Lexis Nexis Search Tips

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Since all the BOP institutions use the same version of Lexis Nexis, I figured that this week’s post would include some tips on basic and advanced search techniques that could be used to help you with your case. To bring up the search feature in Lexis Nexis, a shortcut key you can press is the F2 key located at the top of the keyboard.

Lexis Nexis uses what is called boolean search operators. This are actually things that can be used with search engines online as well. For instance, any time you put a space between words, you are telling it to search for all the words. So if you typed search and seizure, it would search for any documents that contained the word ‘search’ ,the word ‘and’, as well as the word ‘seizure’, not necessarily together or in that order. This would be the same thing as typing in search AND and AND seizure.

Let’s say you wanted to search for the exact phrase search and seizure. You can do this by putting the terms you are searching for in quotation marks, “search and seizure”. This would only find results where those three words appear in that exact order and directly next to each other.

Another common search example is the OR operator. Let’s say you wanted to find any results that include the term ‘child’ or ‘offspring’. It would search all records for either of those. But, if you only wanted it to return one and not the other, you would use the XOR operator. Thus, you could search for child XOR offspring. This would find any results that had the term ‘child’ in it or the word ‘offspring’ but not both.

One feature that helps limit what you search for is the NOT operator. Let’s say you were trying to find all (or at least most) of the statutes from title 18, chapter 110 (the sex offense chapter). This includes 2250, 2251, 2252, 2252A, and so forth. You could also include what is a wildcard operator, which is the asterisk (*) key. So you could put in the search box 225* and it would bring up any mention of 2250, 2251, and so forth. The problem is, this may also show results such as 28 U.S.C. 2255, what most people use on their appeal and thus you don’t want that.

A way around that is to search for 225* NOT 2254 NOT 2255. This would search for everything that begin with 225, but as long as it wasn’t 2254 or 2255. While there are some statutes that fall under those same statute numbers in the sex offense chapter, this gives you an idea on how you can eliminate useless information.

Here is one example I used recently. I was looking for any cases where someone filed a motion for early termination of supervised release that was granted. My exact search was: 3583(e)(1) grant* NOT den*

What this did was search for any case that included the term 3583(e)(1), which is the statute for early termination, included the word grant, grants, granted, granting, and so forth, BUT not any cases that include the word deny, denied, denying, and so forth. Therefore, if a phrase in the case said for example “Defendant previously asked for this court to grant his early termination of supervised release under 18 USC 3583(e)(1). Now defends comes in front of this court again. The motion is denied.”

In this example, the case would NOT show up. Why? Well, it includes the term 3583(e)(1) and it includes the word grant. But, because it also includes the word denied, it therefore would not show up. This helps eliminate cases that do not meet the exact criteria you are searching for.

Another search feature is called proximity searching. You may have seen a phrase in the past and can’t remember the exact wording to search for it. Let’s say it was something about supervised release and internet ban or restrictions. There are two ways to do this.

First, the search MUST be enclosed in quotation marks. It would look like this “supervised release internet”. But, if you just searched that way, you more than likely would not encounter any results. So you must search within a certain number of words to the left or right of each other. To search where it does not matter the exact order of the terms, you would type this in: “supervised release internet” @ 10. This would search ten words in either direction of each of the words to find all three of the words. If it finds it, the result is returned; if it doesn’t match, then no results. If you wanted to search the exact order of the terms, the technique is the same except instead of putting the “@” sign, you would put the “/” symbol. From my searching, it is best to use the “@” sign as that searches both directions.

The last feature is one where you can actually search multiple courts at the same time. If you open up several different courts, you can click on the word Window at the top of the screen and then click on Tile Vertically. What this does is tile all the windows you have open starting in the top left corner, going down, then the second column from the top down. You can type in the search on any of them like you would normally, but this time, click on the button that says “Apply to All”.

Then what I do is click on the top left window. In the very bottom left of the screen in the status bar, it says how many hits there are in that window. If it says, 0/0, you know there is nothing to check on that one. So click on the next window and continue doing this. When one of the windows shows a result, it will say 1/3 for example. This means there are three instances where your search was found in that window.

To view each record, hit the F5 key at the top of the keyboard and it will go from one record to the next. If you would like to go backwards, hold the Shift key and then hit the F5 key.

Granted, this is a somewhat technical post, I suggest you print this out and use it for future references. If you have any trouble with it, you can go to the list of all the files when you first open Lexis Nexis and one of the options is the Lexis Nexis Operating Manual. It actually includes a lot of good information and can be helpful.

There are plenty of other tips you can use, but for now, this should be enough to get you started.

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