Research Guides

Successful Summer Strategies: Research in the Real World

Sources for Federal Case Law Research

Initial tip:

Before you begin, identify your jurisdiction. A description of the federal court system and a link to a map of the federal circuits appears in the TMLL Guide to Legal Research, "Federal Court System."

United States Supreme Court

Digest:

  • United States Supreme Court Digest;
  • Federal Practice Digest, 2d - 4th series (Federal Digest, 1st series - older cases)

Reporters:

  • United States Reports (U.S.)
  • United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers' Edition (L. Ed., L. Ed. 2d)
  • Supreme Court Reporter (S. Ct.)

Citator:

  • Shepard's United States Citations: Cases

Electronic sources:

  • Westlaw: SCT (for U.S. Supreme Court opinions only); FEDn-ALL (for Supreme Court, circuit and district court cases by circuit of origin)

  • Lexis: Supreme Court cases only: From the Source Directory, select "Federal Legal-U.S.- Supreme Court Cases and Materials - U.S. Supreme Court Lawyers' Edition Cases." You may also want to update your research in the "Preview of United States Supreme Court Cases," United States Law Week, or "Web Buzz" (contains coverage of cases argued before the Supreme Court in the current month).

  • Internet: Extensive Supreme Court opinions are available on the Web.

Circuit Courts of Appeals

Digest:

  • Federal Practice Digest, 2d - 4th series (Federal Digest, 1st series - older cases)

Reporter:

  • Federal Reporter, 1st - 3d series (F., F.2d, F.3d)

Citator:

  • Shepard's Federal Citations: Federal Reporter

Electronic sources:

  • Westlaw: CTAn (for individual Courts of Appeals, e.g., CTA1 for First Circuit); CTA (Courts of Appeals, all circuits)

  • Lexis: From the Source Directory select "Federal Legal-U.S." There are many case law files to choose from, including files for each individual Circuit Court of Appeals and combined files covering Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and District Court decisions.

  • Internet: A number of Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal web sites contain opinions dating back through the early 1990's. Check the the U.S. Courts home page or the Villanova Law School Federal Court Locator. Further, searchable collections of Circuit Court opinions are available at several sites:

District Courts

Digest:

  • Federal Practice Digest, 2d - 4th series (Federal Digest, 1st series - older cases)

Reporters:

  • Federal Supplement, Federal Supplement 2d (F. Supp., F. Supp. 2d)

  • Federal Rules Decisions (F.R.D.) (cases involving federal procedural matters only)

Citator:

  • Shepard's Federal Citations: Federal Supplement

Electronic databases:

  • Westlaw: DCT (for all district court cases); FEDn-ALL (for Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and district court cases by circuit of origin)

  • Lexis: From the Source Directory, select "Federal Legal." There are many case law files to choose from, including files for the district courts of each circuit, for the district courts from each state, and combined files covering Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and District Court decisions.

  • Internet: At the present time District Court opinions appear on Justia and PreCYdent. Also, check the U.S. Courts home page or Villanova Law School Federal Court Locator.

For help with federal case research in print sources, consult the TMLL Guide to Legal Research "Using the Federal Practice Digest" and "Citators: Functions and Formats."


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