As you’ve probably realized, this is not a law blog. I’ve previously written about why I can’t comment on controversial legal and political issues. As a judicial staff member, I’m governed by ethics rules that prohibit me from opining on legal issues that may come before my court. The ethics folks take these restrictions seriously. I once attended a training in which the speaker said it would be unethical to post a recent Supreme Court decision on social media with nothing more than the comment “interesting case.”
Nevertheless, I sometimes receive requests to discuss interesting cases or legal topics on Alexigraph. Since I can’t do that, I thought I might point you in the direction of some other sources. Lawyers tend to be members of professional organizations that regularly send magazines, e-newsletters, and other publications containing news of recent court decisions and changes in legislation. Most of us also have access to legal research databases like LexisNexis, Westlaw, Fastcase, and Bloomberg Law. But let’s say you’re not a lawyer and don’t have easy access to these things. Where can you go to learn about what’s happening in the legal world?
For starters, many courts now post all of their opinions on their websites. Federal courts are required to do this. If you’re looking for a decision in a particular case, start by visiting the website of the court in which the case is pending or was decided. If you need help finding a case number or some direction in using the particular court’s database, you can call the court clerk’s office and someone there will probably be able to help you.
Law libraries are also a great source of information. Many cities and counties have public law libraries, which are often located at the court-house. Some are located within public libraries, and some are stand-alone law libraries. The librarians can introduce you to the kinds of materials available and teach you how to use them.
Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute is an accurate, generally up-to-date source of federal and state statutes. It also contains some secondary sources on legal topics, such as a legal encyclopedia and introductory articles on various areas of law.
If you aren’t looking for a particular case decision or statute and just want to know about what’s new and trending in a particular area of the law, the ABA Journal compiles an annual list of 100 law blogs, called the Blawg 100. Peruse it to find blogs written by law professors and lawyers on various areas of interest in the legal field.
Some bar associations make their publications available online without a subscription. This is true of the ABA Journal, which regularly posts articles on everything from major cases and pending legislation to legal ethics and law practice management. Law schools publish law reviews and journals, which contain in-depth analysis and commentary by law professors and students on specific legal issues. Many schools make these articles available for free online. The American Bar Association offers a list of law journals and a search tool to help you find articles on particular topics.
You can use the Legal Talk Network to find podcasts on legal topics. Many of the podcasts out there are made for lawyers and focus more on practice management than on actual legal issues, though there are several good legal news podcasts as well.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of sources of legal information, but I hope it gives you a good starting point for any research you may want to do. If you are confronting a legal issue of your own, it’s best to consult a lawyer.
If you enjoyed this post, please share.