Where to Start Legal Research in Wyoming
If you represent yourself in court, you are responsible for knowing the law and rules. If you are not sure what those are, you will have to do some research.
Important: Representing yourself can be risky. Persons not trained as lawyers often do not have or know how to find all of the information they need to effectively present their case. Some legal issues are simply too complicated for you to research by yourself. Because legal research can be time-consuming and difficult, the best thing you can do is talk to a lawyer about your case or legal problems. However, if you cannot find a lawyer, or choose to go forward on your own, the following information may be helpful as you begin your legal research.
What is legal research?
Legal research is the process of finding the law and rules that apply to your legal problem or support your side in a legal case. However, it is sometimes quite difficult to determine what the law is for any given legal issue.
If you are new to legal research, you should begin by reading one of the many guides that are available to explain the legal research process and the legal resources available. Some recommended guides:
- Basics of Legal Research, link to Nolo.com
- Legal Research: An Overview, prepared by the Cornell Legal Information Institute
- How to Research a Legal Problem: A Guide for Non-Lawyers, by the George W. Hopper Law Library and the University of Wyoming College of Law
You can also find legal resources and help for conducting your research in the following places:
Public Libraries in Wyoming
Your local county library should have print versions of the Wyoming Constitution, Wyoming Statutes, and Wyoming Court Rules. These print versions of the statutes and rules also contain helpful references to past cases that might apply to your situation (note: to read the full text of these cases, you may have to look online or go to a law library).
Your local library may also have useful self-help law books (see below) or they can be requested via interlibrary loan. You can check with your local library to see what additional legal resources are provided.
Self-help law books are often the best place for a non-lawyer to start their legal research. These types of books provide an overview of the law on a particular topic and guidance on how to proceed with a particular type of case.
Nolo is the primary publisher of these types of self-help law books and you may find many of their titles in Wyoming's public libraries. Nolo's wide range of topics include: wills, estate planning, retirement, elder care, personal finance, taxes, housing, real estate, divorce, child custody, and more.
Law Libraries in Wyoming
Law libraries have federal and state constitutions, statutes, regulations and case law in their collections. They also contain many other books and databases that discuss the law, the forms, and the information needed to bring a specific type of case through the courts. These resources are primarily designed for use by attorneys in their practice of law; however, they can be useful for others interested in researching an area of law. Law libraries are staffed by professionals who are experienced in helping attorneys and the general public use legal resources and do legal research. You may have to visit the law library in-person to use the specialized resources.
The Wyoming State Law Library website provides information and guidance about legal research resources available in Wyoming, including the services provided by the law library. The website also has links to many online legal resources including Wyoming and federal statutes, regulations and cases.
The Wyoming State Legislature has all Wyoming state laws posted online.
The Wyoming Judicial Branch website has court rules for all of Wyoming's state and local courts. The rules govern things such as what papers you must file, when you have to file, required fees, what type of evidence is allowed, etc.
Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute has statutes for the federal government and all 50 states.
Finding cases similar to your own can help you understand the law and make legal arguments. Court Listener, part of the Free Law Project, provides free case searches here. Court Listener does not have all federal and state court cases, but their database is always growing. Remember to try to look for cases in the same state as where you have your legal problem, and beware of cases that have been overturned by a higher court.
Congress.gov has information about current federal bills and congressional activities.