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If you don’t mind paying for them, you can obtain copies of legal briefs via the Web from several sources. But where can you find briefs for free? Among the services that offer briefs for a price are Westlaw at westlaw.com and LexisNexis at lexis.com, both of which have U.S. Supreme Court briefs. Westlaw includes briefs beginning with the Court’s October 1990 term, while Lexis has some starting from January 1979. Other services that sell copies include Brief Reporter at briefreporter.com and BriefServe at briefserve.com. Brief Reporter offers briefs from a variety of state and federal courts, contributed by the lawyers who wrote them. Arranged by topic, the price per brief is $40, or you can subscribe for $35 a month and pay $10 per brief. BriefServe has Supreme Court briefs beginning with the 1984 term. It also offers all U.S. circuit court briefs since 1981, and a selection of California and New York appellate briefs. The cost is $25 each, but there is a two-brief minimum. A number of sites offer copies of briefs at no cost. Some provide briefs from a range of courts covering a variety of topics; others are more focused. For Supreme Court briefs, FindLaw’s Supreme Court Center at supreme.lp.findlaw.com/supreme_court/briefs begins with the 1999�2000 term. You can download them for free in various formats. American Law Sources On-line at lawsource.com/also/usa.cgi?usb does not provide direct copies of briefs, but has assembled a useful collection of links to amicus curiae briefs available elsewhere on the Web. These include briefs filed in state and federal courts. The Samuelson Law, Technology, and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law maintains a brief bank devoted to law, technology, and public policy. Its broad collection of briefs filed in U.S. courts is organized by case name at briefbank.samuelsonclinic.org/notices.cfm. More than 250 state and federal briefs covering a range of topics are available from Appellate.net at www.appellate.net/briefs. All were written by lawyers in the Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group of Chicago-based Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw. Briefs are listed by case and subject matter, and include citations to the appellate decision. Stanford Law School’s Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, securities.stanford.edu, maintains an archive of filings in federal class action securities fraud litigation. Its collection includes more than 2,000 litigation documents, including briefs. Court Archives A growing number of appellate courts publish briefs that are filed with the court online. These include two U.S. circuit courts of appeals: the Seventh Circuit at www.ca7.uscourts.gov/briefs.htm and the Eighth Circuit at www.ca8.uscourts.gov/brfs/brFrame.html. The Seventh Circuit site has briefs filed with the court beginning in 2001. The Eighth Circuit starts with cases filed in 2000. Briefs filed in a handful of state supreme courts are also available: Florida at www.flcourts.org/pubinfo/summaries/archives.html Kentucky at www.nku.edu/~chase/library/kysctbriefs.htm Michigan at courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Clerk/msc_orals.htm North Dakota at www.court.state.nd.us Texas at www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/ebriefs/current.htm Wisconsin at library.law.wisc.edu/elecresources/databases/wb Also, the federal government is one of the best sources of free legal briefs. The legal documents collection of the U.S. Department of Justice at www.usdoj.gov/05publications/05_2.html includes all Supreme Court briefs filed by the solicitor general since 1988 and selected briefs beginning in 1982. It also includes a wide-ranging collection of appellate briefs filed by the department’s antitrust division, dating back to 1993, along with selected briefs filed by the civil division and the civil rights division. Other federal agencies that publish their briefs on the Web are: Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/ogc/briefs.htm Equal Employment Opportunity Commission at eeoc.gov/litigation/appbriefs.html Office of Special Counsel at www.osc.gov/sitemap.htm Securities and Exchange Commission at www.sec.gov/litigation/briefs.shtml Advocacy Groups Advocacy organizations publish briefs filed in cases in which they appeared as parties or as amicus curiae. One of the best examples is the Electronic Frontier Foundation at eff.org, the San Francisco-based organization devoted to protecting civil liberties in cyberspace. It maintains extensive collections of legal documents from cases in which it has been involved, including its own briefs and those of its opponents. Another advocacy group with useful briefs is the American Civil Liberties Union at aclu.org. Click on “Supreme Court” for a library of documents related to Supreme Court cases in which the ACLU played a role dating back to 1993. The library also includes a number of briefs filed by the ACLU as amicus curiae and in other courts. Other groups with briefs on their sites include: American Association of Law Libraries at www.ll.georgetown.edu/aallwash/briefs.html. Selected amicus curiae briefs filed since 1997. American Intellectual Property Law Association at aipla.org/html/amicus.html. Amicus briefs since 1995. Anti-Defamation League at adl.org/Civil_Rights/ab. Amicus briefs in cases involving issues that range from the separation of church and state to racial discrimination to censorship. Atlantic Legal Foundation at atlanticlegal.org/briefs.html. This site contains amicus briefs on issues that include courtroom science, charter schools, and reverse discrimination. Cato Institute at cato.org/pubs/legalbriefs/lbriefs.html. The briefs cover a range of issues, including race-based preferences, school vouchers, drug testing, and interstate commerce. Center for Democratic Communications at www.nlgcdc.org/briefs.html. This arm of the National Lawyers Guild has briefs related to Federal Communications Commission licensing of low-power radio transmissions. Children’s Rights at childrensrights.org/publications. Briefs on children’s rights. Electronic Privacy Information Center at epic.org. Briefs on free speech and privacy. The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University www.civilrightsproject.harvard.edu/policy/legal_docs/legal_briefs.php. Briefs related to affirmative action and race-conscious admissions. Institute for Justice at ij.org/cases/school/facts/body.shtml. Its School Choice Information Center has briefs on both sides of the issue. Jewish Law at jlaw.com/Briefs. A collection of briefs filed by various Jewish organizations. Lambda Legal at lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/library?class=5. Briefs on issues of interest to lesbians and gays. NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund at nowldef.org/html/issues/whr/briefs.shtml. Briefs related to women’s rights. Public Citizen at www.citizen.org/litigation/briefs. This consumer organization, founded by Ralph Nader in 1971, provides briefs on corporate accountability, union democracy, consumer rights, health and safety, and other topics.
Robert J. Ambrogi, a lawyer in Rockport, Massachusetts, is managing editor of Corporate Counsel sibling publications Law Technology News and Law Firm Inc. He is the author of “The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web.”

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