Tips

Internet Research Tips

Scribes Board Member Ann Taylor Schwing spends countless hours and energy writing the Scribes Tips. Thank you, Ann!

September 04, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 61: George Mason University Research Guides

George Mason University Law Library (http://www.law.gmu.edu/library/guides) provides excellent research guides by subject as follows:

 

  • Antitrust

  • Business Law

  • Communications Law

  • Corporate & Securities Law

  • Environmental Law

  • Federal Administrative Law

  • Federal Legislative History

  • Federal Primary Materials

  • Federal Tax Law

  • Forms and Drafting Resources

  • Intellectual Property

  • International Law

  • Journal Databases

  • Labor and Employment Law

  • Law and Economics

  • Legal History

  • Litigation

  • National Security Law

  • Newspapers, Magazines, and Other News Sources

  • Scholarly Writing & Spading

  • Virginia Legal Materials

August 21, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 60: Law Library of Congress

The Law Library of Congress website is located at http://www.loc.gov/law/. Unlike what may be your dry expectation, the website offers the Law Library blog, information sources divided into Indigenous | International | Nations | U.S. Federal | U.S. States & Territories, and a law librarian offering to help over e-mail with reference questions and challenging legal or legislative research. There is access to a wide range of digital collections and services, including the Statutes at Large and U.S. Treaties. Legal resources are also divided into the following topics:

 

  • Banking and Finance

  • Constitutional Issues

  • Corruption and Money Laundering

  • Education, Family, and Children's Rights

  • Elections

  • Government Spending

  • Government Systems

  • Healthcare, Safety, and Bioethics

  • Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship

  • Indigenous and Cultural Property

  • Intellectual Property Rights and Ownership

  • Military

  • Minority Rights

  • Plants, Animals, and the Environment

  • Privacy Rights and Ownership

  • Religion and the Law

  • War Crimes and Terrorism

 

There are a variety of finding tools and a web archive of more than 100 legal blawgs.

August 27, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 59: Harvard Law School Library Research Guides

The Harvard Law School Library has published over 130 research guides available online at http://guides.library.harvard.edu/law. These address specific categories of legal research such as administrative law, antitrust law, bankruptcy, company & industry research, elder law, employer research, evidence, federal legislative history, human rights, multiple international subjects, labor law, preemption check, tax law, uniform laws and model acts, and visualization tools. The depth of the guides varies: some provide practicing attorneys with a refresher, while others provide new information and sources.

July 24, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 58: George Mason University

Free legal research sites are organized and set out at the George Mason University website http://www.law.gmu.edu/library/freelegalresearch. The site provides, with multiple listings in most categories:

  • Search Engines

  • Free Internet Legal Research - Resources Available by Information Type

    • State Law

    • International and Foreign Law

    • Journal Articles

    • Dictionaries

    • Legal News and Blogs

    • Research Guides

  • Low Cost Databases

The sites are especially heavy in the federal realm, with some information on the searching and other capability of the individual sites.

July 10, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 57: Internal Revenue Service

The IRS has a complex website designed to meet the needs of ordinary taxpayers, corporations and partnerships, and those doing research: http://www.irs.gov/. The search tool is robust, so those who know the search terms may start there. Those with less certainty do well to start with Forms and Publications. Many publications are available in e-book format.

 

The site provides:

  • The codified collection of U.S. laws on income, estate and gift, employment and excise taxes, plus administrative and procedural provisions;

  • Regulations that interpret the tax laws, with links to various technical resources;

  • Rulings or determinations issued by the IRS, including Technical Advice, Memoranda, and Chief Counsel Advice;

  • Tax Tips on multiple subjects including adoption tax benefits, education tax credits, home mortgage debt cancellation, unemployment benefits; and

  • Fact Sheets, addressing many of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights provisions, health coverage exemptions, earned income tax credit, and identity theft.

June 26, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 56: Charitable Solicitation

Charities that solicit for funds outside their state of incorporation are typically required to register in those other states. A fee and copy of the Form 990 may be required. Annual satisfaction of this requirement can be a significant burden for charities that solicit in many states.

 

The Unified Registration Statement, http://www.multistatefiling.org/ provides a common application, accepted by all but three states, and any required supplementary forms. The site provides a checklist and a summary of regulations in the various states.

 

The National Association of State Charities Officials, http://www.nasconet.org/, is creating a Single Portal unified multistate charities registration website with a three-year pilot project, described at http://www.nasconet.org/urban-institute-selected-to-build-single-portal-website/. As an electronic form, this will be ideal, but it is not currently available.

June 12, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 55: Gateway Site

  • The Harvard Law School Library offers Free Legal Research Resources, providing descriptive information on multiple websites with links. The sites offer

1. Primary Federal Law: Selected resources for free access to U.S. federal cases, statutes, regulations and more.

 

2. Primary State Law: Selected resources for free access to state cases, statutes and regulations with advice on how to find free resources for other state and local materials.

 

3. Treaties: Find the text of U.S. and International treaties online.

 

4. Foreign & International Law: Find resources for getting started with foreign and international legal research, including primary documents and secondary sources.

 

5. Secondary Sources: Find a range of secondary sources and legal periodicals for free online.

 

6. Empirical Sources: Find freely available data sets with data on the U.S. and the rest of the world.

  • The descriptions in each of the six locations guide the reader to the couple of sites most likely to assist.

May 29, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 54: Writing Guidance for Judges

The Federal Judicial Center prepared a manual to help federal judges organize opinions 

and improve their opinion writing. Drawing on interviews with experienced judges, and

guided by a board of editors comprising judges, law professors, and writers, the manual 

offers advice on writing tailored to the needs of the federal judiciary.

  • A second edition of the manual is available here.

  • The original manual is out of print, but an electronic copy is available here.

  • A discussion of three aspects of opinion writing: preliminary considerations; the anatomy of the opinion; and peripheral matters such as citations, quotations, and the use of footnotes. Presented at a Seminar for Federal Appellate Judges sponsored by the Federal Judicial Center, March 11-14, 1975. Available here.

May 15, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 53:  Researching Judges

The most basic research is to place the judge's full name and general location into your search engine of choice. Try the same search in several other engines as each will produce some new information. If you hope to learn more, try one or more of the following:

 

  • Some courts offer biographies of their judges on their websites. These may be short listings of schools attended and employment, or more significant material may be available including articles in legal newspapers.

May 01, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 52:  Circuit Websites

Similar to the United States Supreme Court website, each of the circuit courts maintains a website with substantial valuable information. The circuit rules, filing information (CM/ECF), PACER, court decisions, the argument calendars, and docket for pending cases all make the court accessible. 

 

Courts vary in what they include. A photographic tour of the courthouse may be available or may not. It may be possible to sign up to receive an e-mail when an appeal of particular interest is decided, sparing the need to check daily. The court's mediation program and its rules will be explained if the court offers mediation. Pro bono materials are often available.

April 17, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 51:  U.S. Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court website, http://www.supremecourt.gov/, has much good information even if you do not have a case pending in the Court.

 

  • Full text of opinions back to 1991, with slip opinions for those not yet published in the official volumes

  • Substantial information about oral arguments, transcripts, recordings, and a visitor's guide to oral argument

  • Information on access to briefs on the merits

  • Supreme Court Rules and guides for counsel, circuit assignments of the Justices, admission to the bar of the Court

  • Press releases, speeches, the Chief Justice's Year-End Reports on the Federal Judiciary

  • Information about the Court and Justices

April 03, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 50:  Colors of Briefs

One reason to check local rules is to ensure that the covers on your briefs are in the right color. Courts, especially appellate courts, may impose requirements as to the color of the covers on briefs and, sometimes, other filings. For example, the North Dakota Supreme Court requires the cover of the appellant's brief to be blue; the appellee's red; an intervenor's or amicus curiae's green; a cross-appellee's and any reply brief gray. Covers of petitions for rehearing must be the same color as the petitioning party's principal brief. Alabama appellate courts require that, "[e]xcept for filings by parties acting pro se, the cover of the appellant's brief must be blue; the appellee's, red; an intervenor's or amicus curiae's, green; and any reply brief, gray." Covers in Colorado must be white. Federal appellate court covers must be appellant's brief, blue; the appellee's, red; an intervenor's or amicus curiae's, green; reply brief, grey; and any supplemental brief, tan.

 

Check the local rules for each court for information about color requirements for briefs and for all the other details that may be required. At least one court requires page numbers to appear in the upper right hand corner, not at the bottom, and returns improperly numbered documents for correction. Some courts are forgiving and permit an extra day or two to fix an error; others are not and see an error as a way to reduce their workload. Either way, an error is at least an embarrassment and may be a malpractice.

March 20, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 49:  Local Rules

Most, perhaps all, courts now have local rules. These may typically be found by searching for "local rules" and "____[jurisdiction]___," naming the locality or jurisdiction of interest. These local rules contain a variety of specific deadlines and scheduling requirements, general advice, and grounds for sanctions. Local rules have been adopted by the least of courts up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Assume that there are local rules in any new federal, state, or local court in which you must file papers or appear, read those rules, and obey them. Judges may treat out-of-town attorneys harshly, and the easiest way to receive harsh treatment is to disobey the local rules.

 

  • Rule 27 of the Rules for the 22nd, 207th, 274th, 421st, 428th, & 433rd District Courts of Texas provides: "No reading of newspapers, magazines and/or booksare [sic] allowed in the Courtroom, except for officers of the Court, inside the rail."

 

  • Rule 0.4 of the Clark County, Washington, Local Rules provides:

 

All attorneys appearing before the court or in chambers shall be attired in a manner that is consistent with the current generally prevailing and accepted business attire for professional men and women in the local community. Male attorneys shall wear coats and ties. Female attorneys shall wear dresses, pants suit or jacket and slacks. Any attire that is distracting or detrimental to the seriousness of the proceedings or disruptive of decorum should be avoided. The parties should wear clean and neat appearing clothing, and to avoid such items as sandals, clogs, sport togs, sweatshirts, tee-shirts, body-exposing garments or anything that contains emblazoned figures or words.

 

  • Southern District of New York Local Rule 1.6 provides:

 

It shall be the continuing duty of each attorney appearing in any civil or criminal case to bring promptly to the attention of the Court all facts which said attorney believes are relevant to a determination that said case and one or more pending civil or criminal cases should be heard by the same Judge, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of judicial effort. As soon as the attorney becomes aware of such relationship, said attorney shall notify the Judges to whom the cases have been assigned.

March 06, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 48:  More Internet Sites

In March 2014, Wendy Moore, the Acquisitions Librarian at the University of Georgia Law School Law Library, published Listicles of Legal Websites, available at http://digitalcommons.law.uga.edu/cle/2014/Schedule/2/ with a PowerPoint available at CLE March 24 2014 Listicles of Legal Websites.pptx.
 

Moore provides 52 websites, including legal sites, blogs, portals, databases, news sites and general websites, each with a descriptive explanation. Some are familiar, like Justia and Google Scholar. Others are new or nearly new to many who browse the Internet frequently. Court Listener enables the user to get alerts on specific cases, especially federal cases, as well as the text of nonprecedential decisions. Constitute gathers constitutions and their amendments from throughout the world. PacerPro makes it possible to search federal decisions and permits downloading for the Pacer fee or for free if the decision has already been downloaded. Mootus permits users to post a legal issue in controversy and receive ideas and arguments from attorneys and students who receive points based on the quality, frequency, and timeliness of their answers. An interesting collection of blogs includes one specifically for lawyers using the iPhone or iPad and another for those using Android devices.
 

It's well worth the time to read this article or listicle to identify a few new sites that can expand the range of materials in your quiver. 

February 20, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 47:  Internet Sites

Timothy Coggins published an excellent article in 2009 that continues to be very relevant and helpful today. Coggins, Legal, Factual and Other Internet Sites for Attorneys and Legal Professionals, 15 Rich. J.L. & Tech. 13 (2009), available at http://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1073&context=law-faculty-publications. He updated the article in 2012. Coggins, Finding Legal, Factual, and Other Information in a Digital World, 18 Rich. J. L. & Tech. 2 (2012), available at http://scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1078&context=law-faculty-publications

 

Coggins identifies general search engines as well as peculiarly legal engines, explaining often what types of inquiries are most suitably directed to which engines. In addition, he cites many articles by other scholars that identify and discuss these and other sites. State, federal and international sites are included, with primary and secondary materials. Some sites are largely duplicative, but an individual may find that one is more pleasing in its operation or contents. 

 

The articles also provide sites that may be sources for materials no longer available on the Internet generally and to discontinued web pages. An interesting collection of other sites includes one on current recalls, several dictionaries and thesauruses, four sources for verifying quotations, sites for locating individuals and businesses as well as internet and email addresses and business directories. There are also sites for statistics, public records, criminal records, death records, experts, newspapers, blogs and miscellany.

 

No one can hope to make regular use of this full buffet of websites, but incorporating even a few of these will expand your resources significantly.

February 06, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 46: Judicial Research

The Internet enables everyone to research routine and bizarre subjects. Normally a significant benefit, Internet research can become a major deficit when conducted by judges. When the results of judicial research are not tested in the courtroom by experts in the subject, judicial research may justify reversal, especially if there is timely objection.

 

One such case is Johnson v. United States, 780 F.2d 902, 910 (11th Cir. 1986), a Federal Tort Claims Act action in which the trial judge researched iron poisoning:


It is a matter of common knowledge that courts occasionally consult sources not in evidence, ranging anywhere from dictionaries to medical treatises. See, e.g., Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 129-162, 93 S. Ct. 705, 715-731, 35 L. Ed. 2d 147 (1973). A trial judge's findings are not necessarily tainted simply because he brings his "experience and knowledge to bear in assessing the evidence submitted at trial." Hersch v. United States, 719 F.2d 873, 879 (6th Cir. 1983). The trial judge may not, however, undertake an independent mission of finding facts "outside the record of a bench trial over which he [presides]." Price Brothers Co. v. Philadelphia Gear Corp., 629 F.2d 444, 447 (6th Cir. 1980). 

 

It was obvious at trial that the trial judge had done "outside research." The Government's failure to object during trial constitutes procedural default. In any event, the trial judge stated he did not rely on those outside sources in reaching his conclusions and this appellate court relies on those representations.


See Thornburg, The Lure of the Internet and Limits on Judicial Fact Research, 38 No. 4 Litigation 41, 45-46 (2012).

January 09, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 44: National Association of Secretaries of State

The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) website at http://www.nass.org/ has valuable links:

 

  • ways that different secretaries of state are combatting business identity theft;

  • corporate registration and UCC filing information in all 50 states;

  • licensing information on businesses in all 50 states;

  • voting registration information in all 50 states;

  • document authentication information and notary services in all states and the U.S. Government.

 

Also available is a Task Force Report on Emergency Preparedness for Elections along with links to relevant federal and state statutes and reports.

 

Under "Resources," one can find links to a variety of NASS surveys and reports, many addressing elections, but also on business entity formation and dissolution, fraudulent UCC filings, and the like.

December 26, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 43:  It Doesn't Exist

Several times, I've sent law students and new associates to locate a case or law review article that I knew existed and described, only to be told that a search had been made and no such item existed. The only answer is — not so fast.

 

On one occasion, the individual had used words for the computer search that stated her understanding of my statement of what was sought. She used some of my words along with synonyms for other words I had given her. Enough of the words were changed that the search results did not capture the specific item I sought.

 

Twice, although I had given the approximate years of publication (1973-1975), the individuals searched in the LEXIS databank that did not extend back to the years the article was published. Their reaction each time was that the article absolutely did not exist. It could not exist, they explained, because they had searched the specific law review for all the possible search terms. They did not question their methods because they were certain they were right.

 

Always question research results! Especially when searches do not include what is expected or reasonable, because

 

  • Searches may be flawed in the nature of the words selected; this reason may be especially likely for older court decisions;

  • Searches may be too complex or may include too many terms;

  • Searches may be in the wrong database; Alabama courts are only one click away from Alaska courts;

  • Desired documents may not be included in the database because they are not "legal" or they are not published in a legal journal;

  • Some law reviews are omitted from the usual databases, so their articles cannot appear in the search results;

  • Even larger databases do not contain all articles from all journals starting with volume 1.

December 12, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 42:  Federal Electronic Documents

November 28, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 41:  Legal Blogs

A variety of legal blogs will amuse and interest anyone with the time to read them.  The following list has collections of multiple blogs with explanatory material, organization by topic and the like.

 

 

Some individual blogs worth highlighting include:

 

November 14, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 40:  Internet Legal Research Group

The Internet Legal Research Group (ILRG) www.ilrg.com/describes itself as a categorized index of more than 4000 select web sites in 238 nations, islands, and territories, as well as thousands of locally stored web pages, legal forms, and downloadable files. The principal categories are

 

  • Legal profession (including a legal-forms archive and indexes to sources for federal, state, and corporate forms)

  • Academia (including law-school course outlines and links to law reviews)

  • Legal research

Please reload

October 31, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 39:  National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) 

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) offers a collection of research reports on a wide range of topics that can be sorted alphabetically, by subject, or by date. 

 

http://www.nascio.org/publications/researchBriefsSubject2.cfm?category=27

 

Accessibility
Authentication
Awards
Best Practices
Broadband
Budget, Finance & Funding
Business Case Development
Business Continuity
Consolidation
Customer Service
Digital Government
Disaster Recovery
E-Records
Economic Development
Enterprise Architecture
Enterprise Infrastructure
Federal Legislation with State IT Implications
Geographic Information Systems
Governance
Health Information Technology

Information Sharing
Innovation
Integrated Justice
Intergovernmental Collaboration
Interoperability
Mobile Technology
Organization & Management
Privacy
Procurement
Project Management
Project/Portfolio Management
Records Management/E-Records
Security
Shared Services
Strategic Planning
Technology Workforce
Telecommunications
Transition
Wireless

October 17, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 38:  National Center for State Courts

The National Center for State Courts has a searchable digital collection of materials on a variety of court operations and functions: http://ncsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/. The materials may be browsed or searched. When browsing, start at the end for the more recent documents.

 

  • Access & Fairness

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

  • Appellate

  • Children, Families & Elders

  • Civil

  • Court Management

  • Court Community

  • Courthouse Facilities

  • Criminal

  • Federal Relations

  • Financial

  • Human Resources

  • Judicial Officers

  • Jury

  • Legal Services

  • Media

  • Problem Solving Courts

  • Special Jurisdiction

  • Technology

October 03, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 37:  Law Library of Congress Legal Topics

The Law Library of Congress makes available legal commentary and recommended resources on the a number of topics: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/current-topics.php.  The following legal topics and additional ones are available now, in the early fall 2014, and each provides the date it was prepared and the date of any updates (typically 2009 to 2014).

 

  • Banking and Finance

 

France: New Law on Banking and Financial Regulation

Regulation of Bitcoin in Selected Jurisdictions

 

  • Constitutional Issues

 

Egypt: Legal Framework for Arbitration; Egypt: Mohammed Morsi Trial

Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy

Habeas Corpus Rights

The Impact of Foreign Law on Domestic Judgments

Iraq: Legal History and Traditions;  Iraq: Saddam Hussein Trial

Israel: 2013 Government Composition and Coalition Agreements

Japan: Legal Responses to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011

The Parot Doctrine and the European Court of Human Rights

United States: The Constitution; United States: Supreme Court Nominations

 

  • Corruption and Money Laundering

 

Antigua and Barbuda: History of Corruption and the Stanford Case

United Kingdom: Bribery Act 2010 - Anti-Corruption Legislation with Significant Jurisdictional Reach

 

  • Education, Family, and Children's Rights

 

The Education of Non-Native Language Speaking Children

Intercountry Adoption

Laws on Children Residing with Parents in Prison

 

  • Elections

 

  • Government Spending

 

Bond Requirements in a Procurement Protest Procedure

National Funding of Road Infrastructure

 

  • Government Systems

 

  • Healthcare, Safety, and Bioethics

 

Bioethics Legislation in Selected Countries

Child Restraint and Seatbelt Regulations

 

  • Immigration, Nationality, and Citizenship

 

Citizenship Pathways and Border Protection

Family Reunification Laws

 

  • Indigenous and Cultural Property

 

Preservation of Historical Cemeteries

 

  • Intellectual Property Rights and Ownership

 

  • Military

 

Constitutional Provisions on Women's Equality

 

  • Minority Rights

 

  • Plants, Animals, and the Environment

 

Restrictions on Genetically Modified Organisms

 

  • Privacy Rights and Ownership

 

  • Religion and the Law

 

Laws Criminalizing Apostasy in Selected Jurisdictions

 

  • War Crimes and Terrorism

 

Crimes Against Humanity 

September 19, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 36:  Law Library of Congress Guide to Law Online

The Law Library of Congress Public Services Division has prepared a Guide to Law Online that is an annotated guide to sources of information on government and law available online. The Guide includes selected links to useful and reliable sites for legal information that are updated fairly often. The Guide operates largely as a starting place. To visit its home page, go to: http://www.loc.gov/law/help/guide.php.


The Guide is an annotated compendium of Internet links and a portal of Internet sources likely to be of interest to legal researchers. Although the Guide is selective, the Law Library of Congress does not endorse the sites. Emphasis is placed on sites offering the full texts of laws, regulations, and court decisions, along with commentary from lawyers writing primarily for other lawyers. Materials related to law and government written by or for lay persons also have been included, as have government sites providing general information.


 The Guide is used by selecting one of the following links:

 

 

The U.S. States' link brings one to a listing of potentially valuable links including, for example, http://law.indiana.libguides.com/content.php?pid=383443&sid=3145243, which is an index of state legislatures and online legislative history research guides for all 50 states.

 

 

Investigating this vast body of materials will take some time, but almost any attorney will find some links that become favorites.

September 02, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 35:  Maps

There are many circumstances in which one may need a map of a particular location at or about a specific earlier date or series of dates. There are services such as Google Earth that provide current or relatively current maps and aerial photographs, and there are also Internet sites that collect older maps and aerial photographs.

 

  • The Library of Congress Map Collections gathers a variety of general maps and maps of cities and towns, conservation and environment, discovery and exploration, cultural landscapes, military battles and campaigns, transportation and communication, places in history, and places in the news. The maps can be searched by location, creator, subject, keyword, geographical location index, and title. http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/gmdhtml/gmdhome.html

 

A Google search for "map collections" or "aerial photography collections" will produce many options. Start with ones that are nearby or large, or include the name of the place, river, or other feature to focus your search.

 

 

Talk to the library or other source of the maps to identify the information needed for judicial notice of the maps that you need. An affidavit or declaration of the custodian of the maps may be required establishing the facts for judicial notice.

August 19, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 34:  State Legislative History

Not too many years ago, locating and collecting the relevant state legislative history on a particular law was a difficult matter. Now, substantial information is available on the Internet, varying to some degree on the specific state at issue. There are a variety of sources, and different ones should be checked for ease of use and nature of available information before settling on one for principal use.

 

Biddle Law Library at the University of Pennsylvania Law School provides explanatory material for each state. https://www.law.upenn.edu/library/research/guides/state-legislative-history.php

 

Pace Law Library provides links to code, legislative service, state library, and other sources in all 50 states. http://libraryguides.law.pace.edu/content.php?pid=113545&sid=892964 as well as many other links.

 

The Maurer School of Law at Indiana University has an index of state legislatures and online legislative history research guides for all 50 states, along with other valuable information. http://law.indiana.libguides.com/content.php?pid=383443&sid=3145243

 

 

A Google search for "state legislative history" will provide links to sources for history in specific states.

August 05, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 33:  Information Pertinent to Litigation Participants

Google and Google Scholar can provide a wealth of information about parties, attorneys, judges, fact and expert witnesses, and others involved in a lawsuit. Search in both by name, adding geographic or biographic information as necessary for names that are more common, to locate information on:

 

  • cases in which they have been involved, often briefs and decisions filed with the court, news articles about the cases, quotations by these individuals that are revealing as to their ideas and temperament;

  • articles and other writings they have created that may reveal their thinking on relevant subjects, changes in their thinking over time, reactions to their writings by others;

  •  personal history that may help explain attitudes and reactions revealed in the proceedings;

  • possible conflicts of interest that may not have been revealed in the proceedings but which need to be considered. What to do with this information is another matter, depending on the circumstances, requiring thoughtful consideration of the professional conduct rules;

  • grounds for impeachment of witnesses based on their prior writings and quotations of them from available sources; and

  • information about other similar lawsuits, which may lead to attorneys who can be allies willing to share information and briefing, and documents filed in those lawsuits. The affidavit filed by the opposing party or expert in a different lawsuit may contain golden admissions. 

July 22, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 32:  Legislative Histories 

Legislative histories for federal laws are much more available for current and especially for past legislation than the histories of most state laws. See http://www.loc.gov/law/help/leghist.php.

 

U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Library Staff have compiled legislative histories that were originally researched, collected, and bound as paper volumes by DOJ librarians and made available only to DOJ employees. The histories have since been digitized and are available for general use. Legislative histories are composed of the most important components for the following laws and include some, or all, of the U.S. Public Law; House and Senate Documents; House, Senate, and Conference Reports; House and Senate Committee Hearings; Congressional Debates (Congressional Record); related Bills; and Presidential Signing Statements.

July 08, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 31:  Department of Justice Reports and Publications 

The U.S. Department of Justice has made a wide range of its reports and publications available on the DOJ website. These can be located alphabetically or searched. Some are annual reports, while others are specific subject-matter reports. Prepared congressional testimony may be available with the reports.

 

For example, anyone negotiating a tax dispute would be interested in the Tax Division Settlement Reference Manual, April 2009. There are handbooks for Chapter 7, 12, and 13 Trustees; a guide on How to File a Title III (ADA) ComplaintThe Fingerprint Sourcebook; and an Immigration Judge Benchbook. Personal-injury attorneys may be interested in Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities, November 2007, and several reports on tort verdicts. There are many materials on statistical matters.

 

These and the substantial other materials may be interesting simply as a general matter, may be suitable to give to an expert or use to question an opponent's expert, or may support factual findings directly through judicial notice.

June 24, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 30:  A Catalog of Catalogs

CataLaw describes itself as "the catalog of catalogs of worldwide law on the Internet. It aids legal research by arranging all indexes of law and government into a uniform, universal, and unique metaindex." The user can select a topic (e.g., banking law, immigration law), a region (e.g., Africa, Pacific, U.S. Courts, U.S. State, and Local), or an extra (e.g., Legal Periodicals), and then run Google searches.

June 10, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 29:  Constitutional Research

Anyone drafting a constitution or researching existing constitutions for those with similar provisions is in luck. There is a searchable database of 189 constitutions from around the world now online. https://www.constituteproject.org/#/

    

Constitutional scholars Zachary Elkins of the University of Texas, Tom Ginsburg of the University of Chicago Law School, and James Melton of University College London created the database after receiving a grant from Google Ideas. See http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/new_website_provides_searchable_database_of_constitutions/

May 27, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 28:  Alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw

A variety of alternatives to Lexis and Westlaw exist. Just as Lexis and Westlaw differ in what they offer and how they offer it, the alternatives differ in a variety of ways. Some are free or substantially less expensive, but the savings come at a cost in that the alternatives do not consistently offer the most accurate version of the document and give little warning that a more accurate version may exist. When reconsideration is granted in a case on appeal, for example, the alternative site may continue to provide the original decision. The danger is obvious. Nevertheless, an attorney may find it convenient to use an alternative service at home and to check the cases at the office. As long as the risk is known and avoided, the alternative sites may be worth using.

 

  • Alyssa Altshuler provides a 2001 Overview of Five Internet Legal Research Alternatives to Westlaw and LexisNexis, specifically Loislaw, NationalLawLibrary, Quicklaw America, theLaw.net, and VersusLaw6.

  • Google Scholar offers simple searching capability and access to many law journals and many court decisions. 

  • The official web sites of the U.S. Supreme Court, the various Circuits, and state appellate courts include the latest slip opinions and full opinions back to 1991, for the Supreme Court, along with docket information, rules, merits briefs, orders, and other materials.

  • Findlaw for Legal Professionals provides cases and codes on West's portal for freely available federal and state case law including Supreme Court cases since 1893 and recent federal circuit and state appellate case law. Cases may be searched, but older cases are not available.

  • LexisONE Community - Lexis offers a freely available case law database including Supreme Court opinions from 1781 to present and the last 10 years of select federal and state case law. More coverage may be available in some states. Users are required to register. Those who use the American Law Sources Online link to LexisONE for cases.

  • Justia provides freely available searchable database of all U.S. Supreme Court Opinions, all U.S. Federal Appellate cases since 1950, select Federal District Court opinions, and some state materials.

  • Global Legal Resources offers links that access cases, statutes, articles, and other materials. The articles are not law-review articles but law firm publications on various topics.  Search for articles by your opponent's firm.

  • The Public Library of Law is another source of freely available federal case law with all Supreme Court opinions, some lower federal court materials from 1950 to the present, and state court opinions starting in 1997.  It links to Fastcase for additional material.

April 29, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 26:  Quotations

Sometimes the right quotation can draw the reader into a brief or document. The Internet offers a variety of excellent sources for finding quotations and for checking their accuracy.

 

 

An Internet search for "quotations" will provide many more sites. A search for "legal quotations" produces information on many books one might buy.


A few quotations go a long way. It's typically better to use none than to overdo. Even so, the right quote in the right place can add a nice flair to a written piece.

April 15, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 25: Scout Pending Bills

Scout is the creation of the Sunlight Foundation. The user can search for a simple phrase or do an advanced search on the following:

 

  • Bills pending in Congress

  • Federal Regulations

  • Court opinions (federal only)

  • Speeches in Congress

  • Oversight reports (federal only)

  • State bills

  • All of the above

 

Results appear in reverse chronological order with links. There is also a tutorial to assist.

 

Scout allows anyone to subscribe to customized email or text alerts on what Congress is doing around an issue or a specific bill, as well as bills in the state legislatures and federal regulations. You can also add external RSS feeds to complement a Scout subscription, such as press releases from a member of Congress or an issue-based blog.

 

Anyone can create a collection of Scout alerts around a topic, for personal organization, or to make it easy for others to easily follow a whole topic at once.

 

Researchers can use Scout to see when Congress talks about an issue over time. Members of the media can use Scout to track when legislation important to their beat moves ahead in Congress or in state houses. Non-profits can use Scout as a tool to keep tabs on how federal and state lawmakers are making policy around a specific issue.

 

There seem to be a few kinks for the site to get worked out in the daily alerts, but searching is available now.

April 01, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 24: Lexology     

Larger law firms commonly publish articles on their areas of expertise and interest, for distribution to clients and to others who may become clients (or referrals for clients). These articles seek to present the law firm in the best light, so they often contain very good statements of the law (biased favorably to the firm's clients in some instances).  Lexology makes many such articles readily available by keyword, jurisdiction, frequency of reading, and other filters.

 

Those who sign in to Lexology may sign up to receive e-mail delivery of articles fitting one or more of the desired categories on a regular basis.

March 18, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 23: Legal Dictionaries   

A variety of legal dictionaries are available on the Internet.

 

 

Before citing a legal dictionary to a court, it makes sense to search that court's recent decisions to identify which dictionaries the court has cited. If a judge has a strong preference, it will show up in a search for "dictionary," and you can then use that knowledge to your advantage.

March 04, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 22:  Paralegal Ethics   

A variety of sites focus on paralegal ethics. Many are proprietary and password controlled for use by students in classes using particular books, but some are open.

 

February 18, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 21:  Legal Ethics   

Substantial information on legal ethics is available on the Internet. Cornell University Law School provides an American Legal Ethics Library with information from all 50 States and the ABA. The information is accessible by jurisdiction and by topic. There is also a collection of material on multidisciplinary practice.

 

Other Internet materials on ethics include:

 

  • http://legalethics.com/, which focuses on ethical issues associated with use of technology by legal professionals.    

  • http://www.freivogelonconflicts.com/ described as "A Guide to Conflicts of Interest for Lawyers," which gathers material into multiple topics such as Co-Counsel/Common Interest, Corporate Families, Enjoining Conflicts, Investing in Clients/Stock for Fees, Lawyers Representing Lawyers.     

  • http://www.law.georgetown.edu/library/research/guides/legal_ethics.cfm, a Legal Ethics Research Guide offered by Georgetown Law Library. Many of the links are to Lexis and Westlaw, but this web site also offers an extensive list of available resources, and some Internet links.    

  • Most states have websites specific to legal ethics issues in the specific state. A search for legal ethics or ethics and the state will bring these quickly to hand.

  • Individual federal courts may also have rules governing lawyers practicing in the court. For example, the Seventh Circuit has Standards for Professional Conduct that govern "Lawyers' Duties to Other Counsel," "Lawyers' Duties to the Court," and the Courts' "Duties to Lawyers."

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February 04, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 20:  Information Pertinent to Litigation Participants 

Google and Google Scholar can provide a wealth of information about parties, attorneys, judges, fact and expert witnesses, and others involved in a lawsuit. Search in both by name, adding geographic or biographic information as necessary for names that are more common, to locate information on

 

  • cases in which they have been involved, often briefs and decisions filed with the court, news articles about the cases, quotations by these individuals that are revealing as to their ideas and temperament; 

  • articles and other writings they have created that may reveal their thinking on relevant subjects, changes in their thinking over time, reactions to their writings by others;

  • personal history that may help explain attitudes and reactions revealed in the proceedings;

  • possible conflicts of interest that may not have been revealed in the proceedings but which need to be considered. What to do with this information is another matter, depending on the circumstances, requiring thoughtful consideration of the professional conduct rules;

  • grounds for impeachment of witnesses based on their prior writings and quotations of them from available sources; and

  • information about other similar lawsuits, which may lead to attorneys who can be allies willing to share information and briefing, and documents filed in those lawsuits. The affidavit filed by the opposing party or expert in a different lawsuit may contain golden admissions.

January 21, 2014

Internet Research Tip No. 17:  A Catalog of Catalogs

http://www.catalaw.com/ describes itself as "the catalog of catalogs of worldwide law on the Internet. It aids legal research by arranging all indexes of law and government into a uniform, universal and unique metaindex." The user can select a topic (e.g., banking law, immigration law), a region (e.g., Africa, Pacific, U.S. Courts, U.S. State and Local) or an extra (e.g., Legal Periodicals) and then run Google searches.

November 19, 2013

Internet Research Tip No. 15:  Economic Data

You can find substantial economic data at multiple Internet sites. 

 

November 29, 2013

Internet Research Tip No. 14:  Ask BILL  

The Library of the Seventh Circuit provides "Ask BILL-The Best Internet Law Library." The library consists of links to many other libraries.

November 12, 2013

Internet Research Tip No. 13:  Investigatory Links

The Minnesota Coroners' & Medical Examiners' Association website provides links for all sorts of investigators. These include associations, clearinghouses, consumer protection sites, criminal justice information and resources, directories and search engines, GIS/mapping sources, grants and grant resources, intelligence and counterintelligence, investigative resources, federal agencies involved in legal matters, publications, statistics, and technical assistance providers related to technology. Some are government sites, others private.

 

Another site of interest is the US General Accounting Office, Office of Special Investigations, Investigators' Guide to Sources of Information. Although published in 1997, this guide continues to offer significant valuable information. For example, the guide identifies many public officials at local, state, and federal government levels and sets out the kinds of information each may be able to provide. This information can save many false starts. The guide also identifies many directories with details on their contents.

 

A private website maintained by Investigative Research Specialists, LLC, provides a collection of links from the 4th edition of The Opposition Research Handbook: A Guide to Political Investigations.

 

These include investigative tools (searching the Amazon wish list by name, an e-mail tracing tutorial, criminal records retrieval, property assessment databases, internet archive, and dozens more), blog searching, business information sources (10k wizard, resident agent information, federal procurement excluded parties list), collaborative resources, corporations, federal resources (copyright search, vessel database, military records, patents, form 990s, trademarks), FOIA resources, foreign corporations, fraud (Quackwatch, Elder Angels), Internet searching (dozens of search engines and tools), media, political research, social network searching, state resources, web monitoring and clipping services.

October 29, 2013

Internet Research Tip No. 11:  Court Forms

If you need court forms for a court you've never been to before, and the forms are not on the court's own website, try U.S. Court Forms. This site offers as close to idiot proof a system for locating a needed form as is likely to exist. A pro hac vice form for a federal court in Texas, a writ of removal and possession for Polk County, Iowa, a redaction request for the Eastern District of California, you can find them all.

October 15, 2013