You can also find annotated versions of the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions on Westlaw and Lexis Advance. Researching a section or clause of a constitution by using an annotated version is an efficient research strategy because the databases will provide relevant cases interpreting the Articles, sections, clauses, or amendments and will also link to various secondary sources discussing or analyzing the constitution.
You can find an annotated version of the U.S. Constitution within the United States Code Annotated (on Westlaw) or within the United States Code Service (on Lexis Advance).
You can find annotated versions of state constitutions within the state codes on both databases. On the Westlaw homepage, click on "State Materials," then select the relevant state you are researching. On the Lexis Advance homepage, click on the "State" tab, then select the relevant state you are researching.
Federal statutes are laws enacted by Congress. These statutes are first published individually as slip laws, then compiled into session laws (in the U.S. Statutes at Large) in chronological order. The session laws are then codified (organized by topic) in the United States Code. The United States Code is the official version of the code and is published every six years (last published in 2012), but supplements are published each year. When a statute is cited in a case or article, you will typically see a citation to the U.S. Code (e.g., 18 U.S.C. § 371 or 17 U.S.C. § 109).
There are two unofficial, yearly publications of the United States Code: United States Code Annotated (available on Westlaw) and United States Code Service (available on Lexis Advance). If you are trying to find cases interpreting a statute, use one of these resources because they contain case annotations.
For information on how to conduct a federal legislative history (i.e., how to understand the intent behind a law) and how to access older legislative materials, please see our research guide on Researching Federal Legislative History.
State statutes are laws enacted by the state legislature. A state generally has the state code available on its state legislature website, but you can also access annotated state codes through Westlaw or Lexis Advance. On the Westlaw homepage, click on "State Materials," then select the relevant state you are researching. On the Lexis Advance homepage, click on the "State" tab, then select the relevant state you are researching. It is more efficient to conduct research using an annotated state code because the databases will identify relevant cases and secondary sources that cite your statute in the annotations to the code.
In California, the preferred statutory compilations for citing statutes in court filings or law review articles are West's Annotated California Codes (available on Westlaw) or Deering's California Codes, Annotated (available on Lexis Advance). If you are researching the law of another state, check Bluebook Table 1 to identify the preferred statutory compilation.
A case is first published as a slip opinion, and then later published chronologically alongside other cases in a bound volume case reporter. Citations to cases are usually to the version of the case from a reporter, not to the slip opinion. Bluebook T1 provides guidance on the preferred reporters for citations.
To illustrate this process, let's look at a Supreme Court case: United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. 400 (2012).
Parts of a Case:
U.S. Supreme Court cases are preceded by a syllabus. A syllabus outlines and summarizes the decision, but is not written by the Court. When citing a case, you should cite text from the opinion itself, not the syllabus. When you retrieve a copy of a case from Westlaw or Lexis Advance, you will also see headnotes before the start of the opinion. The headnotes are editorial content written by Westlaw and Lexis editors, not the judge, so do not cite these.For more information on case reporters and parts of a case, please view the following screencast videos prepared by librarians at the Robert Crown Law Library.
Databases for Searching for Cases:
You can find the text of cases on various free or low-cost websites or databases, but the best databases to conduct case research are Westlaw and Lexis Advance. This is because both of these databases have reputable citators, which assist you in confirming the case is still "good law." A citator provides you with the subsequent history of the case as well as insight into how the case has been treated by other cases. Westlaw's citator is called KeyCite, while Lexis Advance's citator is called Shepard's. Before citing a case in a court filing or referring to it in court, make sure to KeyCite or Shepardize your case to ensure that it is still good law.
Statutes provide agencies with authority to issue regulations. An agency will issue a proposed rule, which is published in the Federal Register, and then the public can comment on the proposed rule. Comment periods are generally between 30-60 days, but vary in length. After the notice-and-comment period, the agency may publish a supplemental proposed rule for additional comments or may proceed with a final rule, also published in the Federal Register. The final rule is then codified (organized by subject) in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.). There are 50 subject matter titles in the Code of Federal Regulations, and each subject matter title is republished once a year.
States agencies issue state regulations, and the state rulemaking process generally mirrors the federal rulemaking process. For example, in California, the California Code of Regulations is the codification of the rules and regulations issued by California State agencies (similar to the Code of Federal Regulations). The California Regulatory Notice Register contains notices of proposed regulations or regulatory changes (similar to the Federal Register).
International agreements are another source of federal law in the United States. Treaties are international agreements that enter into force after two-thirds of the U.S. Senate gives its advice and consent. Executive agreements are international agreements brought into force on a constitutional basis other than with the advice and consent of the Senate (i.e., an agreement between the President of the United States and the head of government of another nation). Executive agreements are more informal and far more common than advice-and-consent treaties. Both treaties and executive agreements are binding under international law.
Official Sources of Treaties Where the United States Is a Party:
Sources for Identifying the Status of U.S. Treaties:
Legal Databases:Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law provide electronic access to a wide range of treatises and practice guides. Coverage varies depending on the publisher. You can also find law journal articles on Westlaw, Lexis Advance, and Bloomberg Law, but the HeinOnline Law Journal Library has the most comprehensive coverage of law journals, providing PDF copies of articles from over 2,200 law and law-related periodicals dating back to their date of inception.
SearchWorks (Library Catalog):
To find books and journal articles, type in the publication name into SearchWorks, our library catalog. For example, if you are looking for a copy of an article that was published in the Stanford Law Review, type in "Stanford Law Review" into SearchWorks instead of the title of the article. Our catalog will indicate whether the item is available through an electronic database by displaying a green "Online" button. Click on that button for links to databases that provide electronic access to this publication.
Black's Law Dictionary: Black's Law Dictionary is the most widely used law dictionary in the United States and will assist you with defining legal terms used in primary law and secondary legal materials.
Online Research Guides: Online research guides from our law library and other law libraries are free resources that will assist you with researching a wide range of topics. An easy way to find research guides is to conduct a Google search for "research guide" + [your topic]. For instance, you can conduct a search for copyright law research guide or administrative law research guide. It is a good idea to compare a few research guides on a particular topic because quality varies. You can also find the research guides prepared by the librarians at the Robert Crown Law Library here.
Print Research Guides: Our library collects research guides in print that provide more in-depth coverage than online research guides. To find these research guides, conduct a search on SearchWorks. For state law research, the Eyles aisle in the second floor reading room contains a set of print research guides with each book pertaining to conducting legal research in a specific state (e.g., California Legal Research, Washington Legal Research, etc.).
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