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This guide points toward some of the state, national, and international statutory, regulatory, and case law available in the library and through the Internet, as well as to reference books exploring legal issues. Legal information has its own organization and traditions, and it is constantly being updated, reinterpreted, and changed, so publication dates are important as you assess the usefulness of sources. Please don't hesitate to ask a librarian for help if you aren't finding what you need.
Table of Contents:
Indexes and Databases
- Congressional (LexisNexis)
Index to congressional publications from 1970 to the present, legislative histories for public laws, testimony at congressional hearings, and biographical and committee information. Also allows searching of the Congressional Record and Federal Register.
- LexisNexis Academic
Search current news, business information (including business news and corporate financials), and legal news and information. International news sources are also included.
- Social Science Research Network
A repository for research primarily in the social sciences, but with some coverage of fields in the humanities. Most of the papers found in this database are freely available, but some (marked with a $ icon in search results) are only available for purchase. The repository includes peer-reviewed articles published in journals as well as conference papers, white papers, and reports not otherwise formally published but still scholarly in nature.
- Web of Science (Web of Knowledge)
http://gacproxy.mnpals.net/login?url=http://webofknowledge.com/http://webofknowledge.com/?DestApp=WOS&editions=SCI SSCI AHCI ISTP ISSHP
The Science Citation Index Expanded, the Social Sciences Citation Index, and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Besides indexing a wide range of journals in the sciences, social sciences, and history, this resource allows you to search for articles that cite a specific author or published work. Coverage from 1997 to the present. Click on the "Web of Science" tab to limit your search to one or more specific citation databases.
- Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation
Provides the text of the constitution with extensive annotations that refer to cases decided by the Supreme Court to 1992, with supplements for later years in Government Documents. Online versions are available at Findlaw (includes supplements to 2000, and includes links to decisions cited) and at GPO Access (includes supplements to 2008). Tip: use the Table of Cases or Index to target your search.
Location(s): Ref KF 4527 C6 1996 (supplements for later years in Government Documents)
- Constitutions of Countries of the World
Provides texts (with English translations when necessary) of constitutions of the world's nations. Each is accompanied by a chronology of events and a brief commentary.
Location(s): Ref K 3157 .B58
- United States Statutes at Large
Earlier volumes available on microfilm. Current laws and bills before Congress are available online. Here federal laws are arranged chronologically by the date they were enacted. Slip laws are issued to keep the bound volumes up to date. The counterpart for Minnesota Statutes is the Session Laws of the State of Minnesota (Ref KFM 5425 .A3 and online). Other state laws can be found at the Legal Information Institute.
Location(s): Ref KF 50 .A3
- United States Code
In this set laws are arranged by subject (or "titles"), bringing relevant laws together. There is a table of acts by popular name as well as a five volume general index. From time to time supplement volumes are published to update the Code, although it never is as current as the slip laws.
Location(s): Ref KF62 2000 .A2 2001
- Finding Case Law (Court Opinions)
- United States. Supreme Court. United States Reports.
The text of Supreme Court decisions are published in this series in chronological order. As decisions are made, they are published in pamphlet form, called "slip decisions" before being cumulated into volumes. If you know the citation of a case - e.g. 521 U. S. 844 - you can find it in volume 521, beginning on page 844, or you can browse the online case finder. In addition to the official online site of the Court, Findlaw has a useful database of decisions from 1895 to present, searchable by citation, party name, or full text. Lower federal court decisions and state court decisions are also available through the Web.
Location(s): Ref KF 101 .A3
- Federal Register
A daily publication listing all regulations issued by federal government regulatory bodies as well as presidential proclamations and executive orders. A counterpart for regulations issued by the state of Minnesota is the State Register (Ref KFM5436 .S7 and online).
Location(s): Government Documents and online.
- Code of Federal Regulations
Codifies all federal regulations in force, putting them into subject categories. State of Minnesota administrative laws (called Rules) can be found online also.
Location(s): Government Documents and online
- Black's Law Dictionary
A standard tool for defining legal terms. A Dictionary of Law (Oxford UP, 2002) includes UK and European legal terms but is less thorough than Black's in coverage of US legal concepts. A free version of Merriam Webster's Dictionary of Law (1996) is available through Findlaw.
Location(s): Ref KF 156 .B53 2009
- Encyclopedia of the American Constitution
Offers accessible, brief articles on cases, issues, concepts, people, and acts. A very useful source. Note, however, that some of the information may be superceded by more recent court decisions.
Location(s): Ref KF 4548 .E53 2000
- Encyclopedia of the American Legislative System
Lengthy essays on the history, legislative structures and processes, personnel, elections, policy, and politics of the legislative system. Arranged topically, rather than alphabetically. Each essay is written by a specialist and is followed by a substantial bibliography
Location(s): Ref JF 501 .E53 1994
- Legal Systems of the World: A Political, Social, and Cultural Encyclopedia
A fascinating compilation of information about legal systems and issues around the world. There are articles profiling countries and traditions (such as Islamic Law), concepts in the law (civil law, consumer law) from an international perspective, and articles on issues with a legal component, such as Basque Region, War Crimes Tribunal, and the World Trade Organization.
Location(s): Ref K 48 .L44 2002
- Oxford Companion to American Law
This resource contains nearly 500 entries on American law. Topics covered include the role of law in structuring decisions about governance, the significance of state and local law and legal institutions, and the place of American law in a comparative international perspective.
- Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States
Contains over 1,200 entries related to key cases and various topics in constitutional law, such as abortion, freedom of religion, school desegregation, freedom of speech, voting rights, military tribunals, and the rights of the accused. The print version includes appendices: text of the Constitution, nominations and succession of justices, and trivia and traditions of the Court. Available in print and online.
Location(s): Ref KF 8742 .A35 O93 2005
- Oxford Guide to United States Supreme Court Decisions
Covers major Supreme Court cases and provides on the U.S. Constitution, and the nominations and successions of justices. Terms covered in the Companion are briefly defined and explained, and a complete case list is given.
- Gale Encyclopedia of American Law
[Formerly West's Encyclopedia of American Law] Offers over 4,000 entries devoted to terms, concepts, cases, legal issues, and people of note in the American legal system.
Location(s): Ref KF 154 .W47 2011
- Specialized Reference Sources
- Documents of American Indian Diplomacy: Treaties, Agreements, and Conventions, 1775-1979
A collection of legal and diplomatic documents, including analysis and context. A remarkable collection that builds on Kappler's Indian Affairs, Laws and Treaties (Ref KF8203 1972b). This work is edited by Vine Deloria, Jr. and Raymond J. DeMallie.
Location(s): Ref KF 8202 1999
- Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations
Offers brief articles on countries, regions, events, crises, diplomacy, international political economy, international organizations, and concepts of international law.
Location(s): Ref JZ 1160 .N65 2002
- Historic U.S. Court Cases 1690-1990: An Encyclopedia
A collection of short essays that highlight major cases that made an impact on American law or which are connected to important historical events. Included are sections on civil liberties, minorities, women, political processes, economics, etc. There is an index of cases at the back.
Location(s): Ref KF 385 .A4 J64 1992
Browsing for Books
- New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics and the Law
Covers such topics as antitrust, cartels, contracts, civil procedure, theories of economics with legal import, taxation, securities regulation, property rights, and so on, in depth. Each article is followed by a bibliography which includes, when relevant, cases and statutes.
Location(s): Ref K 487 .E3 N48 1998
Books are shelved in general subject categories using the Library of Congress classification system. You may want to supplement your use of the catalog with browsing shelf areas for your topic. Below is a brief listing of some of the subject locations in the field of law.
- H Social Science (including Criminal Justice)
- J Political Science
- K Law, general
- KF United States law
- KF 3000-4000 Constitutional Law
- KFÂ 8000 Supreme Court
- KFA Laws of the states
Additional journals may be available in full text through various subscription databases.
Print journals are housed in the periodicals collection on the first floor of the library.
- Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review
- International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice
- Journal of Law and Religion
- LexisNexis Academic
LexisNexis also contains the full text of a large number of law journals.
A commercial directory to law resources. Includes a handy law dictionary and a well-designed full text database of US Supreme Court decisions from 1893 to the present. Site requires free registration.
An up-to-the-minute source for legal news gathered and reported by students at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. They avoid sensationalist coverage of celebrity trials in favor of "legal issues with significant jurisprudential, social and political implications." Visitors can choose a USA focus, an International edition, or a combination of both.
Provides links to legal assistance and information for low income people organized by topic such as work, education, and family, along with sections for immigrants, Native American issues, and materials in a variety of languages. As part of a nationwide-system supported by legal associations this site provides easy access to basic legal information state-by-state.
- Law Professor Blogs
Web logs (sometimes called "blawgs" in this subject area) cover news or commentary with links. The ones at this site are intended for professors, but are useful to anyone who wants to keep up. Specific areas, such as contracts, criminal law, and media law, are covered by experts.
- Legal Information Institute, Cornell University
A directory to legal information on the web, including texts of case law and statutes for state, federal and international jurisdictions. The site - organized alphabetically by topic - also provides links to court opinions and directories to law organizations and journals. From the Cornell University Law School.
- Public Library of Law
This Website offers quick access to case, statutory, and regulatory law from the federal level and from the states. Though the search engine is simple, it's worth reading the user guide to focus your searches. Some of the content is only available for a fee, but a vast amount is pulled from public domain sources.
- Constitution Finder
Links to the constitutions of countries around the world.
- EISIL: Electric Information System for International Law
A directory of information on international legal issues, including international human rights, criminal law, use of force, environmental law, and economic law. Each section includes the text of important international agreements and links to significant organizations. From the American Society of International Law.
- Guide to Law Online: Nations of the World
A country-by-country directory of legal information, including constitutional, executive, legislative, and judicial law as well as related information such as human rights reports. From the Law Library of Congress.
- Open Society Justice Initiative
From the Open Society Institute, this website focuses on international law relating to human rights. A good site for current cases and breaking news.
- First Amendment Center
At Vanderbilt University, a site covering freedoms of speech, the press, religious liberty, and assembly and newer issues such as cyberlaw.
- Landmark Supreme Court Cases
From the Supreme Court Historical Society and Street Law, a collection of accessible materials intended for educational purposes. Includes coverage of key cases and how they moved through the courts as well as concepts.
- Oyez: Supreme Court Multimedia
Offers information about the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably audio files of all oral arguments held before the Supreme Court since 1995, with selected landmark cases as far back as 1955. Oral arguments offer a fascinating glimpse into the background of decisions. This site also offers current Supreme Court news and a link to On the Docket, a news feed on Supreme Court matters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.
- Supreme Court Database
Billing itself as "the definitive source for researchers, students, journalists, and citizens interested in the U.S. Supreme Court," this resource from Washington University in St. Louis offers decisions from 1953 to 2008 and information about them. Of particular interest is an "analysis" tool that will help you see trends in court decisions on a variety of issues such as privacy or civil rights over a period of time.
- Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet
From the Library of Congress. Provides the text of bills introduced in Congress along with committee action from the 104th Congress (1995) to present. Users can search the site by bill number or keyword to learn about the legislative process, find a state's members of Congress, and access a comprehensive database on current and past legislation. The site also provides a full-text search of the Congressional Record, a daily record of activity in Congress, and committee information. Most official state Web sites provide similar bill-tracking information for state legislatures.
Photo Credits (L to R)
- Web Guide to Supreme Court Research
Compiled by Gail Partin in December 2003, this is an excellent resource for finding court cases, news, history of the court, and more on the Web.
United States Constitution - http://www.flickr.com/photos/lloydyweb/3139507225/
Minnesota State Capital - http://www.flickr.com/photos/mulad/3184482101/
Declaration of Independence_Details_One - http://www.flickr.com/photos/25308848@N07/2386302607/
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