The blawgosphere has been abuzz the past week about a new feature in Google Scholar: you can now use Google Scholar Advanced Scholar Search (still in beta) to find case law as well as patents and articles in legal journals! (Search options include Search all legal opinions and journals; Search only US federal court opinions; Search only court opinions from individual states).
According to Justia, the Google Scholar database includes US Federal Appellate, District Court, Bankruptcy & Tax Opinions since 1924, US 50 State Cases since 1950. Google Scholar also gives alternatives versions of cases from legal websites including Cornell's LII, Justia, and Carl Malamud's Public.Resource.org.
The Case Western law library blog has done some testing and has a useful post that reports in more depth about how to use this feature and what content you can find.
Google explains the reasons for the new addition on the Official Google Blog: "Laws that you don't know about, you can't follow — or make effective arguments to change. Starting today, we're enabling people everywhere to find and read full text legal opinions from U.S. federal and state district, appellate and supreme courts... We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of several pioneers, who have worked on making it possible for an average citizen to educate herself about the laws of the land: Tom Bruce (Cornell LII), Jerry Dupont (LLMC), Graham Greenleaf and Andrew Mowbray (AustLII), Carl Malamud (Public.Resource.Org), Daniel Poulin (LexUM), Tim Stanley (Justia), Joe Ury (BAILII), Tim Wu (AltLaw) and many others. It is an honor to follow in their footsteps. We would also like to acknowledge the judges who have built this cathedral of justice brick by brick and have tried to make it accessible to the rest of us. We hope Google Scholar will help all of us stand on the shoulders of these giants."