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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 Cases Statutes Administrative Regulations Accessing primary authorities is the ultimate goal of nearly all legal research.

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legal research review

Legal Research Review

Legal Research

March 2005

Leah Sandwell-Weiss

Reference Librarian

primary authority
Primary Authority
  • “The Law” generated by the three branches of government
    • Cases
    • Statutes
    • Administrative Regulations
  • Accessing primary authorities is the ultimate goal of nearly all legal research
secondary authority
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 unclear
mandatory authority
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
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 persuade
secondary sources
Secondary Sources
  • Provide commentary on law & references to primary law & other secondary sources
  • Persuasive Authority
    • Law Reviews
    • Treatises (but not hornbooks or nutshells)
    • Restatements
  • Not Persuasive Authority
    • Legal Encyclopedias
    • American Law Reports (ALRs)
reading a case
Reading a Case
  • Parallel Citation (editorial enhancement)
  • Title (editorial enhancement)
  • Docket # (editorial enhancement)
  • Case Summary (editorial enhancement)
  • Headnotes (editorial enhancement)
  • Opinion (official)
case reporters
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
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
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
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
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 pamphlets
finding cases online
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 Searches
    • Pay attention to database selection
case law tips
Case Law Tips
  • Look for mandatory authority first
    • Note: case law always primary authority
  • If there is insufficient mandatory authority, look for primary persuasive
  • Read opinions in full and cite only to the opinion itself
statutory publication
Statutory Publication
  • Slip laws
    • Separately issued versions of each law as passed
  • Session laws
    • Chronological arrangement of statutes
      • Law as passed by legislature - No amendments
  • Codes
    • Organized by subject, often called “Titles”
    • “Current” version of law, with amendments
annotated codes
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
Finding Statutes
  • In Print
    • Subject indexes
    • Secondary Sources
    • References in cases
    • Popular Names Table to find specific act
  • Online
    • References in cases
    • Shepard’s/KeyCite
    • Terms & Connectors/Natural Language Searches
updating primary law
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 appeal?
      • 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
Limiting Citing References
  • Headnote number (specific Topic/Issue)
  • Jurisdiction
  • 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
Completing Your Research
  • Did you address the question asked?
  • Did you research the correct jurisdiction?
  • Do you understand the area of law you are researching?
  • Did you find enough applicable primary, mandatory authority to answer the question?
    • If not, did you find relevant primary persuasive authority?
  • Do you have the current language of all statutes?
completing research cont d
Completing Research, cont’d
  • Did you use several methods to locate relevant case law?
  • Did you validate statutes & cases using KeyCite/ Shepards?
  • Did you use KeyCite/Shepards to expand your research?
  • 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?