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Columbia Human Rights Law Review - page 24 / 27

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Ch. 2

INTRODUCTION TO LEGAL RESEARCH

25

H. Conclusion

Legal research is an important task for jailhouse lawyers because it provides you with the legal rules and principles you will need to argue your case effectively. The process begins with identifying the appropriate court (state versus federal, trial versus appellate, one with proper jurisdiction). The next step involves breaking down the issues in your specific case—the factual story—to see what legal sources you can use to make your argument. You should start with finding the legislation or administrative rules that apply, which can help you identify where your rights have been violated or how a court got it wrong. It will then be important to find precedents that have facts similar to your case and support your position. Finally, after you gather different legal sources, you must make sure these sources are still valid and up-to-date (i.e., Shephardize) and cite them properly.

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