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Wednesday, November 7th, 2018 technology  research  practice

A Research Tip

  • Research & Writing

WestlawNext Canada includes an excellent Citing References tool. Today’s tip will help you in situations where you are dealing with a long list of citing references for a major case. My example relates to evidence law, but the technique will work with any legal topic.

I’ve recently learned that the law of evidence mostly originates in criminal law, and is transplanted, as needed, to civil law. Thus, most of the citations in Cudmore’s Civil Evidence Handbook are criminal cases. So, if you are a civil litigator, you may wonder from time to time how a criminal law authority on evidence has been applied in civil matters.

Take, for example, R. v. Cloutier 1979 CarswellQue 15, a case that rules that there must be a probative relationship between a fact introduced as evidence and the facts at issue in the matter. Start by pulling up that case in WestlawNext. Now find the Citing References tab and select “Cases and Decisions.” There are 207 references, and at a glance, most of them are criminal cases.

Is there an easy way to filter out the criminal case, and view the civil ones?

Look at the left-hand panel of the results screen. First, make sure you are only viewing Cases and Decisions, not all document types. Most of the filters are exclusive to case law. Going down the screen, you should see “Search within results,” Date, Depth of Treatment, Jurisdiction, Court Level, Treatment Type, Abridgment Topics, and Citation Frequency. Any of these can be used to limit the results to parameters of your choosing.

Note that the search runs immediately as you select a parameter unless you press the “Select Multiple Filters” button – which allows you to choose more than one filter at a time. Most of the time it is best to choose a single filter and see what the results are before adding another.

For the present example, the filter we want is “Abridgment Topics.” Go ahead and press the “Select” button beneath that heading.

A box appears listing possible Abridgment Topics in alphabetical order. When you select a topic, it appears in the right-hand panel of the box under the heading “Your Selections.” In this case, you might select only Civil Practice and Procedure, or to get a broader range of non-criminal cases, you could select a few other topics as well.

Then click the “Filter” button at the bottom of the box. With only Civil Practice and Procedure selected, we go from 207 hits to 15, a very manageable number – and likely to give us a good look at how that evidence rule has been applied in civil courts across Canada.

But don’t forget you have many other possible filters to work with – you can limit the results to recent cases, cases from a particular province, higher court cases, depth or type of treatment, any number of other Abridgment topics, or any combination of the above. So play around, but always being aware what each filter does to your results before adding more.

[This tip by Ken Fox originally appeared on the Law Society of Saskatchewan Library’s Legal Sourcery Blog]

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