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How to find legal cases by particular judge or entity

Silvia Fejka
Reference Attorney, Thomson Reuters

Looking for cases by a particular judge or involving a particular entity? The best legal research approach even for narrow searches is to start with the global search box on Westlaw, powered by WestSearch. Type in a query on the home page, and after running the search, you can use one of many different filters to hone in on a particular judge or party. Keep reading below to get step-by-step instructions. Don’t have Westlaw? Try it free for 2-weeks.

When is it relevant to find a case by judge?

It is important to know a few things about your judge before every case. First, you need to know the judge’s familiarity with the background information for your case. Has the judge handled cases like this in the past? Has he/she written opinions on this particular subject matter? Second, it is important to know which way a judge typically leans on your subject.

Why is it important to have relevant information on judge?

It is important to know the judge’s background on a case so that you can use your time as effectively both in court and while you are preparing for a case. If a judge has been involved in similar cases, you can provide a brief summary rather than providing extensive background information and spend more time on your argument. Knowing this information up front will help you save a significant amount of time and energy.

Knowing how a judge has ruled in a similar case in the past can be essential information when you are building your case. This information could be the difference between a favorable result for your client and an embarrassing one. A judge’s response to an argument might mirror one from a prior case, and you will be better prepared to respond having seen the prior response. For example, in an equal pay action, a defendant may have argued that while males in similar positions receive higher pay, males in similar positions also receive lower pay than a female co-worker.

How can I be sure to find the legal case by judge or entity?

To exhaust all legal research options, you may also opt to run a field search. Field searching is a Boolean terms and connectors search that looks for specific terms in a particular part of the document–the title or author fields, for example. Field searching is incorporated into Westlaw through the Advanced templates always linked at the top of the page to the right of the search bar.

Keep in mind that fields depend on the type of document. The judge field, for example, is only available when searching caselaw or trial court orders. Let’s walk through the steps you would follow to search by judge.

1. Click into either Cases or Trial Court Orders from the Westlaw homepage. Then select the Advanced link to the right of the search bar to go to the template.

2. Under Document Fields, type the name of the judge into the appropriate box.

3. Check the search bar to make sure that the query has populated correctly and run the search by clicking the orange magnifying glass.

To make sure you are taking the best approach to your legal research, always remember that the Reference Attorneys are an included service with your Westlaw subscription – and ready to help anytime.

About the author

Silvia is a Reference Attorney for Thomson Reuters, helping customers daily with formulating search queries and utilizing Westlaw. She has previous experience as a municipal attorney and is barred in both Colorado and Maryland.