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Doing Legal Research

To have knowledge of the law is to command a sovereign. I have asked all of you to obtain your states court rules which you can find at and if you can afford an annotated set, please spend the additional 100 or so dollars. An annotation is a section explaining court decisions that have interpreted the meanings of things. Example State Statutes Annotated, Federal Code Annotated, or Court Rules Annotated. Think of these as “special additions” that have more information that gives background on the topics. Also remember that a law is not a law, until a court of superior jurisdiction rules on its meaning. So annotations are key to understanding the intent of a law or rule. Lets talk about some other books that I encourage you to purchase. A Blacks law dictionary is also very handy, and always try to get the oldest issue and newest issues you can find. Black’s is now at the seventh edition. Definitions change over time, and sometimes, they end up being distorted. Legal terms typically have different meanings than common usage. For example Let’s look at the following: Regular Household Dictionary Belligerent – Hostile or aggressive, inclined to fight, obnoxious and rude Blacks Fourth Belligerent. In International law. As an adjective, it means engaged in lawful war. As a noun, it designates either of two nations which are actually in a state of war with each other, as well as their allies actively co-operating, as distinguished from a nation which takes no part in the war and maintains a strict indifference as between the contending parties, called a "neutral." Blacks Seventh Belligerent – A country involved in a war or other hostile action. You can see that there is a similar meaning, but each is somewhat distinct in itself. Often a legal word will not even appear in a Regular dictionary, so having a good law dictionary is highly advised. These are carried by most larger retail book chains. Everyone who intends to try to put up a fight in court must have as a minimum, the court rules and a Blacks law dictionary. Remember I have always stated that a court is a chess game and the only way to move your pieces, is by citing a court rule. How can you “play” without the “rules?” You create the ability for the Judge to act on your behalf when in inundate him with supporting case law from your perspective. All case law is not treated equal. There are primary authorities, which would be Legislative law or case holdings from your specific state, Supreme Court Holdings, or if in a Federal court within your Federal region. Note Supreme court holdings are primary authority for every court. There would be secondary

898 (8th Cir. it is always good practice to check the pocket part under the same section for additional information. We will start with the broadest information first and work towards specific. Take the time today and find where these resources are for you.2000) litigants constitutional rights are violated when courts depart from precedent where parties are similarly situated. We cannot do this for you. with each being broken down into sub-topics and sections. Sometimes these are found in the prosecutors office.authorities. If any book you are researching in has a pocket part. how much it costs. will also have cross-references that may lead you to other relevant topics.S. for fear of being sued under Title 42. the luckier your get! When you find your law library – the first time there. which would be case law from within your Region (frequently neighboring states) or federal regions. A General multi volume index at the end of the book set. Also remember that in Anastoff v. a part of the court. 223 F. United States. Pocket parts is paperback additions to each volume that contain the most recent updates. and then roam the library and start pulling books and see what the contents are. You find topics within these books in three ways. C. Now if you could find a similar ruling from within your own state. but the judge may take the case under advisement.3d. American Jurisprudence. The Law Library For 90% of the audience there is a law library within 30 miles of you. success is nothing but luck – the harder you work. Pocket parts are a common form of updating –vs.2d This also is an extensive encyclopedia of over 430 topics. but it is a familiarization time. or C. find the copy machine. Most counties have a law library open to the public. you would have a judge terrified to rule against you.S. Remember in a court room. will normally not be very productive. In turn it breaks each topic down into categories within that topic. Second or Am. These will be the last several books in the . or an off site building.S Think of these books as an extensive encyclopedia on over 400 topics. get to know the librarian. Also within the actual text of the topics you study. it will be your own efforts that help insure your success. Lets talk about some of the books you will find in a law library and what each can do for you. is updated by pocket parts. Large cities often have substantial libraries.J. if there is one. You need to find them. Corpus Juris Secundum or C. Your first time in a law library. Please note that case law presented to a judge outside his jurisdictional venue does not have binding effect. In each volume itself is an index of topics within that volume in the front. find out how to work it.Jur.replacing books. as this is one of the most important resources for you.J. There is a general index which is usually the last several books in the set. and Am Jurisprudence. There are 4 ways to find information in AmJurs. while cities large enough to have colleges that have law departments will be a Gem if you live near one.J.

2d . Pacific Digest. Vermont. Federal Digest. These are the Atlantic Digest. Penn. A Digest is Similar to A. and will show all topics where a particular Rule Regulation or Statute is referred to. Oregon.2d Georgia.complete set and are labeled as index.R This is a series of books that contain court opinions. Indiana. Kansas.2d Alaska. Washington and Wyoming South Eastern Reporter – S. American Law Report Annotations or A. Delaware. New Mexico. or S. Supreme Court Digest. Again AmJur is updated by pocket part. Hawaii. Montana. Nevada. or N. North Dakota. North Western Digest.C. each relating to a topic. U.W. New Hampshire. Arizona. and there are also 4 Regional Digests corresponding to a Regional Reporter. so refer to these before leaving you topic. There is a list of topics in each book as well as an extensive updated list in the pocket part of volume one. Digests There are State Digests. Education Law Digest. Utah. North Carolina. The topics are arrange by similar annotations with a simple “holding” of the case so you can scan through lots of cases under topic without looking up each. South Carolina Virginia. New York. New Jersey. Mass. South Dakota. This is a better way to find specific case law regarding your circumstances with primary or at least secondary authority. or N. Century Digests. There are dozens of specialized digests also available and cover topics such as Bankruptcy digest. There is also at the end a full volume called Table of Statutes. D.Connecticut . that the cases have been arranged by topics based on their holdings. When a holding looks interesting write down the case label and later we will pull the full case up for further study. Maine. Idaho.E.L. and South Eastern Digest. Atlantic Reporter A or A. Colorado.R. Last there is a “Treated Elsewhere” section at the beginning of every topic which refers to other AmJur topics that are related. Reporters There is a number of Regional Reporters published by West’s that contain appellate decisions and we’ll go through these and you check for your State. etc.E. North Eastern Reporter N.W. Maryland. Nebraska.E. Oklahoma.Illinois.L. Minnesota.E. Rules and Regulation cited.2d – Iowa Michigan. or P. West Virginia . Rhode Island.2d .S. and Ohio North Western Reporter – N. Wisconsin Pacific Reporter – P. with each relating to a specific topic or venue. California.

CIA in the index.2d Arkansas.2d – California courts Supreme Court Reporter – S. Tennessee.898 we know it is in the 223rd volume of the 3rd edition of Federal Reporters on page 898.Ct. now this is beginning to make sense to you now. Supreme court opinions Federal Reporter .2d 386 We know where to find this case.S. now that you know what it means. They are arranged by State and Federal District.F.Supp Contains opinions of the Federal District Courts and the United States Court of International Trade Now that you have this information a case address should begin to make sense to you now.S. and then pull the correct volume of Shepard’s out. or N. or write down the case addresses. Under the Heading of Anastoff –vs. Kentucky. or S. Texas Southwestern Reporter – Alabama.CIA will be a listing of all other court cases that have used this case to reach its decision. When you see the term 114 P. There are sometimes letters in front of the sites and these are defined as S means it is the same case at an earlier stage of its litigation CC means it is a connected case involving the same parties or the same subject matter D means it was distinguished from this case J means this was the main case in dissenting opinions . In example in Anastoff –vs. and start looking them up in your regional reporter.Y. or Cal Rptr. and Mississippi New York – N.Y. but if you don’t know how to find cases that dictate primary authority on your judge. We will go to the 114th volume of the Pacific Reporter and look on page 386 for this case. Federal Supplement .CIA case cited earlier 223 F. you are. Florida.2d or F. For the Anastoff –vs.South Western Reporter – S. You’ll probably never look at a court case cite again the same way. Either photo copy the page.W.CIA we would look in the Shepard’s citations for Federal and look up Anastoff –vs.F.W. or F. Now lets learn how to take a case that is not binding authority to look for a similar case within your venue. This is one of the best ways to find hidden Gem court cases that support your cause. Shepard’s Citations Shepard’s is a huge index of cases with a listing of other court cases that have used the authority of another case. Missouri.2d – New York courts California Reporter – Cal Rptr. There is a lot of case law floating around in the patriot community. Ok.3d. Louisiana. so you will simply thumb through the pages of listings till you find your state or district.3d These contain opinions of the thirteen United States Court of appeals.

. or repeal the main statute. Ordinances. and Jury Instructions. Regulations.F means it was controlling or pervasive authority for the decision You can also Shepardize a Statute by finding the appropriate Shepard’s and look up the Statute by Title and Chapter and find citations that amend. Other things that you can Shepardize is State and Federal constitutions. Court Rules. alter. Municipal Charters.