The videos and accompanying documents in this guide demonstrate how to find cases and other laws and how to find articles. Legal research can be overwhelming so I’ve kept the directions as straightforward as possible but that means I've skipped over some confusing complications you might, but probably won't, encounter.
If at any time you need assistance, email me at clercs1 @southernct.edu. I’ll try to answer in email but we can also meet virtually or in person.
I've also added a link to directions for checking peer-reviewed status if you're concerned about a source.
The Buley Library Home Page is: https://libguides.southernct.edu/home
Below is an artificially tidy chart of the various kinds of laws and who creates them.
I know you’re probably focused on cases but cases don’t happen without a statutory authority, that is, they arise because someone challenges a law or is alleged to have violated one. Also keep in mind that not all cases are equally influential.
There are parallel systems: Federal and State. Each system has 3 branches (Judicial, Legislative, and Executive) and each branch promulgates a type of law: case law, .statutes, rules and regulations respectively.
The judicial branch has 3 levels: trial, appellate, and the final court which is usually called Supreme.
In the Federal system, the trial level is District Court. In the Connecticut State system, the trial level is called Superior.
With some exceptions you’re won't find a lot of documentation for trials at the state level because they often involve a jury and a verdict or settlement rather than a written opinion. (Opinion, decision, and case are often used interchangeably). There’s more documentation at the Federal level. The loser of a trial can appeal the outcome and then the case goes to...
An appellate court where it is heard by a panel of judges, There is more documentation at the appellate level because the judges write an opinion citing their precedents and reasoning. The U.S. Court of Appeals is divided into Circuit Courts (Connecticut is in the 2nd circuit with New York State and Vermont) and each circuit comprises several Districts. The appeals court in Connecticut is the Connecticut Appellate Court. The loser at this stage can appeal to the court of last resort,,,
The U.S. Supreme Court or Connecticut Supreme Court.
The influence of each court is limited to its jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the entire U.S. and all courts whether Federal or State must decide cases in accordance with what the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled. A Circuit court’s decisions are followed in its circuit but not another, although the judges in one circuit might look at how another circuit decided an issue, they are not compelled to follow it and will rely on their own previous decisions first. Each Circuit includes multiple Districts. Connecticut is its own District within the Second Circuit. A District Court's decisions bind their district.
A court case is based on the alleged violation of a law, usually one passed by a legislature, i.e Congress or the Connecticut General Assembly. That law is sometimes the U.S. Constitution. The laws passed by a legislature are also referred to as statutes and the terms laws, statutes, and legislation are used interchangeably.
For the U.S, laws are published in 3 stages culminating in the U.S. Code. For Connecticut it’s the Connecticut General Statutes.
And finally, there is administrative law created by the Executive Branch. Federal and State agencies create the rules and regulations that enforce the laws of the other 2 branches.
It's important to note that state laws of any kind cannot violate federal laws and no one may violate the U.S. Constitution.
All the branches interact with each other. One way to think of it is Legislative passes a law, Executive enforces it, Judicial interprets it.
If you don’t already have a topic in mind, one of these websites might spark some ideas:
Medical News Today: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/
New York Times health section: http://www.nytimes.com/pages/health/
WebMD Health News Center: http://www.webmd.com/news/
Professional organizations often have news of recent legislation and cases on their websites