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Strategies for Success with Legal Research  

Steps for conducting efficient and effective legal research
Last Updated: Jun 30, 2015 URL: http://lawlibguides.sandiego.edu/content.php?pid=278929 Print Guide RSS Updates

5-SEARCH FOR AUTHORITY Print Page
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Authority on point

First look for controlling primary authority.  Primary authority being defined as one of the sources located below that can be applied to your jurisdiction.  You will have a good start to look for primary material through the secondary material you researched.  If you have no luck, try and find persuasive authority.

 

1. Ask: Is there a STATUTE on point?

When searching for primary authority, you must first discover if there is a statute that is relevant to the issue at hand.  If the answer is no, then you must move on  to examining cases as primary authority.

Resources where statutes can be located:

United States Statutes at Large
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF50 .U52
Uncodified federal statutes in chronological order

United States Code
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF62 .A2 2006
Official version of the codified federal statutes

United States Code Annotated
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF62 .U53
West Publishing Co.'s annotated version of the United States Code

United States Code Service
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF62 .U55
Lawyers Co-operative Pub. Co.'s (now LexisNexis Pub. Co.) annotated version of the United States Code

Deering's California Codes
Call Number: LRC California KFC30 .D4
Official annotated version of codified California statutes

West's Annotated California Codes
Call Number: LRC California KFC30 .W4
Official annotated version of codified California statutes

 

2. If so, are there also ADMINISTRATIVE REGULATIONS?

Administrative Regulations are when Congress decides not to regulate a specific area and instead decides to delegate the regulation to either a pre-existing administrative agency or to an administrative agency created for the purpose of regulation.  The delegation occurs through a broadly worded statute setting out the intention to regulate an area as well as a specific reference to implementation by regulation as well as specific delegation to an agency or commission.

Resources where Administrative Regulations can be located:

Code of Federal Regulations
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF70 .A32 1978
Federal administrative code

Federal Register
Call Number: LRC Reading Room KF70 .A2
Federal administrative proceedings in chronological order

California Code of Regulations
Call Number: LRC California KFC35 1990 .A22
California administrative code

California Regulatory Notice Register
Call Number: LRC California KFC36 .C2
California administrative proceedings in chronological order

3. If there are no annotations to statutes on point, try a Legislative History.

  • Congressional publications
    Publications generated by the U.S. Congress and accessed via ProQuest, including: CIS Legislative Histories, 1969-present; House & Senate Reports, 1817-present; House & Senate Hearings, 1824-present; Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports, 1916-present; House & Senate Documents, 1817-present, and Committee Prints & Miscellaneous Publications, 1830-present; Executive Reports, 1843-present, & Executive Documents, 1825-1980; Serial Set, 1789-present.

4. Ask: Are there CASES on point?

Cases are an excellant source of primary authority.  When searching for primary authority, you must absolutely find cases relevant to the isse at hand.  However, remember to check to see if the cases haven't been overturned.

Resources where cases can be located:

5. Find an applicable West TOPIC and Key Number or Lexis headnote or topic.

Look for primary authority. If there is none, check for persuasive authority. 

6. Locate an American Law Report as a complement to digests and other case-finding resources

ALRs can help you locate relevant primary authority through articles called "Annotations".  Annotations collect summaries of cases from a variety of jurisdictions to provide an overview of the law on a topic.  However, there are some disadvantages to using an ALR.  ALRs don't answer legal questions, but organize relevant authority around the question.  In addition, an ALR is not jurisdiction specific, so you will have to sort through the information

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