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Case Law

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Case Law

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  1. Case Law Legal Research January 2005 Leah Sandwell-Weiss Reference Librarian

  2. Organization of Federal & State Courts

  3. Cases • Reporters – contain cases • Organized by jurisdiction • Cases in chronological order • Digests – contain summaries of legal issues in cases organized by subject • Summaries often called “headnotes” • Subjects are called topics • Further broken down by “key numbers”

  4. Federal Courts & Reporters Supreme Court = • U.S. Reports (U.S.) • Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.) • U.S. Supreme Court Reports, Lawyer’s Edition (L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d) Courts of Appeals = • Federal Reporter (F., F.2d, F.3d) District Courts = • Federal Supplement (F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d)

  5. American Digest System • Tied into West’s National Reporter System • All cases on a given legal point collected under the same digest topic & key number • Digest topics & key numbers consistent through all West digests

  6. Selecting Print Digests • West’s Federal PracticeDigest (various series) • All federal cases • State digests • State & federal cases from an individual state • Regional digests • State cases within the region – no federal cases • Combined digests (Decennials & General) • All cases, all jurisdictions

  7. How to Use Digests • From a case on point • Use the headnotes to identify relevant topics & key numbers • From the Descriptive Word Index • Look up relevant subjects • Check for new entries in pocket part • From a topic entry • Check out the outline of key numbers

  8. How to Use Digests, cont’d • Find topic & key number in right volume • Check court & dates to target appropriate cases to read • Read summaries • Update with pocket parts or interim pamphlets

  9. Additional Features of Digests • Table of Cases • Lists cases alphabetically by both Plaintiff’s & Defendant’s names • Words & Phrases • Provides citations to cases defining terms