Anti-corruption and Mapmaking in the Americas

Since starting at ABA ROLI I have been working on one giant project—comparing anti-corruption measures in the American Continent. This research project includes compiling the laws from Canada, the US, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil relating to prosecution of corruption in the public and private sectors of both natural and legal persons, as well as cooperation with other countries on prosecuting corruption. After two-and-a-half weeks of working on this, we finally submitted our first round deliverables on Wednesday. I got to “take a break” from corruption for one day to work on a judicial reform project, and then it was back to corruption to get started on the second round deliverable.

Outside of our work, there are many opportunities to learn even more. Earlier this week I attended my first brown bag lunch in a series of similar sessions for the summer. The interns were joined by Kip Hale, Senior Counsel for the ABA Center for Human Rights. He told us about his experiences as a defense attorney at the International Criminal Court at the Hague.  

Today, the interns visited the Library of Congress. We learned about the history of the library, saw Thomas Jefferson’s book collection, learned about the struggle to pass the Civil Rights Act (including a 54-day filibuster), and examined some very old maps. One of the maps that caught my eye was the Oztoticpac Lands Map, drawn by the Aztecs in the 1500’s to settle a land dispute, pictured below. This particular map was interesting to me, because a large part of my work last summer was researching and writing about how useful customary land laws are and how the organization that I was interning for could support people who use customary law to resolve land disputes. This map shows the layout and boundaries of the land in precise detail, with plot measurements and information about fields, houses, palaces, and trees. Our docent explained to us that the detail of the map shows the sophistication of Aztec land laws, which surpassed European land law development at the time. We’re so used to assuming Western/European legal systems have always been the most advanced. It’s good to get a reminder that societies all over the world have created and are still creating amazing, innovative legal systems! 

Aztec Property Demarcation Map