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Legal Research 101: Researching Local, State


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Legal Research 101: Researching Local, State

  1. 1. Legal Research 101: Researching Local, State & Federal Cases Rita Kaiser, King County Law Library & Ann Hemmens, University of Washington Law Library Washington Library Association 2006 Conference
  2. 2. Court Structure & Precedent
  3. 3. U.S. Legal System <ul><li>Federalism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>two levels of government </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>federal and state </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Separation of Powers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>ensure that none of 3 branches of government usurps powers of other branches </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Organization of Federal & State Governments Constitution Legislative Judicial Executive Statutes Stat., USC RCW Cases US, Fed 3d P3d, Wash. Regulations Administrative Decisions FR, CFR WAC
  5. 5. How do Sources of Law Interact? <ul><li>Court interprets a statute </li></ul><ul><li>Court decision is overruled by same court at a later time. </li></ul><ul><li>Statute held unconstitutional by a court </li></ul><ul><li>Legislature writes statute in response to a case </li></ul><ul><li>Agency proposed rules in response to statute. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Sources of Legal Authority: Cases <ul><li>Issued by trial & appellate courts </li></ul><ul><li>Interpret & apply constitutional provisions, statutes & previous case law </li></ul><ul><li>Directly affect the parties in the dispute </li></ul><ul><li>Influence application of the law in future disputes (appellate court opinions) </li></ul><ul><li>AKA: cases, decisions, judicial decisions, common law (Reporters & online) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Court Structure – Federal & State King County Superior Court U.S. District Court for Western District of WA Trial Court ↑ WA Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit* Court of Appeals * = Circuit map Intermediate Appellate Court ↑ WA Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court Court of Last Resort State Federal
  8. 9. Published vs. Unpublished Opinions <ul><li>Unpublished = not for publication = unprecedential </li></ul><ul><li>WA State Court Rules ( http:// / ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rules of Appellate Procedure, RULE 10.4: PREPARATION AND FILING OF BRIEF BY PARTY </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>“ (h) Unpublished Opinions. A party may not cite as an authority an unpublished opinion of the Court of Appeals. Unpublished opinions of the Court of Appeals are those opinions not published in the Washington Appellate Reports.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Federal Courts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 32.1: allows citation to “unpublished” opinions in Federal courts. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>New Rule approved by US Supreme Court April 12, 2006. Effective Jan. 1, 2007. </li></ul></ul>
  9. 10. “To stand by things decided” <ul><li>Doctrine of Precedent </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“ The rule that precedents not only have persuasive authority but also must be followed when similar circumstances arise.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8 th ed. 2004) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Stare Decisis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>[Latin &quot;to stand by things decided&quot;] “The doctrine of precedent, under which it is necessary for a court to follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8 th ed. 2004) </li></ul></ul>
  10. 11. Mandatory vs. Persuasive Authority <ul><li>Mandatory or binding precedent: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A precedent that a court must follow. (e.g., a lower court is bound by an applicable holding of a higher court in the same jurisdiction). </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>Persuasive or nonbinding precedent: </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>A precedent that is not binding on a court, but that is entitled to respect and careful consideration. (e.g., Neighboring Jurisdictions. If Oregon decided a case on similar facts, WA state courts might evaluate the court's reasoning without being bound to decide the same way.) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 12. Considerations <ul><li>Published vs. unpublished opinion? </li></ul><ul><li>Precedent: Mandatory or persuasive? </li></ul><ul><li>Which Jurisdiction? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal issues : Banking, currency, bankruptcy, copyright, patent, immigration, interstate commerce, military, national defense </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>State issues : Driving, traffic, family law, insurance, occupational & professional regulation, property, real estate, torts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal and State : Crime, environment, labor, taxation </li></ul></ul>
  12. 13. Legal Citation The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18 th ed. 2005) <ul><li>Cases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Party 1 v. Party 2 , [volume number] [reporter name] [page number] ([jurisdiction sometimes] [year]). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Washington State Case </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Foster v. Irrigation District, 102 Wn.2d 395, 404 (1984). </li></ul></ul>
  13. 14. Legal Citation The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (18 th ed. 2005) <ul><li>Cases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Party 1 v. Party 2 , [volume number] [reporter name] [page number] ([jurisdiction sometimes] [year]). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Federal Cases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 98 S.Ct. 2279, 57 L.Ed.2d 117 (1978). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>San Carlos Apache Tribe v. U.S., 272 F.Supp.2d 860 (D.Ariz. 2003). </li></ul></ul>
  14. 15. Legal Research Questions <ul><li>What type of law might govern this issue? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>statutes? regulations? cases? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Which jurisdiction? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal? State? Tribal? International? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Did you update your research? </li></ul>
  15. 16. State and Local Case Law Rita Kaiser
  16. 17. Federal Case Law <ul><li>Good (free) starting points </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Findlaw </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Internet Legal Resources webpage from UW Law Library (Federal & WA state websites) </li></ul></ul>
  17. 21. Federal Cases <ul><li>Lexisone ( http:// / ) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Free case law* and legal forms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>From Lexis, aimed at small law firms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Requires email to register </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>* CASES included: rotating 5 years of state cases & federal court of appeals cases plus US Supreme Court cases (1790 – current). Does not include Federal District Court cases. </li></ul></ul>
  18. 26. Good Starting Point for Free Federal and State Legal Websites <ul><li>Internet Legal Resources , </li></ul><ul><ul><li>From the University of Washington Gallagher Law Library </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Updated regularly </li></ul></ul>
  19. 29. US Supreme Court BRIEFS <ul><li>Brief: “a document prepared by counsel as the basis for arguing a case, consisting of legal and factual arguments and the authorities in support of them.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>The Curiae Project (YALE) [historical] http:// / </li></ul><ul><li>FindLaw [current] http:// </li></ul>
  20. 32. US Supreme Court BRIEFS <ul><li>FindLaw [current] http:// </li></ul>
  21. 36. Federal Case Docket Info. <ul><li>PACER http:// / </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER): subscription based online access to case and docket information from Federal Appellate, District and Bankruptcy courts. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Obtain documents submitted to the court: copies of complaints, motions, memos, orders, judgments, etc. </li></ul></ul>
  22. 38. US Supreme Court ORAL ARGUMENTS <ul><li>Oral Argument : “An advocate's spoken presentation before a court (esp. an appellate court) supporting or opposing the legal relief at issue.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8 th ed. 2004) </li></ul><ul><li>Oyez, (1995- ) </li></ul>
  23. 42. Need Help? <ul><li>Contact a Law Library in WA State, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>UW Law Library (206-543-7672) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>King County Law Library (206-296-0940) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Pierce County Law Library (253-798-7494) </li></ul></ul>
  24. 43. Citators Rita Kaiser