Legal Research How to Find

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					Legal Research Review

     Legal Research
      March 2005

   Leah Sandwell-Weiss
    Reference Librarian
Primary Authority
“The Law” generated by the three
branches of government
  Administrative Regulations
Accessing primary authorities is the
ultimate goal of nearly all legal
Secondary Authority
NOT “the law”
Provides citations to primary authority
Provides background information that can aid
in understanding primary authority (“the law”)
May present novel theories that later find their
way into primary authority
Often provides the best starting point for
research, especially when legal issues are
Mandatory Authority
“The law” of your jurisdiction
  Your state’s highest court
  Your state’s statutes
  Your state’s regulations
  Your federal district court
  Your federal court of appeals
  The United States Supreme Court
Have to follow
Persuasive Authority
“The law” from somewhere else
  Another state’s supreme court
  Another federal court of appeals
  Some secondary sources
Don’t “have to” follow, but use to
Secondary Sources
Provide commentary on law & references
to primary law & other secondary sources
Persuasive Authority
  Law Reviews
  Treatises (but not hornbooks or nutshells)
Not Persuasive Authority
  Legal Encyclopedias
  American Law Reports (ALRs)
Organization of Federal
    & State Courts
Reading a Case
 Parallel Citation (editorial enhancement)
 Title (editorial enhancement)
 Docket # (editorial enhancement)
 Case Summary (editorial enhancement)
 Headnotes (editorial enhancement)
 Opinion (official)
Case Reporters
Organized by jurisdiction
Cases in chronological order
Arizona Cases
  Arizona Supreme Court =
   • Arizona Reports, P., P.2d
  Arizona Court of Appeals =
   • Arizona Appellate Reports (1965 – 1976),
     Arizona Reports, P., P.2d
Federal Courts & Reporters
Supreme Court =
    U.S. Reports (U.S.) (official)
    Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.)
    U.S. Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer’s Edition
    (L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d)
Courts of Appeals =
    Federal Reporter (F., F.2d, F.3d)
District Courts =
    Federal Supplement (F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d)
Finding cases
 Annotated Codes
 Secondary Sources
 Digest Topic Name and Key Number
 (subject index to all case law)
 If have case name but no citation: Digest
 Table of Cases
 Database search on Westlaw or Lexis (pick
 the most narrow database)
 All cases on a given legal point
 collected under the same digest topic
 & key number
 Digest topics & key numbers
 consistent through all West digests
 Select the appropriate Digest
   Most jurisdictional
Using Digests to Find Cases
 From a case on point
   Use the headnotes to identify relevant
   topics & key numbers
 From the Descriptive Word Index
   Look up relevant subjects
   Check for new entries in pocket part
 From a topic entry
   Check out the outline of key numbers
Using Digests, cont’d
 Find topic & key number in right volume
 Check court & dates to target appropriate
 cases to read
 Read summaries
 Update with pocket parts or interim
Finding Cases Online
Use Annotated Codes online
Find known case online & use headnotes
(Westlaw) or core terms/core concepts (Lexis)
If already have a topic & key number, use them
to find more cases on Westlaw
Use Shepard’s/KeyCite
Terms & Connectors/Natural Language
  Pay attention to database selection
Case Law Tips
Look for mandatory authority first
  Note: case law always primary
If there is insufficient mandatory
authority, look for primary
Read opinions in full and cite only
to the opinion itself
Statutory Publication
Slip laws
  Separately issued versions of each law as
Session laws
  Chronological arrangement of statutes
   • Law as passed by legislature - No amendments
  Organized by subject, often called “Titles”
  “Current” version of law, with amendments
Annotated Codes
Can be official or unofficial
Contain references to:
  Cases (Notes of Decisions)
  Administrative code sections (CFRs)
  Legal encyclopedias
  Legislative history
  Law reviews & Treatises
  West Codes – Headnotes & Key Numbers
Finding Statutes
 In Print
   Subject indexes
   Secondary Sources
   References in cases
   Popular Names Table to find specific act
   References in cases
   Terms & Connectors/Natural Language Searches
Updating Primary Law
Pocket Parts in Print
Citators (Shepard’s/KeyCite) Online
  Validating - is it still “good law?”
   • History of the case – Was your case overruled/revised on
   • Citing References – Was your case been overruled/
     invalidated entirely? Was it chipped away at such that the
     validity is questionable? Has your specific issue been
     affected by negative treatment?
  Expanding Research
   • Citing References & secondary sources on the same or
     similar points of law
Limiting Citing References
 Headnote number (specific Topic/Issue)
 Type of document (case law, admin law,
 secondary sources)
 Specific additional terms (Locate on
 Westlaw and Focus on Lexis)
 Depth of treatment (Westlaw)
Completing Your Research
Did you address the question asked?
Did you research the correct jurisdiction?
Do you understand the area of law you are
Did you find enough applicable primary,
mandatory authority to answer the question?
  If not, did you find relevant primary persuasive
Do you have the current language of all
Completing Research, cont’d
Did you use several methods to locate relevant
case law?
Did you validate statutes & cases using KeyCite/
Did you use KeyCite/Shepards to expand your
Did you check a secondary source near the end
of your research to see if you have found what
there is to find?
Do you keep finding the same materials
everywhere you look?

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