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Levin College of Law

Conducting Legal Research

Resources and tips for conducting legal research .

Federal Resources

Remember: All primary materials must be updated using print resources, Lexis, or Westlaw.

Material Type    Best Free Source(s)
Case Law

   Google Scholar:

  • Click case law; then click select courts; choose your jurisdiction(s), then click done.
  • Search by citation or keyword.
  • For advanced search tips, see Google’s advanced search page and the page on search operators that Google recognizes
    • Even though these pages reference only Google, the same principles apply in Google Scholar. 
Federal Statutes (United States Code)

  Cornell Legal Information Institute  (LII):

  • Most useful free version; unofficial
  • Searchable & browsable
    • To search, type your keywords in the search box in the top right of the website, then limit to U.S.C. using the filters on the left. If you like, you can also further limit by Title.
  • Each section includes a Notes tab with the section source, amendments, and cross-references.

 GovInfo:

  • If you have a citation, click United States Code, in the column on the right side of the screen.
  • To search, click Advanced Search > click United States Code (in the left box) > Add
    • Make sure the drop-down menu is “Full-text of Publications and Metadata;” type your keywords in the box to the right.
    • Use the filters on the left to limit the results by date, USC title location, person, etc. 
  • Free, official version.
  • Less current than LII’s website.
Administrative Regulations (CFR)

 GovInfo:

  • Click Code of Federal Regulations
  • Official Annual Edition

 E-CFR:

  • Most current version; but unofficial.

 

  Regulations.gov

  • User-friendly
  • Best for proposed regulations and public comments.
Legislative Histories

  Congress.gov

  • Search current legislation, the Congressional Record, Public Laws, etc.
  • Contains bills, committee reports, floor debates
  • Date of coverage varies; use the Resources and Help links
U.S. Constitution

  GovInfo:

  • Click Constitution of the USA
  • Includes analysis written by the Congressional Research Service, historical notes, and case annotations

Florida Resources

Remember: All primary materials must be updated using print resources, Lexis, or Westlaw.

Material Type    Best Free Source(s)
Case Law: Florida Appellate Courts
  • Google Scholar
    • Click case law; then click Florida courts; (if you need to, click select court, then choose your jurisdiction(s), then click done).
    • Search by citation or keyword.
    • For advanced search tips, see Google’s advanced search page and the page on operators that Google recognizes
      • Even though these pages reference only Google, the same principles apply in Google Scholar.
  • Florida District Courts of Appeal opinions
    • Only the 5th DCA offers a search function through its website.
    • To search for DCA opinions, use:
      • Google Scholar (see above for search tips and how to narrow by jurisdiction)
      • Fastcase (must be logged in through the VPN or access for free with a Florida bar membership)
        • Click advanced caselaw search (to the right above the search box) > individual jurisdictions (left column, middle of the screen) > state supreme and appeals courts > click Florida > type search string into search box.  
      • Public Library of Laws (backed by Fastcase; opinions back to 1997)
      • Findlaw (free text search only; opinions back to 1997).
        • enter your search string; look at the first number in the docket number to determine which DCA a case is from (example: No. 2D-13-012 is from the 2nd DCA).
    • After you’ve found a case, go to the appropriate DCA website (linked below) to get the official version of the case. 
    • The DCAs organize their opinions by release date. This date should appear near the beginning of the opinion, under the case name and citation. Click into the appropriate DCA website, then click Archived Opinions, then scroll to the release date.
Florida Statutes

    Florida Statutes through Online Sunshine (current version)

  • Click Advanced legislative search and browse (to the right of the search box at the top of the page)
  • Fill in the search boxes as appropriate; click the “Find Alternate Words (stemming)” box
  • The search engine defaults to just the titles of the statutes; to see the excerpts containing your search words, change the Document Excerpts (top right after you’ve run your search) to Short/Medium/Long (depending on your preference).

Administrative Regulations (FAC & FAR)

For more information about administrative regulations, see this guide, Florida Administrative Regulations.

   The Florida Department of State is the best resource for both the Florida Administrative Code   (FAC) & the Florida Administrative Register (FAR). 

  • Click “Go” (bottom right, underneath Advanced Search)
  • Select either the FAC or the FAR (or both)
  • Select the department (that wrote/administers the rule) if you know it
    • once you select a department, you will be given the option to choose a division, if you know it
  • At the bottom of the page, make sure that you change the dates to reflect more than one year to capture all of the regulations.

   The website can also be used to search Notices in the FAR

Legislative Information

   Laws of Florida (session laws, 1989-2015, although a project is underway to scan all session        laws, so the years available is constantly expanding)

   Florida Constitution (current)

   Senate Documents & House Documents

  •  House and Senate documents include bill summaries, introduced bills, fiscal analyses,      journals, and legislative reports.