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Advanced Legal Research
University of North Carolina School of Law
Sampson, SaraA.

Advanced Legal Research
Fall 2013
Sources, Skills & Strategy
To be a competent legal researcher, you must master all three.
·         Codes vs. Session laws
·         Controlled vocabulary searching vs. keyword searching
·         How to find cases similar to a known case
·         When to stop researching
Federal Government Structure
Sources of Law
United States Court System
Types of Authority
·         Mandatory authority
o   Law that must be followed
·         Persuasive authority
o   Influential but non-binding
·         The status of a law as mandatory or persuasive depends on the jurisdictions involved
Primary vs. Secondary
·         Primary Sources
o   The actual text of the law
·         Secondary Sources
o   Explain, analyze, or critique the law
o   May function as a finding aid
Rombauer Method of Research
1.      Perform preliminary analysis
2.      Search for statues, regulations
3.      Find cases—mandatory precedent
4.      Find persuasive precedent
5.      Refine, double-check and update
Types of Searching
·         Full-text searching
o   Field
·         Relevancy searching
·         Subject searching
Generating Search Terms
·         Who, what, when, where, why
·         TARPP (Things, Actions, Remedies, People, and Places)
·         Extrapolate vertically and horizontally
The Goal of Legal Research
·         Highly regulated society
·         Most often something on=point
o   If you find something, it will naturally lead to other relevant sources
§  Layout of code – by subject and indexed
§  Leads you to secondary sources and cases
Source 1: Session Laws
Why Use Session Laws?
·         To trace the development of the statue over time
·         A source for uncodified acts
·         As the original form of the act and to determine the original numbering of its sections
·         For convenience (when the codification scatters the text of the law)
·         To see previous versions of the law
Where Can You Find Session Laws?
·         Federal
o   United States Statutes at Large (official)
o   United States Code Congressional & Administrative News (USCCAN)
o   Available freely on FdSys and on Westlaw, Lexis, and HeinOnline
·         North Carolina
o   Available in the S

West (USCA) and Lexis (USCS)
o   Include references to cases, secondary sources, etc.
Annotated Codes
·         “Annotations” are added by publishers and are not part of the official code
·         Include:
o   Notes of Decision
o   Cross References
o   Editorial Notes (which may or may not be from the official code editors or the publisher’s editors)
o   References to relevant secondary sources on free sites or from the government website).
Anatomy of a U.S. Code Section
Anatomy of a N.C. Code Section
Positive Law
·         Positive law is the legal evidence of the law
·         Some titles of the U.S. Code have been enacted into positive (statutory) law.
·         The other titles are only prima facie evidence of the law (Statutes at Large govern).
·         Statutory Notes are statutory law amendments to positive law titles
o   Example: 49 U.S.C.A. § 44935 is consistently treated as law by federal courts
Constitutional Research