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  1. 1. Tips and Tricks for Legal Research Online
  2. 2. Amy Hale Janeke, JD, MLS Reference Librarian 5 th Circuit Court of Appeals Law Library [email_address] A Program by
  3. 3. Why Tips and Tricks? <ul><li>Computers are only one of the tools you need to learn to use. Not everything is online and even if it is, sometimes it is hidden. This is especially true for legal information. </li></ul>
  4. 4. What Can I Use a Computer to Do? <ul><li>Find the law </li></ul><ul><li>Find a case interpreting the law </li></ul><ul><li>Find some factual information </li></ul>
  5. 5. What Is On-line? <ul><li>Some court decisions </li></ul><ul><li>Court rules </li></ul><ul><li>Most laws </li></ul><ul><ul><li>But not the annotations to the laws (unless you are using a for-pay database) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Some topic specific information </li></ul><ul><li>Some forms </li></ul>
  6. 6. Who Can I Trust? <ul><li>When is the information updated? </li></ul><ul><li>Who does the updating? </li></ul><ul><li>What are the sources of information used to get the information? </li></ul><ul><li>Sometimes you can weigh a website’s credibility by looking at who put the information on the web. </li></ul>
  7. 7. Who Can I Trust? <ul><li>Look for websites ending in: </li></ul><ul><li>.gov – government </li></ul><ul><li>.edu – educational institution </li></ul><ul><li>Be wary of sites ending in: </li></ul><ul><li>.com </li></ul><ul><li>.net </li></ul><ul><li>.biz </li></ul>
  8. 8. When to Use a Computer <ul><li>When you have a specific citation </li></ul><ul><li>When you need the absolutely latest version of information </li></ul>
  9. 9. When Should I NOT Use a Computer? <ul><li>When you don’t have a specific citation </li></ul><ul><li>When you don’t know what you are looking for </li></ul><ul><li>When you are looking for info prior to the 80s </li></ul>
  10. 10. Examples of Citations <ul><li>Tex. Transp. Code § 547.603 - TX code citation </li></ul><ul><li>17 USCA 501 - federal code citation </li></ul><ul><li>487 U.S. 474 - federal case citation </li></ul>
  11. 11.     A motor vehicle shall be equipped with a device that is operated or controlled by the operator of the vehicle and that cleans moisture from the windshield. The device shall be maintained in good working condition. § 547.603.  Windshield Wipers Required
  12. 12. Example <ul><li>You need to find the TX law dealing with the open container law. You go online to the TX Legislature’s web site at and start searching… </li></ul>
  13. 15. Or you can Google it…
  14. 21. Scroll Down
  15. 23. Searching by Citation <ul><li>An easier, more efficient way to search is by using a direct citation. In this case, it would be Pen. Code § 49.031. </li></ul>
  16. 29. Scroll Down
  17. 31. Open Container Example <ul><li>Elapsed time…roughly two minutes. You found the correct information and ended up at the same place as when you used the computer to search, but it took much less time. See why it is best you need to have a direct citation before going to the Web? </li></ul>
  18. 32. Law Portals A portal is a web page with links to several areas. One of the best nationwide for legal information is
  19. 39. Finding Cases On-line <ul><li>Supreme Court cases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Appellate Court cases </li></ul><ul><ul><li>State </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Federal </li></ul></ul>
  20. 41. Online Local courthouse only
  21. 42. Finding Cases On-line <ul><li>State Trial Level Cases </li></ul><ul><li>Unpublished Cases </li></ul>You cannot find:
  22. 43. Supreme / Appellate Court Records <ul><li>Go back to 1997 for Supreme Court, 1998 for Court of Appeals </li></ul><ul><li>Searchable by name or docket number </li></ul>
  23. 44. You can go directly to the TX Court’s web site
  24. 45. Or use the portal again
  25. 46. What is the difference? <ul><li>The TX Court site isn’t search friendly. </li></ul><ul><li> allows searching in cases from both supreme and court of appeals. </li></ul>
  26. 51. Free Forms Online <ul><li>Where can you get them? </li></ul><ul><li>Can you get them for all districts? </li></ul>
  27. 52. Free Forms Online
  28. 66. Now let’s switch to federal materials
  29. 67. When you watch a DVD, you will sometimes see this… Copyright Protection…… blah blah blah blah blah blah blah don’t copy this or we’ll hunt you down like a dog. Title 17 USC 501
  30. 68. Finding the US Code Online <ul><li>Several places to access it </li></ul><ul><li>Contains law only, no cases </li></ul>
  31. 74. cornell . edu / uscode /
  32. 78. What if you want to look up a Supreme Court Case? Go to the Supreme Court’s official website:
  33. 84. Finding a 5 th Circuit Case
  34. 88. How do I find a law using keywords? <ul><li>The Library of Congress has a searchable database of bills and laws. You can search by date, topic, author, or number. </li></ul>
  35. 100. Other Cool Websites <ul><li> – Law Library Resource Xchange </li></ul><ul><li> – Nolo Press, a self-help publisher of materials. Many Texas-specific books. </li></ul>
  36. 101. Free Handbook on Finding Legal Info <ul><li>Called Locating the Law, 4 th ed. </li></ul><ul><li>Online - www. aallnet .org/chapter/ scall or print copies are $20. </li></ul><ul><li>Written by law librarians </li></ul><ul><li>Copyright free- use and </li></ul><ul><li>disseminate all you like. </li></ul>
  37. 104. Suggested Readings <ul><li>The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers by Jerry Lawson or Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet by Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch. </li></ul><ul><li>The Invisible Web: Uncovering Search Information: Sources Search Engines Can’t See by Chris Sherman and Gary Price. </li></ul>
  38. 105. Suggested Readings <ul><li>Legal Research: How to Find & Understand the Law (7th ed.) , Nolo Press, 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>Locating the Law Handbook- free- </li></ul>
  39. 106. Legal Research <ul><li>What’s online and what’s not, </li></ul><ul><li>Finding cases online, </li></ul><ul><li>Finding laws online, and </li></ul><ul><li>Cool legal research databases. </li></ul>Today you learned:
  40. 107. Websites Visited <ul><li> - Texas laws </li></ul><ul><li> - legal research portal </li></ul><ul><li> - Texas courts </li></ul><ul><li> cfm – Texas free legal help site </li></ul><ul><li> - official US Code site </li></ul><ul><li> - Cornell’s legal site </li></ul><ul><li> - Supreme Court </li></ul>
  41. 108. Websites Visited con’t <ul><li> THOMAS (federal laws/bills) </li></ul><ul><li> - 5 th Circuit </li></ul><ul><li> - Ben’s guide to the gov’t </li></ul><ul><li>www. aallnet .org/chapter/ scall - “Locating the Law” </li></ul>
  42. 109. Amy Hale Janeke, JD, MLS Reference Librarian 5 th Circuit Court of Appeals Law Library [email_address] Thank you for your attention!