Updating Case Law

Once you have identified useful cases, it is important to update the cases before you rely on them. Updating case law means checking to see if it is still "good law", meaning it has not been expressly reversed, overruled, or otherwise impacted by subsequent authorities. If you have access to a law library, you can update cases using a citator. Otherwise, Google Scholar can help you accomplish this task:

  1. Find a case in Google Scholar. Remember to select the "Case law" option under the search bar when searching for cases.
  2. Under the case in question, look for a link labeled "Cited by" followed by a number. If there is no "cited by" link, the case may have never been cited in a subsequent case. screen capture from Google Scholar
  3. Selecting "Cited by" allows you to see all the cases that cite your case. You now need to look through these to determine whether any of them reverse or overrule the decision in your original case or otherwise suggest that your case is no longer good law.
  4. You may have an overwhelming number of results to look through. Use the “Select courts” filter to narrow your results to cases from a specific court or jurisdiction. If you’re determining whether a case is still good law, keep in mind that only the same court or a higher court can overrule a decision. However, other courts can criticize or distinguish a decision, or recognize that a decision is no longer good law.screen capture from Google Scholar
  5. Another way to narrow your results is to search within results for specific keywords. Mark the checkbox labeled "Search within citing articles" at the top of the results, then type your keywords into the search bar.Screen capture from Google Scholar