Last week, Google launched a new feature on its Google Scholar specialized search engine that enables full-text searching of published federal and state court opinions, as well as articles in certain legal journals. Users can access the new features by selecting the "Legal opinions and journals" bullet on the Google Scholar main search page. The cases in the Google Scholar database generally include official reporter citation page numbers throughout the decision. The other main search category available is "Articles," including or excluding patents.

By using the Advanced Scholar Search feature, you can engage in more tailored searches, such as within just federal court decisions, decisions from one or more individual states, or articles by specific authors, or in designated journals, date ranges, or subject matter fields. Google’s official blog post on the new search feature gives additional information.

At the moment, it appears that not all unpublished decisions are available in Google Scholar search results, and Google’s disclaimer states that it does not represent that results are complete or accurate. In addition, among other features, Google Scholar lacks the key number system, headnotes, cite-checking ability (although the "How Cited" link gives some information on follow-on citations), and access to a full range of legal journals available from long-standing legal search services such as LexisNexis and Westlaw. Still, as a supplement to Google’s standard web search, the Google Scholar legal opinion and journal search engine is a powerful new — and free — place to start when doing bankruptcy or other legal research.