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Primary Sources for Legal Research by Mind Map: Primary Sources for Legal Research
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Primary Sources for Legal Research

KEY--Click Here First

To navigate in this mindmap: 1. An icon that looks like a page indicates that there are notes for that topic. 2. A circle icon with an arrow in it indicates that there is a clicakble Web link associated with the topic. 3. A plus sign means that there is more information in reference to the topic that can be reached by clicking the sign. 4. An icon that looks like a paperclip indicates that there is a file that can be opened by clicking the icon.

1. Constitutional Law

There are constitutions in every state. Each state's constitution is a primary source of law for that state. The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land. In other words, if any law conflicts with the U.S. Constitution, it cannot stand and will be found invalid. The Constitution has three main parts: the Preamble, the Articles, and the Amendments. The Preamble states the purpose of the Constitution. The Articles are the framework for the federal government. The Amendments are modifications of the original Constitution, and many give the American people their individual rights (recall that the first ten are called the Bill of Rights).

2. Statutory Law

Legislative bodies have the power to make laws, which are called statutes (at the municipal level, they are called ordinances). The laws made by Congress are either public or private. If they are public, they are made in reference to the general public. If they are private, they deal with groups of individuals, or even with a single individual. When laws are made, they are published by the government in pamphlet format, known as slip law. At the end of each Congressional session, these laws are published in a book called the Statutes at Large. Because the Statutes at Large are difficult to research, the laws are organized by subject matter and published in federal codes. State statutory law is enacted by state legislatures. These laws are also published in state codes. Local ordinances are passed by municipal bodies.

3. Common Law

Common law is also known as case law because it it written by judges who hear and decide cases. A case decided by a judge becomes precedent for cases that follow which have similar fact patterns. This doctrine is called stare decisis, and it applies only to published decisions that come from appellate or supreme courts. Decisions from trial courts, even those that are published, do not carry the weight that appellate decisions carry. When the case is binding on other courts, it is called mandatory authority. Nonbinding case law is called persuasive authority.

4. Administrative Regulations

Federal agencies are formed to help with the administration of the federal government. These agencies are given the right, by Congress, to make rules and regulations to carry out their functions.

5. Rules of Court

Rules of court are enacted by courts in order to create procedural consistency. These rules govern practice in federal and state courts.