Features – Keycite Review

Al Harrison is a patent attorney practicing intellectual property law with a concentration in computer and online law, and a mediator for related matters, with the Houston firm of Harrison & Egbert. He is a member of the faculty of the Resolution Forum focusing on mediating online via the Internet and corporate Intranets. Al is chair of the Online and Computer Law Section of the Houston Bar Association; is a past chair of the Law Practice Management Section; and sits on the council of the Federal Practice Section. He is a past chair and sits on the council of the State Bar of Texas Computer Section; and is chair of the Computer Law Committee of the Intellectual Property Law Section. He is a past chair of the Computer Law Committee of the Houston Intellectual Property Law Association.

Legal researchers who have already become conversant with the benefits of CD and online based research will be amazed by the quantum leap taken by West Group’s KeyCite citator. On the other hand, legal researchers who are still relying upon hardbound books supplemented by advance sheets to conduct research, finally have the undeniable incentive to “suffer” no more: KeyCite has arrived and continues to get even better! But, as will be clearly shown by this review, to classify KeyCite as a “citator” is a gross understatement.

In KeyCite West Group has delivered the ultimate in near real-time citation efficiency – corresponding to a synergy of fast, accurate, comprehensive, and technologically-aware (“fact“) research tools for attorneys and their support staff to effectively research case law and statutes, with cross-references to highly-regarded treatises and law reviews. KeyCite provides this fact system with direct history available within only 2-4 hours of receiving a decision and with overruled cases duly noted within 24 hours. There is more good news: KeyCite’s research universe encompasses not only all federal and state cases (from the beginning of the National Reporter System), ALR, Am. Jur. 2d, Couch on Insurance, Norton on Bankruptcy, The Rutter Group California and Texas Guides, Witkin California Treatises, Mertens Federal Law of Taxation, Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure, but also statutes from all 50 states, NLRB, USCA, and CFR. Furthermore, KeyCite’s universe also includes more than one million unreported cases and 600 law reviews.

KeyCite is driven by an “engine” that emulates a legal researcher’s dream come true: a foolproof modus operandi for ascertaining, in near real-time, the precedential authority of cases and statutes based upon current decisions. KeyCite provides a powerful ensemble of assessment tools that include Warning Flags indicative of negative history, Depth of Treatment Stars indicative the extent of discussion of the cited case, and special quotation marks indicative of instances in which the cited case has been quoted.

Figure 1 depicts the initial screen for a KeyCited case. In particular, for a case cited as 26 F.3d 1335, the History of the Case category is enumerated as Direct History (consisting of three documents, numbered 1, 2, and 3) and Related References (consisting of two documents, numbered 4 and 5). Regarding the Direct History of the cited case, document no. 1 corresponds to the August 29, 1991 decision of a court in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Document No. 2 corresponds to a 1994 Fifth Circuit opinion; note that KeyCite indicates that this opinion affirmed the trial court in part and reversed the trial court in part. Document No. 3 corresponds to another Fifth Circuit opinion, issued in 1995; note that KeyCite indicates that the Fifth Circuit denied rehearing but supplemented its earlier opinion. Now considering the Related References category, the two documents enumerated correspond to proceedings in the trial court that occurred in 1989 and 1992. As is an inherent feature of Westlaw, any case or statute enumerated in KeyCite may be immediately invoked by simply clicking the hot-linked number. Thus, by clicking the numeral 4, the researcher is immediately brought to the trial court’s 1989 decision that denied defendants’ motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to the Southern District of Texas since it is a more convenient forum for litigation. Similarly, by hot-linking to the last document, identified by numeral 5, the researcher is immediately brought to the trial court’s 1992 decision that adopted the findings of fact and conclusions of law of its appointed special master.

Still referring to this KeyCite screen, note (on the left side of the screen immediately below Show Full History) that in addition to this display of the full history of a case, there may only be Negative History Only and Omit Minor History displays. Figure 2 depicts the KeyCite Negative History Only screen for this cited case. The two fifth Circuit opinions are enumerated as documents identified by the numerals 1 and 2. None of the trial court’s decisions are displayed. Figure 3 depicts the KeyCite Omit Minor History screen. As in the Full History display, this screen just shows the three documents corresponding to the direct history of the cited case.

Figure 1: Full History

Full History

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Figure 2: Negative History

Negative History

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Figure 3: Omit Minor History

Omit Minor History

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Significantly, in each of the three history screens, at the top of the screen, a yellow flag is shown preceding the style of the case and its full citation. This yellow flag signals caution, i.e., that, in view of subsequent opinions, West Group’s legal editors’ analysis suggests that this case has negative history — in the form of being amended, modified, declined to extend holding or holding limited, or holding called into doubt. The absence of a red flag indicates, by subtraction, that the case is still good law because it has not been overruled, vacated, or superseded. Once the history of a case has been reviewed, then the citations to the case become the focal point.

Figure 4A: Citations-4Star


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Figure 4B: Citations-1Star


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Figure 4A depicts the KeyCite Citations screen. 139 citations are enumerated in categories of Depth of Treatment stars. A four-star symbol indicates that the citing case includes a substantial discussion of the cited case — typically at least the equivalent of a printed page of text. A three-star symbol indicates that the citing case includes at least a paragraph discussion of the cited case — less than the equivalent of a printed page of text. A two-star symbol indicates that the citing case includes only modest discussion of the cited case — less than a paragraph. As shown in Figure 4B, a one-star symbol indicates that the citing case includes only a brief mention of the cited case — typically just being included in a string citation. Thus, as shown in this illustration, of the 139 citing cases, one received a four-star rating, 6 received a three-star rating (numerals 2 through 7), 15 received a two-star rating (numerals 8 through 22), and 2 received a one-star rating (numerals 23 and 24). The last category of citations is Secondary Sources generally comprising law review articles or the like (numerals 25 through 139). Of course, the researcher may immediately have access to any of these citing references by simply clicking on the numeral to trigger hot-linking. Looking at figure 4A again, indeed, hot-linking to the four-star case, DSC Communications Corp. v. DGI Technologies, Inc., delivers the researcher to the location in the citing case that, indeed, examines the cited case. This feature alone justifies the use of KeyCite affording the ultimate in convenience, not to mention completeness of legal research.

It should be evident from walking through these screens that KeyCite strives to simplify and to fail-safe legal research. For instance, note that for each citing case in each of the four star categories, the full case citation is given. This enables the researcher to quickly determine the pertinence of the case based upon jurisdiction, court, date, etc. Generally, most attention should be focused upon four-star and three-star citing cases. Notice that all of the citing three-star cases include the quotation mark symbol corresponding to where the cited case has been quoted. Also notice that each citing case displays the applicable headnote (“HN”). Thus, the four-star citing case identified by numeral 1 references headnotes 3, 8, and 9, while the three-star citing cases identified by numerals 2 and 3 reference headnotes 1,3 and 5.

KeyCite provides the capability to limit research results to particular headnotes obviously coordinated with the West Group’s Key Number System. As seen in Figure 5 for each of the 26 headnotes in the cited case, KeyCite enumerates the full text of the headnote so that relevant issues may be immediately addressed. Again, no time is wasted having to obtain supplemental information; all information prerequisite for effective legal researching in accessible by a mere mouse-click. As each headnote limit is identified, selection is achieved by clicking the corresponding box located on the left portion of the screen. Once all limiting headnotes have been selected, then the Apply Limits button is pressed and the restricted list of citations appears. It should be noted in the top, left portion of the screen (immediately below “Show Headnotes”) that other limits may also be used to limit citations. These other limits include specific jurisdictions; to highest courts or lower courts of such jurisdictions; to include or exclude citations from ALR, law reviews, or other secondary sources; to cases decided before or after a particular date or that was added to the Westlaw database after a particular date. Significantly, citations may even be limited by the quintessential Depth of Treatment Stars. Legal research has not known such comprehensive and accurate efficiency before the appearance of KeyCite on the search landscape.

Figure 5: Headnotes As Limits

Headnotes As Limits

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Figure 6: Statute Init

Statute Init

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Figure 7: Statute Text

Statute Text

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Figure 8: Statute Citations

Statute Citations

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State statutes and USCA and CFR have also been rendered profoundly tractable via KeyCite. Indicative of being a leading-edge tool for achieving superior legal research, besides providing the illustrated comprehensive citation-related information for statutes as well as case law, KeyCite enables pending legislation to be tracked in near real-time. Coupling this statute-tracking facility with West Group’s Notes of Decisions opens up a new window for viewing statutory developments.

Perhaps an interesting application of KeyCite to statutory construction is the “on again, off again” issue of state’s susceptibility to being sued in federal court for copyright infringement. The Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990 purportedly clarified that states were liable for copyright infringement notwithstanding 11th Amendment immunity. Figure 6 shows the KeyCite initial screen for this statute as construed in Texas federal courts. In addition to providing a hot-link to the text of this section, KeyCite provides the full citation to the statute, and historical and statutory notes. Figure 7 shows the corresponding text of the statute. All of the citations to this statute are depicted in Figure 8. Note that the citations are first broken down by citations from the U.S. Code and other. The USCA citations are subdivided into “Schools and universities” (one citation), “Immunity” (two citations), and “Waiver” (one citation). The other citations are subdivided into “Additional Citations” (seven citations) and “Secondary Sources” (several enumerated). If appropriate, limits may be applied to the citations enumerated to display only citations satisfying particular Notes on Decisions criteria.

KeyCite provides the ultimate current-awareness (aka “alert”) service available for legal researchers: KeyCite Alert. Upon demand, KeyCite monitors changes affecting federal and state cases, statutes and administrative materials. Via KeyCite Alert, researchers may request the forwarding of the full text of new documents when KeyCite information changes. Commensurate with KeyCite’s philosophy of being both efficient and comprehensive, limits may be applied to alert specifications. Results are delivered to either a printer, fax machine, or e-mail address. These results are retained on Westlaw for up to 30 days.

The easiest way to create a KeyCite Alert entry is by invoking the Wizard. As shown in Figure 9 the Wizard walks the researcher through the selection criteria for establishing alerts. If invoked, limit screens correspond to whether a case or statute is being tracked. That is, limits are specified according to the normal KeyCite protocol. When the Wizard is finished establishing a suitable entry, the entry is listed in the KeyCite Alert Directory. The KeyCite Alert Directory shows the citation, client ID, notes about the entry, and the next date on which the entry will be checked in KeyCite. Entries remain in the Directory until deleted, and may be changed at any time by clicking the arrow that precedes the citation.

Figure 9: Alert Wizard

Alert Wizard

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KeyCite has obviously brought legal research to a new level of performance, just in time to welcome the New Millennium. Indeed, KeyCite, after only a two year induction period, is clearly ready to continue to lead the way into the Year 2000 and beyond. KeyCite information may be obtained from the West Group Web site via www.westgroup.com/products/keycite. KeyCite may be accessed directly at www.keycite.com or through Westlaw at www.westlaw.com. A demo of KeyCite is available at www.westgroup.com/products/westlaw/wlawcom/tour.

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