When the U.S. Congress passed the enabling act that provided for the creation of the State of Colorado and its admission into the union, the original boundaries were described as running from the intersection of the thirty-seventh parallel and twenty-fifth meridian west from Washington, north to the forty-first parallel, west to the thirty-second meridian, south to the thirty-seventh parallel, and east “to the place of beginning.”
Starting from an initial point and ending at the place of beginning is also an apt description of the legal research process. Effective legal researchers identify and concretely define an issue to create a starting point. They expand their understanding of the landscape by pursuing the interconnected and sometimes conflicting hierarchies of authority (constitutions, statutes, regulations, opinions, etc.) to determine the boundaries of the question. They end by returning to their original question to apply what they have learned.
Written by Colorado Supreme Court librarians, “West to the 32nd Meridian” is a new Docket feature focusing on what we believe to be the finer (and more interesting) points of Colorado legal research. Beginning in February 2014, the column will appear quarterly, with a series of thematically related articles that will work together to build a full picture of a larger legal research topic.
In choosing the name “West to the 32nd Meridian,” the authors wish to convey the idea that effective legal research begins with careful consideration of the frameworks or boundaries that define each legal question. The authors also wish to emphasize that understanding historical context and the different ways the law has been recorded and accessed in the past are often critical components of effective research strategies.
The topic of the first series of articles will be Colorado primary law. Starting with the Colorado Constitution, we will then examine Colorado legislation and statutes, Colorado regulatory research, and finally Colorado judicial opinions. Infused with historical context, each article will include its own selected bibliography. We hope the articles will be as interesting as they are pragmatic and informative. We welcome comments, and we will answer all inquiries. Contact information for the authors will be found at the end of each article.
By Dan Cordova and Chris Hudson