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Judicial Externship Legal Research Sources & Information

For Judicial Externs

Research Experiences

Post-Experience Comments on Research from Previous Judicial Externs & Librarians

  • Statutes and regulations
    • These have much more importance than expected, so knowing the basics of statutes and regulations, how to find and read legislative or regulatory history is important for finding information for analysis
  • Statutes vs. Regulations
  • Legislatures pass statutes/legislation
  • Administrative agencies promulgate regulations, within the bounds of the statute that created the agency or that subject
  •  Federal Statutes:  U.S.C., U.S.C.A., U.S.C.S. 
  • Federal Regulations:  C.F.R., Federal Register


  • Provide for broad social & economic goals and legal requirements.
  • Receives power from the Constitution.
  • Court Review (constitutionality).
  • Congress represents the will of the people.


  • Prescribe specific legal requirements to meet congressional goals.
  • Receives power from the Legislature.
  • Court Review on more potential grounds (constitutionality, limits of delegated authority, arbitrary and capricious).
  • Public comment mandated before they can go into effect.

Print vs. Online: 

A few judges’ chambers have one computer that is shared by several clerks and externs.  One extern reported that the judge’s chamber had all the print books.  Therefore he became proficient using the books.  He found he was faster using the print books than using the online version.  He also believed he absorbed additional information through browsing through the books.

  • Familiarity with the print version might make you a better online searcher:
    • Understanding the organization and anatomy of the print versions makes you a better online searcher.
  • Impact on legal reasoning
    • Studies suggest that online researchers tend to focus more on facts and less on key legal concepts and doctrines, resulting in “diminished analogical reasoning.”
  • Not quite everything is online.
    • Just because something is not online does not mean you should not explore it.
  • Viewing in context:
    • When searching statutes, sometimes the best way to determine the relationship between code sections is to view the act’s table of contents or page through all the sections of an act, which is easier or faster for some users to perform in print.
  • Approaching a print resource (In the slim chance you must use print):
    •  Observe organization: 
      • Table of Contents
      • Index in each volume or is there an Index volume?
      • Are there appendices and if so, what is provide there?
      • Table of Cases referenced?
      • Table of Statutes
      • Table of Rules
      • Table of Regulations
    • How is it updated?
  • Read the prefatory materials & other usage information provided in the set. 
    • May not always be in front.  Sometimes in indexes. Not often in the online versions.
    • Might provide chart decoding abbreviations used in that publication.
  • Are there related materials that update?
    • For example. USCAAN monthly pamphlets are also a method to update USCA.
  • What kinds of tables are available in the set?

Ask Questions:  

The most useful thing is to find out what resources your clerk or judge thinks you should use. 

  • The clerks usually have something in mind that they want you to use or look for. Also, if you get stuck, ask.  No one wants you to fail. They might tell you that administrative regulations were the most important thing for you to use.  If you need help doing that,  because you have not learned regulations research yet, call librarians for help! Use tutorials or the research guide on the Case Law Library website.  Ask the LexisNexis and Westlaw Reference Attorneys for help.
  • Case Law Library Reference Desk:  216-368-5206 (Staffed:  9 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. in the summer). (We take vacations in the summer but someone is always covering reference until 5pm)
  • Judy Kaul’s Office Phone Number:  216-368-8570
  • Email: