skip navigation


"Help" is a pretty broad term, covering everything from technical assistance in using some part of the LII site to assistance with complex, personal legal matters. 

We should probably state right at the outset that the LII cannot offer you legal advice or assistance, and we do not offer personalized help with legal research or school projects . But read on, because there may be other ways in which we can help you. 

The reasons for this are both legal and practical. First, it is illegal for us to do anything that any state or jurisdiction might interpret as "practicing law" --and that includes giving advice or interpreting the law. Second, even if we could do so legally, we would quickly drown in the volume of requests. This site is visited by literally hundreds of thousands of people each week.  We get many, many e-mailed requests for help, and we cannot answer even a small portion of them. What we can do is offer you some generic help on topics people commonly ask about, as a way of helping you get started. 

Which of these describes you?

Technical assistance

Broken links, missing data, or other problems with accessing content

Before you report a problem, you should make sure that it is in fact a problem with the LII site. People often report problems with sites we link to, problems that lie beyond our site and beyond our control.  If it is an LII problem, the page containing the broken link or other problem  should show words "" in the part of your browser that tells you what page you're looking at. In reporting a problem, please tell us what page you were viewing when you encountered it. There are over 100,000 pages on the LII site, and it is difficult for us to find a particular broken link or other problem unless you tell us where it is. 

Problems can be reported with the "problems" category in the contact form.

Different things may happen once you report the problem.  Some broken links we fix immediately, because we recognize that they are heavily used and relied upon.  Others we put on a list to be fixed as part of our regular maintenance activities during the summer months (we are very thinly staffed).  Most problems with dysfunctional scripts or software are fixed right away, the exception being when we have a major overhaul  of a software subsystem pending within a reasonable time. 

Help with mailing lists (listserv lists)

( Many ordinary list-management tasks like subscribing, unsubscribing, or changing options can best be accomplished via our Web interface to listproc.)

Nothing works

If you're having trouble getting listproc to accept *any* command -- that is, you keep sending legit commands to the right place and it just returns error messages -- then the chances are that your mailer is set to format your mail as HTML.  Outlook Express in particular is notorious for setting up HTML formatted mail as a default.  Set your mailer to send the mail as plain text and try again. 

A similar symptom (with a different cause) is that sometimes you'll get two messages back from listproc, one apparently confirming that the command was executed and the second throwing an error message.  Confusing, isn't it?  Actually, listproc has done what you asked it to; the error message is almost always generated by listproc encountering a line of text it doesn't understand, most often the upper border of your signature block.  You can stop this happening by placing a line containing only two dashes at the left margin above your sig block. 

Routine subscription and unsubscription

You can subscribe to any list offered by the LII by sending the one-line message 

subscribe LISTNAME Your Name
For example: 
subscribe LIIBULLETIN-NY John Q. Public 
Remember that: 

  • The command goes in the body of the mail message, not in the subject line;
  • LISTNAME should be replaced with the name of the list you want to subscribe to (eg. LIIBULLETIN);
  • Your Name should be, in fact, your name (eg. John Q. Public), and
  • listserv is spelled without an 'e' on the end.

Getting off a list works similarly. Send the one-line message 

unsubscribe LISTNAME

A fuller explanation of these commands is available from CREN (the publishers of the listproc software), where you can also get Postscript and RTF versions of the full documentation. 

Changing options on your subscription

In general, you change options by sending the message 



where OPTION is one of ACK, NOACK, DIGEST, or POSTPONE.  (You unset an option by setting any other option; usually this means setting the ACK option.)  ACK causes messages you post to the list to be sent to you as well (the default); NOACK causes listproc not to send you a copy of your postings; DIGEST causes listproc to send you list traffic  in groups or clusters of messages of a set size or frequency (eg. once per day), and POSTPONE causes listproc to hold any traffic until you unset the option.  For instance: 


Remember that: 

  • The command goes in the body of the mail message, not in the subject line;
  • LISTNAME should be replaced with the name of the list you want to subscribe to (eg. LIIBULLETIN);
  • Your Name should be, in fact, your name (eg. John Q. Public), and

  • listserv is spelled without an 'e' on the end.

A fuller explanation of these commands is available from CREN (the publishers of the listproc software), where you can also get Postscript and RTF versions of the full documentation. You can also set and unset any options via our Web interface

Help! Somebody else subscribed me to this list!

Frankly, we're skeptical.  While it's all too possible for someone to spoof a mailer and subscribe you against your will, we doubt that it happens as often as people claim it does.  If it has, then you can unsubscribe yourself by following the instructions above.  We further suggest that you change all of the passwords associated with your e-mail account, and have a serious chat with any friends, associates or family members who may have access to your account. 

It is also possible that your ISP (particularly if it is also your employer) may be 'recycling' e-mail addresses, and you have inherited someone's subscription.  If that's the case, then we strongly suggest that you complain to your ISP directly and loudly. For obvious reasons, recycling mailboxes is an unwise practice. 

Fortunately, subscribing to LII services has no consequences either for your finances or for your privacy.  Someone with access to your e-mail account can do damage to both, and we recommend that you take the problem seriously. 

Sections of the CFR or US Code labelled 'Reserved'

People often write to us wondering why there is no content in these sections, or whether 'reserved' has some special meaning in law or government (people in this latter category usually imagine it is something quite important or ominous). As it is used to label a section of the US Code or Code of Federal Regulations, the word 'reserved' does have a special meaning, but it is hardly important: it just means that the section has been saved as 'empty space' to be used later --that is, that the section has been 'reserved' for later use. It is the equivalent of a page in a technical manual labelled "this space intentionally left blank".

"Transfer interrupted" messages 

From time to time you may see the words "Transfer interrupted" in large letters in the middle or at the end of one of our documents. This message is inserted by your browser when it cannot retrieve all of a document. The usual reasons are either a slow or congested net connection at your end, or overloading at ours. Ordinarily this is more likely to be a problem at your end. Try simply reloading; often this solves it, but if not, try waiting until your system (or ours) is less busy. In any case, this is not a problem with the actual text of the document at our site; it is a message inserted by your browser.

Problems with downloading LII products

It has been our experience that the majority of problems with downloading are problems with the local browser configuration, particularly problems with how the browser saves binary files. 

For further assistance, use the "orders" category in the contact form.

Locating laws, cases, and rules

Legal research is a highly specialized and sometimes difficult topic that we can't hope to cover thoroughly here.  We can, however, offer some tips based on our experience with what people commonly ask about.  You may also want to look at our section on help with legal problems.  Here, in no particular order, are some tips:

General hints:

 Finding laws, rules, and regulations

  • Probably the most important thing to know when looking for "law about" something (say, alcoholic beverages) is whether the matter you're interested in is primarily a state or a federal matter.  Much of the time it makes more sense to start with the states (if possible, your state); check our listing of state laws by topic.
  • Federal laws and rules can be found by looking at the Code of Federal Regulations and the United States Code. What's the difference?   The CFR contains rules and regulations made by executive branch agencies; the Code is a collection of laws made by Congress.  Both are subject to almost continual change.  The LII version of the Code contains an update feature which will give you information about recent changes to the Code.  Regulations too new for the online version of the CFR are often found in the Federal Register.
  • We provide overviews of important topical areas with links to online resources in our "Law about..." section. Often this will be your best starting point.
  • Collections of rules and regulations and of public laws change often.  As a result citations can very quickly become outdated.  If you come to us with a citation culled from a print source (and the older the source the greater the danger of this is) you may not find what you're looking for.  In such cases the best bet is probably to simply use the search engine for the resource in question (US Code or CFR) to find relevant sections. 

Finding cases

  • Many cases assigned for school projects are Supreme Court cases of some historic importance.  We suggest you start with our list of Historic Decisions of the US Supreme Court if you are looking for a "famous case".
  • Our topical pages provide a good starting point for locating cases in particular areas of law.
  • Your chances of finding a case on the Net are substantially reduced if you don't know what court it came from.  Again, if it's a famous case in the US we recommend starting with our Historic Decisions of the Supreme Court. If it's a recent case (or if you don't know) try searching our collections of recent Supreme Court and Circuit Court opinions. We also provide a list of state courts that may have what you want.  You might also try using the LawCrawler feature at the FindLaw site.
  • Certain types of cases are very difficult to find on the Net. Except for Supreme Court decisions, almost no decisions from any court dating from before 1990 are available from any free source on the Net.  Other hard-to-find categories are cases from the Federal District Courts, state courts other than the highest appellate court in the state, and all manner of county and municipal courts.  There are exceptions, though, and new things are coming online constantly.  One way to find them is to search on the name of the court in AltaVista or Yahoo

When you can't find a Supreme Court case you read about in the news.

News media are fond of saying that the Supreme Court "ruled" or "made a decision" in a case when in fact all the Court did was refuse to hear an appeal from a lower court ruling (in such cases the Court is said to have "denied certiorari"). The effect, of course, is to let the ruling of the lower court stand. Often this is reported as a decision by the Court, but the decision is simply to let things remain as the lower court left them.

Denials of certiorari are reported in the order lists handed down by the Court on most Mondays during the term, and are listed by case name. We have recently added a feature that allows you to search the order lists for particular cases.

Help with legal problems and procedures

As we mention in the introductory section of this page, the LII cannot and does not provide legal advice or interpretation of law; we cannot legally do so.    A later section of this page talks about ways to find an attorney; you probably also want to look at the section on finding rules, regulations, statutes, and cases. Most communities have legal assistance available for people who cannot afford an attorney. 

Some things people frequently ask about: 

Matrimonial law and child custody
We provide topical guides in the areas of adoption, child custody, children's rights, divorce, and  marriage law. You may also want to look at  Divorce HelpLine, DivorceNet, and DivorceSource
Bankruptcy law.
We provide a topical overview of bankruptcy and of debtor-creditor law. You should also look at the laws of your state
Employment law (including discrimination, unemployment, worker's compensation, and collective bargaining)
See our general guide to employment law.  In many cases the laws of your state be an important follow-up resource. 
Copyright law and procedures.
We provide an overview of copyright law that points to most important Internet resources.  The Library of Congress offers an excellent guide to basic copyright, including registration procedures. 
Landlord-tenant problems.
Again, we offer a topical guide.  Much depends on the law of your state,  and depending on the nature of the dispute, on county and municipal regulations as well.  The TenantNet site is useful, but oriented toward New York City people and problems. 

Finding a lawyer

Two popular online legal directories are provided by West Group and Martindale-Hubbell.  The ABA maintains a state-by-state list of lawyer referral services, and extensive information about programs that provide legal services to people who cannot otherwise afford an attorney. 

Contacting government agencies and officials

A good overview of how government agencies are organized is provided by the US Government Manual.  Federal offices and agencies are comprehensively listed by the LSU Law Library. State and local government information is listed by Piper.  Web sites for municipal governments worldwide are listed by Munisource

In addition, most of the large Net directory services offer special sections on government.  The offering from 
Infospace is particularly nice. 

Bringing resources to the attention of the LII 

We appreciate it when people take the trouble to notify us of newly available legal-information resources; use the "suggestions" category in the contact form.

Our listing of and linking to other legal resources is governed by our judgment about the usefulness and quality of the content they provide.  We do not attempt to be comprehensive and we are not a listing service.  As a public site for legal information we tend to give preference to information providers who offer their services at or below cost; see our policy on commercial sites

Purchasing or licensing an LII product

Most LII products can be purchased directly from the site.  If our online offerings don't meet your needs, or if you want to arrange special licensing or redistribution terms,  please use the "permissions" category in the contact form

Linking to the LII site and/or reproducing its content elsewhere

We grant permission to any site wishing to link to us for any purpose whatsoever; we simply ask that you not take steps to obscure or alter the apparent source of the information (as happens with some so-called framing practices) and that you give attribution to the LII as appropriate. 

We also permit reproduction of our pages in non-electronic media (like training workbooks) provided they are not offered for sale commercially; we encourage you to send us copies, as we are always curious about what people do with the resources we supply.  All others wishing to reproduce our content in print or non-print media should contact us; while much of the material underlying the site is public, we do assert copyright in some aspects. A more complete statement of our credits and conditions of use is available.