Library Notes for Political Science

Teaching resources, news, and links to keep McGill’s Political Scientists informed

U.S. legal information from Google

Posted by Megan on December 14, 2009

The ubiquitous Google is constantly expanding its products, services, and spheres of influence. One recent addition to its search features is rather interesting for social science and legal research: Google Scholar now indexes legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate, and supreme courts. The full text of the opinions are freely available online.

The main search screen allows users to limit to legal information only, and the advanced search screen allows for further refinement by state or federal court.

An important feature for researchers is the “how cited” function, which displays citations for other decisions and journal articles that have cited the original case. An extremely basic search for Maher Arar shows how easily legal information can be retrieved:


An official blog post from Google (“Finding the laws that govern us“, with a rather enigmatic pronoun) describes the service more completely.

However, unsurprisingly, Google does not offer the same level of search precision as legal giants like Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw, and Hein Online. In the case of Hein, at least, Google’s indexing is not complete (see details on the Hein Online blog). The tool is new, but legal librarians and researchers have offered some preliminary assessments, for example on Slaw and the Columbia Science and Technology Review.


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