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International, Foreign & Comparative Legal Research

This research guide provides selected sources for researching international, foreign & comparative law

Reference Librarian

Creative Commons

Creative Commons License
This work by the California Western School of Law Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


This guide is no longer updated, but it remains available due to its wider scope and its inclusion of resources available at other libraries in San Diego. Please see the most recent guide for current information.


  • Resources for understanding U.S. law
  • Basic treaty research
  • Background information on treaty ratification (for U.S.) and treaty development (internationally)
  • Researching digests

U.S. Law

I.  U.S. Government

A.  American Government (DVD, 1999)

B.  American Government:  Program 6, The Three Branches of Government (DVD, 2004)

C.  America Rocks:  This web site is a portal for various short musical videos on U.S. history and government.  They are made for children, but the catchy tunes make remembering things easier.  I still play the "I'm just a bill" for my class before we discuss legislative history.

II.  The Legal System

A.  Federal Courts & What They Do (2006)

B.  Federal Judicial Center, Translated Materials:  Multi-lingual ortal for online publications about the U.S. legal system.

C.  Kevin J. Fandl, Narrowing the gap : legal English for the new international legal practitioner (2012)

D.  Kevin J. Fandl, Guía práctica del sistema legal americano para profesionales en un mundo jurídico global (2013)

E. Éxito en el Norte (DVD, 2006):  Se incluye un programa titulado "El sistema legal."

Additional Reading

Checking Treaty Status

Databases covering various countries

Available at CWSL



Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals

Available from other universities in San Diego

PAIS International: UCSD/SDSU (Online)
—Must be on UCSD or SDSU campus to use this resource

FRANCIS (Intl. Humanities & Soc. Sci.)
—UCSD; On-campus use only

EUROPA World Plus
—UCSD; On-campus use only

Worldwide Political Sciences Abstracts
—SDSU; On-campus use only 

International Agreements & U.S. Law

Source of international law
Article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justices lists the various sources of international law:
1.  Conventions/treaties/international agreements
2.  Customary international law
3.  General Principles of International Law
4.  Judicial decisions
5.  Writings of international legal scholars
U.S. Classifications of Int'l Agreements
  • Advice & consent from 2/3 of Senate
  • Ratification by President 

Congressional-Executive Agreement:

  • Approval of simple majority of both houses of Congress
  • Approval of the President

Sole Executive Agreement:

  • Int'l agreement executed solely by the President

Finding U.S. Treaties


Sources of U.S. Treaties



Unofficial sources

Treaty Background Research

Legislative History

  • Congressional Information Service, CIS Annual:  From 1970 to date.  Look in Index volume under heading "Treaties and Conventions" or the subject matter of the treaty.  Provides references to microfiched congressional documents available in the 2nd Floor Microforms Room.
    --Also available online to CWSL users as Proquest's Congressional & Legislative Insight
  • Congressional Information Service, CIS U.S. Serial Set Index.  For pre-1970 coverage.  Selected references to Senate treaty documents.
    --Also available online to CWSL users as Proquest's Congressional & Legislative Insight
    --Also available online through the Library of Congress

  • Congressional Record:  May contain debate about treaties.
    --Available online from the Library of Congress' THOMAS [from 101st Congress (1989)]
    --Older editions available online to CWSL users from HeinOnline's U.S. Congressional Documents Library

Travaux Preparatoires

Databases for Foreign Law

Saudi Arabia

—Gulf Law: (Free)
—Index Islamicus (licensed database); UCSD/SDSU Ref DS 44 I53

                 Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls-->Middle East & N. Africa
                 -->Indiv. Countries-->Saudi Arabia

                 Find Laws by Country or Region-->Foreign Laws & Legal Sources
                 -->Saudi Arabia

—Index Islamicus (licensed database); UCSD/SDSU Ref DS 44 I53
—DOAJ (Free): Turkish search interface; Can search with Turkish words
—Westlaw:  Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls-->Middle East & N. Africa-->Indiv. Countries-->Turkey

—Lexis: "Find Laws by Country or Region"-->Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->Turkey


—Gulf Law: (Free)
—Index Islamicus (licensed database);     UCSD/SDSU Ref DS 44 I53
—Westlaw:  Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls-->Middle East & N. Africa
    -->Indiv. Countries-->Iran

—Lexis; "Find Laws by Country or Region"-->Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->Iran


1.  Free internet Resources
—Biblioteca Juridica Virtual:

—SciELO Mexico:

2. San Diego Public Library Databases:
—Referencia Latina & Informe

3. Westlaw
Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls-->North America--Indiv Countries-->Mexico

4. Lexis
"Find Laws by Country or Region"-->Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->Mexico


—Westlaw (various databases)
—Lexis (various databases:
"Find Laws by Country or Region"-->Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->Canada


Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls-->
                Europe & UK-->Indiv Countries-->France
—Lexis:  "Find Laws by Country or Region"-->
              Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->France

—Westlaw: Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls-->
                Europe & UK-->Indiv Countries-->Poland
—Lexis:  "Find Laws by Country or Region"-->
             Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->Poland

—SciELO Brasil: 
—Westlaw: Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls
                -->South America--Indiv Countries-->Brazil
—Lexis:  "Find Laws by Country or Region"-->
              Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->France

—Westlaw: Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls
                -->Asia & the Pacific Rim-->Indiv. Countries
—Lexis:  Find Laws by Country or Region
             -->Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->India

—DOAJ: (Search in English)
—Westlaw:  Directory tab-->Intl & Worldwide Matls
                 -->Europe & UK-->Indiv Countries-->Ukraine
—Lexis:  Find Laws by Country or Region-->
             Foreign Laws & Legal Sources-->Ukraine


Sources for Foreign Law in San Diego

The Free Internet

  • Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)     
    --Search forms available for selected non-English languages
    --Can search foreign words in English query form
    --Coverage of worldwide publications available for free on the Internet
  • Gulf-Law

    --Information on law from countries in the Persian Gulf
  • Biblioteca Juridica Virtual 
    --Searchable database of full text books and articles in Spanish, mostly focusing on Mexican law
  • Redalyc

    --Free full text articles, primarily in Spanish
  • SciELO Mexico
    --Includes some social science articles in full text
    --Mostly in Spanish
  • SciELO Brasil
    --Includes some social science articles in full text
    --Mostly in Portuguese, some Spanish and English
  • WorldLII
    --Searchable database of legal materials from various jurisdictions worldwide
  • CanLII
    --Searchable database of legal materials from Canada


I.  In Print
A.  Fairly good collection of Mexican codes in Spanish
B.  UK statutes and case reporters

II. Online

  • Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals
    --Provides citations and some abstracts to legal periodicals published worldwide
    --Generally, you will need to find another source for the full-text of the article
  • Index to Legal Periodicals & Books
    --Some full text but mostly citations and abstracts
    --Mostly from North American legal periodicals, but there is some coverage from other regions
    --Machine translation of articles available for full text articles in HTML
  • International Law in Domestic Courts
    --Selected full text court opinions from various nation-states on topics in international law 
  • Lexis/Nexis & Westlaw
    --Lexis has a little more extensive coverage of law from foreign jurisdictions, but Westlaw has good coverage of law from the United Kingdom.

Databases available from the San Diego Public Library

  • Referencia Latina
  • Informe

Other area Research Libraries
(e.g., UCSD, SDSU, USD)

  • University of San Diego offers an LLM in International Law.  Accordingly, its print collection of international and foreign materials is a bit more extensive.
  • See the listing of databases for other online resources available at UCSD and SDSU

Access to foreign publications in print

Public Libraries

The following public libraries include some foreign-language materials in their collections (mostly Spanish)

· San Diego Public Library

· San Diego County Library

· Chula Vista Public Library

· San Diego Community College
District Libraries (City College,
Mesa College, and Miramar College)

· Southwestern College Library

· Grossmont-Cuyamaca Libraries


· Adams Avenue Book Store
—This bookstore has a separate
   room for books in foreign
   languages.  It is located upstairs.

· Bluestocking Books
—This bookstore has a small
   section of foreign-language

· 5th Avenue Books
—Across the street from
   Bluestocking Books in Hillcrest.
—Small section of foreign titles

· Baras Foundation Thrift Store (Hillcrest)
—This is a secondhand store
   that has a good selection 
   of used books.  There is a
   separate section for books
in non-English languages. 


Horton News
—This newsstand is on the street level of Horton Plaza near the Starbucks.

Hillcrest Newsstand
—Located on University Ave, between 5th and 6th in Hillcrest.

Paras Newsstand
—In the North Park section of San Diego near 30th St. & University Ave.