I just returned from the International Association of Law Libraries annual course on International Legal Information and Law. The title of this year’s course was Dutch Gateways to International Law with three main themes: the broad reach of international law, the evolution of international law with a focus on The Hague as world capital of international law, and Dutch law demonstrating tolerance in legal systems.
The course opened with presentations from a Dutch perspective on their Landsadvocaat, similar to the solicitor general in the United States, refugees and resettlement, narcotic drugs, and euthanasia. Presentations on water law, law of the sea, maritime, harbor, and transport law took us out of the lecture hall, literally, with a visit to the port of Rotterdam – the largest port in Europe. History of law was discussed during sessions on Hugo Grotius and Erasmus.
My knee-jerk reaction to all this talk on Dutch law was, what do we have in the Law Library? Ends up, quite a bit and some interesting surprises. For the basic laws of The Netherlands, we collect the official gazette Staatsblad van het Koninkrijk der Nederlanden. For more in depth coverage, we have Lexplicatie aka The Little Books due to their diminutive size. This latter set of laws in print includes commentary and parliamentary history — sort of a US Code Annotated for The Netherlands. If you’re challenged by the Dutch language, we do have English language titles such as Civil Code of The Netherlands.
While these titles can be requested in our reading room, the Law Library does try to point patrons toward sources of Dutch law online through the Guide to Law Online. As with entries for all countries included in the guide, here you will find links to useful and reliable sites for legal information related to the Netherlands.
For late-breaking topics on Dutch law, you can turn to our Global Legal Monitor. An article on Dutch law was posted last week: Attorney-Client Privilege and Telephone Conversations.
I think the most surprising item I found in the collection goes back more than a few years. More than two hundred actually. In our rare book collection we have a copy of the United States Constitution in Dutch from 1788. Apparently there was still a significant population of native Dutch speakers in the soon to be 11th state of the union, New York. So maybe not Dutch law but it is law in Dutch.