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TAACA - Legal Research. June 2, 2010 Melissa Bernstein Head of Student Services Tarlton Law Library. Importance of Research. Wisconsin lawyer fined $100 for wrong citation in brief submitted to Wisconsin Court of Appeals – Oct 14, 2009 Legal Blog Watch post. Standard in Texas.

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taaca legal research

TAACA - Legal Research

June 2, 2010

Melissa Bernstein

Head of Student Services

Tarlton Law Library

importance of research
Importance of Research
  • Wisconsin lawyer fined $100 for wrong citation in brief submitted to Wisconsin Court of Appeals – Oct 14, 2009
  • Legal Blog Watch post
standard in texas
Standard in Texas
  • Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure
    • Rule 38.1(i)
    • “Argument. The brief must contain a clear and concise argument for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to authorities and to the record.”
  • Walder v. State, 85 S.W.3d 824 (Tex. App. – Waco 2002, no pet.)
walder v state
Walder v. State
  • Appellant’s brief was deficient because it “does not provide adequate citations to pertinent legal authorities.” 85 S.W.3d 825, 826.
  • Court goes on to say:
    • “With disturbing frequency, this Court receives briefs which are inadequate.” Id.
u s supreme court
U.S. Supreme Court
  • From McCoy v. Court of Appeals of Wisconsin, Dist. 1, 486 U.S. 429, 438 (1988):
    • “Every advocate has essentially the same professional responsibility…The appellate lawyer must master the trial record, thoroughly research the law, and exercise judgment in identifying the arguments that may be advanced on appeal.”
technology changes expectations
Technology Changes Expectations
  • Ellen Margolis, Surfin’ Safari – Why Competent Lawyers Should Research on the Web, 10 Yale J.L. & Tech. 82 (2007)
  • New resources beg the question: How much research is enough?
standard research techniques
“Standard” Research Techniques
  • Lexis & Westlaw (Shepard’s and KeyCite)
  • Other fee-based services
  • Internet in general, such as Google
    • “A lawyer who fails to use the internet, particularly when researching administrative issues, is likely to miss key sources that a judge would expect to see cited.” 10 Yale J.L. & Tech. 82 , 113 (2007).
  • “Unpublished opinions”
trap rule 47 7
TRAP Rule 47.7

47.7.  Citation of Unpublished Opinions

(a)    Criminal Cases.  Opinions and memorandum opinions not designated for publication by the court of appeals under these or prior rules have no precedential value but may be cited with the notation, “(not designated for publication).”

(b)    Civil Cases.  Opinions and memorandum opinions designated “do not publish” under these rules by the courts of appeals prior to January 1, 2003 have no precedential value but may be cited with the notation, “(not designated for publication).”  If an opinion or memorandum opinion issued on or after that date is erroneously designated “do not publish,” the erroneous designation will not affect the precedential value of the decision.

other sources
Other Sources

“Lawyers will need to go beyond primary and secondary legal authority in order to provide judges with the tools they need to render decisions.” 10 Yale J.L. & Tech. 82, 115 (2007).

  • Citation to non-legal materials
    • News articles, academic journals
  • Blogs & listservs
  • Wikipedia (!)
  • Supreme Court cited a blog in one of its opinions, United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220, 278 (2005)
more on blogs
More on Blogs
  • Google Reader – blog aggregator
  • Supreme Court of Texas Blog
    • http://www.scotxblog.com/
  • Example from Law Librarian Blog:
    • ABA launches free full-text online law review / law Journal search engine (12/14/09)
    • http://www.abanet.org/tech/ltrc/lawreviewsearch.html
  • Courts Turn to Wikipedia, But Selectively – N.Y. Times, 1/29/07
  • Lee F. Peoples, The Citation of Wikipedia in Judicial Opinions, 12 Yale J.L. & Tech. 1 (2009)
  • 10 Texas cases cited to Wikipedia as of a Westlaw search performed on 5/7/10
    • Dates range from 11/22/05 – 7/16/09
web sources federal judges
Web sources & Federal Judges
  • Among questions to ask:
    • Is source peer-reviewed?
    • Who publishes source and why?
    • Does publisher use editors and fact-checkers?
    • Is information reliable and up-to-date?
    • Sources cited, if any?
  • Judges should ask librarians for help finding the best resource to cite to
evaluating sources
Evaluating Sources
  • Accuracy
  • Scope of coverage
  • Objectivity
  • Timeliness
  • Authority
  • Verifiability
questions to ask when evaluating websites
Questions to ask when evaluating websites
  • Author/source of the material?
  • Domain name of the site? (.org, .gov., .edu)
  • “About us” link?
  • Qualifications of the author?
  • Was site created purely to inform or for another purpose, such as to influence? (e.g., bias)
    • Politically motivated?
  • Last updated?
  • Is content complete or excerpted?
  • Do other sites link to this site? If so, which ones?
additional resources
Additional Resources
  • SSRN & bePress (Link)
  • Legislative Reference Library
  • Tarlton Law Library
    • Other academic law libraries in Texas
  • Texas State Law Library
    • Texas County Law Libraries
    • [Also lists University Law Libraries]
  • Tarlton Reference Desk: Hours
    • (512) 471-6220
    • refdesk@mail.law.utexas.edu