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ENC 4353 - Writing for Social Change (Pompos)

Nexis Uni Introduction

Nexis Uni consists of four sections: Cases and law reviews, news, company info, country info. For this section, we're going to focus just on finding cases. For example, the CQ Researcher report on hate crimes references a Supreme Cort case from 2011, Snyder v. Phelps.

The report states that "The case involved protests by members of the Westboro Baptist Church at the funeral of a Marine who died in Iraq. According to the report, "The family sued for intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other allegations, and was awarded $5 million, but the decision was reversed on appeal. In the Supreme Court's opinion upholding the reversal, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “Speech is powerful. It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and — as it did here — inflict great pain. We cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.” Instead, free speech must be protected, including “hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.'”

We can use Nexis Uni to dig deeper into this issue, not just by locating the full text of the 2011 Supreme Court ruling, but by getting the entire legislative history of this case and of others involving the Westboro Baptist Church. To get started, search for Nexis Uni on the main databases page discussed above, or use this quick access link:

Nexis Uni Tutorial

Once you arrive at the Lexis Uni home page, select cases from the guided search, then click federal cases and enter Snyder v. Phelps into the search bar:

From there, we get 13 results beginning with the original 2006 case in a District court in Maryland, to a U.S. Court of Appeals in 2009, then to the 2011 Supreme Court ruling. This is an effective way to follow the developments of the case as it wound through the court system. Also note that you can further refine your results by doing a keyword search within, limiting by date, attorney, law firm, and judge in the sidebar:

From there, you can redirect your research, for example, but conducting new searches on hate crimes, hate speech, the Westboro Baptist Church.

Search Tip: When searching phrases consisting of common terms like hate speech or hate crimes, put quotation marks around the term to create a set phrase. For example:

  • "Hate speech"
  • "hate crime"

This will help you eliminate unrelated results that can clutter your search.

Now, let's move in to news and newspaper searching.