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Page Title: Sources of Authority
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List of Lawbooks in the Typical NLSO  Law  Library The  following  list  of  lawbooks  is  usually  included in all NLSO law libraries: l l l l l l l l l l l l l United States Reports Lawyer’s  Edition  of  the  Supreme  Court  Report Supreme  Court  Reporter United States Law Week Federal Reporter Federal  Reporter,  2d  Series Federal  Supplement Military  Justice  Reporter Court-Martial   Reports United States Code Annotated Code of Federal Regvlations Black’s  Law  Dictionary The local state statutes Sources  of  Authority There are three types of books in the law library; those that contain the laws that are to be enforced by our government; those that explain or try to describe the law; and those that help us to find a particular law. These books fall into three basic categories called primary authority, secondary authority, and finding tools. Do not confuse this manner of description with official and unofficial. Primary authority includes rules for human behav- ior that are enforced by the state or federal government. In other words, it is the law and it must be followed. Primary authority may be in the form of court decisions, statutes enacted by our Congress or other legislative bodies, or administrative law. You will find that when Congress enacts a law, it is usually written in very broad and general terms so many people are affected by it. The courts then apply the laws to  a  specific  set  of  facts.  The  courts  also  use  prior decisions of courts to guide them in how to decide a case. A legal term known as stare decisis is followed in most cases by the court system. By definition it means to  adhere  to  precedents  and  not  unsettle  those  things  that are  already  established.  In  simpler  terms,  this  means that when the facts of a current case are basically the same as the facts in a case previously decided by the courts, then the decision reached by the court in the current case should be the same as it was in the earlier case. Secondary authority is not the law itself, but instead is an explanation or description of the law. Since it is not actually the law itself, it lacks legal authority in a formal sense, but it has some degree of persuasive value. This persuasive value exists because of the soundness of the reasoning of the explanation or description; or possibly because of the status of the court presenting it; or  possibly  because  of  the  author’s  explanation  or  de- scription. It, most often, is contained in unofficial sets of books, but not always. Some  types  of  books  that  might  be  secondary authorities are text books, treatises, commentaries, re- statements, and periodicals. Finding tools are those books that help the re- searcher to find a particular law contained in a primary or  secondary  source.  It  is  estimated  that  some  30,000 new decisions are made each year in our court systems. In addition, there are already more than 18,000,000 published  decisions.  It  would  be  physically  impossible for any one person to read all of them, let alone try to remember them and then use them to prepare a case for trial. As the term finding tools indicates, these books are the tools of the researcher. Learning to use them makes conducting research much easier. Some samples of finding tools are digests, citators, encyclopedias,  phrase  books,  indexes,  some  loose-leaf services, annotated compilations, and dictionaries. MINIMUM  REQUIREMENTS Every law library should contain those legal refer- ence materials that are required for the lawyers using that  library  to  adequately  perform  the  legal  research necessary  to  provide  effective  service  in  their  areas  of responsibility.  Even  though  you  will  not  be  primarily responsible  for  determining  what  material  should  be contained in the library, you should be familiar enough with the contents of the library and the demands placed on it for specific research materials to recommend or at least be able to provide a list of books that lawyers should have available for their use when requested. To accomplish this, it may be necessary to ask the lawyers in your office what materials they need. In addition to this, you also should check the standard minimum list of commercial lawbooks that is provided to all field libraries by the Judge Advocate General (JAG). This 2-3

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