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Case Law. Legal Research January 2005 Leah Sandwell-Weiss Reference Librarian. Organization of Federal & State Courts. Cases. Reporters – contain cases Organized by jurisdiction Cases in chronological order Digests – contain summaries of legal issues in cases organized by subject

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Case law

Case Law

Legal Research

January 2005

Leah Sandwell-Weiss

Reference Librarian


Organization of federal state courts

Organization of Federal & State Courts


Cases

Cases

  • Reporters – contain cases

    • Organized by jurisdiction

    • Cases in chronological order

  • Digests – contain summaries of legal issues in cases organized by subject

    • Summaries often called “headnotes”

    • Subjects are called topics

      • Further broken down by “key numbers”


Federal courts reporters

Federal Courts & Reporters

Supreme Court =

  • U.S. Reports (U.S.)

  • 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)


American digest system

American Digest System

  • Tied into West’s National Reporter System

  • All cases on a given legal point collected under the same digest topic & key number

  • Digest topics & key numbers consistent through all West digests


Selecting print digests

Selecting Print Digests

  • West’s Federal PracticeDigest (various series)

    • All federal cases

  • State digests

    • State & federal cases from an individual state

  • Regional digests

    • State cases within the region – no federal cases

  • Combined digests (Decennials & General)

    • All cases, all jurisdictions


How to use digests

How to Use Digests

  • 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


How to use digests cont d

How to Use 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


Additional features of digests

Additional Features of Digests

  • Table of Cases

    • Lists cases alphabetically by both Plaintiff’s & Defendant’s names

  • Words & Phrases

    • Provides citations to cases defining terms


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