'Lawyer's Nightmare': DOL Blames Westlaw for Skimpy Brief
Employment and litigation attorney Timothy Taylor was quoted in a Law360 article about how and when attorneys can know they've thoroughly researched relevant case law successfully. The issue arose in a case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in which the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) says a New England power company wrongly classified some employees as exempt from overtime. The parties disputed the relevance of a Massachusetts federal court's ruling that found an employee of another company was exempt, but neither the DOL nor the power company mentioned that the ruling had been appealed and vacated. This article provides specific details about this case and what it means in the broader scope of legal research. Mr. Taylor said finding a ruling that supports a brief's argument is only part of the legal research process. Checking to see what came after that ruling matters too.
"It's every lawyer's nightmare to rely on a case in an appellate brief without knowing it's bad law," he said. Checking a brief's citations should be a normal part of the quality control process before submitting it, he said. But there's no need to go overboard with extraordinary legal research, he added.
"I think it's reasonable to rely on a case's subsequent history and treatment as described in a service like Westlaw or Lexis," he said. "It's really going the extra mile to look up every case you cite in PACER to see if Westlaw or Lexis missed something. It's hard to justify the time and expense of doing that."