Monthly Archives: August 2011

Take the Library Tour!

Confused about the layout of the library? Not sure where to find international law and where the State Codes are hiding? Ask a librarian to take the tour.

As a new associate, you will be expected to know how to research print materials. As a solo lawyer, it will be to your benefit to take advantages of our free legal resources. A lot of new lawyers spend a lot of time in the library. Why not jump-start your way into print research knowledge while still in law school?

The library at TJSL is organized into a lot of special collections, such as the California Collection, the Federal Collection, the General Collection, and so on. Knowing where each collection is located could greatly assist you to find print materials in the library. Tours also include instructions how to use Thomcat, our library catalogue, which lists all print and electronic resources available at the library.

To arrange a tour, please contact Catherine Deane at or Hadas Livnat at

Important Collections!

4th floor, circulation desk area:
Study Aids
Self-Help Section
Thomas Jefferson Collection
Reference Collection

4th floor:
California Collection
Federal Collection
Foreign/International Materials Collection
State Codes/Regional Reporters
Popular Reading, magazines & Newspaper

5th floor:
Law reviews and journals
General Collection


Library Tips for 1Ls

Why do you need the law library?

It’s where the law librarians are.

They are experts in legal research and are happy to help you and guide you. Students have already come in asking for help with finding the statutes they need to read for class, and for studying tips.

1. Ask the Reference Librarians . . . ANYTHING…um, but if you want to know where the bathrooms are in the library, you might want to consult the building map on the touchscreens.

Your full-time Reference Librarian, and several of the other librarians, have been to Law School, so they know what you are going through. If we can’t answer your question we will point to someone who can.

2. Use the same info to log into Westlaw as you use for TWEN.

3. You can get Reference help using chat, telephone and email .

4. Students and alumni can get into the Library 7am to midnight. See library user guide for more info.

5. Take a Library Tour to find out where study aids and course reserve materials are located.

6. Read this Blog regularly for tips, tricks, Library info and new research guides. Subscribe to this blog. Put your email in the box to the right.

7. Check out the Library’s web site for more information, and anouncements.

Understand the Legal System, Find the Law

This is the first in a series of blog posts based on the Law Student Research Competency Principles as developed by the American Association of Law Libraries.

The first principle is:

Principle I: A successful researcher should possess fundamental research skills.

  • Law students should have an understanding of the complexities of the legal system. They should know the processes and the hierarchical relationships between the three branches of government and the legislation, regulations, and case law they yield.”

Although the above legal research principle only mentions three branches of government, it is slightly more complicated than that.

The three branches referred to are:

  • The judicial branch
  • The legislative branch
  • The executive branch

But there are actually more like 6 branches for any given U.S. state, since these branches exist for both Federal and State Law.

So, now we have the:

1. Federal Judiary– This consists of the federal courts:

2.  Federal Legislative Branch – This consists of the U.S. Congress

3. Federal Executive Branch – The law that is produced by this branch, is referred to as administrative law, and is generated largely by federal agencies. It is called administrative law.

At the State Level, for California, the three branches of government are:

4. The California Judicial branch – this refers to the California Courts,

5. The California legislative branch – This includes the California State Assembly and the State Senate

6. The California  executive branch – The law that is produced by this branch, is generated largely by the California agencies such as the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). It is called administrative law.

Beyond these six branches of Government, it is important to be aware of two other levels of government that affect you and your potential clients. The county government and the city government.

For San Diego Law students, we are looking at:

San Diego County Government: The County Government generates government documents, many of which are available online at the San Diego County Website.

City of San Diego – Mayor and other City Officials. Government documents produced by the  city government officials are in the care of the City Clerk. These documents include City Attorney Legal Documents.

By analogy to state government and the legal documents generated by the state government, what would be called statutes, generated by the California State Assembly, are at the city level, known as Ordinances and are adopted by the City Council.

Similarly, at the state level, administrative law refers to state regulations that are generated by state agencies such as the CPUC. At the city level, it is the city agencies such as the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency, that produces administrative law in the form of agency resolutions that are adopted by a particular agency.

The judicial branch at the city level is the City Attorney’s Office. The Mayor, the City Council, or any of the City Agencies or City Officials may ask the City Attorney’s Office a legal question either on a specific or more general issue, and the documents generated are analagous to the Case Law produced by State Courts.

It is important for attorneys to understand how government entities are related to each other and to the government information that they produce. Competent legal research goes beyond merely plugging in key words into database search boxes.

One fundamental research skill is the ability to think methodically about which government entity or entities creates the law that covers a particular issue, and to determine where to look to most cost effectively locate the relevant law. Sometimes, it will be freely available on the government website, and sometimes, it will be easy to quickly search the government website for that information.

At other times, it may be more cost effective to use the search tools available on a commercial database such as Westlaw or Lexis, but whether you need to find the right database first as you would with Classic Westlaw or Lexis, or search first and limit your results afterwards to the documents published by the right branch of government, having an awareness of the interrelation of government bodies and government information is essential to conducting legal research in a competent manner.

In general, Federal law preempts state law, State law preempts County codes, and County Codes preempt city codes. A recent example of this in the news lately is that San Francisco is not permitted to consider a local regulation banning circumcision of male babies because it would violate a state law.

The table below provides links to the freely accessible law produced by each of the government entities described in this blog post.

For researching legislative history materials at the federal and state level, there will be separate blog post.

Law Online

Jurisdiction Judicial branch Legislative branch Executive branch
Opinions Rules
Library of Congress Research Help On Finding Federal Court DecisionsFind State Court Decisions Federal Court Rules – Compiled by Cornell Legal Information Institute Find Federal Statutes Find Federal Administrative Law
Highest Court
U.S. Supreme Court Opinions U.S. Supreme Court, Court Rules U.S. Code Electronic Code of Federal Regulations (not official)
Appellate Courts
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Opinions and Orders United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Rules of PracticeFederal rules of practice, procedure and evidence
Appellate Courts with jurisdiction over CA
Federal 9th Circuit Courts
Published Opinions (Posted 01/03/05 +)Published Opinions (Posted prior to 01/09/2009)Unpublished Opinions (11/10/2009 +)Unpublished Opinions (12/08/2008 – 11/10/2009)

Unpublished Opinions (Prior to 12/08/2008)

Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure (FRAP), Ninth Circuit Rules
Federal Trial Courts Opinions are not generally available online for free California Southern District (Federal Trial Court for San Diego), Local Court Rules
California – Highest court and appellate courts CA Supreme Court and Court of Appeals Opinions CA Rules of Court CA Statutes (Browse or Search) CA Code of Regulations (Browse or Search)
California – Trial Court (San Diego) Opinions are not generally available online for free San Diego County Superior Court Rules
San Diego County San Diego County Counsel Other San Diego County Government Documents (Not an exact analogous mapping onto Court Rules) County Ordinances Code of Administrative Ordinances & Code of Regulatory Ordinances
San Diego City City Attorney Legal OpinionsCity Attorney Memorandum of Law City Attorney Legal Documents (Not an exact analogous mapping onto Court Rules) City of San Diego Municipal CodeCity Council Resolutions and Ordinances Agency Resolutions and Ordinances

Roundup of viewpoints on the Debt Ceiling


Debt Deal: A Democrat’s Perspective (Audio) – August 1, 2011

Debt Deal: A Republican’s Perspective (Audio) – August 1, 2011

Debt Deal: The White House’s Perspective (Audio) – August 1, 2011

Carl ’60 Cent’ Kasell And The Debt Ceiling (Audio/Song) –

“NPR’s legendary newscaster Carl “60 Cent” Kasell explains everything…in a RAP!”

‘Satan Sandwich’: Cleaver Weighs In On Debt Deal (Audio) – August 2, 2011

Path Ahead For Debt Legislation Remains Uncertain by David Welna (Audio) – August 1, 2011

Debt Agreement Is An Answer But No Solution? by NPR Staff (Audio) – August 1, 2011

After Debt Deal, The Tea Party Has Staying Power by Liz Halloran – August 3, 2011

Prawfs Blawg

Can the Fed Use its Over-Draft Power to Get Around the Debt Ceiling? – Friday, July 29, 2011

Volokh Conspiracy

Natelson on the 14th Amendment and the debt ceiling  David Kopel  August 1, 2011 8:13 pm

Blog post referring to an audio Podcast

Whom Should the Treasury Department Pay First?  Russell Korobkin  July 29, 2011 12:46 pm


George Washington on the Debt Ceiling Crisis – Jason Mazzone (Monday, August 01, 2011)

Lessons From the States on the Debt Ceiling Crisis – Guest Blogger David Super  (Friday, July 29, 2011)

Becker-Posner Blog

The Depression, the Deficit Debacle, and the Debt-Ceiling Crisis—Posner 08/01/2011

Virtual Library Cat’s Eye View

News and Views from Ernster, the Deane Law Library Virtual Cat.

Debt Ceiling, Explained  –  Saturday, July 30, 2011

Los Angeles Times Debt Ceiling News

Wall Street Journal Debt Ceiling News

Mail Online Could this be the end of America’s economic supremacy? By Dominic  Sandbrook