Getting Started in Legal Research: A Guide for the Average Joe or Jill
Central Library / State Library Resource Center
You ran a red light, and now you’ve got a traffic ticket. Or you are trying to figure out whether your boss should be paying you overtime. Whatever your problem, there’s a good chance that there are laws and regulations that apply to your situation. It’s important to understand them, regardless of whether you decide to hire an attorney.
Though the Enoch Pratt Free Library cannot provide legal advice, we can certainly help you answer basic legal questions by using print and online information resources. Our favorites are listed here. We’ve organized this guide by topic:
Before You Start Your Research
Many people begin their legal research by diving into an all-purpose Web site such as Nolo, Findlaw, Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute, or the University of Pittsburgh’s JURIST. But actually, you might need to use many different resources. If you’ve never done any legal research and you’re not sure where to start, a “how-to-do-research” guide might help.
The best guides, such as Stephen Elias’ and Susan Levinkind’s Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law (Berkeley: Nolo. SSH K75.E46Q) will not only tell you which resources to use, but also teach you why and how to use them.
If you are visiting a law library (either in person or on the Web), the library might also have a “pathfinder” (a handout or bibliography) you can use. One good example is Boston College Law Library’s Research Guides.
Try to “classify” your legal problem. You need to do this because depending on your type of legal problem, there may be entirely different resources you need to use. Several key questions to ask are:
- Does my problem involve U.S. (federal) law, state (Maryland) law, local (Baltimore) law, or all of these?
- Contrary to popular belief, most legal problems are covered by state and local laws.
- Does my problem involve criminal law or civil law?
- Criminal law comes into play when a person or organization breaks the law (and usually can be punished by imprisonment).
- Civil law does not involve a crime, although monetary damages can be awarded to injured parties.
- Does my problem involve the law itself (sometimes called the “substance” of the law) or legal procedure?
- What categories of law does my problem involve?
- Categories are broad topics, such as consumer law, employment law, or tax law.
It’s also important to know (or to figure out) whether “the law” on your topic was established:
- Through a legislative body (such as the U.S. Congress, or the Maryland General Assembly)
- Through an executive body or agency (such as the President of the United States, the Governor of Maryland, or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency)
- Or through a judicial body (such as the U.S. Supreme Court or the Maryland Court of Appeals)
Getting Started: Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and Law by Topic
Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
When you’re looking for “the law” on a certain subject, try to find a definition or a general introduction to the topic. Three places you can look in are:
- Black’s Law Dictionary, 7th edition (St. Paul: West Group, 1999. SSH XK38.B5 1999Q), the standard source for explaining legal terms and phrases.
- Daniel Oran’s Dictionary of the Law, 3rd edition (St. Paul: West Group, 2000. SSH K38.O72 2000)
- Everybody's Legal Dictionary produced by Nolo.
For a lengthier introduction to a topic, a better source is a legal encyclopedia. For example, you can use:
- West’s Encyclopedia of American Law (St. Paul: West Publishing, 1998. SSH XK38.W45 1998Q).
- West’s Maryland Law Encyclopedia (MD XKB584.W4) provides an authoritative overview of Maryland law, including Maryland statutes, rules, cases, law reviews, and attorney general opinions.
- The Cornell Legal Research Encyclopedia addresses general legal issues.
- The People's Law Library specifically addresses Maryland law.
- The Maryland State Bar Association also provides 20 helpful brochures that explain the basics of common legal problems, such as appointing a guardian, getting a divorce, or writing a will.
Law by Topic
Sometimes, you can find an entire book just on your topic. The Pratt Library owns many publications to help with this including ones by the following publishers:
You can see what books we own by looking at our PrattCat Web catalog.
Depending on the subject, topical law books can be found in several departments within the Pratt Library. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, be sure to ask a librarian for help!
Here are some examples of topical law books that Pratt owns:
- Complete Book of Wills, Estates, and Trusts, 2nd ed. by Alexander A. Bove. (New York: Henry Holt, 2000.) SSH KB165.W5B68 2000
- The Copyright Handbook: How to Protect and Use Written Works, 7th ed. by Stephen Fishman. (Berkeley: Nolo, 2003). HUM Z642.F58 2003Q
- Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, 6th ed. by Marcia Stewart. (Berkeley: Nolo, 2003.) BST HD1394.5.U6S74 2003Q
- How to Become a U.S. Citizen, 4th ed. by Debra R. Shpigler. (Lawrenceville, NJ: Thompson/ARCO, 2003.) SSH JK1758.S83Q 2002
- Legal Guide to Starting and Running a Small Business, 7th ed. by Fred Steingold. (Berkeley: Nolo, 2003.) BST HD63.7.S74 2003Q
- Power of Attorney Handbook, 4th ed. by Edward A Haman. (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2002.) SSH KB155.P6H36 2002Q
There are also some high-quality Web sites dedicated to particular areas of law. The Pratt Library links to many of them from its Areas of Law page available from the Pratt Subject Guides.
What Do These Weird Letters and Numbers (Citations) Mean?
Suppose that you’re researching the law surrounding the federal “drug-free communities” initiative, and you find something helpful in the U.S. Code. What information should you write down, so that you and others will be able to find the law again easily?
Or, imagine that you are looking up information on public defenders in a legal encyclopedia. You see a reference to a court case, “GIDEON v. WAINWRIGHT, 372 U.S. 335 (1963).” How do you find this case?
You need to understand “legal citations.” A legal citation is a kind of shorthand in a standardized format, which tells you exactly where a certain law or case has been published.
Legal citations can be complicated. Some reasons for this are:
- They include abbreviations.
- Most commonly used law books are actually sets of books consisting of many volumes.
- Lawyers and the rest of us don’t speak the same lingo. For example, books containing case law are called “reporters.”
Each law and court case has a unique citation. If you are trying to find a statute or regulation, the citation usually contains (not always in this order):
- The abbreviated name of a publication where the law has been printed (such as “U.S.C.”)
- The “title” or volume number of the publication where the law has been printed
- A “section” number (sometimes “section” is abbreviated as “§”)
- Sub-section numbers
So information on the federal drug-free communities program that you were reading would be cited as “21 U.S.C. § 1521”.
If you are trying to find a court case, the citation includes (usually in this order):
- The case name (such as “GIDEON v. WAINWRIGHT”)
- The volume number of the publication where the case is printed
- The abbreviated name of the publication where the case is printed (often called a “reporter”)
- The page number within that publication
- The year the case was decided
So, “GIDEON v. WAINWRIGHT, 372 U.S. 335 (1963)” means that the case Gideon versus Wainwright, decided in 1963 by the U.S. Supreme Court, is published in volume 372 of United States Reports, on page 335.
Whether you want to cite a source correctly or decode a given citation, the Pratt Library can help. In the Social Science and History Department, you’ll find
- The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Law Review). SSH XK74.B79
- The Dictionary of Legal Abbreviations Used in American Law Books, 2nd ed. by Doris Bieber (Buffalo, NY: H.S. Hein, 1985). SSH XK38.B45.
If you are looking for an online resource, the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) has published a Citation Manual that is intended for lawyers, paralegals, students, professors, and others who are writing about the law. The Appendices to the Manual are available for free online, and are helpful to anyone who is trying to decode an abbreviation (see especially Appendix 1, “Primary Sources by Jurisdiction”). Another helpful site is Maryland State Law Library’s List of Common Legal Abbreviations.
Understanding Legislative Law
For a legislative bill to become enacted (passed and signed) into law, it has to go through many steps. At each step, information about the bill may be recorded in any of a number of publications. Put very simply and generally:
- A proposed law (called a bill) is introduced to the legislative body by one of its members. It is given a number and sent (referred) to a committee and/or subcommittee for consideration.
- The committee meets to discuss the bill and may hold public hearings (where witnesses testify about aspects of the bill or the problem the bill addresses).
- The committee may decide to change or add to (amend) the bill, during what is known as a “mark up” session. Then, the committee votes to report the bill to the rest of the legislative body. The report that the committee writes describes the purpose of the bill and reasons why the committee is recommending that the legislature pass it.
- The entire legislative body debates the bill, may amend it, and votes on it. In a “bicameral” legislature (such as the U.S. Congress, which consists of the House and Senate), both houses must pass the same version of the bill.
- The president (for U.S. Congressional bills) or the governor (for state bills) signs the bill into law. It is now a real law that we must obey, and it is assigned a unique number for reference purposes. Eventually it will be published in a “code.”
This process can vary. If you want a more detailed explanation, see the following sites:
Finding Laws Made by the U.S. Congress
If you are interested in a federal law that you know is on the books, you should be able to find it in the United States Code (SSH KB102.A2), published by the Government Printing Office.
- This multi-volume set contains all laws passed by Congress, which are still in effect, arranged by “title” (roughly, topic).
- It is issued every six years with periodic supplements.
- The Pratt Library also owns the United States Code Annotated (SSH XKB102.U3), an expanded version of the U.S. Code.
- The Annotated version includes extensive notes explaining the laws.
You can also find the U.S. Code in a number of places online.
- The federal government offers two important sites through GPO Access (U.S. Government Printing Office) and the U.S. House of Representatives.
- If you don’t know which title and chapter of the Code to use, you can surf the code by title and chapter at Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute site (scroll to the middle of LII’s U.S. Code page) or through the U.S. House site.
If you are interested in a federal bill that is currently being considered by Congress (but hasn’t been signed into law yet), the Library of Congress’ Thomas Web page is the best online resource.
- It enables you to find out the status of a particular Congressional Bill.
- Although the page is set up to find bills being considered by the current Congress, you can also research bills back to the 93rd Congress (1973-1974).
- If you know the bill number, words or phrases in the name of the bill, or the name of the Congressman who introduced (sponsored) the bill, you can use Thomas pretty easily.
If you’d like to use a printed source to track the progress of a federal bill, try the Calendar of the House of Representatives and History of Legislation (known as the “House Calendar”).
- This weekly publication tells you the status of both House and Senate bills to that date.
- The “final edition” of the House Calendar gives an accumulation of all the bills that were introduced in a given session of Congress.
Finding Laws Made by the Maryland General Assembly
If you want to find a law that you know is in effect, you can find it in the Maryland Code.
- The Pratt Library has the Michie's Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Maryland (MD XKB583.A3F74), which includes Maryland law and annotations, including brief histories of the laws and citations to other relevant documents.
- The Maryland Code and Rules of Procedure are also available online through LexisNexis without the annotations. The online version is fully searchable by keyword and through the table of contents.
For retrospective laws, you will need to look at the Laws of Maryland (MD XKB581.A3 1777-present). There are several indexes for laws passed by the Maryland General Assembly that can be useful for finding retrospective law by different topics. They include:
- Subject Index to Bills and Resolutions Introduced in the Maryland General Assembly (MD XKB 584 .A39 1977-present)
- Sponsor Index to Bills Introduced in the Maryland General Assembly (MD XKB 584.A37 1977-present)
- Final Status Report for the [Year] Session of the Maryland General Assembly (MD XKB584.A36 1979-present)
- [Year] Session Review (MD XJK387.S47 1983-present)
If you are looking for a law that has been proposed but not yet enacted, you will need to search the Maryland General Assembly's Web site.
- There are many ways you can search for a bill’s information and status, including by bill number, sponsor, subject, file code, or statute.
- The General Assembly also has information on prior sessions available online.
- You can search for bills going back to 1996 and find information on their legislative history.
- The General Assembly’s Web site also includes state budget information going back to 2001; Commission, Task Force, Study Group, and Interim Reports; and roster lists among other legislative related information.
You can also begin to track legislative history in print by using
- The Legislative Wrap-Up,
- Available online starting in 1996
- Published weekly while the Maryland General Assembly is in session
- The 90 Day Report (MD XKB584.A395Q),
- Available online starting with the 1999 edition Published after the session is finished
- The Maryland Senate Journal (MD XJK3876.A23 1825-present) and the Maryland House Journal (MD XJK3878.A23 1825-present) include synopses of all bills introduced, the committee to which the bill is referred, amendments, and roll call votes on bills.
The Department of Legislative Services Library and Information Services can also provide additional information about Maryland legislation.
Finding Laws Made by Maryland Municipalities and Counties
Local municipalities, such as Baltimore City, have their own laws, which can be found in the City or County Codes.
- The codes published at the local level include the charter and other regulations that cover topics like zoning and public health.
- The Baltimore City Code (MD XJS574.A3 2000Q) is available at the Pratt Library, as well as codes from other selected municipalities.
- Some Maryland county and city codes are available online through the General Code Web site and can be searched by keyword.
Understanding Executive Orders and Regulations
The executive branch of a government – which enforces laws made by the legislative branch – can issue “orders” or “regulations” that have the force of law. Regulations often give specifics on how a law is to be implemented, and they can be very detailed.
The following government bodies have the power to give orders and regulations within their respective geographical and bureaucratic jurisdictions:
- The President of the United States
- The various U.S. federal government departments and agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
- The Governor of Maryland
- The various Maryland state government departments and agencies (such as the Maryland Department of the Environment)
- The Mayor of Baltimore
- The various departments within the Baltimore City government
Finding Presidential Executive Orders
If you are looking for an executive order that has recently been issued, you can try the White House’s Executive Orders page. Another option is the Federal Register, a printed resource which is published daily (Monday through Friday) and is also available online.
The Federal Register is the official “newspaper” of the federal executive branch.
- It lets the public know about new and proposed regulations, hearing and meeting dates, and other information.
- If you are using the online version to find executive orders, use the Advanced Search and be sure to check off “Presidential Documents.”
- Eventually, these (and other orders that are currently in force) are collectively published in the Code of Federal Regulations under Title 3 (“The President”).
For older executive orders, start with the National Archives and Records Administration’s Executive Orders Disposition Tables, which offers information about every federal Executive Order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1937) to the present.
- The tables include
- The date the order was signed by the President
- A citation to where you can find its full text within the Federal Register.
- You can also find the full text of Executive Orders online from 1993 to the present.
- If you want a copy of the full text of an order that dates before 1993, you will need to use the printed Federal Register or Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Finding Regulations from U.S. Government Agencies
You can also use the Federal Register to find proposed and new regulations of U.S. Government Agencies.
- If you are using the online version of the Register, use the Advanced Search and be sure to check off “Proposed Rules” or “Final Rules and Regulations” as appropriate.
- These and other regulations that are currently in force are collectively published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) under the appropriate title.
- The Pratt Library owns the print version of the CFR, and we can help you surf the online version.
- You can search either the Federal Register or the Code of Federal Regulations by citation or by words/phrases.
Finding Maryland Executive Orders
If you are looking for an executive order issued by the Governor of Maryland, you can find them in the Maryland Register.
- The Maryland Register is published biweekly, and the six most current issues are available online.
- These orders are eventually cumulated in the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) (MDX KB582.A62Q) and can be found in Title 1 (Executive Department).
- COMAR is available online and can be searched either by keyword or codification number.
Finding Maryland Regulations
Proposed and pending Maryland state agency regulations can also be found in the Maryland Register.
- Any changes to the text of the regulations in COMAR must first be published in the Maryland Register.
- COMAR is available online and is updated biweekly (corresponding with the effective dates published in the Maryland Register).
- The print edition of COMAR is available at the Pratt Library.
- It includes not only the text of the regulations, but also items incorporated by reference. These are standard, uniform documents that are adopted in their entirety into existing regulation. The International Building Code, for example, is incorporated by reference into Maryland’s housing regulations.
- The Maryland Contract Weekly is a biweekly supplement, by subscription, to the Maryland Register that lists state government contracts up for bid.
- Each volume of COMAR is indexed and commercial indexes, such as Michie's Index to the Code of Maryland Regulations (MD XKB582.A62Q INDEX) are also available for use.
Understanding Judicial (Case) Law
When you are trying to answer a legal question, you must also understand how the courts tend to interpret the laws that pertain to your situation. This is important because a given law or regulation might be understood in a variety of ways.
As Stephen Elias and Susan Levinkind explain in their book Legal Research: How to Find and Understand the Law (SSH K75.E46Q, pg. 7/13): “[If] you can find a previous court decision that rules your way on facts similar to your situation, you have a good shot a persuading a judge to follow that case and decide in your favor.”
Finding Federal Cases (U.S. District Courts and U.S. Courts of Appeals)
When most people think of a federal court, they think of the U.S. Supreme Court.
In fact, only a small number of cases ever reach the Supreme Court.
The federal judiciary system consists of:
- The U.S. Supreme Court
- 94 U.S. District Courts (trial courts that hear civil and criminal cases falling under federal law)
- 12 U.S. Courts of Appeals (also known as “circuit courts,” these are regional courts that hear appealed cases from the District Courts).
Federal cases are typically heard and decided in these “lower” courts.
Maryland has two U.S. District Courts (a “northern” division in Baltimore, and a “southern” division in Greenbelt) and is part of the federal 4th Circuit, whose Court of Appeals is in Richmond, VA. If you do not live in Maryland, you can find the federal courts in your circuit through theU.S. Courts - The Federal Judiciary Web site.
If you don’t know the citation for a federal case, use West’s Federal Practice Digest. The Digest has indexes (“tables”) that allow you to look up by plaintiff or defendant name, or by words and phrases. The Digest is divided into four series, which cover federal case law from 1939 to the present.
If you are looking for a U.S. District Court decision, you can find it in print in a set called the Federal Supplement (SSH XKB121.F45), published by West Group. U.S. Courts of Appeals decisions are collected in another bound set called the Federal Reporter (SSH XKB121.F4).
Findlaw.com is an excellent online source for finding recent U.S. District Court and U.S. Courts of Appeals decisions. Through this site, you can reach the Web pages of U.S. District Courts, which are listed alphabetically by state. Once you click on the desired state, you may be able to find opinions, though each court’s Web page is organized a little differently!
Findlaw also has U.S. Circuit Court cases from 1996 to the present. After you’ve chosen one of the Courts of Appeals, browse cases from that circuit by date (year and month). You can also search for cases by docket number, party name, or words in the full text of the decision.
Finding U.S. Supreme Court Cases
If you know the correct citation for a Supreme Court case, there are two print sources you can use to find the full text of the decision.
- U.S. Reports, the official government version
- The Supreme Court Reporter, a publication of West Group (SSH XKB111.A5Q), also presents the full text of all Supreme Court decisions, along with explanatory notes that identify the various points of law addressed in a given case.
If you are looking for an online source, try the Supreme Court Opinions page at Findlaw.com.
- Findlaw has the full text of every U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1893 to the present.
- It is updated daily, so that even the very latest Supreme Court decisions are available.
- Cases can be browsed by year, by U.S. Reports number, citation, party name, and by words in the full text.
- Findlaw also provides links to subsequent Supreme Court decisions that cite a given decision.
Finding Cases Decided by Maryland State Courts
Maryland court cases are not universally available, and depending on which court the case was tried in, you may find it difficult to obtain the case law.
- Cases tried in the higher courts (the Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals) have their decisions published.
- Other Maryland Courts rarely have their decisions published.
- The District Court records its cases as a recording, and if a copy of a case is required, the parties must pay.
Maryland case law is published in three different reporters.
- The Maryland Reports (MD XKB585.R4 1700-present) contains the opinions of the Court of Appeals, and it is abbreviated as Md.
- The Maryland Appellate Reports (MD XKB585.S4 1962-present) contains the opinions of the Court of Special Appeals and is abbreviated as Md. App.
- The opinions of both courts also appear in West’s regional Atlantic Reporter (SSH KB121.A76).
Now that you know where Maryland case law is published, you are probably wondering how you can find case law you need. There are several ways to find case law by topic.
- The Maryland Digest 2d (MD XKB585.R8A2BQ) allows you to search by topic, defendant, plaintiff, or case.
- The Maryland Annotated Code cites relevant cases that can be found in Maryland case law.
- The Court of Appeals and the Court of Special Appeals decisions from 1995 to the present are also available online and are searchable by keyword, judge, case docket number, etc.
Finding Legal Forms and Contracts
Many of the topical law books listed above contain relevant legal forms and contracts, written for the “Average Joe.” But if you still can’t find the form or contract you need, try one of these books:
- West’s Legal Forms (St. Paul: West Group, 2000 with updates). SSH XKB185.F6W422
- The Nichols Cyclopedia of Legal Forms Annotated (Chicago: Callaghan and Company, 1974 with updates). SSH XKB185.F6N5
Although these series are arranged by subject, start by looking in the “index” volumes.
- The index will tell you which volumes have the forms you’re looking for.
- Sometimes, legal volumes on “practice” or “procedure” (such as Federal Practice and Procedure by Charles Alan Wright. St. Paul: West Group, 1999. SSH XKB185.P7 W72Q) contain forms and instructions.
Remember, though, that most formbooks are not written with Maryland’s specific laws in mind. Pratt’s Maryland Department owns many different formbooks that cover a wide variety of legal forms specific to Maryland law. Some of the more popular formbooks include:
- Maryland Practice Forms (MDX KB588.F6M37)
- Maryland Civil Procedure Forms (MDX KB588.P7K64)
- Maryland District Court Forms (MDX KB588.F6D58 1986Q)
- Practice Manual for Maryland Lawyer (MDX K72.P72 1993Q)
- Maryland Criminal Procedure Forms and Analysis (MDX KB588.C7S65)
- Maryland Corporate Forms (MDX HD2805.M3S22 1994Q)
Maryland legal forms can also be found online in a variety of different places.
Getting Legal Help
Even though we can help you find relevant information in print and on the Internet, Pratt’s librarians cannot give you legal advice. You especially need to speak with an attorney if you have questions like:
- Does this law, regulation, or court case apply to my situation?
- Are there other laws, regulations, or court cases that I need to know about?
- Can someone help me fill out or file these forms?
Before you hire or meet with a lawyer, read up on how to work with a lawyer to resolve your case. At Pratt, you can find several books that can help, including:
- Help Your Lawyer Win Your Case, 2nd ed. by J. Michael Hayes. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 1999. SSH K72.H39 1999
- Nolo’s Deposition Handbook by Paul Bergman and Albert Moore. Berkeley: Nolo, 1999. SSH KB185.E8B47 1999
- Smart Questions to Ask Your Lawyer by Dorothy Leeds. New York: Harper-Collins, 1991. SSH K72.L33 1991
- Using a Lawyer … and What to Do If Things Go Wrong by Kay Ostberg. New York: Random House, 1990. SSH K72.O77 1990
Once you’re ready to find an attorney, there are a lot of places you can look besides the yellow pages.
- The Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (SSH XK39.M3Q) lists lawyers by state, then by city and the name of the law firm.
- Online, you can use the Lexis-Nexis Lawyer Directory to search for lawyers by name, geographic location (city, county, U.S. state, or country), or area of practice (such as criminal law, contracts, or another area of specialty).
For Marylanders, another resource is the Maryland State Bar Association’s Maryland Lawyers’ Manual (XK39.M35).
- The blue section of the Manual lists courts, related agencies, and attorneys by county.
- Online, the MSBA also provides a county-by-county list of lawyer referral services.
If you are looking for a legal referral service for another state, you can use the American Bar Association’s Legal Referral Services page – just click on a state on the map to find contact information for a service near you!
If you can’t afford a lawyer, you might be able to find a “pro bono” service.
- Many pro bono services have restrictions relating to the types of cases they will take, or the clients they serve, so be sure to ask who is eligible to use a particular service.
- In the Baltimore area, three well-know places to contact are:
- If you are having trouble finding a pro bono service in your state, try the American Bar Association’s Directory of Pro Bono Programs.
If you are thinking about representing yourself, you might want to read Paul Bergman and Sara Berman-Barrett’s Represent Yourself in Court: How to Prepare and Try a Winning Case, 4th ed. (Berkeley: Nolo, 2003). SSH KB185.P7B47 2003Q
Other Law Libraries You Should Know About
The Enoch Pratt Free Library’s law collection can help answer some basic questions relating to U.S. (federal) and Maryland laws and court cases. However, if you need to use law journals or Lexis/Nexis, or you want to find the laws of other U.S. states or countries, you should visit more specialized libraries.
Some courts have law libraries that you can use (for instance, you can visit the State Law Library within the Maryland State Courts of Appeals building in Annapolis).
Also, many law schools have libraries that are open to the public. In the Baltimore area, both the University of Baltimore Law Library and the University of Maryland's Thurgood Marshall Law Library allow the general public to use at least some of their resources.
If you are not from Maryland, you can find a law school in your state through the Association of American Law Schools - http://www.aals.org/about_memberschools.php.
This guide should enable you to start your legal research. We have many other resources that can help, so let us know how we can assist you!
For U.S. (federal) laws and court cases, and general legal information:
Social Science and History Department
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Telephone: (410) 396-5321
Fax: (410) 396-1431
For Maryland laws and court cases:
Enoch Pratt Free Library
State Library Resource Center
400 Cathedral Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Telephone: (410) 396-5468
Fax: (410) 396-9537