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The Law Library of Congress: A Place Where Interesting Topics are Discussed

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The following is a guest post by Hanibal Goitom, Foreign Law Specialist at the Law Library of Congress.  This is his second guest post – the first discussed cases and legislation relating to women’s rights in Africa.

Here at the Law Library of Congress we have a great tradition called the “Power Lunch” – a bi-weekly informal lunchtime gathering in which Law Library colleagues, visiting scholars, and experts in a wide range of areas from around the country exchange ideas and experiences with the Law Library staff and any member of the general public interested in attending.  Our recent events have included a diverse list of speakers and issues: the promotion of the rule of law as an emerging concept in the field of international development by experts from USAID; refugee issues in Korea by Law Library staff and a visiting scholar; and living and working in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer by the CFO of the Library of Congress.

As part of the Power Lunch series, the Law Library hosted two visiting scholars on November 3, 2010.

Wenette Jacobs Snyman, a South African scholar and a senior lecturer in insurance law in the Department of Mercantile Law at the University of South Africa (UNISA) School of Law, spoke first.  She is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Legal Aspects of Liability Insurance and travelled to the United States to do research for her thesis; so her discussion naturally focused on insurance law in South Africa.

Before delving into her main discussion topic, Ms. Snyman spoke a bit about legal education in South Africa in general and about UNISA.  I was surprised to learn that UNISA, which is a distance learning institution, currently enrolls about 300,000 students from around the world, many of whom live in rural areas.  About 30,000 alone are enrolled at their law school.  She spoke about the challenges of distance learning, especially for students residing in places with little, if any, access to the Internet.

What I found interesting about her discussion of insurance law in South Africa was the fact that less than 5% of the South African population, mostly urban dwellers, take out short-term insurance policies (e.g. fire insurance, liability insurance).  However, Ms. Snyman expects the demand for  insurance coverage to increase dramatically with the implementation of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (set to come into force in March 2011), which introduces strict product liability.

The second speaker, Valentyn Gladkykh, is the chief adviser to the Ukrainian Parliament’s (Verkhovna Rada) Secretariat for the Department on Relations with Committees.  A graduate of Kyiv Taras Shevchenko National University, he holds a Ph.D. in Philosophical Sciences.

Mr. Gladkykh spoke about the Ukrainian political environment and legal system, particularly the level of executive branch involvement in the law-making process.  In Ukraine, legislation may be proposed either by Members of Parliament or the Cabinet; although the volume of the legislation proposed by Members of Parliament is greater, important legislation tends to be initiated by the Cabinet.  Mr. Gladkykh pointed out that there is a constant rivalry between the executive and legislative branches of government, and that the President often uses his veto power to block legislation sent to him from Parliament for assent as a way of asserting executive power.

Mr. Gladkykh mentioned an interesting legislative branch fact: a member of the 450-member unicameral Ukrainian Parliament is not allowed to become a member of more than one of the 27 committees in Parliament at a time.

The Power Lunch events are open to the public.  If you live or work in the Washington, DC, area and are interested in attending these events please contact Karla Walker at the Law Library of Congress, at [email protected].

Comments (7)

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