Use your professional organization (CEC)newsletters
Michener library law materials and web tools
What is legal research?
The process of finding laws that govern activities in our society (Cohen & Olson, 2000)
Finding stautes and regulations and the cases that interpret them
Special education is among the most frequently litigated area of education—so lots of legal opinions exist
Statutes—laws passed by either federal or state legislatures and signed into law
Regulations—promulgated by administrative agencies to implement the statues
Case law—judicial decisions that interpret the statutes and regulations
Organized by topic
Published in a series of volumes called the United States Code (U.S.C.)
Revised every 6 years with supplements issued as needed
Can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/ or you can access it through LexisNexis from the Michener Library database. LexisNexis is called an annotated code version. It contains information about each statute like citations to the legislative history, cross-references to related statutes and regulations, research guides and summaries of court cases that have interpreted each statute.
There are 50 numbered titles, divided into chapters and sections. For example,
Title 34 contains education statutes, so the IDEA will be found there;
Title 29 contains labor statutes, so Section 504 will be found there; and
Title 42 contains public health and welfare statues, so the ADA will be found there.
Statute finding by citation
A reference to a primary law source is a citation to tell you where the law source is located.
They have a standardized form. Here is an example of the citation for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
20 U.S.C. § 1401(20)
Title Number United States Code Section Number Subsection
Federal Regulations by citation
Regulations by citation are written in the same standardized form. They can be found online at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/
The example of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is below:
Title Number Code of Federal Regulations Section Number Subsection Letter & Number
You can locate each state regulations at http://www.llsdc.org/state-leg/
You will also find laws and legislation at this site.
You can also go to www.findlaw.com and click on jurisdiction
If you want the rules and regulations for special education in all 50 states you can go to the http://www.llsdc.org/state-leg/ or the state Department of Education for each state.
No official publications by the government for federal district or appellate court decision
U.S. District Courts are in a reporter called the Federal Supplement (abbreviated F.Supp. And F.Supp. 2d)
U.S. District Courts of Appeals are in the Federal Reporter (abbreviated F.2d and F.3d)
They are found at http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F2/ and http://ftp.resource.org/courts.gov/c/F3/ )
How to Find Cases
Cases are published chronologically rather than according to subject
So by looking by citation you can find them:
Daniel R.R. v. State Board of Ed. 874 F.2d 1036 (5 th Cir. 1989)
Name of Case Volume Number Page Number Court and Year of the Decision
Case citation tips
In the name of the case there are usually two names separated by a v. which means versus as in Daniel R.R. v. State Board of Education
The first name is the plaintiff or appellant (plaintiff is the one who brought the suit and appellant is the one who appealing the decision). The second name is the defendant.
Sometimes there is a phrase and one name. For instance, In RE Gary B. The phrase in re is Latin and it means “in the matter of” –usually there is no opponent.
Shepardizing a case will allow you to know if it is currently valid, if it still has precedential value, has been overruled or reversed.