Tips for Selecting State Law Databases
Searching for state case law requires some attention to database selection. Both Lexis and Westlaw offer databases with various combinations of courts. For example, you can select a database containing decisions from only the state courts from a particular state, or one containing both state court cases and federal court cases applying the law of that state. Your selection depends on the type of issue involved and the objective of the research project, among other factors. Be certain to use the print database directories or the online database descriptions to ascertain the coverage of a database before you begin searching.
For state statutes, Westlaw and Lexis may offer the option of searching in either an annotated (including cross-references to cases and other sources) or unannotated (statute text only) version of the code. Often the annotated version is a better choice, since it will search your terms in both the statute text and the annotation materials. However, if your searches yield too many hits, you may wish to try searching in the unannotated version.
The most up-to-date electronic citators are Shepard's on Lexis and KeyCite on Westlaw.