Legal Research on the Web Presentation

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Legal Research on the Web Presentation

  1. 1. Legal Research on the Web Boston College Law Library Reality Legal Research Session Mary Ann Neary Legal Information Librarian April 7, 2006
  2. 2. On Beyond LexisNexis and Westlaw <ul><li>LexisNexis and Westlaw- major commercial database systems - accessed through the Worldwide Web. </li></ul><ul><li>But … many other excellent sources for legal research on the Web, and most of them are free. Today: some of the most useful ones. </li></ul><ul><li>First, we'll start with a few tips on what you can and can't find on the web. </li></ul>
  3. 3. What are free websites good for? <ul><li>Primary materials: federal or state codes or recent court opinions </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Always check: official or authentic? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Current items: cases or issues in the news </li></ul><ul><li>Government publications: state and federal, foreign and international </li></ul><ul><li>Background information from sources such as government agencies think tanks, or lobbying groups </li></ul>
  4. 4. Free web sites <ul><li>What works well – General tips </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Official government sources, See .gov </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Public service sites, See .org and .edu </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Finding discrete documents </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Findlaw, Google, Google Scholar </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>International legal materials, foreign government sites </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Concerns when using free sites <ul><li>Authentic? </li></ul><ul><li>Official? </li></ul><ul><li>How to cite? </li></ul><ul><li>Concerns: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Confidentiality – electronic trail </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. What are free websites not good for? <ul><li>Complete, concise overview of the law </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use books or encyclopedias in print </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Sophisticated full-text searching </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use LexisNexis or Westlaw </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Complex case-finding tools such as annotated codes or citation databases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use LexisNexis or Westlaw </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. What are free websites not good for? <ul><li>Comparative research </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Search all states’ statutes on a topic </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Historical materials </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Use print sources (LexisNexis or Westlaw) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Practice materials for a particular jurisdiction, e.g. legal forms </li></ul>
  8. 8. Starting Point <ul><li>Boston College Law Library Research Pages </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.bc.edu/schools/law/library/research </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Find links to major sites
  10. 10. Locating state cases <ul><li>Issues re citation </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ask: Has the state adopted a public domain citation format? Check Blue Book </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ex.: Wisconsin has adopted public domain cites for </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>cases decided after 12/31/1999 </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>www.courts.state.wi.us </li></ul></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Sample cite: </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Glaeske v. Shaw, 2003 WI App 71, 261 Wis. 2d 549, 661 N.W.2d 72 </li></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Locating state statutes <ul><li>States post their statutory codes on the Internet; not designated as official (and may not be designated as authentic) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>www.state.ma.us/legis </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Try a gateway site for links to each state, e.g. LII </li></ul>
  12. 13. Legal Information Institute <ul><li>www.law.cornell.edu </li></ul><ul><li>Serves as a gateway to federal, state and international legal research web sites </li></ul><ul><li>Good resource for state-level materials, e.g. Nevada regulations </li></ul>
  13. 14. Locating state regulations <ul><li>Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School – use as a starting point </li></ul><ul><li>Problem with regulation tracking: any proposed regulations? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Default to checking that state agency’s website for notices of pending regulations </li></ul></ul>
  14. 15. LII – Links to Nevada primary material
  15. 16. Locating federal cases <ul><li>Note: No official public domain cite except for Supreme Court </li></ul><ul><li>Findlaw </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find text of Newdow decision – case regarding Pledge of Allegiance (Seeks to strike “under God”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Need to know that it was decided in Fed. courts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Findlaw – Must know which circuit to search </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Locate decision from 9 th Cir.; text is in pdf format, but how to cite it? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>http://news.findlaw.com/usatoday/docs/conlaw/newdowus62602opn.pdf </li></ul></ul></ul>
  16. 17. How to know the status of this case? <ul><li>No free citator on the web </li></ul><ul><li>Can use Shepard’s or Westlaw with a credit card; approximately $5.00 to check a cite … </li></ul><ul><li>BUT… </li></ul><ul><li>Need the Federal Reporter cite! </li></ul>
  17. 18. Google <ul><li>Search Google for: </li></ul><ul><li>Newdow and pledge </li></ul><ul><li>Yields a Washington Post article that supplies the Supreme Court’s docket number </li></ul>
  18. 19. Supreme Court site – Docket info
  19. 20. Supreme Court Docket <ul><li>No. 02-1624 Status: GRANTED </li></ul><ul><li>Title: Elk Grove Unified School District and David W. Gordon, Superintendent, Petitioners v. Michael A. Newdow, et al. </li></ul><ul><li>Docketed: May 9, 2003 </li></ul><ul><li>Lower Ct: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit  Case Nos.:(00-16423)  Decision Date: February 26, 2002  Rehearing Denied: February 28, 2003 </li></ul>
  20. 21. Find Newdow opinion on Supreme Court site, but still no cite – just slip opinion
  21. 22. Federal Government Sites <ul><li>Executive Branch </li></ul><ul><li>G.P.O. Access </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Gateway to full-text U.S. government legal materials, esp. administrative law </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>www.gpoaccess.gov </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Includes: Federal Register, 1994-present; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Code of Federal Regulations, 1996- present; </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Public Laws </li></ul></ul></ul>
  22. 23. Federal Government Sites <ul><li>Legislative Branch </li></ul><ul><li>http://thomas.loc.gov </li></ul><ul><li>Includes: Full-text access to bills, 101 st </li></ul><ul><li>Congress to 109 th (current); Congressional </li></ul><ul><li> Record; Committee Reports, 104 th Congress to </li></ul><ul><li> present; Treaties. </li></ul><ul><li>N.B. Can search multiple Congresses now </li></ul>
  23. 24. Federal Government Sites <ul><li>Judiciary </li></ul><ul><li>Link to courts from www.uscourts.gov </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Supplies links to all courts, including individual circuits’ websites </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Current (last few years) opinions available; issue re citation </li></ul></ul></ul>
  24. 25. Court Rules, Forms and Docket Info <ul><li>www.llrx.com/courtrules </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Links to over 1,400 sources for state and federal court rules, forms and dockets </li></ul></ul>
  25. 27. International Legal Materials <ul><li>International law definition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Law that governs relations between nation-states. In modern times, international law has evolved to include the relations between states and international organizations and even individuals.” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E.g. Charter of the U.N.; Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Geneva Convention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Web resource: http://www.asil.org/resource/ergintr1.htm </li></ul></ul>
  26. 28. International Legal Materials
  27. 29. Foreign Law Materials <ul><li>Foreign Law definition: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ Law of another country” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Ex: What are the inheritance laws of Germany? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Many foreign law metapages available: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.law.harvard.edu/library/services/research/guides/international/web_resources/internet_foreign_law.php </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>World Law Institute </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http://www.worldlii.org/catalog/215.html </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Library of Congress – Guide to Law Online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>http:// www.loc.gov/law/guide/nations.html </li></ul></ul>
  28. 30. Summary – Free vs. Fee-Based Sites <ul><li>Free sites </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Watch for authenticity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reliable provider/creator of site? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May find info re gun laws on NRA site but what incentive to give a balanced view of subject? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Commercial sites, e.g. LexisNexis, Westlaw, etc. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Incur costs but reap benefit of reliable source </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Official citation available for legal materials </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Citator services invaluable </li></ul></ul>
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