Contents Introduction to the Doctrine of Precedent, the National Reporter System®, Headnotes, the Key Number System and the Key Number Digests The Topic and Key Number System Key Number Digests Finding and Using Relevant Key Numbers KeySearch West’s Instructional Aids Series
The Doctrine of Precedent Precedents are prior cases in the jurisdiction that are close in fact or legal principles to the case in consideration. The doctrine of precedent dictates that decisions reached in previous cases in the jurisdiction dealing with the same or similar issues should be followed, unless there is a good reason to deviate. Introduction
The Doctrine of Precedent The doctrine of precedent is founded on a sense of fairness and the belief that decisions should be consistent and not arbitrary so that the legal consequence of conduct can be predicted. This doctrine explains the attorney’s need for access to prior cases in the jurisdiction dealing with the same or similar issues. Introduction
National Reporter System, Headnotes, Key Number System and the Key Number Digests The National Reporter System is the name given to the entire group of publications that report both state and federal cases decided throughout the country. Some reporters cover specialty topics, such as bankruptcy. Introduction
Headnotes in a Case Headnotes appear before the text of every case in the National Reporter System. A headnote is a paragraph summary of a single point of law discussed in the case. Headnotes appear in the order the points of law are discussed in the case. Introduction
Headnotes (Digest Paragraphs) Headnotes are prepared by West attorney-editors using –consistent and current legal terminology instead of ambiguous, regional or outdated words –descriptive terms instead of proper names Language of OpinionLanguage of Headnote - Mr. Brown or plaintiff - landlord - Tylenol or Bufferin- aspirin - tipsy or inebriated- intoxicated The headnotes help you retrieve many online cases that you would otherwise miss. Introduction
Headnote and Key Number The point of law discussed in each headnote is assigned to at least one West topic number and key number. Introduction
West’s Key Number Digests The headnotes from every reported case in the National Reporter System are organized by topic and key number in West’s Key Number Digests. Headnotes become digest paragraphs. There are –federal, state, and regional digests –special-subject digests –digests that cover specific periods of time Introduction
West’s Key Number Digests Using an on-point key number, you can find similar headnotes from other cases in any National Reporter System publication. Each headnote in a digest cites, and on Westlaw ® links, to the case in which the headnote appears. Introduction
1. Cases are printed in the National Reporter System reporters. National Reporter System Topic and Key Number System Digests Headnotes 1. 2. 3 4. 2. Each point of law discussed in a case is summarized in a headnote. 3.The point of law in each headnote is assigned a key number(s). 4.Digests organize all headnotes (digest paragraphs) by key number. 5.The key number in a digest is used to find other relevant cases 3. 5.
Headnotes and the Topic and Key Number System When West receives an opinion from the court, a West attorney- editor identifies the points of law discussed in the case. Each point of law is summarized in a headnote. After carefully analyzing the point of law that the headnote discusses, the West attorney-editor assigns the headnote to at least one key number in the West Topic and Key Number System. The Topic and Key Number System
This headnote summarizes the second point of law discussed in this case on Westlaw. The headnote is assigned to key number 90.1(1.2) under Topic 92 (Constitutional Law). Headnote Key Number 90.1(1.2) Topic Number (92) Headnote Number (2) The Topic and Key Number System
The West Topic and Key Number System is an extensive outline of the entire body of case law in this country. is an index to the entire National Reporter System, helping you more easily locate cases with similar legal issues in any jurisdiction. is a classification system with at least one topic and key number assigned to each point of law. The Topic and Key Number System
The West Topic and Key Number System divides the law into approximately 400 broad digest topics. breaks down each topic into subheadings contains approximately 100,000 specific key numbers The Topic and Key Number System
Topics The topic are arranged alphabetically and numbered between 1 and 450. Each topic addresses a broad legal issue. Some topics have been added after the original 414 topics were assigned numbers. –See, 48A Automobiles –See, 48B Aviation Other topics have been eliminated or renamed (e.g., West attorney-editors no longer use topic 3).
Topics and Key Numbers Each topic is broken down into subheadings. There can be as many as eight levels in the topic and key number hierarchy. This process continues until further breakdown of a legal issue is unproductive and a specific key number is assigned. See, 92k90.1(1.2), above. 92 Constitutional Law (Topic) 92V Personal, Civil and Political Rights (Subheading) 92k90 Freedom of Speech and of the Press 92k90.1 Particular Expressions and Limitations 92k90.1(1.2) k. Election Regulations (Specific Key Number)
Topics, Subheadings, and Key Numbers This is a breakdown of subheading 90.1 (Particular expressions and limitations) under the Constitutional Law topic and subheading V. (Personal, Civil and Political Rights) in the print version of the digest. 92k90.1(1.2) is the specific key number dealing with Election regulations.
Currentness of Topics Topics or portions of topics are added, renamed, expanded, contracted, merged, or eliminated as law, society, and political sensitivity dictate. Insurance topic was reorganized in 1998; Negligence topic was reorganized in 1999 RICO topic was added in 1990; Sentencing topic was added in 2000 Drunkards topic became inactive in 1978 and all new cases were classified under a new topic, Chemical Dependents. The new topic also contains some issues that were previously categorized under Drugs and Narcotics Insane Persons topic was renamed Mental Health
Currentness of Key Numbers Key numbers are added, renumbered, or transferred to other topics as law, society, and political sensitivity dictate. What was once a specific key number may be expanded over time to provide deeper analysis of a growing area of the law. Translation tables in print volumes aid in moving between the old and new classifications. On Westlaw, a “Formerly” line is added to key numbers that have changed so you can search by old or new key number. (See below.)
Think of the topic and key number as an address: –Each street in the city represents a digest topic. –There are many houses on each street and each house has its own number. –In order to find a particular house, you must know both the street name (topic) and the house number (key number).
Key Numbers and Key Number Digests West’s Key Number Digests are the research link between Key Numbers and the National Reporter System cases. The digests contain the headnotes (digest paragraphs) and their corresponding topic and key numbers from every set of cases in the National Reporter System. The headnotes (digest paragraphs) are organized first alphabetically by topic and then numerically by key number. Digests
Key Number Digests Digest sets include: State digests Regional digests Federal Practice Digest Specialty subjects, such as Bankruptcy, Military Justice, Federal Claims, and Education Law digests Decennial digests, which contain all headnotes from cases for each 10-year period beginning with 1897 The Century Digest, which contains headnotes from cases from 1658 to 1896 Digests
West’s Key Number Digests Each digest series spans many volumes and is organized first alphabetically by topic then numerically by key number. Digests
Topic Lists in Print Digests Use the alphabetical Digest Topics list at the beginning of each print digest volume as a table of contents. Check the key numbers under the topics that seem most relevant. Browsing the Topic Hierarchy
West’s Analysis of American Law West’s Analysis of American Law lists all the topics and the specific key numbers with the title given to each key number. Constitutional Law TOPIC NO. 92 90.1– Particular Expressions and Limitations (1.2) Election Regulations Browsing the Topic Hierarchy
Descriptive Word Index When classifying points of law and assigning to key numbers, West attorney-editors choose words that describe the important facts and legal issues These fact and issue words are arranged alphabetically in the Descriptive Word Index volumes of the digest. The Descriptive Word Index refers you to relevant topic and key numbers.
Ask, “What words describe the pertinent facts of the case or legal question involved?” Most descriptive words fall into one of five categories of elements common to every case: –Parties or facts –Places and things –Issue or basis of action –Defenses –Relief sought Finding Relevant Key Numbers in Print Descriptive Word Index
Example: John Landlord failed to replace a light bulb in the hallway of one of his apartment buildings. Jane Tenant failed to see a step and fell down a flight of stairs. She is suing John for damages. You might start by checking in the index under landlord, tenant, apartment, common area, or premise liability. At least one of these entries will probably lead you to key numbers assigned to headnotes in cases that discuss the same or similar issues. Finding Relevant Key Numbers in Print Descriptive Word Index
Secondary Sources’ Library References in Print and on Westlaw Reference to a constitutional law key number for an Am Jur ® 2d (American Jurisprudence) section on Westlaw. Reference to relevant constitutional key numbers in an ALR ® (American Law Reports) article on Westlaw.
Using a Known Key Number in Print Digests Go to a print digest covering the appropriate jurisdiction and find the volume containing the topic. The digest paragraphs are arranged in numerical order under the topic. All headnotes (digest paragraphs) from all cases discussing the point of law assigned to that key number are listed along with citations to the originating cases.
Using a Known Key Number in a Westlaw Search If you know the key number before you sign on to Westlaw: chose either a case law or a headnote (digest) database, enter the key number as your Terms and Connectors query: 92k90.1(1.2) The “k” makes the term unique. You will retrieve only documents containing the key number. You can require that certain words be in the same paragraph as the key number to customize your search: 92k90.1(1.2) /p speech
Use the “Key Numbers” link on the top of the screen to access the Key Number Search feature. Enter in your key words, select a jurisdiction, and the system will return suggested Key Numbers for you to use. Click on the Key Number you want, and the system will run a Custom Digest search for you. –Students love this new feature! New Feature – Key Number Search
Search on Westlaw In case law databases, key numbers and headnotes appear before the text of the case in the order the legal issues are discussed in the case, just as in the print reporters. In the headnote (digest) databases, the key numbers and headnotes are organized by topic, then by key number, just as in the print digests. Finding Key Numbers on Westlaw
If you don’t know either the topic or the key number –in a headnote database (NY-HN, ALLCASES-HN), enter a Terms and Connectors query or a digest field search: campaign! /p contribut! /p speech –in a case law database (NY-CS, ALLCASES), restrict your query to the digest field (di): di(campaign /p contribut! /p speech) Start out by keeping all terms in the same paragraph. Finding Key Numbers on Westlaw Search on Westlaw
The West Topic and Key Number System Allows you to quickly find all (including the most current) cases that discuss a legal issue Allows you to quickly determine the merits of your clients’ cases based on how prior cases dealing with the same issue have been decided Allows you to move among reporters, digests, the ALR and AmJur publications and statutes using cross-referenced relevant key numbers The Key Number System is the index to American common- law issues.
is a research tool powered by the respected and dependable West Key Number System identifies key numbers and terms most relevant to your legal issue integrates related key numbers from different topics into one search creates effective queries for you in the appropriate database(s) uses intuitive language and organization, making it easy to navigate
Start your research in KeySearch when: you are unfamiliar with an area of the law you are unfamiliar with the West Key Number System you need to retrieve unreported cases or secondary- source documents as well as reported cases. KeySearch
KeySearch uses the dependable and respected power of the Key Number System and the expertise of West’s attorney-editors to retrieve relevant documents. KeySearch can be accessed from the SiteMap. KeySearch
Efficient – KeySearch creates expert queries for you. There’s no need for you to locate the correct topic and key numbers or determine which terms to include in your query. Easy to use – The interface is organized, logical and easy to navigate. Flexible – You can edit KeySearch queries to fit your fact pattern. Comprehensive – KeySearch includes approximately 10,000 legal issues and retrieves results from reported and unreported cases as well as analytical law. Reliable – KeySearch is powered by the West Key Number System, so you know your results can be trusted. Queries are created by experts in legal topics and query formulation. KeySearch
The National Reporter System, the West editorial enhancements, the West Key Number System, and West Key Number Digests are an integrated research system that guides you to prior cases in any state or federal jurisdiction that discussed similar facts or points of law.
We hope that you have found this lesson helpful. If you have more Westlaw education or training needs, please contact your Academic Account Manager or call the Reference Attorneys at 1-800-WESTLAW.Academic Account Manager If you have feedback on the Instructional Aids Series, please contact Erin Jensen.Erin Jensen Thank You…