Tuesday, November 29, 2016

HeinOnline – a different kind of legal database

In law school we tend to focus on the major commercial legal databases, Lexis and Westlaw. For many, these two databases represent the universe of legal materials. While these databases are very useful in obtaining current law and secondary legal materials they often fall short in older materials. For instance the coverage for most law journals in those databases begins in the 1990s, but what if you need a law review article from 1950? Fortunately, HeinOnline exists.



HeinOnline provides coverage of most law reviews and journals all the way back to volume 1. For instance, the Western New England Law Review is covered, beginning full coverage with volume 16 on Westlaw* and Lexis while HeinOnline provides access to all issues. The extended coverage on HeinOnline doesn’t stop with law review articles. HeinOnline also includes many historical legal resources including: session laws, statutory codes, federal legislative history materials, and English Reports. This is only a sample of what HeinOnline offers since it has dozens of databases and thousands of titles.**

Another difference between HeinOnline and the major commercial databases is that instead of using just the text of the materials in its database, HeinOnline provides OCRed pdf scans of all the materials which it provides. This preserves the layout of the original publications. It can also be useful for the lay reader who may be unfamiliar with star pagination or to the law review cite checker who needs to check the pagination of a footnote. 

How do I access HeinOnline?


HeinOnline can be accessed from the terminals within the Western New England University School of Law. It can also be accessed remotely by faculty and current students using your barcode and PIN. If you are not a Western New England University affiliate or  you  are not near our Springfield campus, you may be able to access HeinOnline through the Massachusetts TrialCourt Libraries either by visiting one of their locations or through their website ifyou have a current borrowing card. HeinOnline may also be available on public terminals at state run universities.

So the next time you’re looking for rare or historical legal materials remember, try HeinOnline.

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* Partial coverage begins with Volume 8.
** The links in this paragraph assume the reader has access through Western New England University.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Protecting Metadata in a Word Document

What is Metadata?

Metadata is literally ‘data about data.’ In the modern world just about every aspect of our life generates metadata. For example, every email you send has a surprising amount of additional information attached to it which is hidden by most email client programs. Legal professionals need to be aware that the metadata generated by various technologies needs to be accounted for to prevent inadvertently transmit confidential information to opposing counsel.* The ethics committees in several jurisdictions have issued opinions stating that attorneys have a duty to scrub metadata prior to sending.  In its Formal Ethics Opinion 06-442, the ABA discussed the duty to protect confidential client information under Rule 1.6 as applied to metadata.

Metadata Generated by Word

One example is the use of the ‘track changes’  feature of Word. Microsoft developed this feature to help people collaborate when writing a document.  This feature, when turned on, saves changes made to a document and allows the collaborators to compare the original to the changes. For example, if attorneys within a firm were working together to draft a contract and were using ‘track changes’ they could easily discern where and what changes were made from one version to another.


If opposing counsel were to receive a copy in Word format of the shown contract with the tracked changes intact, they could learn a lot about the strategy of the contract’s drafters.

How to ‘Scrub’ Metadata From a Word Document

I will cover two methods of scrubbing metadata: Word’s built in feature and creating a PDF.

Using Word’s Built in Feature

Go to the ‘File’ tab.  In the middle of the screen will be the ‘Inspect Document’ section. Hit the button marked ‘Check for Issues.’ Then hit ‘Inspect Document’ from the dropdown menu.


This will launch the ‘Document Inspector’ window. From here Word gives several categories of metadata which it will search for. Here, you have the option of not searching specific categories.


Then hit inspect.  Word will then show you the results of the search and give you the option to remove metadata wherever it was found.


Note, some categories of metadata which Word might remove using this method might be items the user actually wants in the document such as page numbers within the footer.

Creating a PDF

A lot of the metadata in a Word document will not be converted if you save the document in another file format, such as the PDF. To save the file as a PDF, go to the file menu and click ‘Save As.’ Word will then determine in which directory you want to save your file. From the ‘Save As’ dialog box make sure you select PDF from the ‘Save as type’ drop down menu.


When saving in the PDF format for the purpose of scrubbing metadata, the user should be aware that certain types of hidden text such as white on white or black text highlighted black might still be selectable and thus capable of being copied and discerned.

Conclusion

The metadata generated by Microsoft Word is just one example of possibly confidential information of which the practicing attorney should be aware. Most technology products an attorney might use have the potential for inadvertent transmission of confidential information. The attorney has the responsibility of finding this out since, keeping confidential information safe is part of the ethical responsibilities of attorneys regardless of whether or not jurisdictional rules explicitly require attorneys to scrub metadata.
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* See E.G. Blake A. Klinkner, Metadata What Is It? How Can It Get Me into Trouble? What Can I Do About It?, Wyo. Law., April 2014, at 18, and Crystal Thorpe, Metadata:The Dangers of Metadata Compel Issuing Ethical Duties to "Scrub" and Prohibit the "Mining" of Metadata, 84 N.D. L. Rev. 257 (2008).


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

CARA - New Feature on Casetext

Do you find it difficult to translate a legal issue into a search query to generate a manageable list of on-point cases? Check out CARA - a new Casetext tool!


Casetext
If you are not yet familiar with Casetext, it provides free caselaw research to over 10 million cases, statutes, and regulations; it includes all federal cases since 1925 (published and unpublished) and state appellate cases from all 50 states. It is updated daily. See my previous post about Casetext.





CARA
Casetext rolled out a new feature called CARA (Case Analysis Research Assistant) in July. CARA will find cases that are relevant to a particular legal memorandum or brief. Users upload a document and CARA analyzes it and generates a list of relevant cases not cited in the document. CARA does this by identifying dozens of factors including the legal authority cited and the subject matter discussed in the document. CARA uses a proprietary algorithm, then automatically searches Casetext's database to locate similar, on-point cases. CARA uses indicators to weigh relevance, including how often cases are jointly cited.

CARA could be very useful in a couple of ways:

l. If you just received your opponent's memorandum in support of a motion to dismiss, upload the document to CARA and it will quickly generate a list of cases that are on point with your issue, but that your opponent has not included in the document. This can be a very effective tool as you research and begin drafting your reply, and are trying to find potential missing arguments or alternative arguments not discussed within your opponent's document.

2. Double-check your own research, whether in rough draft or a final version, by uploading your document to CARA to see if you have missed any important cases.

CARA does not replace traditional legal research systems, but it could be a powerful supplementary tool. It may help you locate cases you missed using other search methods or help you locate cases more efficiently. Legal research continues to be a very human process, but one that can be prone to human error.

Caveats
l. CARA is not effective for case law that is less than one year old. If cases cited within a document are more than one or two years old, CARA can be very effective.
2. If you are using a scanned document, be sure to OCR it before uploading.
3. CARA is not accessible in the free Casetext basic plan. Check out the cost of their research plans.

Privacy Issue?
Attorneys may be concerned with security and confidentiality of legal documents they upload to CARA. Casetext, however, addresses this concern by encrypting the uploaded document and, after processing, the document is immediately deleted from Casetext's servers.

Want to Try It?
If you are a Casetext registered user, just sign in and click on the CARA link. If you are new to Casetext, you will need to sign up for a free trial.

Another exciting  new development on the legal research front!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Penultimate





                 





Brilliant ideas can come at any time--like my idea for this week's post-- and you don't always have pen and paper handy. Enter Penultimate. While, not necessarily a research tool, it can be thought of as a productivity tool to help capture your research ideas, and as such, is a helpful research app for iPads. And with an estimated 79.7 million iPad users, there's a good chance you have access to one.

This is an Evernote product, so your notes sync to your Evernote account. This has several advantages. Unlike handwritten notes, these notes are searchable and you can access them from any of your devices, depending on your Evernote account. You can also export them as PDFs. Additional features include the ability to highlight, erase, and move things around.

Flowcharts and other various diagrams, like timelines, can be especially useful to help understand complex issues. However, I am reluctant to create flowcharts on the computer because of the time it takes me to design them, especially if I am short on time and need to capture my idea quickly. I do draw them on paper often, but hadn't found a good way to incorporate them into my typed notes until now.

I think this tool would be helpful also for  group study sessions. 1Ls listen up! If you use Penultimate in conjunction with an Apple TV, you can project your notes from your iPad and then share them with your group members via your Evernote account.


Penultimate offers a variety of paper options in addition to the usual plain or lined versions. Just have the perfect guitar riff pop in your head? Need a break from studying? They have a paper option for that!



I think Penultimate is definitely worth checking out as an alternative to paper.

Looking for a voice recognition alternative to paper? Check out my earlier post on DragonDictation.








Thursday, September 22, 2016

Darn Broken Links!

The World Wide Web has become the go-to source for information in our society.  We have easy access to about 47 billion web pages on the World Wide Web. This number only accounts for the surface web.*  In order to be accessed web pages need to have an address.**  Web pages can lose their addresses if their owner fails to pay the web-hosting bill, if the server breaks down, if the files which make up the web page are moved or deleted, or if the owner of the website simply decides to change the content.  We even have a name for when a web page loses its address: link rot.

This can be a problem when conducting research.  In academia, writers rely on the process of citation to show the reader where they found information.  In law, jurists and expert witnesses will also use citations to inform the reader of information upon which a decision or the expert’s opinion might be based.***

Prior to the internet the citation process was straightforward because once something was published in print it was recorded in a physical and unchanging form.  This is not so with web pages, since there are many reasons links may become unavailable over time.

So what can you do if you’re conducting research and come across link rot?  Well, there is one thing you can try—check out the Wayback Machine.

What is the Wayback Machine?


The Internet Archive Wayback Machine is a web archive which enables users to view webpages across time. Simply go to the website and enter the URL of the website for which you’d like to see past versions in their search box. If the website has been archived, you will be brought to a page with a bar graph indicating how often the page has been indexed.
The bar pictured is for “en.wikipedia.org”
The bar graph consists of one box for each year since 1996.  Within each box are up to 12 black vertical lines which represent each month within that year.  The height of each vertical black line represents how many times the web page was archived that month. Clicking on the boxes will bring up a calendar for that year with days highlighted when a snapshot of the webpage was archived. To see the webpage as it was, click the highlighted dates.

Note: The Wayback Machine is a free service and is also very popular.  This means that sometimes you may sometimes get an error message because their servers are busy—be patient.

I recently had occasion to do some research on expert witness reports. In one of these reports (link requires Westlaw password) I was surprised to find a great number of the references to an advocacy website (PFLAG) were broken due to changes to the organization’s website. Of the five links which were broken in the expert report, I was able to retrieve all five using the Wayback Machine including one pdf file.  While your results may vary—if you come across a broken link while doing research the Wayback Machine may be a good solution.
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* Surface web means the part web which is indexed by the commercial search engines (e.g. Google). The surface web accounts for about 4% of the total web.  Non-indexed parts of the web are called the deep web and dark web. To learn more about those click here.  
** Web addresses are usually thought of as Uniform Resource Locators or URLs. For more detailed information about URLs click here
*** Legal scholars have recognized link rot as a problem. See e.g. Jonathan Zittrain, Kendra Albert, Lawrence Lessig, Perma: Scoping and Addressing the Problem of Link and Reference Rot in Legal Citations, 127 Harv. L. Rev. F. 176 (2014).

Monday, September 12, 2016

Law Reports from the Library of Congress



Legal researchers are familiar with Congressional Research Service (CRS), a division of the Library of Congress, and the great bipartisan reports it provides for Members of Congress. In fact I wrote about CRS previously and that post is available here. To recap, CRS “experts assist [members of Congress] at every stage of the legislative process — from the early considerations that precede bill drafting, through committee hearings and floor debate, to the oversight of enacted laws and various agency activities.” (from the CRS website).

But today I discovered that the Library of Congress also authors something called “Legal Reports,” also for Congress, available freely at this link. There are differences between these Legal Reports and CRS Reports – one of the biggest of which I just mentioned – they are available for free on the Library of Congress' website. 

There are also differences in subject matter covered. The CRS Annual Report states that major issues covered by CRS in 2015 included appropriations, congressional oversight, country of origin labeling, federal health insurance programs, inter alia. In other words, domestic and foreign policy issues. On the other hand, a review of Law Reports created by the LOC reveals that these Reports tend to have more of a foreign or comparative law slant. For example, there are Law Reports covering children’s rights in 16 countries, regulation of drones in 13 countries and the European Union (I could have used this last semester), the impact of foreign law on domestic judgments in 13 countries, extradition of citizens in Brazil and 157 other jurisdictions, to name only four of the more than one hundred Reports! The index for Law Reports available can be found here

Another difference between CRS Reports and Law Reports is that there is no author attribution for the Legal Reports; the author is listed as the Global Legal Research Center. As you know, the CRS Reports are written by subject specialists and the individual’s contact information is given at the end of each report.

It’s a good day when I discover a whole new resource for research and I am happy to share this discovery with you.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Data Visualization and Legal Research: Resources You Can Use Now

Welcome back! We hope you had a productive and/or relaxing summer.

Have you heard of data visualization? Data visualization is a way of using computers to graphically present data in ways which humans can visually interpret. This can be a boon to people who are visual learners. While we all know about pie charts and bar graphs, you may not be familiar with some exciting ways in which legal information providers have applied data visualizations to help the researcher navigate legal information. Here we will be covering examples from several different providers Casetext, Lexis Advance, and Ravel.  

Casetext*

Casetext, an innovative legal information startup, has  created a heatmap, a type of data visualization in which values in a set of data are represented as colors, for their pro version. Casetext uses the heatmap within a case to show the number of citations to each page of the opinion. The line on the left is the heatmap, the boxes from top to bottom represent page numbers, and the shade of blue indicates how often the corresponding pages have been cited. The darker the shade, the more often the page has been cited.  This is useful because it indicates which portions of the opinion citing courts have found to be most important.













The heatmap is not to be confused with Casetext’s “Key Passages” as pictured below.  For instance, if we went to the page from the heatmap with the darkest blue, we see a callout with the number 164 just to the right of the passage.  The 164 represents the number of times this passage has been quoted in subsequent opinions.












Lexis Advance

Lexis Advance, a long-time industry leader, has recently added a color coded heatmap to its search results for cases. The example uses the following search limited to U.S. Supreme court decisions since 2007.









As you can see the visualization color codes my search terms and shows where the terms fall within the opinion from Headnotes to dissent. By clicking on the bands of color within the heatmap, Lexis Advance will display the relevant passages within the case.  The first example “evolving standards of decency” shows up in Justice Kagan’s opinion, note the relevant pale green bar on the heatmap is highlighted. 


Below we can see where the terms “minor” and “murder” show up in Justice Thomas’s dissent. Here, note the purple-orange-purple portion of the heatmap is highlighted.


The heatmaps within the search results represent only the top hits while going into a case gives a much more detailed version of the heatmap as you can see below. What constitutes a ‘top hit’ is determined by an algorithm which looks at inter alia search term location, frequency, and proximity in order to determine the most representative language within the document.



The most obvious use for this sort of data visualization is in finding your search terms within a case, but also by paying attention to the density of search terms and where the colors are together, one can guess where in an opinion the court is discussing the interaction between the different concepts.

Ravel**

Ravel is another innovative legal information startup that has taken a different approach to data visualization. Ravel’s main data visualization presents a search as a series of connections between cases.  The two images below represent Ravel’s visualization of a search for the phrase “evolving standards of decency” with the left image sorted by court and the right image sorted by relevance.  All of the same information is present. Each circle represents a case. The size of each circle indicates the number of citations within your search results and the color of each circle correlates to the level of the court which wrote each opinion which is more easily discerned in the image sorted by court on the left.
     

By clicking one one of the case circles, you can obtain a relevance mapping of connections between that case and other cases.  The image below reflects the relevance mapping for the case Trop v. Dulles, the case in which the phrase “evolving standards of decency” originated. The pattern in this image shows those cases which both include this phrase and cite to Trop v. Dulles directly. The connection is shown as a blue line with an arrow.  The arrow points from the citing case to the cited case and the thickness of the line correlates to the number of times cited. Notice how the image below correlates to the ‘relevance’ view, above right.


The next image shows the visualization for the case Estelle v. Gamble which applies the “evolving standards” from Trop in the context of medical treatment for prisoners. The image below shows the pattern of connections of cases either cited by Estelle or citing to Estelle. Ravel’s data visualization allows researchers to see connections between cases and the development in subsequent cases.


Conclusion

This post included explanations of three fairly new uses of data visualization in legal research.  There are many more out there and since Lexis Advance implemented such a tool the other major commercial legal databases are likely to follow suit. If your favorite legal research data visualization tool was not covered please share it in the comment section below.

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* Western New England University School of Law students have free access to the pro version of Casetext, contact Artie Berns for full details.


** Ravel provides free access to its data visualization tools for free to law students.  You can sign up for a free Ravel educational account here.  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Summer Legal Research Tips

Congratulations to those of you who have summer employment, an internship or law clerk’s position in a law firm, a court, a governmental agency, or another job where you can continue to gain legal experience and use some of the knowledge and skills you worked so hard to master in law school! Even if you do not plan on working at such a place this summer, make opportunities to sharpen your legal research skills.

The following are some tips for summer research:

Know your issue and take some time to understand an area of law unfamiliar to you
  • Ask your supervising attorney about the context, what sources to use, and about cost and time restraints. As you learn more about the issue and do get farther into the project, you may need to clarify some things. It is better to have that conversation than to spend too much time heading down the wrong path.
  • Understand the relevant court system, administrative agencies, or legislative bodies
  • Review treatises, practice guides, or legal encyclopedias that relate to your issue. See Renee’s recent blog post in which she gave you some great pointers on using these.
Write down your research question and develop a search strategy
  • See my tips on developing search strategy. Don’t start by just typing in some keywords into a search box. Taking a few minutes to develop your research question, identify synonyms to the main concepts, and determine the best resources to start with will save you lots of time and frustration.
  • Keep track of your resources and search queries so you know where you’ve been and revise your search strategy.
  • Utilize the advance search features and other filters that will narrow your search to a jurisdiction, time, and resource type.
  • Organize information as you find it. Remember you can save and organize your research online, sometimes with just a click or two using Westlaw and Lexis Advance folders, and some free ones like Zotero, Evernote, to name a few. (Ask a law librarian if you want some help with this and remember to comply with use paid database restrictions on retention of research.)
Utilize the resources available to you
  • Remember, as a law student here, you still have access to many recourses at the law library, even if you are not in the area. Lexis Advance and BNA are giving you the same access during the summer as you have when working on assignments for your law school classes. You can also contact Westlaw to arrange access. (Contact the law library if you have any questions about your access.) 
  • Check out eBooks from our LexisNexis Digital Library
  • Ask a law librarian! Does your office have a law librarian? While you may be away for the summer, your law school librarians are still on campus waiting to hear from you
  • If you are in Massachusetts or Connecticut, you can contact your state law librarian. You can also go to the libraries at several locations throughout the states to get help in person, find a treasure-trove of print materials, and access Lexis and Westlaw; (some have access to one of them or both). Here are links to information about library locations in Massachusetts and Connecticut
  • Familiarize yourself with the legal materials your law firm or office have and what subscription databases can you access from work?
Use free resources whenever possible – but make sure they are credible
Use subscription databases efficiently
  • Consult your supervisor about the office's subscription to databases and if there is a preferred database you should use.
  • Use the databases’ help features, online chat service or call and speak with a real person who is ready to give you suggestions.
Give yourself time to think
  • If you have not found anything relevant within 15 minutes, you need to stop and regroup. Work on something else and give yourself a chance to gather your thoughts or confer with someone who might give you another perspective. Hey, it’s summer – get outside and spend a few minutes enjoying the fact that you aren’t in classes
  • Remind yourself of your research question and reevaluate your research strategy.
Update your sources
  • Shepardize or KeyCite cases and statutes upon which you are relying.
  • Check citing references.
… and most importantly, find some time to get outside, enjoy the summer, and read a book or two for fun!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/simon_cocks/4867695239
Sources:
George Mason University School of Law, Free Legal Research Sites, http://www.law.gmu.edu/library/freelegalresearch (May 11, 2015).

University of Virginia School of Law, Legal Research for Law Students: Tips for Summer Research, http://libguides.law.virginia.edu/introlegalresearch/summer-research (Dec. 8, 2015).

Rebecca A. Mattson & Theresa K. Tarves, Teaching Cost-Effective Research Skills, 20 AALL Spectrum 31 (2016).

University of Illinois Law Library, Summer Legal Research Tips, http://law-illinois.libguides.com/c.php?g=384503.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fastcase: an alternative legal database

Are you a law student? Is there a possibility that you will be practicing in Massachusetts after law school? If you answered yes to these questions you should start learning how to use Fastcase.

How you ask? The Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) allows law school students to join for free and it is very reasonably priced for newer Massachusetts attorneys. In addition to a lot of other great member benefits, MBA membership includes full access to Fastcase.

Fastcase has many great features including:

Fastcase's Advanced Search Functions
  • Full text cases, statutes, and regulations from all U.S. jurisdictions with advanced searching features such as Boolean and proximity searching.

  • Constitutions, Court Rules, Attorney General Opinions, and Administrative Opinions from many U.S. Jurisdictions.

Bad Law Bot
  • Bad Law Bot—this is a citator which uses an algorithm to search through the body of case law to find words like overruled, superseded, or abrogated in relation to case law.*  When used correctly these words signify when a case is no longer good law as outlined in the Bluebook.** Since this algorithm focuses on finding particular words to find bad law, a case flagged by the Bad Law Bot is very likely no longer good law on some particular point. However, a case which doesn’t use these standard signals may evade Bad Law Bot’s detection, therefore it is probably a good practice to use another citator to check cases such as KeyCite or Shepard’s before relying on a case.
  • Another great feature of Fastcase is in it's partnership with HeinOnline.  This partnership enables the user to apply Fastcase’s powerful search tools to HeinOnline's collection of over two thousand legal periodicals. Additionally, HeinOnline’s coverage of these legal periodicals is exhaustive; in many cases coverage goes back to the inception of each journal whereas coverage on the major commercial legal databases usually begins in the mid-eighties.

Since all this is included with MBA membership and MBA allows law students to join for free and is very reasonably priced for newer attorneys, Fastcase can be a valuable tool for those planning to practice in Massachusetts.  

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 * By contrast KeyCite and Shepard’s use human editors.
** The Bluebook: a Uniform System of Citation 110 (Columbia Law Review Ass’n et al. eds., 20th ed. 2015).

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Should We Take This Case?



Tis the season for law students to leave for their summer jobs. In honor of this annual rite, I am addressing a common task given to summer interns and new lawyers – evaluating whether a potential client has a valid cause of action. Fortunately, I come with good news. There are several types of resources that will help you to jump start this task.

In order to find these resources, I went to my law school’s catalogue and entered a simple key word search for – causes of action. I didn’t even put that phrase into quotations but I would probably try it both ways the first time. My results included some golden results. I had planned initially to explore Massachusetts resources exclusively but my search results broadened my horizons and led me to make a larger point – it is likely that any jurisdiction you are researching in will have similar resources. Yeah!

Here’s what this first search brought to light – electronic resources entitled Encyclopedia of New York Causes of Action: Elements and Defenses; Encyclopedia of Connecticut Causes of Action; and Pennsylvania Causes of Action, all available on LexisNexis.  All three of these resources provide access points to the various causes of action, either by grouping them as common-law or statutory causes of action, or grouping them by issue – tort, property, insurance, as examples. Typically an entry in this type of resource will list the elements, relevant cases, statutes of limitations and in some instances, the burden of proof.

For Massachusetts, my search results included a resource published by Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) entitled Massachusetts Civil Causes of Action which is available in print and online on both WestlawNext and Lexis Advance. This resource has 30 causes of action so not as comprehensive as the Encyclopedias, but you may find the entries to be a little more substantial. For example, the entry for False Arrest starts off as follows: “False arrest is a common law action, an intentional tort. It is seldom brought as the sole claim in a lawsuit. Ordinarily it is joined with claims for false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, and/or battery. False arrest has been described as a ‘species’ of false imprisonment.”
   
That is a lot of useful information concisely given. I omitted all of the footnotes in the above quote, but rest assured that each sentence is supported by case law in the endnotes to each chapter. This entry has additional sections defining the elements, the defenses, and the remedies.

Another resource for the purpose of evaluating cases that I consider underutilized are your jurisdiction’s jury instructions. Of course jury instructions come into play at the end of a case but since this is what the jury is going to be told you had to prove to establish your case, isn’t it a good idea to have them in mind from the outset?  In Massachusetts MCLE publishes Massachusetts Superior Court Civil Practice Jury Instructions, Massachusetts Superior Court Criminal Practice Jury Instructions as well as Criminal Model Jury Instructions for Use in the District Court. In Superior Court Civil Practice Jury Instructions at least 21 subject areas are covered, as well as several chapters covering miscellaneous and special issues. Let’s look at what is covered by the employment discrimination jury instructions (chapter 5): the Plaintiff’s burden of proof (an essential piece of knowledge); direct and circumstantial evidence of motive, intent, or state of mind; and the elements of handicap and age discrimination. All of these instructions are supported by citations to cases and statutes. I don’t think there is a way to put your hands on relevant material faster – but if you know of one do not hesitate to make a comment!

Before moving on to a national resource that does something similar to the resources described above, I have to mention the four volumes of the Massachusetts Practice Series Prima Facie Case Proof and Defense by Massachusetts lawyer Richard W. Bishop, in existence for more than fifty years. This resource directs the researcher to applicable case and statute law, but one advantage to using Mass. Practice is that you will also be directed to related material in other parts of the Series. For example, looking at the False Imprisonment section in Prima Facie Case Proof and Defense points the researcher to supplemental materials found in Massachusetts Practice Procedural Forms Annotated which not only has more explicatory material on False Imprisonment but also, sample complaints.

The final resource I want to bring to your attention is called Causes of Action. This is a non-jurisdictional resource in its 2d edition, published by Thomson Reuters, and while it covers the same types of information discussed above, it goes further into the litigation of an action.  Causes of Action covers the standard common law causes of action, as well as causes pursuant to federal statutes like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. For the print version, access to Causes of Action is through a print index that seems thorough. The online version can be found on WestlawNext.

Each volume in the series covers approximately six or seven causes of actions. The volume I pulled off the shelf at random had the following causes of action: Cause of Action against Motor Vehicle Passenger to Recover for Injury Sustained in Accident; Cause of Action for Damages under 11 U.S.C.A. § 362(k) for Willful Violation of Automatic Stay in Bankruptcy; Cause of Action for Discharge from Employment in Retaliation for Exercise of Rights Protected by Title VII, 42 U.S.C.A. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17; Cause of Action for Violation of Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse (CFAA); Cause of Action against Neighboring Landowners for Trespass; Cause of Action for Medical Battery against Medical Practitioner; and Causes of Action for Invasion of Privacy Resulting from Corporate Use of Customer Online or Internet Data. I wanted to list all of these out to give you an idea of the breadth of the entries. 

Each entry is composed by a lawyer. In addition to covering the prima facie case and defenses the entry goes over jurisdiction and venue issues, the plaintiff’s and defendant’s proof, damages, checklists, and model documents. So a little more in depth than the resources I first pointed out which are excellent for doing that first round of research. Causes of Action may be most useful for the next step of actually putting the case together.

I hope this review of go-to sources for evaluating cases was helpful for you – and good luck in your summer research endeavors!