US Legal Research


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US Legal Research workshop by Jennifer Warburton

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US Legal Research

  1. 1. U.S. Legal ResearchJennifer WarburtonSingapore Management University
  2. 2. Agenda Basics of U.S. Court System Using U.S. Secondary Sources Understanding U.S. Case Citations Finding U.S. Federal and State Case Law Finding U.S. Federal and State Legislation
  3. 3. U.S. Court System - BasicsU.S. CourtsFederal CourtsU.S. SupremeCourt13 CircuitAppellateCourtsFederalDistrictCourtsSpecialty Courts:-Bankruptcy-Tax Court-Federal Claims-Intl Trade-Armed Forced-Veterans ClaimsState Court System for Each of 50StatesStateHighestCourtStateAppellateCourtsState DistrictCourts
  4. 4. Federal Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts numbered 1 to 11, Federal Circuit, and DCCircuit
  5. 5. Secondary Resources Encyclopedias AmJur 2d – American Jurisprudence 2d CJS – Corpus Juris Secundum ALR – American Law Reports Cornell’s LII WEX Legal Encyclopedia Journals/Books Limiting to U.S. Law Reviews in Westlaw andLexis SSRN Google Scholar
  6. 6. American Jurisprudence 2d – AmJur Legal Encyclopedia Start with the Index Provides summary of the law topic Will refer to key cases and relevantlegislation Available on Lexis and Westlaw Selective in citations provided in theentries, not comprehensive for all cases ona subject Strong on federal legislation
  7. 7. AmJur 2d on WestlawWhen usingWestlawIntl, start bylocating theUnitedStatesCollection
  8. 8. AmJur 2d Westlaw SearchLimit by fields. Use PR field tosearch the information abovethe main text of the entry.Search tips are herein Scope Information.
  9. 9. AmJur 2d Search Help in Scope InfoClick on AMJURlink to return tosearch window.
  10. 10. AmJur 2d Table of ContentsOption to browseTable of Contentsrather than search.
  11. 11. AmJur 2d Table of ContentsFrom within Table of Contents,can use Ctrl-F to find mainsubject terms.
  12. 12. AmJur 2d Entry
  13. 13. AmJur 2d Related Info TabToggle between full-textand Table of Contents
  14. 14. AmJur 2d Correlation TableReferences from oldereditions are correlated tocurrent edition.
  15. 15. AmJur 2d on Lexis
  16. 16. AmJur 2d on LexisMultiple access points into encyclopedias.
  17. 17. AmJur 2d on LexisCan limit to only searchingTable of Contents
  18. 18. Corpus Juris Secundum - CJS Legal Encyclopedia Start with the Index Provides summary of the law topic Will refer to key cases andrelevant legislation Available on Westlaw More comprehensive than AmJurin case citations provided, but thatcan make the entries lessreadable. Heavy on cases, light onlegislation
  19. 19. CJS Finding it in Westlaw International
  20. 20. CJS SearchSame options as in AmJur.
  21. 21. CJS Table of Contents
  22. 22. CJS
  23. 23. American Law Reports - ALR
  24. 24. ALR More thorough and comprehensive encyclopedia Multiple ALR series in the print volumes ALR, ALR 2d, ALR 3d, ALR 4th, ALR 5th, ALR 6th, Federal,and Federal 2d. All series and volumes are kept because not all entrieshave been updated from original entry so the index mayrefer to an older ALR series. There are at least eight different indexes for the printseries – it’s complicated. Entries are officially called Annotations. Print volumes updated annually. Online ALR Updated weekly Comprehensive search through all series
  25. 25. ALR Coverage on Westlaw online
  26. 26. ALR on Westlaw InternationalWhen usingWestlaw Intl,start bylocating theUnitedStatesCollection
  27. 27. ALR Westlaw SearchThe Index to Annotations is a veryhelpful guide. To find the index on anysubject, include PR search with phrase―index to annotations‖
  28. 28. ALR – Backdoor to Table of Contents
  29. 29. ALR Search Tips in Scope Info
  30. 30. ALR – Table of ContentsThis ToC is not linked.To use this information,copy the heading, returnto search window, andsearch on the copiedterms.
  31. 31. ALR Using the IndexTo use the index, copythe heading and returnto search screen.
  32. 32. ALR Searching the Index HeadingAfter copying the title from the Index, paste it into the search window. Use a TI titlesearch to limit search for terms in article titles. Also add a PR field limiter with phrase―index to annotations‖ to only retrieve the very helpful index listing for this title.
  33. 33. ALR Index to AnnotationsIndex to Annotations isa helpful listing of allthe articles within thissubject.
  34. 34. ALR Annotation32 page Annotation. Startswith outline of theannotation…
  35. 35. ALR Annotation
  36. 36. ALR Annotation
  37. 37. ALR Annotation
  38. 38. Cornell’s LII -
  39. 39. LII Directory
  40. 40. LII WEX Legal EncyclopediaOptions to searchor browse.
  41. 41. WEX Legal EncyclopediaBrowse leads toalphabetical listingof topics.
  42. 42. LII WEX EntryCites primary legislationCites primary casesProvides summaryof the legal topic.
  43. 43. Journals & Nothing different about searchingfor U.S. journals and books. Can limit journal searches to U.S.-only databases, if needed. Many free sources availableonline.
  44. 44. U.S. Journals on Westlaw InternationalLimit search to U.S. law reviews by selecting LAWREV-PRO on World Journalstab.
  45. 45. U.S. Journals on LexisLimit search to U.S. law reviews by selecting the U.S. Law Reviews andJournals, Combined database that is listed on the Secondary Legal page.
  46. 46. Journals on SSRNFree access to legal research on SSRN, located
  47. 47. Journals on Google ScholarSearch for articles on Google Scholar at the down arrowleads to Advanced Searchoptions
  48. 48. Journals Google Scholar Advanced SearchIf the term search returns too many results, can limit to law review articles byincluding phrase ―law review‖ in the ―published in‖ field.
  49. 49. Journals Google ScholarClicking the PDF link on the right may offer an free full-text version even when thetitle link does not.
  50. 50. Case Law Understanding Citations Mandatory or PersuasiveAuthority Searching Westlaw Lexis Cornell’s LII Directory Google Scholar
  51. 51. U.S. Case CitationsRoe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973)Volume of ReporterReporter AbbreviationFirst Page of CaseYear of DecisionCase Name
  52. 52. U.S. Case Citations – Parallel CitationsSmith v. Chaney Brooks Realty, Inc., 10 Haw. App. 250, 865 P.2d170 (1994)Parallel Citations:Parallel CitationBright v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist.,18 Cal. 3d 450; 556 P.2d 1090; 1976 Cal. LEXIS 364; 134 Cal. Rptr. 639; 2 Media L. Rep. 1175 (Because of the number of reporters, it can look very complicated:Parallel Citations
  53. 53. Case Law – Mandatory or Persuasive? Federal Courts United States Supreme Court—Mandatory authority in allcourts, federal and state, when the decision covers federal lawissues. United States Courts of Appeals—Mandatory on district courtsand other lower courts within the circuit. Persuasive authorityin other circuits and in state courts. United States District Courts—Mandatory on specialized lowercourts within the appellate jurisdiction of the district court. State Courts State Supreme Courts, on decisions of state law—Mandatoryauthority for all lower courts in that state, and when federalcourts hear state law cases under diversity jurisdiction. State Appellate Courts, on decisions of state law—Mandatoryon all lower courts in the state. State Trial Courts—Mandatory only if the trial court has reviewauthority over a lower courts decisions.
  54. 54. U.S. Case Law on Westlaw International
  55. 55. Case Law - Westlaw
  56. 56. Case Law - Westlaw To limit a search to a specific court Use a Field Limiter – CO Examples: To search only Ninth Circuit cases CO(9) To search only Arizona Appellate cases CO( To search only highest court in the state of Arizona CO(az AND high) To search only highest court in multiple states: CO(ia ks mo AND high) To search only New York Family Court OR New York District Court: CO(n.y.fam.ct OR n.y.dist.ct) To search only the First District of the Ohio Court of Appeals PR(―first district‖) AND CO( For more Westlaw court abbreviations, go to:
  57. 57. Case Law - Lexis
  58. 58. Case Law – Lexis
  59. 59. Case Law – Lexis Search by Circuit
  60. 60. Case Law – Free Online Resources Legal Information Institute (LII) Excellent directory to free online resources Google Scholar Legal Documents Federal Cases from Federal Court Websites Another Court Website Index State Cases from State Court Websites
  61. 61. Case Law- Cornell’s LII Directory
  62. 62. Case Law – LII Directory
  63. 63. Case Law – LII Federal Opinions
  64. 64. Case Law – LII Directory of Circuit Opinions
  65. 65. Case Law – LII Directory by State
  66. 66. Case Law – LII Directory of State Cases
  67. 67. Case Law - Google ScholarCurrently has:-U.S. Supreme Court casessince 1791;-U.S. federal district, appellate,tax, and bankruptcy courtssince 1923, and-U.S. state appellate and statesupreme court cases since1950.
  68. 68. Case Law – Google Scholar CourtsCan limit searchto specific courts.
  69. 69. Case Law – Google Scholar Case SearchSearch for cases by key terms.
  70. 70. Case Law – Google Scholar CaseOfficial page numbersare provided for citationneeds.
  71. 71. Case Law – Google Scholar Case SearchSmart enough to return the original,full-text case as first item in the results listeven just using a simple name search.
  72. 72. Legislation Westlaw USCA –Annotated Version Lexis USCS – Annotated Version LII Directory
  73. 73. Legislation on WestlawU.S. legislation is available many places online. If you have Lexis and Westlaw accestake advantage of the valuable information in the annotated versions of the U.S. Code
  74. 74. Legislation – USCA SearchSpecificcitationsearch.Or access codethrough the Index.
  75. 75. Legislation - USCA Index
  76. 76. USCA EntryEntry starts with thetext of the statute.
  77. 77. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionEntry includes valuable information such as recommended law review articles thatdiscuss this section of the statute.
  78. 78. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionEntry also includes references to CJS entries that discuss this statute.
  79. 79. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionEntries include links to relevant ALR annotations.
  80. 80. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionCases and Case Points of RelevancyLinks to relevant cases on various aspects of this statute.
  81. 81. Legislation on Lexis
  82. 82. Lexis - USCS
  83. 83. Lexis - USCS Index
  84. 84. Lexis – USCS Index
  85. 85. USCS Entry
  86. 86. USCS – Benefits of Annotated VersionUSCS provides similar additionalinformation, such as links toAmJur articles on this statute.
  87. 87. USCS – Benefits of Annotated VersionLinks to relevantlaw review articles
  88. 88. USCS – Benefits of Annotated VersionDiscussion with links to relevant cases.
  89. 89. Legislation - LII ResourcesAgain looking at Cornell’s LII website at law.cornell.eduProvides links to state legislation, organized by topic.Helpful for research and comparative analysis.
  90. 90. Legislation – LII State Statute Topical IndexDirectory ofstate legislationorganized bysubject.
  91. 91. Summary – Page 1 of 2 Court System Helps determine what is mandatory law Secondary Resources Encyclopedias AmJur CJS ALR Journals/Books Can limit to U.S. only in Westlaw and Lexis SSRN Google Scholar
  92. 92. Summary – Page 2 of 2 Case Law Citations Use tables in Bluebook or other tables online to understand courtabbreviation. Searching Westlaw and Lexis Cornell’s LII Directory Google Scholar – Legal Documents Legislation Many free sources for U.S. legislation. If have Westlaw orLexis, use annotated versions USCA – Westlaw Annotated Code USCS – Lexis Annotated Code Cornell’s LII Directory Many free legal resources available at
  93. 93. Additional Resources The Bluebook KF 245 .B58 Basic Legal Research by Amy E. Sloan KF240 .S585 Principles of Legal Research by Kent C.Olson KF240 .O57
  94. 94. Research Guide
  95. 95. Thank You.