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Legal Methods: Research with Citators

The basic techniques of legal analysis, writing and research.

When and Why to Use a Citator

  • Verification of Authority
    • Is the case good law?
    • Has it been overturned by more recent cases?
    • Has it been reversed on appeal?
    • Has it been criticized?
    • Before you file a brief, always use a citator to check the cases you are citing
    • When you receive a brief from the other party, always check the cases he or she is citing
  • Expanding your research
    • Find one good case on point, then use citators to find other relevant cases to cite
    • Find secondary sources like ALR annotations, law reviews, treatises
  • Treatment of case authority
    • Which cases should I cite and emphasize?
    • Which cases are most authoritative?
    • Are there newer cases or ones in my jurisdiction?
  • Statutory Research
    • Has the statute been amended or repealed?
    • Is there pending legislation that would amend or repeal it?
    • Has the statute been found unconstitutional or criticized in caselaw?
    • Are there cases citing the statute?
  • Monitoring a case or statute
    • KeyCite Alert
    • Shepard's Alert

Lexis - Using Shepard's

Checking Citations in Shepard's

The Shepard’s Signal indicators show at a glance the precedential status of a case. To review this legend while you research in Shepard’s, click the Legend link at the bottom-left side of your report.

 

Westlaw - Using KeyCite

Checking Citations in KeyCite

KeyCite, West’s powerful citation research service, helps you determine whether a case, statute, administrative decision, or regulation is good law. You can also use KeyCite to retrieve citing references to the document, including cases, administrative materials, secondary sources, and briefs and other court documents.

 

KeyCite Red Flag - Severe Negative Treatment A red flag indicates

 

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision is no longer good law for at least one of the points of law it contains.
  • in statutes and regulations, the statute or regulation has been amended by a recent session law or rule, repealed, superseded, or held unconstitutional or preempted in whole or in part.
  • in patents, a court has held all or part of the patent invalid or invalid and not infringed; unenforceable due to the patentee's inequitable conduct; or has recognized the patent was held invalid or both invalid and not infringed in another case.
KeyCite Yellow Flag - Negative Treatment A yellow flag indicates that

 

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision has some negative history but has not been reversed or overruled.
  • in statutes and regulations, the statute has been renumbered or transferred by a recent session law; that an uncodified session law or proposed legislation affecting the statute is available (statutes merely referenced, i.e., mentioned, are not marked with a yellow flag); that a notice or proposed rule affecting the regulation is available; that the statute or regulation was limited on constitutional or preemption grounds or its validity was otherwise called into doubt; or that a prior version of the statute or regulation received negative treatment from a court.
  • in patents, a court has held the patent was not infringed but did not rule on its validity; held all or part of the patent valid and not infringed; or recognized the patent was held not infringed in another case.
KeyCite History A blue H indicates that

 

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision has some history.
  • in patents, a court has construed the meaning of terms within the patent; held the patent was infringed; held all or part of the patent valid; or held all or part of the patent valid and infringed.
KeyCite Citing References A green C indicates that

 

  • in cases and administrative decisions, the case or administrative decision has citing references but no direct history or negative citing references.
  • in statutes and regulations, the statute or regulation has citing references but no applicable history.
  • in patents, the patent has citing references but no applicable history.

 

History of a Case:

KeyCite case history category Description


Direct History traces your case through the appellate process and includes both prior

and subsequent history


Negative Citing References lists cases outside the direct appellate line that may have a negative

impact on the precedential value of your case


Related References lists cases that involve the same parties and facts as your case, whether or

not the legal issues are the same

Case history also includes links to related court documents, such as briefs, petitions, motions, and transcripts of oral arguments.