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Legal Research on the Internet California Conference on Self-Represented Litigants  April 28-30, 2010 San Francisco. Presented by: Kelly Browne Assistant Director for Public Services Sacramento County Public Law Library. California County Law Libraries. Open to the Public

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Legal Research onthe InternetCalifornia Conference on Self-Represented Litigants April 28-30, 2010San Francisco

Presented by:

Kelly Browne

Assistant Director for Public Services

Sacramento County Public Law Library

california county law libraries
California County Law Libraries
  • Open to the Public
  • All California counties have a law library: Business & Professions Code 6300 et seq.
  • Funded by Superior Court civil filing fees
  • To find your local county law library, visit
about the class
About the class:
  • Hands on: explanation, demonstration, exercises*
    • Legal Research Links document
  • Free resources for California primary law and secondary sources
  • Boolean operators and other advanced search techniques

*If you need help, raise your hand and Coral Henning, SCPLL Director, will come and help you.

types of legal information covering today
Types of Legal Information Covering Today
  • Primary Sources contain the law
    • Codes, Cases, Regulations,Court Rules
    • Generally available online
  • Secondary Sources explain the law
    • Often the best starting point for research
    • Limited availability online
    • Forms
    • Most common research question
    • Mandatory and optional templates
boolean operators

Boolean Operators

& Warm-Up Exercises

legal dictionaries
Legal Dictionaries

Nolo Press


legal dictionary exercise
Legal Dictionary Exercise

What’s the definition of QUANTUM MERUIT ?

Use one of the following:

building a search using terms and connectors aka boolean searching
Building a Search Using Terms and Connectors (akaBoolean searching)

Many sites use variations on these – check the site’s “Help” or “Search Tips” for specifics

  • AND– narrows search
  • OR – broadens search
  • NOT– use to exclude unrelated results (cardinals BUT NOT baseball)
  • Quotations– used to search for a phrase - “breach of warranty”
  • Truncation– to find variations of a word –encroach* will retrieve encroach, encroached, encroaching, encroachment…
boolean searching use of and
Boolean Searching: Use of AND

Using AND narrows a search.

Each term will occur in each retrieved document.

boolean searching use of or
Boolean Searching: Use of OR

Using OR broadens a search. One or both of the terms will occur in each retrieved document.

boolean searching use of not
Boolean Searching: Use of NOT

Using NOT limits a search.

other search techniques
Other search techniques
  • Quotation marks
    • Putting quotation marks around a group of words will search for those words as an exact phrase
  • Truncation
    • Using the truncation symbol (often *, but varies by database) will search for alternate endings of words.
    • Driv* = driver, driving, driven, drivel, etc.
use of parenthesis
Use of parenthesis

Parenthesis are used to group words or ideas together.

For example, a search for:

(canine OR dog) AND bite

Is the same as running these two separate searches:

canine AND bite

dog AND bite

steps in constructing a search itac method issue terms alternatives connectors
Steps in Constructing a Search:ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors)

Select key TERMS from your issue.

Using three to five key terms works

well for most issues

host injury intoxicated guest


host intoxicated guest

steps in constructing a search itac method issue terms alternatives connectors1
Steps in Constructing a Search:ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors)

Enter reasonable ALTERNATIVE terms for your key terms.

Be creative - terms that may seem to have limited relationships to key terms or that mean the opposite of a key term, may be reasonable alternatives:

Party or Corporation may be alternatives for host.

Sober may be an alternative for intoxicated.

steps in constructing a search itac method issue terms alternatives connectors2
Steps in Constructing a Search:ITAC Method (Issue, Terms, Alternatives, Connectors)

Add appropriate CONNECTORS to specify the relationship you want each term and its alternatives to have to the other terms and their alternatives.

(Host* OR party) AND

(intoxicat* OR drunk OR alcohol)

AND guest


What keywords would you try for this scenario?

Tom signed a one-year lease to rent an apartment from Laurie. Shortly after moving in, Tom discovered that the apartment was overrun by cockroaches, making living there intolerable. Tom wants to move out, but Laurie is threatening to sue if he breaks the lease.

primary sources
Primary Sources
  • Cases
  • California Codes
  • California Code of Regulations
  • California Court Rules
where can you find published cases www courtinfo ca gov opinions
Where can you find published cases?

California Courts – Powered by LexisNexis

  • Provides access to all published California cases from 1850 – current to within 90 days of filing
    • Retrieve by Citation or
    • Search using natural language search or
    • Search by keyword using advanced search

Natural Language



Plug in known cite

  • Official published opinion of the court
  • Only cases of significant legal value are published
  • Have the weight of law because of precedent

Select search type





Segment: part or section of a case opinion.



Search results

case law

Case Law


Find the name of the case at this citation:

149 Cal.App.3d 409 (1983)

Use California Courts site:

case law exercise 2
Case Law Exercise #2

How many reported cases can you find where Neoma Kenwood

was the attorney of record?

case law exercise 3
Case Law Exercise #3

Find a case in which one of the parties was named Wilson

Hint: Search party names using the Name segment.

The case we’re interested in deals with a “spite fence.” Focus your search to find this case.

california codes online http www leginfo ca gov
California Codes Online
  • Available online for free.
  • Current code only
  • Not annotated
  • Keyword searchable, but not user-friendly
  • “Table of Contents” view available
  • Helpful if you know a specific code section
california codes online search or browse
California Codes Online Search or Browse
  • Select the code(s) you want to search--by clicking the check box(es).
  • 2. Type in search terms.
  • Or, click the box, then just hit enter to go directly to the Table of Contents for one Code.

fence and neighbor

searching the california codes

Searching the California Codes
  • Supports Boolean Searching – AND, OR, ADJ, NOT (note: MUST be in ALL CAPs)
  • Default (no operators) is a natural language search
  • Truncate with an asterisk - driv* retrieves drive, driver, driving, etc.
  • Use parentheses to group terms – (driv* OR operat*) AND (alcohol* OR drink* OR influence)
  • Remember to use the Help!
searching the california codes1
Searching the California Codes

Sample search!

Can my neighbor build a 12-foot high fence next to my property just to annoy me?


search results for fence in all

Search results for “Fence” in All

Results don’t always match expectations – we must read several to find the one we want


Specific Codes

Choose a code,


Enter your keyword(s)

OR leave it blank


Browsing the Table of Contents

Choose a code,


Leave it blank and

Hit Search





What crime is described in Penal Code § 417.25?


Statutes Exercise #2

Locate a code section for a crime involving ducklings

california code of regulations
California Code of Regulations
  • Rules created by Administrative Agencies, by authority of the legislature or governor
  • Implemented, enforced or administered by agencies
  • Tend to be more procedural and technical than codes
california code of regulations1

California Code of Regulations
  • Regulations of all California agencies
  • Only the current edition is available
  • Title 24 (CA Building Standards Code) is NOT available on the Internet*

Multiple ways to search

search for a specific regulatory section
Search for a Specific Regulatory Section   

Common citation style:

3 CCR § 482




Search for Words

Search Connectors:



but not

***Default is OR***


Search within specific titles

The search capabilities are the same as the word search, but your results will be limited to just the specific titles you select.


List of CCR Titles = Table of Contents


until you can

link directly

to code.

agency list for ccr
Agency List for CCR



to this agency

regulations exercise
Regulations Exercise

The California Board of Corrections and Rehabilitation has a special diet for inmates with disciplinary problems when they are in isolation.

Using SEARCH, find the recipe for:

“Disciplinary Isolation Diet” in

the California Code of Regulations

how to search court rules online

How to Search Court Rules Online

1. Load pdf version

2. Click on little binoculars

  • Enter search
  • terms in box

There is no advanced search. This merely highlights the terms you enter.

california court rules exercise
California Court Rules Exercise

In the California Rules of Court,

what rule governs the

publication of appellate opinions ?

Hint: It is an appellate rule.

secondary sources explain the law
Secondary Sources explain the law
  • Material “about” the law
  • Often the starting point for research
  • Limited availability online
secondary sources1
Secondary Sources

Secondary sources such as:

  • CEB practice guides
  • Rutter Group materials
  • CA Forms of Pleading and Practice

…are NOT available for free on the Internet




selecting trustworthy online sources
Selecting trustworthy online sources

When selecting online sources, consider:

  • The author’s expertise
  • Verifiability of the content
  • The level and depth of the information
  • The currency of the site
secondary sources on the internet
Secondary Sources on the Internet
  • California Courts: Self-Help Center
  • LII – Legal Information Institute:
  • Washburn Legal Research on the Web: law reviews –
  • Google Scholar –
  • Law blogs (“blawgs”) –
  • Findlaw Legal Subjects –
  • Nolo’s “Nolopedia”–
findlaw faq style information
FindLaw: FAQ-style information

Often includes advertisements

nolo self help publisher

Nolo: Self Help Publisher

Commercial site, but many helpful articles available free


Washburn Legal Research on the Web

google scholar2
Google Scholar

Look for articles by author or in a specific publication

To search only Legal journals, put HeinOnline in the Publication field

Limit your search by subject area

legal opinions and journals
Legal Opinions and Journals
  • For cases, Judge’s name
  • For articles, author’s name
  • Year the case or article was published
  • For cases, abbreviation of reporter
  • For articles, the title of the journal or HeinOnline
legal opinions and journals1
Legal Opinions and Journals

Limit to particular courts

google scholar results
Google Scholar Results

List of articles that have cited this article

See all version of this article

Articles that Google determines are related

Purchase a copy of this article from the British Library

Searches the internet for websites related to the topic of this article

legal opinions and journals2
Legal Opinions and Journals

Limit your results

google scholar exercise 1
Google Scholar Exercise #1

Find a law review article about the

value of voting rights

google scholar exercise 11
Google Scholar Exercise #1

Find a law review article about the

value of voting rights


Find a 2009 Federal case that discusses

fraudulent loan modifications

law blogs blawgs
Law Blogs (“Blawgs”)
  • Written by practitioners or scholars
  • Regularly updated news, case reports, and commentary on specialized topics
  • RSS feeds can deliver the news to you
finding blawgs
Finding blawgs
  • ABA’s top 100 blawgs:

There are also lists of blogs by category from:

  • ABA:
  • Justia:
  • Law X.0 Taxonomy of Legal Blogs:
visit us on the web www saclaw org
Visit us on the Web!

Where you’ll find:

  • Reference via email
  • Legal Guides
  • Upcoming classes
  • Legal Links
  • Online Catalog
judicial council forms

Judicial Council Forms
  • FREE!
  • Formatted in Adobe Acrobat- PDF
  • Both interactive “fill-in-the-blank” the blank forms and printable
  • List by form name, number or category

Judicial Council Forms

Forms can be listed by name, number or category

Pull down menu for

Form choices


Judicial Council Forms

Adobe pdf format:Choose fillableor non-fillable

u s court forms one stop for many types of forms

U.S. Court Formsone stop for many types of forms
  • Requires registration
  • Free to view and print forms
  • Searchable

CA Agency Information

Government Links

ca state agency directory

CA State Agency Directory

Link goes to website or other info

Envelope links directly to contact info


You have recently purchased an antique boat. California law allows the DMV to provide special plaques which identify qualifying boats as a vessel of historical interest.

Find an “Application for Historical Vessel Plaque” form on the DMV’s website.

thank you for coming
Thank you for coming!
  • Evaluation forms