To convince examiners or markers that one’s view or analysis is sound, it is imperative that your argument is grounded upon ‘‘good law.’’ In the context of case law, good law means simply that the case has not been overruled, doubted, or if disapplied that it was for other inapplicable reasons, which would not affect one’s intended use an argument. Traditionally, to check if a case was overruled, a researcher would have had to refer to specialised publications like the English and Empire Digest or the Current Law Case Citator.
Now, online legal libraries have made it a faster process – there are colour coded indicators near the case name signalling how a judgment has been treated – whether it was subsequently treated negatively or distinguished, and so forth. JustisOne contains easy to use tabs for its cases. For instance, under the ‘Cited Cases’ tab, cases cited within the subject case are displayed, and the treatment of how those cases were cited are indicated. By clicking on the small numbered button next to the case name, JustisOne will open the case, take you to the section of the judgment that has been cited and highlight the citation.
Another tab ‘Citing Cases’, shows how the subject case was treated in subsequent cases. If you click on the button ‘All Citing Cases’ this will open JustisOne’s CiteLine feature.
This informs the researcher of the exact context in which the subject case was discussed. Accordingly, this allows for pinpoint citation which would show a judge or examiner the level and quality of research conducted in the preparation of one’s case. It lends credence to the maker of the argument as it allows the examiner/judge to easily verify the point as argued and pin-pointed.
Justis also has an easy-to-use feature called the Precedent Map. This displays a visual representation of the subject case, and its varying connections to the Cited and Citing cases, with the three main treatment types – positive, negative and neutral indicated in different colours, and ordered chronologically, from the most recent cases on the right to the oldest cases on the left. It adds clarity to understanding the way a case has been treated over time, providing a way to quickly interpret which cases may support an argument and which may not.
Insofar as statutes are concerned, ‘good law’ would mean statutes which are currently in place, i.e. they have been enacted as law and have not been since repealed/replaced; the researcher must also be keen to note any subsequent amendments to consider how this affects their argument, if at all. While JustisOne only provides statues for specific jurisdictions, a majority of legislation for common law regions has been modelled after older English statutes. Sometimes, whilst English statutes were subsequently developed and amended, their counterparts in other parts of the world, such as the Caribbean, remain archaic. Consequently, it is often necessary to examine the older and original English statutes to trace differences in the law and so determine which line of cases may be useful guidance as they would be based on the relevant version of the statute. JustisOne provides the PDF to older English statutes with quick links to the amending subsequent statutes. Upon entering the name of the statute, the search bar prompts with likely search targets. Clicking on any of these targets would conduct that search, providing a results page filled with various versions of the statute. Thus, this allows a student to find the relevant statute easily and compare it to the earlier or later versions of it according to their needs. Knowing the exact wording of the statute and so the degree of similarity to the statute the researcher is concerned with would then help the researcher construct their argument.
The importance of thorough legal research cannot be overstated. It is imperative that students make full use of technological advantages available to them in order to have a higher chance of persuading those concerned that their argument is the correct one.