Researching Legal Resources for Case & Topic Analysis

Michael J. Ritter
I hereby disclose that this
session will include a
discussion about law.
 About
• S/K/A “Mikey” and “Ritter”
• Policy Debater – RRHS & Trinity University
• Assistant Debate Coach: St. Mary’s Hall, Stony
Point, etc.
• Now a lawyer…
who debate at TFA
and UIL tournaments almost
always debate law.
 “Congress
is an individual contest [that]
models the legislative process of
democracy, specifically, the United States
• University Interscholastic League, UIL Congress Pilot Contest (2014), available at
 “The
United States federal government
should . . . .”
little less law, a little more current
 But still law:
• Resolved: On balance, public subsidies for professional athletic
organizations in the United States benefit their local
• Resolved: The Supreme Court rightly decided that Section 4 of
the Voting Rights Act violated the Constitution.
• Resolved: Immigration reform should include a path to
citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in
the United States.
 Legal Topics
• Right to be Forgotten (Civil Rights), “In the
criminal justice system,” Compulsory Voting, etc.
 Policy Topics
• Organ Procurement, Humanitarian Aid, Security
vs. Digital Privacy
 Philosophical Topics
• Oppressive Governments v. Anarchy, Rawls vs.
Nozick, Killing Innocents
 Lawyer
secret: A law is just a rule.
 Rules are everywhere.
*Hugh Grant, Love, Actually (2003) (slightly modified for purposes of this presentation).
 The
process of thinking about the rules of
debate is the same as thinking about the
rules of TSCA/TFA/UIL. And that’s the
same process of thinking about “law”
 Laws: Constitutions, Statutes, “Rules” &
Regulations, Interpretations, Case Law
“Generally speaking, there are five sources of law: constitutions, statutes, rules, agency
interpretations, and case law (listed in order of importance, except for case law interpretations of
-Michael J. Ritter, “Don’t Threaten to Sue Your Judge”: An Overview of the Legal Obligations of
Judges, Schools & Organizations, National Journal of Speech & Debate, October 2, 2014.
 Rule-Making
*Haddaway, “What is Love” (1993) (slightly modified for purposes of this presentation).
 Secondary
Sources of Law
• Legal Treatises (Empirical)
• Law Reviews & Law Journals (Normative)
• Law Blogs (Both & More)
 Expensive, Non-Lawyer
• LexisNexis
• Westlaw
 Free, Non-Lawyer
Friendly Resources
• Legal Information Institute:
• Texas Legislature Website:
• Google Scholar:
 Free, Non-Lawyer
Friendly Resources -
• Search Engines (Google, DuckDuckGo)
• American Bar Association – Free Full-Text
Online Law Review/Journal Search
• Black’s Law Dictionary
 Search
 American Bar Association – Law Journal
Search #omgbeckylookwedontneedlexis
 Black’s
Law Dictionary:
 It
depends! (Lawyers love this answer.)
 Depends on:
• Type of Debate
• Type of Topic
• Topic Wording
• The Type of Argument
 Public
Forum Debate
• Depends on the Topic – Non-Current Events
• Did the Supreme Court rightly decide that
section 4 of the Voting Rights Act violated the
 Shelby County v. Holder
 Majority vs. Dissent
 Cross-Examination
(Policy) Debate
• Topicality
 Black’s Law Dictionary
• Inherency
 Is the plan actually a change to the law?
• Harms
 N/A
• Solvency
 Constitutionality, Perceived Unconstitutionality & Fiat
 LD
• See Last Slide
• Using law in value/criterion development
• Case Clash
 Step
I: Brainstorm and Identify Potential
Topic Subareas
 Step
II: Do preliminary search engine
research (e.g. Google, Bing, etc.) and
“Just add ‘Law’”
• And “law blog”
• And “law review”
 Step
III: Start Developing Argument and
Case Ideas
• Identify and confirm topic areas for which there
is literature
• See relevant results from qualified authors
 Step
IV: Quickly Check Supreme Court
Cases After 1986 & Law Reviews Articles
• Cites will be found in the search results; cross
reference with the free sources.
• For Law Journals: focus on policy articles
advocating for a policy change in specific subareas;
• For cases: Look at Supreme Court cases
justifying the ruling; and FEDERAL court of
appeals cases; you find the debate in those
 Step V: Incorporate
My Evidence”
(1) Qualifications: This topic is about the legal issue of <insert
explanation>. My evidence is authored by:
& Bolster—“Prefer
a federal judge who has been deemed an legal expert by the U.S.
a attorney who studied the law in the area and applies the law every day.
(2) This provides a more real world education.
Richard Colling, terrible driver, 2013: Richard J. Colling, The TruthTesting Paradigm as a Straw Man, B.A., University of Houston (400 B.C.,
Director of Forensics, Stony Point High School, NATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPEECH
& DEBATE 2013: “The legalistic model is as real world as the legislative
model, as cases are considered daily by the courts. It could even be
considered more ‘real world’ considering the great frequency of court
cases resolved compared to legislation passed by Congress, and more
debaters end up lawyers than the debaters that end up legislators.”
 Step VI: Save
the statutes/constitutions for
cases on straight-up legal topics and
responses to cases and counterarguments.
• Sometimes even lawyers and courts have issues
trying to understand what the laws mean,
shouldn’t be your go to, but they can be the best
evidence against a case.
• But they frequently can be the most persuasive
 Let’s
try it out:
• Threatening Speech Topic
• Steps I–VI
 You
Ask Questions.
 Like an attorney, I will try to avoid them.