Research - Robert W Van Houten Library

Basic resources and strategies
for legal research
Davida Scharf, SoM Librarian [email protected]
Heather Dalal, Information Literacy Librarian [email protected]
NJIT Van Houten Library
Last updated October 2011
Facts of the Case & Part I
Suppose college officials knew that there has been a number of
assaults on or attempted rapes of female students in a certain
area on campus, where a stairway was hidden by foliage and
trees. Suppose they chose not to publicize these incidents and
had not warned students in any way. Then another attack
occurred, and the male assailant used a modus operandi similar
to the one that had been used previously on the same stairway.
In view of these circumstances, from the standpoint of law, and of
ethics, evaluate and answer the following questions:
Can the plaintiff, meet the requirements of negligence against the
defendant? Is it foreseeable? Is the plaintiff likely to win?
Should a college be responsible to protect its students from
Check: Peterson v. San Francisco Community College
District, 685 P.2d 1193 (Calif. 1984)
Can you find this
case using
Research – Part 2
1) Is there a trend for or against holding them legal
2) What are the arguments pro and con?
Research – Part 2
1) Is there a trend for or against holding them legal
• Who are the parties? What is the issue?
• Who was liable?
• What year was the Peterson case resolved?
• What are the arguments of each party?
• How many cases must you read to see a trend?
• Has anybody already synthesized this?
2) What are the arguments pro and con?
• What were the outcomes?
• On what arguments were they based?
Break it down!
You will need to:
1. Find the ‘Peterson’ case & read it
What was the outcome?
On what legal arguments was it based?
2. Use it to find more recent similar cases & read
3. Find out what else has been written on the issues
4. Analyze your findings for
1) trends and 2) arguments
5. Cite your sources correctly
Accessing Legal Information @ NJIT
Library website
Remote access for catalog and ILL
Get Help
Library Subscription Databases
Including Lexis-Nexis
2 pathways –
A to Z:
Find under “L”
by Subject
Find under “Legal”
Select “Legal” databases from website
Find a case when you know the citation
Use the widget . . .
or use advanced
Show me! Watch a
YouTube Video
Results for Peterson v. SF CCD
Here is the citation
you were given
1983 decision was
Understand the parts of the full case document
Disposition – how was it resolved- who won
Procedural posture –
Look up words you don’t know !
Understand the parts of the full case document
Full citation for the document
complete document
4 different addresses for the same
document; only one is required
Sometimes just the address
is also called a ‘citation’.
the law on which the
suit was based
1. Use the automatic citation
generator inside Lexis-Nexis
2. Copy the proper citation for
the case—make sure all the
elements are there.
Scroll down to CASE HEADINGS
for ideas for keywords to find similar cases
are prominent
legal and
factual terms
taken directly
from the opinion
HEADNOTES (HN1 … HN26) are key legal points of a
case drawn directly from the language of the court. Click
on the HN# to see the reference.
To understand trends. . .
find cases that cite this one-- Shepardize
When you Shepardize® a case, LexisNexis provides a
report showing every opinion where that case has been
referenced, all treatments of the case, and, most
importantly, whether or not the case is "good law." If the
case has been overruled, it is considered "bad law" and
may no longer be cited as a legal precedent.
Shepard’s Summary
For HELP on Shepardizing see
Positive/Negative analysis
Scroll down for cases
that cited yours
182 citing decisions
Elements of a legal citation
What? What is the thing cited, a case, a statute, a law
review article, etc.?
Where? Where can the reader go to find the
information? e.g. 617 F. Supp. 341
When? When did this information come into being?
Usually the date is given as a year but
sometimes more specific information is required.
Who? Who is the author of the information? A court?
A legislature? A law student?
Source: Handout on Legal Citation, Northeastern University, School of Law, Library
Case Citations
A complete case citation has four elements
PARTIES The parties' names
ADDRESS At least one ID or address for the case
Pay attention to formatting and details (e.g. italics,
brackets, abbreviations, etc.)
How to read a case citation
1. WHO are the parties?
Peterson v. San Francisco Community College District,
685 P.2d 1193 (Calif. 1984)
3. WHEN=Year
4. WHO is the author of the information? The court.
Pacific Reporter
2nd series
State court
Page #
2. WHERE can the reader go to find the case? (The “reporters” are the
books where the legal decisions are published.)
More Sources of Legal Information
Law reviews and journals
[Primary sources]
[Secondary sources]
What is the difference
between primary and secondary sources?
Law Reviews and Journals (Secondary)
Law Reviews
A law review is a scholarly journal focusing on legal
issues, normally published by an organization of students
at a law school or through a bar association (e.g. Harvard
Law Review, NYU Law Review)
Law Journals (Peer-reviewed or scholarly)
Feature articles written by researchers and practitioners.
Recognized researchers in the field will evaluate a
manuscript and recommend its publication, revision, or
rejection. (e.g. Journal of Law and Health)
Search Law Reviews & Journals
Search by topic: campus AND assault
Search by topic: campus AND assault
997 articles in law reviews & journals
View tagged
Or refine—add terms
Sample article from Law Review
Cite this source: Author, Title, Volume #, Journal Name, Page #, (Year)
Griffaton, Michael C., Forewarned is Forearmed: The Crime
Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 and the Future of
Institutional Liability for Student Victimization, 43 Case W. Res.
525 (1993).
Cases may be embedded in the text. Law Review articles should be
footnotes or endnotes.
Find relevant info, click on the in-text reference…
It links to the footnote reference
…which links you to full text of case
Case Law and Case Reporters (Primary)
In the United States, opinions and decisions of federal
and state courts create precedent which is binding on
other courts; therefore, many of the opinions and
decisions of these courts are published.
Source: BU Law Library
When to quit searching for new cases…
Did the courts continue to side with the victim (plaintiff) rather
than the institution (defendant)?
Were the conditions similar?
Look for a few of the most current cases
Sample cases from early 2000’s and later
What happened immediately following the case – 2001?
Try other states? Compare to NJ?
Do you need to look at cases older than Peterson?
. . . Until you feel you understand whether or not the tide turned.
Online Legal Citation Guides
William and Mary
Including list of Reporter abbreviations
Rutgers Research Guides – Law*
Federal Government Information Resources
by Stephanie Bartz - last updated on Sep 30th, 2011
Links to online resources and starting points for research.
International and Foreign Governments
by Stephanie Bartz - last updated on Aug 10th, 2011
by Paul Axel-Lute - last updated on Sep 1st, 2011
Selected resources for legal and law-related research.
NJ State & Local Governments
by Stephanie Bartz, Mary Fetzer - last updated on Sep 8th, 2011
Links to websites and online resources for researching information from New
Jersey state and local government.
United Nations and United Nations Organizations
by Stephanie Bartz, Mary Fetzer - last updated on Aug 15th, 2011
NJIT Librarian
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[email protected] (973) 642-4390
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Information Literacy Librarian
[email protected] (973) 596-8499
GoogleTalk: heatherdalal
MLIS Rutgers University
MEd., University of Massachusetts, Boston
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