May 3, 2007 10:54 PM   Subscribe

Law Filter: A friend of mine who is a lawyer once helped us find cases of precedent from an online court database. I am now looking for that database to see if there have been any similar cases to a problem that I am currently researching. This is for the State of Colorado I should add.

Essentially this originally came up when a friend of mine had a fender bender. Another friend of mine who is a lawyer went through a process to help us determine who had the liability in the case. It was somewhat informal how we went about it but in essence he went through these steps:

1) We looked up the relevant State Laws and found the appropriate statutes regarding the case.

2) We then analysed the laws and identified any vague or undefined aspects of the law. At this point it becomes necessary to then consult how courts have interpreted the law.

3) This is when he opened an internet database that he used to search for similar cases using key words. We were able to then find out how the courts had interpreted the law and were then able to clear up the vagueness of the statutes at least enough to devise a strategy.

Any ideas what this database is? I tried findlaw but it didn't seem to be the correct one.
posted by occidental to Law & Government (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The two major legal databases are Westlaw and LexisNexis. Both are pay services. If you or a friend is a student at a university or a member of a university library, that might be a good place to check -- many university libraries buy a subscription to one (or both).
posted by CrunchyFrog at 11:05 PM on May 3, 2007

To follow up on CrunchyFrog's post, you don't necessarily need to be a student to access those resources. Your best bet would be to find out about any *public* law libraries in your area - you'll often find such libraries at county, state, and federal courthouses, as well as publicly-funded law schools. They might not publicize it, but those places are open for public use - although check before you go if they have restricted public access hours.

You can ask the law librarians how to find the materials you mentioned above either in hard-copy or online (there may be public access to either WL or LN at the library). Many law librarians are pretty savvy when it comes to researching legal issues and they can help you out a lot, short of interpreting the materials you find.
posted by dicaxpuella at 11:19 PM on May 3, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for the link but the database used was an open internet access database. I should have specified.
posted by occidental at 11:24 PM on May 3, 2007
posted by bruce at 11:50 PM on May 3, 2007

dicaxpuella is right. Call ahead to make sure that you can hook up to these services.

If you have a case you have already found, and you want to see if any newer cases have referenced or interpreted your case, this can be done with books called "Shepard's Reports". Doing this online (through Lexis Nexis) is called "shepardizing." Your law library should be able to give you access to the dead tree version, at the very least.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:41 AM on May 4, 2007

on preview: the Colorado Bar Association seems to provide a searchable database of opinions.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:44 AM on May 4, 2007

You can also access Cornell's Legal Information Institute. They have a specific page with links to recent Colorado decisions.

They won't allow to perform searches as in-depth as you would under LexisNexis (probably keyword only, not noting up recent decisions) but they are free.
posted by modernnomad at 6:55 AM on May 4, 2007 perhaps?
posted by drstein at 9:39 AM on May 4, 2007

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