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Thinking About Legal Research Problems

By Paul D. Callister, JD, MSLIS

Library Director & Associate Professor of Law



Find out everything you can about the research problem.Determine whether primary, secondary or combined sources are most appropriate.For primary materials, determine the kind of law, jurisdiction and appropriate arrangement.Putting all of the factors together to find a relevant document.How to be thorough after you have found a relevant document.

Problems Type: Known Item Subject Institutional Statistical Special Techniques News Reference
Search Type
Used For
Example
Known Item Search Known Item If you already know the citation, case name, name of an act, or have a very specific fact pattern to research. Where do I find Roe v. Wade?  I need the California murder case in which the court found that a fetus cannot be a human being and the defendant was acquitted of murder after beating up his girlfriend resulting in the loss of the fetus.

Subscription Databases

 

Lexis and Westlaw:  Finding the Most Relevant Document

Online Catalog (MERLIN)

UMKC Law Library Subscription Databases Page

Congressional Universe -- federal legislative history.  Most of the service consists of abstracts.  More recent years include full-text documents.

Hein Online  --  Full-text searching for about 370 law reviews in PDF back (in many cases) to their inceptions.  Search is by title, author and full-text but not by abstracts, subject headings or key words.

LLMC Digital Law Library Consortium  -- over the next four years will add about 90,000 volumes and 7,500 titles of the most frequently loaned materials among academic law libraries.  Right now the project is primarily adding federal materials.  A complete list of titles available through the project (although most right now are only available through microfilm is located at http://www.llmc.com/sourcebooks.htm).

UM Databases (Alphabetical)

 

Research on the Web

Federal Law

Case Law, Courts & Trial Materials

Cornell's Legal Information Institute http://www.law.cornell.edu/federal/opinions.html Access to significant primary case law for federal courts, including bankruptcy, and various courts of special jurisdiction.

FindLaw http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/index.html#cases Site is now owned by Westlaw.  Free access to significant primary case law for federal courts, including bankruptcy,  various courts of special jurisdiction, and various agency boards.

LexisOne   http://www.lexisone.com/caselaw/freecaselaw Registration required.  Free access to last five years of case law for federal and state courts.  Supreme Court access is not limited.

Fed. Courts Finder http://www.law.emory.edu/FEDCTS/ Helpful map of court jurisdictions and links to help locate federal court sites.  Links lead to opinions, court rules and dockets.  In the case of the Supreme Court briefs and oral arguments.

Fed. Courts (FindLaw) http://www.findlaw.com/10fedgov/judicial/index.html Includes links to court web sites,  Administrative Office of Courts, Federal Court Clerks Association, Federal Judicial Center, Judicial Panel on Multi-District Litigation, and United States Sentencing Committee.

Pacer Filing Service http://pacer.psc.uscourts.gov/ Must register and pay fees.  Official database of filings in federal courts, including party indexes, dockets, case status, and in some cases opinions.  If the court's official web site does not provide the information, this is the best way to find out status of litigation.

Linder's Famous Trials (UMKC)   http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/ftrials.htm Provides in-depth information (briefs, historical documents, and analysis) of almost 50 trials in history, including trials of Jesus, Socrates, Scope's "Monkey" trials, Salem witchcraft trials, the Rosenberg espionage case, Mai Lai Courts Martial, "Mississippi Burning" trial, O.J. Simpson, and the impeachment of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Amicus Brief Archive (Jurist)  http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/amicus/index.htm Amicus or "friend of the court" brief archive of briefs filed by law professors in recent and a few historical cases.

Findlaw Supreme Court Briefs   http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/briefs/index.htm Findlaw's Supreme Court briefs archives, including links to docket sheets, calendars, rules and decisions.  Commences with the 1999-2000 term.

Oyez (U.S. Supreme Court Multimedia) http://www.oyez.org/oyez/frontpage (follow links to "more featured audio") Downloads of audio files of many current oral arguments before the supreme court.  Also includes links to summaries and analysis of important Supreme Court decisions.

Cspan (Oral Arguments) http://www.c-span.org/courts/oralarguments.asp Links to recent oral arguments audio files, transcripts, background materials, and decisions of Supreme Court Decisions.   Also links to educational programs and materials from other branches of government.

Statutory & Legislative Materials 

US Code (Cornell's LII) http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/ Access via citation, browsing by title and section, search engine and popular name table.

US Code Search (FindLaw) http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes Access to keyword, citation, popular name and browsing.  Also links to list of amendments.

US Code Search (House of Rep.) http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml By House of Representatives Office of Law Revision Counsel.  Access by citation, text and concept searching.  Access to older versions of code (1988, 1994, 2000 and current code).  Includes links to code classification (amendment) and codification tables.

US Code Popular Name Table (Cornell's LII) http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/topn/ Index of the Popular Names of Acts in the US Code (e.g., "Digital Millennium Copyright Act").  Findlaw has a similar table at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casecode/uscodes/popularnames/.

US Statutes at Large (1789-1875) http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwsl.html Historical database of U.S. acts (in chronological rather than codified form).  Maintained by NARA.

Legislation & Legislative History (Thomas) http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.html Principle site for research federal legislative history.  Access to status reports, bills, public laws, resolutions, treaties, the Congressional Record, and committee reports.  Coverage is uneven but dates back to 93rd Congress.

Bills (Government Printing Office) http://www.gpoaccess.gov/bills/index.html Links to Bills, Public and Private Laws, Statutes at Large (most recent year only).

U.S. House of Representatives: Committee Offices http://www.house.gov/house/CommitteeWWW.shtml Links to committee websites, hearing schedules, reports and audio files.

U.S. Senate:  Committees  http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/committees/d_three_sections_with_teasers/committees_home.htm Links to committee websites, hearing schedules, reports and audio files.

Class. Tables & LSAs (Off. Law Rev. Counsel) http://uscode.house.gov/classification/tables.shtml Lists tables of code sections affective by legislative amendments as well as information on formal codification of the U.S. code.

Regulatory Materials

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/index.html GPO's site.  Coverage back to 1996.  Also links to Federal Register (the chronological record of regulations), the "Unified Agenda" (schedule for Regulatory changes and notices) and the "List of Sections Affected" by recent rule making.

CFR (Cornell's LII) http://cfr.law.cornell.edu/cfr Access by citation or by search table of contents or section headings.

CFR Search (FindLaw) http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/cfr.html Search by keyword or lists of federal agencies.  Links to Federal Register.

Fed. Register (GPO) http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html The chronological record of U.S. regulations.  Goes back to 1994.  Links to Unified Agenda, CFR, and List of Sections Affected.

Regulations.gov http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main Search regulations open for comment and materials submitted as comments.

Reg. Plan & Unified Agenda http://ciir.cs.umass.edu/ua/ Site that monitors regulatory developments and the Unified Agenda.

Moody's Basic Regulatory Sources   http://leep.lis.uiuc.edu/courses/lis424/regsources.html Not recently updated, but helpful site by prominent government documents librarian.

Constitution & Founding Documents

National Archives Experience: Charters of Freedom http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/charters.htm View high-resolution copies of Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence.

Founder's Constitution (U. Chicago Press) http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/ First class reference tool providing access to the U.S. constitution, Federalist Papers, and other documents of the Founding Fathers from the era.

Missouri Law http://www1.law.umkc.edu/library/bookmarks.htm#missouri UMKC Law Library's links to Missouri Law.

Kansas Law http://www1.law.umkc.edu/library/bookmarks.htm#kansas UMKC Law Library's links to Kansas Law.

Other State Law

Case Law, Courts & Trial Materials

Cornell LII http://www.law.cornell.edu/opinions.html Generally, just links to recent state supreme court and some appellate decisions.  Also links to court rules and web sites.

FindLaw http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/state.html Links to recent state supreme court and some appellate court decisions.

LexisOne (registration required but free) http://www.lexisone.com/legalresearch/lrfreecaselaw.html Last five years of state and federal cases (including all cases before U.S. Supreme Court).

LLRX Court Rules, Forms and Dockets http://www.llrx.com/courtrules Links to over 1400 sources for court rules, forms and dockets.

State Codes Legal & Judicial Ethics http://www.law.cornell.edu/ethics/listing.html Links to ethical standards for lawyers and judges.

Linder's Famous Trials (UMKC) http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/FTrials/ftrials.htm Provides in-depth information (briefs, historical documents, and analysis) of almost 50 trials in history, including trials of Jesus, Socrates, Scope's "Monkey" trials, Salem witchcraft trials, the Rosenberg espionage case, Mai Lai Courts Martial, "Mississippi Burning" trial, O.J. Simpson, and the impeachment of former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Amicus Brief Archive (Jurist) http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/amicus/index.htm Amicus or "friend of the court" brief archive of briefs filed by law professors in recent and a few historical cases.

Statutes & Legislation

By State (Cornell LII) http://www.law.cornell.edu/statutes.html#state Links to statures, select uniform codes, and fundamental constitutional provisions of all fifty states.

By Topic (Cornell LII) http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/state_statutes.html Topical index linking to state statutes on specific subjects.

FindLaw http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/#statelaw Links to statutes, cases, and regulations of all fifty states.

Uniform Laws (ALSO)   http://www.lawsource.com/also/usa.cgi?usm Comprehensive list of state uniform and model statutes by both topic and state.  Links to proposed model acts and legislative tracking of state adoption of various acts.

Uniform Law Comm.  http://www.nccusl.org/nccusl/DesktopDefault.aspx Official site for the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.  Lists uniform acts, drafts and legislation.  Organized  by topic and state. 

Bill Tracking - Fed. & State (LLRX)   http://www.llrx.com/columns/roundup28.htm Regularly updated site hosted by LLRX provides links to legislative sites for the fifty states.

Regulations & Administrative Codes 

By Jurisdiction (Cornell LII) http://www.law.cornell.edu/states/listing.html Listing by jurisdiction of state and U.S. Jurisdiction.  Follow links to find find regulations as well as constitutions, statutes and cases.

FindLaw  http://www.findlaw.com/casecode/#statelaw Similar to Cornell's site.

State Constitutions  http://www.findlaw.com/11stategov/indexconst.html Listing of links to state constitutions.

State Gov. Publications  http://www.library.uiuc.edu/doc/statelist/check/check.htm Comprehensive site linking to catalogs of government publications for 32 states. 

 

Other Resourcesther1.html">Other Resources
 

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© 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Paul D. Callister