Parliamentary websites are too often overlooked as sources for legal research. And that’s a shame because the best ones tend to offer access to an amazingly broad range of material.
The new website of the Australian Parliament, launched last week, is a case in point. There is a ton of stuff there. Most interesting, from my researcher point of view, are the research publications written by the Parliamentary Library, the bill digests (summaries) and the committee pages.
The Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis, has a description and evaluation of many of the site’s new features. Anyone interested in Australian law, or in a comparative law perspective, should have a look.
Other parliamentary libraries also do a great job.
Here at my place of work, I like to draw researchers’ attention to LEGISinfo on the Parliament of Canada website. It describes itself as:
an essential research tool for finding information on legislation before Parliament. This tool provides electronic access to a wide range of information about each bill, such as:
- details on the passage of the bill through the Senate and House of Commons;
- the text of the bill as introduced at First Reading and its most recent version if it is amended during the legislative process;
- major speeches at second reading;
- coming into force data;
- legislative summaries from the Parliamentary Information and Research Service of the Library of Parliament; and
- government press releases and backgrounders (for government bills).
In other words, “one-stop shopping” (or something very close). LEGISinfo goes back to the mid-1990s. It has helped answer many a legislative history question about federal bills.
Canada even has an Association of Parliamentary Libraries. On their website, under “Directory” you can find links to the libraries of most provincial and territorial legislatures. They usually have useful research guides.
The Mother of all Parliaments in London has a visually appealing website. Check out their bill section: here is one example, the Geneva Conventions and United Nations Personnel (Protocols) Bill from 2008-2009. Doesn’t it remind you of a map of the London Underground? Of course, the site is not only pretty, it is the source for committee and parliamentary inquiry reports and for Commons and Lords Library research publications.
And then there is the Law Library of Congress in Washington. I don’t even know where to start describing its online resources. Just glance down the listings in the central column on the home page and you get an idea of the breadth and depth of coverage, of both US and foreign law.
And if you are really curious about the offerings in other countries, our friends at the Bundestag in Berlin have compiled a World Directory of Parliamentary Libraries.