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What are the most basic secondary sources?

What are secondary sources?

Secondary sources are analysis or commentary on the law.  Unlike primary sources, secondary sources can never be cited as authority in court.  

What are some examples?

There are LOTS of different types of secondary sources?  These include treatises (Chisum on Patents, Farnsworth on Contracts, etc.), legal scholarship (law journals and reviews), encyclopedias (AmJur, CJS, CalJur), jury instructions, formbooks, nutshells, practice materials, checklists, etc., etc.

I'm just starting my research. What is the easiest secondary source to start with?

Start with broad sources first that are easy to read.  Practice materials are the most difficult to read as they are intended for legal practitioners.  The easiest secondary materials to read and use include encyclopedias, Witkins (for CA law), ALR (mainly for federal), and jury instructions.  Jury instructions are designed to be easy to read and understand as they are intended to be read to jurors.

Witkins Treatises

State Encyclopedias

Jury Instructions

Jury instructions are a little complex in California because of their history.  There are two publishers of jury instructions in California:

  1. Judicial Council of California
  2. West's Committee on California Jury Instructions

The instructions from the judicial council are somewhat "official".  The ones published by West are the instructions that were once published by the council but have since been superseded.  For your research purposes, using either one is fine.  Remember that jury instructions are designed to accurately reflect the law but are not the law itself.