Before you present any document to the court (or anyone else), you must be certain that the information on which you are relying is still current.
Running a Shepard's (Lexis), KeyCite (West), or BCite (Bloomberg) report will help you determine whether the cases or statutes to which you are citing are still good law. (Note: for purposes of this discussion we will focus on Shepard's and KeyCite, though BCite offers similar features.)
Shepard's, KeyCite and BCite are examples of online citators.
A Shepard's or KeyCite case law report will provide references to two types of case law citations:
A Shepard's or KeyCite report can also be used for research purposes.
Both Lexis and West allow the researcher to use the Search Within Results feature to search within the results of the Shepard's or KeyCite report and narrow your search to specific issues or factually similar information using a terms and connectors search. This feature is useful when there are hundreds or even thousands of documents in the results list.
While Shepard's and KeyCite provide similar services, there are some features and search capabilities that are unique to each. Refer to your Basic Legal Research coursepack or the vendor's documentation for more information.
Both Shepard's (Lexis) and KeyCite (West) rely on similar (though not identical) sets of symbols to indicate the status of cases. These symbols are called signals in Shepard's, flags in KeyCite and indicators in BCite.
Red symbol: indicates the case is either bad law on at least one point of law or has had a significant amount of negative treatment.
Yellow symbol: caution. Both Lexis and West use this symbol very liberally.
Other symbols: Shepard's and KeyCite use a variety of symbols to indicate cases that indicate positive treatment, neither positive or negative treatment (e.g., explained), are on appeal, or other statuses. Refer to each vendor's documentation for fuller explanations.
When looking at a Shepard's or KeyCite report, the only relevant symbol is the one before the case name/citation that you are Shepardizing or KeyCiting. The symbols before the other cases retrieved in the report are not relevant. Those symbols simply indicate whether the cases that relied on your decision are still good law.
Important: do not rely on the symbols as the sole source of information. It is important to identify whether the citing case had any significant effect on the decision being Shepardized or KeyCited. A decision overruling a case on an issue different from the one you are researching may still provide useful information. You must read the cases to make your own determination of the citing case's effects on the decision at hand.
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