Not ANOTHER !?$#@ Law Question?!: Reference Strategies for Business Librarians


BRASS Program, ALA Annual Conference, July 10, 2000

Presentation Outline

Prof. Lois Cherepon
St. John's University, New York

Face the Challenge!

  • Legal research is difficult in some instances but not impossible!
  • The more legal research you conduct, the easier it becomes
  • Be persistent, be patient, verify your info
The Basics
  1. Jurisdiction - the venue or location (Federal, State, Local, International),
  2. Category - type of materials needed (Administrative, Statutory, Judicial),
  3. Format - print v. online

The jurisdiction or venue is the location or the place where the legal information or documents are created or produced

Jurisdication - Federal
Federal level - bills, statutes, cases, regulations - all types of legal documents are created at the federal level

Jurisdiction - State
State level - documents produced by your state officials or state courts, includes:
  • statutory materials (bills, laws, statutes),
  • case materials (cases as reported in various reporters), and
  • administrative materials (court rules, etc...)
Jurisdiction - Local
Local level - city or borough or town - these materials are typically either statutory or regulatory in nature
  • ordinances passed by the town or city, such as zoning ordinances
  • regulations to govern the location such as regulations for playgrounds

Jurisdiction - International
International level - determine if the location is restricted to one country OR encompasses a group of countries governed by a single set of regulations (for example, the European Union which governs commercial regulations among various nations)

Category - Administrative
Administrative category includes:
  1. Regulations - the Code of Federal Regulations - regs created by agencies to govern their operation,
  2. Rules - Court Rules, created by the body to assist in their business fucntions, and assist litigants in court procedures
  3. Executive Orders - those signed by the President or Governor
Administrative Law - Federal Rules & Regs
Federal Register
  • publishes all federal agency rules & regs
  • arranged by agency
  • published daily with weekly, quarterly & annual indexes
Administrative Law - Regulations
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)
  • Codified version of rules & regs published in Federal Register - 50 titles whose titles are similar to the United States Code (USC)
  • Indexed by subject & agency
  • CIS Federal Register Index - contains not only an index to the Fed Reg, but also indexes by subject CFR title#, etc...
  • LSA - List of CFR Sections Affected - published monthly, annual cum
  • CFR Parts Affected - appears in last issue of the month of the Federal Register
Administrative Law - Rules
Court Rules -
  1. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
  2. Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure
  3. Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
  4. Individual Rules of various Federal courts
    • Indexed in USCA & USCS
    • Also published separately
Administrative Law - Executive
Presidential Proclamations & Executive Orders appear in:
  1. Federal Register
  2. Weekly Compilation of Presidential Docs
  3. Title 3 CFR
  4. US Code Congressional & Admin News
  5. USCS
  6. Statutes at Large (Proclamations only)
Category - Statutory
  • Bills (laws) are passed
    by Congress (Federal), or
    by Legislature (State), or
    by Foreign Bodies (for example, Parliament)
  • Statutes - bills become Statutes & are codified (all similar laws are grouped by topic or subject and assigned a title & number - then subdivided by sections)
Statutes - Unannotated
Statutes - Unnanotated (no added value)
  • Produced and published by the official body
  • Federal - US Statutes at Large - numerical
  • State - New York Session Laws - chapter #
Statutes Annotated
Statutes - Annotated (notes & descriptions add value for the user - features depend upon publisher)
  • Federal - US Code Annotated (USCA) and US Code Service (USCS)
  • State - for New York 2 publications, McKinneys Consolidated Laws and NY Consolidated Laws Service
Searching Statutes via Indexes
  • When you know the Public Law number - Search the USCA Table by Public Law # (Public Law #99-103)
  • When you know the Popular Name - Search the USCA Popular Name Table ("Civil Rights Amendment 1964")
  • When you only have a Topic - Review the USCA General Index , OR........
Searching Statutes via the Title Index
USCA Title Indexes - easier to search by topic using this index
  • refers only to those sections that deal with the topic
  • search in the subject index of that "title" as opposed to the general index
The History of a Bill
Legislative History - guide which assists in explaining the language & intent of the law, may include committee reports, previous versions of the bill, hearings, & debates
  1. CIS - Legislative History Service
  2. CCH _ Public Laws - Legislative Histories
  3. USCCAN - United States Code Congressional and Administrative News

Category - Judicial
Judicial = case law
Includes all cases argued in the courts as reported in case reporters

Case Reporters
Case Reporters - published by venue
  • US Supreme Court cases,
  • New York State Cases,
  • all cases - federal or state, for a certain geographic region (North Eastern Reporter)
Case Law - By Topic
  • Case Reporters do NOT contain subject indexes
  • When you do not have the case citation (Vol. #, Reporter Name, Page #), search by topic in a variety of sources: digests, annotations, encyclopedias, treatises, restatesments, indexes
Case Law - Via Digests & Annotations
  1. In the Digest -
    • Supreme Court Digest,
    • Federal Digest,
    • New York Digest,
  2. In the Annotations (Case Notes) -
    1. US Statutes Annotated - USCA/USCS
    2. State Statutes Annotated - (lists both State & Federal Cases for that venue)
Case Law - Via Encyclopedias & Treatises
  1. In Legal Encyclopedias -
    • Federal -
      • Corpus Juris Secundum (C.J.S.)
      • American Jurisprudence (Am.Jur.)
      • Guide to American Law
    • State - New York Jurisprudence
  2. In Treatises or Restatements of the Law
Case Law - Via Periodical Indexes
In Periodical Indexes
  • Index to Legal Periodicals
  • General Periodical Indexes

Case Law - Via Citation
When you have the Citation (the volume #, name of the case reporter - abbreviated - and the first page number of the case), use the appropriate reporter to retrieve the case If searching online, both Lexis & Westlaw will retrieve all Parallel Citations (same case published in a different reporter)

Format - Print v. Online
Research methods depend upon format!
Advantages v. Disadvantages

Print - Advantages
  1. Indexes arranged logically & easily browsed
  2. Cost - Fixed price
  3. Ease of use - not dependent upon hardward
Print - Disadvantages
  1. Space - law books need many shelves!
  2. Upkeep - maintenance, Pocket Parts, loose-leaf services, record keeping, etc...)
  3. Frequency - information not as current as online (wait for pocket parts or supplements)
  4. Difficult to convert to electronic format
Online - Advantages
  1. Current & Fast
  2. Many free resources available on the Web
  3. Requires little space
  4. Downloading capabilities
  5. Little or no upkeep
  6. Availability - multitude of full-text items
Online - Disadvantages
  1. Hardward and telecommunications dependent - system down, no research
  2. Costly - Lexis/Westlaw costly services, especially for the infrequent user
  3. Requires special training & frequent reviews or updates
Online Legal Research
CALR - Computerized Assisted Legal Research
  1. Lexis
  2. Westlaw
  3. Internet
CALR - Lexis v. Westlaw
  • Both provide current online legal research.
  • Both are costly.
  • Both require training.

Which is better? That depends on....

  1. Your Needs...
    Lexis v. Academic Universe Lexis
  2. Your first love...
    System learned first is the one liked best.
  3. Your User...
    Who else will be using it and who will train these other users?

CALR - The Net
For libraries unable to afford the cost of Lexis or Westlaw, the Internet is a viable alternative, but keep in mind this important is NOT now and probably never will be a replacement for the efficiency and the wealth of information available through subscription services.

Guidelines for legal research on the Net
Use the Internet for legal research when....
  1. Research is infrequent & not complicated
  2. Need Quick & Dirty searches on an issue
  3. Need to locate documents (cases, statutes, regs) that aren't too recent or too old
Legal Documents on the Net
Contrary to popular opinion, everything cannot be found on the Internet.
Items easily found on the Net....
  1. Cases
  2. Statutes
  3. Regulations
  4. News stories
Legal Documents Difficult to locate on the Net
(Difficult or don't cover the dates needed)
  1. Law Review articles
  2. Treatises & Restatements
  3. Annotated versions of ANYTHING
  4. Legislative Histories
  5. Items very current (today) or ancient (prior to 19??)
Lois' Top Ten
(Not to be confused with Letterman's Top Ten List)
Ten really good legal research websites, this list is...
  • subjective in nature
  • useful
  • consulted frequently
  • actually a bit over 10

Top Ten Legal Internet Sites

  1. Cornell University Law School, Legal Information Institue, LII

  2. Library of Congress -

    Library of Congress-related pages
    1. Thomas - Legislative Info on the Internet
    2. Law Library of Congress
    3. Global Legal Information Network - GLIN

  3. WashLaw Web - Washburn University School of Law

  4. The Law Engine!

  5. FindLaw - LawCrawler

  6. Internet Law Library - Law

  7. Yale Law School Library

  8. American Law Sources Online

  9. CILP - Center for Information Law and Policy - Villanova & Chicago-Kent

  10. The National Law Journal

  • Learn the specifics of Jurisdiction, Category, and Format for each query
  • Legal research is logical and precise, approach each query from this viewpoint
  • Consult a "how to..." book or website for basic legal information
  • Practice your research techniques with topics of interest to you

bullet Not ANOTHER !?$#@ Law Question?!: Reference Strategies for Business Librarians
BRASS Program, ALA Annual Conference, July 10, 2000

Disclaimer: This publication has been placed on the web for the convenience of BRASS members. Information and links will not be updated. Posted 9 August 2000.