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Authority Resources for Law: Authority Resources

An authority resource is one you would cite in court or legal documents without hesitation because its authority is undisputed.

Authority Resource Defined

An authority resource is one you would cite in court or legal documents because its authority is undisputed.

The C.R.A.A.P. Test

Score a resource based on the C.R.A.A.P. Test

Dividing Research into Authority Spheres

Legal research resources are often divided into primary and secondary authorities.  Primary authority is the law, while secondary authority is often characterized as commentary on the law.  Where does a case law digest, an index, or table of cases fall?  They aren't commentary on the law nor are they the law itself.  They are not authority at all.  They are finding aids.  So legal research resources can be divided into three categories:

  1. Primary Authority, or the law itself;
  2. Secondary Authority, commentary on the law; and
  3. Finding Aids (not authority, but very useful).

Primary Authority

Only Primary Authority can be further subdivided into mandatory and persuasive authority.

  • Cases
  • Regulations
  • Constitutions
  • Court Rules
  • Statutes
  • Session Laws
  • Treaties
  • Municipal Ordinances

Secondary Authority

  • American Law Reports
  • Dictionaries
  • Journals & Periodicals
  • Legal Encyclopedias
  • Restatements
  • Treatises
  • Uniform Laws

Finding Aids

  • Bibliographies
  • Case Law Digests
  • Google
  • Indexes
  • LexisNexis
  • Westlaw
  • Words and Phrases (part of the digest system by West Publishing)