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The Process of Legal Research - 1 West’s Instructional Aids Series How to Use Print and Online Legal Resources To Your Best Advantage.

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Presentation on theme: "The Process of Legal Research - 1 West’s Instructional Aids Series How to Use Print and Online Legal Resources To Your Best Advantage."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Process of Legal Research - 1 West’s Instructional Aids Series How to Use Print and Online Legal Resources To Your Best Advantage

2 Contents Introduction From Facts to Issue Controlling Statute Expanding Research Identifying Cases to Cite Ensuring Currency and Validity of Law Conclusion

3 Introduction Contents

4 Introduction ( R)esearch requires the poetic quality of the imagination that sees significance and relation where others are indifferent or find unrelatedness; the synthetic quality of fusing items theretofore in isolation; above all the prophetic quality of piercing the future by knowing what questions to put and what direction to give inquiry. Frankfurter, “The Conditions for, and the Aims and Methods of, Legal Research,”: 15 Iowa L.Rev. 129, 134 (1930).

5 Legal research is an art as well as a skill. It calls for judgment and creativity along with mastery of a set of tools and techniques. Each research question will have a different starting point, process, and conclusion. Every research project will include false starts, dead ends, and revisions. There is never one “right” path. Researchers choosing different paths for the same research question may be equally successful. Legal research is never “finished,” but the experienced researcher recognizes when to stop. Introduction

6 The starting point of research depends on the nature of the issue, how it is presented to the researcher, and the researcher’s experience. The starting point for research may be a fact pattern, a subject, an issue, a case, or a statute. At the outset, determine if your research will be exclusively in case law or if there are statutes or regulations that should be explored. Determine whether your research will be primarily in federal law or state law, or both. Introduction

7 Research often begins with a fact pattern. You might be given an “on-point” case or statute, but seldom will the facts of your research question fit squarely with the facts of other cases or the language of the statute. A client relates a narrative for which he feels “wronged” but has no legal theory to justify or deny compensation. This is when your legal training will come into play. It is extremely difficult for someone untrained in the law to translate a fact pattern into a legal theory of recovery or defense. Introduction


9 From Facts to Issue Contents

10 The Facts Ronnie, a salaried driver for the Acme Corporation, was unloading goods at a customer’s loading dock. Ronnie and the customer began to argue about whose duty it was to move the goods into the store. Ronnie shoved the customer. The customer fell and was injured. The customer is suing Acme for compensation for his injuries. Acme employs you to represent the corporation in the upcoming negotiations or litigation. The case is filed within the jurisdiction of the state courts of Louisiana. Facts to Issue

11 These facts must be translated into a legal issue(s). This is one of the hardest part of legal research for the beginning researcher. Legal resources are seldom organized by facts; they are organized by legal theory. You will need to identify terms of art that might apply to this situation. You will need to learn the “black letter” law – statements of principles that govern the particular area of the law. Black letter law will give shape and limits to your research. Facts to Issue

12 The parameters of your research may later have to be broadened, tightened, or shifted, but it is reassuring to start out with a map of the area you will be exploring. Your thinking about the legal issues presented by a particular set of facts is likely to change as you learn more about an area of the law. Remain flexible. Once you are familiar with the relevant terms of art and black letter law, you should be able to articulate your issue more precisely. Facts to Issue

13 Research: In Print or Online? There is no right or wrong way to begin your research. In the past, researchers had no choice but to conduct legal research in print resources. The last few years have witnessed the introduction and tremendous growth of a powerful alternative, online legal research. Neither is the “better” method. One might work better than the other in this situation. You won’t know until you get started. In all likelihood, you will move back and forth between print and online resources during the research process. Facts to Issue

14 When confronted with an unfamiliar area of the law, many researchers find it easier to use print resources (such as legal encyclopedias, restatements, and practice guides) to get an overview, set parameters, learn the terms of art and black-letter law. Book materials have a satisfying way of organizing and limiting research. They naturally set boundaries within the law that the seemingly endless and seamless materials of online legal materials cannot provide. Book materials can impart a sense of orientation, the feeling that you have found what you need to get started. Facts to Issue

15 One exception to the generalization that print resources are often the best place to start research is when the case is dependent on a particular detail. –If the case rests on the fact that the vehicle involved was a farm tractor, standard print indexes and table of contents will not be organized around farm tractor cases. A full text online search for farm tractors and injuries may retrieve cases that can be the starting point for research. Facts to Issue

16 You might start with a well respected secondary source, such as: –a treatise –West’s Nutshell Series –West’s Black Letter Series –American Law Reports (ALR) –a legal encyclopedia, such as American Jurisprudence (AMJUR) or Corpus Juris Secundum (CJS) Law school casebooks, with their emphasis on related but seemingly contradictory cases are designed for instructional purposes. They are not efficient research tools. Published study outlines often do not contain the clear analysis of contradictory outcomes needed for a full understanding of the issue. Starting Research in Print Secondary Sources Facts to Issue

17 All of the print products listed on the previous screen are secondary sources. Secondary sources –are written by legal experts. –lay out general principles of law along with exceptions and variations to that law. –are a source of citations to primary law (cases, statutes, and regulations). –may be cited to support a legal theory, especially in an emerging or rapidly changing area of the law where there is no primary law available. Facts to Issue

18 Once you have found a secondary source or two that you trust, check the index and table of contents. –Many indexes are designed with entry words that allow a researcher unfamiliar with an area of the law to find the appropriate sections. –The hierarchy of the materials listed in the table of contents will help you move from general to specific issues. What you are looking for: –Terms of art that apply to the facts –A statement of the generally accepted principles of law, often called “black letter” law –Enough understanding of the broader aspects of the issue to set parameters for your research Facts to Issue

19 The Table of Contents of Torts in the Nutshell Series has a section titled, Employers, Employees and Contractors. This section introduces and defines the following terms: –Vicarious liability –Scope of employment or course of employment Employers, Employees and Contractors Facts to Issue

20 Vicarious liability is a form of strict liability by which A is held liable to another for the tort of B for no reason other than that there exists some relationship between A and B and B was acting within the scope of that relationship when he committed the tort. The overwhelming number of vicarious liability cases arise from the employer-employee relationship. …(S)cope (or sometimes “course” or “scope and course”) of his employment … is a question of fact which considers the employee’s job description or assigned duties, the time, place, and purpose of employee’s act, the similarity of his conduct to the things he was hired or authorized to do or which are commonly done by such employees, and the foreseeability of his act. Facts to Issue

21 Torts in the Nutshell Series discusses the general black letter law that applies to the vicarious liability of employers for the acts of their employees. –Once it is determined that the tortfeasor was an employee at the time he committed the tort, his employer is vicariously liable if his conduct is within the scope of his employment. Torts, in the Black Letter Series, describes the liability of an employer for the intentional torts of employees: –An employer is vicariously liable for his employee’s intentional torts committed in the scope of his employment and in furtherance of his employer’s business, at least if the employee’s act was foreseeable. Facts to Issue

22 Black letter statements of the law from Torts in the Black Letter Series Facts to Issue

23 You have found relevant terms of art and black letter statements of the issue which enables you to determine the focus of your research. The fact that the assault was an intentional act and whether the act was in furtherance of Acme’s business and foreseeable will be important considerations. You can now lay out the broad parameters of the issue and state the issue using appropriate legal terminology. You must persuade the court that Ronnie’s intentional act was outside the scope of his employment. You must also anticipate the arguments of your opponent. Facts to Issue

24 Issue When Ronnie assaulted the plaintiff, was he acting within the scope of his employment with Acme? Two Step Determination Torts in a Nutshell lays out two questions that will help you determine if Acme is liable for Ronnie’s actions. –Was Ronnie an employee at the time of the accident? –Was Ronnie’s conduct within the scope of his employment? The second step will be the focus of your research, as there is no issue as to Ronnie’s employee status. Facts to Issue

25 Controlling Statute Contents

26 Controlling Statute Now you are ready to explore employer vicarious liability in more detail and retrieve relevant primary law. The next step is often searching more detailed secondary sources or case law, but another option is to see if there is a controlling Louisiana statute. Because you have learned the terms of art that are often used when referring to this issue, a Natural Language search in the Louisiana Statutes Annotated database (LA- ST-ANN) on Westlaw may be a good way to find relevant statutory law. Controlling Statute

27 The Natural Language search method allows you to use “plain English” to retrieve relevant documents. Just enter a description of your issue and Westlaw will display the documents that best match the concepts in your description. Natural Language searching is often an most effective way to search annotated statutory databases because: –The text of a statute is often obscurely worded by the legislature and the flexible nature of Natural Language can ignore search words that do not appear in the document and focus on the remaining words. –The annotations (Notes of Decisions) appended to the statute are summaries of case law that have interpreted or applied the statute and discuss the issue in the more foreseeable language of the courts. Controlling Statute

28 Database: LA-ST-ANN Search: employer “vicariously liable” for assault (“intentional act” “intentional tort”) of employee The first statute displayed is Louisiana Civil Code § 2320. This statute seems to be addressing employers’ vicarious liability and scope of employment, but it does not include the terms of art you encountered in the print resources. “Masters and employers are answerable for the damage occasioned by their servants and overseers, in the exercise of the functions in which they are employed.” § 2320 Controlling Statute

29 Click the Best arrow to display the portion of the document that most closely matches your description. In this document, the Best portion of the document is in the annotations where the more foreseeable language of case law is summarized. Best Controlling Statute

30 The brief wording of the statute does not stand alone but has been interpreted and applied by many courts. There are more than one thousand annotations, divided into almost two hundred subtopics appended to § 2320 and many of the subtopics seem relevant to your issue. Controlling Statute

31 It there were fewer relevant annotations, it might be possible to confine your research to the full text of the cases summarized in the annotations. The number of annotations makes it difficult to synthesize them into general principals law. You will more help. In this case, it may be more efficient to search for relevant secondary sources that synthesize and analyze case law in detail. Controlling Statute

32 You would have had a more difficult time if you had attempted to find the controlling statute in the print statutory index. Civil Code § 2320 is indexed under LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT, under the subtopic of Responsibility for acts of employees. There is nothing listed under Vicarious liability or Scope of employment in the print Index. Responsibility for acts of employees Controlling Statute

33 If you are using the print statutes, be sure to check the pocket part. Pocket parts are periodically issued supplements that update the text in the bound volume. They are inserted into a pocket in the back cover of the bound volume. C.C. § 2320 48.- Physical attack or killing within the employment, course and scope of employment 49.- Physical attack or killing not within the employment, course and scope of employment Controlling Statute

34 End of The Process of Legal Research - 1

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