The law library’s reference librarians have just published The Law Student’s Quick Guide to Legal Citation. The Guide is an introduction to The Bluebook, designed for the needs of new (perhaps all?) law students. The Guide will be distributed to all incoming students during the first Legal Research and Writing class. For anyone else who is interested, the Guide is available through Amazon at the link below.
Have you noticed that you’ve become more critical of legal-related news stories since starting law school? There are rarely enough details, and often there’s a procedural issue that the reporter didn’t mention, rendering the sensational title inaccurate. However,sometimes it is a quote that catches my attention. During Lance Armstrong’s recent statement that he would not continue to fight doping charges raised by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, he stated, “Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by [USADA CEO] Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt” [emphasis added]. I don’t follow sports very closely, so I had no idea what this U.S. Anti-Doping Agency was, but I was kind of suspicious as to whether it was a government actor that could engage in unconstitutional actions. Quick searches of the U.S. Code Annotated and the Code of Federal Regulations did not yield any results for this agency, but I did find a law review article with a lot of information on the organization, and whether the Constitution applies to its actions. If you’re interested in learning more about Lance Armstrong’s recent nemesis, read Dionne L. Koller, Does the Constitution Apply to the Actions of the United States Anti-Doping Agency?, 50 St. Louis U. L.J. 91 (2005). You can access this article through the library on HeinOnline, Westlaw, and LexisNexis. Whenever the news seems suspicious, or you feel like there’s a piece missing, don’t forget your legal research skills; they can often help you find information that completes the picture.
I know some of you cannot stand to be parted from your beloved Bluebooks. Your suffering can now come to an end because there’s a Bluebook app (for iPhone and iPad), which can be downloaded through rulebook. For just $39.99, you and the Bluebook never have to be apart. Some of the features of this app include the ability to bookmark rules and keep multiple rules open at the same time to flip back and forth (which could be helpful when combining Rule 18 with the underlying source rule to create the appropriate Internet citation). Hat tip to the University of Wisconsin Law Library.
OCI is quickly approaching, and you may be wondering how to best approach your interviews. Bloomberg Law has created an “Acing Legal Job Interviews” series of podcasts to answer some of your questions. The first video, on preparation, can be accessed here. Sign in to Bloomberg Law to see the rest of the series (found under “Videos and Podcasts” in the middle of the main page), which includes videos discussing on campus interviews, call backs, and what to do after an interview. If you don’t have a Bloomberg Law password, sign up for one here.
Although Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg Law are great sources for recent U.S. Supreme Court briefs, what do you do when you need briefs or appendices from classic cases? The library subscribes to a database called The Making of Modern Law: U.S. Supreme Court Records and Briefs, 1832-1978. As the title suggests, this database allows you to find briefs and records going back all the way to 1832.
What kinds of items are included in the record transcripts?
- Motion practice from lower courts
- Prior proceedings before administrative agencies
- Discovery documents
- Answers to interrogatories
- Financial statements
- Deposition testimony
Basically, most things submitted to a court during the course of litigation will be included, with the exception of items that cannot be made publicly known (ex. trade secrets). This makes this database not only a great source for old briefs, but also for a wide variety of information appended to briefs.
As we learn WestlawNext, questions arise as to whether helpful tricks that worked in classic Westlaw still work in WestlawNext. The good news is that for field searching, the answer is yes.
What is field searching? Field searching allows you to search specific parts of a document, like title, author, or judge, for a term. It also searches the metadata assigned to the document for particular information specified by the researcher. One of my favorite field searches is Words and Phrases. This search allows you to search cases for instances where a word or phrase has been defined by the court. Below is a picture showing where you would’ve gone to do a field search on Westlaw.com:
You might ask, if WestlawNext has relevancy rankings, why do I need field searching? Field searching is a more narrow approach that you can use when you know a concrete fact about what you’re looking for (i.e. “I want an opinion authored by Judge X.”). Field searching is helpful when you know what you want more specifically than the algorithm. Also, field searching can help you specify a search that might be difficult to express with keywords. Going back to Words and Phrases, you want instances where the court has defined a term (ex. “constructive trust”). If you had to do a keyword search, you could search for “constructive trust,” but that would provide results for every time the term appears, not just where it is defined. You could try adding defin! to pick up definition or defined, but a court is not always going to write, “Constructive trust is defined as….” so you might miss important definitions if you limit the results this way.
Ok, I get it, field searching is important. How do I construct a field search on WestlawNext? If you want to search only for the title, that can be entered in the appropriate box on the Advanced Search page. Other fields are a little more tricky. First, you have to type strict: to tell the computer you want to conduct a strict search and bypass the WestlawNext algorithm. Then you need to enter the abbreviation for the field you want to search (I have provided a table of abbreviations at the bottom of this post). Immediately following the abbreviation, enter your term(s) in parentheses. Our example searching Words & Phrases for constructive trust would look like this:
Although field searching still works in WestlawNext, it is not well advertised, so there was some concern that the West editors might not be tagging cases and other documents with the relevant field information anymore. However, if you conduct this search, you will see that there are cases from the last couple of months in the results, so field searching is still a great way to obtain tailored results that are also recent. If you have any questions about field searching or using WestlawNext efficiently, please don’t hesitate to contact any of the reference librarians. Below is the chart with the field abbreviations:
|Prelim and Caption
|Synopsis and Digest