Is your case still valid?

A student guide to KeyCite

What is a citator?
And, how is KeyCite different?

A Citator allows researchers like you to verify the authority of a precedent and to find additional sources relating to a given subject.

KeyCite is the powerful citation research service available exclusively on Westlaw. You'll learn more about the differences below. Use KeyCite at every step of your research to help you find, understand, and update the law, as well as, expand your research.

Know Your Flags

Before citing a case, check your KeyCite flag.

No doubt you have seen flags on Westlaw in your documents and your search results, but what do they mean? Below is a summary of the symbols you will see and what they tell you about the validity of your case.

Invalid Case

A red flag indicates a case is no longer good for at least one point of law. Your case may be reversed or overruled.

Negative Treatment

A yellow flag indicates a case received negative treatment, but is not reversed or overruled

Invalid Point of Law

A red-striped flag indicates a case is no longer good for at least one identified point of law.


A blue-striped flag indicates a document has been appealed to the U.S. Courts of Appeals or the U.S. Supreme Court.


Generally, a case without any KeyCite symbols is currently valid, but its status may change over time.

Overruling Risk

Indicates a case may no longer be good for at least one point of law based on reliance on an overruled or otherwise invalid prior decision.


Pay attention to the "most negative" treatment. If your case has negative treatment, the most severe treatment will be listed right on the document. If your case has a lot of negative treatment, you'll see a Most Negative indicator in your citing references.

Review your case's Table of Authorities. The Table of Authorities tab details all of the cases cited by an opinion organized by the depth of discussion. With TOA, you'll know what cases were most crucial to the opinion and pinpoint each time they are discussed.

Set up a KeyCite alert. If you are monitoring a key case in your argument for any updates, you don't need to log in each and every day. Create a KeyCite's Alert and Westlaw will notify with any changes.


Simply ignore red-flagged cases. A red-flagged case is invalid on at least one of point of law, so there may be perfectly valid points of law within your case that you can use. Ex.
Rodley v. Curry

Turn in an assignment without double checking your citations. The law can change over the course of an assignment, but you have a secret weapon in Quick Check. Upload your assignment and in minutes you will know whether any cases have been overruled or misquoted.

Skip over Headnotes. Knowing what your KeyCite flag means is only half the battle. When reviewing negative treatment, check out the Headnotes column so you know what aspects of your case were discussed (and potentially disagreed with).

Expand Your Research

Citing References bolster your argument.

Citing References connect you to everything on Westlaw that cites to your particular case.

When you find an on-point case, use citing references to locate other authority that has supported your case on the same point of law. You can also use citing references to find deeper explanations through Secondary Sources or even find sample briefs or motions to build from.


Ready to take your skills to the next level? Get certified in citators!

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