Many Moors don’t know the value of shepardizing. This is one of the reasons many cases are lost because previous cases were used
against them and they were not able to find the most recent cases.

Try to imagine the impact of the millions of cases decided in this Country over the past 200 years. Because the principle of stare decisis(to adhere to or abide by past decisions) forms the basis for this legal system, every legal decision has potential precedential value. For example, some cases are followed as precedent; i.e., they are “good law,” while others can no longer be used to support future decisionsand are considered “bad law.” As a legal researcher, you must be aware of both types of decisions. The president has learned that bad law could be used but you must know how to apply it. This was taught to him while in law school.

How would you have known about shepardizing if Frank wasn’t known. Thanks to Frank Shepard, that is not necessary. In the early 1870’s,he realized the necessity for tracking the discussion of principles of law in court opinions, and also tracking the history of these opinions.
He devised a method for extracting this information from published opinions and indexing it for the benefit of legal researchers. So, you don’t need to rely on your memory; you can rely on the information compiled in Shepard’s Citations.

First printed in 1873, Shepard’s Citations has evolved into a vitally important method of tracking CASE LAW. Today, the company named

For Frank Shepard continues working to fulfill his vision. Shepard’s collects all of the legal data necessary for a legal researcher to:
1. Determine whether your case has continued precedential value through the history letters assigned by the company’s legal editors;

2. Evaluate and analyze significant decisions by reference to treatment letters, which indicate what other judges have written about your case; and

3. Trace the discussion of specific points of law or fact through the use of headnote numbers.

To understand Shepard’s Citations, it helps to review the meanings of the following common legal terms as they apply to Citations.


CASE: This is an ambiguous term, with two or more distinct meanings. First, the term generally refers to a legal action litigated between opposing parties, e.g. Mr. Smith and Ms. Jones. That “case” starts in a trial court, before a judge, and where required or requested, a jury. Following the outcome of the trial between Smith and Jones, the case may be heard by a court of appeals, a higher state appellate court, or even by the U.S. Supreme Court. As it progresses through the various courts, that litigation may collectively be referred to as the case of Smith v. Jones.

The term “case” is also used to mean a single opinion written by a judge. In that opinion the judge applies the law (i.e. case law and statutory law), to the facts and explains how the decision was reached. Any written opinion, whether published in a case reporter or not may be referred to as a case, by its case name. Using the example above, the case name Smith v. Jones would be used to refer to opinions written during the course of the litigation. These “cases” may be used as precedent in subsequent cases.

CITATION: A citation is an unambiguous reference to a legal authority. A citation can tell you where to find the full text of a statute, case, or other source of legal information. EXAMPLE: Greer v. Northwestern National Insurance Co., 109 Wash.2d 191,743 P.2d 1244 (1987) is a citation to a case. It identifies the locations of the Greer opinion in the Washington case reporters.

In this example, the case of Greer v. Northwestern National Insurance Co. is located in volume 109 of Washington Reports, Second Series at page 191. The Greer opinion is also located in volume 743 of West’s Pacific Reporter, Second Series, at page 1244. This is a parallel citation for the Greer case. ( more information on parallel citations)

A citation can also be a reference to a statute or other legal authority. For example, Mich. Comp. Laws S 208.23 (1995) is a citation to a statute. It identifies the location in the Michigan Compiled Laws where your statute can be found.

CITATION SUMMARY: Citation summaries address the relationship between a cited case and a citing case. Included in the summary is an identification of the point of law for which the case was cited, and usually a quote from the citing case. Citation summaries are found in several of the printed citators and in CD-ROM citators.

CITATOR: A case citator is a publication that reports the subsequent litigation of a case, as well as how courts unrelated to the litigation have commented on that case. A citator for statutes reports whether any subsequent legislative action has affected or modified particular code sections and lists cases citing those sections. Because Shepard’s has been producing citators for more than 100 years, “Shepard’s” and “citator”are nearly synonymous.

CITE: Used as a verb, to “cite” a case or other authority simply means to refer to that authority. The reference can be made in a positive, negative or neutral manner. Used as a noun, “cite” is synonymous with “citation.”

COMMON LAW: Also known as case law, common law is a set of principles and rules of action that have been made by judges, in the course of writing opinions in litigated matters. That is to be distinguished from statutory law, which is law created by legislative bodies. Common law rests on the principle of stare decisis, which means that judges will abide by, or adhere to decided cases or precedent. Common law reflects
the principles determined by the social needs of the community, which change over time.

LEGAL AUTHORITY: A legal authority is a case, statute, regulation, treatise, law review article, or other legal reference source. Those sources may be binding or persuasive to a court interpreting and applying the law to the evidence presented by the parties to a case.

PRECEDENT: Precedent is a case opinion that provides guidance to a judge in a subsequent case, generally either because the prior case is similar in its facts or raises similar questions of law. Judges are usually required to decide the cases before them on the basis of principle established in prior cases. (See stare decisis.)

REPORTER: This term has historically meant books or other publications that contain the actual text of cases. A reporter may also appear in other media, such as CD-ROM.

SHEPARDIZE: To Shepardize a case or other legal authority means to use Shepard’s Citations to identify other cases and authorities that have discussed the authority being Shepardized. By Shepardizing authorities, you can analyze their current value as precedent.

STARE DECISIS: To stand by that which was decided; to adhere to or abide by prior case decisions.

This concludes the importance of shepardizing.