One of the large drawbacks of doing legal research with Google Scholar, the search behemoth’s free service to search legal opinions, was that you never knew what kind of opinion the results would yield. Would it be a trial court opinion, or something more controlling? Now you can stop rolling the dice. With a recently announced addition to the advanced search preferences, Google Scholar now allows you to narrow down your research by searching opinions from specific courts.
Users could always select check boxes for individual jurisdictions, but this new addition will let you drill down for exactly the cases you want. If you only need to know about decisions from the California Supreme Court and the 9th Circuit, you can frame your search accordingly. Creating the advanced search is also extremely easy. If you know how to do a Google search, then you can do legal research with Google Scholar.
When you amplify Google Scholar with Citestack, it makes for a robust yet free alternative to traditional paid online search engines like Lexis and Westlaw. Selecting which courts you want to search is relatively easy. Just click on Advanced Scholar Search and scroll to the bottom where there is a section for legal opinions.
Click “Select specific courts to search” and you will see a list of all the courts available.
Unfortunately, it looks like the advanced search doesn’t contain every court yet. For example, in Pennsylvania there are two intermediate appellate courts, but only one was on the list. That seemed strange because if I do a regular search in just Pennsylvania, cases come up from both courts.
Regardless, Google Scholar is still pretty useful. I always use it for my initial search. That usually gets the research ball rolling, and if I need to dig deeper I can narrow any paid searches based on what I find with Google.