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RESEARCH MATERIALS IN THE UNITED STATES

Recap on the following:



LEGAL RESEARCH is the investigation of information necessary to support legal
decision making. Legal information may come from the following sources:
a. Primary Sources recorded laws and rules enforced by the State (i.e.
codes and statutes, judicial decisions, administrative laws and regulations,
etc.)
b. Secondary Materials are not primary authority but which discuss or
analyze legal doctrine; includes treatises, commentaries, and
encyclopedias.
c. Finding Tools are means for locating primary sources; includes digests like
the SCRA Quick Index-Digest and annotations.

In the United States, the sources of legal materials consist of:
A. CASE LAW
B. STATUTORY LAW
C. SECONDARY MATERIALS
D. FINDING TOOLS & OTHER MATERIALS

Case laws (court decisions) and Statutory laws (constitution, statutes, etc.) are
considered the primary sources.





















SECONDARY MATERIALS

Digest, discuss, or analyze legal provisions, judicial decisions or define and
explain legal doctrines.

1. Digests

are multivolume sets with topics arranged in alphabetical order, similar
to the organization of an encyclopedia.



A digest is an index to cases. It is a case-finding tool that provides case
citations and summaries of cases discussing legal points.

topical arrangement of very brief summaries of the points of law found
in a case. The digest arranges these summaries called Headnotes,
topically so that once you find a case on point you can easily find other
cases.

Headnotes consists of a headnote number, a topic and key
number, a summary of a point of law, and sometimes a statute, court
The topic are arranged
alphabetically and
numbered between 1 and
450.
Each topic addresses a
broad legal issue.
Some topics have been
added after the original
414 topics were assigned
numbers.


rule, or regulation citation (Headnotes include citations to other
cases.)
The headnote number corresponds with numbered sections of the case
where the headnote's point of law is discussed.



















The logical approach of the West Digest System helps you to understand
legal issues in context. A digest allows you to redefine your research goals
and theories to find the best cases, statutes and other relevant
information for your research problem. Your research is not complete if
you haven't considered using digests.
A digest is a case finding tool. Digests do not interpret cases. That is your
job. Digest editors can and do make mistakes, and small excerpts from
cases (the Summary) may not be actual statements of law found in a
case. Therefore, in order to ensure a complete understanding of the case
you must read the entire case.



a. Wests Key-Number Digests



West Digest System is the standard gauge of case indexes. It provides a
uniform indexing scheme for cases from all jurisdictions.
First began publishing decisions of Minnesota (1870s). Quickly
expanded to five states (North Western Reporter).





b. Regional Digests







2.





What is a digest?
A digest is an index to cases. A digest is a case-finding tool that provides case
citations and summaries of cases discussing legal points.
West digests arrange their points of law case summaries by a topic (subject) and
key numbers classification system.
The West digests' Descriptive Word Indexes lead researchers to Topics and Key
Numbers. In West digests the topic and key number for Constitutional Law 1021
look like the example below.
Constitutional Law 1021
The topic above is constitutional law. The key number, 1021, represents "Equal
Protection." West gathered points of law concerning equal protection under
the 1021 label.
West topics and key numbers are the same in each West digest.
Because West digests and West reporters work in tandem with each other,
topics and key numbers appear in West reporters in the headnotes of cases.
A Headnote consists of a headnote number, a topic and key number, a
summary of a point of law, and sometimes a statute, court rule, or regulation
citation.
The headnote number corresponds with numbered sections of the case where
the headnote's point of law is discussed.





This headnote summarizes the second point of law discussed in this case on
Westlaw. The headnote is assigned to key number 90.1(1.2) under Topic 92
(Constitutional Law).



Features of all West Digests

1. Topic-based Organization
2. Scope Note describing Topic
3. Analysis and Topic Outline
4. Table of Cases
5. Descriptive Word Index
6. Defendant-Plaintiff Table
7. Supplementation for Currency
8. Words & Phrases

1. The topics begin very broadly and then subdivide down to very detailed
level.
2. The Scope Note lists the subject matter covered by a topic. Very
abbreviated.
3. The main topic is then divided and then subdivided into increasingly
smaller points or rules of law.
4. Think of a large table of contents. At the level of the major heading,
Roman numeral I, II or III, material is arranged by the name of the
heading. At the lower levels, A, B, or C, the headings are assigned
numbers, called key numbers.
5. Each digest also has a table of cases, which gives cites for a case when
you only have the party names. And Defendant-Plaintiff table -- may be
very helpful if you know that the parties names or the case name is Smith v
Crysinsky.
6. Descriptive word indexyour in into the Topics. Even if you dont know
the area of law it might fall under, the descriptive word index will lead you
there. I often start with the descriptive word index to figure out where I
should go. Then, I use the Topic Outline to see the broader areas of law
before I dive into the digest.
7. Talk about the pocket parts and pamphlets that Update the Digest













The West Topic and Key Number System
is an extensive outline of the entire body of case law in this country.
is an index to the entire National Reporter System, helping you more easily
locate cases with similar legal issues in any jurisdiction.
is a classification system with at least one topic and key number assigned
to each point of law.









The topic are arranged alphabetically and numbered between 1 and
450.
Each topic addresses a broad legal issue.
Some topics have been added after the original 414 topics were assigned
numbers.
See, 48A Automobiles
See, 48B Aviation
Other topics have been eliminated or renamed (e.g., West
attorney-editors no longer use topic 3).






This is a breakdown of subheading 90.1 (Particular expressions and
limitations) under the Constitutional Law topic and subheading V.
(Personal, Civil and Political Rights) in the print version of the digest.
92k90.1(1.2) is the specific key number dealing with Election regulations.