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Case Law Corner: Vol. 6

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Case Law Research Tools

Happy Friday, Defenders! This month’s Case Law Corner is a little different than the past few months – the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court have been quiet on opinions this past month, so we thought we would take advantage of the downtime from new cases to share some tips with everyone on legal research tools available to you when researching your cases. Have suggestions on other tools available that we missed? Leave a comment below!

Juvenile Code Book Annotated

The majority of juvenile delinquency questions and issues are based on what the Code says – or doesn’t say. Do you have a copy of the annotated code book? At $89 for a print or digital edition, the price tag is worth the investment considering every case that has ever interpreted or analyzed a statute is listed in the book, directly within that section of the code. The code book encompasses both the delinquency code as well as abuse/neglect/dependency law, and an updated code with new case law is published each year. A must-have for every attorney, get your copy here.

Office of the Juvenile Defender

We have four attorneys working within the Office of the Juvenile Defender and we pride ourselves on being a resource to attorneys in the field for questions regarding the code and case law. The monthly Case Law Corner blog, our Case Summaries document (for cases prior to 2022), our ongoing tips, tricks, and other posts, our motions and other materials, and our trainings and offerings are available to all defenders. But remember, you can also call us anytime and we will be happy to help you brainstorm a case or research a specific issue any time you ask! That leads into the next resource, which we often utilize within our office…

Lexis, Westlaw, Casetext, FastCase…

These legal research databases are a comprehensive culmination of case law, statutes, and other primary and secondary authority sources of legal information. They are powerful tools that nearly all attorneys are familiar with to some degree. One of the most powerful features of each of these resources is the ability to link and jump from one case to another, tracking by internal citations, headnotes or internal topics, or other criteria that are useful for your research needs. One major drawback for each of these tools is the price associated with using them – it can often be very cost-prohibitive for small firms or solo attorneys to have access to these resources. Remember that if we can help you research an issue here from OJD, we are happy to Shepardize cases and find other relevant case law.

Also, many bar associations will offer research tools to their members as part of their membership; for example, the NC Bar Association offers access to Fastcase.

The Google

While we all know that The Google does not replace an attorney (yet!), it can still be a powerful research tool if you are looking in the right places. Google Scholar is worth looking at for more scholarly type articles, but often a general Google search may turn up other resources that may be helpful, including sites like FindLaw, Justia, Legal Information Institute, or Oyez.

Pattern Jury Instructions

How about looking through pattern jury instructions for the case law cited for that specific instruction? While there are not a lot of juvenile-specific jury instructions available, it’s a great starting point on some more general topics, particularly dealing with the elements of a crime. Pattern jury instructions are available for free digitally, or for purchase of the hardcopy format, through the UNC School of Government’s website.

Crimes Book

A similar resource when dealing with the elements of a crime is the UNC School of Government’s Crimes Book. The book is available in hardcopy or electronic-access format and includes all case law relevant to any North Carolina crime.

Juvenile Justice Case Compendium

Similar to our Case Summaries document and our monthly Case Law Corner summaries, the UNC School of Government also maintains an online Juvenile Justice Case Compendium. The site is searchable by terms, categories, dates, etc., and provides summaries of cases in delinquency cases. The site’s biggest limitation is that it does not include unpublished cases, and because the Appellate Courts do release a lot of unpublished opinions, the JJCC does not encompass the persuasive authority available to defenders elsewhere.

Defender (and Prosecutor!) Manuals

Sometimes it warrants going back to basics to find the right starting point for your research. The North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual, published by the UNC School of Government, is organized topically and includes references to the Juvenile code as well as case law where

relevant for each topic. Likewise, while the NC Prosecutors’ Resource Online has an intended audience of prosecutors, the resource is available publicly here, and similarly includes searchable topics that reference the code and applicable case law.

Have we missed any great resources that you like to use when researching your cases and topics? Let us know in the comments below so that others can see as well!



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