Note: Before Relying On Any Decision Summarized on this Site, Make Sure It Remains Good Law Using the Method You Trust for that Purpose. See the Discussion Under “Shepardize” in the “How to Use the New York Appellate Digest” Section on the Home Page.
SEARCHING FOR ONE KEYWORD OR PHRASE IS BEST
THE NEW YORK APPELLATE DIGEST SEARCH ENGINE IS UNIQUE AMONG LEGAL DATABASES BECAUSE SEARCHING FOR A SINGLE STRONG WORD OR PHRASE WILL OFTEN PULL UP WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING FOR
THINK OF A STRONG WORD OR PHRASE THAT WILL ONLY OCCUR IN THE GENRE OF CASES YOU ARE INTERESTED IN AND TYPE IT (IN QUOTATION MARKS) INTO THE “SEARCH BY KEYWORDS” LINE OF THE SEARCH PANEL
IF THE WORD OR PHRASE IS UNIQUE OR NEARLY SO, YOU MAY NOT NEED TO CHOOSE A CATEGORY (LEAVE “ALL CATEGORIES” IN THE FIRST LINE OF THE PANEL)
CHOOSING A CATEGORY IS OFTEN HELPFUL, HOWEVER—FOR EXAMPLE, SEARCHING FOR “INEFFECTIVE” IN “CRIMINAL LAW” OR “ATTORNEYS” WILL PULL UP “INEFFECTIVE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL” CASES AND NOTHING ELSE
OR, AS ANOTHER EXAMPLE, SEARCHING FOR “LADDER” IN “LABOR LAW-CONSTRUCTION LAW” WILL PULL UP LADDER-FALL CASES AND NOTHING ELSE
TO ENSURE COMPLETENESS, THINK OF SEVERAL STRONG WORDS OR PHRASES AND DO SEPARATE SEARCHES FOR EACH—THE RESULTS OF YOUR FIRST SEARCH MAY SUGGEST SEVERAL OTHER STRONG SEARCH TERMS
BECAUSE THE ISSUES ARE EXPLAINED IN THE HEADINGS, SIFTING THROUGH THE SEARCH RESULTS FOR THE MOST RELEVANT CASES IS FAST AND EASY
The Search Panel at the top of the Latest Posts section of the Home Page and on the right side of every other website page allows access to all the decision-summaries posted since January, 2013—now over 14,000 posts.
The legal categories addressed in the database are listed in the drop-down menu of the Search Panel (click on “All Categories” to reveal the menu) and in the Footer at the bottom of the page.
Each decision-summary in the database has already been placed into all of the legal categories touched on in the case. For example, a summary of a slip and fall case may involve municipal law (tort liability for sidewalk defects), notice (actual or constructive, written notice to the municipality), summary judgment issues (has a prima facie case been made out, or negated?), and contract law (can the snow-removal contractor be liable?). That single decision-summary will have been added to the categories “Municipal Law,” “Negligence,” “Evidence,” and “Contract Law.” Searching for “fall” as a keyword phrase in any of those categories will find it. Because the database is already organized by category, searching for a single strong keyword or phrase is often all that is needed to find exactly what you are looking for.
Only the most useful and instructive decisions have been chosen for the summaries. Each selected decision has already been studied, analyzed and categorized. The dominant issues addressed in each decision have already been identified and explained in the concise but complete summary-headings. The most cogent explanation of the applicable law within each decision has already been located and quoted verbatim. Most of what ordinarily goes into case-law research has already been done before you start a search. Every search-result mimics a memorandum of law, or a supplement to a treatise, or a dedicated update service, which can be downloaded or printed out.
Some helpful hints for efficient use of the search function follow:
1. Category Searches (Without Any Keywords): Just clicking on a category, either in the drop-down menu in the Search Panel, or in the Footer at the bottom of the page, will pull up all the decision-summaries in that category, most recent first. Browsing through the summaries will give you the big picture, highlighting trouble spots addressed in the recent decisions and identifying issues that may not be obvious.
2. Keyword Searches—Single Strong Words (Within Quotation Marks) or Single Strong Phrases (Within Quotation Marks) as Keywords (in the “Search by Keywords” Line of the Search Panel) Produce the Best Search Results: For example, the keyword “conflict” in the category “Attorneys” may find more summaries than the phrase “conflict of interest” because a “conflict of interest” search may miss phrases like “created a conflict,” etc. Or, the keyword “testimonial” in the “Evidence” category may bring up more summaries than “testimonial hearsay” because phrases like “the hearsay was testimonial” may be missed. Several strong single word searches done one at a time may increase the number of relevant summaries found. For example, in the category “Evidence,” after a “testimonial” keyword search, a keyword search for “confrontation” (as opposed to “right of confrontation”), another keyword search for “confront,” which will catch phrases like “right to confront witnesses,” and perhaps “Crawford”(for the seminal testimonial hearsay case) will find more on-point summaries.
3. Keyword Searches—Even Two Strong Keywords (Within Quotation Marks) or Two Strong Phrases (Within Quotation Marks), Searched for Simultaneously, Can Produce Strong Search Results. The keyword search function works best using a single strong word or single strong phrase (in quotations marks). But a simultaneous search for two strong words or phrases (each within quotation marks) can be effective. For example, a search in the category “Municipal Law” for the keywords “immunity” and “special relationship” will bring up decision-summaries addressing two related but distinct issues: (1) is there a “special relationship” between the municipality and the plaintiff which would allow a negligence suit? and (2) even if there is a “special relationship,” does governmental immunity preclude the suit?
4. Keyword Searches—Where No Category Seems to Fit or Where the Keywords Are Unique or Nearly So, Use “All Categories” and One or Two Strong Keywords in Quotation Marks.
Ex: Category: All Categories; Search by Keywords: “Dram” (for “Dram Shop” decision-summaries describing the statutory remedies for injuries stemming from a bar serving alcohol to visibly intoxicated persons).
5. Keyword Searches—Do Several Searches for Strong Keywords or Phrases, One at a Time, to Ensure Completeness: For completeness in keyword searches, do more than one keyword search. For example, for Dram Shop cases, in “All Categories,” do a keyword search for “dram,” then do a new keyword search for perhaps “visibly intoxicated” or simply “visibly.”
6. Category and Keyword Searches: A search for keywords or phrases within a legal category will pull up relevant summaries from all the appellate courts. Simply click on a category in the drop-down menu in the search panel and type a strong keyword or a strong phrase (within quotation marks) into the “Search by Keywords” line. Single strong words or single strong phrases (within quotation marks) work best.
Ex: Category: Criminal Law; Search by Keywords: “ineffective” (for “ineffective assistance” decision-summaries).
Ex. Category: Negligence; Search by Keywords: “fall” (for “slip and fall”).
Ex. Category: Labor Law-Construction Law; Search by Keywords: “ladder” (for “fall from a ladder” decision-summaries).
7. Category, Keyword and Specific Court Searches: Category searches are easily confined to specific courts. Click on a category, choose the court by clicking on it in the menu, and type a strong keyword or phrase (within quotation marks) in the “Search by Keywords” line. To choose multiple courts, hold the “Ctrl” key down and click on the courts in the menu. To de-select a selected court, hold down the “Ctrl” key and click on it.
8. For guidance on how to use the database to bring yourself up to date in your practice areas, click on “Update Service“.
9. For guidance on finding the official citations and pagination for the decisions summarized in this database, click on “Official Citations and Pagination.”
10. For an imperfect overview of the topics covered in the New York Appellate Digest database click on “The Database at a Glance.”
11. All the case citations at the end of the decision-summaries are linked to the full decisions published at the official “New York State Law Reporting Bureau” website. The citations are to the slip opinions. Approximately two months after release, the official volume citations are added to the “New York State Law Reporting Bureau” website.