Tips

Internet Research Tips

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

April 03, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 128: Meta Search Engines

Some search engines search other search engines instead of the web directly. Two of these are http://www.dogpile.com/ and https://www.metacrawler.com/. These meta search engines are initially daunting because there is little more than a box awaiting entry of search terms. But we've been putting search terms into Westlaw and Lexis for years. The large collection of materials will include some that would have appeared with a Google search and others that are new. 

March 20, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 127: Harvard Free Legal Research Resources

The Harvard Law School Library provides a guide with links to free Internet Legal Research Resources. The links access state, federal, and international cases and materials with explanations for each link as to what it can provide: https://guides.library.harvard.edu/free. Secondary sources and empirical data or statistics round out the materials. This wonderful collection is updated regularly. 

March 06, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 126: Research Guides

New York Law School offers 22 research guides online. These cover, for example, Bankruptcy Law Research, Legal Ethics, and Tax Research. Others include Books and Films on Law and Law School, Guide to Government Information, and materials that don't seem like research guides although these are interesting to have. 

February 20, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 125: Blogs

The ABA Journal keeps track of its best 100 blogs and provides links and descriptions of content at http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/best_law_blogs_web_100.  

February 06, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 124: bepress Legal Repository

The bepress Legal Repository provides drafts in progress and pre-prints from top law schools at http://law.bepress.com/. One can browse or search by institution, author, and subject; and check the all-time top 10 downloads and the 20 most recent additions. Although many subjects are included, law is by far the largest. For example, 12,880 works are on environmental law.  

January 23, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 123: "Fun & Interesting Sites for Lawyers"

The Oklahoma Bar Association has gathered "Fun & Interesting Sites for Lawyers" at http://www.okbar.org/members/LegalResearch/FunStuff.aspx. This site offers links for

  • online manuals for appliances, home and office devices;

  • geographical names (all streams named after a famous person, links for maps and aerial photographs;

  • rules for all sorts of games, sports and activities; and

  • information on ensuring that pets are cared for after your death.

January 09, 2018

Internet Research Tip No. 122: Visual Dictionaries and Thesauri

A modest number of books provide visual depictions of definitions or synonyms.  These may be especially valuable when English is a second language, but they can readily assist anyone who has somehow become confused about a word or series of words.  The following provide only a sampling, as many of these are available on the Internet.

December 26, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 121: Thesauri

Older attorneys and judges often grew up with only a single thesaurus, Better than nothing, it had the bias of the relatively few individuals who created it and often contained words that were on the brink of being obsolete.

 

Today, a wide variety of thesauri exist, in hard copy and on the Internet.

 

This list barely scratches the surface, and writers should sample the available thesauri for the ones that are intuitive and suitable for easy use.

December 12, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 120: Weather Statistics

Clients and attorneys occasionally need weather statistics, usually for watersheds, regions, states or municipalities. Many forms of statistics are available on the Internet. Official government information is most likely to be admitted and most likely to be suitable for judicial notice. The gold standard is the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), previously the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation's climate and historical weather data and information. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/ The website provides access to ocean carbon data, a drought monitor, satellite data, weather balloon data, and so on. Quick links make readily available local to global climate data, maps, precipitation, wind data, and substantial other information. There may be a charge, depending on the information sought.

 

International information varies as some countries are diligent while others appear not to place whatever information is collected on the Internet.

November 28, 2017

​Internet Research Tip No. 119: Contractor Licensing Requirements Online

All or almost all states have requirements for building or construction contractors to be licensed. The requirements vary widely, based often on the dollar value of the job. License requirements may be enforced by forbidding the unlicensed contractor to sue, so it is always valuable to check the status of your client or opponent.

 

The states vary significantly, and laws are amended with some frequency, so it is best to get an overview and then focus on the laws of the particular state of interest. States may leave regulation of certain contractors to the county or city.

November 14, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 118: Corporate Records Online

Corporate records and corporate filings with the offices of state secretaries of state, the SEC, and the like can provide the names and addresses of corporate officers for service and a variety of other interesting data, some or all of which may be current or out of date. In addition to checking the specific state of interest, it may be worth checking other states to identify a pattern of behavior and other information of interest. Here are some general websites providing good searching, varying somewhat from state to state:

October 31, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 117: How to Do Internet Research

Wikihow offers a detailed set of directions on how to do Internet research.  http://www.wikihow.com/Do-Internet-Research.  This wiki is largely too basic for most readers of these Tips, but it can be a refresher and a reminder of the steps to take.  The wiki reviews the following steps: Knowing Where to Begin; Getting Good Sources; Evaluating for Credibility; and Compiling and Saving Your Sources.

October 17, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 116: Gallagher Law Library Research Guides

The Gallagher Law Library at the University of Washington has prepared and made available a wide variety of Research Guides. The legal and general writing materials https://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/writing.html include:

 

  • General dictionaries & thesauri

  • General grammar & usage guides

  • Legal citation guides

  • Legal dictionaries & thesauri

  • Legal writing guides

  • Legal writing websites & blogs

  • Other legal writing resources

October 03, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 115: Lawyer's Guide to Legal Research

This 10-page document is available from Clio, purveyors of cloud-based law practice management software, in exchange for your email address and general job information.  https://landing.clio.com/the-lawyers-guide-to-advanced-legal-research.html  In addition to more common search methods, there is information on Clio and Fastcase (with a 25% discount on Fastcase).  There is also a 2-page legal research plan for a sample law firm.  Links are available to a variety of LII sites.

 

Three other documents are also available: Flexible Practice Models for Flexible law firms, Why You Need a Legal Practice Management Solution, and Do not Print: The Lawyer's Guide to Going Paperless.

September 19, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 114:  Harvard

Harvard provides impressive sets of databases for legal and law-related research and for statistical and data-related research.  http://hls.harvard.edu/library/research/find-a-database/  The legal research databases span far and wide, with federal and state materials, historical materials, and substantial international documents.  Some documents or sites require entry codes, but not all.  The extensive statistical and data-related research materials are much less likely to require entry codes, and these materials are very comprehensive.  Just the names are listed below:

  • American FactFinder

  • CESSDA (Council of European Social Science Data Archives

  • Data.gov

  • Eurostat

  • FedStats

  • Frequently Used Sites Related to U.S. Federal Government Information

  • ICPSR

  • Internet Crossroads in Social Science Data

  • IQSS Dataverse Network

  • National Statistical Offices

  • OECD Data

  • ProQuest Statistical Abstracts of the U.S.

  • Statista

  • UNdata

  • Web of Science Data Citation Index

  • WolframAlpha

September 05, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 113:  Where Did That Link Go?

These Internet Research Tips can be frustrating to write and difficult to use because many links are here today and gone tomorrow.  Addresses change, names change.  Often content does not change, so a search for a distinctive phrase may reveal the new link.

 

Know that we routinely check links before sending Tips.  If a link fails, you can typically locate the material by searching for unusual names and phrases.  Good luck.

August 22, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 112:  Duke Law Library and Doublechecking

Duke Law Library provides an excellent list with links of sites for general legal research, government information (federal and state courts, federal and state legislation, regulations, and legal periodicals): https://law.duke.edu/lib/researchguides/intresearch/

Many law schools provide research guides for specific topics, and Duke is no exception: https://law.duke.edu/lib/research_guide.  If Duke does not have a guide, you can check the law school websites using the custom search tool that Duke provides: https://cse.google.com/cse/publicurl?cx=003819203596757785349:3zqblxxsu5i.  Duke also provides legal databases and links in an alphabetical directory: https://law.duke.edu/lib/lresources/.  The latter links will take you to trial transcripts and brief from 1600 to 1926, mobile apps for law-related purposes, and links to web portals.

 

The variety of Internet materials brings the law to our fingertips, but what we see is not always correct.  A court decision may be modified on rehearing in small or enormous ways, and the Internet source may not reveal that there was a motion for reconsideration.  As a result, the farther we are from holding the actual book in our hands, the more we need to doublecheck and triplecheck the accuracy and completeness of what we are relying on.

August 04, 2017

​Internet Research Tip No. 111:  Citing Internet Sites

Locating a great Internet site means one must figure out how to cite the site.  The critical characteristic of any citation is that it leads the reader to the right location easily and consistently.  For court decisions, statutes, and other legal sites, the Bluebook, the ALWD Guide to Legal Citation, and similar sources should be consulted.

 

One source of guidance for non-legal sites is by Corey Wainwright, How to Cite Sources & Not Steal People's Content on the Internet, posted July 7, 2015:  http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/33098/How-Not-to-Steal-People-s-Content-on-the-Web.aspx

 

Whenever citing something other than a case, statute or the like, drop a footnote to explain why the source is authenticated, why it is not hearsay, and why any other evidentiary barriers do not pose a problem.

July 21, 2017

​Internet Research Tip No. 110:  Sample Answers to Complaints

The Internet offers a wide range of sample or template documents for many routine uses.  Thus, a search for sample answers to complaints will produce many samples applicable to many circumstances.  Focus on a single state simply by adding the name of the state to the search.  Focus on the kind of lawsuit by adding negligencecontractmalpractice or other cause of action.  Add defenses to focus on the affirmative defenses.

 

Of course, you cannot simply block copy a sample answer or defense that looks good and paste it after the caption in your case.  Does the sample state the law of your state?  Does it suit the facts of your case?  Does using this sample and its assertions or admissions foreclose use of a better answer or defense for your client?  Is there a step you should take before answering the complaint?

July 07, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 109:  Military Records and More

The National Archives makes a vast collection of military records available, sometimes by email and sometimes by written communication.  https://www.archives.gov/research/military

 

The Archives provides numerous resources for genealogists and those otherwise interested in researching individuals, including census and ethnic heritage records, military records, immigration and naturalization records, land records, passport applications and passenger lists, State Department records, prison records, vital records, and more.  https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy   Black history information is also substantial, including African-American Women, Civil War, Civil Rights, Diaspora, Emancipation & Reconstruction, Post-Reconstruction; World War I Era, and World War II Era.  https://rediscovering-black-history.blogs.archives.gov/

 

The National Archives provides the blog of the Public Interest Declassification Board, https://transforming-classification.blogs.archives.gov/, established in 2000 to promote the fullest possible public access to a thorough, accurate, and reliable documentary record of significant U.S. national security decisions and activities.  https://www.archives.gov/declassification/pidb 

June 23, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 108:  Jury Internet Research

Jurors must not engage in Internet or other research or even look up terms in a dictionary. This prohibition appears in every state, by statute or court rule, and is clearly stated by trial judges to juries and by supreme courts to trial courts. The prohibition does not arise because jurors are unsophisticated or unable to do Internet research, but from the due-process requirement that the verdict be based on evidence presented in open court, not on outside sources.  Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 351 (1966); Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U.S. 454, 462 (1907).

An ambitious and inquisitive juror can find a great deal of interesting and seemingly or actually relevant information on the Internet. That information is not tested in the adversarial system with attorneys for and against admission of the information able to argue and a neutral judge able to decide whether the information is or is not admissible, to be countered or not by other information, and to be considered in light of appropriate instructions.

 

Most judges have their own instructions warning jurors not to use the Internet. Judges who have encountered problems often give the instruction every evening during trial. The court clerk or judge's secretary is likely to be able to give you a copy of this instruction if you have concerns about its wording.

June 09, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 107:  Internet Choices

The Internet offers a vast buffet of information.  Some Internet choices are much higher or lower quality than others, but the quality is not immediately obvious.

Few would buy a book for $40 or $200 without some investigation or advice from a friend or colleague.  Why rely on an Internet source with less recommendation?  Internet sites can mimic other sites, so there is some danger in relying on a recommendation that may be based on use of a site several months earlier.  The following links provide some questions to ask about Internet sources before relying on them:

May 26, 2017

​Internet Research Tip No. 106:  Search Engines

Information on the Internet is so vast that search engines have been developed simply to locate the relevant websites.  The right search engine is a doorway into the source documents, so knowing the search engines can be the key to success.  Check your list of search engines every four to six months, because new ones appear and others disappear with little notice.

May 12, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 105: Quotations

Sometimes the right quotation can make all the difference in writing or speaking.  The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations is in its 7th edition, and it is only one of many books collecting quotations.  The Internet provides multiple collections of quotations that may stimulate creative juices without the need to leave your office.  The following is a tiny sampling-websites focus on a particular author, a specific subject, a category of knowledge, era, and so on):

April 28, 2017

​Internet Research Tip No. 104: Google Scholar

Launched in 2004, Google Scholar offers cases from United States courts as well as articles from multiple countries.  The articles cut across disciplines, with medical, legal, scientific, and other content.

 

Absent specific interest in patents, it's often best to unclick the box for including patents.  Specific states may be searched under cases, but searching the cases of a particular state does not identify the federal cases discussing the law of that state.  As a result, a double search is required.  One can also search by year.

Any case or article located on Google Scholar must be checked and updated on a service that the judge would accept as reliable.  Google Scholar may not pick up modifications made on reconsideration of a case or a later article criticizing the earlier one.  The service has improved in accuracy and updating since 2004, but careful attorneys would never rely on it as the sole source.

April 14, 2017

​Internet Research Tip No. 103: Blogs

There are at least 4472 legal blogs in the United States.  Injury and accident law account for 1165 of the blogs, criminal law for 870, business law for 464, and technology for 329.  hhttp://blawgsearch.justia.com/.  The number drops off so that election law accounts for 12, art law for 16, and evidence 17.

 

An individual attorney could easily find a dozen blogs to follow.  After identifying the subject areas of practice for the first several, the attorney could easily find benefit in legal marketing, law practice, insurance law, appellate law, judiciary, legal ethics, law librarian, and perhaps legal humor.

 

The frequency of reading blogs varies with content and workload.  An attorney might read one daily and another monthly, not necessarily linked to how often the blogs issue new material.  A number of blogs might be skimmed while eating lunch or waiting for a late client.  Since the blogs are often enjoyable as well as educational, they usually provide a break in the day rather than another burden.

March 31, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 102: Templates

No competent lawyer would take a template off the Internet, add the names and dollar amounts and a few other details, and call the deal done.  That said, reviewing several templates or sample documents prepared by others can improve the quality of the final document.  If several templates for the same transaction list six requirements, an attorney should take that as a sign that a statute, regulation or policy imposes at least six requirements.  What statute, regulation or policy is it?  Are there other requirements applicable in some or all cases?  What more needs to be learned about the statute, regulation or policy to do quality legal work for this client?  This example is just one illustration of the benefit and danger in relying on templates.

 

The Internet offers many sources for templates and samples.  Searches for "free legal forms online," "free legal documents templates," "legal documents examples," and "legal pleading templates" as well as their various recombinations, will bring up many websites.  All sites should be used with care. Does the site claim to follow the law of the relevant state? Why does this template differ from that one on the same subject? What point of view does the author have? How does it differ from the client's point of view?

March 17, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 101: Discussion Groups and Listservs

An astonishing number of discussion groups and listservs exist and often thrive on the Internet.  Most are focused on a specific subject matter, practice area, or jurisdiction. Some are open to all who wish to participate, while others are open to a more limited group, such as those who represent debtors, local governments, hospitals, personal injury victims, or the like.

 

Naturally, no one who participates can claim any right to privacy or confidentiality.  Whatever is said and sent to the group is available for members of the group to use as they see fit, subject to whatever ethical or moral restrictions they may follow.

 

Those who participate in closed groups—for example, a national group of attorneys representing hospitals--may feel somewhat more safe, especially if they have been in the group for substantial time and have come to know the other members.  The value of sharing ideas, templates, and experiences is significant, and the identifying particulars may be made vague enough to be safe.  Nevertheless, the safety is only as great as the quality of the vetting process.

 

Despite the danger, discussion groups and listservs develop their own culture over time.  Friendships can develop among individuals who have never met, and the practice of law can be greatly enhanced.

March 03, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 100: Google

Many start their research with Google, and it's a rare topic for which Google will fail to provide valuable information.  Even if Google is not specifically a legal-research tool, it can provide statutes, speeches, federal and state government research papers, and a variety of other information.  Google's intent is to make information available, not necessarily to guarantee the accuracy or completeness of that information.  As a result, much Google research is a beginning, not an end.

 

Google research can be focused using various techniques described in the following websites:

February 17, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 99: Early Internet Research Articles

In the relatively early days of the Internet, a number of comprehensive articles were published addressing the use of the Internet for legal research.  These include:

 

Some links will have disappeared or moved, but these articles have much to offer today.

February 03, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 98: Free and Low-Cost Research

Although the gold standard is the book, followed by Westlaw and Lexis, there are legal research materials on the Internet that are from not bad to quite good.  Sites describing the content and characteristics are set out below.

 

Always Shepardize.  You do not want to learn about the reconsideration or subsequent appeal when you're standing before the judge or, even worse, when the partner comes back from arguments.

 

Always check the quotes.  Court decisions are not fixed in stone the day they are issued.  The judge may have second thoughts and tinker with the language here and there.  The official publisher may propose corrections for the judge to consider.  Changes can occur in many ways; never assume that what looks like a final decision can safely be quoted.

 

The following are a sampling of the sites collecting free and low-cost legal researchwebsites and materials:

January 20, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 97: What Internet Tools Does the Judge Use?

Judges and individuals may or may not have low- or no-cost access to Lexis and Westlaw.  They may use only one by habit even with access to two.  They may use one or more of the free research websites available on the Internet.  The more you know, the better able you are to protect your client and yourself.

 

Google Scholar is free, for example, but it is not enough.  It may have the decision, but not the revised decision after rehearing.  It may fail to provide the decisions on further appeal.  It may not provide cites to all the cases that cite the decision.  One solution is to do wide-ranging research on Google Scholar and follow with a search on Westlaw or Lexis; if the decision is especially important, it's safer to search both Westlaw or Lexis.  Trust but verify is the frequent adage, and it is fully applicable to legal research. 

 

A judge who uses Google Scholar without informing litigants risks making decisions based on bad law.  Worse, the litigants and appellate court may be unable to discover the reason for the ruling, and an injustice may be done.  The same situation can arise with other Internet sources.  For example, the Secretary of State may maintain a listing of all companies qualified to do business in the state or all companies in good standing; other agencies may providing listings of all licensed contractors, all attorneys, or other categories required to be licensed.  Qualification to do business, good standing and current licensure are routinely prerequisite to the right to sue and to defend.  A judge who relies on these Internet listings without informing litigants may create an injustice because the Internet listing may have errors, may not be updated regularly or otherwise.

January 06, 2017

Internet Research Tip No. 96: Jurors and Internet Research

Years ago, the danger was that jurors might visit the physical location at issue in a trial. Today, the availability and functionality of the Internet present the serious risk that jurors may look up what they think is relevant to the trial on the Internet. Even brief searching reveals numerous cases in which jurors have done so.

 

Judges routinely instruct jurors not to conduct research of any kind relating to the trial and not to use the Internet to look up words or information relating to the trial. The costs to the parties of an inadvertent or deliberate violation of the instruction can be huge, depending on the length of the trial, the timing of discovery, and whether the entire jury must be dismissed. As a result, counsel are wise to avoid any references that might cause a juror to do Internet or other research. Counsel could also urge the judge to enhance the instruction.

December 23, 2016

​Internet Research Tip No. 95: U.S. Attorneys' Manual

Anyone involved in litigation against or with a United States Attorney, Assistant United States Attorney or Department of Justice attorney should be aware of the United States Attorneys' Manual, which is a ready reference guide for these attorneys. The Manual contains general policies and some procedures relevant to United States Attorneys' offices and to their relations with legal divisions, investigative agencies, and other components within the Department of Justice. It is available on the Internet at www.justice.gov/usam. 

 

The Manual is not intended to create any rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law by any party in any matter civil or criminal. No limitations are placed on otherwise lawful litigative prerogatives of the Department of Justice. Nevertheless, an adversary that perceives improper behavior can use the Manual as evidence that the behavior fell below standards set in the Manual. Moreover, the Manual reveals likely arguments that may be made and permits the adversary to prepare.

December 09, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 94: Statutes at Large

The Government Printing Office offers the Statutes at Large for 1961 (Volume 65) through 2011 (Volume 125) at www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=STATUTE.  

 

The Law Library of Congress has digitized the Statutes at Large from Volumes 1 through 64 and directs readers to the GPO for the remainder through Volume 125 at www.loc.gov/law/help/statutes-at-large/.  The Constitution Society has an unofficial set of the Statutes at Large for 1789-99 (Volume 1) through 2015 (Volume 129) at www.constitution.org/uslaw/sal/sal.htm, plus statutes relating to the income tax from 1917 (Volume 41) through 1954 (Volume 68A).

 

Why do the Statutes at Large matter?  Title 1, U.S. Code section 112 provides, with added bold:

The United States Statutes at Large shall be legal evidence of laws, concurrent resolutions, treaties, international agreements other than treaties, proclamations by the President, and proposed or ratified amendments to the Constitution of the United States therein contained, in all the courts of the United States, the several States, and the Territories and insular possessions of the United States.

Following this directive, the Court of Claims held: 

errors do occur in codification and where there is a conflict between the codification and the Statutes at Large, the Statutes at Large must prevail. We held in American Export Lines, Inc. v. United States, 153 Ct. Cl. 201, 207, 290 F. 2d 925, 929 (1961):

It is well settled that "the Code cannot prevail over the Statutes at Large when the two are inconsistent." * * *

 

Abell v. United States, 207 Ct. Cl. 207, 221-22, 518 F.2d 1369, 1376-77 (1975).  Lest there be any misunderstanding, 1 U.S.C. § 204(a) provides that the U.S. Code and any supplement "establish prima facie the laws of the United States."  An exception exists for the titles of the Code "enacted into positive law."  Id.  A list of titles enacted into positive law appears in the history following 1 U.S.C. § 204 and at the beginning volume of each title. 

 

Now that the Statutes at Large are available online, federal research can easily include a check for variances between the U.S. Code and the Statutes at Large.  A variance can sometimes win the case or reveal the benefit of a quick settlement.

November 25, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 93: National Databases

Many industries and groups of all sorts seek to maintain a national or statewide database of subjects of interest to the group members. Some examples include:

  • National Conservation Easement Database, providing statistics by easement holder, location, ecoregion, bird conservation region, type of easement, landowner type, availability of public access, acquisition date, name of easement holder. Searchable maps. www.conservationeasement.us/

  • Major Dams of the United States,  showing over 8100 major dams based on size (50 feet or more in height) and capacity, along with substantial descriptive information and maps. www.nationalmap.gov

  • Dangerous Times and Places to Drive, analyzing fatal crash total, deaths by road user, types of crashes, alcohol, restraint use, rural or urban events. www.iihs.org

 

Virtually any subject that lends itself to creation of a list or statistics can be described in some form of database on the Internet. Existence of the database does not establish its reliability. Always consider the date of creation and manner of updating, the identity of those creating the database, the reasons for its creation, and so on. Compare sites offering similar data to identify their reliability or resolve their differences. Consider whether judicial notice will suffice or more authentication and exceptions from hearsay will be needed.

November 11, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 92: Webinars

Webinars are increasing in availability and breadth of subject matter.  On subjects that are fast developing, webinars may be significantly more current than published articles.  Simple searches for "webinar" and the subject matter will bring the range of available materials forward.

 

Depending on the subject matter and identity of the organization producing the webinar, access may be free, available for a few clicks.  The additional materials distributed to webinar participants may also be available to you if you look for them.  Webinars reflect the views of the presenters; parties, witnesses, and expert witnesses who have presented webinars may have revealed themselves in ways that should be known and might be exploited.

October 28, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 91: Peer-Reviewed Law Journals

A wide range of law reviews offer the article author's views on an amazing number of topics.  Some articles are closely vetted by the law review before publication; others are not.  Some are shared with colleagues for critical review; others are not.

 

Peer-reviewed law journals publish articles that have been reviewed by knowledgeable scholars in the field.  In an imperfect world, all other things being equal, peer-reviewed articles are more likely to be valuable and accurate than other articles.

 

The Peer Reviewed Scholarship Marketplace is a consortium of student-edited legal journals that believe that double-blind peer review can enhance the quality of the articles that journals select and ultimately publish.  http://www.legalpeerreview.org/   Harvard Law School has a large number of peer-reviewed journals.  http://hls.harvard.edu/dept/dos/student-journals/journals-and-publications/ Others can be located with easy searches.

October 14, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 90: Tutorials

Many law schools offer Internet tutorials in various forms of legal research. Offered for their own law students in part, these tutorials can aid practicing attorneys who need to learn a new subject matter or to have a refresher in a given area. For example, Georgetown Law offers tutorials in Administrative Law, ALM Legal Intelligence, Bloomberg, Lexis, Westlaw, Bluebook, Case Law Research, Domain Literacy, E-Journal Finder Legislative History Research, Secondary Sources, Statutory Research, Subject-based Searching , Treaty Research, Zotero. If you wondered what Zotero is, it's a free program that can help you collect, organize, manage, edit, and cite your research. http://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/home/tutorials.

Many others can be found by combining the law school name and the word "tutorial" or searching for "legal research tutorials" or the subject matter with the word tutorial. These tutorials vary significantly in depth and in the time required to complete them. All offer the opportunity to learn new and potentially valuable material.

September 30, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 89: SCOTUS Blog

SCOTUS Blog http://www.scotusblog.com/ comprehensively covers the Supreme Court. Founded in 2002, the blog reports on merits cases and notes petitions for cert. that appear of particular interest to the Court. The blog provides access to all the briefing in these cases as well as broader publications. Breaking News covers newly released opinions and actions. There are interesting statistics and special features, including symposia and videos.

 

SCOTUS Blog is a lesson that a blog may be much more than a blog. Unlike many blogs, SCOTUS Blog has been cited in multiple court decisions. For example, D'Antuono v. Service Road Corp., 789 F. Supp. 2d 308, 312-13 (D. Conn. 2011), relied on SCOTUS Blog for the number of merits cases decided and how many presebted arbitration issues.

September 20, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 88: Overview of Congress.gov

Congress.gov is an accessible source of ready information on pending and past legislation, the legislative process, the legislators, links to the House and Senate, the Congressional Record and its Index, the various committees and their reports, and other materials. Most viewed bills are identified. All the state legislative websites are linked. Significant information on treaties, Supreme Court nominations, and the like is at your fingertips.

 

Multiple search options are available, such as: https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/Resources+A+to+Z and https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/Search+Tips+by+Category.  

 

If the information is available, the searching capability will reveal it.

September 02, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 87: Law Librarians of Congress Blog

The "About" page explains that the Law Library of Congress is a custodian of law and legislation for both the nation and the world.  Blogs cover "current legal trends, developments and enhancements to Congress.gov, issues in collecting for the largest law library in the world, legal history and arcana and a range of international perspectives including New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Israel, Eritrea, China, and Mexico."

The blog categories include the Law Library, Ask A Librarian, Collections, Congress, Global Law, Gov 2.0, In the News, THOMAS, Interview, Pic of the Week, Research Guide.  The blogs may be searched.  http://blogs.loc.gov/law/.

August 19, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 86: The U.S. Founding Documents

The Constitution Annotated is a part of a corner of https://www.congress.gov/ known as U.S. Founding Documents.  At https://www.congress.gov/founding-documents, one can find the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, as well as the Federalist Papers.  Finally, this site provides the first century of records of the U.S. Congress, with bills, resolutions, the Congressional Record, and the Statutes at Large.

August 05, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 85: The U.S. Constitution

The Constitution of the United States of America, plus analysis and interpretation and most Supreme Court cases, is available at https://www.congress.gov/constitution-annotated/.  Annotations to the Constitution include amendments, failed amendments, articles, index, and tables, using interactive links.  Also of interest, the site offers federal laws held unconstitutional, state laws held unconstitutional, and Supreme Court decisions later overruled.  There are searching tools and even an app.  What more could one want?

July 22, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 84: Lexis or Westlaw

Although courts now often award computer research expenses, the awards are sometimes cut when the court reviews the matter.  For example, in Case v. Unified School Dist. No. 233, 157 F.3d 1243, 1258 (10th Cir. 1998), the trial court reduced the award for two reasons: (1) it was not able to separate research related to the appellants' prevailing claims from research on claims that they lost; and (2) it determined that Westlaw was not the most cost effective research method."

 

The Tenth Circuit affirmed without reaching the second ground, but there is a lesson here.  Know your courts.  What is the court's general opinion of research, electronic research, and other tools that you use?  Do you need to enhance your briefing to support your use of some research method?  Are there specific reasons for using the method you selected?  If so, explain the specific benefits and any savings in your opening brief.

 

This advice applies to many aspects of practice beyond Lexis and Westlaw.  Is your assigned judge comfortable with judicial notice or reluctant to use it.  Should you have an expert introduce the maps or charts, or would the judge find that unnecessary?  Although the last question might be posed at the pretrial conference, other questions may require independent investigation.

July 08, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 83: Words with Multiple Meanings

English has a number of words that have multiple meanings in the legal world.  These presented little difficulty when attorneys relies on digests and treatises because the words appeared where they belonged in context. With computer searching, however, the words can easily appear in response to a single search.

  • The Supreme Court has observed many times that "jurisdiction" is a word of many, too many, meanings.  Arbaugh v. Y & H Corp., 546 U.S. 500 (2006); Kontrick v. Ryan, 540 U.S. 443 (2004); Steel Co. v. Citizens for Better Environment, 523 U.S. 83, 90 (1998).

  • The Anti-Ferret Rule is designed to relieve the district court of any responsibility to ferret through the record to discern whether any material fact is genuinely in dispute. CMI Capital Market v. Gonzalez-Toro, 520 F.3d 58, 62 (1st Cir. 2008), but there are generally two types of ferrets in the US. Gallick v. Barto, 828 F. Supp. 1168, 1170 (M.D. Pa. 1993).

  • The word "proceeds" has many definitions, and congressional records distinguish poorly among them.  United States v. Grasso, 381 F.3d 160, 167-68 (3d Cir. 2004), vacated, 544 U.S. 945 (2005).

 

When a significant word may have multiple meanings, it is essential to determine all the possible meanings before assuming a specific other meaning may apply.  Thorough searching for additional possible meanings can bring to light a favorable definition that may, with further searching, be shown to apply.  Computers make these searches fast and easy compared to earlier methods.

June 24, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 82: Social Science Research Network (SSRN)

SSRN seeks to provide worldwide distribution of research and to facilitate communication among authors and readers at the lowest possible cost.  Authors may upload papers without charge, and any uploaded paper is downloadable for free, worldwide. SSRN provides free subscriptions to its eJournals to users in developing countries. Publishers and other institutions may charge users for downloads, but the price on SSRN cannot exceed the lowest non-subscriber price for these papers anywhere on the web. Most downloads from the SSRN eLibrary are free.

 

Some 264,000 authors have contributed their research to SSRN.  Many place their working drafts on SSRN well in advance of completion, enjoying the benefit of comments as the drafts are finished.  The SSRN library can be searched in several ways, making the papers accessible.  For example, 114 articles are available addressing conservation easements.

June 10, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 81: Judicial Internet Research

An earlier Internet Research Tip, No. 76, addressed Internet research by the jury members.  It stimulated a comment that Internet research may be improper when performed by the judge or the judge's staff, when the judge is acting as trier of fact. This issue was raised in United States v. Bari, 599 F.3d 176 (2d Cir. 2010). In Bari, the trial judge heard supervised-release revocation proceedings based on multiple independent facts tending to show that Bari had robbed a bank, including witness testimony and video footage from security cameras. The judge concluded by noting that "the robber wore a yellow rain hat and that a yellow rain hat was found in the garage of Bari's landlord," stating: 

 

I think this is the strongest piece of evidence frankly, we have the yellow hat. I am convinced from looking at the surveillance video [from the bank] of September 9 that [the hat found in the garage] is the same type of hat as appears in the video. It may not be precisely the actual hat, but it is the same type of hat. It is just too much of a coincidence that the bank robber would be wearing the same hat that we find in [his landlord's] garage.

 

The judge acknowledged that "[o]ne can Google yellow rain hats and find lots of different yellow rain hats." He had also stated that "[w]e did a Google search, and you can find yellow hats, yellow rain hats like this. But there are also lots of different rain hats, many different kinds of rain hats that one could buy."  Id. at 178.

 

The Second Circuit considered whether the trial court had violated Rule 605 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, which provides: "The judge presiding at the trial may not testify in that trial as a witness. No objection need be made in order to preserve the point."  The government argued the court took proper judicial notice of a fact not subject to reasonable dispute, as authorized by Rule 201 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.  The Second Circuit had "no difficulty concluding that the Federal Rules of Evidence do not apply in full at supervised release revocation hearings." Id. at 179.

 

In the end, the Second Circuit found no violation of Rules 201 and 605, rules that logically must coexist, holding that "it was not reversible error for a judge to employ an Internet search to confirm a reasonable intuition on a matter of common knowledge." Id. at 181.  Not all courts have agreed with the Second Circuit, and some have strictly limited it.  E.g., Rutanhira v. Rutanhira, 190 Vt. 449, 35 A.3d 143 (2011); State v. Gokey, 188 Vt. 500, 14 A.3d 243 (2010).  See also Bellin & Ferguson, Trial by Google: Judicial Notice in the Information Age, 108 N.W. U.L. Rev. 1137 (2014); Keele, When the Mountain Goes to Mohammed: The Internet and Judicial Decision-Making, 45 N.N.L. Rev. 125 (2014).

May 27, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 80: Don't Stop Too Soon

Attorneys who do Internet or other research can be — must be — advocates, but they must not ignore that the results of their research may not be tested until it is too late to achieve a good result for their clients.  The research attorney who closes a book or an Internet site on a promising but undeveloped idea may never recover the idea.  The attorney who shuts down after finding a hurtful line of cases may next face those cases offered by an adversary when there is less time to respond, thousands of dollars have gone down the drain, and settlement alternatives have been lost.

 

Whether good or bad, stop and think about the authorities you find before closing them off.  If there is even the most remote chance you may need the information, drop it into a paper or electronic file with a note about the contents.  Forty years ago, attorneys kept trial notebooks on all pending cases to include the odd note about a case or jury instruction or whatever else might be worth retaining.  An electronic file (backed-up) makes the task easier. 

May 13, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 79: Triple Check Internet Research Results

The variety of Internet materials brings the law to our fingertips, but what we see is not always correct.  A court decision may be modified on rehearing in small or enormous ways, and the Internet source may not reveal that there was a motion for reconsideration.  As a result, the farther we are from holding the actual book in our hands, the more we need to double check and triple check the accuracy and completeness of what we are relying on.

April 29, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 78: Duke Law Library

Duke Law Library provides an excellent list with links of sites for general legal research, government information (federal and state courts, federal and state legislation, regulations, and legal periodicals).

 

Many law schools provide research guides for specific topics, and Duke is no exception.  If Duke does not have a guide, you can check the law school websites using the custom search tool that Duke provides.

 

Duke also provides legal databases and links in an alphabetical directory. The latter links will take you to trial transcripts and brief from 1600 to 1926, mobile apps for law-related purposes, and links to web portals.

April 15, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 77: Citing Internet Sites

Locating a great Internet site means one must figure out how to cite the site.  The critical characteristic of any citation is that it leads the reader to the right location easily and consistently.  For court decisions, statutes and other legal sites, The Bluebook, the ALWD Guide to Legal Citations, and similar sources should be consulted.

 

One source of guidance for non-legal sites is by Corey Wainwright, How to Cite Sources & Not Steal People's Content on the Internet, posted July 7, 2015.

 

Whenever citing something other than a case, statute or the like, drop a footnote to explain why the source is authenticated, why it is not hearsay, and why any other evidentiary barriers do not pose a problem.

April 01, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 76: Jury Internet Research

Jurors must not engage in Internet or other research or even look up terms in a dictionary. This prohibition appears in every state, by statute or court rule, and is clearly stated by trial judges to juries and by supreme courts to trial courts. The prohibition does not arise because jurors are unsophisticated or unable to do Internet research, but from the due-process requirement that the verdict be based on evidence presented in open court, not on outside sources. Sheppard v. Maxwell, 384 U.S. 333, 351 (1966); Patterson v. Colorado, 205 U.S. 454, 462 (1907).

 

An ambitious and inquisitive juror can find a great deal of interesting and seemingly or actually relevant information on the Internet. That information is not tested in the adversarial system with attorneys able to argue for and against admission of the information and a neutral judge able to decide whether the information is or is not admissible, countered by other information, and whether it should be considered in light of appropriate instructions.

March 18, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 75: Gallagher Law Library Research Guides

The law librarians at the Gallagher Law Library, University of Washington School of Law, have created many legal research guides available at https://lib.law.washington.edu/ref/guides.html. There is a keyword/subject list that can be browsed or searched. Although some guides are specific to Washington or the law school, the majority are of interest across the U.S. 

 

The same law librarians have gathered free law online resources and organized them. https://lib.law.washington.edu/content/research/freelaw. A click on U.S. Court Opinions, for example, brings up a table of courses, the dates included, any restrictions, and the character of the material (.pdf, text, html, etc.). Notes are added when one can search by keyword or when some additional explanation is helpful.

March 04, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 74: Change of Pace

Instead of a Tip dense with citations to websites, today you can enjoy a short movie on Legal Research: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCX3RkVTRkI.

February 19, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 73: Court Forms

Many court systems and agencies provide forms on the Internet that are mandatory or optional for court or agency business.

 

The United States Courts have federal court forms that can be used in any federal court. http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/forms. Forms are grouped into the following categories: Attorney, Bankruptcy, Civil, Court Reporter, Criminal, Criminal Justice Act, Human Resources, Jury, and Other. 

 

Each federal court maintains its own local court forms. E.g., Ninth Circuit forms, http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/forms/. In addition, private websites make local court forms accessible. E.g., http://www.uscourtforms.com/ (federal courts, agencies, all 50 states and more, plus a blog).

 

The California Judicial Council has approved a large number of forms collected on a site that can be searched by category, name, or number. http://www.courts.ca.gov/forms.htm. These supplement statutory forms prescribed by the Legislature and other forms prescribed or used by the various courts. E.g., Los Angeles Superior Court forms at http://www.lacourt.org/forms (forms for Appellate, Civil, Criminal, Family Law, Jury, Juvenile, Mental Health, Miscellaneous, Probate, Small Claims, Traffic, and Unlawful Detainer).

 

GSA offers a Forms Library at http://www.gsa.gov/portal/forms/type/TOP, and the Federal Reserve makes forms available at http://www.federalreserve.gov/apps/reportforms/default.aspx.

 

Although there are often requirements for courts to change their rules and forms only at known times (June and December, for example), these requirements are often forgotten. So rather than saving a court or agency on a local computer for repeated use, it is safer to pull a new version from the website each time.

February 05, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 72: Forms

The Internet offers a vast array of legal forms that are as dangerous as they are helpful.  Here are two free sources:

 

 

Other sources for legal forms on the Internet appear to have a fee for some documents, although the pricing information is often obscure. These include the following:

 

 

Some questions to ask with any form include who created it and what experience did that person have, when was it created and how current is it, why was it created (for a similar reason as yours?), how is it used (internally or externally), can it be amended if there is a mistake or omission, can the handy computer version be used or must an official version be obtained (as with some IRS forms), and does it appear well suited to your situation.

January 22, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 71: Online Briefs

One way to learn brief writing skills is to read well written briefs.  These are more often than not appellate briefs, written with enough time to edit and rewrite as needed, typically reviewed by other attorneys who added their ideas and edits.  Here are sources for many such briefs:

 

U.S. Supreme Court briefs: http://www.americanbar.org/publications/preview_home.html   

 

U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division: http://www.justice.gov/atr/appellate-briefs#page=page-204    

 

Securities and Exchange Commission: http://www.sec.gov/litigation/briefs.shtml 

 

ACLU: https://www.aclu.org/defending-our-rights/court-battles/supreme-court  

 

 

In addition, many courts make electronic briefs available on their websites.  Go directly to the website of the courts of particular interest to see briefs filed there.  E.g., http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/library/briefs/.  Do not assume such briefs are good examples, however, unless the court so identifies them.

January 08, 2016

Internet Research Tip No. 70: Research Guides

Many law schools and some courts have research guides to assist those using the library and legal sources early in their careers.  As lawyers move from state to state, these guides can fill an important role to bring the lawyers up to speed on local laws and practices.  Here is a sampling of these guides:

 

Connecticut: http://www.jud.ct.gov/lawlib/legalresearch.htm 

Maryland: https://www.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/researchguides/TMLLguide/ 

Montana: https://www.umt.edu/law/library/montanalegalresearch.php 

Oregon: https://law.lclark.edu/library/help/guides/ 

Wisconsin: http://wilawlibrary.gov/learn/legalresearch.html 

December 25, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 69: Open Access Law Reviews

The ABA offers a Free Full-Text Online Law Review/Journal Search of over 400 online law reviews and law journals, as well as document repositories that host academic papers and related publications such as Congressional Research Service reports. http://tinyurl.com/5talf2d 

 

Law Review Commons has over 200 open access law reviews, searchable by subject, by title, by law review, and by author.  The search can also be conducted on the Digital Commons Network, and there are advanced search capabilities. http://lawreviewcommons.com/

 

American Law Sources On-Line gathers hundreds of law reviews, showing the ones with on-line access in bold. http://www.lawsource.com/also/usa.cgi?usj 

 

Google Scholar articles provide significant open access, although some articles require a subscription service.  The articles extend well beyond law reviews, reminding users that there is much else in the world. http://scholar.google.com/ 

 

SSRN, the Social Science Research Network, also extends well beyond law.  It has published articles as well as drafts in progress. http://www.ssrn.com/en/

December 11, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 68:  Free Legal-Research Resources 

The Harvard Law School Library offers a guide to a great many free online legal research resources.  The guide offers the following:

 

  • Primary Federal Law (resources for free access to U.S. federal cases, statutes, regulations, and more)

  • Primary State Law (similar to Primary Federal Law)

  • U.S. and International Treaties online

  • Foreign & International Law

  • Secondary Sources

  • Empirical Sources (freely available data sets with data on the U.S. and the rest of the world).  

 

http://guides.library.harvard.edu/free 

 

This site links to many excellent sites.  It is organized to permit ready location of the type of legal research to be done.  It also links to DRAGNET, a site created by the New York School of Law that enables a search of a wide number of free legal databases. http://www.nyls.edu/library/library_services/dragnet1/dragnet/ 

 

Both sites are well worth a browse and, probably, designation as Favorites.

November 27, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 67:  Companies and People Involved in Your Matter

One worthwhile set of searches in any transactional or litigation matter is triggered by the names of the parties and relevant nonparties in the matter itself. Search nicknames as well as formal names with last names. Search identifiable place names independently or with the names of people whose names are so common they produce too many hits. Search individual names together with company names. Add the year or years to focus the searches, or the subject matter if that is a better focus. Search your client(s) as well as their opponents, lest their attorney have information you do not.

 

You may find nothing of value and elect not to charge for the time. More often, however, you will find some juicy morsels that may provide an advantage. A divorce in the works may reflect a need for money in hand and a favorable settlement opportunity. An earlier similar incident may reveal evidence of a pattern and practice. An earlier lawsuit may reveal an attorney willing or even eager to talk to you. The list of possibilities is endless. These morsels are hiding in plain sight and have much to offer.

November 13, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 66:  U.S. Government Manual

An extraordinary source of information on the federal government, its agencies, and pertinent documents is the U.S. Government Manual, issued annually, and available at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/collection.action?collectionCode=GOVMAN.
The Manual offers the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United StatesThe Government of the United States Organizational Chart, federal Boards, Commissions, and CommitteesSelected Bilateral Organizations and Other International Organizations. There is a History of Organizational Changes, a list of Commonly Used Agency Acronyms and Web Links to Agency Directories. The Manual can be searched by word or by category. All the courts are listed with their web addresses. There are more bureaus, agencies, institutes, commissions, authorities, and other-named entities than one might imagine possible. For each of these, a click provides the names of the ranking individuals, the website address, the organization, the activities, and multiple specific details.

October 30, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 65:  Military Records

Depending on the type of case and the nature of the witnesses and individuals involved in the case, it may be desirable to search the U.S. military records. Here are a few of the many sites available.

 

October 16, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 64:  More on Old Documents

Some websites offer good information on dealing with old documents. These may be century-old deeds, an ancestor's will, old contracts, and letters.

 

October 02, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 63:  Old Documents

Words and usage change over time. In a case involving old documents, the words may be familiar but their meanings may have changed. An expert in historic documents, an older attorney who remembers the earlier meanings and their change over time, or another witness may provide valuable evidence.

 

The Oxford English Dictionary provides a Historical Thesaurus that may reveal the need to investigate possible changes in meaning. http://public.oed.com/historical-thesaurus-of-the-oed/. Access to the full OED requires a subscription, but a tour of the Historical Thesaurus is available on open access.

 

As a further benefit, you can sign up for a Word of the Day delivered to your e-mail box.

September 18, 2015

Internet Research Tip No. 62:  Maps

Any research related to real property is enhanced by including appropriate maps that reveal the boundaries, relationships of property features and structures, placement of streets, and the like. In some counties, parcel boundary lines can be downloaded, with or without other elements, and the boundaries can then be printed on plain paper or on aerial photographs, with or without color overlays or boundary lines.

 

Historic and current zoning maps, fire insurance maps, property tax records, and historic building surveys and photographs are online in many communities. E.g., http://tinyurl.com/pnehnqhhttp://gothamist.com/2015/05/26/old_nyc_photo_map.php

 

Google Earth can enable a person sitting at a desk to take a virtual helicopter ride around and over a property—not especially valuable in flat land, but sometimes extremely helpful when steep hills or tall trees prevent a clear view of the other side.

 

Computer programs make it relatively easy to mark maps to show relevant information, such as the 100 mile or foot radius around an identified point. http://tinyurl.com/ox89en3

 

The U.S. Government provides data, statistics, and maps from a wide variety of agencies. https://www.usa.gov/statistics. The site explains:

 

The National Map offers mapping products from federal, state, and local partners on a variety of topics, such as recreation, environmental resources, scientific analysis, and emergency response.


Additional maps of interest are available at the following links:

 

 

Local or university libraries may have extraordinary collections of maps and photographs.  The Bancroft Library at the University of California Berkeley has 8,000,000 photographs and 23,000 maps.

Please reload

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 f