Let me start off by stating the obvious: cases are the lifeblood of any legal practice. No matter how important the INA is to our work as immigration attorneys, how those convoluted statutory provisions are interpreted by courts is where our clients’ lives often are altered.
While most of us have treatises and practice guides sitting on our desk very few of us have access to a good case law library. Whether we are formulating an argument to make orally or writing a brief, we need the full text of cases. Having access to a wealth of case law, therefore, is critically important.
This week’s research resource, Open Jurist, provides the best free access to case law that I have seen. Billing itself as “a resource for access to the case law of the United States,” Open Jurist does just that. Its web site contains approximately 647,000 full-text decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court and lower federal courts.
You will find absolutely every Supreme Court decision from the first decision issued in 1754 (about the statute of frauds—exciting!) to the Court’s denial of a cert petition on November 29, 2004. In between you will find all the landmark cases you’re familiar with. It also contains the first, second, and third volumes of the Federal Reporter. There you will find every published decision of the federal courts of appeal through June 6, 2007.
Given its large collection it would be understandable if Open Jurist were a bit tough to navigate. However, in a testament to the skill and thoughtfulness of its creators, it’s simple to use. Just like the bookshelves at any law library, Open Jurist’s collection is arranged according to reporter title and volume number. If you know you want United States v. Martinez-Fuerte, 428 U.S. 543 (1976), for example, the case in which the Court held that secondary inspections at permanent immigration checkpoints “made largely on the basis of apparent Mexican ancestry” are constitutional, all you need to do is browse through the U.S. Reports, click on volume 428, and scroll down until you find your case—identified by page number and name.
If you don’t know which case you’re looking for or its exact citation, though, Open Jurist is still accessible to you. Each page contains a Google search box that lets you type in a few key words that will search through Open Jurist’s database. Using United States v. Martinez-Fuerte again as an example, type in “Martinez-Fuerte” into the search box and the first case that appears is the one you want.
But if those functional reasons are not enough to get you to consider Open Jurist, maybe their catchy slogan is: “Making the laws of the land accessible to the people of the land.” Congress could use that advice as it makes changes to the INA!