Legal Research on the Web: Best of the Breed
LEGAL PORTALS, DIRECTORIES AND META SITES
Legal Information Institute @ Cornell Law School (www.law.cornell.edu)
LII is a non-profit institute operated by Cornell Law School and started in 1992 with a mission to carry out applied research on the use of digital information technology in the distribution of legal information, the delivery of legal education, and the practice of law. LII is best known for its clearinghouse of statutes from most states, searchable US Code and US Supreme Court opinions. Most content on LII can be found by searching from it’s home page or clicking on the left hand navigation bar to link to its content organized by jurisdiction and topic.
USA.gov FKA FirstGov (www.usa.gov)
Originally launched as FirstGov, a name change in January 2007 lead to the creation of USA.gov. This resource is described as the US Government’s official information portal and strives to provide all government information linked in one place.
LexisNexis InfoPro: Zimmerman’s Research Guide (www.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 Case Law(www.findlaw.com/casecode)
FindLaw offers full text searching in Federal and California State jurisdictions at the above link. Other state cases 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 Federal Circuit Courts, the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the Texas Supreme Court and Criminal Court of Appeal, and the New York Court of Appeals, these case summaries are also searchable at http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/casesummary/index.html.
Public Library of Law/Fastcase (http://www.plol.org/Pages/Search.aspx)
A newer player on the scene, PLoL was launched in 2008 with mostly free content. PLoL also offers fee based subscriptions for enhanced searching, free registration is required and primary law materials are included.
Google Scholar (http://scholar.google.com)
This search engine employs the Google algorithm to find relevant scholarly articles 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
Legal Scholarship Network (LSN) (http://www.ssrn.com/lsn/index.html)
FEDERAL STATUTES, BILLS AND LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
The US 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 its helpful to start with a good entry site like the Law Librarians’ Society of DC Legislative Sourcebook http://www.llsdc.org/sourcebook/ or Cornell Law School LII http://www.law.cornell.edu which has a useful site for searching the US Code and Code of Federal Regulations or the GPO Access’ Legislative Branch Resource page at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/legislative.html . This site is helpful in locating useful databases for tracking the legislative process and learning more about it. Other highlights of the site include:
The GPO also offers a free email alerting service for notification of new public and private laws. While GPO Access has a wealth of legislative content, the Library Congress’ Thomas site is the go to place for legislative searching with detailed information about bills, their legislative history and a link to the US code http://thomas.loc.gov . Thomas provides the US Public Laws from the current Congress back through the 93rd Congress (1973-1974).
STATUTES AND PUBLIC/PRIVATE LAWS
The print version of the US Code is the only official version 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 USC at http://uscode.house.gov/search/criteria.shtml It is also available from the GPO at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html .
Further, Cornell’s Law School LII site at http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode offers a searchable version.
LEGISLATION AND 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 Thomas referenced above. Congressional hearings from 1995-96 (104th Congress) to the current Congress at http://www.gopaccess.gov/chearings/index.html . Committee reports can be found for the same period at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/serialset/creports/index.html and committee prints can be found at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cprints/index.html .
The Library of Congress Thomas site http://thomas.loc.gov contains the full text of bills back to 1989 and bill histories to 1973.
STATES STATUTES, BILLS AND LEGISLATIVE HISTORY
State Law 50 States at: http://www.law.cornell.edu/states/index.html
Cornell’s Legal Information Institute provides links to all 50 states law, legislation and regulations where available. Click on the topic area of interest to view the applicable uniform laws and jurisdictions that have adopted them.
LOCAL CODES & ORDINANCES
City and County Codes list Nationwide from Seattle Public Library http://www.spl.org/default.asp?pageID=collection_municodes
This page provides Links to city and county codes available for unrestricted searching on the Internet.
FEDERAL REGULATIONS AND AGENCIES
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) at http://www.gpoaccess.gov/cfr/index.html
A facsimile of the print version. Search or browse the CFR by title and section.
Federal Register (FR) at: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/
The FR contains rulemaking activity for the federal government including notices, proposed rules and final rules which are then codified into the CFR, daily email alert on TOC also available.
FEDERAL COURT OPINIONS, FORMS, RULES AND DOCKETS
Federal Judiciary list of Courts at: http://www.uscourts.gov/links.html
Links to federal courts for most appellate and some district courts. Select the jurisdiction and look for OPINIONS link on the court’s main page.
US Supreme Court at: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
Access dockets and briefs.
Federal court opinions at: http://www.findlaw.com/casecode
U.S. Supreme Court, all thirteen Federal Circuit Courts, the California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal, the Texas Supreme Court and Criminal Court of Appeal, and the New York Court of Appeals.