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Kentucky Legal Research

Three Basic Ways to Find A Case!

I. When You Have a Citation

If you have a legal citation, you will need to correctly identify each component to determine which reporter published you case.  Each citation is typically broken down into three basic components: the volume number; the reporter series; the page number. 

For example:       734 S.W.2d 781

734 = Volume # 734

S.W. = South Western Reporters publishing Kentucky cases.

781= Page # 781

Once you have deciphered the citation, you can use various resources to locate your case. 

  • Court Websites
  • Fee Databases:  Lexis, Westlaw, Casemaker
  • Chase Law Library Print Collection
  • Google Scholar

II. You Have A Case Name

If you have a case name (names of parties involved), there are several sources available that will enable you to locate the case.

  • Fee Services:  
    Lexis and Westlaw,  allow you to search for cases by party name.
  • Print Sources: 
    West’s Kentucky Digest 2d (KFK 1257.K42) provides a TABLE OF CASES section at the end of the set.
    The TABLE OF CASES lists alphabetically the title of each case, by both Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s names and the volume and page of the reporter.  Once you have that info, you can plug it into a legal database, google, or look it up in the books. 

III. Finding A Case By Topic/Key Words

Locating cases on a particular topic can be a daunting task, especially if you are unfamilar with the area of law.  Here are a few suggestions to help out:

  • Use Secondary Sources to find cases on a particular subject.
  • Use West's Kentucky Digest (KFK 1257.K42) and begin with the DESCRIPTIVE WORD INDEX.
  • Try a keyword search on a free Internet databases, such as Google Scholar, Findlaw, or CourtListener.
  • Try a keyword or terms & connector search on Lexis, Westlaw, or CasemakerX.
  • If you are researching a statute or court rule, you can consult the print version of the statutes.  You can also research statutes and rules using Lexis or Westlaw.

South Western Reporter

The South Western Reporter series is the official source for Kentucky case law. Consult The Bluebook for a complete listing of historical reporters. 

Kentucky cases are published in the South Western Reporter series, and West publishes a subset of this reporter, the Kentucky Decisions.  The Kentucky Decisions publishes only the opinions and decisions issued by the state appellate courts of Kentucky.  This set retains the pagination and citation style of the South Western Reporter series.

Updating Your Case

Case law, like statues and regulations, is dynamic.  Therefore it's essential to determine whether or not your case is still good law.  In order to ascertain that fact, you will need to make use of a Citator. 

A Citator is a legal reference tool that helps you determine what has happened to your case after it was released.  Basically it takes the document and lists other documents that cite that document. 

The two major legal citators are Shepards, on Lexis, and KeyCite on Westlaw.  When using a Citator, you’ll want to pay special attention to the “signal” given for your document.  In KeyCite, the signals are often flags, while in Shepards, the signals are often geometric shapes.  A red signal in both means that your document has serious negative subsequent history and you need to find out why and how it affects your issue.

Kentucky Briefs

KY Appellate Court  Briefs  - Chase Law Library Webpage
The Library offers Kentucky Appellate Court Briefs on the web for free. The website includes briefs submitted to the Kentucky Supreme Court in cases decided since January 1999 and Kentucky Court of Appeals in published decisions decided since October 2005. Coverage currently stops in 2017.  You can search by case name and by docket number.

Kentucky Briefs - Print

The Library has the older Kentucky Supreme Court Briefs back to 1975. The print briefs are organized by docket number.  This collection is in closed stack area of the law building.  Ask library staff for assistance.

Kentucky Briefs - Online

Lexis and Westlaw offer selected briefs from 2004 to present.  The briefs databases can be searched by terms and connectors.