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Federal & California Courts & Case Reports: The Basics Real World Research November 12, 2008 Marlene Harmon & Dean C. Rowan, Reference Librarians.

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Presentation on theme: "Federal & California Courts & Case Reports: The Basics Real World Research November 12, 2008 Marlene Harmon & Dean C. Rowan, Reference Librarians."— Presentation transcript:

1 Federal & California Courts & Case Reports: The Basics Real World Research November 12, 2008 Marlene Harmon & Dean C. Rowan, Reference Librarians

2 The California Courts Judicial Council of California, Administrative Office of the Courts, California CourtsCalifornia Courts – Supreme Court & Courts of Appeal opinions – Superior Court web sites – California Judicial Branch fact sheetfact sheet – Court Statistics Reports Court Statistics Reports NCSC, Court Structure ChartCourt Structure Chart

3 CA Superior Courts No published rulings, with one exception: Appellate Division decisions are selectively published in Cal. App. Supp. "[T]he appellate division of the superior court has appellate jurisdiction in causes prescribed by statute.”--Cal Const art VI, §11(b) California Civil Appellate Practice, 3rd ed. (CEB 1996-), §§ 10.2 et. seq., for more on App. Div.

4 Print Sources for California Cases Official – LexisNexis California Reports, now in its 4th series CA Supreme Court – LexisNexis California Appellate Reports, now in its 4th series CA Courts of Appeal Appellate Division of CA Superior Courts – LexisNexis California Official Reports (advance sheets)

5 Print Sources (cont.) West – California Reporter, now in its 3rd series CA Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal – Pacific Reporter, now in its 3rd series At one time combined CA Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal with other Pacific region states’ courts’ opinions Post-1959, includes only Supreme Court from CA

6 Alternatives & Staying Current Daily Journal Daily Appellate Report – Full text of all published opinions of SCOTUS, 9th Cir. (inc. Bankruptcy), Cal., Cal. App., Cal. AG – Selected US District Courts in CA, State Bar Court Daily Journal California Court Directory, monthly supplement

7 California Rules of Court Title 8, Appellate Rules, Division 5, Publication of Appellate Opinions – Rule Publication of appellate opinions Rule Publication of appellate opinions – Rule Partial publication Rule Partial publication – Rule Citation of opinions Rule Citation of opinions – Rule Requesting publication of unpublished opinions Rule Requesting publication of unpublished opinions – Rule Requesting depublication of published opinions Rule Requesting depublication of published opinions

8 Commercial Electronic Sources Westlaw & LexisNexis Loislaw VersusLaw Fastcase Cal Law – Free news headlines, but full decisions require subscription

9 Westlaw CA Reported Cases CA-CSRCA-CSR – Approx. 9% of Ct. of App. opinions published CA Unreported Cases CA-CSUCA-CSU – No headnotes Trial court orders CA-TRIALORDERSCA-TRIALORDERS CA State Bar Court decisions, CA-CSCA-CS CA Attorney General Opinions CA-AGCA-AG

10 LexisNexis CA Published Cases, Combined Published CA Court of Appeal Cases Unpublished CA Court of Appeal Cases CA State Bar Court Decisions, March CA Attorney General Opinions, Jan

11 Free Electronic VersusLaw, FindacaseFindacase – CA Supreme Ct. 1930, Cts. of App Public Library of Law PreCYdent – January 2000-

12 Cal. Office of the Attorney General Legal Opinions, Monthly Report, Search Legal Opinions “As the chief law officer of the state, the California Attorney General provides legal opinions upon request to designated state and local public officials and government agencies on issues arising in the course of their duties. The formal legal opinions of the Attorney General have been accorded ‘great respect’ and ‘great weight’ by the courts.”

13 For Future Reference Advanced Legal Research syllabus, Fall 2008, California Cases and Depublicationsyllabus

14 Federal Court Structure Supreme Court: United States Supreme Court Appellate Courts: US Courts of Appeals – 12 Regional Circuit Courts of Appeals – US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit – US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Trial Courts: US District Courts – 94 Judicial Districts – US Bankruptcy Courts – US Court of International Trade – US Court of Federal Claims

15 Federal Court Structure (cont.) Other Federal Courts (Courts of Special Jurisdiction) – Military Courts (trial and appellate) – Court of Veterans Appeals – US Tax Court – Federal Administrative Agencies and Boards Court Structure Chart District and Circuit Boundaries

16 Finding the Court Decisions 1. Universe of Published Print Decisions Published vs. Unpublished Decisions – With the exception of the US Supreme Court, only about 16% of federal decisions are published. – All US Supreme Court decisions are published. This brief video by West demonstrates the process of preparing a newly issued opinion for publication and online access.video US Supreme Court – United States Reports (official reporter) – United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer’s Edition – West’s Supreme Court Reporter – US Law Week (BNA)

17 1. Universe of Published Print Decisions (cont.) US Courts of Appeals – West’s Federal Reporter, now in its 3rd Series US District Courts – West’s Federal Supplement, now in its 2nd Series Courts of Special Jurisdiction – West’s Bankruptcy Reporter – Federal Claims Court Reporter – West’s Veteran’s Appeals Reporter – United States Tax Cases

18 How to Find Print Decisions Using Print Sources: – Digests West – National Reporter System – State and Federal Cases – Editorial Enhancements in Print Decisions Headnotes & West’s Key Numbers – tie into the digests Headnotes & West’s Key Numbers

19 2. The Ever Expanding Universe of Online Case Law: The Big 2 Using Online Sources to Find Cases: – 1970s Mead Data Central (became Lexis) Full text of federal case law goes electronic on subscription database (not the Internet) Neat (seemingly) Universe of print case law began to explode – West slow to catch up, but eventually did – Huge databases, moved far beyond just case law – Sophisticated search engines – Breadth of coverage

20 The Big 2 (cont.) Using Online Sources to Find Cases (cont.) : – Editorial enhancements Headnote and key number searching (the digests online) Links to full text briefs, treatises, encyclopedias Citators – Lexis and Westlaw are the “Big 2” 5 Star, Full Service Legal Databases – COST!

21 Beyond the Big 2 Lexis and Westlaw aren’t the only game in town Increasing numbers of alternative commercial and free sources of case law: – Loislaw Loislaw – VersusLaw VersusLaw – Fastcase Fastcase

22 Beyond the Big 2 (cont.) Alternative commercial and free sources of case law – Smaller databases – Fewer or different editorial enhancements – And cheaper – market to smaller firms, solo practitioners

23 Court and Law School Websites (Mostly free) PACER – Access to federal court docket and case information – Can find court decisions, though not its primary function – Fee based, but cheap – Best accessed through a particular court’s web site

24 Court and Law School Websites (Mostly free) (cont.) Several Law Schools also publish decisions of selected courts – Cornell (LII – Legal Information Institute)LII – Georgetown – Emory – Washburn The Law Library of Congress’s website links to all of the court opinion sites as well as to the Law School SitesLaw Library of Congress US Supreme Court opinions most readily available

25 More Free Internet Sites Findlaw LexisOne AltLaw Justia The Public Library of Law PreCYdent Coverage and features vary for each site

26 Additional Resources for Information about the Federal Courts Judicial Conference of the United States – Principal policy making body of the US courts Administrative Office of the US Courts – Central Support for the entire federal judicial branch. – Carries out policies of the Judicial Conference – Annual Reports, statistical information about caseloads


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