California Legal Research

Use this as a guide to researching California law using any of these three tools: Legal encyclopedias/treatises, Annotated codes, or Case Digests.

Using Witkins Treatises

Using Witkin Treatises

The Witkin Treatise Library is the most commonly used commentary on California law.  The treatises have been cited over 20,000 times by the California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal.  They provide skillful case selection, expert analysis, and examination of the statutory, and case law, of virtually all important areas of California jurisprudence.  Witkin treatises are also valuable in finding the practice guides, and other materials, relevant to a particular topic.  They are often an excellent place to begin your research in California law.

The Treatises

Summary of California Law (10th ed.) KFC 80 W5  California Collection

This set comprises 16 volumes and covers every major substantive subject in California statutory and case law.  It includes the following chapters:

  • Contracts
  • Insurance
  • Workers' Compensation
  • Agency and Employment
  • Sales
  • Negotiable Instruments
  • Secured Transactions in Personal Property
  • Security Transactions in Real Property
  • Torts
  • Constitutional Law
  • Taxation
  • Partnership
  • Corporations
  • Parent and Child
  • Husband and Wife
  • Community Property
  • Real Property
  • Personal Property
  • Equity
  • Trusts
  • Wills and Probate

California Procedure (4th ed.) KFC 995 W53  California Collection

This set comprises 10 volumes.  It covers every major branch of procedure.  It includes the following chapters:

  • Attorneys
  • Courts
  • Jurisdiction
  • Actions
  • Pleading
  • Provisional Remedies
  • Proceedings without trial
  • Trial
  • Judgment
  • Enforcement of judgment
  • Attack on judgment in trial court
  • Extraordinary Writs
  • Appeal
  • Administrative Proceedings

California Evidence (4th ed.) KFC 1030 W5  California Collection

This set comprises 3 volumes.  It covers both the law of evidence and the production, presentation, and discovery of evidence in civil and criminal procedure.  It includes the following chapters:

  • Introduction
  • Judicial Notice
  • Burden of Proof and Presumptions
  • Circumstantial Evidence
  • Opinion Evidence
  • Hearsay
  • Demonstrative, Experimental, and Scientific Evidence
  • Documentary Evidence
  • Witnesses
  • Discovery
  • Presentation at Trial

California Criminal Law (3rd ed.) KFC 1100 W57  California Collection

This set comprises 6 volumes.  It covers common law crimes, and public welfare offenses in the statutes regulating businesses and professions, labor, health and safety, and other subjects.  It includes the following chapters:

  • Introduction to Crimes
  • Elements
  • Defenses
  • Crimes Against the Person
  • Crimes Against Property
  • Sex Offenses and Crimes Against Decency
  • Crimes Against Public Peace and Welfare
  • Crimes Against Government Authority
  • Punishment
  • Introduction to Criminal Procedure
  • Juridiction and Venue
  • Pretrial Proceedings
  • Illegally Obtained Evidence
  • Criminal Trial
  • Criminal Judgment
  • Criminal Appeal
  • Reversible Error
  • Criminal Writs

Elements in the treatises


Each chapter will begin with an outline of the materials, and topics, covered.


Each article is called a "section" in a Witkin's treatise.  These sections will contain a discussion which explains the law and how the relevant authorities fit together.

Treatment of Case Law

The description of cases in Witkin can be substantially different than the headnotes found in case digests.  Some cases may be covered only briefly, while others may be given far more discussion and detail than would be found in a digest.

Cross References

In addition to citing within the four Witkin treatises, citations can also be found to these sources:

  • Law review articles
  • A.L.R. annotations
  • California Civil Practice and California Transactions Forms
  • C.E.B. Practice Works
  • C.J.E.R. Benchbooks
  • Rutter Group California Practice Guides
  • American Jurisprudence (AmJur)
  • Restatements
  • Judicial Council Forms
  • ULA (Uniform Laws Annotated)
  • CALJIC and BAJI (jury instructions)
  • other major treatises

New Material

Topics new to the treatise are highlighted in the supplements and designated with a capital letter in their section number (i.e., §100A)

Finding Tools

The finding tools includes with the Witkins Library include a subject index, a table of cases, and a table of constitutions, statutes, and rules.  Remember that each treatise is updated by an annual pocket part, which is followed by updated finding tools.

Witkins on WestLaw

All of the Witkin treatises are available through WestLaw.  Additionally, all of the Witkin finding tools are separate databases within WestLaw.  Here is a list of both:

Lexis also includes the Witkin Treatises available in these databases:

  • WITSUM: Summary of California Law
  • WITCRM: California Criminal Law
  • WITEVD: California Evidence
  • WITPRO: California Procedure
  • WITKIN: All four sets in one file

How to cite

To cite a section of a Witkin Treatise use rule 15 in the Bluebook.  Here are some examples:

For Summary of California Law and California Practice

volume / author / treatise / chapter name / section

4 Witkin, Summary of Cal. Law (9th), Real Property § 100

2 Wiktin, Cal Procedure (3d), Courts § 200

For California Evidence and California Criminal Law

volume / author / treatise / section

3 Witkin, Cal. Evidence (3d), § 1700

4 Witkin and Epstein, Cal. Criminal Law (2d), § 2300

Subject Guide