Answered By: Circulation Newman Library
Last Updated: Apr 22, 2020     Views: 73

Legal documents: where to look

Please see the Law Research Resources guide created by the library's Law Librarian Anita Walz or take a look at the recommendations listed below.


  • Fastcase: Look up a case by citation (130 S. Ct. 876 or 531 U.S. 1060) or by party (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission or Bush v. Gore). Punctuation does matter in citation lookups. U.S. is the abbreviation for United States Reports. 
  • Discovery: You may be able to find the text of a case by typing the party names in a Discovery search. Even if the case itself does not appear you may find a reference to the case citation in the text of a retrieved document.
  • PACER: Public Access to Court Electronic Records allows users to obtain case and docket information from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts.

Legal citations

  • Legal citations take the form of a number, an abbreviation, and a number. For court cases the first number is the volume where the case can be found in its official print version and the second number is the first page number of the case. For statutes the first number is the title and the second number is the section or part, usually written using the symbol § or §§ (multiple sections or parts). Examples: 11 CFR §100.29 or 2 U. S. C. §441
  • The same case or legal document may be written in a long string of letters and numbers, separated by semicolons. This is a parallel citation. The first abbreviation is usually the “official” citation. Example: 510 U.S. 1309; 114 S. Ct. 909; 127 L. Ed. 2d 352; 1994 U.S. LEXIS 1325; 62 U.S.L.W. 3520



Westlaw or Fastcase?

Westlaw is available through 125 individual passwords that are assigned by the law librarian, Anita Walz. Westlaw is used by faculty, graduate students, and in a few undergraduate classes. Undergraduate passwords are often shared. Westlaw is more suitable for advanced legal research. For most legal assignments, Fastcase is very adequate. Westlaw is contractually limited to VT users.

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