Civil Law Sources

Constitutions, statutes and cases (judicial opinions) are the most common sources of civil law in the United States.  These types of documents are called primary sources and together make up what the law is in a given jurisdiction (state or federial circuit).  

Other legal writing such a encyclopedias, books (sometimes called treatises) and law reviews (scholarly articles) offer interpretations, analysis and recommendations about the law and what it ought to be.  These secondary sources usually point to where you can find the law.

The databases listed below provide access to primary and secondary sources of civil law in the U.S.

 

  Nexis Uni  Limitations on Use
Formerly known as LexisNexis Academic. Provides full text access to national and international newspaper and magazine articles and news transcripts, business, company, and industry information in the U.S. and abroad, and legal documents, including U.S. Federal and State court cases, and law reviews. Coverage varies.

  Public Library of Law
Free access to statutes and regulations for all 50 states and federal government.  Case law from from supreme and appellate levels of states courts from 1997 to present.  Federal case law from circuits and Supreme Ct from 1950 to present.

  Google Scholar
Use the radio button to choose "case law" to search judicial opinions across many jurisdictions. Can also filter by state or federal jurisdiction.

  Supreme Court of the United States blog - SCOTUS
The US Supreme Court weblog, featuring news, information, and commentary on all things related to the High Court.

  State and Religion in a Nutshell
eBook coming soon 3/26/2020

  Books & Media
Search for books in our collection. Use the online filter to limit to ebooks

  HeinOnline
The Religion and the Law database provides a research platform for the development, history, organization, and fundamental principles of various world religions. The collection includes the Christian Legal Society publications, an assortment of Canon Law, books, periodicals, bibliographies, and rare historical bibles. From the landing page browse databases by name, Religion and the Law.

  WEX
A free legal encyclopedia from Cornell Law School

Navigate to American Jurisprudence 2nd, a Legal encyclopedia

Canon Law Sources

Sources of Canon Law include the following:

  • Code of  Canon Law
  • Sacramental and liturgical rules (ebooks not available)
  • Rules not included in the Code (Acta Apostolicae Sedis, not available in English, Google Translate is imperfect but can give you an idea of the text)
  • Bishops Conferences and  rules of Religious Orders.

Source:  An Introduction to Canon Law by James Coriden, Appendix I, Doing Research in Canon Law

 

  Code of Canon Law
via the Vatican Web Site

  Origins
Documentary service from Catholic News Services. Includes encyclicals, pastoral letters to the bishops, diocesan policy and other documents. Use the Search link on the left of the screen to search by keyword.

  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

  Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England: A Handbook

Scholarly Articles

Law review articles and scholarly articles published in theological journals address issues related to canon and civil law.  The databases listed below can be used to search this literature.

 

  ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials (EBSCO)
Indexes academic journals, magazines, essays, books, book reviews in all fields of religious and theological studies back to the early 19th century, as well as Catholic Church documents compiled by the American Theological Library Association. Includes full text of academic journals. Brings together Religion Database and the Catholic Periodical and Literature Index on a single platform. Coverage goes back to 1981.

  Nexis Uni  Limitations on Use
Formerly known as LexisNexis Academic. Provides full text access to national and international newspaper and magazine articles and news transcripts, business, company, and industry information in the U.S. and abroad, and legal documents, including U.S. Federal and State court cases, and law reviews. Coverage varies.

  HeinOnline
Provides full text access to legal periodicals, books, government documents, legal texts, and other primary source collections in the legal field.
Subscription courtesy of the Charles Widger School of Law.

  Google Scholar
If you hit a paywall. Copy the title article and search for it in the search box on the library home page or email the librarian.

  Jurist (Catholic University of America)
A journal devoted entirely to church law. Worth searching or browsing on its own.

navigate HeinOnline & Nexis Uni to find law Reviews

Evaluating Sources

Being aware of the quality and biases of sources is critical to the research process.  Carefully consider the following attributes about the sources you use.  

 

  • Authorship-Who is the author? What are her credentials and areas of expertise?  Look for other publications by the author.  Google or search broad databases him to see what you can learn about his activities or credentials.
  • Purpose-What is the purpose of the writing?  Is it to inform or persuade?  A close reading is the best way to asertain purpose.
  • Publication type-Is the publisher or web site popular or scholarly or devotional?  If you are not sure, browse other writing by the publisher.  What internal signals hint at the purpose such as the presence or absence of citations?  If you are still unsure, you can ask the librarian for guidance.
  • Point of view-Does the writing advocate for a particular point of view or does it strive for balance or objectivity?  Web sites often have "about us" or mission statements that suggest points of view or sources of funding.  Use a broad search engine such as the search box on the library home page or wikipedia to find out about how others characterize the publisher, author or site.