Monday, December 11, 2017

To Catch a Rat

Rats don't belong in atticsFor whatever reason, this year has been the year of the rat at my house. No, I'm not talking about the Chinese Calendar.  I'm talking about the #$@#@$ rats that I've been trapping in my attic. Really been a pain in my backside but you gotta go get 'em before they start to multiply and/or gnaw on wires and things.

As I was preparing to catch another rat (OK, we've only trapped two so far, but that last one was HUGE), I got to thinking about law and legal research.  Specifically, I was thinking about how I go about getting prepared to do a research project.  For instance, when I'm trapping rats,
  • I start by setting up the ladder (to get to the attic),
  • Then pull on my lightweight pants, 
  • Strap on my knee pads (to crawl on the studs), 
  • Slip on my dust mask, 
  • Put on my 1,200 lumen headlamp, 
  • Put on my glasses,
  • Put on my lucky Cubs baseball cap and, finally, 
  • Slide on my heavy-duty gloves and up into the attic and go a-hunting
When I'm starting a typical legal research project, most times I'll 
  1. Start with West's Annotated California Codes or Words and Phrases (to find a code or case on a particular subject), 
  2. Then move on to West's California Digest (to find more cases)
  3. Next, I may grab a legal encyclopedia like California Jurisprudence, 3d or Witkin California Summary of California Law (to bone up on a particular topic).
If I need to locate a complaint or motion or injunction, I'll head on over to either our California Civil Practice section and look for something in California Forms of Pleading and Practice. If I were looking to work with discovery, I may take a look at California Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial or California Civil Discovery Practice.  Maybe I'm researching something in bankruptcy.  If so, I'll check out Collier's on Bankruptcy or Norton's Bankruptcy Law and Practice.

Labor issues?  Not a problem and I head over to look at some secondary authorities, like:
  • EEOC Compliance Manual
  • Employment Discrimination Law
  • ADA Employee Rights and Employer Obligations
  • Workplace Harassment Law
  • California Employment Law
  • California Practice Guide: Employment Litigation
Environmental issues?  Again, no problem as I look at more secondary authorities, like:
  • Environmental Law
  • California Civil Practice: Environmental Litigation
  • California Environmental Law and Land Use Practice
  • Guide to CEQA
  • California Water Law and Policy
  • California Land Use Practice
  • Practice Under the California Environmental Quality Act
among other things.

The point to all this is that there are approachable steps to most any legal problem and answers to most every problem. Basically, start with a case or code (primary authorities) and branch out from there (with secondary authorities).

If you ever have a legal problem that you don't know how to answer, your best bet is to head over to your local county law library. Why? Because your local county law Librarian is your single best bet to answer all of your legal research questions. 

That's why.