This LibGuide is intended to help you with your legal research for POSC 230 Courts and Judicial Process. There is information here about how to use Lexis-Nexis, a library database. The library pays a subscription to make this database available to our students. Using Lexis Nexis you will be able to locate federal and state cases, supreme court briefs, articles in law reviews and other legal sources. Sources available in Lexis Nexis are not available on the open web.
Please note: Internet coverage of legal sources is not comprehensive. The Thurgood Marshall Law Library Guide to Legal Research from the University of Maryland emphasizes that for legal research, particularly case and statutory law:
"Internet coverage often does not extend very far beyond recent years. Particularly in legal research, where access to historical materials and access to very current information are both extremely important, Internet researchers must be wary of sites that are not authoritative and/or are not updated on a regular basis.... the internet is not yet a source that can be relied upon exclusively for legal research. Accuracy and currency of Internet sites vary greatly."
If you have questions about using this guide, Lexis Nexis, or the library, don't hesitate to contact a reference librarian or to stop by the reference desk! We are here to answer your questions and are happy to do so.
Rebekah Ambrose-Dalton (the author of this guide) firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Friery email@example.com
Peter Rieseler firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Stevens email@example.com
Using Lexis Nexis
Searching for Supreme Court Cases by Topic:
Start at the Lexis-Nexis Basic Search Page.
Click on the Blue "US Legal" bar at the left of your screen. A new menu will appear.
Click on Federal and State Cases - the first option under the "US Legal" bar. You will arrive here.
Use the drop down menu under "Jurisdiction" to choose "U.S. Supreme Court"
Enter search terms pertinent to your case. It is helpful to enter more than one search term and to use all the search boxes, so, for example, you might try "free speech" AND "schools" AND "evolution."
Landmark Supreme Court Cases
Lexis Nexis also provides a list of Landmark Supreme Court Cases on topics including Abortion, Capital Punishment, Civil Rights, Freedom of Speech, etc.: (Click on the "Landmark Cases" link in the "Look up a Legal Case" box in Lexis Nexis) or click on this link: Lexis Nexis list of Landmark Supreme Court Cases.
Has your case been overturned? Is it still good law? Where else has it been cited? "Shephardizing":
When you are looking at an individual case in Lexis Nexis, you can use the "Shephardize" link in the upper right hand corner just underneath the "Search within results" box to find information on where and when the case has been cited and whether it has been overturned, etc.
Finding a specific legal case (when you know the title or citation):
Use the "Look up a Legal Case" search box on the Easy Search Screen.
Type in either the names of the plaintiff and defendant, or the legal citation.
Beware of typos! Even a small spelling error can prevent you from finding your case.
Remember that if you search by subject, you are likely to find multiple results.
Lexis Nexis Tutorials and Tips
Take advantage of the "Case in Brief" feature when it is available in Lexis Nexis. The "Case in Brief" provides a useful summary of the case, including summaries of the parties' arguments, overview of dissenting and concurring opinions, prior and subsequent case history, and references to other cases. Click on the "Case in Brief" link below the title, prior history and disposition.
Sometimes a search in Lexis Nexis will take you to the middle of a document, where your search terms are located within the document. Just scroll up to the top of the document to find the case name, summary etc.
Refining your search strategies further
Using the terms AND, OR and NOT to manipulate your results, a tutorial from Colorado State University.