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Friday, May 16, 2008

Mining Texas Courts Online

Jessica R. Alexander, Reference Librarian
Texas Courts Online is the official site of the Texas Judiciary. Opinions of the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 14 Courts of Appeals are online.
While this website provides the full text of the opinions, a major drawback is a user cannot conduct a unified search of all the courts. In addition there are no embedded links to the cases cited in the opinions. The user must click on the site for each court and perform a search. Despite this, the sites are useful for specific tasks that the user may not have explored. For example, a box in the lower right column of the Texas Supreme Court site has links to the following areas:
  1. case search,
  2. opinion search
  3. electronic briefs
  4. oral argument information
  5. oral argument audio
  6. oral argument video - co-sponsored by Saint Mary's University School of Law (unfortunately, only the Texas Supreme Court has the audio and video features)

There are also several uses for the websites that may not be apparent from the face of the sites:

  • verifying the accuracy of Westlaw and Lexis , etc. subsequent history
  • examples of briefs
  • finding leading experts and attorneys by area of practice
  • identifying major cases to aid in further electronic or paper research, saving time and online access fees
  • preparing for oral argument by listening to or watching videos of past oral arguments
  • links to administrative procedures, brief filing requirements, forms and rules of procedure

As always, the user may discover many uses and advantages of exploring these official sites in the course of legal research.