Citators for Case Law
Case law citators perform important functions for legal research:
- To determine the subsequent case history of the researched case, i.e., what happened to the case after the court delivered its opinion;
- To determine and verify if the researched case relied upon is still good case law, i.e., the case still has precedential value and has not been overruled or somehow distinguished;
- To determine if any other courts have relied upon the cited case, and if so, if any interpretations exist which may weaken or strengthen the researcher's argument.
Shepard's Citations, published by Shepard's/McGraw-Hill, are the most widely used citators for case law. These citators are used in conjunction with official reports of case law, such as U.S. or Wn.2d, the National Reporting System published by West Publishing Co., the American Law Reports published by Lawyers Cooperative Publishing Co., law reviews, and certain texts and treatises. Shepard's Citations have a remarkably high level of accuracy and reliability. Selected Shepard's Citators are available on-line with Westlaw and Lexis.
There are Shepard's Citations which cover almost every jurisdiction. The relevant titles for Washington materials are:
Shepard's Washington Citations
Shepard's Pacific Reporter Citations
Shepard's Federal Citations (Part I - Federal Reporter; Part II - Federal Supplement)
Shepard's U.S. Citations
Shepard's also now publishes "case name citators" which are tables of cases for the jurisdiction covered. There is a case name citator for Washington, for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and for the U.S. Supreme Court. The case name citators are used for locating citations to reports when the name of the case is known; they are not used for verifying subsequent case history.
ANALYSIS OF CASE
To determine what the subsequent history of the case is:
- Locate the Shepard's citator which corresponds to the reporter or jurisdiction of the case.
- Beginning with the most recent pamphlet or bound volume, find the volume number of the case being researched; the volume number runs along the top of the page of the Shepard's volume.
- Look for the first page number of the case being researched which will appear in bold face type.
- Check through all listed citations for Shepard's analysis of the researched case. These are indicated to the left of the noted cases cited. A list of the abbreviations used for analysis appear at the beginning of each Shepard's volume.
- The analysis will reflect subsequent case history - basically, what happened to the case on appeal or rehearing, such as affirmed, cert. denied, or modified. Equally as important, the analysis will also give the treatment of the case - how was the rule of law in the cited case interpreted by the courts, for example, was it overruled or distinguished. This will help determine the precedential value of the researched case.
- Not all referenced cases are analyzed thoroughly; this does not reflect on the value of the cases listed. One should read all of the cases listed under the researched case.
- Proceed in reverse order (most current to oldest) through all pamphlets, supplements and/or bound volumes covering the researched case.
- The Shepard's notation for the referenced case gives the volume, abbreviation for the title, and the page upon which the researched case is cited. Shepard's does not give the first page number of the case which is referenced, except for parallel citations.
- If there are any parallel citations (same case but reported by different publisher or series), Shepard's will list these in parentheses at the beginning of the listings for the researched case. Shepard's only gives the parallel cite in the first listing for the case; it is not repeated in subsequent volumes, supplements, or pamphlets.
- If there is a parallel citation, one should check the Shepard's for that reporter also. Shepard's will include different references for different reporters; the citators are not necessarily all inclusive. For example, Shepard's Washington Citations will cite to Washington cases, including the official reports and Washington cases in Pacific Reporters, while Shepard's Pacific Citations will cite to many other jurisdictions.
- Shepard's will also break down citations by jurisdiction, so that if the researcher is looking for cases from a particular jurisdiction he or she may zero in on those cases. This is particularly helpful when analyzing cases from the National Reporter System or from the U.S. Supreme Court.
- The researcher may also refine his or her research by narrowing the focus of the referenced cases for numbered headnote or for numbered paragraphs of syllabi, which are listed in superscript after the abbreviation for the title of the reporter.
- If the researched case is cited as an annotation in the referenced text, it will be indicated in the citation as a small n.
- If there are any law review articles which cite to the researched case, state Shepard's will list these at the end of the citation information. Shepard's only references a select number of law reviews; these are listed at the beginning of the volume. Shepard's Washington Citations includes references to Wash. L. Rev., Gonz. L. Rev., and Seattle U. L. Rev. There is a separately bound Shepard's for federal cases cited in law reviews; another separately bound Shepard's lists selected law reviews in cases.
- If the researched case does not appear listed in the Shepard's volume, it means that Shepard's had no information for treatment. Absence of the case does not go to the validity or precedential value of the case being researched.
3/90, rev 2/99