Electronic Sources for Case Law Research
The text of most reported, and many unreported, cases appears in several electronic sources.
Lexis and Westlaw
Both Lexis and Westlaw provide full text of state and federal cases, with coverage extending as far back in time as most researchers usually need. Cases appearing on Westlaw include the headnotes and other "editorial enhancements" added by West to the cases in the print reporters. Lexis includes editorial enhancements for cases as well. Lexis and Westlaw databases are available through subscription access. The School of Law pays for these services at reduced rates and receives individual passwords for all currently enrolled students and faculty. Use of these passwords is limited to educational purposes. Both systems offer both natural language and Boolean (terms and connectors) searching.
Though not as highly organized or comprehensive a source for case research as Lexis and Westlaw, the Internet includes many sites that supply the text of cases. For example, most federal and many state courts have Web sites where the text of recently decided cases is available. There are some limiting factors in case research on the Internet compared to Lexis and Westlaw. An Internet site probably will not provide enough archival (historical) coverage to allow comprehensive research on many topics or it may provide versions of the text of cases which are not authoritative. The search engines available may not be as sophisticated or as powerful as those available on Lexis or Westlaw. Citator services available on Lexis (Shepard's) and Westlaw (KeyCite) currently have no counterpart on the Internet.