Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beware the foibles of online citators

Here's a great post by David Walker at the Law Librarian Blog about reliability problems with online citators including Westlaw's Keycite, Lexis' Shepards as well as open source upstarts like Precydent (previously discussed here).

I'll let you read David's very detailed post discussing his impromptu experiment with online citators to determine the validity of United States v. Napier, 233 F.3d 394 (6th Cir. 2000) in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's recent holding in District of Columbia v. Heller, 128 S.Ct. 2783 (2008).  Suffice it to say - impress upon your students that these services are far from foolproof or even accurate.

Hat tip to Joe Hodnicki.

I am the scholarship dude.


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Yep. Not even old-school Shepard's is foolproof. All citators require the same thing: a citation in the new opinion to the old, overruled opinion. If the new-law opinion does not cite the old-law opinion, then cite-checking the old law will not help you, no matter which service you use.

The answer: thorough legal research. This means don't stop researching when you find one case saying what you're looking for. Research until you understand the area of law in question. There are no shortcuts.

Posted by: Ray Ward | Sep 3, 2009 7:21:40 PM

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