Lexis Offers Searchable California Case Law Back to 1850 Free Online
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Impressive Offering Not Quite 'Ready for Primetime'

As the official publisher of California court opinions, Lexis now offers free full-text searching of the State's opinions back to 1850 (http://www.lexisnexis.com/clients/CACourts/?). (You can also reach this page from the Court's official site at http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/continue.htm, but you'll need to click on "Continue" at the bottom of the page, agree to the Terms and Conditions and then click "View Opinions,")

The full-text searching capability employs natural language (no boolean connectors). Citation and party name searching is also offered and date restrictions may be added to limit the search. While the site promises to be a useful free resource, at its launch, the service isn't quite up to snuff.

A number of early users report problems using the site, including:

  • difficulty using the site with the Netscape Navigator browser
  • incomplete, or no search results when searching for known cases by case name or citation
  • "combined" searches (searching more than one "series" at a time) returned no results for cases even when conducting the same search in a single series did return the expected case

On the Lexis California Courts page, Lexis also offers access to other resources, some of which are free and some pay. For example, "Find a Lawyer" leads you to a free lawyer directory and "Read Unannotated California Codes" takes you to the State's free official code site, but clicking on any of the following takes you to the Lexis pay site:

  • Make Sure Your Case is Still Good Law (Shepards)
  • Research Unpublished Cases for Background
  • Read Cases with Official Headnotes and Summaries from LexisNexis
  • Research Annotated California Codes
  • Search Court Records (CourtLink)

For more information on conducting free case law research on the Internet see:

 

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