Monday, December 29, 2008

New Research Guide: Court Records & Briefs

Although law school casebooks tend to focus on the judge’s written opinion, court cases actually generate a large amount of other documents, such as: complaints, briefs, depositions, oral argument transcripts, jury verdicts, settlement agreements, etc. These materials comprise the record of the case.

Legal researchers might wish to consult a case’s record or briefs for a variety of reasons: to review which legal arguments persuaded (or did not persuade) the judge, to learn more about the factual or procedural background of a case, and to gauge what kind of verdict or damages might be awarded in a similar situation. Unfortunately, there is little consistency in the publication of court records and briefs, which may be available in a variety of print, electronic and microform sources.

To aid these researchers, reference librarian Jennifer L. Behrens has created a new Goodson Law Library Research Guide to Court Records and Briefs ( The guide outlines compilations of records and briefs which are available at Duke, as well as sources and strategies for locating specific documents related to a particular case in the Goodson Law Library, LexisNexis, Westlaw, PACER, HeinOnline, and on the free web.

As always, if you encounter a citation to a court document which is not covered in the research guide, please ask a reference librarian.