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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Find

Case Pulls

To "pull a case" means to get a copy of a reported judicial decision.

To pull a case, you can (1) photocopy the case from the relevant reporter, if it's available in your library, (2) print the case from a CD-ROM, again, if you have the CD-ROM, (3) get a copy from a law library's document delivery service (see "Document Delivery Services") or (4) get the case from an online source.

Online Sources: Online sources break down into three categories - Free Internet Sites, Subscription Services and Fee-Based Services.

(1) Free Internet Sites: The main advantage of free Internet sites is that they're free. The main disadvantage is that they may not have official reporter page citations. Also, there is often no guaranty that they are accurate reflections of the original opinion, and the printout may not look so good.

My current go-to source for free case law is Google Scholar, which offers reliable text, internal page citations, excellent relevance ranking, and the deepest databases around. State cases go back to 1950, Federal Circuit Court cases go back to 1924 (F.2d volume 1), and the U.S. Supreme Court goes all the way back.

Some bar associations and legal newspapers provide passwords to their members/subscribers that provide access to free online caselaw databases, such as Casemaker and Fastcase. If you have a password, you'll probably know and can use the site if appropriate.

Otherwise, to find out whether the decisions of a particular court are posted on the Internet, visit Findlaw, which has some of its own databases and links to most of the other good sites.

(2) Subscription Services: Bloomberg Law, Versuslaw, LOIS, Fastcase and Quicklaw all sell subscriptions to their online case databases. Fastcase and Casemaker are provided free to members of selected lawyer associations. If you have passwords to any of these services, that is probably the fastest, cheapest, easiest source for the cases you need. If you don't have a password, try something else.

Lexis and Westlaw are probably the best known subscription sources. Unlike the services above, the cost for pulling cases using the Lexis and Westlaw systems is often billed back to the client at law firms. This is often worth it because Lexis and Westlaw have the most extensive collections available online, the case headnotes and other editorial features are awesome, and the printouts generally look great. For an extra fee, Westlaw offers a .pdf printout that looks exactly like page from a case reporter.

You can pull cases from Word documents using BriefCheck from Lexis or WestCheck from Westlaw.

More Information: For more information on Federal court cases, see the entry for the individual court (e.g., "United States Court of Federal Claims"). For more information on state court case, see the entry for the state (e.g., "Texas"). To get more information about the various U.S. courts and case reporters, see Fundamentals of Legal Research (West).


See Also
Citations
Shepardizing
State Cases
Unreported Decisions

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2014 Andrew Zimmerman