Feb 09

American Jurisprudence (AmJur)

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American Jurisprudence LibTour QRCodeThis LibTour on American Jurisprudence, or AmJur, which you can download here, was written by Kevin Baggett. Kevin is the Circulation Librarian at LSU Law and the author of the Louisiana Secondary Legal Resources CALI Lesson.

LibTour Poster:

Librarians and legal writing professors:  Download the pre-made, letter-sized LibTour poster. Print the PDF, and post it close to your library’s collection. Students can scan the QR code to hear the audio file instantly on their smart phones.

What Else Can I Do With This?:

We offer LibTour materials to you under this Creative Commons license. It means those of you at schools and libraries – including law firm and public libraries – can use LibTour about however you want. Just give credit to CALI and don’t turn around and sell our work.

But, change it around completely, post it on your own site, work it into your library tours, paste all the QR codes onto one handout…whatever you want. Just have fun, be creative, share and let us know what you’re doing with them!


This CALI LibTour covers a set of books called American Jurisprudence, “AmJurs” for short. AmJurs are commonly used in first-year legal writing assignments. The articles read like the text of a book and footnotes in each article provide cites to U.S. federal and state court decisions. They are a secondary source, which means that they are not “the law”, but rather they discuss the law.  AmJurs cover over 400 alphabetically arranged topics.

You may have heard of the American Legal Reports. American Legal Reports provide more detailed information and analysis of a very specific legal topic, whereas AmJur articles tend to be broader in scope.   You may also have heard of another legal encyclopedia called Corpus Juris Secundum. The major difference between the two encyclopedias is that the emphasis in Corpus Juris Secundum is on citing all relevant cases in point, whereas AmJurs will cite only the landmark or major relevant cases.

The typical AmJur article will contain a detailed outline.  This is followed by a “treated elsewhere” section, which gives citations to other AmJur articles.  Lastly, references to research, which contains ALR citations and citations to primary authority.  Each article is broken down into various sections, with each section receiving a paragraph or two length narrative, a West Key number entry, and case notes.  One special feature of AmJur articles are their cautions and observations, which are denoted by a diamond.

AmJurs are arranged topically, but also contain a multi-volume index to facilitate finding articles.  Say, for instance, you had a client that was inquiring about inheritance rights of out-of-wedlock children.  You could read the spine labels to try and find an article on children out-of-wedlock, but it would be best in this case to consult the index because there is no article with that exact title in AmJur.  Looking up children out-of-wedlock in the general index gives you a cross reference to illegitimate children.  The index entry for illegitimate children gives you an article citation on the topic, Illegit sections 1-141.  You would then pull the volume that contains the article, volume 41 Husband and Wife to Indictments and Informations, from the shelf and find a quick answer to your client’s question.

To highlight the subtle differences between the major legal encylopedias, the article on illegitimate children in CJS is titled, “Children Out-of-Wedlock”, whereas the corresponding article in AmJur is titled, “Illegitimate Children.”

Ask your library if they have a set of AmJurs in print. AmJurs are also available on LexisNexis and Westlaw.  Entries in Westlaw and LexisNexis are updated continually and the print version is updated with pocket parts found in the back of each volume.