Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Free Caselaw from Google

The legal research community is buzzing about Google's announcement yesterday of a free database of full-text cases from federal and state courts via Google Scholar. The cases are well-formatted, include pagination, and include links to all cited cases that are also in the database. Here's what's included:
  • State Appellate and Supreme Court Cases since 1950
  • Federal District, Appellate, Tax and Bankruptcy Cases since 1923
  • US Supreme Court Cases since 1791
Here's how to use it:
  • To search the whole database, just go to Google Scholar, select Legal Opinions and Journals and start searching. But often you'll want to narrow your search, so instead, click on Advanced Scholar Search.
  • Type in your search terms in the boxes at the top of the page.
  • At the bottom of the page, select the juridiction(s) you'd like to search and click on Search Scholar.
Here's how to explore more content:
  • Once you have a case you like, click on How Cited at the top of the screen. 
  • The right column will include Cited By and Related Documents, giving you additional cases, articles and books
How to use library services to get the most out of the database:
  • Find a case you like and use our "Ask a Librarian" service to have it Shepardized.
  • If you are in one of our libraries and click on a law review article from the "How Cited" page, it will bring you right into that article in Hein Online. 
  • If you are at home, jot down the article citation and the go into Hein Online via our remote access service to read the article.
  • Click on the title of a book in the "How Cited" page, and then click Find in a Library in the left column to locate your nearest library that owns the book and request a copy.
It isn't clear how current the coverage is. Doing a quick search, we easily found cases from a few months ago, but were unable to find very recent cases. For Massachusetts cases from 1930 (or earlier) to 1950, or for cases from the past few months, we recommend Mass. Cases. For cases from the last few weeks, your best bet is slip opinions from Mass Reports.