There are many ways to find legal information on the Internet…
Using a web browser and going to known web sites -- Using search
engines like Google, Yahoo, Vivisimo, etc. -- Subscription databases
available through your institution like EbscoHOST, Westlaw Campus
Many free sites will lead to questionable as well as reputable
Legal searches can be some of the more difficult searches to
perform. There can be many reasons for this: privacy, legal issues,
proprietary nature of databases, content change, difference in
coverage, and not all databases are equal or the same.
Printing cases - please
check the browser, web site, or pdf settings and try to determine
how long a case is before you print it. Actual cases can be
very long in terms of number of pages. A synopsis, brief, opinion,
etc. may satisfy your information requirement for a class -- check
with your instructor.
Free Internet Sources
Below are a few
of the sites on the Internet you can use to
find legal cases and information.
Some may require a free registration to access or to print or save
The more specific information you have – the easier it is to
Public Law Library http://www.plol.org "PLoL is one of the largest free law libraries in the world, because
we assemble law available for
free scattered across many different sites." Free
A Docket number is a number given to each case that is filed in a
States & Courts have their own number systems.
To search by docket number it would be helpful to know the court
where the case was heard.
Opinion (also consilia) is usually a written explanation by a judge
or group of judges that accompanies an order or ruling in a case,
laying out the rationale and legal principles for the ruling.
There are also Attorney Generals opinions.
Brief (Latin "brevis", short) is a written legal document
used in various legal adversarial systems that is presented to a
court arguing why the party to the case should prevail.
Jot down a
citation if you are going to use the case again, it will make it
easier to find.
Any numbers and names will make it easier to search and cut down
Keyword searches can be cumbersome and produce a lot of unrelated
Legal citations look confusing, and they are.
Legal Citations - Briefly
Basically what you will see is the Parties
names, Reporter Abbreviations (where the case was
recorded), Date and/or Court, maybe case history.
Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 118 (1973).
U.S. v. Carroll Towing Co., 159 F.2d 169 (2d Cir. 1947).
In the above:
The names on either side of the v. are the parties (claimant /
plaintiff and defendent) in the case. Often this is all you need to
find a case.
These are usually read as something v something instead of versus,
Roe v Wade.
410 U.S. is Vol. 410 of the U.S. Reports –
159 F. 2d is Vol. 159 Federal Reporter, 2dCir. is the 2nd Circuit