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TLAW 438 Environmental Law - Braddock: Statutes & Case Law

What ARE case laws and statutes?


"When people talk about "what the law says" or "what the law is," they are generally referring to statutes (sometimes called codes). Statutes, which are created by the U.S. Congress and by our state legislators, attempt to lay out the ground rules of "the law."

(Nolo Legal Glossary, The Role of Statutes in Our Legal System,

Case Law

"When most people talk about "the law," they tend to think only of statutes. But when disputes arise over the meaning of statutes, judges must interpret the statutes. Judges' interpretations of those statutes -- called "opinions," "decisions," or "cases" -- are as important to understanding what the law is as the words of the statutes itself. So once you find a statute that seems to address your situation, you might need to take the next step and see what the courts have had to say about it."

(Nolo Legal Glossary, The Role of Court Cases in Understanding Statutues,


Search Tips

One of the best ways to find case laws or statutes - particularly when you are unfamiliar with an area of law - is to find a relevant secondary source.  Examples include:

  • Law review articlesExamples include the Washington Law Review and Washington University Law Review.
  • Handbooks/GuidesExamples include Consise Hornbooks and Nutshell Guides - overviews of a particular area of law with defintions and major cases. Visit the Pierce County Law Library or Gallagher Law Library to see more.

When you use a secondary source, you not only find case law and statutes, but also vocabulary that can improve your searches. 

Another important aspect of legal research is making sure you have the most current and updated cases, laws and information. Always check sources for updates; in books, for example, look for supplements.