Law Library of Congress Experts Abound

Posted March 6, 2009 at 4:04pm

Iran’s former Supreme Court Justice Gholam Vafai is not the only gem at the Law Library of Congress’ Directorate of Legal Research.

Issam Michael Saliba, Ruth Levush and Peter Roudik are three of the DLR’s sought-after experts. All have appeared at Congressional hearings or on C-SPAN. Each is adept in the laws of a country that is important to the U.S.: Iraq, Israel and Russia.

Saliba, 62, a native of Beirut, Lebanon, is the expert on Iraq. Since joining the legal research department in 2006, he has several times given testimonies to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He has enlightened Congressional Members and staff on the extension of the United Nations mandate for Iraq, the reconstruction of the oil sector and expansion of American forces in Iraq and the trial of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Another C-SPAN regular is Levush, senior legal specialist on Israeli law. She has spoken about the issues of compensation for victims of terrorist actions, the legal status of Jerusalem, water rights in the Middle East, campaign finance in foreign countries and legislative ethics in democratic countries.

Levush described her appearances on C-SPAN as “very beneficial— to the law library’s goal of promoting its legal research services. “We feel sometimes that we are not known enough.—

“Our department has knowledge about the law and how it is interpreted. We give advice on how laws are viewed by the people living in foreign countries. Our expertise is both legal and culture. This combination is unique,— Levush said.

She said very few institutions have the level of expertise that the Directorate of Legal Research has. “Most embassies do not provide legal service. They don’t have staff to provide in-depth and nonpartisan research.—

Like Levush, Roudik is also a frequent guest specialist on C-SPAN. He is an expert on the Russian Federation, former Soviet states and Eastern Europe. In his 13 years of working at the law library, Roudik has published books on the issues of cybercrime, religious liberty, judicial reform implementation and church autonomy.

Since 1998, Roudik has been providing commentaries and analysis on C-SPAN TV, Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Roudik received his law degree from Moscow State University and his master’s degree on comparative constitutional law from Central European University in Budapest, Hungary. He speaks Russian, German, Serbo-Croatian and other Slavic languages.

“I analyze Russian law. After 9/11, I got invited to talk about the foreign legal response to terrorism. It is part of our job to inform the public about how other countries are responding to terrorism,— Roudik said.

While having Members of Congress and Congressional committees as its primary clients, the DLR also provides definitive advice and assistance to government agencies, the U.S. Supreme Court and other courts, and the public inquiring about complex legal questions and issues on the legal system of foreign countries.