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The basic purpose underlying the American Law Reports (ALRs) is to provide the researcher with comprehensive essays or memoranda (called "annotations") that discuss significant legal topics. The ALR editors select and report in full text a contemporary case that deals with a particular legal issue, collect all relevant cases, and finally produce a detailed and comprehensive critique of the particular legal issue. The relevant court cases are named ("cited") throughout the text of the annotation. In addition to discussing all sides of a question, each annotation lays out the appropriate general principles of law, along with exceptions, qualifications, distinctions, and applications. Thus, an ALR annotation gives you more than just citations ("cites") to "raw" cases. The ALR editorial staff has actually done much of the searching, analysis, and synthesis for you in an organized, analytical essay.
The ALRs are published in several large sets, all of them located together in the library. Related ALR sets such as indexes, digests, etc. are also shelved at the same location.
First series (cited A.L.R.) published 1919-1948 175 vols.
Second series (cited A.L.R.2d) published 1948-1965 100 vols.
Third series (cited A.L.R.3d) published 1965-1980 100 vols.
Fourth series (cited A.L.R.4th) published 1980-1992 90 vols.
Fifth series (cited A.L.R.5th) published 1992 to date
Federal (cited A.L.R. Fed.) published 1969 to date
Because more than 35 years have elapsed since the publication of ALR 2d, it is unlikely you will use ALR (1 st ) or ALR 2d. Also note that, prior to 1969, annotations on federal and state law were published together without distinction. Since 1969, annotations on federal law are published in the separate set of ALR Federal .
It is important to search in the correct set (example: 3d or 4th or 5th series or Federal) when searching for a particular annotation. To illustrate, if your citation is to an annotation in ALR 3d, but you are looking in ALR 2d or ALR 4th, you will not find the annotation sought. It is also important to check any pocket part supplements located at the back (or sometimes the front) of many ALR volumes.
The ALRs contain thousands of annotations on different legal topics. These annotations resemble legal memoranda. Each annotation begins with an outline , which is usually followed by a fact index and a table of jurisdictions covered in the discussion. Section 1(a) of an annotation lays out its scope , while 1(b) indicates related matters covered elsewhere. Section 2 provides a summary and comment .
There is a combined Index to Annotations for all of the ALR sets except for ALR (First Series), which has an index of its own. Because your research normally looks for the latest developments in the law, you would normally search first in the combined index. Look under “index-words” that are connected with your particular problem. A search of the indexes will likely turn up one or more annotations that deal with the matter you are researching. ( Example: Landlord's Liability to Third Persons for... , cited as 81 A.L.R.3d, 638. Go to the set of ALR 3d . Get volume 81 and turn to page 638, the first page of the annotation. (The lead case on which the annotation is based is given in full text just before page 638. Note that in more recent volumes, the "lead cases" are published at the end of the volumes.)
[Method not recommended] There is a combined digest for ALR 3d, 4th, 5th, and Federal. There are separate digests for ALR (First) and for ALR 2d. Look under a topic that appears to be appropriate to your research. Under each topic you will find short blurbs ("digests") of cases reported in the ALRs. You will also find relevant annotations listed under any particular topic. ALR indexes (see above) are recommended over ALR digests.
Obviously, time has passed since the publication of each annotation (Example: vol. 1 of ALR 3d was published in 1965), and the law discussed there may have changed a great deal. If such is the case, ALR editors usually publish later annotations that SUPPLEMENT or completely SUPERSEDE the earlier ones. Find the combined Index to Annotations. Get the last volume of the index. At the back of this volume, there is a section called Historical Tables (kept up-to-date in the pocket part supplement in the front of the volume). Check your annotation(s) in the Historical Tables . If tables indicate "SUPERSEDED" by a later annotation, discard earlier annotation and use later annotation only. If Tables indicate "SUPPLEMENTED" by a later annotation, you should use both earlier and later annotations in your research. If your annotation is not listed in the Historical Tables , it can be used as originally published. [Alternate method: Pocket parts in ALR3d, 4th, 5th, and Federal will also indicate if SUPPLEMENTED or SUPERSEDED.]
Again, keep in mind that each annotation (“essay”) was published at some time in the past. Since its date of publication, the courts have continued to decide thousands of cases, some of which may fall within the scope of the annotation you are using. It is important to find these later cases and not limit your research simply to the cases cited in the text of the annotation.
If you are reading annotations in ALR 3d, 4th, 5th, or Federal, simply turn to the pocket part supplement in the back of the same volume. Case digests appearing in the pocket part are keyed directly to the appropriate annotation section in the same bound volume. ALR (First) and ALR 2d do not have pocket parts. Instead, you turn to separate sets of books, located next to the ALR indexes. If you are using an annotation in ALR (First), you will find later cases in the set A.L.R. Blue Book of Supplemental Decisions . For ALR 2d, look in the set A.L.R.2d Later Case Service . Again, the case digests appearing in these two Later Case Services are keyed directly to the appropriate annotation sections in the same bound volume.