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Free Exercise Clause: Online Services

A Note on Computer Assisted Legal Research

Consideration of computer assisted legal research tools (CALR) involves complex considerations based on the nature of litigation, budget of the practice, andpreferences of the researcher.  Naturally, the more specialized the claim, the more care and investment a litigant should take in the research process.  The three major CALRs are LexisNexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg, though practitioners of religion clause claims should, for now, narrow the choice to Lexis and Westlaw due to Bloomberg’s emphasis on transactional practice less relevant to constitutional litigation.

Cost considerations of LexisNexis and Westlaw are highly contingent on the negotiation process, though fixed-costs prices for Westlaw PRO tend to be higher than LexisNexis. Bearing in mind the practice-specific considerations, religion clause litigants should weigh the following considerations.

(i) If claims tend to be state-specific, evaluate state resources unique to LexisNexis (e.g. MoBarCLE) with those unique to Westlaw (Missouri Practice Series).  A practitioner may decide based on preferences for one set of state secondary sources over the other.

(ii) If claims tend to be brought in federal courts, a practitioner may consider other unique features of the platform, such as the tab format or case summaries in LexisNexis, or KeyCite or folder features in Westlaw. 

(iii) Because the preeminent religion and law treatise is a product of Thomson Reuters, and thus offered in Westlaw, the weight likely favors a subscription to Westlaw. 

Journals & Think Tanks

In addition to public-interest resource, listed to the right, think tanks and academic institutions publish helpful resources for those litigating religious issues.  Prices vary. See also the list of research institutions on the opening page of this research guide.

Case Law

Advocacy & Public Interest

Online research is not limited to CALR libraries. Religious liberties issues have recently moved to the forefront of political controversy and public-interest advocacy.  As a result, there is much information, free and current, to be gleaned from think-tanks, advocacy groups, and other media outlets.  As long as a litigant carefully navigates this ideological and religious terrain, these resources can enhance the quality of research while lowering costs.

Below is a list of advocacy groups, some religious, that seek to educate the public on religious liberty issues and support religion clause litigants.  Many groups like these routinely publish materials to educate the public on recent legal develops, and all those listed routinely submit briefs in religion clause cases. 

These briefs may be especially helpful in developing strong doctrinal arguments, especially if a litigant analyzes opposing briefs alongside each other.  For instance, in a case recently argued before the Court, Town of Greece v. Galloway, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (a Roman Catholic advocacy group often on the  accomodationist side of Free Exercise litigation) submitted a brief in support of the petitioners, while the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (a Baptist advocacy group often on the separationist side of such litigation) offered a brief supporting the respondents.  A careful reading of both briefs of well-established advocates, together, provide keen insight into the most recent and effective legal arguments used in this type of litigation. 

Moreover, groups such as these are often happy to field questions from the public about legal issues or recent developments.  Email addresses and phone numbers are posted on their websites.  Listed below is the name of several prominent Free Exercise advocates and the self-description taken from their website.