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For a particular case (the citedcase), a citator will reveal every time a later case (a citing reference) refers to the cited case.
A citator for cases has THREE basic purposes.
Purpose One: Validation - History - Bad things can happen to a case as it moves through the appellate process. Citators provide the prior and subsequent direct appellate history for cases. Before you cite a case for any legal proposition/point of law, you want to make sure that your case has not been adversely affected by a later case in the same litigation (appellate history). Examples of appellate history negative treatment:
Reversed in part
Purpose Two: Validation - Negative Treatment- Bad things can also happen to a legal proposition/point of law in a case if it receives negative treatment from a later unrelated case (not in the same litigation). Before you cite a case for any legal proposition/point of law, you want to make sure that your case has not been adversely affected by an unrelated case from the same or a higher court. Examples of negative treatment from an unrelated case:
Purpose Three:Research - Citing References - Citators are great for case law research. Once you find a case on your specific legal proposition/point of law, you can look at subsequent cases that have cited your case as authority. (This is part of the "one good case" case finding method!) Also, you can look at secondary sources that explain your case.