Tuesday, March 13, 2012
If you're starting a legal research project from scratch, the topical indexing features of Lexis and Westlaw, like Headnotes and Key Numbers, are essential. Doing research this way helps you brainstorm about theories and analogies you might not have otherwise considered. But when you already sort of know what you're looking for, Google Scholar is a great, free research tool. One disadvantage over the paywall alternatives has been the lack of a "citator" (like Shepard's or KeyCite) to find later authorities that cite to your case.
Allowing users to find citing documents for an article is a key feature of Google Scholar. Ever since we added legal opinions, legal researchers have asked us to make it easy to find significant citing decisions for a case - that is, decisions that discuss a case at some length, possibly supporting it, overturning it or differentiating it from others.
Today, we are changing how we present citations to legal opinions. Now, instead of sorting the citing documents by their prominence, we sort them by the extent of discussion of the cited case. Opinions that discuss the cited case in detail are presented before ones that mention the case briefly. We indicate the extent of discussion visually and indicate opinions that discuss the cited case at length, that discuss it moderately and those that discuss it briefly. Opinions that don't discuss the cited case are left unmarked. For example, see opinions citing Dique v. New Jersey State Police, 603 F. 3d 181.
We would like to thank Itai Gurari for his contributions in making this feature possible.
Here is hoping this update will help legal researchers quickly find the significant citations they are looking for.
Big 'ol hat tip to our buddies at the Law Librarian Blog.