Category Archives: Legal Research & Writing

New HeinOnline Database Alert: State Constitutions Illustrated

The State Constitutions Illustrated database is a treasure trove of information on constitutional histories.  It has a clean, simple interface that allows the user to find primary documentation about how the United States acquired each state in the union.  This new database is the helpful, local friend of the World Constitutions Illustrated that you may have seen in the Advanced Legal Research classes.

From HeinOnline, “Containing the text of every constitution that has been in force for every state with the original, consolidated and current texts and an extensive collection of documents from before statehood, State Constitutions Illustrated provides comprehensive coverage and allows researchers to compare multiple editions from multiple sources. It currently has nearly 9,000 historical and current constitutions and constitutional documents.”

heinLooking for more information about how a state came into being?  This database has an archive on each state that includes pre-territorial documents relating to other nations.

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Would you like to read materials from pre-statehood, including colonial charters, laws, and royal instructions for the original thirteen colonies; treaties, territorial laws, and federal acts for the other states?

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Here’s how to navigate to the database from the Ross-Blakley Law Library’s homepage:

Our Arizona Constitutional History Bibliography is also a great resource for researching Arizona constitutional history.

Sean Harrington, Electronic Resources Librarian

Blazing Your Research Trail: Tracking the Law as You Read It

Blazing Your Research Trail SmallerWe’ve all been there.

An ember of a memory of the perfect case we read a few days ago faintly glows. It’s the tantalizing last vestige of a good things whose value we failed to recognize as we allowed it to drift, unmoored to the abyss and become the buried treasure in the mental junkyard of jurisprudence.

Cases we too hastily reject may not be lost forever. We can find traces of them through labor-intensive analysis of our research history on our commercial research databases, or we might wade into the depths of our internet browsing history. We might have names at the tip of our tongue: Hammer v. Safeway? Annoyer v. Peff? But mining the lost, mislaid, or abandoned gems becomes especially taxing as all of our free time dries up and pressure to outline and submit drafts begins to mount.

There are ways to make sure you don’t wander lost along your research trail again!

  1. Keep a research log. This can be handwritten or recorded in. Even if you cross off a case or other source because it doesn’t seem to have much connection to your legal issue at first blush, the law can take you strange places, and you may want to revisit them later. Pro tip: Track the case name, key facts, holding, and key reasoning to create explanatory parentheticals efficiently later.
  2. Follow a trusted secondary source. It’s dangerous to go alone! Long, convoluted case opinions are trying to resolve a legal dispute, where legal treatises, encyclopedias, and hornbooks succinctly and efficiently explain how legal rules operate in practice. Researching beginning with cases can lead you down unfortunate rabbit holes.
  3. Highlights, notes, folders, and sharing. Legal research databases function similarly. You can access materials saved in your folders by clicking “folders” from the Westlaw homepage. To highlight and take notes in Westlaw, just select a passage of text and when you let go, you’ll have an option to highlight or make a note. You can then save your highlighted, annotated case into a folder, where your notes will be preserved. Lexis has similar features, with the history button on its homepage and in the top bar on every page, and with the “Folders” button hidden under the “More” option in the top right corner. Both databases enable you to copy passages into Word or Excel documents by highlighting them and clicking on Copy with Reference (Westlaw) or Copy (Advanced) (Lexis).
  4. You can Meet with a Librarian to get tips on how to use secondary sources, folders, highlights, and notes to preserve important discoveries from your journey toward a completed memo or the graduate writing requirement.

Andrea Gass, Law Library Fellow

Seven Reasons to Meet with a Librarian About Your Open Memo

  1. We can help you navigate research resources and identify relevant information quickly: WePinClipart.com_clip-art-face_111485 (1) are here to show you ways to narrow down search results to cases and statutes pertaining to your legal issue without tedious, time-wasting trial and error using search bars. Taking advantage of tools such as annotations, headnotes, and secondary sources on Lexis Advance and Westlaw Edge can save you valuable time for your other classes.
  2. We have J.D.s, and we understand the process: Beth, Tara, Sean, and Andrea have all been through law school, and understand the process of writing open memos. Our primary focus at the library is you, and we can help you succeed. Use our Meet with a Librarian form to set up an appointment in our private offices behind the circulation desk on the third floor.
  3. We are within the bounds of the Honor Code: We won’t read your writing, and your professors are happy to let us help.
  4. We can help you get used to Bluebook’s blue rules, white rules, and tables: Legal citation will become second nature as you practice during your 1L year, but we understand that it has a lot of unfamiliar intricacies. We can identify resources that will be helpful in your citation practice, such as the Interactive Citation Workstation exercises, Examples & Explanations (see Appendix B), and Legal Citation in a Nutshell. We can also guide you through the Bluebook’s rules and help you answer questions.
  5. CRuPAC, CREAC, IRAC, or IREAC? We can help you find resources, such as textbooks, study aids and examples to organize your writing, whether you have a single, in-depth issue or need to analyze a variety of sub-issues.
  6. You will likely start working this summer or next fall: The lessons we provide in efficiently and thoroughly researching only the relevant legal issues will help you in practice. For now, it might seem like the only concern is reading and going to class—and that should be your primary concern—but our research tips will help you long after you turn in your research memo and start looking to build real-world legal experience for your resume.
  7. We can introduce you to materials that can help you succeed in your other classes too! Struggling with Civ Pro? Concerned about Contracts? Troubled by Torts? Need some peace of mind? Learn better with audio you can listen to on the light rail? The law library has a wide variety of study aids to appeal to your particular learning style, and you can make an appointment with the librarians for help.

Take if from someone who could have used a lot more efficiency during her 1L research projects: You should Meet with a Librarian early on for your open memo. The time you save trying to navigate Westlaw and Lexis alone will be more than worth the 20-30 minutes for your appointment!

Andrea Gass, Law Library Fellow

Speedy and Thorough: Research Tips for Time-squeezed 1Ls

researchAt the end of June 2017, I finished my 1L year at ASU by sleepily turning in my final memo for Intensive Legal Research and Writing. After the All-Journal Write-on Exam, thirty writing assignments in one month instilled a sense of urgency in my legal research: I want it done fast and I want it done well the first time. My friends and I pulled off several all-nighters in that great class working on objective memos, persuasive motions, informative client letters, and tough-talking demand letters to learn the following lessons:

Look for ambiguities: A lot of the most interesting discussions in law come in the gray areas—where the law and the facts are not entirely settled or clear. This “it depends” territory can create interesting analytical puzzles for you to solve in your memo: you will want to show that you can see both sides to an argument, and you will want to demonstrate the critical reasoning skills to form a solid conclusion.

Seek secondary sources: If they’re available, secondary sources on your legal issue can quickly set you on the right path for your research. Not only can they provide a quick explanation of the law and an overview of the factors courts consider in deciding on those legal issues, but they list primary law that you will want to analyze. It’s tempting to want to “save time” by diving into the statutes and case law directly, but a little advance reading can make research a lot faster, easier, and more complete.

For relevant case law, use headnotes, KeyCites, and Citing Decisions rather than trying to “Google” everything: Lawyers at Lexis and Westlaw have analyzed cases and the legal issues they contain and have grouped together related authority to help legal researchers perform faster, more thorough research than keyword searching alone. In Lexis, when you find your legal issue, you can click “Shepardize – Narrow by this Headnote” to find more relevant authority. In Westlaw, KeyCites will arrange the legal areas and issues that a headnote addresses, from general to specific. Click on the KeyCite codes for more relevant authority.

For statutes, start by looking at the statute, and find secondary sources from there: Underneath the statutory text, Lexis will break apart the statute into the key legal issues it addresses. If you find one of the issues that your memo is intended to address, you get a quick, one-line summary of a judicial interpretation of the statute, along with a link to a case that could be super-relevant. In Westlaw, you can find similar information in the Notes of Decisions tab at the top of the page, and navigate to helpful secondary sources that will collect relevant case law, such as the ALR Library, underneath the Context & Analysis tab.

CREAC tips: When you’re explaining a precedent case, it may not be enough to list the facts the court considered and tell the reader how the court ruled. You want to analyze why the court ruled the way it did on a variety of factors. Contrasting and comparing the facts in your writing prompt will then much more clearly indicate to the reader whether or not a particular ruling will further the legal principle at issue.

We are here to help. Meet with a Librarian today!

Andrea Gass, Law Library Fellow

Summer 2019 and Post-Graduation Use of Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw

Wondering which research tools you can use this summer?  We have outlined summer 2019 access and post-graduation use policies for Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw below.

Remember that you also have unlimited access to many other legal databases in addition to hundreds of interdisciplinary databases through the ASU Library this summer! The library staff is also here all summer long to help you with research. Call, e-mail, or stop by for assistance during reference hours.

Bloomberg Law
Bloomberg Law provides unrestricted summer access to all law students for any research purpose, whether academic or commercial.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure summer access to your registered Bloomberg Law account.

Graduating students: Graduating students will automatically have full access to Bloomberg Law for six months after graduation. You do not need to take any additional steps to secure this post-graduation access.

Please contact our Bloomberg Law representative, Heidi Stryker, with questions.

LexisNexis
LexisNexis provides unrestricted summer 2019 (May-August) access to all law students for any research purpose, whether academic or commercial.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure summer access to your registered Lexis Advance account.

Graduating students: Graduating students will automatically have full access to Lexis through December 31, 2019.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure this post-graduation access – the transition from a regular law school ID to a graduate ID will occur on July 5, 2019. Students engaged in verifiable 501(c)(3) public interest work after graduation are also eligible for a 12-month password extension through the Lexis ASPIRE program.

Please contact our LexisNexis account executive, Alan J. Mamood, with questions.

Westlaw
Westlaw offers full access to Westlaw, Practical Law, Drafting Assistant, and Doc & Form Builder to current ASU law students who are participating in select academic pursuits over the summer. Permissible uses include the following:

  • Summer classes and study abroad programs
  • Law review or journal research
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Moot court research
  • Externship sponsored by the school

You do not need to do anything to gain summer access to these tools. Students with any other type of summer employment must use their employer-provided password for Westlaw access.

Graduating students:  Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law graduates now have 60 hours a month of Westlaw access for 18 months after graduation; this access can be used for either commercial (paid) or educational purposes. Graduating students will need to activate their 18 month password extension within their Westlaw account for this extended access.

Please contact our Thomson Reuters Academic Account Manager, Jeff Brandimarte, with questions.

New Content in the Law Library’s West Academic Study Aids Subscription

There are two new pieces of content in the Law Library’s West Academic Study Aids Subscription:

1) Newly added audio books – High Court Case Summaries® on evidence, criminal law, torts and property are now available for listening.
– Access the new audio content here.

High COurt case summaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) The West Academic Library App is now available for phone, iPad, or computer so you can study anywhere and on any device.
– Learn more about the App here.

West Academic app

 

Five Reasons You Should Make CALI Your Study Partner

CALI Lessons are online interactive tutorials that cover narrow topics of law. CALI publishes over 1,000 lessons covering 40 different legal subject areas. These lessons have been used over 10 million times by law students over the years. To access CALI, click here: Using CALI

#1- CALI Lessons are another way to learn the law.
CALI Lessons are another way to learn the law. They are interactive web-based tutorials that both teach and apply your understanding of what you just read. You learn the law from casebook readings, faculty instruction, and from supplements. Many commercial supplements are not written by law faculty and are simplified and watered down versions of the law. CALI Lessons are not. CALI Lessons present hypothetical situations and then quiz you on your understanding using follow-up questions and branching to make sure you got the right answer for the right reasons.

#2- CALI Lessons are a formative assessment for you.
Do you want to make sure you are understanding what you study? The only way to be sure is to assess and CALI lessons provide a form of self-assessment. You get feedback on every question – whether you get it right or wrong – and you get a final score that tells you how you are doing on a specific legal topic.

#3- CALI Lessons are interactive and engaging.
CALI Lessons are not videos that you passively watch. The material is modeled on Socratic Dialogue where a question is asked, you answer the question, and then various aspects of the topic are explored. CALI Lessons are written by tenured law faculty with many years of teaching experience (law librarians author the legal research lessons). The lessons purposefully steer you into thinking about the topic in a nuanced way.

#4- CALI Lessons are rigorous.
It is difficult to get a perfect score on most CALI Lessons the first time through. Law is complex and CALI lessons dive into that complexity. Each lesson covers a specific topic without getting too broad in scope. The questions are tough and require serious thought from the student. A typical lesson takes 20 to 40 minutes for a student to complete. You can take lessons multiple times to improve your understanding.

#5- CALI Lessons are a good learning appetizer or an excellent learning dessert.
CALI Lessons are an excellent learning experience as a first bite at the material. They prepare you for class or subsequent readings. The material is brief and rigorous exposing you to the concepts and nomenclature of a topic without being drilled and practiced to death. In addition, CALI Lessons are excellent for study after class (alone or in a study group), after the casebook readings, or for studying for the final exam. They provide immediate and substantive feedback that can direct you to the places where further study is required.

To access CALI, click here: Using CALI

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports now freely available online

CRS

The Library of Congress announced today that it is providing Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public. CRS reports are analytical, non-partisan reports produced by the Congressional Research Service, a division of the Library of Congress, for members of Congress.  They are excellent tools for legal researchers as they provide authoritative and objective information on topics of legislative interest. Providing public access to the CRS reports is a big policy shift, as in the past reports were only available to the public when released by a member of Congress.

This policy change was directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018, which requires that the Library of Congress make CRS reports publicly available online. The result is a new public website crsreports.congress.gov, which allows reports to be searched by keyword. This website will include all new or updated CRS reports; the Library will add previously published reports “as expeditiously as possible.”

Summer 2018 and Post-Graduation Use of Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw

Wondering which research tools you can use this summer?  We have outlined both summer 2018 access and post-graduation use policies for Bloomberg Law, LexisNexis, and Westlaw below.

Remember that you also have unlimited access to many other legal databases in addition to hundreds of interdisciplinary databases through the ASU Library this summer! The library staff is also here all summer long to help you with research. Call, e-mail, or stop by for assistance during reference hours.

Bloomberg Law
Bloomberg Law provides unrestricted summer access to all law students for any research purpose, whether academic or commercial.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure summer access to your registered Bloomberg Law account.

Graduating students: Graduating students will automatically have full access to Bloomberg Law for six months after graduation. You do not need to take any additional steps to secure this post-graduation access.

Please contact our Bloomberg Law representative, Tania Wilson, with questions.

LexisNexis
LexisNexis provides unrestricted summer access to all law students for any research purpose, whether academic or commercial.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure summer access to your registered Lexis Advance account.

Graduating students: Graduating students will automatically have full access to Lexis through the end of December 2018.  You do not need to take any additional steps to secure this post-graduation access.

Please contact our LexisNexis account executive, Alan J. Mamood, with questions.

Westlaw
Westlaw offers full access to Westlaw, Practical Law, Drafting Assistant, and Doc & Form Builder to current ASU law students who are participating in select academic pursuits over the summer. Permissible uses include the following:

  • Summer classes and study abroad programs
  • Law review or journal research
  • Research assistant assignments
  • Moot court research
  • Externship sponsored by the school

You do not need to do anything to gain summer access to these tools. Students with any other type of summer employment must use their employer-provided password for Westlaw access.

Graduating students:  Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law graduates now have 60 hours a month of Westlaw access for 18 months after graduation; this access can be used for either commercial (paid) or educational purposes. Graduating students will need to activate their 18 month password extension within their Westlaw account for this extended access.

Please contact our Thomson Reuters Academic Account Manager, Jeff Brandimarte, with questions.

Free Access to PACER Opinions and Orders via CourtListener.com

A new resource for free access to federal court opinions and orders is now available online at CourtListener.com. This resource, known as the RECAP Archive, allows users to search approximately 3.4 million orders and opinions from approximately 1.5 million federal district and bankruptcy court cases dating back to 1960. New opinions are downloaded in to the Archive every night to keep the collection up to date.