Google Scholar makes case law accessible for the regular guy (and gal)

On Nov. 17, Google added a feature to Google Scholar that will enable people everywhere find and read full-text legal opinions. Included are U.S. federal courts, including district, appellate and Supreme Court, as well as state appellate and supreme courts. You can find cases by party name, citation or topic. Simply go to http://scholar.google.com/ and select the "legal opinions and journals" radio button. For example, typing in "seperate but equal" brings up the cases Brown v. Board of Education and Plessy v. Ferguson as well as many others.

When you select the case name, it is pulled up for your viewing pleasure. As you scroll through the document, you will notice that Google highlights the terms for which you searched. Along the left-hand side, Google provides the pagination.

Along the top you will find two tabs: "view this case" and "how cited." Google Scholar defaults to "view this case." The "how cited" tab provides you with examples of how the case you are looking at is cited.

For example, with Brown v. Board of Education, the first listing under "how cited" is:

As we noted in Brown I:" To separate [Negro school children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone."
- in Wright v. Council of Emporia, 1972 and 374 similar citations

So check out Google Scholar and let me know what you think. Will it give Westlaw and Lexis a run for their money?

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian