Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Doing Legal Research On the Web

If you are not already trained in how to do this, don't try this at home, as the saying goes. I am not fooling. If you can possibly get yourself to a law library or even a good public library, do that instead. Call them if you can't get there live in person. Many of them now have e-mail reference or IM style reference.

I often will include lists of links with my posts. These will, I hope, help you keep track of political issues, and help lawyers and librarians do the same. But please, do not try to use this blog for legal research. It might make an OK current events alert, but it is not an adequate tool for finding the law to answer your legal questions. For that, you need access to current statutes, regulations, cases, and possibly ordinances and one or more constitution. If you are not used to doing this research, you would save yourself time to ask for help at the start. It is complicated, but not rocket science.

There are some free, web-accessible research tools, but you need to be very careful of what you rely on. Some free, web-accessible legal materials are not reliably up-to-date. You can get access to legal materials at a state or county law library in the United States, or a state-funded law school library usually will have open access (except perhaps during exam time!).

Here are some good links for generally reliable Web resources:

The Legal Information Institute at Cornell University link. U.S. Supreme Court cases, NY cases, and many other types of legal materials. A good search engine.

Govt. Printing Office link All kinds of federal publications; statutes, regulations, reports, etc. Pretty good search engine.

Thomas database from Library of Congress link Especially good for legislation.

Washburn ForInt Law Index link. A great link page for lots of foreign and international law pages. Organized by alphabetical order.

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