Module 3 : Secondary Sources : CALI Lessons : American Law Reports : Subject Specific Treatises : Internet Legal Resources – Free Sources

CALI American Law Reports
CALI Subject Specific Treatises 
CALI Internet Legal Resources – Free Sources

1)  American Law Reports (ALR)

At the beginning, West Publishing had decided that they would publish every case decision that they could get their hands on.  So that was their business model – the National Reporter System.  Lawyers Cooperative Publishing came along and they realized that they could not compete with West’s business model so they decided to publish an important case and to accompany it with an annotation that described on all other decisions on the same matter.  So the case is just a starting point for Lawyers Cooperative Publishing.  The important resource is the annotation itself.  You should cite the “important case” using the West citation – the National Reporter System citation. 

Also, the American Law Reports is not a good place to look up similar statutes in various jurisdictions.  Many times law review articles discuss or list all similar statutes that pertain to the law review article and here is a link to a Research Guide by George Washington Law Library which provides link to a number of sources that contain various 50 State Surveys

You can,  however, find cases arranged by jurisdiction in an ALR annotation.  

2)  Subject Specific Treatises.   

One place to start looking for subject specific treatises is in the UM Law Library Research Guide titled – Subject Guide to Treatises and Looseleaf Services 

Here is the link –

3)  Internet Legal Resources – Free Resources

Which types of information would you expect to be able to find on the internet?

a)  The opinion of a federal district court case that was decided last week.  Usually yes.    You should first look at the website for the appropriate district court.  For example, the Southern District of Florida’s website links to the Southern District of Florida’s cases on  See link.  I am writing this post on July 1 and there is an Order signed on June 29th. Take a look at the information for the Southern District of Florida.   If all federal district courts

b)  Headnotes summarizing the points of law in a case.  At this point, no. Designing a headnote scheme and producing headnotes is expensive so you will probably not find such a scheme and headnotes on the web. 

c)  A journal article from 1979.   Maybe.   With the advent of  the University and Law School Institutional / Scholarly Repositories it is more likely than it once was to find a 1979 law review article.  Many law schools have included in their repositories complete runs of their law review.  For example, in UM Law’s repository there is a full run of all of our law reviews.

d)  The Texas Constitution from the year that it joined the United States (1866).  Yes.  Libraries, state historical societies, and archives around the country are providing access to historical documents.  For example, for Texas, the University of Texas, Tarlton Law Library has the Texas Constitutions 1824-1876.   

e)  Briefs filed in a recent, high profiled case.  Maybe.  If the case is a United States Supreme Court case, check first at SCOTUSBlog and the  United State Supreme Court’s website.  If the case is a circuit court case, check at the court’s website and also with academic law libraries in the circuit.  If an organization is involved, you may find the briefs posted on their website.  For example,  if the ACLU is involved, you may find the briefs at their website.

f)  Cost-Effective Alternative Databases   You may find that as a member of  a state bar, you may have access to that state’s materials in either Fastcase or Casemaker or both as a membership benefit.  If you do have access, definitely learn to use these cost-effective alternatives.  Many times you can begin your research there and then move to other platforms including, Westlaw Edge and Lexis Advance, if necessary. 

I have not looked at Casemaker recently but Fastcase does have a type of “citator.”  According to their website, Fastcase has a unique feature, Bad Law Bot, which provides an innovative way to quickly determine when courts have commented negatively on a case.  Although it is not a traditional “editorial citator,” Bad Law Bot takes citation analysis to the next level by extracting the enormous wealth of negative information contained in citations.  Bad Law Bot uses algorithms to find the negative citation history of a case.  Bad Law Bot will place a red flag next to cases when it recognizes negative treatment of a case.  In successive iterations over time, Bad Law Bot has shown to be as good, and better, than traditional editorial citators – with more improvements made every day through machine learning. (authority check)

The Florida materials on Fastcase  is a membership benefit  of the Florida Bar.

You have access to Fastcase while in law school through the Subscription Databases.  

g)  Credibility of Websites   You were asked if three websites were either credible, not credible, or maybe credible.

One was which is clearly credible. 

Another was with an image of a green whitehouse and  no .gov in the URL which was clearly not credible.

The third one was  All you saw was the image of the landing page of the website.  From the landing page, the  website was not clearly either credible or not credible.  It was a maybe.  To make a determination, you would have needed to explore the entire website and also to have verified the information on the website.

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