How do you look up law cases for criminal justice?
There are two good places to look for case law. One is LexisNexis, which is a database to which Harrison College subscribes (so that students can access legal information as well as business information and newspapers). The second is Google Scholar.
Searching for cases in LexisNexis
To find cases in LexisNexis, you first have to find the database:
1. From the Harrison LRC page, click on the orange tab that says “All Databases”
2. Scroll down the alphabetical list of databases until you see “LexisNexis Academic.” Click on the link, and use your Harrison login/password.
You should see a box In the middle of the page. This is where you look for cases. There are three possible ways to search for cases (and they match the three search options in the box pictured above):
1. If you know the case citation (the numbers and letters that describe the volume, reporter and page number where the case is printed), you can use the top search box. If the case is really new, it might only have a lexis number, which you can also use. If you are looking up a particular case – perhaps one that is in your readings – this is a good option to use. Be careful, though; the way you type in the citation, including punctuation makes a difference, and it is easy to not find a case by making a typo or omission.
2. If you know the case name (for example, if you are studying your Miranda rights, you know that they are based on a case that involved a man named Miranda), you can just type “Miranda” in the first box in the second search option. You’ll get a lot of results if you do this – 2752, at the moment – so it helps to know the other party to this case. Your Miranda rights come from Miranda v. Arizona, so if you type “Arizona in the second box, you’ll restrict your results quite a bit – now there are only 35 results in my list of cases, and I can select from the Supreme Court opinion, several lower court opinions, all arranged chronologically.
3. If you just have a general topic, you can use the third search option, which will give you a long list of results. If you want to narrow your results down, you can use quotation marks to create search for a legal term (for example, you can search for ”self-incimination priviledge”, which search for cases with those words grouped together). You can also use Lexis’s “Search within results” option at the top right of the results page.
Results in Lexis are a bit difficult – they are simply listed, without any extra information to help you figure out of you are looking at the right case or not. You can narrow down your results by looking at the left side of the page, and selecting the appropriate court, if you know it.
Searching for cases in Google
Not everyone knows that Google has all the Federal court opinions, and most of the state court opinions, but they do.
1. Just go to Google in your browser (www.google.com)
2. If “Scholar is not in the list of services at the top of your page, click on the little arrow next to “more” and then click on “Scholar” in the menu.
3. Type your search term in the box, make sure that the radio button under the search term is checked on “Legal Opinions and Journals.” Google Scholar is as easy to use as Google!
Google ranks your results, which means you don’t have to know much about an important case in order to find it. In this case, using just “Miranda,” Miranda v. Arizona is the first result. You can also search legal terms (or even non-legal terms, for that matter).