Legal Research Blog


Coffee Break

For those of you who didn’t know, it’s National Coffee Day today! To celebrate many places around the country are offering free coffee, a quick Google search will tell you the ones closest to you. Meanwhile at Fastcase we wanted to pay homage to this delectable brew in our own way– with some Smarter Legal Research.

We searched statutes from around the country, including the US Code to see what law makers have done to regulate coffee. Hawaii had several codes relating to composition and weighting of coffee. In Harris County, TX, there is a tax exemption for people with green coffee, wonder if that applies to Starbucks? Wisconsin’s Statutes claim that “coffee whitener” should not be considered dairy. There are also Coffee Counties in Alabama and Georgia.

The US Code has some interesting sections on coffee, particularly in relation to the International Coffee Agreement which is an international treaty of 70+ countries involved in coffee producing/purchasing. The International Coffee Organization has some great information on this treaty.

For a full listing of the 361 results that our search yielded, click here.

Happy National Coffee Day everyone!

Smarter Searching

Having trouble finding a case on point? Use sorting and filtering to find exactly what you are looking for with Fastcase. Start by broadening your search to include as many jurisdictions and common keywords as possible.

You can then use the filtering feature to find cases in your jurisdiction. Simply click on the drop down in the upper left corner of the page shown in the picture below.

Hint: If “All Jurisdictions” is selected and you’re still not getting any results, try modifying your search string to include synonyms and/or remove adjectives that may limit your search.

From there you can sort your case law search results in 6 different ways. Make your selection on the Advanced Caselaw Search page, or wait until you see your results and re-sort on the Results screen.

Sorting Options:

Relevance: This is the default sorting order, so if you don’t make a selection, this is the order that your results will appear in. The higher the Relevance percentage (0-100%), the more likely a case is to contain a substantive discussion of your topic.

Case Name: Sorting by case name will put your results in alphabetical order.

Decision Date: Sorting by decision date will put your results in chronological order.

Court Hierarchy: Sorting by Court Level or Court Hierarchy will put your results in order according to the level or the court issuing the decision, starting with U.S. Supreme Court decisions and ending with State Supreme and Appellate Court decisions.

Cited Within: Sorting by “Cited Within” will put your results in order of the number of times each decision was cited by other decisions in your search results.

Cited Generally: Sorting by “Cited Generally” will put your results in order of the number of times each decision was cited by other decisions in the Fastcase database.

Of course, if you are still having trouble, you can contact us for additional research support. Get live customer support 8am-8pm Mon-Fri by calling us at 1-866-773-2782, e-mailing, or contacting us via Live Chat by clicking here .

Have a Smarter Lunch

For your lunch hour, Fastcase is bringing you 5 Steps to Smarter Legal Research. You can click on the full screen icon at the bottom right of the box. Enjoy!

Litigating Innovation

The Apple v. Samsung case wages on in court with both sides pulling out all the stops in what will surely be a landmark decision that changes how technology is innovated.  In a very simple explanation, Apple claims that Samsung violated at least 4 of their iPhone and iPad patents in its most recent round of mobile devices. Apple claims that not only do Samsung devices look like Apple ones, they also contain patented interactive software developed by the genius gremlins at Apple (they’re not really gremlins). To add a twist to this case “Apple is the largest customer for Samsung’s component divisions, which make chips and displays for smartphones and tablets.” Making the case a lot more juicy and with further implications for technology partnerships in the future.

The Washington Post asked the iPhone’s  Siri her opinion on the case and despite some self-adulation Siri remained fairly tight lipped about the case. In fairness, I asked my, affectionately named Android, “Andy” (albeit not on a Samsung tablet) his thoughts. Similarly, he was mum to the debate claiming to not understand/know what I was talking about.

We at Fastcase of course have love for all with our apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android, but what do you think?

Tweet @fastcase #sirivandy what you think the judgement will be and why. Best Tweet gets a “Kiss My App” shirt– we’ll let you decide what kind of App though…

Fastcase eBooks: Advance Sheets are a Glimpse Into the Future

Fastcase Advance Sheets are a series of eBooks available for on iPad, Kindle, Android, and Nook devices.

Fastcase Advance Sheets give lawyers a first look at judicial opinions from around the country in eBook format, replacing printed law books.  Advance sheets will be issued monthly for state and federal courts, including judicial opinions from courts of appeal and supreme courts.


The term “advance sheet” has been used for more than a hundred years to describe the paperback drafts mailed to lawyers and libraries before the printing of paper books. Subscriptions to the advance sheets alone cost upwards of $850 per year, for each of nine or ten series of reporters – the final books cost even more.  Lawyers in years past would thumb through advance sheets from their jurisdiction, looking for decisions of interest in their field.

But with the proliferation of judicial opinions, nobody can carry around all the paper books, much less scan through them for important rulings.  Even though the volume of decisions has dramatically increased, nobody has really re-thought the way we publish caselaw reporters since the late 1800s, when John B. West created the regional reporter system that became West Publishing Company.

Nobody until now.  The companies that print paper books can’t or won’t re-invent the industry, but Fastcase can and will.

Fastcase Advance Sheets

Fastcase has replaced the heavy, voluminous, redundant caselaw reporter with modern eBooks that are slim, light, and beautiful.  Fastcase’s Advance Sheets are more comprehensive than traditional paper tomes, because they include all decided cases – even “unpublished” opinions that won’t be printed in the books (but which are precedential in many courts, and often contain persuasive authority).

And because the Fastcase collection is in eBook format, it will work on most e-readers, including iPad, Kindle, Nook, and Android tablets.  That also means that text can be highlighted, copied, shared, annotated, rotated, read on an airplane or train, or even on a beach.  And instead of reading an entire paper advance sheet, Fastcase eBooks can be searched for key terms, and they include introductory summaries highlighting the issues in each case.

Unlike their paper counterparts, Fastcase Advance Sheets will be free.

Because Fastcase already collects these opinions for its desktop legal research service, publishing them in eBook format is simple, and the marginal cost is low.  So Fastcase offers them for free, consistent with our mission of democratizing the law and building smarter tools for legal research.  Fastcase also will introduce a series of paid eBooks later in the year, with advanced features and highlighting particular subject areas – so lawyers can follow the latest cases in their chosen field.  But the Advance Sheets will continue as a free product, under a Creative Commons license.

Fastcase’s work on eBooks has drawn inspiration from paper advance sheets from West Publishing, as well as the pioneering work of Elmer Masters of CALI, who produced the first eBook reporters with the Free Law Reporter in 2011, using the RECOP data feed.

About Fastcase Advance Sheets for eBooks:

–          Each book publishes one month’s judicial opinions (designated as published and unpublished) for specific states or courts

–          Available for iPad, Kindle, Android, Nook, and other e-readers

–          40 volumes published this week, approximately 300 more by the end of the month

–          Advance sheets for each state, federal circuit, and U.S. Supreme Court

–          Volumes begin with summaries of opinions included

–          Fully searchable, with highlights, annotations, bookmarks, and other key features

–          Free, and licensed under Creative Commons BY-SA license.