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LEGL School of Public Policy and Graziadio Business Law

Use the resources in this guide to locate research and policy around laws and legislation.

What is Case Law?

The following summary of case law comes from the 2005 edition of West's Encyclopedia of American Law (see below for further citation information): "As opposed to statutes—legislative acts that proscribe certain conduct by demanding or prohibiting something or that declare the legality of particular acts—case law is a dynamic and constantly developing body of law. ... Since the U.S. legal system has a common-law system, higher court decisions are binding on lower courts in cases with similar facts that raise similar issues."

"Case Law." West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edited by Shirelle Phelps and Jeffrey Lehman, 2nd ed., vol. 2, Gale, 2005, p. 267. Gale Virtual Reference Library,

Using Lexis Nexis to Locate Court Cases

​Example: I need to find federal court cases involving intellectual property.

  • Under Guided Search click on Cases
  • Under Which Jurisdiction? click on Federal Cases (if searching for state cases, click on State Cases then type in the state)
  • Enter your search terms under ..about
  • Select a date range from the drop down menu.
  • Click on Search


Using Google Scholar to Search for Case Law

If having to select from a list of federal or state courts before searching is not preferred, users can search all of Case Law by going to Google Scholar and following these steps:

  • Click on "Case Law"
  • Enter keywords if looking up cases on your topic OR enter a specific case name as an exact phrase
  • If searching for California case law, select "California courts"
  • Click the search button.

Public Law Libraries