Introduction to U.S. Legal Research
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Introduction to U.S. Legal Research



A class taught at Singapore Management University, teaching an introduction to United States legal research for international law students using Westlaw International, Lexis, and other online tools.

A class taught at Singapore Management University, teaching an introduction to United States legal research for international law students using Westlaw International, Lexis, and other online tools.



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Introduction to U.S. Legal Research Presentation Transcript

  • 1. U.S. Legal ResearchJennifer WarburtonSingapore Management University
  • 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. 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. Federal Circuit CourtsCircuit Courts numbered 1 to 11, Federal Circuit, and DCCircuit
  • 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. 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. AmJur 2d on WestlawWhen usingWestlawIntl, start bylocating theUnitedStatesCollection
  • 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. AmJur 2d Search Help in Scope InfoClick on AMJURlink to return tosearch window.
  • 10. AmJur 2d Table of ContentsOption to browseTable of Contentsrather than search.
  • 11. AmJur 2d Table of ContentsFrom within Table of Contents,can use Ctrl-F to find mainsubject terms.
  • 12. AmJur 2d Entry
  • 13. AmJur 2d Related Info TabToggle between full-textand Table of Contents
  • 14. AmJur 2d Correlation TableReferences from oldereditions are correlated tocurrent edition.
  • 15. AmJur 2d on Lexis
  • 16. AmJur 2d on LexisMultiple access points into encyclopedias.
  • 17. AmJur 2d on LexisCan limit to only searchingTable of Contents
  • 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. CJS Finding it in Westlaw International
  • 20. CJS SearchSame options as in AmJur.
  • 21. CJS Table of Contents
  • 22. CJS
  • 23. American Law Reports - ALR
  • 24. ALR More thorough and comprehensive encyclopedia Multiple ALR series in the print volumes ALR, ALR 2d, ALR 3d, ALR 4th, ALR 5th, ALR6th, 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. ALR Coverage on Westlaw online
  • 26. ALR on Westlaw InternationalWhen usingWestlawIntl, start bylocating theUnitedStatesCollection
  • 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. ALR – Backdoor to Table of Contents
  • 29. ALR Search Tips in Scope Info
  • 30. ALR – Table of ContentsThis ToC is not linked.To use this information,copy the heading, returnto search window, andsearch on the copiedterms.
  • 31. ALR Using the IndexTo use the index, copythe heading and returnto search screen.
  • 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. ALR Index to AnnotationsIndex to Annotations isa helpful listing of allthe articles within thissubject.
  • 34. ALR Annotation32 page Annotation. Startswith outline of theannotation…
  • 35. ALR Annotation
  • 36. ALR Annotation
  • 37. ALR Annotation
  • 38. Cornell’s LII -
  • 39. LII Directory
  • 40. LII WEX Legal EncyclopediaOptions to searchor browse.
  • 41. WEX Legal EncyclopediaBrowse leads toalphabetical listingof topics.
  • 42. LII WEX EntryCites primary legislationCites primary casesProvides summaryof the legal topic.
  • 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. U.S. Journals on Westlaw InternationalLimit search to U.S. law reviews by selecting LAWREV-PRO on World Journalstab.
  • 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. Journals on SSRNFree access to legal research on SSRN, located
  • 47. Journals on Google ScholarSearch for articles on Google Scholar at the down arrowleads to Advanced Searchoptions
  • 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. Journals Google ScholarClicking the PDF link on the right may offer an free full-text version even when thetitle link does not.
  • 50. Case Law Understanding Citations Mandatory or PersuasiveAuthority Searching Westlaw Lexis Cornell’s LII Directory Google Scholar
  • 51. U.S. Case CitationsRoe v. Wade 410 U.S. 113 (1973)Volume of ReporterReporter AbbreviationFirst Page of CaseYear of DecisionCase Name
  • 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. 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. U.S. Case Law on Westlaw International
  • 55. Case Law - Westlaw
  • 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. Case Law - Lexis
  • 58. Case Law – Lexis
  • 59. Case Law – Lexis Search by Circuit
  • 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. Case Law- Cornell’s LII Directory
  • 62. Case Law – LII Directory
  • 63. Case Law – LII Federal Opinions
  • 64. Case Law – LII Directory of Circuit Opinions
  • 65. Case Law – LII Directory by State
  • 66. Case Law – LII Directory of State Cases
  • 67. Case Law - Google ScholarCurrently has:-U.S. Supreme Court casessince 1791;-U.S. federaldistrict, appellate, tax, andbankruptcy courtssince 1923, and-U.S. state appellate and statesupreme court cases since1950.
  • 68. Case Law – Google Scholar CourtsCan limit searchto specific courts.
  • 69. Case Law – Google Scholar Case SearchSearch for cases by key terms.
  • 70. Case Law – Google Scholar CaseOfficial page numbersare provided for citationneeds.
  • 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. Legislation Westlaw USCA –Annotated Version Lexis USCS – Annotated Version LII Directory
  • 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. Legislation – USCA SearchSpecificcitationsearch.Or access codethrough the Index.
  • 75. Legislation - USCA Index
  • 76. USCA EntryEntry starts with thetext of the statute.
  • 77. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionEntry includes valuable information such as recommended law review articles thatdiscuss this section of the statute.
  • 78. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionEntry also includes references to CJS entries that discuss this statute.
  • 79. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionEntries include links to relevant ALR annotations.
  • 80. USCA – Benefits of Annotated VersionCases and Case Points of RelevancyLinks to relevant cases on various aspects of this statute.
  • 81. Legislation on Lexis
  • 82. Lexis - USCS
  • 83. Lexis - USCS Index
  • 84. Lexis – USCS Index
  • 85. USCS Entry
  • 86. USCS – Benefits of Annotated VersionUSCS provides similar additionalinformation, such as links toAmJur articles on this statute.
  • 87. USCS – Benefits of Annotated VersionLinks to relevantlaw review articles
  • 88. USCS – Benefits of Annotated VersionDiscussion with links to relevant cases.
  • 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. Legislation – LII State Statute Topical IndexDirectory ofstate legislationorganized bysubject.
  • 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. 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. 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. Research Guide
  • 95. Thank You.