Research Tips for Smart Search

Researching Motions Filed in State Court and/or Finding Motion Templates on Smart Search

The Trellis database aggregates state trial court Rulings and Documents from all over the country.  This means we also aggregate motions filed across different civil litigation practice areas.  We have hundreds of millions of searchable, filed documents.  The body and text of documents are searchable on Trellis, not just the title or case number.  Consequently, many attorneys utilize us as the largest “brief bank” available for state trial court data.

Indeed, using Smart Search, you can conduct research on successful motions, search through moving papers in cases that are similar to your own, learn how other attorneys have organized complex arguments in similar cases, gain intel on what legal authorities your opposing counsel has cited to in the past, and find court rulings on these motions.

Running a query on Smart Search will search the body and text of state trial court documents based on the keywords you use. The best way to utilize us as a brief bank is to search the title of the motion while also entering other relevant keywords and utilizing various Boolean operators to narrow your search.  We recommend searching a motion type AND a legal issue/topic/fact relevant to your case. After running the search, view the Documents tab to find a successful motion.  This will kickstart your motion drafting process. 


Below are some sample motion-related search queries you may run using different Boolean operators


Template Example Search
“motion type”
“motion type” AND “document type”
“motion type” AND “legal issue”
“motion type” AND “legal issue” AND “other specifics”
“motion type” AND “statute / rule / or code”
motion type AND case law
motion type AND practice area
motion type NOT other terms


General Smart Search Recommendations

  1. Try starting without quotes.  

    For instance, try searching motion to compel (without quotation marks) rather than “motion to compel”.  This will help you find a variety of ways a motion to compel may be referenced (Motion by Plaintiff to Compel, Plaintiff’s Motion Compelling…, etc.).  If you get way too many results, then start to integrate quotes for exact matches.

  2. Start with a broader search and then add keywords and Boolean Operators to narrow the search.  

    We recommend starting with a broader search: one or two keywords/phrases plus a few Boolean Operators to connect them (such as quotation marks, AND, OR, and NOT).  

    If your search returns too many results for your needs, you can then add more keywords or Boolean Operators to narrow your search, including more narrow Boolean Operators like asterisks (root expander), “ “~n (proximity connector), and parentheses (which builds a search with a combination of Boolean Operators).  

  3. Focus on one legal question or issue at a time

    Don’t start with explaining your entire case with a single search query. You can always add more detailed keywords regarding the parties, motions you’re looking for, or causes of action depending on your initial results.  You can also apply filters after you run your search.  

  4. Don’t use keywords that are too broad. 

    There are certain words that frequently appear in most court dockets, documents, and rulings.  Using these words alone will often generate too many results to filter through.  For example, a keyword search for the terms “motion” or “plaintiff” alone won’t be helpful – these terms appear everywhere and you won’t be able to find what you want.   
  5. Instead, be specific with your legal phrases.

    You can use quotation marks to search for a specific phrase.  Instead of searching for “motion”, you could search for “motion to compel”.  Searching for “motion to compel” will bring up search results that have that exact motion type rather than other irrelevant motions.