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LRAW Research Spring 2023

Updating Federal Statutes Using KeyCite & Shepard's

Both annotated codes are available online through the subscription databases Westlaw (U.S.C.A.) and Lexis (U.S.C.S). Online databases eliminate the need to check supplements for updates because any amendments are incorporated into the text of the statutes.

Westlaw and Lexis also provide researchers with access to citators—KeyCite for Westlaw and Shepard's for Lexis. Citators use flags and signals to notify researchers of pending legislation; that a statute has in fact been recently amended, repealed, superseded; or that a court has ruled it to be unconstitutional.

KeyCite in Westlaw

KeyCite

KeyCite in Westlaw uses yellow and red flags to alert you to pending legislation, amendments or repeals, or negative treatment by the courts. Below are the KeyCite flags indicating that proposed legislation could amend or repeal a statute; that enacted legislation has in fact amended a statute; and that a court has held a statute to be unconstitutional or preempted.

Yellow flag Proposed Legislation; Red flag: Enacted Legislation Amended by PL 113-185; Red flag Unconstitutional or Preempted.

Examples

A yellow flag alerts you to proposed legislation. You can create a KeyCite alert to notify you if any proposed legislation passes by clicking on the KeyCite alert icon. 

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A red flag indicates that a statute has been recently amended, repealed, superseded, pre-empted in whole or in part, or held unconstitutional. 

Click on the yellow or red flag to examine any proposed legislation or to determine if an amendment, repeal, or negative treatment affects any part of the statute you are researching.

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Shepard's in Lexis

Shepard's

Below are the Shepard's signals in Lexis for recent legislative changes, pending legislation, and negative citing decisions. 

Red triangle exclamation signal:Recent Legislative Changes: Yellow triangle exclamation signal: Pending Legislation; Red circle exclamation signal: Citing Decisions with strong negative analysis.

Examples 

A yellow triangle exclamation signal alerts you to pending legislation.

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You can create a Shepard’s alert to notify you if any pending legislation passes by clicking on the Shepard's alert icon.  

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A red circle exclamation signal tells you that there is strong negative analysis impacting a statute, meaning that all or part of it has been declared unconstitutional, void, or invalid by a citing case.

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A red triangle exclamation signal indicates recent legislative changes to the statute to include that it has been recently amended, repealed, superseded, or pre-empted in whole or in part. 

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Be sure to investigate the yellow or red signal and examine any pending legislation to determine if an amendment, repeal, or negative analysis affects any part of the statute you are researching.

 

Finding Other Resources Using KeyCite (Westlaw) & Shepard's (Lexis)

Citators

A citator also serves as an essential tool for finding additional resources on a subject by providing current references to cases and secondary sources that have cited a federal statute (Citing References). 

Finding Other Resources: Westlaw

After locating a federal statute in Westlaw, there are three key ways to find other relevant information: Notes of Decisions, Context & Analysis, and Citing References.  

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Notes of Decisions

Select the Notes of Decisions tab to find cases selected and summarized by human editors that are relevant to the legal issues addressed by that statute.  If there are multiple cases, they may be organized in a Table of Contents to the left of the case summaries and citations. You can narrow these results using filters such as Date and Jurisdiction.

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Context and Analysis

To find cross references to related statutes and regulations, as well as secondary sources, click on the Context and Analysis tab. Like Notes of Decisions, the materials in the Context and Analysis tab are chosen by human editors.

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Citing References

To find resources that directly cite or reference the statute you are researching, click on the Citing References tab.

The Citing References are likely to be more numerous than Notes of Decisions or Context and Analysis because there is no human editor selecting only the most relevant references; your results will be based on programmed recognition of the statute’s citation in other resources on Westlaw. The automatic search for all citing references is as complete as Westlaw can program it to be, even if that means including an overwhelming number of references. To make this manageable, start by selecting a content type on the left. After selecting Cases, additional filters will become available allowing you to further narrow your results by jurisdiction, by date, and by searching within your results.

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If you select Secondary Sources, you can filter by the type of resource that cites the statute, such as ALR annotations, law reviews, and journals.

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Finding Other Resources: Lexis

After locating a federal statute in Lexis, there are three key ways to find other relevant information: Notes to Decisions, Research References & Practice Aids, and Shepard’s.  

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Notes to Decisions

Select Notes to Decisions on the left side of the screen, or scroll down below the statute to find cases selected and summarized by human editors, that are relevant to the legal issues addressed by that statute.  If there are multiple cases, they may be organized in a Table of Contents above the case summaries and citations. Use the blue arrow at the beginning of each listing to jump to case summaries relating to a particular topic, or back to the top of Notes to Decisions.

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Research References & Practice Aids

Select Research References & Practice Aids from the left side of the screen to find cross references to related statutes and regulations, as well as secondary sources that address issues relating to a research topic, such as "whistleblowers." Like Notes to Decisions, these materials are chosen by human editors.

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Shepard’s

To find resources that directly cite or reference the statute you are researching, select "Shepardize document" from the sidebar at the right of the screen. Then, at the top of the screen, choose the Citing Decisions tab for cases that cite the statute or Other Citing Sources for secondary sources and court documents that cite the statute:

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The Citing Decisions are likely to be more numerous than Notes to Decisions because there is no human editor selecting only the most relevant references; your results are based on programmed recognition of the statute’s citation in other resources on Lexis. The automatic search for all citing decisions is as complete as Lexis can program it to be, even if that means including an overwhelming number of references. To make this manageable, narrow your results using the filters provided on the left. If you’ve chosen Citing Decisions, that means you have narrowed your results to cases. You can use the filters to further narrow your results by jurisdiction and date and to search for terms within your results.

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If you select Other Citing Sources, you can filter by the type of resource, filter by date and search for terms within your results.

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