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Table of Contents
How To Shepardize Cases
Interpreting the Citations Information you Find
Parallels and case histories
Case treatment letters
Divisions within a citator
Finding case names
Selecting the right citator
Selecting the right citator
History letters exercise
Case letters exercise
Statute letters exercise
Try to imagine the impact of the millions of cases decided in this
country over the past 200 years. Because the principle of stare decisis
(to adhere to or abide by past decisions) forms the basis for our legal
system, every legal decision has potential precedential value. For
example, some cases are followed as precedent; i.e., they are"good
law,"while others can no longer be used to support future decisions and
are considered "bad law." As a legal researcher, you must be aware of
both types of decisions. Yet how could you possibly remember-or even
find out-what happened to each and every case?
Thanks to Frank Shepard, that is not necessary. In the early 1870's, he
realized the necessity for tracking the discussion of principles of law
in court opinions, and also tracking the history of these opinions. He
devised a method for extracting this information from published opinions
and indexing it for the benefit of legal researchers. So, you don't need
to rely on your memory; you can rely on the information compiled in
First printed in 1873, Shepard's Citations has evolved into a vitally
important method of tracking legal information.Today, the company named
for Frank Shepard continues working to fulfill his vision. Shepard's
collects all of the legal data necessary for a legal researcher to:
* (1) Determine whether your case has continued precedential value
through the history letters assigned by the company's legal editors;
* (2) evaluate and analyze significant decisions by reference to
treatment letters, which indicate what other judges have written about
your case; and
* (3) trace the discussion of specific points of law or fact through the
use of headnote numbers.
To understand Shepard's Citations, it helps to review the meanings of
the following common legal terms as they apply to Citations.
CASE, CITATION, CITATION SUMMARY, CITATOR, CITE, COMMON LAW, LEGAL
AUTHORITY, PRECEDENT, REPORTER, SHEPARDIZE, STARE DECISIS
CASE: This is an ambiguous term,with two or more distinct meanings.
First,the term generally refers to a legal action litigated between
opposing parties, e.g.,Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones. That "case"starts in a
trial court,before a judge, and where required or requested, a jury.
Following the outcome of the trial between Smith and Jones, the case may
be heard by a court of appeals, a higher state appellate court,or even
by the U.S. Supreme Court. As it progresses through the various courts,
that litigation may collectively be referred to as the case of Smith v.
The term"case"is also used to mean a single opinion written by a judge.
In that opinion the judge applies the law (i.e.,case law and statutory
law),to the facts and explains how the decision was reached. Any written
opinion, whether published in a case reporter or not,may be referred to
as a case, by its case name. Using the example above, the case name
Smith v. Jones would be used to refer to opinions written during the
course of the litigation. These "cases"may be used as precedent in
CITATION: A citation is an unambiguous reference to a legal authority. A
citation can tell you where to find the full text of a statute, case, or
other source of legal information. EXAMPLE: Greer v. Northwestern
National Insurance Co., 109 Wash.2d 191,743 P.2d 1244 (1987) is a
citation to a case. It identifies the locations of the Greer opinion in
the Washington case reporters.
In this example, the case of Greer v. Northwestern National Insurance
Co. is located in volume 109 of Washington Reports, Second Series at
page 191. The Greer opinion is also located in volume 743 of West's
Pacific Reporter, Second Series, at page 1244. This is a parallel
citation for the Greer case. ( more information on parallel citations)
A citation can also be a reference to a statute or other legal
authority. For example, Mich.Comp. Laws S 208.23 (1995) is a citation to
a statute. It identifies the location in the Michigan Compiled Laws
where your statute can be found.
CITATION SUMMARY: Citation summaries address the relationship between a
cited case and a citing case. Included in the summary is an
identification of the point of law for which the case was cited, and
usually a quote from the citing case. Citation summaries are found in
several of the printed citators and in CD-ROM citators.
CITATOR: A case citator is a publication that reports the subsequent
litigation of a case, as well as how courts unrelated to the litigation
have commented on that case. A citator for statutes reports whether any
subsequent legislative action has affected or modified particular code
sections and lists cases citing those sections. Because Shepard's has
been producing citators for more than 100 years,"Shepard's"and
"citator"are nearly synonymous.
CITE: Used as a verb, to "cite"a case or other authority simply means to
refer to that authority. The reference can be made in a positive,
negative or neutral manner. Used as a noun,"cite"is synonymous with
COMMON LAW: Also known as case law, common law is a set of principles
and rules of action that have been made by judges, in the course of
writing opinions in litigated matters. That is to be distinguished from
statutory law, which is law created by legislative bodies. Common law
rests on the principle of stare decisis, which means that judges will
abide by, or adhere to decided cases or precedent. Common law reflects
the principles determined by the social needs of the community, which
change over time.
LEGAL AUTHORITY: A legal authority is a case, statute, regulation,
treatise, law review article, or other legal reference source. Those
sources may be binding or persuasive to a court interpreting and
applying the law to the evidence presented by the parties to a case.
PRECEDENT: Precedent is a case opinion that provides guidance to a judge
in a subsequent case, generally either because the prior case is similar
in its facts or raises similar questions of law. Judges are usually
required to decide the cases before them on the basis of principles
established in prior cases.(See stare decisis.)
REPORTER: This term has historically meant books or other publications
that contain the actual text of cases. A reporter may also appear in
other media,such as CD-ROM.
SHEPARDIZE: To Shepardize a case or other legal authority means to use
Shepard's Citations to identify other cases and authorities that have
discussed the authority being Shepardized. By Shepardizing authorities,
you can analyze their current value as precedent.
STARE DECISIS: To stand by that which was decided;to adhere to or abide
by prior case decisions.
HOW TO SHEPARDIZE CASES
Research Steps 1-3
1. Select the Shepard's citator set that corresponds to the reporter in
which your case is published. For example, if you want to Shepardize the
case of Greer v. Northwestern National Insurance Co., 109 Wash.2d
191,743 P.2d 1244 (1987) you would look it up in Shepard's Washington
Citations or Shepard's Pacific Reporter Citations.
2. Check the "What Your Library Should Contain"section on the cover of
the most recent Shepard's supplement,and collect all the bound volumes
and supplements listed. For example, when Shepardizing the Greer case in
Shepard's Washington Citations, you would check the most recent
Washington advance sheet. The "What Your Library Should Contain"section
on that cover shows that you need the 1994 bound volumes of Shepard's
Washington Citations, as well as the October, 1994 Annual Cumulative
Supplement,the September, 1995 Cumulative Supplement,and the September,
1995 Advance Sheet.
3. Find the division in the most recent Shepard's supplement that
matches the reporter and series in which your case was published.
Because Greer is reported in Washington Reports, Second Series, you
would look for that case in the Washington Reports, Second Series
division of Shepard's Washington Citations.
4. Look in that division for the appropriate volume and beginning page
number of your case. Shepard's shows volume numbers across the tops of
the pages, and both volume and page numbers within the columns. To find
Greer, you would look for "Vol. 109"across the top of the pages.When you
find that, you would look down the columns for page 191 (-191-).
5. Listed beneath the beginning page number of your case will be
citations to cases that have cited your case.
IMPORTANT! You must look up your case and repeat this process in every
book you collected in step 2. Make a list of all citations relevant to
your research. Start from the most current supplement and work backward
until you have Shepardized your case in all the listed supplements and
bound volumes. Be methodical, and be sure not to miss a supplement!
INTERPRETING THE CITATION INFORMATION YOU FIND
The case you are researching may be published in more than one reporter.
The citation for the case as published in a different source is called a
parallel citation. Parallel citations are shown in Shepard's with
This is a parallel citation to Greer v. Northwestern National Insurance
Co. The parentheses indicate that Greer is also printed in volume 743 of
the Pacific Reporter, Second Series at page 1244. Parallel citations are
shown the first time your case is cited in a Shepard's citator
supplement or bound volume. They are not repeated in subsequent bound
volumes or supplements.
Immediately following any parallel citations are history citations. In
general,these are citations to cases that are part of the same
litigation as the case you are Shepardizing. They can be decisions
rendered either before or after your decision. For example, a court of
appeals case you are Shepardizing may have reversed a trial court
decision. Both the prior trial court decision (if published), and the
subsequent supreme court decision will be shown as history citations.
EXAMPLE: s36WAp330 History letters are used to indicate the relationship
between your case and these prior or subsequent cases. The letters
precede the cite. For a detailed definition of the history letters, see
History of the Case.
Treatment letters indicate how judges in unrelated cases evaluated the
case you are Shepardizing. Shepard's legal editors read each new opinion
as it comes out,and they analyze the opinion to determine how the new
case impacts all the cases and statutes cited therein. The impact,or
effect,of a new case on past law is shown with treatment letters. The
letter precedes the citation in the citators. For a detailed definition
of each treatment letter, see Treatment of Cases. Compare these cases to
the cases reported in the Pacific Reporter division, Washington Cases.
EXAMPLE: The letter "d" informs you that the Greer opinion
is"distinguished" by the opinion reported in volume 57 of the Washington
Appellate Reports, on page 351. The letter "f" informs you that on page
464 of the opinion reported in volume 927 of Federal Reporter, Second
Series, the Greer case is "followed."
Proper use of headnote numbers while Shepardizing cases can dramatically
improve the efficiency of your research. Often the case you are
Shepardizing will have been cited dozens of times; some cases have been
cited hundreds of times. By referring to the headnote references in
Shepard's citators, you can focus your research on only those cases that
are relevant to your issues.
Most case reporters add numbered "headnotes"or "syllabi"immediately
preceding the text of each case. These headnotes -- usually prepared by
the publisher, not the court -- summarize points of law discussed within
the case. Shepard's uses the headnote numbers in its citators to
specifically identify the point of law for which each case is cited.
Headnote numbers (representing legal points from the case being
Shepardized), are added to the citing case reference as a superscript
numeral preceding the page number. Often you will be interested in a
case for only one of several points of law contained therein, and so you
will want to focus your Shepardizing by looking for cases that cited
your case because of that point of law.
EXAMPLE: The superscript "1" tells you that the point of law summarized
in headnote 1 of Greer is discussed in these later cases.
Headnote numbers are included in citing references only when two
criteria have been met. First, the point of law for which a case is
cited must be clear to Shepard's editors. Judges will often cite cases
without clearly identifying the relevant point of law; Shepard's will
not draw inferences in those instances. The second criterion is that the
relevant point of law within the case being Shepardized must have been
captured as a headnote by the reporter's publisher. It may be clear, for
example, that the case you're Shepardizing was cited for its discussion
of a jury instruction issue. If the publisher of the opinion, however,
did not summarize that point of law in a headnote, Shepard's cannot show
a headnote for that citation. Obviously, if your interest in that case
relates to jury instructions, cases reported without superscript
headnote numerals may still be important to you.
See Headnote Example for an illustration of how to use headnote
references in Shepard's Citations.
Some citations shown in Shepard's are referenced by the number assigned
to the case by the court, i.e., the docket number. Shepard's receives
very current cases and analyzes them before the opinion is printed in a
reporter, leaving the docket number as the best means of identification.
Information identifying the court that issued the opinion can be found
in the preface of the citator of the most recent supplement. Because the
slip opinions themselves are sometimes difficult to find, many of
Shepard's citators (including Shepard's Federal Citations, Shepard's
United States Citations and Shepard's California Citations), include
"Docket Number Reference Tables"to provide you with parallel citations
for those very recent cases.
Below is an example from the Washington citator supplement showing
docket numbers of very recent cases. If you need more information about
a citing case, just look it up in the docket reference table.
For example, if you need the full case name and official citation for d
WADk 34558-3-I, you can find that information in the docket reference
table. It shows that the case name is Alamo Rent A Car Inc. v. Schulman,
it was decided in 1995,and it is reported in volume 897 of Pacific
Reporter, Second Series, at page 405.
DIVISIONS WITHIN A CITATOR
There are multiple divisions within many of Shepard's citators. If the
case you are Shepardizing happens to be reported in more than one
reporter, you should look it up in each of the reporter divisions in the
appropriate citator. This is important because the sources referenced in
Shepard's may vary from one division to another. Also, the publication
schedules of the reporters themselves can vary significantly. Thus, a
case mentioning your case may be published in one reporter, but not yet
published in its parallel reporter. Consequently, the unpublished case
may not yet appear as a citation in the corresponding division of
For example, the Greer case is reported in both Washington Reports
and Pacific Reporter, Second Series. It is important to look Greer up in
both divisions, because there are differences between the two. The
example to the immediate right illustrates what you might find if you
Shepardized Greer in the Pacific Reporter division of Shepard's
Washington Citations. Compare this with the example from the Washington
Notice that the majority of references come from the same reporter as
the citation you are looking up.You will see Washington Reports
references in the Washington Reports division,and Pacific Reporter
references in the Pacific Reporter division. Also, references from local
state law reviews and other regional legal periodicals appear in the
Washington Reports division only. (See the "Selecting the Right Citator"
section for more details on the differences between state and regional
divisions of a citator.)
In addition to caselaw set out by the courts, Shepard's allows you to
research statutory law as set out by Congress and state legislatures.
When your issue is governed by statutory law, use Shepard's statutes
citations to pinpoint relevant caselaw, statutes, or other authorities
that impact your statutory section. Not only can you use Shepard's to
research state and federal statutes, but numerous constitutions,
regulations, court rules, jury instructions, and other such bodies of
law can be Shepardized as well. Check the table of contents of Shepard's
citators to learn exactly which of these can be Shepardized.
Shepardizing statutes is a time saving alternative to ponderous searches
by subject matter. Instead of being forced to sift through cases that
are not relevant to your issue, you can target the most pertinent legal
authorities by Shepardizing your statute.
1. Choose the citator that matches the jurisdiction of your statute. For
example, if you wanted to Shepardize Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated,
Section 208.23, you would look in Shepard's Michigan Citations.
2. Check the "What Your Library Should Contain"section on the cover of
the most recent supplement,and gather all the bound volumes and
supplements listed. If you were using Shepard's Michigan Citations, you
would check the most recent advance sheet and be sure to collect all the
relevant bound Shepard's volumes and supplements.Cited Case
3. Use the table of contents to find the division that contains your
statute. In Shepard's Michigan Citations, you would look for the most
recent division of Michigan Compiled Laws Annotated.
Be sure to use Shepard's Update Service to get the most current
citations information available. Shepard's receives very current
information from the courts via electronic bulletin boards and other
electronic sources. It is available to you in almost any access method
* By phone * By FAX * Over the Internet * On-Line, through
LEXIS Overnight * On Shepnet,Shepard's electronic bulletin board
system * On Microsoft Network
This information can be as current as 24-48 hours from the date of a
decision from the courts. When you access Shepard's Update Service, you
will get the most recent citations from the time of your last supplement
or CD-ROM to date. They will include Shepard's editorial analysis, so
you can quickly determine the importance of those citations to your
For more information on accessing these services, call Shepard's
technical support at 1-800-899-6000.
CASE NAMES CITATORS
When you need to find a citation to a case, but all you have is a case
name or merely the name of one of the parties, you can use Shepard's
case names citators.
You can use this citation to do further Shepardizing, or you can use it
in your brief or other legal document.
Shepard's Case Names citators are arranged alphabetically by party name.
You can,therefore, look up the name of a case by either the plaintiff's
or the defendant's name. When you do, you will get the full name of the
case, the date of decision and the full citation including parallels.
For example, suppose you were aware of a relevant case from Illinois
involving "Wimp Packing Company," but you didn't know its citation. Use
Shepard's Illinois Case Names Citations to find your case.
Now you know what Shepard's does . . . let's see how it can work for
You find the case of People v. Jones, 203 Cal. App. 3d 456,249 Cal.Rptr.
840 (1988). You think this case supports your position in your legal
research problem and you want to find out whether it's still good law.
First: Because People v. Jones is reported in both California Appellate
Reports and California Reporter, you would choose either Shepard's
California Citations or Shepard's California Reporter Citations.
Second: Suppose you have California Appellate Reports in your library.
You would then choose to Shepardize Jones in Shepard's California
Citations. You would find the most recent supplement of that citator and
look at the "What Your Library Should Contain"section on the front
cover. Collect all the bound volumes and supplements listed.
Third: People v. Jones is reported in the third series of California
Appellate Reports. In order to Shepardize People v. Jones in Shepard's
California Citations, you must find the California Appellate
Reports,Third Series division of that citator. You could also find Jones
in the California Reporter division .(See discussion of parallel
Fourth: In the California Appellate Reports, Third Series division, find
volume 203 by referring to the headings in the top corners of the pages.
Once you find that volume, look down the citator columns to find page
456. Beneath that page number you will find cases mentioning Jones. By
looking at all those references you can:
1. Find the parallel citation to Jones.
2. Find other cases that are part of the Jones litigation.
3. Determine whether Jones is still "good law."
4. Find cases that discuss Jones or the same topics as Jones.
5. Find another "good case"upon which to rely.
6. Find any case that may weaken either your position or that of your
HEADNOTE NUMBERS - AN EXAMPLE
Suppose that you are relying on the case of United States v. Trullo, 809
F2d 108 (1st Cir. 1987), to support your argument that when a police
officer stops a motorist, the fact that the officer drew his gun did not
convert the stop into an arrest. That point of law is summarized in
headnote 2 of the Trullo case.
Upon Shepardizing Trullo, you find that it was cited in volume 50 of
Federal Reporter 3d. at page 1193. Moreover, the superscript numeral "2"
tells you specifically that Trullo was cited for its discussion of the
point of law in headnote 2 -- whether drawing a gun converts a stop into
You then look up page 1193 of 50 F3d (the case of Baker v. Monroe Tp.,
50 F3d 1186), to read the discussion of Trullo. See Headnote Example.
from Shepard's, 1996
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