LAW 526-010 – Lawyering Skills II Winter Research Intensive


Sources of law:

  • Primary sources:
    • Primary sources are the actual source of the law.
    • All primary sources are binding on someone.
    • Examples:
      • Statutes
      • Common law
      • Constitutions
      • Regulations
        • Enacted by the executive branch
        • CFR – Code of Federal Regulations
        • Proposed regulations get published in the Federal Register
  • Secondary sources:
    • A secondary source is unofficial commentary on the law.
    • Secondary authority is never binding.
    • Should always be a starting point, not an ending point.
    • Examples:
      • Digests
        • A digest is a compilation of cases organized by topics and key numbers.
      • Uniform laws
        • Uniform laws are unenforceable/not binding unless the jurisdiction has been adopted.
      • Law Reviews/Law Journals
        • Very specific discussion of a subject typically written by law professors or students.
        • Found in:
          • LegalTrac
          • Index to Legal Periodicals
          • Current Law Index
      • ALR – American Law Report
        • Contains short essays summarizing the law with annotations for cases from various jurisdictions.
      • Restatement
        • A systematic discussion of a common law topic, which fully explains its subject.
      • Legal Encyclopedia
        • Gives a general overview of principles of law.
      • Treatise
        • A narrowly-focused, in-depth view of a subject.
      • Citators
        • Answer whether a case is still valid.
        • Two citators:
          1. KeyCite
          2. Shepard's

Court of last resort is the highest court in a jurisdiction.

Full text of judicial opinions are published in reporters.

Reporters are organized chronologically.

West owns most reporters.

Federal reporters:

  • US Reports contains all US Supreme Court cases.
  • The Federal Reporter contains all US court of appeals cases.
  • The Federal Supplement contains precedential federal district court cases.
  • The Federal Appendix contains non-precedential federal district court cases.
  • The Federal Rules Decisions contains precedential federal district court cases that deal with the federal rules.

Official reporters only have a statement of the law, no annotations. To find cross-references, one must use a citator.

Virginia is in the South Eastern regional reporter.

Federal session laws are compiled chronologically in United States Statutes at Large. (Ch. 11)

Process by which a statue is reorganzied from one subject to another in the United States Code is the codification process:

  1. It is published as a separate document.
  2. It is included in a chronological listing of all statutes passed within a session of Congress.
  3. It is reorganized by subject matter and placed within the code.

The official version of the United States Code is the United States Code, which only contains the statutes.

Unofficial, annotated versions are the United States Code Annotated and the United States Code Services, which contain case and CFR references and annotations.

You can find stuff in them in the general index.

A code will never tell you what the law means. It is up to the courts to interpret it.

Stare decisis says to let a decision stand unless there is some reason for the court to reverse it, giving cases precedence.