by Gene Doyle, LMSW
Several companies offer online legal research services, which allow users to search for federal and state court decisions as well as federal and state laws and regulations. Two of the most widely used services are Westlaw and Lexis. These services are available through high-priced subscriptions.
Free, publicly available access to Westlaw, Lexis and other online legal research services can often be found in the law libraries located in or near the state supreme courthouse in each of New York's 62 counties.
Federal and state court decisions that have been published in official "reporters" (case books) can be found by using Google Scholar. Click on the "Case law" button before entering your search terms. The easiest way to locate a federal or state court decision is to enter its official citation in the search box.
Reported and many unreported New York State court decisions issued since December 2003 can be found in the New York Official Reports.
The articles found in the Fair Hearing Resources provide the official citations to reported decisions, which can be looked up on Google Scholar. Copies of "unreported" decisions and court-approved settlements are provided with the articles.
Citations to the United States Code (U.S.C.) consist of the Title, the abbreviation for United States Code (U.S.C.), followed by the specific Section. For example, 42 U.S.C. § 1396a refers to Title 42 of the United States Code at section 1396a.
Citations to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) consist of the Title, the abbreviation for Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), followed by the specific Section. For example, 42 CFR § 431.210 refers to Title 42 of the Code of Federal Regulations at section 431.210.
Proposed and newly adopted regulations and regulatory amendments are found in the daily issues of the Federal Register.
New York State Laws
The New York State Legislature provides an online version of New York State Laws.
Recently enacted state laws are designated as Chapters of the annual Session Laws. The New York State Legislature provides all Chapters of annual Session Laws since 1995.
For legislative history, see the legislative bill and veto jackets since 1995.
New York State Regulations
Citations to the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) consist of the Title, the abbreviation for New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (NYCRR), followed by the specific Section. For example, 18 NYCRR § 358-2.2 refers to Title 18 of the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations at section 358-2.2.
Proposed and newly adopted regulations and regulatory amendments are found in the weekly issues of the New York State Register.
New York State Guidance Documents
The three state agencies primarily responsible for the provision of most social services in New York State are:
Each of these agencies issue guidance documents, which are defined in State Administrative Procedure Law (SAPA) § 102 as
any guideline, memorandum or similar document prepared by an agency that provides general information or guidance to assist regulated parties in complying with any statute, rule or other legal requirement, but shall not include documents that concern only the internal management of the agency or declaratory rulings issued pursuant to section two hundred four of this chapter.
See 19 NYCRR § 265.1(a).
In accordance with SAPA § 202-e, state agencies must annually publish "a list of all guidance documents on which the agency currently relies, and provide information on where and how regulated parties and members of the public may inspect and obtain copies of any such document." 19 NYCRR § 265.1(b).
Many of OTDA's Guidance Documents and OCFS's Guidance Documents are available online. Some of the older guidance documents may be found at the Online Resource Center (ORC) of the Western New York Law Center (WNYLC) or may be requested from OTDA, OCFS and DOH under the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).
Other Research Sources
The New York Official Reports, published by the New York State Law Reporting Bureau, which functions as an agency of the New York Court of Appeals, provides a Legal Research Portal with links to a variety of federal and state resources.
NY Health Access, a joint project of the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG), The Legal Aid Society, the Empire Justice Center, and the Western New York Law Center, offers comprehensive resources on obtaining and retaining health care in New York State.
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