Tips for non-FCIL Law Librarians Who Sometimes Have to do U.S. Treaty Research


Your client is a black market firearms dealer.

Veronica Foster

Veronica Foster, an employee of John Inglis Co. Ltd. and known as “Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl” posing with a finished Bren gun in the John Inglis Co. Ltd. Bren gun plant, Toronto, Ontario, Canada….But doesn’t she look like she could be a black market arms dealer.

The U.S. government is hot on her trail and is about to catch her. To avoid extradition, she is looking for a country to escape to with her millions of illegally acquired dollars. She wants to flee to one of the following countries:

  • Singapore
  • Bhutan
  • Israel
  • Trinidad and Tobago (T & T)


Research Guides

I recommend starting with an online  treaty research guide:


I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few major print publications that may help.

Treaty Research Checklist

To guide the students in answering this question, I gave them a treaty research checklist, which I adapted from  Boston College Law Library.

The questions to ask:

  1. Does a treaty exist on the subject?
  2. Can you find the text of the treaty?
  3. Who are the parties, and is the U.S. a party?
  4. Is the treaty in force? What is the treaty’s effective date?
  5. Are there any reservations, understandings, declarations, or other conditions made by the relevant parties?
  6. Has there been any subsequent modification to the treaty?
  7. Can you identify the rules for treaty interpretation that are used by signatory states?

Web Searches

When you want to do your berrypicking  simultaneously with your methodical research, try using Startpage. Here’s a review and their privacy policy.

General web searches are often a good place to start research. For this hypothetical, one might search things like: extradition treaty U.S. or countries with no extradition treaty with the US. It turns out that Wikipedia and the US Department of State both have pages that sort of answer this question. But to be  certain, you would want to examine something official and up-to-date.

Official finding tool

Treaties in Force provides citations to the official full-text of U.S. Treaties.

  • updated annually (2012)
Mayaro Beach in Trinidad, our arms dealer has good taste.

Mayaro Beach in Trinidad. Our arms dealer has good taste.

Back to the Hypo

Let’s go back to our arms dealer for a minute. She wanted to go to:

  • Singapore
  • Bhutan
  • Israel
  • T & T

To find out if there are extradition treaties in force between the U.S. and these countries there are 5 places we need to look in the most recent Treaties in Force publication.

1. Multilateral Treaties in Force (TIF) in the extradition section. From the contents page, we can see that this is on page 369 and we can go to that page and see which of our 4 countries has an extradition treaty with the U.S.

Treaties in Force Contents_1

When we go to page 369, we realize that none of our countries are listed, but that does not mean that they did not sign a bilateral extradition treaty.

2. We still need to look at the sections that reference bilateral treaties with the specific countries of interest.

Bilateral TIF


Singapore TIF


Bhutan TIF


Israel TIFT & T


We now know that as of January 1, 2012, the date of publication of the most recent Treaties in Force, there were extradition treaties with all of the desired countries, except for Bhutan.

Our arms dealer doesn’t believe that there really is an extradition treaty between the U.S. and T & T so she wants to see not just the text but the official text of the extradition treaty. However, you will note above that the TIAS citation is incomplete. This is because it has not yet been published in TIAS.

Official Full-Text Sources

The official sources are

To find official versions of treaties that have not yet been added to TIAS or UST, you will need to search the Senate Treaty documents.

Senate Treaty Documents

In my albeit limited experience, the easiest way to locate Senate Treaty documents is through the Library of Congress Website Treaty section.

Thomas_Treaty Search

As shown above, if you use the name of the country in the Word/Phrase search bar and limit the type of treaty to Extradition and Criminal Ass., you will find records of relevant treaty documents.

Thomas Treaty results

Notice that this includes a link to the full-text pdf of the relevant treaty on the Government Printing Office’s website.

Official Treaty

Our arms dealer really doesn’t want to go to Bhutan and really does want to go to T & T, so she asks you to verify that there has been no change to the Bhutan or T & T extradition treaty status since Jan 1, 2012.

Official Up-to-date Index of Treaties in Force

The most up-to-date Index that I could find for free online is the U.S. Department of State web page on Treaty Actions . The Treaty Actions documents shown below are those available in March 2013.

Treaty Actions

They are not cumulative, you need to check each one individually to ensure that there have been no changes to the extradition treaty status with Bhutan and T & T since Jan 1, 2012.


Looks like our arms dealer will be heading to Bhutan.

Rhaessner at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons

Rhaessner at the German language Wikipedia [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, from Wikimedia Commons

About Catherine "Deane" Deane

Catherine Deane is the full-time Reference Librarian at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Library. She performs in depth research for the faculty in support of their scholarship, and assists students with their legal research. She will be teaching the Advanced Legal Research course beginning in Fall 2011. She is also responsible for developing topical legal research guides for the TJSL community. She has created eight research guides since arriving at TJSL in November 2010, and has updated several more. She is also a regular contributor to ThomChat, the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Library Blog. Catherine Deane spent two years working closely with Vincent Moyer, Foreign, Comparative and International Law Librarian at the University of California, Hastings School of Law, where she created and curated ten research guides on varying topics in U.S., foreign, and international law. With Mr. Moyer, she published two book reviews and a foreign law research guide on the Laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (her home country). Prior to working at UC Hastings, she spent a year and a half doing contract work at an international law firm in downtown Los Angeles and she spent a year teaching academic writing at the University of California, San Diego. She has a J.D. with a Certificate in comparative and international law, which she acquired while studying abroad in Ireland, England and Belgium. She also has an M.L.I.S., an M.A. in Sociocultural Anthropology, and a B.A. from Princeton University in Cultural Anthropology with a Certificate in Latin American Studies. Her research interests include Native American Legal Issues, Domestic Violence, and Legal Information Literacy.
This entry was posted in Foreign & International Research, Legal Research, Resources for the non-Academic, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tips for non-FCIL Law Librarians Who Sometimes Have to do U.S. Treaty Research

  1. Reblogged this on Law Library of The Harry C. Moore Library & Information Centre and commented:
    Great resources regarding treaties…

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