Welcome! This is a guide to American legal research. It provides access to online and print resources on case law, legislation, secondary materials, websites and more. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or suggestions on how to improve this guide.
A basic understanding of the U.S. legal system is necessary in order to understand jurisdiction and legal authority.
Briefly, the United States Constitution creates a federalism which is now comprised of one national government and fifty state governments. Each of these governments has its own constitution and the power to make laws. Additionally, each of these governments is divided into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
This basic understanding of the federalism system is necessary when researching U.S. law in order to know which law is mandatory authority for any given jurisdiction.
Below are two images. One images describes the United States court system. The next describes one of the state court systems. A court decision is binding authority on any court below it in the chain of courts.