THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM ®
West‟s Instructional Aid Series
CONTENTS
• Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the
Doctrine of Precedent
• The National Reporter System
• Case Enhancem...
INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE
COURTS
• Trial courts are the entry to the court system. Trial
courts are where:
– attorney...
INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE
COURTS
• There is a federal system of trial and appellate courts.
– District courts are the...
INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE
COURTS
Federal Court System

State Court Systems

District courts (trial-level)
(Southern D...
INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE
COURTS
• Appellate courts have jurisdiction over trial courts in a
specific geographic area...
INTRODUCTION: THE DOCTRINE OF
PRECEDENT (STARE DECISIS)
• The doctrine of precedent, also known as “stare
decisis” (pronou...
INTRODUCTION: THE DOCTRINE OF
PRECEDENT (STARE DECISIS)
• The decision of a court is binding authority on that
court and o...
QUESTION
• The doctrine of precedent dictates that:

1.

Cases from outside jurisdictions have no
influence on a case in t...
CONTENTS
• Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the
Doctrine of Precedent
• The National Reporter System
• Case Enhancem...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM
• Without a coherent, uniform means of accessing
cases from all state and federal jurisdictio...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM
• In 1879, West started the National Reporter System,
which compiles cases from state and fed...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
FEDERAL CASES
• Federal district (trial) court decisions are published in
the Federal Supple...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
FEDERAL CASES
• U.S. district court cases can be appealed to the
Federal Circuit court that ...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
FEDERAL CASES
• The Thirteen Federal Judicial Circuits
• The Federal Reporter cases are on W...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
FEDERAL CASES
• Cases can be appealed from the Circuit Courts of
Appeals to the United State...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
FEDERAL CASES
• There are also federal topical reporters that are part of
West‟s National Re...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
STATE CASES
• Cases from all 50 states are published in one of seven
regional reporters: Atl...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
STATE CASES
• Below is a map of the seven regional reporters that
cover state cases.
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
STATE CASES
• This is the first page
from a volume in the
Pacific Reporter. It
lists the sta...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
FEDERAL & STATE CASES ON WESTLAW
• All cases from all state, regional, and federal reporters...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
ADDING CASES TO REPORTERS
• The court sends a copy of its decision to Thomson
Reuters, Legal...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
UPDATING REPORTERS
• This is a slip-copy opinion as decided and filed with
the court. It is ...
THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM:
UPDATING REPORTERS
• Attorneys have access to all but the most recent
cases through the adva...
Question
• Which of the following statements is false?
– The National Reporter System was created in the mid-1950s
to orga...
CONTENTS
• Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the
Doctrine of Precedent
• The National Reporter System
• Case Enhancem...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIAL
• This slip opinion appears just as written by the judge
and processed and filed with the cou...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIAL
SCRUTINY
• When West receives a slip opinion
– the manuscript is scrutinized for accuracy
– p...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIALLY
CREATED FINDING TOOLS
• Both the advance sheets and the bound volumes of
the reporters incl...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: CREATED BY
ATTORNEY EDITORS
• Synopsis: A summary of the procedural history, the
facts, the main points...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: CREATED BY
ATTORNEY EDITORS
• Headnotes and synopses are prepared by West
attorney-editors using:
– con...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: SYNOPSIS &
HEADNOTES
• The synopsis is the first
paragraph of a National
Reporter System case.
• Headno...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIAL
ENHANCEMENTS & FIELDS
• Each online National Reporter System case is divided
into segments ca...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: DIGEST FIELDS
• Synopsis Field
– Procedural History

– Central Points of Law
– Holding of Case

• Diges...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: FIELD SEARCHES
ON WESTLAW
• Synopsis field search in Westlaw case law database
– sy(malpractice /p “for...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: ADDITIONAL
FIELDS
• Citation
– volume number, the reporter, and the first page number of
the case

• Ti...
CASE ENHANCEMENTS: ADDITIONAL
FIELDS
• You can access
a list of Fields
from the Search
page.
• This is a partial
list of t...
QUESTION
• Which of the following statements is false?
1.

Attorney-editors spot and summarize up to five points of law
di...
CONTENTS
• Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the
Doctrine of Precedent
• The National Reporter System
• Case Enhancem...
THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM:
ASSIGNMENT OF KEY NUMBERS
• When West receives a slip opinion, a West attorneyeditor read...
THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM:
HEADNOTES

Key Numbers

Headnote
This headnote summarizes a point of law discussed in
thi...
THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM
• The Topic and Key Number System is:
– the index to the entire National Reporter System
–...
THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM:
AN EXAMPLE
• Each topic is broken down into subheadings.
• This process continues until f...
QUESTION
• The Topic and Key Number System is:
1.

An index to National Reporter System cases

2.

An outline of American ...
CONTENTS
• Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the
Doctrine of Precedent
• The National Reporter System
• Case Enhancem...
KEY NUMBER DIGEST
• West‟s Key Number Digests are the
research link between key numbers and
the National Reporter System c...
KEY NUMBER DIGEST
• Digest sets include:
–
–
–
–

State digests
Regional digests
Federal Practice Digest
Specialty subject...
KEY NUMBER DIGEST

Each digest set spans many volumes and is organized first
alphabetically by the more than 400 topics in...
KEY NUMBER DIGEST ON WESTLAW
• The identifiers of the
headnote databases
include the suffix HN,
e.g., CA-HN,
ALLFEDS-HN.
QUESTION
• The Key Number Digests contain:

1. The synopsis from each case in the National
Reporter System
2. Headnotes fr...
CONTENTS
• Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the
Doctrine of Precedent
• The National Reporter System
• Case Enhancem...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING PRINT DIGESTS
• Using a key number found in a case
– You have found a case with a rel...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING PRINT DIGESTS
• Topic Analysis
– Browse the topic list at
the beginning of any
Key Nu...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING PRINT DIGESTS
• Descriptive Word Index
– Each digest set includes a Descriptive Word ...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING PRINT DIGESTS
• Most descriptive words fall into one of five
categories of elements c...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING WESTLAW.COM
• Using a key number found in a case
• After conducting a word search on ...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING WESTLAW.COM
Using a key number to create a Custom Digest and retrieve all
headnotes a...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING WESTLAW.COM
• A Custom Digest contains
the headnotes assigned to
that key number in t...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING WESTLAW.COM
• Using the topic list to create a
Custom Digest
• Click the Key Numbers ...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING WESTLAW.COM
• Using the topic list to
create a Custom Digest

• You can run a key
num...
TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH:
USING WESTLAW.COM
• If you know a key number and want to find additional
cases that have th...
QUESTION
•

Which of the following statement(s) is true?
–

The most common method for using a key number to
find cases is...
CONCLUSION
• The National Reporter System, the West
editorial enhancements, the West Key Number
System, and West‟s Key Num...
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  1. 1. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM ® West‟s Instructional Aid Series
  2. 2. CONTENTS • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the Doctrine of Precedent • The National Reporter System • Case Enhancements • The Topic and Key Number System • The Key Number Digests • Topic and Key Number Research
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE COURTS • Trial courts are the entry to the court system. Trial courts are where: – attorneys present evidence and make arguments & – a judge or a judge and jury make determinations of law and fact. • Appellate courts hear appeals of trial court decisions to determine whether there were errors of law in the trial court decision, such as in the admission of evidence or in jury instructions. (There may be more than one level of appellate court. A higherlevel appellate court, such as a supreme court, hears appeals from an intermediate appellate court decision.)
  4. 4. INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE COURTS • There is a federal system of trial and appellate courts. – District courts are the federal trial level courts. – Circuit courts and United States Supreme Court are the federal appellate courts. • Each state has a system of trial and appellate courts. The number of appellate levels varies from state to state but each state has a trial level court and at least one appellate court level.
  5. 5. INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE COURTS Federal Court System State Court Systems District courts (trial-level) (Southern District of N.Y., District of Minn) State trial-level courts Courts of appeals for the 13 federal circuits Most states have at least one level of intermediate court(s) of appeal(s) State supreme court United States Supreme Court
  6. 6. INTRODUCTION: CASE LAW AND THE COURTS • Appellate courts have jurisdiction over trial courts in a specific geographic area. • Appeals from the Federal District Court of Minnesota are heard in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Decisions of the circuit courts can be appealed only to the United States Supreme Court.
  7. 7. INTRODUCTION: THE DOCTRINE OF PRECEDENT (STARE DECISIS) • The doctrine of precedent, also known as “stare decisis” (pronounced „stahr-ee di-si-sis‟), is founded on a sense of fairness and the belief that decisions should be consistent and not arbitrary. This ensures that the legal consequences of conduct can be predicted to a reasonable degree. • The doctrine of precedent dictates that decisions reached in previous cases in the same jurisdiction dealing with the same or similar issues should be followed unless there is a good reason to deviate.
  8. 8. INTRODUCTION: THE DOCTRINE OF PRECEDENT (STARE DECISIS) • The decision of a court is binding authority on that court and on the lower courts in the same jurisdiction when deciding factually similar issues. • Cases decided in another jurisdiction, although not binding as precedent, may be a valuable source of legal reasoning for an issue not previously addressed in the jurisdiction. This is referred to as persuasive authority. • The doctrine of precedent explains why attorneys need access to prior cases as they will likely dictate the outcome of their case.
  9. 9. QUESTION • The doctrine of precedent dictates that: 1. Cases from outside jurisdictions have no influence on a case in the jurisdiction 2. Case law in a jurisdiction should not deviate from precedents 3. Precedents in the jurisdiction should be followed unless there is a good reason to deviate 4. All of the above
  10. 10. CONTENTS • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the Doctrine of Precedent • The National Reporter System • Case Enhancements • The Topic and Key Number System • The Key Number Digests • Topic and Key Number Research
  11. 11. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM • Without a coherent, uniform means of accessing cases from all state and federal jurisdictions, finding cases discussing similar points of law would be immensely difficult. • The National Reporter System organizes both federal and state case law into a cohesive body of law that can be researched within and across jurisdictions.
  12. 12. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM • In 1879, West started the National Reporter System, which compiles cases from state and federal courts and organized them into various reporter sets. • Volumes in a set are numbered consecutively. A new series starting with volume 1 is begun when one series becomes too unwieldy – For example, 999 F.Supp. is followed by 1 F.Supp.2d.
  13. 13. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: FEDERAL CASES • Federal district (trial) court decisions are published in the Federal Supplement®. • Only a selection of district court cases is reported. • Citation format: – 75 F.Supp. 225 – 13 F.Supp.2d 881 • These cases are on Westlaw in the DCT and DCT-OLD databases.
  14. 14. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: FEDERAL CASES • U.S. district court cases can be appealed to the Federal Circuit court that hears appeals from that district. There are 13 U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeal. • The decisions of the circuit courts are published in the Federal Reporter®. • Citation format: – 333 F.2d 120 – 37 F.3d 300
  15. 15. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: FEDERAL CASES • The Thirteen Federal Judicial Circuits • The Federal Reporter cases are on Westlaw in the CTA and CTA-OLD databases.
  16. 16. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: FEDERAL CASES • Cases can be appealed from the Circuit Courts of Appeals to the United States Supreme Court. • Decisions of the United States Supreme Court are published in the Supreme Court Reporter®. • Citation format: 99 S.Ct. 331 • These cases are on Westlaw in the SCT and SCTOLD databases.
  17. 17. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: FEDERAL CASES • There are also federal topical reporters that are part of West‟s National Reporter System: – Bankruptcy Reporter® – Federal Rules Decisions® – Military Justice Reporter® – Federal Claims Reporter™
  18. 18. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: STATE CASES • Cases from all 50 states are published in one of seven regional reporters: Atlantic Reporter®, Southern Reporter®, South Eastern Reporter®, South Western Reporter®, North Eastern Reporter®, North Western Reporter®, and Pacific Reporter®. • There are also state reporters, which publish one state‟s cases.
  19. 19. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: STATE CASES • Below is a map of the seven regional reporters that cover state cases.
  20. 20. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: STATE CASES • This is the first page from a volume in the Pacific Reporter. It lists the states that have cases published in the Pacific Reporter.
  21. 21. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: FEDERAL & STATE CASES ON WESTLAW • All cases from all state, regional, and federal reporters are in the ALLCASES database. • All cases from every federal reporter is in the ALLFEDS database. • All cases from all state and regional reporters are in the ALLSTATES database. • All cases from each regional reporter are in separate databases: (NW, SW, SO, ATL, NE, PAC and SE). • Each state has a Westlaw case law database. The identifiers are XX-CS, where XX is the state‟s twoletter postal abbreviation. Examples – NY-CS, FL-CS.
  22. 22. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: ADDING CASES TO REPORTERS • The court sends a copy of its decision to Thomson Reuters, Legal (West) shortly after the cases are decided. • A slip-copy version of the case is added to Westlaw within hours once received by West.
  23. 23. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: UPDATING REPORTERS • This is a slip-copy opinion as decided and filed with the court. It is on Westlaw but has not yet been editorially enhanced by West attorney-editors.
  24. 24. THE NATIONAL REPORTER SYSTEM: UPDATING REPORTERS • Attorneys have access to all but the most recent cases through the advance sheets (which update the hardbound reporters). • After a thorough editorial process, a case generally appears in the appropriate reporter advance sheet within six to eight weeks of receipt of the case.
  25. 25. Question • Which of the following statements is false? – The National Reporter System was created in the mid-1950s to organize the greatly expanding number of court cases. – Most appellate court cases and some federal trial-level cases appear in at least one reporter set. – There are jurisdictional reporters and there are subject-matter reporters. – Cases from all 50 states are published in the seven regional reporters. (Click your mouse to see correct answer)
  26. 26. CONTENTS • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the Doctrine of Precedent • The National Reporter System • Case Enhancements • The Topic and Key Number System • The Key Number Digests • Topic and Key Number Research
  27. 27. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIAL • This slip opinion appears just as written by the judge and processed and filed with the court. • West attorney-editors take the language of the court, correct errors, and add features that are essential tools for the careful researcher.
  28. 28. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIAL SCRUTINY • When West receives a slip opinion – the manuscript is scrutinized for accuracy – parallel citations are added – textual information is updated – the court is contacted if clarification or corrections are needed • More than 1.5 million case citations are checked, 500,000 parallel citations are added, and 80,000 errors in opinions are corrected each year.
  29. 29. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIALLY CREATED FINDING TOOLS • Both the advance sheets and the bound volumes of the reporters include: – a Table of Cases arranged by state – a Table of Statutes interpreted by cases covered – a list of Words and Phrases defined by the cases covered – Tables of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence that are interpreted by the cases covered in the advance sheet or reporter.
  30. 30. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: CREATED BY ATTORNEY EDITORS • Synopsis: A summary of the procedural history, the facts, the main points of law, and the holding of the case. • Headnotes: Summaries of the points of law discussed in the body of the opinion. • Key Numbers: Headnotes are assigned a topic and key number in the West Key Number System.
  31. 31. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: CREATED BY ATTORNEY EDITORS • Headnotes and synopses are prepared by West attorney-editors using: – consistent and current legal terminology instead of ambiguous, regional, or outdated words – descriptive terms instead of proper names • Examples: – Tenant is used instead of Mr. Blake or plaintiff – Aspirin is used instead of Bufferin or Tylenol – Intoxicated is used instead of tipsy or inebriated • These headnotes can help you retrieve many cases online that you might otherwise miss.
  32. 32. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: SYNOPSIS & HEADNOTES • The synopsis is the first paragraph of a National Reporter System case. • Headnotes follow the synopsis in a National Reporter System case. • Headnotes appear in the order the points of law are discussed in the case. Synopsis Headnotes
  33. 33. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: EDITORIAL ENHANCEMENTS & FIELDS • Each online National Reporter System case is divided into segments called fields. • A digest (includes headnotes) field search and/or synopsis field search is an efficient way to search the online case law databases. sy,di(wrongful! /3 terminat! discharg!) • A digest field search allows you to retrieve a great number of relevant cases while at the same time limit retrieved cases to ones in which the point of law you are researching is central to the holding of the case.
  34. 34. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: DIGEST FIELDS • Synopsis Field – Procedural History – Central Points of Law – Holding of Case • Digest Field includes: – Topic/Key Numbers – Headnotes
  35. 35. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: FIELD SEARCHES ON WESTLAW • Synopsis field search in Westlaw case law database – sy(malpractice /p “foreign object”) • Digest field search in a Westlaw case law database: – di( bystander /p “emotional distress”) • A combined synopsis and digest field search in a Westlaw case law database: – sy,di(landlord /p “common area”)
  36. 36. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: ADDITIONAL FIELDS • Citation – volume number, the reporter, and the first page number of the case • Title or Caption – names of parties • Docket Number – the number assigned to the case when it is filed with the court; this number follows the case through its litigation history • Attorneys of Record, Judge(s) and Opinion
  37. 37. CASE ENHANCEMENTS: ADDITIONAL FIELDS • You can access a list of Fields from the Search page. • This is a partial list of the fields in a case law database
  38. 38. QUESTION • Which of the following statements is false? 1. Attorney-editors spot and summarize up to five points of law discussed in the case. 2. Attorney-editors prepare a synopsis and headnotes, using universally recognized legal terminology. 3. Attorney-editors contact the court before making corrections to the decision. 4. Searching in the synopsis and digest fields on Westlaw allows you to retrieve more on-point documents and ensures that you retrieve only cases in which your issue is a central point of law in the decision.
  39. 39. CONTENTS • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the Doctrine of Precedent • The National Reporter System • Case Enhancements • The Topic and Key Number System • The Key Number Digests • Topic and Key Number Research
  40. 40. THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM: ASSIGNMENT OF KEY NUMBERS • When West receives a slip opinion, a West attorneyeditor reads it and identifies the points of law discussed in the case. • Each point of law is summarized in a headnote. • After a careful analysis of the point of law the headnote discusses, the headnote is assigned to at least one key number in the West Topic and Key Number System.
  41. 41. THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM: HEADNOTES Key Numbers Headnote This headnote summarizes a point of law discussed in this case. The headnote is assigned to key number 205Hk30 under Topic 205H (Implied & Constructive Contracts).
  42. 42. THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM • The Topic and Key Number System is: – the index to the entire National Reporter System – a comprehensive and detailed outline of the entire body of case law in this country – a classification system with a at least one topic and key number attached to each point of law (headnote) • The Topic and Key Number System allows you to locate cases with the same or similar legal issues in any jurisdiction in the United States.
  43. 43. THE TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER SYSTEM: AN EXAMPLE • Each topic is broken down into subheadings. • This process continues until further breakdown of a point of law is unproductive and a specific key number is assigned. See, 92k90.1(1.2) below. • There are over 100,000 specific key numbers. 92 Constitutional Law (Topic) 92V Personal, Civil and Political Rights (Sub-Heading) 92k90 Freedom of Speech and of the Press 92k90.1 Particular Expressions and Limitations 92k90.1(1.2) k. Election Regulations
  44. 44. QUESTION • The Topic and Key Number System is: 1. An index to National Reporter System cases 2. An outline of American law 3. A classification system 4. All of the above
  45. 45. CONTENTS • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the Doctrine of Precedent • The National Reporter System • Case Enhancements • The Topic and Key Number System • The Key Number Digests • Topic and Key Number Research
  46. 46. KEY NUMBER DIGEST • West‟s Key Number Digests are the research link between key numbers and the National Reporter System cases. • The digests contain the headnotes (digest paragraphs) and their corresponding topic and key numbers from every case in the National Reporter System. • The headnotes are organized alphabetically by topic and then numerically by key number.
  47. 47. KEY NUMBER DIGEST • Digest sets include: – – – – State digests Regional digests Federal Practice Digest Specialty subjects, such as Bankruptcy, Military Justice, Federal Claims, and Education Law digests – Decennial digests, which contain all headnotes from cases for each 10-year period beginning with 1897 – The Century Digest, which contains headnotes from cases from 1658 to 1896
  48. 48. KEY NUMBER DIGEST Each digest set spans many volumes and is organized first alphabetically by the more than 400 topics in the Key Number System, then numerically by key number.
  49. 49. KEY NUMBER DIGEST ON WESTLAW • The identifiers of the headnote databases include the suffix HN, e.g., CA-HN, ALLFEDS-HN.
  50. 50. QUESTION • The Key Number Digests contain: 1. The synopsis from each case in the National Reporter System 2. Headnotes from cases in the National Reporter System, organized by date of case 3. Citations to the full case 4. None of the above
  51. 51. CONTENTS • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts and the Doctrine of Precedent • The National Reporter System • Case Enhancements • The Topic and Key Number System • The Key Number Digests • Topic and Key Number Research
  52. 52. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING PRINT DIGESTS • Using a key number found in a case – You have found a case with a relevant headnote and key number – Go to a print digest set covering the appropriate jurisdiction and find the volume covering that topic, then find the specific key number – All headnotes (digest paragraphs) from all cases discussing the point of law assigned to that key number are listed along with their citations
  53. 53. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING PRINT DIGESTS • Topic Analysis – Browse the topic list at the beginning of any Key Number digest volume to select a relevant topic.
  54. 54. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING PRINT DIGESTS • Descriptive Word Index – Each digest set includes a Descriptive Word Index. – Specific words and phrases lead to relevant key numbers.
  55. 55. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING PRINT DIGESTS • Most descriptive words fall into one of five categories of elements common to every case: – Parties or facts – Places and things – Issues or basis of action – Defenses – Relief sought
  56. 56. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING WESTLAW.COM • Using a key number found in a case • After conducting a word search on Westlaw, you find a relevant case with an on-point headnote. • You can use the key number assigned to this headnote to retrieve other cases discussing the same point of law. • This is the most common way of finding relevant key numbers on Westlaw.
  57. 57. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING WESTLAW.COM Using a key number to create a Custom Digest and retrieve all headnotes assigned to that key number, creating a Custom Digest. 157k448 By clicking a relevant key number or the Most Cited Cases link, you can run a key number search through a database
  58. 58. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING WESTLAW.COM • A Custom Digest contains the headnotes assigned to that key number in the selected jurisdiction. • Each headnote links to its corresponding case. • You have created a Custom Digest of all headnotes assigned to 157k448 in the Minnesota.
  59. 59. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING WESTLAW.COM • Using the topic list to create a Custom Digest • Click the Key Numbers link at the top of the page • Click the plus symbols to expand the topics and see subheadings. Expand subheadings if necessary OR • When you find a relevant key number, type it into text box or check the box beside it and click GO or Search Selected
  60. 60. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING WESTLAW.COM • Using the topic list to create a Custom Digest • You can run a key number search in the headnote database of your choice. Databases • You can restrict by date or add terms for a customized result. Add Terms Date
  61. 61. TOPIC AND KEY NUMBER RESEARCH: USING WESTLAW.COM • If you know a key number and want to find additional cases that have that particular number, you can accomplish it with a terms and connectors search • When you have a topic and key number, simply enter it as your query: – For example – 92k90.1(1.2) • The “k” makes this a unique term. You will retrieve only documents containing the key number term.
  62. 62. QUESTION • Which of the following statement(s) is true? – The most common method for using a key number to find cases is to work from a key number in a relevant case. – The Descriptive Word Index is a Westlaw dictionary service. – There are no similarities between the print digests and the Westlaw headnote databases. – Both 1 and 3.
  63. 63. CONCLUSION • The National Reporter System, the West editorial enhancements, the West Key Number System, and West‟s Key Number Digests are an integrated research system that guides you to prior cases in any state or federal jurisdiction that discussed similar facts or points of law.
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