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Researching Case Law

This guide is designed to be an introduction to cases and case law research.

Overview

There are two main case law citators to verify the status of your case - on LexisNexis, it is Shepards and on Westlaw it is Keycite.  Keyciting and Shepardizing are also a method for finding other cases and secondary sources relevant to your topic.

Video -- Using Citators for Cases

KeyCite & Shepards Symbols

There are differences between the citator symbols used by Westlaw and Lexis, but as a general rule, in either Westlaw or Lexis cases with a red flag or red stop sign may no longer be good law and should not be relied upon without doing further research. Similarly, cases with a yellow flag or yellow triangle should be used with caution because they may have been distinguished by other court rulings. Remember, that you need to take into account the jurisdiction of your case and the cases citing your case in order to determine if your case is still good law.

Lexis Shepards' Symbols

Lexis Shepards Symbols:

  • Red Octagon: Warning Strong Negative Treatment Indicated
    • The red Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that citing references in the Shepard's® Citations Service contain strong negative history or treatment of your case (for example, overruled by or reversed).
  • Circle with an exclamation point:
    • The red Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that citing references in the Shepard's® Citations Service contain strong negative treatment of the section (for example, the section may have been found to be unconstitutional or void).
  • Orange Square with a Q: Questioned: Validity questioned by citing reference.
    • The orange Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that the citing references in the Shepard's® Citations Service contain treatment that questions the continuing validity or precedential value of your case because of intervening circumstances, including judicial or legislative overruling
  • Yellow Triangle: Possible negative treatment indicated.
    • The yellow Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that citing references in the Shepard's® Citations Service contain history or treatment that may have a significant negative impact on your case (for example, limited or criticized by).
  • Green Diamond with Plus Sign: Positive treatment indicated
    • The green Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that citing references in the Shepard's® Citations Service contain history or treatment that has a positive impact on your case (for example, affirmed or followed by).
  • Blue Octagon with an A: Citing references with analysis available. Click to Shepardize®.
    • The blue "A" Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that citing references in the Shepard's® Citations Service contain treatment of your case that is neither positive nor negative (for example, explained).
  • Blue Octagon with an I: Citation information available
    • The blue "I" Shepard's Signal™ indicator indicates that citing references are available in the Shepard's® Citations Service for your case, but the references do not have history or treatment analysis (for example, the references are law review citations).


Westlaw Keycite Symbols:

keycitesymbols

  • Red flag
    • Indicates a document is no longer good law for at least one point of law.
  • Yellow flag
    • Indicates a document has some negative treatment
  • Blue-Striped flag
    • Indicates a document has been appealed to the US Courts of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court (excluding appeals originating from agencies).
  • Overruling Risk warning
    • Indicates a document may no longer be good for at least one point of law based on its reliance on an overruled or otherwise invalid prior decision.

 

Bloomberg Law

BCite is a citation analysis tool similar to KeyCite and Shepards, which gives you links to all cases citing your case.

BCite Symbols

B-Cite Symbols:

  • Green Square with a plus sign: Positive
    • One of more courts cite to, discuss, or follow this opinion with approval.
  • Grey square with plus sign: No Citing Cases
    • No courts have cited to this opinion.
  • Blue Square with diagonal bar: Distinguished
    • One or more courts differentiate this opinion on the law or the facts.
  • Yellow square with triangle: Caution
    • If the caution symbol results from Direct History, the opinion has been modified, clarified, or amended by a subsequent decision in Direct History.
    • If the caution symbol results from Case Analysis, one or more courts have criticized the legal reasoning of the opinion without overruling it.
  • Orange square with circle: Superseded by Statute
    • One or more courts state that this opinion has been superseded, displaced or rendered obsolete by an intervening statue, rule or regulation.
  • Red Square with minus sign: Negative
    • If the negative symbol results from Direct History, the opinion has been reversed, vacated, or depublished either in part or in full by a subsequent decision within Direct History.
    • If the negative symbol results from Case Analysis, one or more courts have overruled the opinion in full or in part or stated that the opinion has been overruled in full or in part by a previous decision.

 

CALI Lesson on Updating / Validating Case Law

CALI LogoAvailable to Law Students only (see a reference librarian if you do not have a CALI activation code).

CALI Lesson on Using Citators as Finding Tools

CALI LogoAvailable to Law Students only (see a reference librarian if you do not have a CALI activation code).

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