Using the Law Library: A Guide for Educators-Part I: Untangling the Legal System

By Hilyerd, William A. | Journal of Law and Education, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Using the Law Library: A Guide for Educators-Part I: Untangling the Legal System


Hilyerd, William A., Journal of Law and Education


USING THE LAW LIBRARY, PART I

ABSTRACT

Researching legal issues can be a trying experience for individuals who do not deal with legal issues on a daily basis. This is the first in a series of articles designed to assist anyone not in the legal profession in locating legal materials. In this article, the researcher is introduced to the structure of our legal system and the legal materials created by each branch of government are identified and explained.

I. INTRODUCTION

This article will be the first in a series of six giving guidance to teachers and other educators on locating legal materials. This installment will give an introduction to the legal system in the United States as well as give an overview of the major types of legal materials that researchers may encounter. Part II will discuss how to locate legal materials when researchers are looking for a specific case, statute, or regulation for which they already have some information. Part III will discuss the advantages of various secondary materials and the benefits of starting a search using these materials. Other methods of locating cases will be introduced in Part IV, while methods of locating statutes, regulations and other statutory materials will be covered in Part V. The final article will provide tips for dealing with special areas in education law.

While following the guidelines and suggestions given in these articles will show educators and others how to locate information on the laws governing their profession, the use of legal materials by educators for any purpose other than personal knowledge is unadvisable. While it is possible for individuals to represent themselves in court, those considering doing so should remember the old proverb "a man who is his own lawyer has a fool for his client."1 It would be very foolish to attempt to use the materials discussed in this article to avoid attorney's fees. The educator should also keep in mind that conducting legal research for someone else or attempting to explain the law regarding a certain area is considered to be engaging in the practice of law. Engaging in the practice of law without a license is illegal and may be punishable by imprisonment.2

II. WHERE DOES ONE FIND THE LAW?

The United States Constitution serves as the basis for all law in the United States and is the authority behind the powers of the various branches of our government. Article I creates the Congress and vests in it a list of legislative powers.3 Article II vests all of the executive powers in the President4 while Article III provides for the creation of a Supreme Court and any other courts that Congress should deem necessary.5 By creating the different branches, the Constitution created a separation of powers and gave each branch the authority to create certain types of law. Congress has the explicit authority to make new laws, while the courts have the authority to interpret the law and in so doing create legally binding opinions, known as precedent. The executive branch is charged with enforcing the law, but by doing so it creates legally binding rules as well.6

The Constitution also creates a division of power between the federal government and the governments of the individual states. The Tenth Amendment states "[t]he powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited to it by the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."7 This division of power is commonly known as federalism. The effect of this division is that there is no single place to find the law of the United States. Unless a legal question involves a federal law or constitutional principle, the United States government has no authority to interfere in the laws made by individual states, nor do the laws of one state have any legal authority outside of that state.8 Most of the individual state constitutions divide their law-making powers in ways similar to the United States Constitution. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Using the Law Library: A Guide for Educators-Part I: Untangling the Legal System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.