NOTE—Opinions (and orders and other documents) issued by the Supreme Court are published officially in United States Reports (“U.S.” in citations). See 28 U.S.C. § 411; see also information about opinions at the court’s web site. Opinions are issued during the court’s regular term, which starts the first Monday in October and ends in late June or early July.
NOTE—The dates of decisions do not appear beneath the case name in the first 107 volumes of United States Reports (1791–1882). Dates for those cases can be found in a list (168 pages) compiled by Supreme Court librarians.
Search Supreme Court order lists [Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.), Legal Information Inst.] — Search a database containing actions of the Supreme Court as described in its regular Monday order lists, beginning with the first order list issued in October of 1998 and continuing through the most recent order list issued by the court. Order lists contain information on which cases the court agrees to hear (cases for which the court “grants certiorari”) or decides to let stand as they were decided in a lower court (cases in which the court “denies certiorari”) as well as a variety of decisions about procedural matters, about how cases are to be heard and argued, about the filing of briefs, and about other administrative matters.
Current and Recent Opinions
liibulletin [Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.), Legal Information Inst.] — Free subscription to receive periodic e-mailed collections of case syllabi (prepared by the Reporter of Decisions) promptly after decisions are issued. ¶
The Curiae Project [Yale Law Sch.] — “The Curiae Project provides Supreme Court records and briefs and other relevant materials free of charge on the Internet. Cases are selected for addition to the site based on a ranking developed from citation data in historical and constitutional texts.” (Note: As of March 2013 this database was “undergoing maintenance” and so was not available.) ¶
Government Briefs [Justice Dep’t] — A collection of briefs filed by the solicitor general (except in response to in forma pauperis petitions) in cases in the Supreme Court. ¶
Supreme Court oral arguments, judgments, and opinions [Northwestern Univ. (Ill.)] — Audio files in RealAudio format (which requires a free downloadable player as a browser plug-in), providing actual oral argument as well as judgment and opinions as delivered in the courtroom, for selected cases. ¶
Overview of recent terms [Washington Post] — Summaries of major cases decided in recent terms, including background stories and links to relevant laws and related Supreme Court decisions, plus the court’s docket.
See also special courts’ decisions below. See a table of the federal judicial circuits showing each court’s location (city) and included districts (states).
Decisions at Court Web Sites
Decisions From Other Sources
Google Scholar In this search interface, one can enter a citation — which must be to the first page of a case report — or a party’s name, and a link to the desired case report is returned. (Select “Legal opinions and journals” before starting a search.) Text searching also is possible. The search results include links to later case reports in which the targeted case is cited. In the targeted case report, page breaks from the original printed volume are indicated, at the level of a line of text (which makes this source useful for serious legal research). In many instances, links also are provided, within the case report being examined, to reports of cases that are cited in it.
Courts of appeals decisions at FindLaw (West Group) Cases can be found by party names, by docket number, or by month-and-year of decision; but cases cannot be retrieved by citation (e.g., “73 F.3d 1”). Free access goes back through the mid-1990s (varies slightly by circuit). There is a text-search function. ¶
9th Circuit: Summaries of Cases in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals[Willamette Univ. Coll. of Law] — This service provides weekly summaries of cases (from 2004 forward) published by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. A free e-mail subscription is available (to receive the weekly summaries by e-mail).
U.S. District Court Opinions and Orders (from 2004 on) [Justia, Inc. (Cal.)] — This web page enables searching for cases and orders by party names as well as by keywords in texts. The database covers cases and orders from district courts throughout the United States, in the period from January 1, 2004, to the current date. ¶
CourtWeb [U.S. District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania] — This web site provides information on selected recent rulings of those judges who have elected to make information available in this form. Participating courts (which are not numerous) are located in several states. ¶
Civil Cases Database (from 1987 on) [Theodore Eisenberg & Kevin M. Clermont, Cornell Law School (N.Y.)] — Searchable database of various statistical facts (not the actual facts in the cases) derived from millions of civil cases concluded in all of the U.S. district courts since 1987 (as explained on the main page). ¶
Public Access to Court Electronic Records [Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts] — Information on how to obtain case information and dockets, downloadable for a fee, directly from the courts (including bankruptcy courts).
This form links to a Government Printing Office database that might not include the most-recent legislation, for a short time after enactment. (The GPO server sometimes is very slow to respond.) Try the Thomas database if this form fails to return the law in question.
NOTE—Public laws enacted by Congress (and the few occasional private laws) are published officially in United States Statutes at Large (“Stat.” in citations) by the National Archives and Records Administration. See a link for an explanation, “About Public and Private Laws,” on the GPO web site. See also lists showing bill number, public law number, name of act, approval date, and Statutes at Large page citation and span (but no text links) for both the current session and also past sessions back through Pub. L. No. 103-1 (1993). An historical outline and source notes for United States statutes, prepared by Richard J. McKinney, Assistant Law Librarian for the Federal Reserve Board, shows how the process of publishing federal statutes has changed over time since 1789. Volume 18 of the Statutes at Large (1878) contains, in Part I, the Revised Statutes of the United States (“R.S.” in citations), which was a compilation of all federal laws as of December 1, 1873, with amendments enacted in 1874–1877. (It was the precursor of the United States Code.) The Library of Congress provides images of all 1,394 pages of the revised statutes contained in part I of volume 18 of the Statutes at Large, including an index. Acts of Congress make reference to the revised statutes from time to time, when amendments of current versions are enacted.
NOTE—The section number is case-sensitive (e.g., “104a” will not retrieve Section 104A).
NOTE—Most public laws are reflected in the United States Code (“U.S.C.” in citations), which is a topical compilation, in 50 titles, of the major part of Congressional legislation. See an explanatory comment on the code by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel in the House of Representatives, including dates for the current supplements to the most-recent edition of the code. Cornell Law School’s LII database automatically provides access to amendments from Pub. L. No. 104-1 (1995) forward. The texts of the code titles that have been enacted into positive law (see the drop-down selection list, above) constitute legal evidence of the law contained in those titles. The remaining titles of the code are prima facie evidence of the laws contained in them; the laws themselves constitute the legal (unimpeachable) evidence of their content. See1 U.S.C. § 204. There is a plan to enact additional titles into positive law, which could raise the number of separate titles in the code to 55 (or more).
Download U.S. Code Titles and Chapters [U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel] — Each title is available in a zipped text file, or any chapter in a title can be downloaded in a plain text file.
[Title 8] Aliens and Nationality [John Walker (Switzerland)] — Not current but an extraordinarily versatile rendition of this title of the code, containing many research aids including hyperlinks for cross-references and several ways to search the title. ¶
[Title 26] Internal Revenue Code [John Walker (Switzerland)] — Not current but an extraordinarily versatile rendition of the code, containing many research aids including hyperlinks for section cross-references and several ways to search the I.R.C.
The Administrative Office of the Courts provides access to current (pending) and past rules amendments. On-line versions of court rules might not reflect the most-recent amendments. The AOC site should always be checked.
Supreme Court Rules (U.S. Sup. Ct. R.)
The Court’s rules are available in PDF files. The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School provides the rules in HTML files along with a search function.
Code of Conduct for Federal Public Defender Employees This covers staff attorneys and all other employees of the federal public defender office. (The link here points to the Internet Archive, which has the version of the code that formerly was published on the web site of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.)
Private International Law Database [U.S. State Department. Office of the Legal Adviser, Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law.] — For specific subject areas (see below), this site shows (1) multilateral conventions that are currently in force for the United States, for which the United States has deposited an instrument of ratification, (2) multilateral conventions that are currently under consideration with respect to eventual ratification and passage of domestic implementing legislation, but which the United States has not yet ratified, (3) significant multilateral treaties and conventions to which the United States is not a party (these instruments are not currently under consideration for eventual ratification), and (4) other international instruments, such as model laws, agreed principles, and guides. See also the web site of the Hague Conference on Private International Law for texts of all conventions on private international law.
“The purpose of this web site is to provide a convenient location to find treaties in force for the United States, other international instruments, and information on current negotiations and projects covering the private international law of such areas as trade and commerce, finance and banking, trusts and estates, family and children matters, and international judicial assistance. This web site also offers a convenient location to find links to the web sites maintained by the major intergovernmental organizations concerned with the unification and development of private international law . . . .”
Legislative Activity on Treaties [U.S. Senate] — Information on treaties received, treaties on the executive calendar, treaties approved, and other treaty status actions, by the Senate in the current session of Congress.
Digest of Treaties of Interest to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Treaties between the United States and other countries, on subjects connected with functions of the Fish and Wildlife Service, are briefly described, and various related sources (such as public laws implementing treaties) are cited, but links to treaty texts and related sources are not provided.
Codification of Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders (1945–1989) [National Archives and Records Administration] — The Office of the Federal Register presents this online version of the Codification of Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders, April 13, 1945, through January 20, 1989. The paper version of this publication is out of print. This codification provides, in one reference source, proclamations and executive orders with general applicability and continuing effect. It covers April 13, 1945, through January 20, 1989, spanning the administrations of Harry S. Truman through Ronald Reagan.
Disposition of Executive Orders of the President (E.O.) [National Archives and Records Administration] — Starting with E.O. 7532 (Jan. 8, 1937) by Pres. Franklin Roosevelt, these tables contain locator information (Federal Register citation), current status, and other information about executive orders. Some of the more-recent executive orders can be accessed through links. Note that access is available (see below on this page) to issues of the Federal Register back through volume 60 (1995). ¶
Compilation of Presidential Documents [National Archives and Records Administration] — The Compilation of Presidential Documents is published weekly by the Office of the Federal Register. It contains statements, messages, and other Presidential materials released by the White House. For 2009 and later years, materials are available also in electronic format on a daily basis.
“The Federal Register Tutorial” [Office of the Federal Register / National Archives and Records Administration] — Subtitled “The Federal Register: What It Is and How to Use It,” this tutorial covers (1) historical background and legal basis of the Federal Register / Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.) publication system, (2) the regulatory process and the role of the public, (3) organization of the daily Federal Register and important elements of typical documents, (4) proposed rules, rules, notices, and presidential documents, (5) organization of the C.F.R. and the relationships among public laws, the Federal Register, and the C.F.R., and (6) research tools to find information in print and online publications. ¶
“A Research Guide to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations” [Law Librarian’s Society of Washington, D.C.]
Regulations.gov “On this U.S. Government Web site you can find, view, and comment on regulations and other actions for all Federal agencies.” ¶
C.F.R. Titles [Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.), Legal Information Inst.] — Interface for browsing the Code of Federal Regulations. ¶
Parallel Table of Authorities and Rules This LARGE FILE (almost 1MB), or a smaller PDF version, contains tables listing rulemaking authority (except 5 U.S.C. § 301) for regulations codified in the Code of Federal Regulations, including statutory citations that are noted as being interpreted or applied by those regulations. Use this table to find C.F.R. links to U.S.C. citations, Statutes at Large citations (browser-search for “Statutes at Large:” — listed from 7 Stat. forward, but coverage is spotty), public law citations (browser-search for “Public Laws:” — listed by law number only, from 80-806 forward, but coverage is spotty), and executive orders and miscellaneous presidential documents (browser-search for “Presidential Documents:”). Note that the C.F.R. links for a U.S.C. citation can be specifically extracted through Cornell Law School’s LII web site, by first viewing the code section there (see the form above for U.S.C. citations).
Search C.F.R. Section Headings [Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.), Legal Information Inst.] — Hits are displayed in the context of section headings grouped under the “Part”-level heading (that is, all of the headings within one part are displayed).
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Actions Complaints, decisions and orders, final orders, etc., provided in HTML format, WordPerfect 5.1/DOS files, and PDF files. (This is the source of decisions and orders in the drop-down selection list above.)
“The essence of legal research in two words . . . see ALSO!”