9:00:44 AM | Donna Sokol

The Library of Congress is commemorating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta with an exhibition – Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, a symposium, and a series of talks starting this year. Through January 19, 2015, the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta, one of four remaining originals from 1215 is on display along with other rare materials from the Library’s rich collections to tell the story of 800 years of its influence on the history of political liberty.

Librarian of Congress Dr. James H. Billington (left) accepts the ceremonial key to Magna Carta’s case from British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Peter Westmacott, while Lord Lothian (second from right) and Lincoln Cathedral’s Dean Buckler (right) look on. [Photo by Amanda Reynolds]

November 28 marks the 75th anniversary of the Lincoln Cathedral Magna Carta‘s deposit to the Library of Congress for safekeeping during World War II. In an official ceremony in what is now the Jefferson Building, the then-British Ambassador to the United States, Lord Lothian (Philip Henry Kerr), delivered a speech entrusting the Library of Congress with the precious document. The then-Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish also gave a short speech. Lord Lothian handed MacLeish the key to Magna Carta’s display case, in front of which the two gentlemen shook hands.

On November 6, 2014, the Library of Congress officially opened the Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor exhibition with a ceremony in the Jefferson Building’s Great Hall. In one part of the program, the entrusting ceremony from 1939 was recreated with individual speeches and a ceremonial key exchange.

A little bit about the significance of the gentlemen who participated in this year’s ceremony. In 1939, the Dean of Lincoln Cathedral had not traveled to the United States, possibly because of the outbreak of war, to oversee the transportation of Magna Carta to Washington, DC from the New York World’s Fair. For this year’s ceremony, Dean Philip Buckler represented Lincoln Cathedral – the steward of the 1215 Magna Carta borrowed for the exhibition. The current Lord Lothian (the 13th Marquess of Lothian) is a sitting member of the House of Lords and is a peer descendant of the Lord Lothian (the 11th Marquess of Lothian), who is featured in the 1939 photograph. Because the current Lord Lothian is not also the British Ambassador, we were fortunate that the current Ambassador, Sir Peter Westmacott, quite jovially agreed to participate in the ceremony. The Librarian of Congress, Dr. James H. Billington, of course served as the entrustee.

At the end of his speech, Dean Buckler delivered a line from the 1939 ceremony, “Mr. Librarian, I have the greatest pleasure in entrusting Magna Carta to your benevolent care.” Dean Buckler then produced a key to Magna Carta’s case. He handed the key, which dangled from a grey silk ribbon with tassel, to Lord Lothian, who passed the key to the British Ambassador. Sir Peter then presented the key to the Librarian of Congress.

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