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Law, Politics & Society: A Guide to Research

This guide describes the resources and services available to Doane University students doing research in courses for the LPS program

What is case law?

Case law -- also called opinions or decisions -- comes from the resolution of issues in a dispute. They are written by one or multiple judges. Courts in the United States usually follow precedent set by previous decisions. In general they will adhere to decisions from higher courts in their jurisdiction. A decision by the United State Supreme Court is binding precedent for all courts.

Adapted from Basic Legal Research guide from Marshall University Libraries, 2019

Finding Case Law

These instructions were written for using WestlawNext Campus Research database, hereafter referred to simply as Westlaw. There are other methods of finding case law at other libraries; this is the only source Doane library provides.

Find Cases by Citation

Online: Using Westlaw, type the partial citation, e.g. 472 U.S. 38 into the search box.

Find Cases by Litigant Name

Although much case law is referred to by citation, sometimes you may only have the names of the litigants in the case. For this situation, type the names of the litigants into the appropriate search boxes. Fulltext of the case appears on the screen.

Find Cases by Keyword or Subject
  • The search strategy can result in hundreds or thousands of hits, so is not the best method of finding a case.
  • Use the Key Number system in Westlaw. Either start with a known relevant case or use Browse > Tools.

Note: It's usually a little easier to secondary sources, such as encyclopedia and law review articles, to find cases on a particular subject.

Find Related Cases

Begin with a case of interest. Choose a headnote of interest from within that case. Click on the hotlinked text after the image of a key.

Find Cases Citing a Case
  • Find the case to which you would like to find citations. Click on "Citing References."
  • Alternatively, find the case to which you would like to find citations. Choose a headnote of interest. Click on "Cases that cite this headnote."
Find Cases Citing a Statute
  • Choose Federal Materials/United States Code Annotated (USCA). Search on a U.S. Code Annotated section (e.g., 8 U.S. C.A. § 1158). Look for a red or yellow flag above the statute that indicates the statute's status. Choose the "Citing References" tab to limit to citing cases in a particular jurisdiction.
  • Alternatively, click on the "notes of decision" tab to see cases that construe or apply the statue; this option may be less current or less exhaustive than the "Citing References" option.

Online Federal and State Cases

U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, U.S. Bankruptcy Courts
Federal and State Courts
U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska
  • govinfo -- U.S. Courts Opinions, 2005-  .
Nebraska Supreme Court
Other Federal Court Information


U.S. Supreme Court Briefs and Other Filings