THE DATABASE AS A TREATISE
The database is now comprehensive enough to be used, much like a treatise, for research, i.e., identifying issues, avoiding common mistakes (reversals make up the bulk of the database, the same mistakes crop up again and again), finding answers to specific questions, building an overview of a broad topic, etc. Getting comfortable with the search function is all that is required. For the basics on using the search panel, click on “Just Released,” “Streamlined Research,” and “What’s Covered?“.
After choosing a category (click on “All Categories” in the search panel to reveal the drop-down menu), think of a single strong word or strong phrase which will occur in the genre of cases you are looking for and type that word or phrase, within quotation marks, into the “Search by Keywords” line. If you think of more than one strong word or phrase, try separate searches for each. If no category seems to fit, leave “All Categories” in the first line of the search panel, and type a strong word or phrase (“Dram Shop” “visibly intoxicated,” etc), or even a statutory citation (General Obligations Law 11-101″), into the “Search by Keywords” line.
Use either single words or single strong phrases (within quotation marks) as keywords whenever possible. For example:
In the category “Evidence” or “Medical Malpractice” or “Criminal Law” or “Civil Procedure,” or any other category most relevant to your facts, the single keyword “expert” may find more summaries than “expert witness” because “expert” is often coupled with “opinion” or “medical,” etc;
In the category “Criminal Law,” “ineffective” may pickup more summaries than “ineffective assistance” which might miss phrases like “counsel was not ineffective,” etc;
In the category “Municipal Law,” “immunity” may pick up more summaries than “governmental immunity.”
Although single word or single phrase searches may turn up summaries which are not directly relevant to your issue, the on-point summaries will be in the mix and, because the headings describe the issues addressed by each decision, easy to find.
Searching simultaneously for two strong words or phrases (within quotation marks) can be effective. For instance, one of the questions below asks whether failure to hire an expert will amount to ineffective assistance of counsel in a criminal trial. A keyword search in the category “Criminal Law” simultaneously using the two keywords “expert” and “ineffective” (in quotation marks) will find relevant summaries.
Some random examples of effective narrow-issue and broad-topic searches:
What are the pleading requirements for a fraud cause of action?
In the search panel, choose “Civil Procedure” from the drop-down menu, type “fraud” in the “search by keywords” line, and click on “Search.”
What types of documentary evidence will (or will not) support a motion to dismiss a complaint?
Choose “Civil Procedure,” use “documentary” as a keyword, and click on “Search.”
When is a school district liable for a student on student assault?
Choose “Education-School Law,” use “assault” as a key word, and click on “Search.” Additional separate searches using “fight,” “attack” and “supervision” as keywords may pick up additional cases.
Is falling off a flatbed truck covered by Labor Law 240 (1)?
Choose “Labor Law-Construction Law,” use “flatbed” as a keyword, and click on “Search.”
What are the grounds for overturning an arbitration award?
Choose “Arbitration,” use “review” as a keyword, and click on “Search.”
Is the failure to call an expert witness ineffective assistance?
Choose “Criminal Law,” use “expert” and “ineffective” as keywords, and click on Search.
Can the County Sheriff be sued for the negligence of a deputy sheriff?
Choose “Negligence,” use “sheriff” as a keyword, and click on “Search.” Maybe do a second search using the category “Municipal Law” and “sheriff” as a keyword.
When will evidence raised for the first time in reply papers be (or not be) considered?
Choose “Civil Procedure,” use “reply” as a keyword, and click on “Search.”
When will an issue raised for the first time on appeal be (or not be) considered?
Choose “Appeals,” use “first time” as keywords, and click on “Search.”
What are the pleading and proof requirements for the “governmental immunity” affirmative defense in actions against a municipality?
Choose “Municipal Law,” use “immunity” as a keyword, and click on “Search.” Eight pages of summaries will come up. Reading through them identifies the issues, much as reading a treatise or hornbook would, only with up-to-date case law.
What are the pleading and proof requirements for notice of a dangerous condition in a slip and fall case?
Choose “Negligence,” use “slip and fall,” or just “fall,” and “notice” as keywords to be searched for simultaneously, and click on “Search.” An astounding number of summaries of decisions finding the defendant failed to demonstrate a lack of notice in moving for summary judgment will come up.
What are the criteria for finding a verdict, or a judgment of conviction, is “against the weight of the evidence”?
Choose “Appeals,” use “weight of the evidence,” or maybe just “weight,” as a keyword or keyword phrase, and click on “Search.” Several cogent examples of how this unique genre of appellate, evidentiary analysis is applied will come up.
When is a 911 call admissible as an excited utterance, what are the analytical criteria?
Choose “Criminal Law,” use “excited utterance” as a keyword phrase, or just “utterance,” and maybe “911,” and click on “Search.”
When is a party entitled to assigned counsel in a Family Court matter?
Choose “Family Law,” use “right to counsel” or just “counsel” as a keyword phrase, and click on “Search.”