California Legal Research: Judicial Law

California has a three-tiered court system. The California Supreme Court, the California Court of Appeals, which is divided into six districts (Los Angeles is the Second District); and trial courts (Superior Court). Cases, which are written opinions by a judge, are published for the California Supreme Court and the California Court of Appeals. Superior Court (http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org) cases are generally not published and must be requested directly from the court, unless considered confidential (see Los Angeles Superior Court Public Information Policy).

Encyclopedia

Cal Jur III [Floor 2 (Ref) - KFC 80 .C29] (http://suncat.csun.edu/record=b1151399)
A legal encyclopedia, arranged by subject, covers both California statutory and case law, and includes a detailed multi-volume index.

Example: You need citations to cases dealing with the circumstances by which police officers may be suspended or dismissed. In the general index, you start under POLICE, and are referred to the heading, "LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS." Under the subheading, "dismissal," you are referred to the subheading, "Discipline and Removal From Office."

LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS

Discipline and Removal From Office -- Law Enforcement § 36

From that section, you notice there are several aspects of this subheading; however, all refer to the "Law Enforcement" volume of Cal Jur III, sections 36 - 40. By checking section 36 of the Law Enforcement volume, you will find a summary of the law with citations to Deering's California Codes and relevant California cases. See Case Approach section below to find out how to interpret the citation and find the case.

Digest

West's California Digest 2nd [Floor 2 (Ref) - KFC 57 .W42 - not currently received] (http://suncat.csun.edu/record=b1394258)
A comprehensive topical index to cases organized by legal topics, which  includes multi-volume subject indexes (vols. 45-47) and a table of cases by name. Citations lead to the appropriate case reporter series, which is where you can read the judge's opinion of the case. See the citation example under Case Approach below.

Example: You need citations to cases dealing with the circumstances by which police officers may be suspended or dismissed. In the Descriptive Word Index (vols. 45-47) under POLICE you find:

POLICE

SUSPENSION. Mun Corp 185

"Mun Corp" = "Municipal Corporations" volume of West's California Digest 2nd and 185 is the section number of that volume.

By checking section 185 of the Municipal Corporations volume, you will find case names, summaries of decisions, and citations as shown below. See Case Approach section below to find out how to interpret the citation and find the case.

Case Approach

If you  know the name of a specific California case, consult the table of cases volume of West's California Digest 2nd (ref KFC 57 .W42 . . . 2nd floor - not currently received) to locate the citations. See also LexisNexis Academic (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/lexis.scr).

Legal Citation Format

Marino v. City of Los Angeles, 110 Cal Rept 45, 34 C.A. 3rd 461

Legal citations begin with the name of the case, then a list of one or more case reporting services that included the court's decision on the case. The case reporting service information is always formatted with the volume of the service first, then an abbreviation for the name of the reporting service, then the page where the opinion begins. So, in the citation above, Marino v. City of Los Angeles is the name of the case. Abbreviations of case reporting services are listed in Bieber's Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations, (ref KF246 .B46 2001 . . . Ref Rm); Cal Rept is an abbreviation for the West's California Reporter and C.A. 3rd stands for California Reports, 3rd series. So, the first case reporting service reference for Marino v. City of Los Angeles is to volume 110 of West's California Reporter, beginning on page 45 and the second is to volume 34 of California Reports, 3rd series, beginning on page 461. Of these, Oviatt Library owns West's California Reporter in print format and the other is available via Lexis-Nexis.

Decisions

West's California Reporter (ref KFC 50 .W42 . . . 2nd floor)

  • Includes opinions, summaries, and headnotes from cases decided in the California Courts of Appeal and the California Supreme Court. The Library owns the complete set of California Reporter from 1884 to the present. In 1960, West Publishing Co. began publishing it as West's California Reporter. Prior to 1960, California cases were included in the Pacific Reporter, which covered the Western United States. CSUN does not own the Pacific Reporter, but the California Reporter includes reprints of all California decisions that appear in the Pacific Reporter.
  • LexisNexis Academic (http://library.csun.edu/restricted/lexis.scr) * provides keyword access to the full-text of California Reports, which covers the Supreme Court from 1850 to the present; and California Appellate Reports, which covers the District Courts of Appeal and the Appellate Department of the Superior Court since 1905. Select Legal Research > State Case Law to search for cases by keyword.
  • California Supreme Court and Appellate Court Cases, a free searchable database of California published cases can be searched by keyword or the citation. (Coverage: California Supreme Court from 1850 to the present and California published case law decided by the California Courts of Appeal from 1905 and the Appellate Department of Superior Court from 1934 to the present).
  • FindLaw California: Case Law (http://california.lp.findlaw.com/ca02_caselaw/index.html) to search for cases (requires free registration).
  • Current Decisions: Cases from the last 120 days may be found on the Internet at the California Courts web page (http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/).