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Law: Legal Research: Help

Recommended resources for legal proceedings

Finding Library Legal Resources: Print and Electronic

University Libraries Legal Publications

Please keep in mind that since Wright State does not have a law school, the University Libraries legal collection is small.  We do not own legal reporters or hard copies of US Code or Code of Federal Regulations.  These resources are available in electronic format and can be found in the University Libraries Catalog.

IMPORTANT: If you are having difficulty in finding a law or legal case, contact the government and legal information coordinator at the contact information on the right.

Putting a Federal Bill in Context

Besides the official documentation of a piece of legislation, you may want to find our more background and context about a particular law.  Why was it passed (or not)?  What political issues were involved?  These sources may help:

Congressional Quarterly Almanac Plus - an annual retrospective analysis of legislative issues and activity arranged by broad subject

  • 1948-1961: Dunbar Microfilm JK1.C66

Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner's Guide - a Library of Congress guide for finding legislative histories signed into law

Court systems

The Federal Court System


Apart from specialized courts, the federal court system comprises the following:

Type of court Function The Federal Court System
The Supreme Court of the United States Most cases are appeals from lower courts. In addition to cases from lower federal courts, cases from state supreme courts which involve a point of federal law may be heard. The court has discretion to decide which cases will be considered.
U.S. Courts of Appeals (also called Circuit Courts of Appeals) Appellate courts which deal with appeals from the district courts in their circuit.
U.S. District Courts Trial courts which deal with violations of federal criminal law, disputes regarding federal laws or treaties, and some cases between residents of different states.


 Court Locator - Maps showing jurisdictions of the various federal courts 

State Court Systems


Each state establishes its own system, so there are many variations, but most state system encompass the following:

Type of court Function The Ohio Court System
Court of last resort (usually called the supreme court) Deals with appeals from lower courts. Has discretion to decide which cases merit review. The Ohio Supreme Court
Intermediate appellate courts Deal with appeals concerning lower court decisions. In Ohio the Courts of Appeals are divided into 13 districts.
Trial courts Trials at which evidence is heard, often in both criminal and civil cases

Each county has a Court of Common Pleas (sometimes with specialized divisions by subject), which deals with criminal felony cases and civil cases over $500.

The Court of Claims has statewide jurisdiction over civil cases against the state of Ohio and claims for compensation for crime victims.

Case Law Basics

What Is Case Law?

Case law refers to decisions in the various court systems which set precedent for future decisions and are therefore part of the common law.

The effect of a court decision depends on the level of court at which a case was decided. A decision of an appellate court is binding precedent in all lower courts in its jurisdiction. A U.S. Supreme Court decision is binding precedent in all courts dealing with any aspect of federal law.

Publication of Cases

Appellate court decisions which will be used as precedent in future court cases are published, or reported, in sources specific to the various courts. The purpose of the published decisions is to provide lawyers with information on the interpretation of law, not to provide a historical record of individual cases. For this reason, very few trial court decisions are reported (that is, are available in official sources), and only selected decisions in the lower appellate courts are reported.

About Individual Federal Laws

When a law has been signed by the President, it is called a Public Law (abbreviated P.L.) and receives a new number composed of the number of the Congress and the consecutive number within that Congress. For example, P.L. 107-2 is the second law enacted in the 107th Congress.

Slip Laws

Individual laws are first produced in print format as individual sheets or pamphlets, one per law. In this format, they are known as slip laws.

Statutes at Large

The laws are later bound into volumes in numerical order (i.e., chronological order as they were passed) as the United States Statutes at Large.

About Federal Regulations

The Federal Regulatory Process

Regulatory ActionRelated Publications
Administrative agencies propose and announce regulations to carry out legislative mandates Federal Register
Regulations are codified, that is, incorporated into the exisiting body of regulations arranged by subject Code of Federal Regulations


More about the Federal Regulatory Process

Where to Find Authorizing Legislation

Go to Statutes at Large.

About Ohio Regulations

The Regulatory Process

  1. Administrative agencies propose regulations to carry out legislative mandates. 
  2. Individual regulations are adopted and then are codified; that is, incorporated into the body of regulations arranged by subject.

Where to find out more about the Ohio regulatory process

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