you should learn in this article
Lets start by
discussing what we hope you will learn in this article. Once you finish reading this
article, you should have a basic understanding of how an attorney performs legal
research. You should understand how the federal court system is structured and you
will learn about the three basic areas of the law that an attorney researches: (1)
statutes; (2) case law; and (3) regulations.
Why do we focus on
researching federal law? Because the information discussed in this article applies to
everyone nationwide. However, you will find that the knowledge you gain on the subject of
researching federal law will help you when you are researching state law as well.
The articles on this web site will help you understand the basics of
legal research and the basics of employment discrimination law. But only a person trained
as an attorney can perform research as well as an attorney and only an attorney in your
community can advise you on your particular legal situation. Therefore, never forget
that these articles are in no way a substitute for competent legal advice.
A primer on our federal
Our federal court system has three different
circuit courts of appeals; and
the Supreme Court.
Author's Note: For a
better understanding of what happens in a lawsuit that is filed in the federal district
court and then appealed to the federal court of appeals and the Supreme Court, read our
article: Anatomy of a Lawsuit.
For our purposes, we just need to understand that
federal lawsuits begin in federal district court.
Within each State, the federal district courts
are organized into judicial districts. For example, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the
district courts are organized into an Eastern District and a Western District. Each county
in Virginia is assigned to either the Eastern District or the Western District. If you
live in Charlotte County, Virginia, then your lawsuit would be filed in the Western
District Court of Virginia.
Some States, like Vermont, have only one judicial
district for the entire state. But the district court of Vermont holds court in several
locations: Bennington, Brattleboro, Burlington, Montpelier, Rutland, Saint Johnsbury and
Windsor. So wherever you live within the United States, you are living within a
particular district of the federal district court.