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Guide to Sources of U.S. Law

Research guide to finding basic sources of United States law.

Case Law

Starting Points


Use LexisNexis Academic to find case law from the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals and State Courts. The following print resources may also be useful.

Supreme Court

  • Landmark Briefs and Arguments of the Supreme Court of the United States: Constitutional Law. v.1, 1793-. (KF 101.8.K87)
    Facsimile reproductions of original briefs and transcribed tape recordings or transcripts of oral arguments. Decisions not included.

  • Supreme Court Reporter. 1956-current. [Abbr: U.S. Sup. Ct. or Sup. Ct.] (KF 101.1 S6)
    Contains text of decisions, but instead of the Syllabus, West uses its own synopsis and abstracts the legal issues involved, matching them to their subject key numbered system.

  • United States Law Week. 1976-current. ( Ref K 24.N52)
    Publishes Supreme Court opinions on the day of announcement. Contains public laws of general interest, summary and analysis of current legal developments, new court decisions and agency rulings, news, proceedings, and review articles. 

  • United States Reports. 1754-current. [Abbr.: U.S.] (KF101.U58)
    The official Supreme Court Reporter. The first 90 volumes are generally known and cited by the names of the reporters:
    Dallas 1-4 (1790-1800) U.S. Rep. 1-4 [Abbr.: Dall.]
    Cranch 1-9 (1801-15) U.S. Rep. 5-13 [Abbr.: Cr.]
    Wheaton 1-12 (1816-27) U.S. Rep. 14-25 [Abbr.: Wheat.]
    Peters 1-16 (1828-42) U.S. Rep. 26-41 [Abbr.: Pet.]
    Howard 1-24 (1843-60) U. S. Rep. 42-65 [Abbr. How.]
    Black 1-2 (1861-62) U.S. Rep. 66-67 [Abbr. Bl.]
    Wallace 1-23 (1863-74) U.S. Rep. 68-90 [Abbr. Wall.]

    Volumes 91-107 (1875-82) are also designated Otto 1-17, but are most often merely referred to as &.S. Reports 91-107. Volumes from 1991 on are online at Supreme Court website.

Lower Federal Courts

  • Federal Courts Finder (Emory Univ.)

  • Federal Reporter. 1880-1925 [Abbr. Fed.] (KF105.F42)
    U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, U.S. Circuit Courts, U.S. Commerce Court, District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

  • Federal Reporter. Second Series. 1940-1988. [Abbr. Fed. 2d] (KF105.F43)

  • Federal Supplement. 1941-current. [Abbr.: Fed. Supp.] (KF105.2.F44)
    U.S. District Courts and Court of Claims.

  • U.S. Courts: United States Federal Judiciary Home Page

  • West's Federal Reporter: Cases Argued and Determined in the United States Courts of Appeals and Temporary Emergency Court of Appeals. 2nd ser. v. 831 F.2d-v. 995 F.2d; 3rd ser. v. 1 F.3d-current. (KF 105 .F432)

Subject Access to Cases

  • American Jurisprudence. 2nd ed. (Ref. KF 154.A42)
    "A modern comprehensive text statement of American law, state and federal." An encyclopedic work with case references.

  • Corpus Juris: Being a Complete and Systematic Statement Of The Whole Body Of The Law As Embodied In And Developed By All Reported Decisions: 1914-37. 72 v. in 73. (KF 65.M3)

  • Corpus Juris Secundum: Complete Restatement Of The Entire American Law As Developed By All Reported Cases. 1936- . (KF65.L8)
    Alphabetical arrangement of broad legal topics as developed by federal and state cases (1658-date).

  • Digest of the United States Supreme Court Reports, 1918-1922. 1923. (KF101.1.U582x)

  • Modern Federal Practice Digest. (KF127.M6 and KF127.M6 Index)
    Digest of federal cases arranged alphabetically by topic; covers 1939-1961. Covers all federal case law, earliest times to date.

  • West's Federal Practice Digest, 2d. 1976. (KF 127.W48)
    Coverage of federal case law, 1962-November 1975.

  • West's Federal Practice Digest, 3d. 1984. (KF 127.W485)

  • West's Federal Practice Digest, 4th. (KF 127.W486)

Case Finding Aids and Bibliographies

State Courts