Free Internet Legal Information - Popular Resources

  • FindLaw for Legal Professionals (Thompson Reuters) Includes case law, case summaries, statutes, legal search engine, legal news, RSS court updates, and practice information.
  • Government Publishing Office (FDsys) Access to official Federal Government publications, including authenticated PDF documents.
  • Guide to Law Online (Law Library of Congress) Annotated Portal containing selected links to United States, Foreign, and International law resources, many offering primary, full-text legal materials.
  • Justia Includes case law, statutes, regulations, articles, opinion summaries (newsletter), and limited access to Federal District Court dockets.
  • Legal Information Institute (LII)  (Cornell University Law School) Provides primary legal materials, legal encyclopedia, and the Supreme Court Bulletin.  
  • Public Library of Law (Fastcase) Includes case law, statutes, regulations, court rules, constitutions, and legal forms. 
  • WashLaw Legal Research on the Web  (Washburn University School of Law) Links to federal, state, international, and foreign law, search government information by topic.

Search Engines

These sources limit Web-searching to law-specific resources.

Free Internet Legal Research – Resources Available by Information Type 

Federal Law

  • United States Constitution
    • American Memory (Library of Congress) Find documents from the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (1774-1789), includes images of original documents and related materials. 
    • FDsys (U.S. GPO) Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (Historical 1992-).
    • Founder’s Constitution (University of Chicago Press) Provides links to historical documents related to the development of the Constitution. 
    • LII CRS Annotated Constitution Prepared by the Congressional Research Service.
    • National Archives Images of original documents and historical information. 
  • United States Code
    • FDsys (1994-) Authenticated PDFs.  Note that official Code is print edition published by the Government Printing Office. 
    • Guide to Law Online (Law Library of Congress/HeinOnline) (1925-1988, includes content up to 1993) PDFs.
    • LII Current and newly codified (preliminary release) legislation. Browse or search by citation.  Links to part of Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) for which statute provides rule making authority. 
    • Office of Law Revision Council (U.S. House of Representatives) Prepares and publishes U.S. Code, provides searchable code (1988-), preliminary release Code, and tables. 
  • Legislative Information
  • Case Law
    • Findlaw  (Cases & Codes > Select Court)
      • U.S. Supreme Court (1893-)
        • Search by citation, party name, or full-text
        • Browse cases by year (2005-)
        • May use Boolean and proximity operators, and wildcards
      • U.S. Courts of Appeals (1995-, First Circuit 2/1984-, Ninth Circuit 11/1994-)
        • Search full text, by party name, or docket number
        • Browse recent decisions
    • FDsys
      • U.S. Courts of Appeals (coverage varies)
      • U.S. District Courts (coverage varies)
    • Google Scholar (Legal Documents > Search all or selected Federal Courts)
      • U.S. Supreme Court (1791-)
      • U.S. Courts of Appeals (1923-)
      • U.S. District Courts (1923-)
    • Guide to Law Online (Law Library of Congress/HeinOnline)
      • U.S. Supreme Court (1754-2004) PDFs
    • Justia  (Laws: Cases & Codes > Browse by Volume or Year (Sup. Ct. 1959-).
      • U.S. Supreme Court (1791-)
      • U.S. Courts of Appeals (1951-)
      • U.S. District Courts (coverage varies) Decisions and Orders by State/District
    • Legal Information Institute (LII) (Legal Resources > Federal Law > Judicial Branch)
    • Public Library of Law (Case Law > Search by Keyword; Advanced Options > Restrict by Date Range and/or Jurisdiction > Search by Keyword.  Results displayed by relevancy)
      • U.S. Supreme Court (1759-)
      • U.S. Courts of Appeals (1950-)
  • U.S. Court of Appeals Oral Arguments
    • Court Listener Audio of Circuit Court oral arguments. Coverage varies.
  • U.S. District Court Case Records
    • Justia (U.S. Law > U.S. Federal Law > U.S. Federal Court Dockets & Case Filings) Coverage varies, may only include docket sheet (2004-)
    • RECAP The Law Provides instructions to access donated District and Bankruptcy Court documents from PACER (Coverage incomplete, varies).
  •  Finding Citing Cases
    • Findlaw  From case display, select “cases citing this case” 
    • Google Scholar  From case display, select “how cited”  

Note:  There is no free source to specifically verify case validity. While in the GMU Law Library, patrons may use dedicated terminals providing Keycite , Shepards, or Bcite services.

  • Administrative Law

Consult individual websites for agency-specific rules, regulations, decisions, and other resources.  

  • Regulations
    • Federal Register
      • FDsys (Official, 1994-) Browse by date and agency, PDFs.
      • Guide to Law Online (Law Library of Congress/HeinOnline)(1936-1993) PDFs
      • Office of the Federal Register Browse current issue, links to Federal Register content on FDsys. 
      • Regulations.gov Search regulations by keyword, title or Regulation Identifier Number, filter searches by agency, document type, comment period, or category. Find and post comments on proposed regulations. 
    • Code of Federal Regulations
      • FDsys (official, 1996-) Browse by year and Title, PDFs.
        • e-CFR (unofficial) Current edition, updated daily.  Browse by Title, search by keyword. Content should be verified against official version when available on FDsys.
      • Guide to Law Online (Law Library of Congress/HeinOnline) (1938-1995) PDFs
      • Legal Information Institute (LII) (unofficial) Browse by title, search by keyword.  Includes Parallel Table of Authorities showing agency regulatory authorization. Content in database refreshed weekly. 
  • Presidential Resources  

State Law

Please also consult the library’s Virginia Legal Materials Research Guide for information about free Virginia resources.

  • Primary State Materials (Constitutions, Statutes, Cases) 
    • FindLaw: State Resources Includes state constitutions, codes, bills, court opinions, and administrative codes. Coverage varies by state.
    • Google Scholar Provides state supreme court and appellate decisions (1950-). Use "advanced search" to restrict to specific state courts.
    • Justia: U.S. States Includes state constitutions, cases, and links to legislative resources. Coverage varies by state.  

International and Foreign Law

Please consult the library’s International Law Research Guide under the heading “Other Online Resources” for additional resources.

Journal Articles

  • ABA Legal Technology Resource Center  Search more than 400 online full-text journal/law reviews and related sources, including Congressional Research Service Reports.  Coverage varies.
  • BePress  Browse or Search over 90 law journals published in the Digital Commons open access repository.
    • Law Review Commons a resource provided by Bepress, browse and search law journal articles made available by institutions through their bepress Digital Commons repositories.
  • Google Scholar  Limits Google search to academic journal articles, conference papers, dissertations, theses, indexes articles and abstracts from major academic publishers.  Coverage and access to full-text varies.
  • Social Science Research Network (SSRN)  Widely used by scholars to share papers and articles in several topical networks.  Legal Scholarship Network includes over 130,000 papers searchable by keyword, title, author or date.  

Dictionaries

Legal News and Blogs

Research Guides

There are numerous topical online legal research guides, many written by librarians at university and public law libraries. In addition to George Mason Law Library Research Guides, other recommended sources for research guides include:

Low Cost Databases 

The services listed below offer a variety of plans that provide enhanced searching for primary legal materials, although fewer search features than premium legal databases. In addition, while these products offer citators, however the updating features are not equivalent to Shepards, Keycite, or BCite. 

  • Casemaker
    • Federal and state cases and statutes, citator
    • Monthly and annual subscriptions available, fees based on state bar membership (free with some state bar memberships---not D.C., Maryland, or Virginia).
  • Fastcase
    • Federal and state cases, statutes, regulations, court rules, and bar publications.
    • "Authority Check" citator: identifies citing cases, flags cases that have been reversed or overruled. Note this is done with computer analytics so it is not equivalent to the human editing provided by Westlaw, Lexis, or Bloomberg law).  
    • Free access for Virginia Bar members, limited/reduced fee access for D.C. and Maryland Bar Members.
  • LoisLawConnect (Wolters Kluwer)
    • U.S. Law and Court Rules, Treatise Libraries.
    • Four pass options available for short and longer term use.
  • Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) 
    • Operated by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, provides access to Federal Appellate, District, and Bankruptcy Court case and docket information.
    • Charges $0.10 per page retrieved, $3.00 cap per document.  Quarterly charges of less than $15.00 are waived.
  • Versus Law
    • Available content includes U.S. and foreign primary source materials, varies with plan.
    • Three legal research plans offering monthly and yearly options.

Last updated May 11, 2015