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West’s Instructional Aid Series. The National Reporter System ®. West’s Instructional Aid Series. Contents. Introduction: Case Law, the Courts, and the Doctrine of Precedent The National Reporter System Case Enhancements The Topic and Key Number System The Key Number Digests

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contents

West’s Instructional Aid Series

Contents
  • Introduction: Case Law, the Courts, and the Doctrine of Precedent
  • The National Reporter System
  • Case Enhancements
  • The Topic and Key Number System
  • The Key Number Digests
  • Topic and Key Number Research
  • Custom Digests on Westlaw®
case law the courts

Introduction

Case Law: The Courts
  • Trial courts are the entry to the court system. Trial courts are where
    • attorneys present evidence and make arguments, and
    • a judge or a judge and jury make determinations of law and fact.
  • Appellate courts hear appeals of trial court decisions to determine whether there were errors of law in the trial court decision, such as in the admission of evidence or in jury instructions.

(There may be more than one level of appellate court. A higher-level appellate court, such as a supreme court, hears appeals from an intermediate appellate court decision.)

case law the courts1

Introduction

Case Law: The Courts
  • There is a federal system of trial and appellate courts.
    • District courts are the federal trial level courts.
    • Circuit courts and United States Supreme Court are the federal appellate courts.
  • Each state has a system of trial and appellate courts. The number of appellate levels varies from state to state but each state has a trial-level court and at least one level of appellate court.
slide6

Introduction

Federal Court

System

State Court

Systems

District courts (trial-level)

(Southern District of New

York, District of Minnesota)

State trial-level courts

Most, but not all, states

have at least one level of

intermediate court(s) of appeal(s)

Courts of appeals for the 13 federal circuits

State supreme court

United States Supreme Court

case law the courts2

Introduction

Case Law: The Courts
  • Appellate courts have control over trial courts in a specific geographic area or jurisdiction.
  • Federal District of Minnesota cases are heard in the jurisdiction of the Eighth Circuit and its decisions can be appealed only to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. Decisions of the circuit courts can be appealed only to the United States Supreme Court.
case law the doctrine of precedent stare decisis

Introduction

Case Law: The Doctrine of Precedent(Stare Decisis)
  • Precedents are prior cases in the jurisdiction that are close in fact or legal principles to the case in consideration.
  • The doctrine of precedent dictates that decisions reached in previous cases in the same jurisdiction dealing with the same or similar issues should be followed unless there is a good reason to deviate.
the doctrine of precedent

Introduction

The Doctrine of Precedent
  • The decision of a court is binding authority on that court and on the lower courts in the same jurisdiction when deciding factually similar issues.
  • The doctrine of precedent is founded on a sense of fairness and the belief that decisions should be consistent and not arbitrary so that the legal consequences of conduct can be predicted.
the doctrine of precedent1

Introduction

The Doctrine of Precedent
  • The doctrine of precedent explains why attorneys need access to prior cases decided by the highest court in the jurisdiction.
  • Cases decided in another jurisdiction,although not binding as precedent, may be a valuable source of legal reasoning for an issue not previously addressed in the jurisdiction.
question
Question

The doctrine of precedent dictates that

  • Cases from other jurisdictions cannot influence a case in the jurisdiction
  • Case law in a jurisdiction can never deviate from precedents
  • Precedents in the jurisdiction should be followed unless there is a good reason to deviate
  • All of the above
question1
Question

The doctrine of precedent dictates that

  • Cases from other jurisdictions cannot influence a case in the jurisdiction
  • Case law in a jurisdiction can never deviate from precedents
  • Precedents in the jurisdiction should be followed unless there is a good reason to deviate
  • All of the above
case law

National Reporter System

Case Law
  • Without a coherent, uniform means of accessing cases from all state and federal jurisdictions, finding cases discussing similar points of law would be immensely difficult.
  • TheNational Reporter System organizes both federal and state case law into a cohesive body of law that can be researched within and across jurisdictions.
case law1

National Reporter System

Case Law
  • Since 1879, West’s National Reporter System has compiled cases from state and federal courts and organized them into various reporter sets.
  • Volumes in a set are numbered consecutively. A new series starting with volume 1 is begun when one series becomes too unwieldy, e.g., the volume following 999 F.Supp. is 1 F.Supp.2d.
federal case law

National Reporter System

Federal Case Law
  • Federal district (trial) level courts are published in the Federal Supplement®.
  • Only aselection of district court cases is reported.
  • Citation format: 75 F.Supp. 225

13 F.Supp.2d 881

  • These cases are on Westlaw in the DCTand DCT-OLD databases.
federal case law1

National Reporter System

Federal Case Law
  • U.S. district court cases can be appealed to the Federal Circuit court that hears appeals from that district. There are 13 U.S. circuit courts of appeal.
  • The decisions of the circuit courts are published in the Federal Reporter®.
  • Citation format: 333 F.2d 120

37 F.3d 300

slide18

National Reporter System

The Thirteen Federal Judicial Circuits

The Federal Reporter cases are on Westlaw in the CTA and CTA-OLD databases.

federal case law2

National Reporter System

Federal Case Law
  • Cases can be appealed from the circuit courts of appeals to the United States Supreme Court.
  • Decisions of the United States Supreme Court are published in the Supreme Court Reporter®.
  • Citation format: 99 S.Ct. 331.
  • These cases are on Westlaw in the SCT and SCT-OLDdatabases.
federal case law3

National Reporter System

Federal Case Law

There are also federal topical reporters that are part of West’s National Reporter System:

  • Bankruptcy Reporter®
  • Federal Rules Decisions®
  • Military Justice Reporter®
  • Federal Claims Reporter™
state case law

National Reporter System

State Case Law
  • Only state appellate-level opinions are reported in the National Reporter System. Trial-level decisions are not reported.
  • Cases from all 50 states are published in one of seven regional reporters: Atlantic Reporter®, Southern Reporter®, South Eastern Reporter®, South Western Reporter®, North Eastern Reporter®, North WesternReporter®,and Pacific Reporter®.
  • There are approximately 30 state reporters, which are reprints of one state’s cases from a regional reporter.
slide22

National Reporter System

The States Included in Each of the

Seven Regional Reporters

state case law1

National Reporter System

State Case Law

This is the first page from a volume in the Pacific Reporter. It lists the states that have cases published in the Pacific Reporter.

federal and state case law on westlaw

National Reporter System

Federal and State Case Law on Westlaw
  • All cases from all the federal reporters are in the ALLFEDS database.
  • Each state has a Westlaw case law database. The identifiers are XX-CS, where XX is the state’s two-letter postal abbreviation. Examples: (NY-CS, FL-CS).
  • All cases from each regional reporter are in separate databases, (NW, SW, SO, ATL, NE, PAC and SE).
  • All cases from all state and regional reporters are in the ALLSTATES database.
  • All cases from all state, regional, and federal reporters are in the ALLCASES database.
updating reporters

National Reporter System

Updating Reporters
  • Print slip opinions (without corrections or enhancements) of individual cases are sent by the courts to government depository libraries shortly after the cases are decided.
  • A slip-copy version of the case generally appears on Westlaw within two to twenty four hours of receipt of the case by West.
slide26

National Reporter System

This is a slip-copy opinion as decided and filed with the court. It is on Westlaw but has not yet been editorially enhanced by West attorney-editors.

updating reporters1

National Reporter System

Updating Reporters
  • Attorneys have access to all but the most recent cases through the advance sheets (which update the hardbound reporters) and are issued every two weeks.
  • After going through a thorough editorial process, a case generally appears in the appropriate reporter advance sheet within six to eight weeks of receipt of the case.
question2
Question

Which of the following statements is false?

  • The National Reporter System was created in the mid-1950s to organize the greatly expanding number of court cases.
  • Most appellate court cases and some federal trial-level cases appear in at least one reporter set.
  • There are jurisdictional reporters and there are subject- matter reporters.
  • Cases from all 50 states are published in the seven regional reporters.
question3
Question

Which of the following statements is false?

  • The National Reporter System was created in the mid-1950s to organize the greatly expanding number of court cases.
  • Most appellate court cases and some federal trial-level cases appear in at least one reporter set.
  • There are jurisdictional reporters and there are subject- matter reporters.
  • Cases from all 50 states are published in the seven regional reporters.
editorial enhancements

Case Enhancements

Editorial Enhancements
  • This slip opinion appears just as written by the judge and processed and filed with the court.
  • West attorney-editors take the language of the court, correct errors, and add features that are essential tools for the careful researcher.
editorial scrutiny

Case Enhancements

Editorial Scrutiny
  • When West receives a slip opinion
    • the manuscript is scrutinized for accuracy
    • parallel citations are added
    • textual information is updated
    • the court is contacted if clarification or corrections are needed
  • More than 1.5 million case citations are checked, 500,000 parallel citations are added, and 80,000 errors in opinions are corrected each year.
finding tools

Case Enhancements

Finding Tools

Both the advance sheets and the bound volumes of the reporters include

  • a Table of Cases arranged by state
  • a Table of Statutes interpreted by cases covered
  • a list of Words and Phrases defined by the cases covered
  • Tables of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence that are interpreted by the cases covered in the advance sheet or reporter
editorial enhancements created by west attorney editors

Case Enhancements

Editorial Enhancements Created by West Attorney-Editors
  • Synopsis: A summary of the procedural history, the facts, the main points of law, and the holding of the case.
  • Headnotes (digest paragraphs): Summaries of the points of law discussed in the body of the opinion.
  • Key Numbers: Headnotes are assigned to a topic and key number in the West Key Number System.
editorial enhancements1

Case Enhancements

Editorial Enhancements
  • Headnotes and synopses are prepared by West attorney-editors using
    • consistent and current legal terminology instead of ambiguous, regional, or outdated words
    • descriptive terms instead of proper names
  • Examples:
    • Tenant is used instead of Mr. Blake or plaintiff
    • Aspirin is used instead of Bufferin or Tylenol
    • Intoxicated is used instead of tipsy or inebriated

These headnotes can help you retrieve many online cases that you might otherwise miss.

synopsis and headnotes
The synopsis is the first paragraph of every National Reporter System case.

Headnotes follow the synopsis in every National Reporter System case.

Headnotes appear in the order the points of law are discussed in the case.

Case Enhancements

Synopsis and Headnotes

Synopsis

Headnote

editorial enhancements and fields

Case Enhancements

Editorial Enhancements and Fields
  • Each online National Reporter System case is divided into segments called fields.
  • A digest (headnote) field search and/or synopsis field search is an efficient way to search the online case law databases.

di(wrongful! /3 terminat! discharg!)

  • A digest field search allows you to retrieve a great number of cases that you would otherwise miss but at the same time will limit retrieved cases to ones in which the point of law you are researching is central to the holding of the case.
digest field includes and key numbers and headnotes

Case Enhancements

Digest Field Includes and Key Numbers and Headnotes
  • Synopsis Field
  • Procedural History
  • Central Points of Law
  • Holding of Case
  • Digest Field
  • Key Numbers
  • Headnotes

Topic/ Key Number

Field

Headnote Field

field searches on westlaw

Case Enhancements

Field Searches on Westlaw
  • Synopsis field search in Westlaw case law database:

sy(malpractice /p “foreign object”)

  • Digest field (headnote) search in a Westlaw case law database:

di( bystander /p “emotional distress”)

  • A combined synopsis and digest field search in a Westlaw case law database:

sy,di(landlord /p “common area”)

slide40
Other fields:

Citation

(volume number, the reporter, and the first page number of the case)

Title or Caption (names of parties)

Docket Number (the number assigned to the case when it is filed with the court; this number follows the case through its litigation history)

Attorneys of Record

Judge(s)

Opinion

Case Enhancements

Citation

Title

Docket Number

Attorneys

Judge(s)

Opinion

slide41

Case Enhancements

You can access a list of Fields from the Search page.

Fields

This is a partial list

of the fields in a

case law database.

question4
Question

Which of the following statements is false?

  • Attorney-editors spot and summarize up to five points of law discussed in the case.
  • Attorney-editors prepare a synopsis and headnotes, using universally recognized legal terminology.
  • Attorney-editors contact the court before making corrections to the decision.
  • Searching in the synopsis and digest fields on Westlaw allows you to retrieve more on-point documents and ensures that you retrieve only cases in which your issue is a central point of law in the decision.
question5
Question

Which of the following statements is false?

  • Attorney-editors spot and summarize up to five points of law discussed in the case.
  • Attorney-editors prepare a synopsis and headnotes, using universally recognized legal terminology.
  • Attorney-editors contact the court before making corrections to the decision.
  • Field searching in the synopsis and digest fields on Westlaw allows you to retrieve more on-point documents and ensures that you retrieve only cases in which your issue is a central point of law in the decision.
headnotes are assigned to a topic and key number

The Topic and Key Number System

Headnotes are Assigned to a Topic and Key Number
  • When West receives a slip opinion, a West attorney-editor reads it and identifies the points of law discussed in the case.
  • Each point of law is summarized in a headnote.
  • After a careful analysis of the point of law the headnote discusses, the headnote is assigned to at least one key number in the West Topic and Key Number System.
headnotes and the topic and key number system

The Topic and Key Number System

Headnotes and the Topic and Key Number System

Key Numbers

Headnote

This headnote summarizes a point of law discussed in this case. The headnote is assigned to key number 90.1(1.2) under Topic 92 (Constitutional Law). The same headnote is also assigned to a key number under Topic 361 (Statutes).

slide47

The Topic and Key Number System

The Topic and Key Number System is

  • the index to the entire National Reporter System
  • a comprehensive and detailed outlineof the entire body of case law in this country
  • a classification system with a at least one topic and key number attached to each point of law (headnote)

The Topic and Key Number System allows you to locate cases with the same or similar legal issues in any jurisdiction in the United States.

slide48

The Topic and Key Number System

  • The approximately 400 topics are arranged alphabetically and numbered between 1 and 450.
  • Each topic addresses a broad legal issue.
  • Some topics have been added after the original 414 topics were assigned numbers
    • See 48A Automobiles and

48B Aviation

  • Other topics have been eliminated, renamed, or reorganized. (There is no longer a topic 3.)
slide49

The Topic and Key Number System

92 Constitutional Law (Topic)

92V Personal, Civil and Political Rights (Sub-Heading)

92k90 Freedom of Speech and of the Press

92k90.1 Particular Expressions and Limitations

92k90.1(1.2) k. Election Regulations

(Specific Key Number)

  • Each topic is broken down into subheadings.
  • There can be up to eight levels in the topic and key number hierarchy.
  • This process continues until further breakdown of a point of law is unproductive and a specific key number is assigned. See, 92k90.1(1.2) above.
  • There are approximately 100,000 specific key numbers.
slide50

The Topic and Key Number System

Topic number 92

Subheading 92k90

Specific Key Number

The intermediate levels of the key number hierarchy

are not present in the print version of this case, but they

permit useful key number searches on Westlaw when the

specific key number needed cannot be identified.

For example, you can search for cases assigned to any specific key numbers under subheading 92k90.

question6
Question

The Topic and Key Number System is

  • An index to National Reporter System cases
  • An outline of American law
  • A classification system
  • All of the above
question7
Question

The Topic and Key Number System is

  • An index to National Reporter System cases
  • An outline of American law
  • A classification system
  • All of the above
key number digests

Key Number Digests

Back to Contents

key numbers and key number digests

Digests

Key Numbers and Key Number Digests
  • West’s Key Number Digests are the research link between key numbers and the National Reporter System cases.
  • The digests contain the headnotes (digest paragraphs) and their corresponding topic and key numbers from every case in the National Reporter System.
  • The headnotes (digest paragraphs) are organized alphabetically by topic and then numerically by key number.
slide55
This is a page from the Minnesota Digest.

Listed are all the headnotes (digest paragraphs) from Minnesota cases that discuss the points of law assigned to specific key numbers 8(2), 9, and 12 under the topic of Abatement and Revival.

Digests

slide56

Digests

Digest sets include

  • State digests
  • Regional digests
  • Federal Practice Digest
  • Specialty subjects, such as Bankruptcy, Military Justice, Federal Claims,and Education Law digests
  • Decennial digests, which contain all headnotes from cases for each 10-year period beginning with 1897
  • The Century Digest, which contains headnotes from cases from 1658 to 1896
slide57

Digests

Each digest set spans many volumes and is organized first alphabetically by the more than 400 topics in the Key Number System, then numerically by key number.

headnote digest databases

Digests

Headnote (Digest) Databases

The identifiers of the headnote databases include the suffix HN, e.g., MN-CS-HN, ALLFEDS-HN.

Federal headnote (or digest) databases on Westlaw

State headnote (or digest) databases on Westlaw

question8
Question

The Key Number Digests contain

  • The synopsis from each case in the National Reporter System
  • Headnotes from cases in the National Reporter System, organized by date of case
  • Citations to the full case
  • None of the above
question9
Question

The Key Number Digests contain;

  • The synopsis from each case in the National Reporter System
  • Headnotes from cases in the National Reporter System, organized by date of case
  • Citations to the full case
  • None of the above
using the print digests to find relevant cases

Research in Print Products

Using the Print Digests to Find Relevant Cases
  • You have found a case with a relevant headnote and assigned key number
  • Go to a print digest set covering the appropriate jurisdiction and find the volume covering that topic, then find the specific key number
  • All headnotes (digest paragraphs) from all cases discussing the point of law assigned to that key number are listed along with citations to the cases

Using a key number found in a case

using the print digests to find relevant cases1

Research in Print Products

Using the Print Digests to Find Relevant Cases

Topic Analysis

Browse the topic list at the beginning of any Key Number digest volume to select a relevant topic.

using the print digests to find relevant cases2

Research in Print Products

Using the Print Digests to Find Relevant Cases

Topic Analysis

Broad analysis

Detailed analysis

Each topic in a digest set has an Analysis section, providing both broad and detailed outlines of the topic.

slide65

Research in Print Products

Topic Analysis

Subjects Included and Subjects Excluded

Lists in the Digests

  • Many legal topics overlap in subject content.
  • At the beginning of every new topic in the print digest, there are scope notes that explain which subjects are included and which are excluded.
  • The Subjects Excluded list directs you to the digest topic under which those subjects are covered.
  • These lists also appear in the Scope information on Westlaw.
using the print digests to find relevant cases3

Research in Print Products

Using the Print Digests to Find Relevant Cases

Descriptive

Word Index

Each digest set includes a Descriptive Word Index.

Specific words and phrases lead to relevant key numbers.

using the print digests to find relevant cases4

Research in Print Products

Using the Print Digests to Find Relevant Cases

Descriptive

Word Index

Most descriptive words fall into one of five categories of elements common to every case:

  • Parties or facts
  • Places and things
  • Issues or basis of action
  • Defenses
  • Relief sought
descriptive word index

Research in Print Products

Descriptive Word Index
  • Example: John Landlord failed to replace a light bulb in the hallway of one of his apartment buildings. Jane Tenant failed to see a step and fell down a flight of stairs. She is suing John for damages.
  • You might start by checking in the Descriptive Word Index under landlord, tenant, negligence, apartment, common area, or premise liability. At least one of these entries will probably lead you to key numbers in cases that discuss the same or similar issues.
west s analysis of american law
West’s Analysis of American Law list all the topics and the specific key numbers with the title given to each key number

Constitutional Law, Topic No. 92

90.1—Particular Expressions and Limitations

(1.2) Election regulations

This publication also contains Subjects Included and Subjects Excluded sections for each topic.

Research in Print Products

West’s Analysis of American Law
using key numbers to find relevant cases on westlaw

Research in Print Products

Using Key Numbers to Find Relevant Cases on Westlaw

Using a key number found in a case

  • After conducting a word search on Westlaw, you find a relevant case with an on-point headnote.
  • You can use the key number assigned to this headnote to retrieve other cases discussing the same point of law.

This is the most common way of finding relevant key numbers on Westlaw.

slide71

Research on Westlaw

Using a key number

found in a case to create a Custom Digest.

…and retrieve all headnotes

assigned to that key number, creating a Custom Digest.

92k90.1(1.2)

Most Cited Cases

By clicking a relevant key

number or the Most Cited Cases link, you can run a key number

search through a database…

slide72

Research on Westlaw

  • A Custom Digest contains the digest paragraphs assigned to that key number in the selected jurisdiction.
  • Each headnote links to its corresponding case.
  • You have created a CustomDigest of all headnotes assigned to 92k90.1(1.2) in the Eighth Circuit.
using key numbers to find relevant cases on westlaw1
Access the Key Numbers and Digest service using the More drop-down list on the toolbar.

Research on Westlaw

Using Key Numbers to Find Relevant Cases on Westlaw

Using the topic list to create a Custom Digest

Key Numbers & Digest

  • Scroll down the list of topics
  • until you find one you want
  • to explore..
using key numbers to find relevant cases on westlaw2
Click the plus symbols to expand the topics and see subheadings. Expand subheadings if necessary.

When you find a relevant key number, type it into text box or check the box beside it and click GO …

Research on Westlaw

Using Key Numbers to Find Relevant Cases on Westlaw

Using the topic list to create a Custom Digest

Search

92K90.1(1.2)

using westlaw to find relevant cases
You can run a key number search in the headnote database of your choice.

You can restrict by date or add terms for a customized result.

Research on Westlaw

Using Westlaw to Find Relevant Cases

Using the topic list to create a Custom Digest

Databases

Add Terms

Date

a westlaw search using a key number

Research on Westlaw

A Westlaw Search Using a Key Number
  • In either a
    • case law (reporter) or
    • headnote (digest) database
  • Using Terms and Connectors searching
  • When you have a topic and key number, simply enter it as your query:

92k90.1(1.2)

The “k” makes this a unique term. You will retrieve only documents containing the key number term.

westlaw search for relevant key numbers and cases

Research on Westlaw

Westlaw Search for Relevant Key Numbers and Cases
  • in either a
    • case law (reporter) or
    • headnote (digest) database
  • using Terms and Connectors searching
  • Known topic but unknown key number:

to(92) /p campaign /s contribut! /s speech

  • Unknown topic and unknown key number:

di(campaign /s contribut! /s speech)

question10
Question

Which of the following statement(s) is true?

  • The most common method for using a key number to find cases is to work from a key number in a relevant case.
  • The Descriptive Word Index is a Westlaw dictionary service.
  • There are no similarities between the print digests and the Westlaw headnote databases.
  • Both 1 and 3.
question11
Question

Which of the following statement(s) is true?

  • The most common method for using a key number to find cases is to work from a key number in a relevant case.
  • The Descriptive Word Index is a Westlaw dictionary service.
  • There are no similarities between the print digests and the Westlaw headnote databases.
  • Both 1 and 3.
creating a custom digest on westlaw com

Custom Digest

Creating a Custom Digest on westlaw.com

Most Cited Cases link:

  • Retrieves the list of cases most often cited for a point of law (headnote) classified within the Key Number System.
  • Can help you quickly determine which cases have been cited often as legal authority for that point of law.
  • Displays KeyCite® flags in results.
creating a custom digest on westlaw com1

Custom Digest

Creating a Custom Digest on westlaw.com

Access by clicking the Most Cited Cases link following a relevant key numbers in an online case.

creating a custom digest on westlaw com2

Custom Digest

Creating a Custom Digest on westlaw.com
  • You can choose to order results by “Most Recent Cases” or
  • by “Most Cited Cases.”
  • You choose a database.
  • You can add search terms to customize your result.
slide84

Custom Digest

  • You then create a single document, similar to the print digests, but with digest paragraphs (headnotes) assigned to the key number listed in descending order of the number of times each case was cited for that point of law or in reverse chronological order.
  • The digest paragraphs link to the full text cases.
slide85
The National Reporter System, the West editorial enhancements, the West Key Number System, and West’s Key Number Digests are an integrated research system that guides you to prior cases in any state or federal jurisdiction that discussed similar facts or points of law.

Conclusion