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Legal Resources

How to Find Information on Law

This guide is divided into the following sections.  Click on a link if you wish to go immediately to that section. The database Westlaw is referenced heavily: it has replaced (and enhanced) many print resources, but is somwhat klunky. There is no direct linking to the resources in it.

General Information U.S. Law Michigan Law
Tax Law     Statutes    Statutes
Journal Articles     Court Decisions    Court Decisions
Web Resources     Administrative Rulings    Administrative Rulings
Citations and Abbreviations     Congress

Conducting Legal Research in Olson Library

The law resources in Olson Library can help you to:

  • Find the text of federal and state laws and regulations.
  • Find interpretations of federal and state laws given in the courts.
  • Trace the legislative history of bills
  • Keep up-to-date on legislation, court decisions, and administrative rulings in general and specific fields

The law collection covers most federal law, but it is by no means complete. The Library has state court decisions only for Michigan, but you may find more recent decisions for other states by consulting these selected Web resources. Many law books are updated annually with pocket-parts inserted in the back. Make sure to check the pocket-part updates, otherwise you may miss a crucial change in the law.


General Information

Official Guide to U.S. Law Schools Ref KF 273 A86
Black's Law Dictionary (also in Westlaw) Ref KF 156 B53
Burton, William C. Legal Thesaurus Ref KF 156 B856
Cohen, Morris. How to Find the Law Ref KF 240 H6
Cohen, Morris. Legal Research in a Nutshell Ref KF 240 C54
Nolo's Free Dictionary of Law Terms and Legal Definitions  
The Peoples Law Dictionary from Law.com

Legal Encyclopedias

A legal encyclopedia provides summaries of legal principles and is one of the best initial places to search if you are unfamiliar with a legal topic.

Encyclopedia of the American Constitution Ref KF 4548 E53 1986
Oxford Companion to American Law Ref KF154 .O96 2002
Michigan Law and Practice Encyclopedia
     The legal encyclopedia for Michigan law.
Ref KFM 4265 M5
West's Encyclopedia of American Law
Ref KF154.W47 1998
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U.S. Law

A. Statutes, Laws and Codes

United States Statutes at Large KF 50 A2
     v. 1,8,10-11,13-14,16-63,70-present ; 1789-present
     The official publication of all laws passed during a session of Congress.  Statutes are published complete and in the order they were passed. Available online from Constitution.org.
United States Code Annotated (USCA) Available in Westlaw
     The entire body of federal law currently in force, organized into 50 subject divisions or titles. Includes references to court decisions which interpret the law. Also available on the Web is the United States Code from the House of Representatives. The same as U.S. Code Annotated but does not include references to court decisions. Many perfer Cornell's enhanced version.
CQ Today  
      Much more than law is addressed from this resource.

B. Federal Court Decisions

DECISIONS

Supreme Court Reporter Available in Westlaw
     In addition to providing the complete decisions of the Supreme Court, including dissenting opinions, this resource contains the headnotes of the major points of law for each case.
United States Reports, v. 389- ; 1967- present KF 101 A3
     Complete decisions of the Supreme Court, including dissenting opinions.  Does not contain headnotes.
     Available online from 1745 here; and from 1893 on here.
Findlaw's U.S. Supreme Court News  
     Daily updates on the actions of the court. An additional resource that lists cases per month is available from the Cornell's Legal Information Institute's Supreme Court Collection.
Federal Reporter Available in Westlaw
     Contains the complete decisions of cases decided from the U.S. Courts of Appeal and Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals decisions for each circuit are also available online (date of coverage varies by circuit, but generally is around 1995 to the present).
Federal Supplement Available in Westlaw
     Contains the complete decisions of selected cases decided in the U.S. District Courts and U.S. Customs Court. District Court information is available on the Web, but is highly variable from one court to another. Most courts will provide links to opinions, but some do not.


CITATORS

Citators provide access to the judicial history and interpretations of reported court cases, verify the current status of each case, and locate earlier cases that have been cited in later court cases.

Within Westlaw is their KeyCite system. This coded system provides an indication of the status of the law:

Red Flag A red flag indicates:

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains.
  • in statutes and regulations, the statute or regulation has been amended by a recent session law or rule, repealed, superseded, or held unconstitutional or preempted in whole or in part.
  • in patents, a court has held all or part of the patent invalid or invalid and not infringed; unenforceable due to the patentee's inequitable conduct; or has recognized the patent was held invalid or both invalid and not infringed in another case.

Yellow FlagA yellow flag indicates that:

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision has some negative history but has not been reversed or overruled.
  • in statutes and regulations, the statute has been renumbered or transferred by a recent session law; that an uncodified session law or proposed legislation affecting the statute is available (statutes merely referenced, i.e., mentioned, are not marked with a yellow flag); that a notice or proposed rule affecting the regulation is available; that the statute or regulation was limited on constitutional or preemption grounds or its validity was otherwise called into doubt; or that a prior version of the statute or regulation received negative treatment from a court.
  • in patents, a court has held the patent was not infringed but did not rule on its validity; held all or part of the patent valid and not infringed; or recognized the patent was held not infringed in another case.

Blue FlagA blue H indicates that:

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision has some history.
  • in patents, a court has construed the meaning of terms within the patent; held the patent was infringed; held all or part of the patent valid; or held all or part of the patent valid and infringed.

Green FlagA green C indicates that:

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision has citing references but no direct history or negative citing references.
  • in statutes and regulations, the statute or regulation has citing references but no applicable history.
  • in patents, the patent has citing references but no applicable history.

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C. Administrative Rulings

Federal Register  
     The daily compilation of executive and administrative rules and regulations which have the force of law. Indexed daily. The Federal Register is available on the Web from 1994 to the present.
Code of Federal Regulations  
     A cumulation of the Federal Register arranged in 50 subject divisions or titles updated in sections throughout the year. Volume 1 is a general index. The Code of Federal Regulations is available on the Web from 1996 to the present.

 

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D.  Congress

Congressional Record  

    1873-1919 in microfilm [KF 35]; 1919-1980 cumulative editions in stacks [KF 35]; 1981-March 2008 in Government Documents [X/A: and X 1.1/A).

    The transcripts of all debates held on the floor of Congress. Daily editions are indexed every two weeks. Cumulated for each session of Congress. Indexes by bill or resolution number, name and subject. Indexes also include a section entitled "History of Bills and Resolutions" which gives a legislative history of each bill introduced. The Congressional Record is available on the Library of Congress’s Thomas site from the 101 Congress (1989) to the present and 1994 onwards from the Government Publishing Office

Congressional Quarterly Weekly  

    A kind of weekly magazine on Congress, it reports the progress of bills, provides background information on issues, gives political analyses of elections, and lists the voting records of each Congressman and woman on important bills. Indexed, with annual cumulations.The Congressional Quarterly Weekly is available online to NMU students, faculty, & staff.


Michigan Law

A. Statutes, Laws, and Codes

Public and Local Acts of the Legislature KFM 4225 A2
     The official publication of all laws passed by the Michigan Legislature. An annual publication with laws published complete and in the order in which they were passed. The Public and Local Acts of the Legislature is available online from 1997.
Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated Available in Westlaw
    The entire current law of Michigan arranged into subject divisions. Contains references to relevant court decisions.
Michigan Compiled Laws KFM 4230 1979 A23
     Same as Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated but does not contain references to court decisions. The current Michigan Compiled Laws is available on the Web; older copies are in print on the 3rd floor.
Michigan Law & Practice Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. Ref KFM 4265 M52
     A multi-volume quick reference for legal personnel.

 

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B.  Court Decisions

DIGESTS

Digests are subject indexes to court decisions. A short summary or headnote is provided for the point of law discussed in each case listing.

Westlaw's KeySearch System
Indexes Michigan court cases and Federal cases arising in or appealed from Michigan. Click on the "Go" button under their KeySearch, select your topic, then Michigan.
Michigan Appellate Digest  
Summarizes and indexes all published Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals decisions since 1992.

 

DECISIONS

Michigan Reports Available in Westlaw
     Official publication of all decisions of Michigan Supreme Court.  Cases after 1980 are continued in North Western Reporter 2d. You can also search for Michigan Supreme Court cases on the Web from October 2001 to the present.
Michigan Appeals Reports Available in Westlaw
     Official publication of all decisions of the Michigan Court of Appeals. You can also search for Michigan Court of Appeals cases on the Web from August 1992 to the present.
North Western Reporter 2nd
Available in Westlaw
     Contains the complete decisions of the Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Court of Appeals.  The decisions are the same as those that appear in the official editions.  All three sets are indexed in the Michigan Digest.

 

CITATORS

Citators provide access to the judicial history and interpretations of reported court cases, verify the current status of each case, and locate earlier cases that have been cited in later court cases.

Please refer to the citators explained under the Federal Court Decisions for a brief introduction to the KeyCite System.

 

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C. Administrative Rulings

Michigan Register  
     The state version of the Federal Register issued monthly.  Contains new and proposed rules issued by state agencies.  Approved rules and regulations are compiled in the online version of the Michigan Administrative Code. The Michigan Register is available on the Web from 2000 to the present.
Michigan Administrative Code KFM 4235 1979 A2 and Westlaw
     A compilation of administrative rules and regulations issued by various state agencies and departments. The Michigan Administrative Code, updated daily, is available on the Web.

 

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Tax Law

American Federal Tax Reports — series 1, v. 1-52 ; series 2, v. 1-83 KF 6280 A27
Federal Tax Articles: income, estate, gift, excise, employment taxes — 1954-1972 KF 6285 C6
Reports of the Tax Court of the United States (from the Court itself) Also in Westlaw
Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals Available in Westlaw
Tax Court Memorandum Decisions — v.1-31, 1942-1972 KF 6280 A226, also in Westlaw
U.S. Tax Cases — v. 1-73, 1913-1973 KF 6280 A232
United States Tax Reporter  
    Internal revenue code  v. 1-2 (loose-leaf) Ref KF 6277 U5
    Income taxes v. 1-18 (loose-leaf) Ref KF 6365 U5

 

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To Locate Journal Articles On Law

LegalTrac 1980-present
Index to 1,400 periodicals covering all aspects of law.  Full-text articles are available for over 100 of the periodicals.

Westlaw
This resource has been mentioned repeatedly on this webpage as a legal resource. It also contains full-text for over 800 journals. Searching within them is somewhat klunky compared to these other databases.

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Web Resources

The following mega-sites will be of most useful in locating legislative and case law for states other than Michigan. Note, however, the dates of coverage for these resources are limited. These sites also provide links to law schools, legal organizations or associations, international law, news, law journals, etc.

Findlaw http://www.findlaw.com/
Legal Information Institute http://www.law.cornell.edu/
Internet Legal Resource Guide http://www.ilrg.com/
Guide to Law Online from the Library of Congress http://loc.gov/law/help/guide.php
General Legal Research Sites - Free and Commercial from the Law Librarian's Society of Washington, D.C. http://www.llsdc.org/Gen-Legal-Research/
Google Scholar (select "Legal opinions and journals") http://scholar.google.com/
Locating the Law, 5th edition, revised (2011) http://www.aallnet.org/chapter/scall/locating.htm
Michigan Legal Help http://www.michiganlegalhelp.org/

 

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Citations and Abbreviations

The basic citation form for any legal reference you may find is:

48 U.S. 661
volume number source page number

Holdings vary for each source listed below.  Consult the links for detailed holdings information.

Law abbreviations are not consistent, but in general the law materials in Olson Library are abbreviated as follows:

A.F.T.R. (RIA) American Federal Tax Reports (Research Institute of America) Ref KF 6280 A27
A.F.T.R.2d (RIA) American Federal Tax Reports, second series (Research Institute of America) Ref KF 6280 A27
B.T.A Reports of the United States Board of Tax Appeals KF 6324 A515
C.F.R. Code of Federal Regulations Ref KF 70 A3
C.J.S. Corpus Juris Secundum  
Env't Rep. Cas. (BNA) Environment Reporter - Cases (Bureau of National Affairs) Ref KF 3775 A6 E49
F.R. Federal Register Gov Docs AE 2.106:
F.2d Federal Reporter, Second Series KF 105 F42
F.3d Federal Reporter, Third Series KF 105 F42
F.Supp. Federal Supplement KF 105 F45
Fed. Tax. Articles (CCH) Federal Tax Articles:  Income, Estate, Gift, Excise, Employment Taxes (Commerce Clearing House) KF 6285 C6
M.C.L. Michigan Compiled Laws Ref KFM 4230 1979 A23
M.C.L.A. Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated Ref KFM 4230 1948 A44
Mich. Michigan Reports KFM 4245 M5
Mich. App. Michigan Appeals Reports KFM 4248 A2
N.W.2d North Western Reporter, Second Series KFM 4245 M52
S. Ct. Supreme Court Reporter KF 101 S9
Stat. U.S. Statutes at Large KF 50 A2
T.C. Reports of the Tax Court of the United States KF 6324 A516
T.C.M. (CCH) Tax Court Memorandum Decisions (Commerce Clearing House) KF 6280 A226
U.S. U.S. Reports KF 101 A3
U.S.C. U.S. Code Gov Docs GP 3.22/2:197/
U.S.C.A. U.S. Code Annotated Ref KF 62 W4
U.S.T.C.
U.S. Tax Cas.
(CCH)
U.S. Tax Cases (Commerce Clearing House) KF 6280 A232

For abbreviations not listed above consult either of the following sources:

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation Ref KF 245 B58
Understanding and mastering The bluebook: a guide for students and practitioners KF245 .B37 2007
Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Citations Ref KF 246 P73

 

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