I. Start broadly - should be able to get a statute and cases
1. American Jurisprudence (also in LexisNexis Academic > US Legal > Legal Reference )
2. Think about various terms and phrases relevant to the subject, for example:
B. American Law Reports (ALR)
C. Current awareness publications
1. Titles in law library - print titles are indicated by a call number; all of the titles are online through LexisNexis Academic & Hein Online
D. Treatises/Books - somebody has written on the topic
1. GAVEL - online catalog of the Law Library
a. expand search with subject headings
b. Look for titles that are updated or recent editions
- Administrative Law Treatise - KF5402 .D324 2010, Balcony
- which is updated annually, the most recent update arrived in November 2011
- West's Federal Administrative Practice - KF5407 .W48 2002, Balcony
- Law Library stopped updating in 2010 but might still be useful,
- Understanding Administrative Law - KF5402 .F68 2008, Balcony
2. GIL - online catalog of the Main Library
E. Periodical Indexes
1. Print (browse for topics) - Index to Legal Periodicals, Current Legal Index
a. Index to Legal Periodicals and Books & Legaltrac are the two broad general indexes; search both as there is unique content in each
b. Retrieve the articles in Hein Online, LexisNexis Academic, and/or GALILEO (each of these services also have keyword searching)
II. Begin refining
A. With a statute use the annotated codes to get relevant court decisions, regulations, and other references
B. Retrieve the cases, statutes, and regulations cited in law review articles
C. Cases can be used to find other similar cases or newer cases. Ask the reference librarian to help you Shepardize or use a digest with the topic and key numbers (they’ll know what that means).
III. Talk to a reference librarian, really, that's why we're here.
IV. Important Research Concepts
A. Currency - how is the publication updated and what is the date of the last update
B. Authoritative value - is the publication official
C. "Shepardize" - a verb meaning to check the status of an opinion, statute, or regulation. Also to find additional opinions, statutes, or regulations.
V. Legal Search Engines
A. Cornell Legal Research Engine
B. Findlaw Lawcrawler
C. Lexis Web
Another important principle in our legal system is that of jurisdiction.
Jurisdiction is power, the power or authority of the court to decide a matter in controversy. The authority to compel witnesses to testify or command people to turn over documents or property, or to jail them for contempt. Jurisdiction is established in constitutions and by statute and is usually done geographically or by subject.
There are some matters over which a state or federal court has exclusive jurisdiction and some matters over which a state court has concurrent jurisdiction with the federal courts. Federal courts can, in some instances, decide questions of state law; state courts can, in some instances, decide questions of federal law. Sometimes it might be difficult to determine which matters are questions of federal, or state law, or both.
The final concept is the court structure. In general, there are trial courts and appellate courts.
When a case is appealed to an appellate court, both parties submit written briefs that contain a summary of the facts and arguments on the points of law involved, and the court may hear oral arguments by the attorneys. The court then issues an opinion which states the legal basis for the decision.
If the case is
decided by an intermediate appellate court, the losing party may be able
to appeal one more time. This second appeal is usually at the
discretion of the higher court.
Legal authority is any published source of law that presents the legal rules, legal doctrine, or legal reasoning that may be used as the basis for legal decisions. Authority refers to the types of legal information and to the weight or degree of persuasiveness of the legal information.
When used to describe types of legal information, there are two categories, primary or secondary. Primary authorities are authorized statements of the law by governmental institutions. These include written opinions of courts (case law); constitutions; legislation (statutes and codes); rules of court; and the rules, regulations and opinions of administrative agencies.
Secondary authorities are statements about the law and explain, interpret, develop, locate, or update primary authorities. For example, treatises, law review articles, American Law Reports annotations, Restatements of the Law, and looseleaf services are types of secondary authorities.
J. Myron Jacobstein, Roy M. Mersky, Donald J. Dunn, Fundamentals of Legal Research, 6th ed. (Foundation Press, 1994).
Benjamin J. Keele, Splitting Hairs: What Subtle Distinctions Teach Us About Authority, AALL Spectrum, Dec. 2011, at 15.
When used to describe the degree of persuasiveness of legal information, authority is an estimation of the power of information to influence a legal decision. Authority may be binding (also referred to as mandatory) which means that a court or other decision-maker believes the authority applies to the case before it and must be followed. Only primary authority can be binding.
Authority which is not binding is persuasive which means that a decision-maker can, if so persuaded, follow it. Secondary authority can never be binding only persuasive. In our hierarchical court system lower courts are bound by the decisions of higher courts.
|Jurisdiction||Court of Limited Jurisdiction||Court of Original Jurisdiction||Intermediate Appellate Court||Court of Last Resort|
|Federal||U.S. Tax Court||U.S. District Courts||U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals||U.S. Supreme Court|
|Superior Court||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|Circuit Court||Court of Special Appeals||Court of Appeals|
|Circuit Court||Court of Appeals||Supreme Court|
|District Court||Supreme Court|
|New York||Surrogates' Court
Town and Village Justice Court
|Supreme Court||Appellate Division of Supreme Court||Court of Appeals|
District Justice court
|Court of Common Pleas||Superior Court
For other state court systems see the National Center for State Courts website.
J. Myron Jacobstein, Roy M. Mersky, Donald J. Dunn, Fundamentals of Legal Research, 6th ed. (Foundation Press, 1994).
|Jurisdiction||Session Laws and Statutory Compilations||Administrative Law|
U.S. Statutes at Large
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
Official Compilation Rules and Regulations of the State of Georgia
Laws of Maryland
Code of Maryland Regulations
Public and Local Acts of the Legislature of the State of Michigan
Michigan Administrative Code
Montana Code Annotated
Administrative Rules of Montana
Laws of New York
Official Compilation of Code, Rules & Regulations of the State of New York
Laws of Pennsylvania
Statute - also referred to as legislation, a positive statement of legal rules enacted by a legislature
Constitution - fundamental body of principles by which a poltical body such as a nation or state governs itself
Regulations - published under the authority of a statute that further interprets the statute and operates to carry-out the statutory intent
Court Rules - control the operation of the courts and the conduct of persons appearing before them
Administrative Rules - further detail the implementation of administrative regulations
Session Laws - the laws enacted by a state legislature at an annual or biennial session; usually published on a periodic basis during the session and then bound upon the completion of the session; generally arranged numerically or chronologically.
Codes - a compilation of enacted laws; generally arranged by subject
Returning to the question of finding the relevant law, most researchers start with secondary sources. Court opinions, statutes, and regulations are expressions of the law. They are primary sources. Legal researchers have to consult the primary resources and understand their application and operation. Secondary sources help us understand the primary sources.
Basically everything that is not primary is secondary. They are the sources that describe or discuss or analyze the primary sources. They are used by researchers to help narrow down the massive amount of primary material to the relevant items.
There are a wide variety of secondary sources.
See "Research Steps" under "The Law" tab
Law Library Databases
Knowledge Mosaic * includes
See the complete list of Law Library online resources.
All of these titles are located on the Balcony of the Law Library.
- In my opinion the number one most useful thing to use when starting a
research project is a legal encyclopedia. The encyclopedia will give
you an introduction and overview of the area of law, it will introduce
the relevant terminology, it will include citations to statutes,
regulations, and representative cases.There are two general legal
encyclopedias, both of them are located in the main reading room.
American Jurisprudence (AmJur) - available in LexisNexis Academic
Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS)
Indexes - one reason to use a print index is the ability to browse which you might find useful at the beginning of a research project. Both of the print indexes are located in the main reading room.
Index to Legal Periodicals
Current Index to Legal Periodicals
Use Interlibrary Loan to obtain articles that are not available online.
There are two broad, general indexes to legal publications
The Law Library also subscribes to some specialized indexes. Review the list. The online indexes indicate if the journal is owned by the law library or the main library.
If the database you have searched does not contain the fulltext article you may be able to find it somewhere else. Places to check:
- GAVEL - online catalog of the law library. If a journal is part of a database subscribed to by the Law Library the catalog provides a link to the online resource.
- GIL- online catalog of the main library. Only contains the print journals. Use the E-journal Locator to determine if the main library subscribes to an electronic version of the journal.
Hein Online - Hein Online is a great resource with fulltext PDF versions.
- Publisher’s web site
- LexisNexis Academic
Zimmerman’s Research Guide which is an online encyclopedia
Lexis Web which is a legal specific search engine
Identify - identify the document or document part to which the author is referring
Find - provide the reader with sufficient information to find the document or document part in the sources the reader has available (which may or may not be the same sources as those used by the writer)
Relation to argument - furnish important additional information about the referenced material and its connection to the writer's argument so that a reader can decide whether or not to pursue the reference. Parenthetical notes.
Court opinions and articles don’t change. An article or court opinion will never be updated. Court opinions can be effected by later decisions, their authoritative value can be reduced or eliminated but the text of the original opinion will remain the same. So we can take that opinion stick it in a book and just leave it there. But that’s not true for statutes and regulations. Every time a legislature meets some statute is going to change and when statutes change then the regulations change. And because of that dynamic character we don’t just stick statutes and regulations in books and leave them there. So to cite to statutes and regulations we’ve developed differing numbering systems.
4 U.S.C. §553
Legal journals or law reviews have a unique citation system dictated by The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (just referred to as the Bluebook).
79 U. Cin. L. Rev. 375 (2010)
Consult Black’s Law Dictionary or the Bluebook for abbreviations. There are lots of Black's
on the tables in the Law Library reading room.There are also
dictionaries in LexisNexis Academic > US Legal > Legal Reference.
The citation is to an article entitled "Preserving
the Right to a Jury Trial in Public Employee Free Speech Litigation:
The Protected Status of Speech Must be Labeled a Mixed Question of Law
483 U.S. 378, 107 S. Ct. 2891 (1987)
36 C.F.R. §800.4 (2011)
agencies are part of the executive branch. Congress delegates the power
to issue regulations, known as promulgation, and to adjudicate disputes.
Congress delegates this power with the expectation that the regulations
will carry out intent of legislature. If the regulations, also called
rules, are properly promulgated and fulfill the intent of the statute
they have the same legal effect as statutes.The regulation above is for
the identification of historic properties under the section 106 process.
United States Government Manual - annual directory with emphasis on the executive branch and regulatory agencies
Leadership Library - organizational charts, biographical and contact information for federal personnel
Code is official but researchers prefer the U.S. Code Annotated or U.S.
Code Service because they contain helpful annotations and are published
in a more timely manner.
you’re trying to learn something about a particular piece of
legislation, one of the most important documents to look at is the
Committee Report. These resources also have the various versions of
bills and documents submitted by committee witnesses.
Publication of Federal Regulations
Federal Register - daily publication for executive and administrative agency actions
Code of Federal Regulations - subject arrangement with indexing and updating
One of the things you will generally not find on the agency web sites are any regulations promulgated by the agency. Those are found in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). You can link to the CFR online through the GPO's Federal Digital System (FDSys). The
GPO is the Government Printing Office, the official publisher, so to
speak, of the government. As the tagline on FDSys says, "America's
Authentic Government Information".
Knowledge Mosaic - includes
The state government, like the federal government, is divided into three branches, regulations are under executive, statutes under legislative, cases under judicial.
Georgia.gov is the official web site for the state of Georgia.
The rules and regulations from the state agencies
The official print source for the opinions of the Georgia Supreme Court is the Georgia Reports. The official print source for the opinions of the Court of Appeals is the Georgia Appeals Reports. The opinions of both courts are also published in the unofficial Southern Reporter, which is referred to as a regional reporter. Pay attention to how far back the databases go and how frequently or quickly they are updated.
See more Georgia materials, including the historic Georgia Codes, under the "Georgia" tab.
Administrative Rules and Regulations
Superior Courts of Georgia
All federal court opinions are available in LexisNexis Academic
U.S. District Courts
U.S. Bankruptcy Courts
Index to Memorials and Tributes, 256 Ga. XLIII (1995)