VirtualCourthouse; Issue 1.9
Internet and Legal Research
Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt – December 1996
First Published in the Prince George’s County, Maryland Bar Association Journal – Newsletter
Last month we looked at the Internet in terms of what it could do for the busy cost and productivity conscious attorney. Generally speaking the Internet, as you will recall, helps an attorney in three areas: (i) access to information; (ii) ability to publish information; and (iii) communications. We will look at access to information that will help a lawyer find the law.
First let’s go back to our law school legal methods class and recall that we were taught to organize the law into two general areas — PRIMARY AUTHORITY AND SECONDARY OR PERSUASIVE AUTHORITY. Primary authority was further divided into three categories: (i) statutory law; (ii) case law; and (iii) regulatory law. Secondary authority or persuasive authority can be divided into many categories, such as (i) law review articles; (b) continuing legal education; and (c) law libraries. Using this frame of reference, I will list some Internet sites which will help you get started.
1. STATUTES. The best place to start most all legal research is on U. S. House of Representatives web page. Our representatives have really done a fantastic job in putting together an easy to use organization of the law. You can quickly get right where you need to be, get your information and start using it. Another good resource is Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institutes web page. If you are looking more to the State side of things rather than the Federal side Washburn University School of Law provides access to state statutes from many of the states. The U S House site also gives you the same type of information.
2. CASE LAW. As time goes on more and more case law is becoming available on the Internet. The good thing about the availability of case law on the Internet is the ability to do word searches for cases which might be helpful to your research. On the Federal side of the law your search for Supreme Court decisions should probably begin with the Legal Information Institute of Cornell Law School. Full text opinions are available back to 1990 as are a limited number of older cases. This site also has syllabi for the decisions which are also searchable. Cornell also maintains an index to United States Courts of Appeals as well as full text opinions. On the state side of the law, Project Vote Smart has web page links to state court decisions as does the Law Journal Extra. The Villanova Center for Law and Policy provides additional state court information, opinions, other state court links and indexes.
3. REGULATORY LAW. The United States Superintendent of Documents now distributes it documents on the Internet and the Federal Register is available back to 1994. The University of Michigan also provides a complete guide to all types of federal regulatory sources. State regulatory information can be obtained from the Regulatory Resource Center. You also might want to check out State Capitols. Com.
Marvin R. Anderson from the Minnesota State Law Library has put together a very helpful list of bookmarks which follow:
A. Statutory Sources
1. Federal Statutory Law
2. State Statutory Law
B. Case Law
1. Federal Case Law
2. State Case Law
C. Regulatory Law
1. Federal Regulations
2. State Regulations
D. Legislative History
E. Specific Sites
1. Appellate Procedure