Washington Law School 1L Study Guide for Legal Research and Writing

I. Introduction to Legal Research and Writing

This course aims to familiarize students with the principles and methodologies of legal research, the study of legal sources, and the construction of legal arguments. It may involve statutory interpretation, case law analysis, legal reasoning, and legal writing skills.

II. Statutory Interpretation

Statutory interpretation involves examining the words and structure of a statute to determine its meaning and application. It requires an understanding of legislative intent, plain meaning rule, and the use of canons of construction.

Case Law: Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837 (1984)

Issue: The issue in this case is how courts should review agency interpretations of statutes that they administer.

Rule: The Court held that if a statute is clear, then the agency must follow the statute. However, if the statute is ambiguous, the agency’s interpretation should be accepted as long as it is reasonable.

Application: The Court found that the statute was ambiguous and that the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation was reasonable.

Conclusion: The Chevron deference has become a fundamental principle in administrative law, giving agencies substantial leeway in interpreting statutes they administer.

III. Legal Reasoning

Legal reasoning involves applying legal rules to specific facts to reach a conclusion.

Case Law: International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945)

Issue: The issue is whether the State of Washington had jurisdiction over the International Shoe Company.

Rule: The Court set out a new test for personal jurisdiction, stating that a defendant must have certain minimum contacts with the state such that maintaining the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Application: The Court found that the company had sufficient contacts with the state as it had salespeople in the state.

Conclusion: This case rationalized the law of personal jurisdiction and made it more predictable.

IV. Legal Writing

Legal writing involves the clear and concise articulation of legal arguments. It includes understanding the structure of legal documents, such as pleadings, briefs, contracts, and legal memoranda.

V. Legal Citation

Legal citation is a standardized method of referring to legal sources and authorities, such as statutes, regulations, and cases.

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation is the style manual that law professionals most commonly use in the United States. It provides rules for citing all types of legal documents.

VI. Legal Research

Legal research involves identifying and retrieving information necessary to support legal decision-making. It includes understanding primary and secondary legal sources and how to use legal research tools and databases like Westlaw and LexisNexis.

VII. Washington State Legal Sources

Understanding Washington state-specific legal sources, such as the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), Washington Administrative Code (WAC), and Washington court decisions is crucial.

Understanding the structure of the state government and court system is also important as it affects the interpretation and application of the law. For example, the Washington Supreme Court is the highest state court and its decisions are binding on all other Washington state courts.

Case Law: State v. Gunwall, 106 Wn.2d 54, 720 P.2d 808 (1986)

Issue: The issue is whether the Washington Constitution provides broader protection than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Rule: The Washington Supreme Court set out a six-factor test to determine when the Washington Constitution provides more protection than the U.S. Constitution.

Application: The Court applied the six factors and concluded that the state constitution provided more protection against warrantless searches.

Conclusion: This case illustrates the importance of understanding Washington’s constitution and its interpretation, as it can provide broader protections than federal law.

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