Self-Help Legal Research
Resources and Information to Help You Conduct Legal Research
Article VIII, Section 9, of the 1963 Constitution of Michigan provides for the support of public libraries and county law libraries through the collection of fines assessed for “any breach of the penal laws.”
The amount of money credited to the county law library fund, however, is insufficient for Mason County to establish, operate, and keep up to date a traditional law library that houses floor-to-ceiling shelves containing the physical volumes of law books. (The one of yesteryear, in fact, due to space constraints in our historic courthouse, has been repurposed for a shared office space.)
Therefore, to make legal resources easily accessible, and to ensure that these resources are both current and comprehensive, a computer terminal—on a first-come, first-served basis—is available for public use to conduct legal research. It is located just inside the Mason County Treasurer’s Office, Room 104, which is situated in the northwest corner on the main floor of the courthouse. With the exception of legal holidays, the treasurer’s office is open weekdays 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
This public terminal provides free access to two important resources:
- A register-of-actions (ROA) lookup, by name, of public court records in Mason County.
- There are on-screen prompts as well as instructions posted at the workstation. Ask at counter for further assistance.
- WestlawNext® Patron Access, an online, subscription legal-research service designed specifically for laypersons to conduct searches using simplified methods.
- Review the booklet Introduction to Legal Research on Westlaw Next before you go to the courthouse to use the public terminal. It includes basic instructions, with illustrations, about how to research a legal issue, understand the content of a search-results page, and refine your search to find the most relevant information.
- Get started by double-clicking on the Westlaw icon on the computer screen, select “I agree” after reading the terms and conditions, and then click Continue. Next, enter your desired search terms. When you are done, click Sign Off at the top of any page to exit and clear your browsing history.
In addition, numerous online legal resources are available at no charge, at any time, from any device with internet access. Below are a few select links that may help you prepare your case:
- Michigan Compiled Laws (MCL) – a searchable database of laws, bills, and signed public acts made available on the website of the Michigan Legislature, with links to the Michigan Constitution, legislative activity and committees, related sites, and helpful publications
- Michigan Court Rules (MCR) – MCR chapters 1–9 available in online and printer-friendly versions
- Michigan Rules of Evidence (MRE) – a 25-page bookmarked and printer-friendly PDF
- Michigan Opinion and Order Search – Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Court of Appeals opinions and orders, including unpublished Court of Appeals opinions issued since July 1996, searchable by party name, docket number, keyword, and advanced selection criteria
- Ravel Law – 40 million pages of U.S. caselaw digitized and made available to the public at no charge by the Harvard Law School Library with funding by Ravel Law, a firm recently acquired by LexisNexis that offers analytics tools to lawyers
- MeLCat – an electronic catalog of items in more than 400 libraries statewide that Mason County District Library patrons can keyword search legal topics to gain access to materials through interlibrary loans and have them shipped at no charge to pick up at the Ludington or Scottville library branch location