United States Reports

United States Reports

Record of cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. United States Reports is published by the Government Printing Office. Court opinions are first published as “slip opinions,” reports of individual decisions put out within a few days of the decision. Groups of slip opinions are then published in paperback form as “preliminary prints.”

Hardbound volumes of United States Reports are released following the completion of each Court term. United States Reports includes summaries of the fact situations and what happened to the case in the lower courts. Also included is the full opinion of the Court for each case decided and all concurring and dissenting opinions that might have been issued. The first ninety volumes of the United States Reports were issued under the names of the Supreme Court reporters. These include Dallas, Cranch, Wheaton, Peters, Howard, Black, and Wallace. Cases may be located in these volumes by a citation that references volume and page. The citation for an early case like Marbury v. Madison is 1 Cranch 137 (1803). This means the case was decided in 1803 and can be found on page 137 of the first of the volumes under Cranch’s name. Since 1874, the volumes have been numbered consecutively, beginning with volume 91, as United States Reports. Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), is an example of a more recent citation.

Supreme Court of the United States

Official court reporting began in 1790 with the inception of the United States Reports , cited U.S., which remains the official edition of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. Citations to volumes of the U.S. Reports before volume 91 (1875) must include a reference to the particular official reporter of the Court. There were seven such reporters, as follows:

Reporter / Volumes / Years / U.S. Reports:

  • Dallas / 1 – 4 / 1790 – 1800 / 1 – 4
  • Cranch / 1 -9 / 1801 – 1815 / 5- 13
  • Wheaton / 1 – 12 / 1816 – 1827 / 14 – 25
  • Peters / 1 – 16 / 1828 – 1842 / 26 – 41
  • Howard / 1 – 24 / 1843 – 1860 / 42 – 65
  • Black / 1 – 2 / 1861 – 1862 / 66 – 67
  • Wallace / I – 23 / 1863 – 1874 / 68 – 90

Hence, for example, Marbury v. Madison , 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803).

After volume 90, citation is by volume and page number of the U.S. Reports only. For example: Southern Pacific Co. v. Jenson , 244 U.S. 205 (1917).

Analysis and Relevance

United States Reports is the official record of Supreme Court decisions. It is published by the federal government. In addition to containing the full text of all opinions, the editors summarize all information pertaining to the case, prepare a syllabus of each decision, and write headnotes that outline the legal issues. Since cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court focus on many major social and political issues, the information contained in United States Reports is valuable to an understanding of legal thought and appellate processes. This series makes such information readily available not only to the legal and academic communities, but to the general public as well. United States Reports also lists those cases that are denied review by the Supreme Court.


Notes and References

  1. Definition of United States Reports from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

See Also

Supreme Court Reporter (Judicial Effects and Policies) United States Supreme Court reports (Judicial Effects and Policies).



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