Research Guides

Law in Film Seminar

You may contact Jason Hawkins, the course liaison, for research-related questions at

Getting Started | Journals and Law Reviews | Databases | Articles | Books | Primary Authorities | Legislative Materials | Administrative Materials | Judicial Materials | Agencies, Associations, and NGOs | Blogs |Additional Electronic Resources |

Getting Started

As in all projects, unless you are already knowledgeable about the topic area, it is best to start with introductory resources and then to consult more focused works; moving from secondary to primary resources.

Articles and books can provide you with an overview of your topic and help you think of search terms that you might not have thought of otherwise. They will also cite primary authorities such as statutes and case law. You can then use the primary sources cited in the secondary sources as a jumping off point to find other primary sources.

Journals and Law Reviews

The two main indexes to law journals are LegalTrac and Index to Legal Periodicals & Books (which includes books as well). These indexes include references to many journals not included in Westlaw or Lexis databases and in some cases provide access to the full text electronically. Each of these two online indexes has a parallel print version: the Current Law Index (K33 .C87), and the Index to Legal Periodicals (K9 .N32) are shelved near the print journals on level 1. The Index to Legal Periodicals is particularly helpful if you need to find articles published prior to 1980.

Additionally, many journals not subscribed to directly in a print version are available in electronic form via one of the library's databases. The list below of subscription databases should help you get started in locating these resources.

Most print journals are shelved on level 1 of the library, in alphabetical order by journal title. Many of these titles also have an electronic version. To find out if the library has a particular journal title in electronic format, first check the Full Text Citation Linker (be aware that the Linker does not offer full coverage of all online full text at the library, and requires a Blackboard login, journal title, and year), or email us using Library Reference or via our new chat service if you need assistance.


  • Academic Search Premier. A general academic tool offering indexing and abstracts for more than 4,500 journals, including access to the full text of more than 3,600 journals.
  • HeinOnline. Full-text, image-based collection of more than 700 legal periodical titles. Coverage for each journal starts at its inception and continues to the most current volume allowed under contract between Hein and the journal. Hein-On-Line also includes coverage of the Federal Register from 1936 to 1980.
  • LexisNexis. Database of legal and nonlegal information. Requires valid Lexis password.
  • U.S. Law Week/Supreme Court Today (Tracks every Supreme Court petition and case on the docket, from filing to final disposition and highlights important federal and state legal developments, non-decisional and pre-decisional, across specialized fields).
  • Westlaw. Database of legal and nonlegal information. Requires valid Westlaw password.


American Criminal Trial Films: An Overview of Their Development, 1930-2000. Nicole Rafter. 28 Journal of Law and Society 9 (2001).

Bad Lawyers in the Movies. Michael Asimow. 24 Nova Law Review 531 (2000)

Blame and The Sweet Hereafter. Tory McAdams. 24 Legal Studies Forum (2000) [available via Lexis - LAWREV/LGSFOR]

Civil Action Cinema. Anthony Chase. 4 Law Review of Michigan State University-Detroit College of Law 945 (1999)

Classics Revisited: Reconstructing Atticus Finch. Stephen Lubet. 97 Michigan Law Review 1339 (1999)

Cultural Life of Capital Punishment: Responsibility and Representation in Dead Man Walking and Last Dance. Austin Sarat. 11 Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities 153 (1999).

Embodiments of Evil: Law Firms in the Movies. Michael Asimow. 48 UCLA Law Review 1339 (2001)

Exploring the Hidden Domains of Civil Justice: "Naming, Blaming and Claiming" in Popular Culture. Austin Sarat. 50 DePaul Law Review (2000).

Get Off the Screen. Lisa Scottoline. 24 Nova Law Review 653 (2000)

Hero or Villain? Cinematic Lawyers and the Delivery of Justice. Steve Greenfield. 28 Journal of Law and Society 25 (2001)

Judging the Judges - Daytime Television's Integrated Reality Court Bench. Taunya Lovell Banks. Digital Commons. Lawyers in Your Living Room: Law on Television, Michael Asimov, ed. American Bar Association (2009), p. 309-320.

Law, Cinema, and Ideology: Hollywood Legal films of the 1950s. David Ray Papke. 48 UCLA Law Review 1473 (2001)

Liberating Lawyers: Divergent Parallels in Intruder in the Dust and To Kill a Mockingbird. Rob Atkinson. 49 Duke Law Journal 3, 601 (1999)

Lonely Hearts and Murderers: The Fourth Amendment Through Hitchcock's Lens. Jason P. Isralowitz. 24 Legal Studies Forum 99 (2000)

Looking for Law in All the Old Traces: The Movies of Classical Hollywood the Law, and the Cases(s) of Film Noir. Norman Rosenberg. 48 UCLA Law Review 1443 (2001)

Moral Disengagement and Lawyers: Codes, Ethics, Conscience, and Some Great Movies. Marianne M. Jennings. 37 Duquesne Law Review 573 (1999)

Movie Juries. Carol J. Clover. 48 DePaul Law Review 389 (1999)

Outsider Citizens: Film Narratives about the Internment of Japanese Americans. Taunya Lovell Banks. Digital Commons.42 Suffolk University Law Review 769 (2009).

Silver Tongues on the Silver Screen: Legal Ethics in the Movies. Tonja Haddad. 24 Nova Law Review 673 (2000)

Still in the Dark: Disappointing Images of Women Lawyers in the Movies. Stacy Caplow. 20 Women's Rights Law Reporter 55 (1999)

Tony Richardson's The Penalty Phase: Judging the Judge. Francis Nevins. 48 UCLA Law Review 1557 (2001)

What Documentary Films Teach Us About the Criminal Justice System - Introduction.Taunya Lovell Banks. Digital Commons. 8 University of Maryland Law Journal on Race, Religion, Gender & Class 1 (2009)

The Writing and Filming of the Penalty Phase. Gale Patrick Hickman. 48 UCLA Law Review 1583 (2001)


The following is a partial list of the Law in Film Seminar related materials available in the Thurgood Marshall Law Library. The material is listed by main entry with the title and/or author information in bold type. The Library also contains a complete set of United States Codes, Statutes at Large, Code of Federal Regulations, and the Federal Register. For additional titles check the library catalog.

Law in film : representing law in movies.
Edited by Stefan Machura and Peter Robson.
Oxford : Blackwell, 2001.

Law in Film: Resonance and Representation.
David A. Black.
Urbana, ILL: University of Illinois Press, 1999

Law in the Domains of Culture.
Astin Sarat and Thomas Kearns, editors.
Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1998.

Lawyers in your living room! : law on television.
Michael Asimow, editor.
Chicago : American Bar Association, 2009.

Movies on trial : the legal system on the silver screen.
[by] Anthony Chase.
New York : New Press, 2002.

Picturing justice [electronic resource].
Webitors, John Denvir, Paul Joseph, Rob Waring.
Electronic Access: [San Francisco, Calif.] :
University of San Francisco, School of Law, [1998-

Popular Culture, Crime and Justice.
Frankie Bailey and Donna Hale, editors.
Belmont: Wadsworth Pub., 1998.

Reel Justice: The Courtroom Goes to the Movies.
Paul Bergman and Michael Asimow.
Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1996.

Reinventing Film Studies.
Christine Fledhill and Linda Williams, editors.
London: Arnold, 1998.

When the Law Goes Pop: The Vanishing Line Between Law and Popular Culture.
Richard K Sherwin.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

Window Dressing on the Set: women and minorities in television.
United States Commission on Civil Rights. Washington, DC. August, 1977.

Prime time law : fictional television as legal narrative.
Robert M. Jarvis and Paul R. Joseph.
Durham, N.C. : Carolina Academic Press, c1998

Primary Authorities

"Primary authorities are authorized statements of the law by governmental institutions. Such documents include the written opinions of courts (case law); constitutions; legislation; rules of court and the rules, regulations and opinions of administrative agencies." An Introduction to Legal Research. Jacobsten, Merskey and Dunn (1998).

Legislative Materials

Administrative Materials

Judicial Materials

NOTE: for both more comprehensive and more precise case law searches be sure to check either Lexis or Westlaw.

Lexis Tip: If you find one good case on Lexis, you may be able to find others by identifying the headnote that best describes the issue of interest to you, then clicking "More Like This Headnote," or by Shepardizing the case to find other cases that have cited it for the issue represented by the headnote.

Westlaw Tip: If you find one good case on Westlaw, you may be able to find others by identifying the headnote(s) that best describes the issue of interest to you, then clicking "Most Cited Cases" for that headnote. You could also try clicking "KeyCite Notes" to fine other cases that have cited your case for the issue represented by that headnote.

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Agencies, Associations, and Non-Governmental Organizations

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There are numerous blogs available on the Internet that deal with films - the list below is by necessity selective. Read one writer's view of the best movie blogs online at - Best Movie Blogs.

Additional Electronic Resources

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This Course Research Page was created by Bill Sleeman, and updated by Jason Hawkins. Last updated July 17, 2012.

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