The Witkin Library
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For decades, B.E. Witkin was the most well known and highly respected commentator on California law. Over the years, his original one-volume treatise on California law has grown into an integrated library of thirty-seven volumes:

  • Summary of California Law (11th edition)
  • California Procedure (5th edition)
  • California Evidence (5th edition)
  • California Criminal Law (4th edition)

The Witkin Library is prepared by the Witkin Legal Institute and published by Thomson Reuters. It provides expert analysis, skillful case selection and classification, and critical examination of statutory and case law in every important area of California law.

Generations of California lawyers and judges have relied on the Witkin Library for authoritative legal guidance, and the California courts have cited the Witkin treatises extensively. The Witkin treatises are an indispensable part of any attorney’s library. No other work so clearly, completely, and concisely sets forth California civil and criminal law, both substantive and procedural. In addition, the Witkin treatises are the fastest and most efficient way to find the best practice works and other references involving California, national, and federal law.

The preface to the original edition of California Procedure (1954) encapsulates the philosophy behind the Witkin treatises and continues to guide the production of the Witkin treatises today:

"First, it is critical. The case law is examined on principle, conflicts of decision are exposed, trends are indicated, and proposals are made for development or change in existing rules. In furtherance of this object the treatment extends beyond California law into the federal rules, law reviews, standard textbooks and Restatements."

"Second, it is selective. The important and controversial problems are specially emphasized, and the decisions cited and discussed are leading cases, cases particularly apt in illustration of procedural points, and late cases which review the authorities and deal with the present versions of recodified statutes and rules of court."

"Third, it is practical. This will appear from its organization, its chronological presentation of procedural steps, its discussions linking procedural topics, its constant reference to the interrelation between procedural and substantive rules, its thousands of briefs and bracketed explanations of cited cases, its accumulation of practice suggestions from decisions, and its exhaustive citation of currently used form books."

"Fourth, it is comprehensive. Every major branch of procedure is covered, together with some important subjects which tend to fall into the limbo between substance and procedure and are seldom brought together in a single treatise."

"Fifth, it is readable. The vast and challenging fields of procedure and practice are presented as plainly and concretely as possible. There are no footnotes; exposition, supporting authorities, comment and illustration are integrated, without physical separation or diminution in size of type. Law students to whom procedure is a remote mystery, lawyers to whom it is a continual headache, may alike find it possible and useful to read the book through."



Each chapter in Witkin begins with a detailed outline that organizes the subject matter in the same way lawyers have learned to analyze legal problems. The outline reveals the structure of the relevant law and calls attention to variations and distinctions.


The basic unit of Witkin coverage is the section. Each section discusses and explains a topic in concise and readable terms. The style is narrative, without distracting footnotes. Italic subdivisions pinpoint relevant subject matter. The discussion explains the law and illustrates how legal authorities fit together.


Unlike cases in digests and encyclopedias, the treatment of cases in Witkin varies depending on the significance of the opinion. At times, a citation alone or a citation with a short bracketed statement explaining the case is sufficient. At other times, where a case involves a question of first impression or resolves an unsettled area, for example, extensive briefing is required.


The Witkin Library includes extensive cross-referencing among the four treatises, linking the various substantive and procedural aspects of topics. The treatises also include extensive pinpoint citations to the best secondary sources, regardless of publisher. Publications essential to understanding both the established law and new developments in California and nationwide are cited. Relevant practice works are noted in virtually every topic of every subject. Works frequently cited include the following:

  • California and selected national law reviews
  • A.L.R. Annotations
  • California Civil Practice and California Transactions Forms
  • C.E.B. practice works
  • C.J.E.R., California Judges Benchbooks
  • Rutter Group, California Practice Guides
  • American Jurisprudence
  • American Law Institute Restatements
  • California Law Revision Commission reports and comments
  • Judicial Council forms
  • Uniform Laws Annotated
  • Leading textbooks and treatises in specialized areas


Topics new to the treatises are highlighted in the supplements, often with entire new sections, labeled (New) and designated with a capital letter, e.g., §100A.


Each of the four treatises includes an index, a table of cases, and a table of laws and rules, which are published annually in a softcover format. A combined index and combined tables for the four treatises are also published annually in a softcover format. Each treatise contains parallel reference tables, linking sections in the previous edition of the treatise with current coverage.


In print, each of the treatises is supplemented with pocket parts or pamphlets annually, usually in the spring. The softcover combined index and combined tables are reissued annually, shortly after treatise supplements have been published.


The Witkin treatises are available on Westlaw in the following databases:

  • WITCRIM: California Criminal Law
  • WITEVID: California Evidence
  • WITPROC: California Procedure
  • WITSUM: Summary of California Law
  • WITKIN: All Four Treatises

Four additional databases contain the Witkin finding aids:

  • WITKIN-CONT: Combined Tables of Contents
  • WITKIN-INDEX: Combined Index
  • WITKIN-CASE: Combined Tables of Cases
  • WITKIN-STAT: Combined Tables of Laws and Rules


The Witkin Library serves a variety of research needs, including the following:

Witkin can be used to introduce or reintroduce a researcher to an unfamiliar topic. The library is arranged conceptually, so that a researcher can discover the various elements and aspects of a topic easily.

Witkin is designed to allow researchers to begin with a concept, a statute, or a case name. The index and tables link a known piece of information with Witkin coverage of the relevant subject.

Witkin answers particular questions quickly. A researcher, with either extensive or rudimentary knowledge of a topic, can efficiently use the chapter outlines to discover answers to specific questions.

Witkin can be used to verify research by confirming results discovered elsewhere and providing references to related areas of study.

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Copyright 2005 B.E. Witkin Article Sixth Testamentary Trust
Copyright 2005 Thomson Information Services

Last updated
Friday, May 25, 2018