Casetext is where lawyers (over 250,000 per month, in fact) come to search the law for answers to legal questions. They love Casetext both because searching the law is free (and always will be), and because you can use the exact same search terms you’ve always used to do research. But on Casetext, those search terms will return useful commentary and analysis from the legal community alongside the text of millions of state and federal laws, including cases, statutes, and regulations.
Here are a few basic tips and tricks for searching the Casetext database. For more information, you can always consult the research information page.
Where do I go to search?
This is the search bar (which you can see from any page on the site). Just type in a search term, and either hit enter/return on your keyboard or click the blue magnifying glass icon to run a search of Casetext documents.
As you type, you’ll probably see some initial results in the dropdown list that match your search terms, especially if you’re searching a specific case by name. If you click on a case in the dropdown menu you’ll go straight to that document.
How do I search?
On Casetext you can pull up documents by citation, run natural language searches, or use boolean connectors. For more on how to use terms and connectors, proximity searches, etc., consult the research information page.
1. Case names and citations
You can pull up a case by citation simply by typing the name or citation of the case. Typing a case name (Brown v. Board, Massachusetts v. EPA, etc.) and hitting enter or return on your keyboard will bring up that case. Or, you can find a case or statute by typing the citation (549. U.S. 497, 18 U.S.C. 2541, etc.), and hit enter or return to bring it up.
2. Natural Language
Natural language searching just means using ordinary words and phrases, like a person’s name (judge, party, attorney, etc.), a concept (“free speech,” “motion to dismiss,” etc.), and almost any other term you want more information about. There are a few tricks you can use to help get the best results from your natural language searches.
To search for an exact phrase, use quotation marks around the phrase. Searching “campaign finance” will find documents that contain the exact phrase “campaign finance.”
Use proximity searching for words close to each other. Place /N or w/N between search terms, where N is the number of words that can come between them. For example, searching either emission /5 reduction or emission w/5 reduction will find documents where the word emission appears within 5 words of the word reduction.
Use the “narrow search” function to limit search results to those which also address additional search terms.
In the above example, textbooks has already been added to “narrow search.” If you were to click “add term,” first amendment would also be added to “narrow search,” and search results would include only those documents which mention both textbooks and first amendment. If you were to click “[remove],” then you could eliminate textbooks as a requirement for search results.
3. Boolean connectors: how to use and, or, and not.
A few quick tips on using Boolean term connectors:
- The “and” connector is the default between search terms. Searching copyright book will find documents that contain both the word copyright and the word book.
- Use "or" to retrieve cases with either search term. Searching copyright or book will find documents that contain either the word copyright or the word book.
- Use "not" to exclude results containing a search term. Searching copyright not book will find documents that contain the word copyright but do not contain the word book.
- Use parenthesis to group search terms. Searching copyright not (book or film) will find documents that contain the word copyright but do not contain either the word book or the word film.
What might be returned as a search result?
Legal texts: cases, statutes, and regulations that contain your search term.
Posts: These are articles written by Casetext users -- usually practicing attorneys or professors -- that address or mention the search terms you’ve entered.
How can I sort and filter search results to find what I’m looking for more easily?
You can sort your search results by relevance (in other words, how closely results match your search terms), date (for cases, how recently they were decided, and for posts, how recently they were posted), or cite count (how often a case or statute is cited in other documents in the Casetext library). Depending on whether you are viewing legal texts, users, or posts, your sorting options may change.
Filter search results by jurisdiction: For legal texts, you can limit search results to federal or state laws by clicking on the federal or state jurisdiction bars.
To narrow to particular jurisdictions, click on the + sign next to either state or federal, and you can limit to appellate courts, trial courts, etc.
How can I use a case I’ve already read to find other useful caselaw?
Once you’ve already read a case that you’ve found useful and relevant, you can discover other related cases to further your research. Citing Cases gives you a list of cases that cite to the case you’ve already read, and it’s likely that if you found that case relevant, you’ll want to review these cases too.
If you don’t have a specific search query in mind and just want to learn more about legal issues that interest you, you can let us surface interesting content for you. To browse legal commentary by topic, go to Casetext Legal Topics and see what other lawyers are writing about in your practice area.
Any questions about searching on Casetext? Contact us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.