1This article will discuss legal research tips for California although some of the tips will be usefulfor someone doing legal research in any state. I will be assuming that the reader has a basicunderstanding of what types of legal materials are available for California. I will concentratemainly on legal research for California as it relates to case law.There are three basic kinds of published cases for California.1. California Supreme Court cases that are published in the California Official Reports. Alldecisions of the Supreme Court are published in the California Official Reports. SeeCalifornia Rule of Court 8.1105. Cited as Cal. or C.2. California Court of Appeal cases that are published in the California Official AppellateReports. Only certain decisions of the Court of Appeal are published. Cited as Cal.App., or CA.3. Cases from the Appellate Division of various Superior Courts in California. Each countyhas an Appellate Division. Only certain cases of the Appellate Divisions are published.The cases are published in the California Official Appellate Reports Supplement, cited asCal. App. Supp., or CA Supp. Note that only published cases can be cited or relied upon unless they fall under an exception. SeeCalifornia Rule of Court 8.1115. Thus it is vital to ensure that any case you are looking at is in facta published case. Note that just because a case has a California Reporter, Daily Journal, Lexis or other citation does NOT mean that it has been published in the Official Reports. Be sure to verifythat the case is published before using it. Failure to do so is a big mistake!It is also essential that you READ THE ENTIRE CASE to ensure that it is applicable to your situation. This author has on numerous occasions read a motion that cites a case and when he readthe case he found that it either, (a) did not really say what was claimed by the opposing party, or (b) that the case did say what was quoted, but it was taken out of context, such as for example, theopposing party wanted the Court to dismiss the case because they alleged proper service had not been made quickly enough, however the case cited referred to a statute that said a case could bedismissed if the summons and complaint had not been served within two (2) years of filing!However in the case mentioned it had only been a month or two since the case was filed!Obviously their tactic did not work. Remember that the short summary of a case does not alwaystell you how the Court ruled. For that you need to actually read it. Don’t get caught like a deer stuck in the headlights. Read every case that you cite.
And read every case cited by youropponent from start to finish
. You will be surprised how many attorneys and parties fail to read acase before citing it. All they read is the short blurb in the annotated code, or in a legal treatise.They are either too busy, or too lazy to bother with it. In the opinion of this author, if you are goingto do a job do it right.If you have access to a law library, looking through the indexes, such as the West index for California, or another treatise such as CA JUR for the legal issue you are researching, or one of theRutter Group books published on your legal topic, is highly recommended. That can save youliterally hours of research time as opposed to other methods. Of course if you have online access