WIU Legal Research FAQ
Click on a question to view the answer.
- Why is there a law library at WIU?
- Malpass Library's Legal Reference Collection serves as part of the McDonough County Bar Association law library. Some of the materials housed here have been gleaned from the McDonough County Courthouse on the square in Macomb, due in part to necessity from collection overgrowth and architectural insufficiencies. (law books are heavy!)
- What's in all these law books?
- The books that comprise the Legal Reference Collection include law reporters, where judicial opinions are published; statute books, where laws are published; law journals, where laws and cases are discussed; and legal treatises and encyclopedias, where legal subjects are comprehensively analyzed, interpreted and explained with respect to current statutory and case law.
- Can I check out law books?
- Books in the legal collection do not circulate. On the upside, they are always here for you to use.
- How do I find a law case?
- To find a law case you need a law cite. A citation to a legal case should look something like this:
123 U.S. 456
Volume 123 of the U.S. Reports, page 456 is the beginning page of your case.
Or you could type the citation into LexisNexis Academic to get the case. This database will also let you look up cases by name (e.g.: Marbury v. Madison).
- What's the difference between a law and a reg?
- The laws passed by a legislative body often authorize a government agency to write regulations to administer that law. For example, the U.S. Congress passed and the President signed the Family and Medical Leave Act. That Act authorized the U.S. Labor Department to write regulations on how that law is administered.
- How do I find out about the verdict in a case?
- Verdicts are rendered by juries (and judges in rare bench trials) and are not published in law reporters. The best place to look for information on a particular case verdict is the local newspaper in the town or county where the trial was held.
- How do I find trial court opinions and transcripts?
- Federal trial court opinions are published in the Federal Supplement, however most trial court opinions and all trial transcripts are kept in the courthouse where the case was tried. If you're trying to find out about a state trial case, your best bet is looking in the local newspaper for stories about it.
- How do I find legal briefs?
- Briefs aren't usually published. They are housed in the courthouses where the appeal was heard. That said, some Supreme Court briefs can be found, both online via the official Supreme Court website, online via LexisNexis (From January 1979 through current) and published in books like these: Landmark briefs and arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States: Constitutional law(LEGLREF. KF101.8 .L36). Lawyers and firms are free to publish their own briefs online if they wish, so it's worth looking online, just in case.
- How do I find a law?
- If you have a cite: Federal and state laws can be found online in free or purchased databases as well as in hardcopy (Illinois only, for state law) here in Legal Reference. The WIU Legal Resources web page will give you a comprehensive listing of what can be found where. If you have a citation for a law, you can type that in to the appropriate database.
Federal Law Federal laws come in two versions. The first is Public Laws. These are numbered and published chronologically as they are signed by the President. For example P.L. 110-45. (The '110' stands for the 110th Congress.) These can be found online and in the Statutes at Large here in the Library.
The second version is the codified law, organized into 50 Titles as the United States Code. The U.S. Code comprises all the laws currently on the books in a subject arrangement. This has several advantages. The first is that you know that what you're looking at is current and hasn't been repealed by another law. Another is that it's next to all the other laws on that topic. A typical cite looks like this: 42 U.S.C. 1983.
State Law State laws come in the same two versions as federal laws. Both can be found online free and and through LexisNexis Academic. The terms Code and Statutes refer to the codified versions of state laws, and Laws and Acts usually refer to the chronological versions.
If you don't have a cite: You can keyword search both federal and state laws in the appropriate databases. Using a legal encyclopedia to find out background information can also lead you to relevant laws on a given topic, as can the use of legal treatises and law review articles.
- What's the difference between an act and a law?
- Every piece of legislation is called an act. The confusion comes when it is still referred to as an act after is has been passed and signed and is then law; for example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even after a law has been codified (placed with all current laws in a subject arrangement) it is often still referred to that way.
- Where are the Macomb City Ordinances?
- Legal Reference maintains a copy of the Macomb Ordinances near the Government and Legal Information Office, 4th Floor. It can also be found online here.
- How do I find a reg?
Federal Regulations Federal regulations are published chronologically in the Federal Register, which is published daily Monday through Friday. Agencies must announce their new proposed regulations and call for comments before publishing the Final Rule. After the Final Rule is published it is incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations, which is organized into 50 titles, each of which is published annually. Both of these can be found online.
If you have a cite: A cite for the Federal Register refers to volume and page number and looks like this: 70 F.R. 9798
A cite for the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) refers to the title and part number and looks like this: 29 C.F.R. 1910.126 (Note: part numbers are not in decimals) If you don't have a cite: Both the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations can be keyword searched using free internet or purchased databases.
State Regulations State Regulations follow along the same lines as the federal ones. Regulations written by Illinois agencies are published in the Illinois Register. (Both Proposed and Final Rules.) They are then incorporated into the Illinois Administrative Code. Both of these are available online. Other states have similar offerings.
- Why do I need to "Shepardize" a case?
- The reason for Shepardizing a case before citing it in a paper or using it to defend your position in a court case is that that will tell you whether the ruling in the case is still good law or whether it's been overturned by other later rulings in that same case or others like it. You can Shepardize through LexisNexis Academic.
WIU Libraries is now a PTRC!
Browse by Topic
- Civil War (U.S.)
- Constitutional Issues
- Foreign Affairs
- Illinois History
- Illinois Sites
- Indigenous Peoples
- McDonough County
- Social Issues
- Substance Abuse
- Voting in Illinois