–Appendix – The Internet as a Legal Research Tool
General Legal Research
Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School (http://www.law.cornell.edu)
LII, a non-profit institute started by Cornell Law School in 1992, publishes electronic versions of core legal materials, both on the web and in other electronic products. LII is best known for its provision of U.S. Supreme Court opinions, searchable or browsable U.S. Code access, and availability of online state statutes by jurisdiction or topic. LII also includes access to Uniform Commercial Code sections in the version most widely adopted by states (https://www.law.cornell.edu/ucc), and a Uniform Commercial Code Locator linking to corresponding state statutes (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uniform/ucc). Wex (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex), a free legal dictionary and encyclopedia on the site, is collaboratively created and edited by legal experts.
USA.gov bills itself as the U.S. government’s official web portal and strives to provide all government information linked in one place. USA.gov searches across all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government websites, or allows browsing to specific government sites.
LexisNexis InfoPro: Zimmerman’s Research Guide (http://www.law.lexisnexis.com/infopro/zimmerman)
LexisNexis sponsors and hosts this annotated legal subject guide created by Andrew Zimmerman, a law librarian. This is an excellent and authoritative subject guide which is keyword searchable.
FindLaw Cases and Codes (http://caselaw.findlaw.com)
FindLaw offers full-text searching in certain federal and state jurisdictions. Other jurisdictions are searchable by case title and docket number only. FindLaw also archives summaries of opinions issued since September 2000 by the U.S. Supreme Court, all thirteen U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and select state supreme and appellate courts. These case summaries are searchable at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casesummary/index.html , and you can also get free case summary newsletter or RSS feeds. FindLaw also offers links to the U.S. Code and to state codes where available. FindLaw features state legal research pages linking to state sources for laws, regulations, and opinions.
Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com)
This search engine employs Google search technology to find relevant scholarly articles and patents using keyword searches. Google Scholar searches both full text articles and abstracts that are available for free online, so users should be aware that not all results will lead to full articles. Google Scholar “aims to rank documents the way researchers do, weighing the full text of each document, where it was published, who it was written by, as well as how often and how recently it has been cited in other scholarly literature.” Search tips are available at http://scholar.google.com/intl/en-US/scholar/help.html,
Google Scholar also allows case law searching, but court opinion coverage is limited to:
- state appellate and supreme courts from 1950;
- federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts from 1923; and
- the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791.
Tarlton Law Library at the University of Texas School of Law has a good guide on Google Scholar, http://tarltonguides.law.utexas.edu/content.php?pid=242166&sid=1999301. The guide discusses its strengths and weaknesses, such as “ confusing duplication of two versions of same opinion (one as slip opinion and other as reported)”.
Legal Scholarship Network (LSN) (http://www.ssrn.com/en/index.cfm/lsn/)
As part of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) (http://www.ssrn.com), LSN was developed and is maintained by legal scholars. LSN has a decent archive of legal scholarly articles, available either free or for a fee, depending on the source of contribution. Authors can share their articles with the world free, publishers and other institutions charge users a low fee for downloads of their listed articles. The vast majority of downloads of papers from the SSRN eLibrary are free.
Repositories of law review articles are available via Washington & Lee Law School’s Current Law Journal Content site (although no longer current—it was updated through May 2011), http://lawlib.wlu.edu/CLJC/, or through the ABA Legal Technology Resource Center, http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/free_journal_search.html.
Federal Statutes, Bills and Legislative History
The U.S. federal government has a vast array of legislative content if you know where to look. The depth and breadth of content can be overwhelming, so it is helpful to start with a good entry site like the Law Librarians’ Society of DC Legislative Sourcebook (http://www.llsdc.org/sourcebook).
The GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys) (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/) also offers access to the U.S. Code, as well as to slip law versions of public and private laws and to the U.S. Statutes at Large. While FDsys has a wealth of legislative content, the Library of Congress site (http://www.congress.gov) is the go-to place for legislative searching, featuring detailed information about bills and their legislative history, plus information on Congress members/committees and resources on how laws are made. The site also provides the U.S. Public Laws from the current Congress back through the 93rd Congress (1973-1974). You can set up Congressional Record alerts, alerts for bills sponsored or co-sponsored by a certain member of Congress, or alerts to track particular bills (https://www.congress.gov/help/alerts).
Statutes and Public/Private Laws
The print version of the U.S. Code is the only official version of the Code and is published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the House of Representatives every six years. This official version is supplemented on a regular basis. The Office of Law Revision Counsel offers a free online version of the U.S. Code (http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml). This site also offers classification tables showing where recently enacted laws will appear in the United States Code and which sections of the Code have been amended by those laws (http://uscode.house.gov/classification/tables.shtml)
A Popular Name Tool is also available (http://uscode.house.gov/popularnames/popularnames.htm#.xhtml), enabling you to search or browse the United States Code Table of Acts Cited by Popular Name.
The U.S. Code is also available from the GPO (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionUScode.action?collectionCode=USCODE), and Cornell’s Law School LII site (http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/) offers a browsable and searchable version.
Legislation & Legislative History
Legislative history at the federal level is compiled from bills, Congressional hearings, committee reports and the Congressional Record. Bills can be found on the main site at Congress.gov, referenced above.
Congressional hearings from 1985-86 (99th Congress) to the current Congress can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CHRG.
Committee reports from 1995-1996 can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CRPT, and can also be accessed from Congress.gov, https://www.congress.gov/congressional-reports.
Committee prints from 1991-1992 forward can be found at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CPRT.
The Library of Congress site (http://www.congress.gov) contains full text bills going back to the 93rd Congress, 1973-1974, and bill histories back to 1973. Congressional Record issues are available from 1995-present, https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record. The FDsys site also has Congressional Record access (1994-present), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=CREC.
State Statutes, Bills and Legislative History
State Law–50 States (http://www.law.cornell.edu/states/listing)
Cornell’s Legal Information Institute provides links to all 50 states’ laws, legislation, and regulations, where available. You can also click on a topic area of interest to view relevant state statutes (https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/state_statutes), or can use the Uniform Commercial Code Locator (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uniform/ucc) to find state statutes corresponding to Articles of the Uniform Commercial Code.
Maurer School of Law’s State Legislative History Research Guides Inventory (http://law.indiana.libguides.com/c.php?g=19813) provides an index of state legislatures and online legislative history research guides. The State Legislature Websites page hosted by The Library of Congress (http://thomas.loc.gov/home/state-legislatures.html) provides links to legislative resources for the 50 states and U.S. Territories.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (http://www.ncsl.org/) offers bill tracking, summaries, and analyses of state bills or state statutes in dozens of issue areas. The status of bills listed in most of these databases is updated every week.
Local Codes & Ordinances
Municode (http://www.municode.com/library) and Sterling Municipal Codes Online (http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/#codes) link to various city and county codes for searching and browsing. On the Sterling Codifiers site, there is a link to “Get Codes” in the upper right.
Federal Regulations and Agencies
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collectionCfr.action?collectionCode=CFR)
A facsimile of the print version. Search or browse the CFR by title and section.
Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR), (http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/ECFR?page=browse)
The Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (e-CFR) is a currently updated version of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). It is not an official legal edition of the CFR. The e-CFR is an editorial compilation of CFR material and Federal Register amendments produced by the National Archives and Records Administration’s Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and the Government Publishing Office. The OFR updates the material in the e-CFR on a daily basis. Current update status appears at the top of all e-CFR web pages
Federal Register (FR) (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=FR)
The Federal Register contains rule-making activity for the federal government including notices, proposed rules, and final rules which are then codified into the CFR. GPO’s FDsys posts the official version of the Federal Register from 1994-present. A daily email alert with the FR Table of Contents is also available.
A user-friendly version of The Federal Register (Federal Register 2.0) is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/. The Office of the Federal Register posts “this unofficial, HTML (XML-based) edition of the Federal Register to overcome the technical limitations of the official PDF edition and to demonstrate how an alternate version can effectively convey regulatory information to the public.” The site offers several ways to search or browse current and past issues, and links to related materials.
You can find, review, and submit comments on federal rules that are open for comment and published in the Federal Register using Regulations.gov. For more information on agencies’ regulatory activities, you can also check the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs site (http://www.reginfo.gov/public/jsp/Utilities/index.jsp) to view the Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan. The Unified Agenda and Regulatory Plan provide uniform reporting of data on regulatory and deregulatory actions under development throughout the Federal government, covering over 60 departments, agencies, and commissions.
USA.gov has links to Executive Departments and agencies of the executive branch (http://www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/Executive.shtml), and also has an A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies (http://www.usa.gov/directory/federal/). The University of North Texas offers a CyberCemetery (http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/), an “archive of government websites that have ceased operation (usually websites of defunct government agencies and commissions that have issued a final report).”
Federal Court Opinions, Forms, Rules and Dockets
Court Website Links from United States Courts website (http://www.uscourts.gov/about-federal-courts/federal-courts-public/court-website-links). Links to federal court websites. Individual courts generally have local rules and forms, judges’ policies and procedures, and PACER information. Some courts post opinions. The Court Website Links page also has the U.S. Federal Courts Circuit Map and a court locator searchable by zip code or city and state.
U.S. Supreme Court (http://www.supremecourtus.gov)
Access Supreme Court opinions, dockets, rules, and calendar information.
SCOTUSBlog (http://www.scotusblog.com) is also a good source of Supreme Court case information with case summaries, links to petitions and briefs as available, docket and calendar information, and commentary.
Findlaw–federal and select state court opinions (http://caselaw.findlaw.com)
FindLaw offers cases from the U.S. Supreme Court, all thirteen U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and select state supreme and appellate courts. Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com) also allows case law searching, with court opinion coverage limited to:
- state appellate and supreme courts from 1950;
- federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts from 1923; and
- the U.S. Supreme Court from 1791.
You can also check with your state or local bar association to see if they provide member access to Fastcase, Casemaker, or other legal research products.
May not be up-to-date, but a good place to check for links to federal and state court rules, forms, and dockets.
Legaldockets.com (http://legaldockets.com/) also compiles links to online state court docket information, and offers links to attorney lookup tools by state (http://legaldockets.com/attorney-lookup/).
JUSTIA allows for searching of federal case filings from U.S. District Courts and U.S. Courts of Appeal (https://dockets.justia.com/).
Collection of free legal forms with a number of forms adapted for state-specific use.
LexisNexis Communities Portal has free forms available with registration at (http://www.lexisnexis.com/lx1/store/catalog?action=rootFreeCategory).
International and Foreign Law Resources
Law Library of Congress–Foreign and International Law (http://www.loc.gov/law/help/foreign.php)
For country specific research, the Law Library of Congress has prepared individual guides for a selection of countries. Each country’s guide includes an introduction to the legal system, official sources of law, print resources, and web resources. LOC also has a Guide to Law Online (http://www.loc.gov/law/help/guide.php), an annotated guide to online sources of information on government and law prepared by the Law Library of Congress Public Services Division.
NYU Law School—Research Guides to Foreign and International Legal Databases
New York University offers a good LibGuides to Foreign Law by Jurisdiction (http://nyulaw.libguides.com/content.php?pid=637582), as well as a good international law research guide (http://nyulaw.libguides.com/international-law) that lists print and online sources for researching international law and selected topics of international law.
WashLaw—International and Regional Resource Links (http://www.washlaw.edu/forint/)
Provides a good list of international law by topic, and also offers links to law by jurisdiction.
Academic Law Libraries–Research Guides
Research guides prepared by law school librarians are often a good source for finding key resources on the law. The links below are to schools that provide comprehensive collections of research guides on a variety of legal topics. It may also be worth checking for research guides for a particular state, since they typically point to state-specific primary resources and provide guidance on legislative histories or access to agency materials.
Georgetown Law Library—Research Guides (https://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/research/guides/)
University of Washington—Gallagher Law Library—Legal Research Guides (https://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/guides.html)
Harvard Law School Library—Research Guides (http://guides.library.harvard.edu/law)
Social Media Resources
ABA Journal’s Blawg 100 (http://www.abajournal.com/blawg100)
ABA Journal ranks the top 100 law blogs (or “blawgs”) each year. They also have a directory of continually updated law blogs (http://www.abajournal.com/blawgs/). Law bloggers can apply for inclusion within the directory.
ABA Legal Technology Resource Center—Social Media (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/departments_offices/legal_technology_resources/resources/social_media.html)
The ABA provides a good resource guide for social media for lawyers. Includes articles on social media basics, legal and ethical issues, and on specific social media.