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Lloyd Sealy Library
John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Finding legal information: the absolute basics. : Legal databases

How to find cases, laws and some other stuff. By Ellen Sexton.

About Lexis-Nexis and Westlaw

Two competing companies create and market legal databases to law firms and colleges, West and LexisNexis.  We subscribe to the educational version of Lexis, called Nexis Uni.  It provides access to news articles as well as to contemporary legal materials - be sure to notice whether you are in the legal or news part of the database.     

The versions of these two databases marketed to law firms are much more expensive, and contain additional business/financial information and more secondary legal materials. 

For historical materials, and research on the history of law, the Hein OnLine database and the LLMC (Law Library Microfilm Collection - digital)  are more useful. 

All our legal databases

Click here for an alphabetical listing of all of the databases relating to law subscribed to by the Library.

LLMC Law Library Microfilm Collection - digital

This is a wide ranging collection of historical legal materials.  An archival collection of legal materials with historical federal legislative, executive and judicial papers (including temporary commisions like the Wickersham Comm.), selected state documents, and historically significant international documents.

All of the documents are cataloged in the library catalog CUNY+. 

Of note are the New York State Session Laws from1806 to 2007, in addition to many other NY State historical materials.

Click to enter the Law Library Microfilm Collection - digital.   



"Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) is an electronic public access service that allows users to obtain case and docket information online from federal appellate, district, and bankruptcy courts, and the PACER Case Locator. PACER is provided by the Federal Judiciary in keeping with its commitment to providing public access to court information via a centralized service."

PACER charges a small administration fee to access individual documents. However, there are tools that that search for and retrieve many (but not all) of these public-domain PACER documents without charge, e.g.   and .    

Hein OnLine

Hein OnLine is a legal database that has the full text of primary and secondary legal materials.  It is a very important tool for those researching the history of law.

Unlike the other legal databases, Hein OnLine contains historical legal documents e.g. the U.S. Statutes at Large from 1789-2008, the U.S. Federal legislative histories, the historical U.S. Code, and more. 

The full-text is in the form of PDF files - exact images of the original printed publications, so finding and citing a specific page is very easy. It contains the entire run of journals and law reviews - every volume, right back to the first year of publication.

Also notable are the entire runs, from volume one, of law review journals.  There are also international and overseas legal materials.