United States Supreme Court Decisions
Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, linked here, provides the best access to cases from 1990 forward. (See Additional Resources below for earlier cases.) The court provides its decisions on-line for the current term and the past several terms. The complete contents of bound volumes of United States Reports, starting with volume 502 (1991), can be downloaded in PDF files (one LARGE file per volume) from the court’s web site. However, the most-recent volume in that collection always is several years behind the current term.
Note — The Supreme Court’s term begins each year on the first Monday in October and ends, usually, in the following June. Opinions (and orders and other documents) issued by the court are published officially in United States Reports (“U.S.” in citations), commonly referred to as “U.S. Reports.” See 28 U.S.C. § 411; see also information about opinions at the court’s web site.
Note — In the first 107 volumes of U.S. Reports (1791–1882) the date on which a given case was decided is not printed in the report of the case. Supreme Court librarians produced a PDF file (168 pages) listing the dates for those cases.
FindLaw database [West Group] — Browse decisions by years (from 1893) or by volumes of U.S. Reports (from 150 U.S. 54); or use one of the following forms to retrieve a case by citation or to search for a case by party name or keywords (search terms are not case-sensitive).
Supreme Court order lists [Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.), Legal Information Inst.] — Search a database of actions by the court as described in its regular Monday order lists, beginning with the first order list issued in October 1998 and continuing through the most recent order list issued by the court. Order lists contain information on the cases the court has agreed to hear (cases for which the court “grants certiorari”) or has elected 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 on procedural matters such as prescribing how cases are to be heard and argued or granting requests concerning the filing of briefs.
United States Courts of Appeals Decisions
See also special courts’ decisions, below. See a table of the federal judicial circuits showing each court’s location (city) and included districts (states).
Courts of appeals decisions [West Group (FindLaw)] — 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.
Third Circuit decisions [Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law (Pa.)] — This covers decisions issued from May 1994 forward.
Summaries of cases in the Ninth Circuit [Willamette Univ. Coll. of Law (Ore.)] — Summaries of opinions in cases decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, from 2004 forward. A free e-mail subscription is available, to receive updates regarding new summaries.
United States District Court Decisions
[See the page for the state or territory where the court sits: use a selection list above.]
U.S. district court opinions and orders [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, as well as a few cases from preceding years back to 2000.
CourtWeb [U.S. District Court, Middle Dist. of Pa.] — Information on selected recent rulings of various judges, on U.S. district courts in several states, who have elected to make information available in this form.
District courts — civil cases database (1987–2000) [Theodore Eisenberg & Kevin M. Clermont, Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.)] — Searchable database of various statistical facts (not the actual facts in the cases) derived from civil cases concluded in all of the U.S. district courts up to 2000, beginning with 1978 (for cases with completed trials) or 1987 (all cases).
Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) [Administrative Off. of the U.S. Courts] — How to obtain case information and dockets, downloadable for a fee, directly from the courts (including bankruptcy courts).
United States Special Court Decisions
See a table of former special federal courts and the current successor courts.
United States Constitution
This link retrieves a PDF version published by the House of Representatives as H.R. Doc. 108-95 (June 20, 2003). It contains an index and includes the texts of proposed amendments not ratified.
Alternative on-line versions
Annotated versions Annotations linked here were written by the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress and include citations to relevant Supreme Court decisions. (Some of the Constitution’s provisions and amendments have no annotations.) The annotated Constitution is published under the title Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation, popularly called the Constitution Annotated. See also links to other commentary on the Constitution, including The Federalist.
Supreme Court constitutional decisions [Library of Congress] — This is a section from the Constitution Annotated, citing decisions of the Supreme Court based on constitutional grounds, classified in the following categories:
United States Legislation
Codified laws are in the United States Code, linked below.
Notice: Links in items 1 and 2, below, will become inoperative when the Library of Congress retires the Thomas web site and replaces it with a new web site, called Congress.gov. That new site is now in beta development. The changeover to the new site is expected to occur by the end of 2014.
Note: Statutes at Large — Public laws enacted by Congress (and the few occasional private laws) are published officially in United States Statutes at Large (“Stat.” in citations; “Statutes at Large” informally) by the National Archives and Records Administration. See 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). There is also a Wikipedia article.
Note: Revised Statutes — 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 official citations or “Rev. Stat.” unofficially; “Revised Statutes” informally), 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. (See a Wikipedia article.) Some provisions in the Revised Statutes were not carried into the United States Code; Acts of Congress can occasionally include a citation to the Revised Statutes when amending one of those provisions. 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.
Note — See also selected commentary on U.S. legislation linked on another page.
United States Statutes at Large, volumes 1–18 (1789–1875) [Library of Congress] — These are available as digital facsimile images accompanied by searchable indexes and page headings.
United States Statutes at Large, volumes 65 et seq. (1951 to present) [Gov’t Printing Off. (D.C.)]
Popular name table [Cornell Law Sch. (N.Y.), Legal Information Inst.] — List of popular names of federal acts (e.g., the Securities Act of 1933, or the Trademark Act) and codified statutes, with appropriate links.
Public Law Electronic Notification Service (PENS) To receive free e-mail notification from the National Archives and Records Administration each time NARA assigns a public law number to a newly enacted law, join the PUBLAWS-L list (a LISTSERV list).
Note — Most public laws are reflected in the United States Code (“U.S.C.” in citations; “U.S. Code” informally), 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. See also a Wikipedia article. 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. See 1 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).
U.S. Code titles and chapters [U.S. House of Representatives, Off. of the Law Revision Counsel] — Download a title in a zipped text file; or download any chapter in a title as a plain-text file.
Federal Trade Commission — Related Acts Descriptive summaries, with links to Cornell Law School’s LII database, for 37 acts under which the FTC has enforcement and administrative responsibilities.
United States Rules of Court — Procedure and Practice
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.
“Federal Rules of Practice and Procedure” [Administrative Off. of the U.S. Courts] — Giving a comprehensive view of amendment activity, this site “provides access to the national and local rules currently in effect in the federal courts, as well as background information on the federal rules and the rulemaking process.”
“Bankruptcy Rules Made Easy” (2001) [Administrative Off. of the U.S. Courts / Christopher M. Klein] — This article (3.8 MB), from American Bankruptcy Law Journal, is subtitled: “A Guide to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure That Apply in Bankruptcy.”
6th Circuit: “Bankruptcy Appellate Panel Practice Manual”
Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims: Rules of Admission and Practice
Military courts See also the Manual for Courts-Martial linked on another page.
United States International Law
See also a guide to electronic resources for international law, provided by the American Society of 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.
United States Administrative Law Sources
Disposition of Executive Orders of the President (E.O.) [National Archives & Records Admin.] — 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 & Records Admin.] — 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” [Off. of the Federal Register / National Archives & Records Admin.] — 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 Librarians’ 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).