This glossary is intended as a quick reference tool for common legal research terms and commonly referenced Wyoming and United States sources. Bolded words in definitions indicate they are also included in this glossary. This glossary is Wyoming-specific, and terms outside of Wyoming, for example, the United States Congress, are named as such. 

Terms have been adapted from Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019), Wyoming Legal Research (3d ed., 2023), and the law librarians' knowledge and expertise at the University of Wyoming's Hopper Law Library.

Didn't find what you were looking for? Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute also has a free, comprehensive legal dictionary and encyclopedia, Wex. 

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10th Circuit Court of Appeals Higher court than WY federal district courts, lesser court than the US Supreme Court. Wyoming is located in the 10th Circuit. 


Administrative Agency: Part of the executive branch, an administrative agency can act quasi-judicially or quasi-legislatively. When an agency is developing or promulgating rules or regulations, it is acting like a legislature. When it is conducting hearings or issuing administrative decisions, it is acting like a judicial body. Search Wyoming’s administrative rules  

Administrative Decisions: A primary source of law that contains information on an agency’s role in enforcing statutes and regulations, issuing citations for non-compliance, handling grievances, drafting guidelines for help in interpreting laws and procedures, and writing letters in response to public input. Administrative decisions are issued by an administrative judge or administrative law judge. Both informal and formal decisions of Wyoming agencies are not published in print but can be requested or are available on that agency’s website. Search for current, proposed, and emergency administrative rules in WY. 

Federal agencies’ administrative decisions are sometimes published through the Government Publishing Office, on that agency’s website, or from any of the resources listed in T1.2 or T15 of the Bluebook citation guide. 

Authority In legal research, there are two types of authority: binding and persuasive. Binding authority happens within a jurisdiction and is primary law. Persuasive authority applies when primary law is outside of a jurisdiction or when it comes from a secondary source, which contains annotations. Wyoming’s state constitution and statutes are binding authority in the state of Wyoming. Nebraska’s state constitution, court decisions, and statutes are persuasive authority in the state of Wyoming but binding in Nebraska. Federal law, be it federal statutes, executive orders or administrative law, or case law, is binding in federal courts.  

Advanced Search Allows for narrowing a search by date or date range, author, jurisdiction, state, exact word, terms and connectors, limiters and expanders. 

Annotated Statutes Statutes accompanied by a summary of cases that interpret the statute, regulations relating to the statute, and any secondary sources that cite the statute. Annotated statutes of Wyoming law are available via the WY Legislative Service Office. The Hopper Law Library also has print copies for reference, and they cannot be checked out from the library. 

Annotation Insight into primary law written by editors to aid in understanding of an authority. Annotated sources include a brief summary of the facts and decisions in a case, especially when a statute has been interpreted; a note that explains or criticizes a law source, usually a case; and a volume containing explanatory or critical notes. 

Appendix Located at the end of an article or book, after the Works Cited page, that contains supplemental information. Appendices can contain figures, maps, tables, photographs, sample questions, transcripts, or raw data, among others. 

Authority Addresses the legal issue and parallel facts of a legal situation. Binding authority comes from the statutory, administrative, and case law within the geographical boundaries of the government, or jurisdiction. Persuasive authority includes the rules of law outside the controlling authority, or outside the jurisdiction. Examples are persuasive authority include statutes from other states, decisions from courts outside jurisdiction, and secondary sources such as books and articles discussing and analyzing the law. 


Boolean Search An approach to database searching that includes the use of AND, OR, NOT, !, and *, among others, to limit or expand search results. See also Terms and Connectors. Quick guide to Boolean Operators 

Branches of Government on both the state and federal level, are comprised of the executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch. 

The Bluebook Style guide for legal citation in the United States. The UW Hopper Law Library has copies of The Bluebook for reference; a copy of The Bluebook can also be loaned through your local Wyoming public library. A limited, online quick guide is available. 


Case Law Collection of published cases that comprise all or part of a body of law within a jurisdiction. 

Chancery Court A limited jurisdiction court based out of Casper that was established in 2021 to resolve business and trust cases on an expedited schedule with bench trials and limited motions. The chancery court has statewide jurisdiction. Access the explanation and reasoning for the Chancery Court. 

Circuit Courts In Wyoming, Circuit Courts are limited jurisdiction courts that share the same boundaries as the nine judicial districts. Circuit Courts cover small claims and civil disputes under $50K. 

Citation A legal citation indicates authority for a legal issue, identifies the source where the law is published, and provides an easy way to locate the source. Bluebook Citation is commonly used in legal research. 

Constitution The Wyoming Constitution is the set of laws and basic principles of the State of Wyoming. Originally signed and ratified by voters in 1889, the Wyoming Constitution was enacted on July 10, 1890, the day Wyoming became the 44th state. The WY Constitution includes a Preamble and 21 Articles on topics including a Declaration of Rights, Distibution of Powers, the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Departments, Suffrage and Elections, Education, Water Rights, Mines and Mining, Taxation and Revenue, and Public Lands and Donations, among others. The Wyoming Constitution is notable for granting women suffrage 31 years before the federal XIX Amendment--hence its nickname, The Equality State. (Women did have suffrage during Wyoming’s Territory days as well, beginning in 1869.) The Wyoming Constitution is binding authority for all case law, statutes, and rules and regulations in Wyoming. The Wyoming Secretary of State provides a current version of the Constitution online. 

Coverage The amount of useful information in a law library system, usually bound by date. For example, sometimes a legal periodical is available only in print for certain years and only electronically for certain years. 

Court Opinions The explanation and analysis of a court’s ruling. Wyoming Supreme Court opinions are available online, beginning in 2006. 


Discovery Search A database search to a wide range of content.  

District Court, Wyoming Trial courts of general jurisdiction in each county in Wyoming, which are organized into nine judicial districts. District courts hear felony criminal, juvenile, and probate cases. The Wyoming Judicial Branch dedicates a section of its website to Wyoming District Court info. Trial transcripts and rulings are generally not available online but can be accessed by contacting that Wyoming District Court directly. 

District Court, United States Wyoming has US District Courts in three locations: Cheyenne, Casper, and Mammoth, near Yellowstone. The United States District Court in Wyoming’s jurisdiction is federal, and judges hear cases on matters involving federal statutes, rules, and regulations. The federal government maintains a website for the United States District Court, District of Wyoming. 


Executive Branch Executes laws passed by the legislature in Wyoming. The Executive Branch includes the Governor, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Treasurer, Superintendent of School Instruction as well as Wyoming state agencies such as the Attorney General, Department of Corrections, Health, Insurance, Livestock Board, Revenue, and University of Wyoming, among others.  

Executive Branch of the United States Includes the President, Cabinet Members, and government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, and Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA). 


Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Passed in 1966, FOIA provides the public the right to request information about and from the government. Unless the information falls under these nine exemptions listed under the FAQ section, the government is required to provide the requested information. 


General Jurisdiction Court A court whose jurisdiction is not limited by the type of case it can hear. General jurisdiction courts cover cases that are not covered by a limited jurisdiction court such as family or chancery courts. In Wyoming, the only general jurisdiction courts are the District Courts. 

Google Scholar Contains some free content, especially case law. Links also to some secondary sources, including legal periodical literature. 

Government Publishing Office (GPO) Produces, publishes, and distributes information for all three branches of the federal government. Search the GPO catalog 


Holding In a catalog search for physical items, it includes information about which library an item is at, the location in the library, Library of Congress Classification number, and type of holding (single book, serial, etc).  


Index An alphabetical list of names and topics with references to the page numbers in a book, whether print or digital. Together with a table of contents, an index can tell you whether the resource is going to be relevant for your legal research plan. 

Items A sub-class of holdings, the item record contains the barcode, material type, and checkout limitations. A holding may have more than one item, but not vice versa. 


Judicial Branch The part of government that interprets the law and in doing so, also creates case law. Visit the helpful website of the State of Wyoming’s Judicial Branch. 

Jurisdiction Governmental power to regulate authority over people and things within its geographical boundaries; power of the court to decide cases or issue decrees; the area within geographic boundaries in which political or judicial power has authority. For example, family law falls under the State of Wyoming jurisdiction whereas interstate commerce falls under federal jurisdiction. 


Keyword Search When searching a database, a keyword search is similar to searching by topic. 


Legal Advice Guidance given by lawyers to their clients. Within the law library and from the law librarians, you will find legal information. 

Legal Research Discovery and collecting of authorities, or sources, on a legal question. Also, the field of study concerned with this discovery and collecting of legal sources. 

Legal Research Plan A six-step process that includes the following: 1. Determine the issue; 2. Identify all relevant facts; 3. Define possible research terms; 4. Determine the jurisdiction and which law applies; 5. Recognize timeliness and time limits; 6. Decide on the best resource(s) for the search. This six-step process has been adapted from Wyoming Legal Research. 

Legislation Written process of making or enacting positive law according to a procedure in any of the branches of government. Legislation is also referred to as law-making or statute-making. 

Legislative Branch The branch of government that makes laws. Wyoming statutes and the Wyoming constitution can be found on their website. The State of Wyoming Legislature maintains a glossary of words and phrases often used in the drafting and passage of laws. 

Library of Congress Classification and Subject Headings The Library of Congress groups books into 21 broad subject categories, identified by a letter(s) of the alphabet. Subject categories are further divided into double- or triple-lettered categories. Specific subjects are indicated by numbers following the letter(s). International law is JX-JZ, general law is K, and American law is KF. 

Limited Jurisdiction Court A court whose jurisdiction is limited to the type of case or dollar amount sought in a civil case. In Wyoming, Circuit Courts are limited jurisdiction courts, covering small claims cases and those civil cases where the damages sought is under $50,000. To find more information about the structure and parameters of the Wyoming court system, visit Wyoming Judicial Branch.  


Primary Sources are original sources of law that have authority and are binding within jurisdiction. Examples include: 

Public Law Section of the law that deals with the relationship between individuals and the government. Public law includes constitutional law, criminal law, and administrative law. 


Reference Resources in the law library that include encyclopedias, Wyoming annotated state statutes, reporters of case law, Restatements of the Law, American Law Reports, digests and forms, among others. Reference is also the process of giving selected legal information to a library user. 

Rules and Regulations Laws from administrative agencies at both the state and federal level that control or restrict the areas they oversee. For example, the Environmental Protection Agency has rules and regulations about clean water. The Federal Aviation Association has rules and regulations on pilot training, air traffic control, and ground crews. At the state level, for instance, the Wyoming Board of Outfitters and Professional Guides has rules on outfitter qualifications, examinations, hunting areas, and license application. 


Secondary Sources: Different than primary sources, secondary sources provide background information, and context on a legal issue. Secondary sources help explain or clarify a law, and point to a primary source—the statute, regulation, or case law at hand. Very few secondary sources are free and available to the public; the UW Hopper Law Library and Wyoming State Law Library have secondary sources in their libraries. Secondary sources are more likely to be persuasive rather than binding. 

Session Laws Laws passed during Wyoming state legislature sessions. Session laws are arranged by year. The Wyoming Legislative Service Office publishes session laws online. Find session laws from 2001 to the present or session laws prior to 2001  

Statute Enacted legislation into law. For research purposes, there are annotated statutes and unannotated statutes in Wyoming.  

Subscription Database A database of legal research materials that require paid access. The Hopper Law Library provides free, in-library access to most subscription databases for legal research, including HeinOnline, Westlaw, and LexisNexis, among others. 

Superceded To annul, make void, or repeal by taking the place of. For example, 2021 Wyoming Annotated Statutes were superseded by 2022 Wyoming Annotated Statutes. 

Supreme Court In Wyoming, the State Supreme Court hears cases and is the final arbiter of Wyoming state law cases. The Wyoming Supreme Court’s decisions are final except when federal law is at issue. Cases in this instance can be appealed to the United States Supreme Court. 


Table of Contents In legal research, a list of chapters or articles at the beginning of a book or journal (whether print or digital) that indicates chapters or sections and the topics included in those. Together with an index, a table of contents can tell you whether the resource is going to be relevant for your legal research plan. 

Terms and Connectors When using the search bar for a search engine (like Google) or a database (like Westlaw), terms and connectors help expand or narrow a search with words such as AND, BUT, NOT and symbols such as * or !. Terms and connectors can vary by search engine or database. Quick guide to Westlaw’s Terms and Connectors 

Topical Based on certain topics. 

Treatise A secondary source in book form that focuses on a specific area of law and is written by experts in that area. For public patrons, treatises can be accessed only from law library computers; we also have print versions. 


United States Bankruptcy Court of Wyoming Bankruptcy laws are designed to help individuals who can no longer pay their creditors by liquidating assets, developing a repayment plan. Bankruptcy laws can also help businesses struggling to pay their creditors with reorganization or liquidation. All bankruptcy courts in the United States are federal. 

United States Code Primary, general, and permanent federal law organized into 54 subject matters. 

United States Congress Legislative body of the federal government, consisting of the House and Senate, authorized by the US Constitution, Article I, § 1 

United States Supreme Court Judicial branch of the federal government established by Article III, § 1 of the US Constitution, which calls for judicial power to be vested in one Supreme Court. 


Works Cited an alphabetical listing of sources cited in a research paper of any kind. 






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