California Cases – Online and Free – Lexis Advance

California Official Reports website

Anyone who regularly researches California appellate cases should have the Lexis Advance California Official Reports site bookmarked in their internet browser.  This is a free internet website that allows a researcher to retrieve the text of California appellate decisions.  The site has recently been re-formatted by Lexis.  The publisher has added to the screen its Big Red search box as found on the screens of the subscription version of Lexis Advance.  Lexis provides this free, limited service as part of its contractual relationship with the California courts.

Searching on this site does not have all the capabilities that a full Lexis subscription offers.  Keywords searching is available.  But, by knowing a few search tips beforehand (no information is available on the public site) you can limit your search results to a more manageable file.

  • Know the name of one of the parties?   Use name search shorthand.   name(levi)
  • Use phrase searching.  yellow w/2 cab  The “w/” stands for “within” and the number for the number of words between the keywords
  • or even  name(yellow w/2 cab)
  • Have a sense of the date of the opinion?  Use the date shorthand with the keywords.   and =2017   or    and  <2015  (before 2015)   or    and >2009  (after 2009)

  You can be more specific with a date and a keyword.

Here is an example:

will return one case from 2017 with a named party “Levi”

Need more up-to-date resources?

This public resource should be viewed as a repository of opinions.  The database is not current.  It is only updated monthly.  Opinions are available through the site within 60 days.

You can search for the more recent opinions on the official California courts site but searching capabilities are limited.  No keyword searching.

To obtain electronic copies of recent unpublished decisions use  –

  • Unpublished or “non-citable” opinions are opinions that are not certified for publication in Official Reports and generally may not be cited or relied on by other courts or parties in other actions (see California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115).

To obtain more recent electronic copies of recently published decisions  –

  • Published or “citable” opinions of the appellate courts are opinions ordered published in the Official Reports, and may be cited or relied on by other courts and parties.

Here is the message from the free case site from Lawrence W. Striley, Reporter of Decisions for the California appellate courts.  The Reporter of Decisions is responsible for supervising the preparation of more than 12,000 California Supreme Court and Court of Appeal opinions each year, including opinions published in both the Official California Reports and the Official California Appellate Reports as well as unpublished opinions posted on the judicial branch’s California Courts Web site.





Last Minute Reminder

The holidays are here.

If you will be busy doing your last minute shopping online, can we remind you to shop at and increase Alameda County Law Library‘s AmazonSmile donations?

Wrap-up your holiday shopping at and Amazon donates to Alameda County Law Library.

Thank you for your support throughout the year.

Legal Services Referral Sheets

Alameda County Law Library Reference Librarian Emily B. has put together some useful guides for people needing no/low-cost legal representation.

The lists of local legal aid resources are compiled by subject area – family law & domestic violence, tenant & eviction matters, and debt collection & consumer law issues.

Information on the sheets includes: contact information for legal aid organizations, useful websites, and links to the California courts’ online information and forms.

Links to the documents  are below:

Tenant_Eviction Referral Sheet

Family Law Referral Sheet

Debt Collection Defense Consumer Law Referral Sheet


New Manner Of Service? Substituted Service At Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies (CMRA)

Substituted Service

Recently enacted California legislation (effective 1/1/2018) adds a new manner of service permissible under California Code of Civil Procedure § 415.20(c), when serving an individual at a Commercial Mail Receiving Agency (CMRA.)  A CMRA  is a private company—such as The UPS Store (formally Mailboxes Etc.) or FedEx Kinkos—that provides mailbox rental services to individuals and companies.  CMRAs must register with the United States Postal Service to act an an agency to receive delivery of mail of others.

Language has been added to the Code of Civil Procedure to allow substituted service of a lawsuit of an individual defendant on the first and only attempt at a CMRA.  The Process Server Institute recently posted an informative article on this recent amendment.

As stated in the article,  service on an individual defendant generally requires multiple attempts to show due diligence before substituted service may be made. Under the amendment, when serving an individual with an CMRA address CMRA substituted service may be made without due diligence.  Under the new rules the CMRA must comply with another CA Code section –  Business & Professions §17538.5(d).  The author of the article feels, because of the burden of these requirements, the statute is flawed and will lead to confusion.

The rules for legal service can be difficult to understand for a professional.  Self-represented litigants can be overwhelmed when trying to understand the procedures that must be followed for service of process (initial steps for serving the complaint) and service of other documents involved in court cases.

Here are some guides to help you research procedures involved in service of legal papers

Service of Process (California Courts web page)

What Is Service?

 The law says that when you sue a person, partnership, corporation, or the government, you must give formal notice to the other side that you have started the legal process. In the same way, when you are already involved in a case and file papers with the court, you are required to give the other side notice of the paperwork you have filed. The legal way to give formal notice is to have the other side “served” with a copy of the paperwork that you have filed with the court.  This is called “service of process.”

“Service of process” means that the other side must get copies of any paper you file with the court.  In “service of process” a third person (NOT you) is the one who actually delivers the paperwork to the other side.  The person who does this is called the “server” or “process server.”

Until the other side has been properly “served,” the judge cannot make any permanent orders or judgments.

Titles available at ACLL

California Civil Procedure Before Trial / CEB Chapter 17,Service of Summons” & Chapter 18,Service of Papers.”  KFC 995 C35 2004 and OnLAW

The Registered Process Server’s Guide to Service of Process in California / Tony Klein.  KFC 1004 P75 K58 2008

Handling Service of Process (Serving Summons in Civil Proceedings) / Mark D. Lipton.  CEB Action Guide  KFC 1003 A36 2016 and OnLAW

International Service of Process /American Bar Association.  K 7637 I57

For a detailed discussion of the new amendment and its possible problems, read the full article at Process Server Institute’s site –

What We Do At ACLL

Story hour at the law library

Law libraries have story hours, too, and more than just an hour.  Over the past few days, the Alameda County Law Library has been sharing patron stories on other social media sites.  This post provides a compilation of these stories; summarizing just how the library staff and resources help individuals from the Alameda County community and locations beyond.

The end-of-year holiday season is upon us.  A time when people give thanks and gifts to others.  We would like to encourage you to provide support for what we do here at ACLL by participating in the #Seasonofsmiles campaign organized by Amazon when you do your holiday shopping online, or directly, via the ACLL’s secured contribution page.

Thank you. And seasons greetings to all.


ACLL patrons stories:

From a solo practitionerThis library has been crucial to me throughout my law career.  It is an important resource for any attorney who does not work for a big firm—and that is a large group.  Solo practitioners, those who work part-time at home (e.g., those with children), those with offices in the city but who wish to telecommute but cannot work at home, and simply any lawyer working on a big project who needs space for uninterrupted work, the county law library is an invaluable resource!

From a self-represented litigant – Today the library helped me look up important info in an expensive (for me) Nolo Press book.  Gave me internet access to obtain key info.  Gave me a quiet, stress-free place to work on a stressful issue providing assistance on how to access all the library’s resources.

From a legal studies student – I just started my paralegal class. At the library to work on my first class assignment.  Inexperience with computers but need to use ACLL’s online legal databases to find cases that discuss the law when one neighbor builds his fence across another neighbor’s property.  Got help with how to bring up the databases on the public computers, search for cases, and email and print the documents I found. 

From a family law court petitioner – Today the law library helped me… find information about my rights as a grandparent —  visiting and maybe guardianship.  The staff showed me the pages on the California Courts Self-Help Center on the internet.  It had page of information about what I can do.  I was also shown the pages on guardianship and where to find the court forms online.  I used the library’s computer to complete my forms and print them out.

From a patron who struggles with using technologyThe library staff member was such a wonderful person to deal with.  He was extremely helpful to a senior citizen who is not computer literate.  After working and searching on the website, I finally summoned help.  Very knowledgeable and I must say he went beyond the call of duty in helping someone like me who isn’t familiar with all the new legal technology.

From a patron who needs to save on law office overhead expenses – As a freelance paralegal, I see firsthand the state of the various resources each law office has available.  More and more resources are getting squeezed out of the typical law office budget.  Having a high-level community resource such as the Alameda County Law Library is one way a small or mid-sized law office can differentiate themselves in the market… send their paralegals and support team to the library to conduct research, check practice guides, etc.

From a patron who is new to California law – Today the library helped me… I am new in California and recently bought a home in the City of Alameda.  I was referred to the Law Library by the County Recorder’s Office to get a Transfer on Death form.  I received the form and instructions to help me complete the form.  The desk staff was very kind and helpful.

From a frequent patron – Alameda’s law library is the best in the area.  Not only in terms of the excellent research services but also in terms of the staff’s willingness to help its patrons.  It is truly an invaluable institution, not only for those of us in the legal community who are frequent patrons, but also for members of the general public who may need assistance with legal research from time to time.


Personal information withheld to protect patron privacy.



Tis The Season – Use AmazonSmile For Your Holiday Shopping


You might be thinking,  “Ho-Ho-hold on there.  It isn’t even Thanksgiving yet.”

Just slipping in an early reminder about the AmazonSmile shopping program and the Alameda County Law Library.

You shop.  Amazon gives.

  • Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Alameda County Law Library whenever you shop on AmazonSmile using this link
  • AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know.  Same products, same prices, same service.
  • Support ACLL by starting your shopping at

We wanted to be sure we caught any of you hyper-organized people who will have all your holiday shopping completed by the end of November.  (You know who you are, sister-in-law in Ohio.)