Wisconsin State Law Library

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WSLL @ Your Service no. 20/23, Aug./Nov. 2002 
An E-publication of the Wisconsin State Law Library

Focus On:   Locating Legal Articles

Articles published in law reviews and other law-related journals are an important component of legal research.  Anyone who has found the perfect article that surveys a law in all 50 states, explains a new or amended statute, or chronicles the history of a common law doctrine can attest to the wealth of information that can be found and the amount of research time that can be saved.  And finding the perfect article is getting easier all the time--if you know where to look.  

Traditionally, locating law-related articles required delving into a print index--for example, the Index to Legal Periodicals--and browsing by author's name or by topic. It's still possible to do it that way, but electronic indexes, the increasing availability of online full text articles, and the power of keyword searching have made finding on-point articles significantly easier, faster, and more timely. LexisNexis and Westlaw have built substantial databases of legal periodical literature, much of which is full text.  Additional electronic research tools include LegalTrac and Hein-On-Line, both available through the State Law Library.

LegalTrac, formerly known as Legal Resource Index, provides citation information for over 980,000 law-related articles published in major law reviews, legal newspapers, specialty law publications, bar association journals and general interest publications.  Selected articles are also available in full text. Coverage varies by publication but generally dates back to 1980. Users can search by keywords, author, title, and journal title, and searches can be limited by publication date and journal title. LegalTrac is available for use by anyone in the library or in a Wisconsin Court System office, and registered library cardholders can access it from any Internet-equipped PC by entering their library card number.  The State Law Library issues library cards to Wisconsin Court System judges and employees, government officials and employees, and private attorneys and their authorized staff. You'll find the LegalTrac link on the WSLL homepage, in the upper horizontal navigation bar.

Hein-On-Line is an ever-growing, image-based collection of legal periodicals in online, searchable format. The William S. Hein Company is using its extensive backfile of pre-1980 legal periodical literature to develop this unique database. Users can retrieve articles by journal title, author, article title, or official citation, and they can also do full text searching. Articles are displayed and printed as high-resolution images of the pages as they appeared in hardcopy.  At this time, State Law Library users can only access Hein-On-Line on the public access stations located in our three libraries. We hope to provide offsite access in the future.

For a hands-on look at both LegalTrac and Hein-On-Line, attend our free WSLL Wednesday class on December 4, 8:30-9:30 a.m., presented by Julie Tessmer in the WSLL Computer Training Room. Contact Tammy Keller to register.

And what if you can't get your hands on that perfect article with just a few keystrokes and the click of a print button? Call or email the WSLL Reference Desk. We can do article searches for you on Hein-On-Line, LegalTrac, LexisNexis and Westlaw, and we can deliver the articles you want by mail, fax or email. We also have access to the library's over 1,000 titles of law reviews, bar association journals and other law-related publications; our current subscriptions number approximately 600. All of the library's print and microform periodical titles are listed in the library catalog, and we list some web-based publications there, too. Examples include American University Law Review, which WSLL also has in print, and the U.S. Air Force Academy's Journal of Legal Studies, which WSLL does not own in print. To access the web versions, just click on the links we've provided right in the catalog records.  Additional listings of web-based periodicals and periodical indexes are also available on our Law Reviews, Journals and Magazines page. And finally, we can also use our extensive interlibrary loan connections to borrow journals or order copies of articles from other libraries.  One way or another, we'll do our best to help you locate and obtain what you need.   

-- Connie Von Der Heide


WSLL Web -- Elaine Sharp   Tech Tip in Brief -- Connie Von Der Heide
Finding Case Law  & Agency Decisions On the Web
You can use the WSLL website as a guide for finding recent case law and agency decisions. 
  • Decide on jurisdiction.
  • Go to our corresponding page:
  • Links to court opinions and other court-related information appear at the top of each page. 
  • Agency decisions are listed under the Executive Branch heading on each page. 

In general, you will find that free case law on the web:

  • is available for just the past few years in most state & federal jurisdictions. Exceptions include the U.S. Supreme Court & Oklahoma.
  • is only available in original slip opinion form, which does not list all official citations.
  • lacks the powerful search capabilities of research systems like Westlaw & Lexis.
  • lacks the ability to search across multiple jurisdictions simultaneously. One exception: LexisOne.

If you don't find what you need on the web, consider:

  • visiting the Library where you will have free access to:
    • Loislaw.com (includes nearly all state & federal cases & laws)
    • Shepards (includes the ability to shepardize as well as to retrieve full-text by citation)
  • contacting the Library. Our fee-based services include online searching and document delivery.

Net News
The Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a data gathering & research organization that provides much free information about  federal government enforcement & regulation, has added a fee-based database where users can review the work of most federal district court judges from 1986-2001. Service includes workload, sentences & case disposition times, ability to compare the work of one judge with the work of other judges, etc.

Electronic Access to State Court Records, a survey conducted by the Center for Democracy & Technology, looks at various issues regarding online access to court records. The survey includes "a state-by-state summary of the type of electronic access provided as of July 1, 2002."

Search Engine Features Chart was updated 9/21/02. This one-page table provides search parameters for major search engines. Click on various components of the table for further explanation and examples. For a discussion of specialty search engines and how they can help you, read Gary Price's Oct. 2002 article: Specialized Search Engine FAQ's.

Please send your suggestions for future legal research Tech Tips to the editor.

Adobe Acrobat Toolbar Tips
Have you taken the time to investigate any of the buttons on the Adobe Acrobat toolbar?  The toolbar pops up anytime you're viewing a document in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document File (.pdf) format, and appears just above the document. Some of the tools on it are very useful.  So that you can try them out, click on this .pdf Wisconsin Legislative Council document, Wisconsin's Legal Framework.

The buttons containing pictures of binoculars are the Find and Find Again tools. They work very much like Internet Explorer's "Find in Page" feature.  When you click on the Adobe Acrobat Find button (large binoculars), a box will pop up. Simply enter the word or phrase you're looking for and click Find. Adobe will search the document and highlight the first occurrence (hit) it finds. Note that in the Find box you can also mark choices to search on the exact word only, search backwards (i.e. from last page to first), and others. Without marking any choices for now, enter the word government and click Find. To see the next hit of the same word, click the Find Again button (small binoculars with curly arrow). Continue clicking Find Again to see each subsequent hit. Notice that it finds not only government, but also governments and governmental.

The button that looks like a hand is the Hand Tool, or scrolling tool. It's usually "on" automatically, so whenever your pointer is within the .pdf document, the arrow changes to a hand shape. If it's not on, just click the button. To use it, move your pointer into the document--the arrow should now look like a hand. Hold your left mouse button down and drag either downward or upward. The document moves along as you drag. This is sometimes more convenient than using the scrolling bar of your browser. 

The button with the magnifying glass and plus sign is the Zoom In Tool.  Click on the small triangle next to it, and you'll see there's also a Zoom Out Tool.  To add the Zoom Out tool to the toolbar, click on "Expand This Button."  To collapse or hide the Zoom Out Tool again, just click the small triangle once more. To use Zoom In or Zoom Out, click the appropriate button, move your pointer inside the document, and click once. The image will enlarge or reduce.  Click again to enlarge or reduce more. To turn off Zoom, click on the Hand Tool.

Take a moment to see what the other buttons on the Adobe Acrobat toolbar can do for you. To get a brief description of a button's function, hover the pointer over it without clicking. Then try them out. They just might make navigating .pdf documents both easier and faster.



What's New at...  -- Amy Crowder Odds 'n' Endings  -- Connie Von Der Heide
Documents on the Web
Are you aware that many federal agency publications are now available on the web? Agencies such as the Federal Judicial Center, Bureau of Justice Assistance and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention have put numerous documents on their websites in order to distribute information better and faster. The WSLL Catalog provides access to these and other electronic documents. The majority of the over 1,500 web links in the Catalog point to government publications, and the number of links continually increases.  As a federal document depository, the Library has an extensive law-related documents collection.  Contact Reference Staff if you need help locating a federal government publication.

Wondering if a resource is available on the web, or having trouble locating it?  Phone or email our Reference Staff. We will be happy to assist you with your search.

Attention Laptop Users!
WSLL provides on-site Internet access via your laptop. you can now access web resources while sitting at one of the Library's study carrels, reading tables, or in a workroom. All you need is a laptop computer with an installed and functioning NIC (network interface card), a Cat5 cable to connect your machine to the data port, and the ability to change network property settings on your laptop.  If you do not own a Cat5 cable, you may borrow one at the Library's Circulation Desk. For assistance with setup and use, inquire at the Reference Desk.

Over 150 Links and Counting!
Looking for a Wisconsin local ordinance on the web? Make the WSLL Codes & Ordinances page your first stop. This page now contains links to over 150 Wisconsin county, city, town and village ordinances, and library staff search the web every month to find and add new ones.

If your community or county has web-based ordinances, does our Codes & Ordinances page link to them? If not, send the web address to Elaine Sharp, and she'll add it to the page.

State Bar Journal Back Issues
WSLL recently purchased additional back issues of many state bar association journals. Our new Hein bar journal collection on microfiche takes our nationwide bar journal coverage back to 1969. Previously, the Library only owned issues dating from 1980 to the present. See the Focus article above to learn more about finding articles published in these and other law-related journals.

Learn @ the Law Library: Upcoming Classes
You can now access an always-current list of State Law Library legal research training classes and registration information on the Tours & Workshops page of our web site. Upcoming WSLL Wednesday topics include LegalTrac & Hein-On-Line in December, and the Wisconsin Legislature web site in January.  No for-fee classes will be offered in December or January, but February's class will be Internet Tips & Tricks, and in March you can learn about Federal Legal Research on the Internet.  

If you would like to receive periodic email announcements of upcoming classes, contact Connie Von Der Heide.

After Hours Service
Attention Wisconsin attorneys!  2003 is just around the corner, so it's time to either renew your current After Hours Service subscription or start a new one. 

This convenient service, available to Wisconsin-licensed attorneys, allows access to the State Law Library from 7 to 8 a.m. and 5 to10 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 8 to 6 on Saturday and Sunday.  Add these to our regular hours of 8 to 5 Monday through Friday, and you have 95 hours of access per week to the library's print, microform and electronic resources. Subscription is on a calendar year basis, and each attorney must subscribe individually. The cost for a new 2003 subscription is $80.00, which includes a convenient access tag that fits on a keychain.  If you're a state government attorney and have a programmable building access card, you might not need a keytag (please call to verify). Your cost would then be $72.00.  All renewal subscriptions are $72.00.

Current subscribers should have already received renewal notices.  If you are interested in a new subscription, contact Connie Von Der Heide to request an application form.


WSLL Prose & Cons Collection
Among the recent donations to the library's Prose & Cons legal fiction collection is Sue Grafton's newest "alphabet" mystery, Q is for Quarry. There's no waiting list for it here (yet!), so come on in and check it out. If you're looking for a good home for your gently used legal fiction books, audio books and videos, send them our way. Or, 'tis the season of giving, add the State Law Library to your holiday shopping list. Your contributions might even qualify you for our coupon good toward a discount on an upcoming training class! For more information, contact our Reference Desk. Happy Holidays!

Ask a Librarian:  800-322-9755; 608-267-9696 (In Madison); wsll.ref@wicourts.gov
Library Hours/Locations:  WSLL (WI State Law Library), DCLL (Dane Co. Law Library), MLRC (Milwaukee Legal Resource Center)
Visit Our Website: http://wilawlibrary.gov

Connie Von Der Heide 608-267-2202 Comments welcome!